It's definitely not the typical way we'd usually order food at a restaurant. Sure, the waiter gives you a menu to look at, but then there are the options...oh, are there options. There are no outlines of starters and mains; instead the menu is divided into two parts - dishes with similar ingredients are paired together so you can opt for either the lighter option or its more robust partner.
Choosing your five, eight or 10-course meal out of the 24 dishes that chef Christian and his executive sous chef Mohd Amin Saidin have created is no easy task but the beauty in choice is that it's all up to you. So if you feel like indulging in two savoury tasting plates and three desserts, or having five courses with no dessert, that's entirely up to you.
We got some insights from chef Christian on the new menu.
What was your inspiration?
Boredom. We got to a point where we were bored with the traditional, old system of a starter, mains and dessert. We had already moved into doing three courses in ascending size plus a dessert, but that sort of thing does not really showcase a restaurant very well. In this day and age, you don't go to a so-called 'fine dining restaurant' (I've always hated that term, actually. Dining can be fine, even when it is in a street stall) because you are hungry, you go because you want to be entertained. A little bit of hunger certainly helps, but our job is to fill your brain as well as your stomach. We show a new approach, an interesting twist on an ingredient, or a classic dish. I'm not saying that we invented this type of menu; it really isn't much more than a follow-on to the traditional degustation menu, but it allows the diner a lot more creativity and freedom.
Any favourite dishes?
There isn't one single particular dish that I like more than others. What I like is the fact that the new Cantaloupe menu allows you to put together a whole menu that contains all the elements that you like to eat that particular day. It's more about favourite progressions than favourite individual dishes.
What would you recommend diners must try?
There isn't a dish on the menu that I don't like, or that I think is not worth trying. Of course, there isn't, or I would be a lousy chef with no integrity. To say: 'Oh you must try this or that one dish' would really defeat the purpose of the menu, but there is nevertheless one thing you should do. Make sure you add a dessert to your selection. Our pastry chef is really quite brilliant and you will be surprised by the lightness in texture and the fullness of flavour of each and every one of the desserts listed. Quite a number of guests think they should skip dessert and just go straight to the coffee, but that is a grave mistake. It leaves your dinner sort of unfinished, so take my advice.
How did you create the dishes on the menu?
The creative process does not follow a set system. There are many ways you can approach a dish. We have a barley soup on the menu, which is about the herb consommé. One of our chefs created a fish dish and at the base of this was a green soup, extracted from herbs, but when I ate the dish, I could not taste the herb broth clearly, so I took a sip of just this broth and it was a truly beautiful thing. All we had to do now was create a very gentle dish around i that would bring out the flavours of this broth. Chefs are often scared of the very light, the very simple things, because especially in Asia they often don't sell so well or are not seen as 'value for money', but they are so very important when you want to create a balanced menu. The Barley Soup has cooked barley and pickled zucchini, carrot and shallots and each vegetable has a slightly different degree of acidity that plays on the green herbaceous flavour of the broth. Beautiful!
The Foie Gras, Artichoke & Goat Cheese is something I created in my head. I'm lucky enough to be able to imagine flavours and flavour combinations in my head, so I can very often figure out a new dish without getting into the kitchen first. Obviously, I still have to cook and quantify it afterwards, but the initial part is very often done sitting at my desk, thinking and writing. I was playing with a very particular type of goat cheese in my head, something that would have a light 'goatiness' without killing the taste buds to anything else. Fois gras is actually quite robust. It can take a lot of messing with and this combination of a heavier goat curd and pan seared foie seemed to make sense. The difficult part is the Jerusalem artichoke. It is an oily vegetable, so it adds to the heaviness of the foie gras, which is usually not what you want to do, but these three ingredients in the correct proportion don't show their individual characters. We needed a foil for this so a touch of bitterness and here the chocolate molé sauce seemed perfect.
How would you approach the new menu?
First of all, take your time. Read the menu leisurely and see what resonates. Then simply choose five, eight or 10 courses, trying not to order anything from the same line and ordering it in an top to bottom sequence. Go light to heavy, mix the flavours and order something that looks boring or scary to you. I always do that in any good restaurants. It is fun to see whether the chef can make the boring interesting or change my mind about an item I don't normally like.
Cantaloupe, Level 23A, Tower B The Troika, 19 Persiaran KLCC, 50450 KL. For more information and to make a reservation, visit http://www.troikaskydining.com