MUSINGS ON FOOD
By See Foon Chan-Koppen
Ever since the change in ownership at Impiana Casuarina, General Manager Gerard Sta Maria and his team have been busy making changes and creating a quiet revolution in the food and beverage outlets of the hotel. Soon Ipohites will have another exciting venue to gather for lunch, tea, cocktails or dinner and taste the creations of Chef Ricky Parlanti.
Food and Beverage Manager Daniel Thexeira and Ricky together with the marketing team under Anthony Kong have put together a cornucopia of delights, to tease, tempt and tantalize palates in the coming year of the Tiger. To be staged in all their food and beverage outlets, the special taste temptations will see them serving high tea in the Garden Terrace, with their signature dish of Cucur Udang or prawn fritters taking centre stage while in the lobby area, where ample seating awaits the visitor, whether waiting for a guest from the rooms above or just coming in from the heat for a cool respite, one may order from the snack menu for both oriental and western titbits.
The tea break menu is available from 3-6.00pm while the Tapas (appetizers in Spanish) menu is available for one hour between 6.00-7.00 p.m.
But it is from the Bistro that the most culinary ‘happenings’ will take place. Chef Ricky calls it his ‘back-to-basic’ cooking but there is certainly nothing basic about the choice and satiation factor in the menus on offer. In addition to the ala carte menu, a carvery set lunch and a Provincial set dinner will have diners clutching at their waistlines rather than their purses. Priced at a very reasonable RM25 nett, the carvery set lunch gives you a choice of two appetizers, three main courses, and a choice of ice-cream for dessert and tea or coffee. The day I tasted the lunch, I had the Smoked Mackerel with Mesclun (mixed salad leaves) and tried the soup of the day of my companion, which was a lentil soup. The smoked mackerel was more of a pate and went very well with the great choice of bread rolls bread sticks, pita and crispy flat bread.
Additionally I could dip the various breads into the tapenade (an olive mousse which is quite impossible to buy in these parts), sun-dried tomato pesto or simple balsamic vinegar and olive oil dips which are placed at each place setting.
The main courses were generous with a choice of roast rib-eye of Beef, roast chicken stuffed with vegetable or baked fish in pastry. Of the three, my preference was for the fish which was salmon.
The set dinner menu was more elaborate, beginning with a delectable parcel of lobster and crab in filo pastry served with a tangy wild mustard relish which imparted just the right touch of zest to the seafood inside the pastry. Following this was the tomato cappuccino with braised mushroom, wafting a hint of rosemary – definitely a soup that left me clamouring for more.
A lovely touch at this point was the blood orange granita (like a sherbet but courser ice crystals) with Campari which unlike a lot of other restaurants, was not overly sweet and just tart enough to cleanse the palate. Following this was the choice of main course consisting of beef fillet, cod, or baked ricotta and spinach crepes. I was torn as to what to select for the main course and settled for the beef fillet, served on a bed of bell peppers and sweet basil which was melt-in-mouth tender. Meanwhile, as the portions were generous, and the ricotta and spinach crepes did beckon, I promised myself to return next time to check out these savoury crepes which we don’t find too often in Ipoh. Dessert comes with the menu and that varies according to the whim of the pastry chef who is a master at his craft. At RM48 nett, I can certainly vouch for the dinner’s value in these inflationary times.
Tapas – A Touch of Mediterranean
What really caught my fancy though was their introduction of the Tapas menu from 6.00-7.00 p.m. Served in the Bistro, this ‘happy hour’ will see them offering a choice of 6 Tapas a day from a selection of 16 with a free flow of house wine like the 2005 Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc (The Source by Salena Estate) or 2006 Shiraz Cabernet (Kari Bay) for RM35 nett. Teetotallers may enjoy the same Tapas for RM12.00 nett with tea or coffee.
The selection of Tapas is unusual for Ipoh, ranging from Lebanese Hommus (chick pea mousse), Turkish Babaganouche (aubergine or brinjal mousse), Greek Dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with rice), Mexican Salsa, Polpetas (like our sate, grilled skewers of meat with a vinaigrette sauce) Guacamole (avocado and tomato dip), Blue Cheese and garlic dips, garlic butterfly prawns, fried calamari (squid) and a few other Mediterranean-style appetizers. With the free flow of wine for one hour, I reckon its great value for money and I’ll be spending a few after work evenings indulging and imbibing at the Bistro in the future.