In the pulsing heart of Kuala Lumpur, is the much-talked-about classic western restaurant Samplings on the Fourteenth. Sitting 14 levels high in the sky in the Berjaya Times Square Hotel Kuala Lumpur, the open-kitchen concept restaurant commands a magnificent view of the city, with the towering Petronas Twin Towers clearly visible on the horizon.
Run during the day by Berjaya’s University College of Hospitality students, at night the restaurant is taken over by the amiable and bubbly Chef Valmurugan Subramaniam who MIGF Organising Chairman Dato’ Steve Day introduced as the festival’s most congenial cook.
For their 2015 MIGF Publicity Dinner, the entire restaurant dining area was fitted out with several cardboard aliens, sequined table coverings, and dangling stars and planets – an amazing effort from the Samplings team to match this year’s Galactic Chefs! 2015: A Food Odyssey theme.
Amid this imaginative décor and the backdrop of gently tinkling piano keys and live music by the establishment’s in-house vocalist, 24 of KL’s most influential personalities sat down to a seven course epicurean adventure among one of the finest of this year’s Festival menus.
The distinguished guest list included H.E. Samkelisiwe Mhlanga, High Commissioner of South Africa and her lovely two nieces; Festival Advisory Committee Member Datuk Dr Jagjit Singh Sambhi and his wife; LAB Sdn Bhd strategic consultant Dato’ Peter Yong and his fashionable partner Datin Maylene Yong, DBS Bank Ltd vice president Jennifer Cheng, Berjaya Times Square Hotel general manager Mondi Mecja and Madam Mae S.K. Ho of Berjaya University College of Hospitality, whose students have benefited from the valuable exposure MIGF has given them.
The eager guests arrived to an array of pre-dinner canapés and house pour by the attentive staff, outside the entrance of Samplings. Everyone was served the Welcome Drink; a bubbly concoction of lavender and lime grenadine and soda water, appropriately titled ‘Mars’ – adding to the already exquisite manifestations of the space theme.
Dato’ Ranbir S. Nanra, May Lim, Sandra Lahra and Joe LahraNobuhle Sithole, HE Samkelisiwe Mhlanga and Nothile Sithole
Datuk Dr Jagjit Singh Sambhi, Madam Mae S.K. Ho and Mondi Mecja
Trays of delicious canapés made the rounds alog with the restaurant’s creative Mars mocktailDatin Maylene Yong, Dato’ Leonard Tan, Datin Krystyn Tan and Dato’ Kee Hua Chee
Professor Dr Walter CK Wong, May Lim, Dato’ Ranbir S. Nanra and Jennifer ChengDatuk Dr Jagjit Singh Sambhi, Doris Marchardt and Datin Margaret SambhiDato’ Leonard Tan, Dato’ Peter Yong and Professor Dr Walter CK Wong
Yen Pay Yng and Dato’ Nik GeeMIGF Organising Chairman Dato’ Steve Day introduces the bubbly Chef Val
As for the food itself, the amuse-bouche was a mouth-watering way to start the meal; with its contrasting flavours of breaded Bocconcini cheese jalapeno chipotle. This was followed by the duck liver parfait, a rich savoury bite that blended unexpectedly with the anise-berries dressing. Wine glasses were topped up as rounds of freshly baked cereal, cheese and soft and hard roll bread buns made their way around the two adjoining tables.
Amuse-bouche of Breaded Bocconcini Cheese with Jalapeno ChipotleDuck Liver Parfait with Caramelised Peach Salad and Anise-Berries Dressing
Datin Su Wai Fun and Leonard Lee
The soup was a well-thought out dish: a creamy velouté with lobster, cured melon garnished with a touch of avocado oil – a favourite ingredient of Chef Val’s, thanks to its many health benefits. The invitees tucked into the piping hot soup as they were being serenaded to a jazzed up version of the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California.’
Chef Val serves the velouté soup into Dato’ Nik Gee’s plate
Next up was the entrée of seared Hokkaido scallops with roasted parsnip puree and parmesan foam, and then came the winner of best presentation dish: the pineapple sorbet, presented cocooned in an ice sculpture, which took 48 hours to prepare and was carved to resemble the moon.
The comical Chef Val dons a mask as he prepares the Hokkaido scallops; and the pineapple sorbet served in an ice cave
Guests could have it their own way for the main course, with a choice of either fillet of pike fish prepared two ways or broiled veal loin with merlot-coconut risotto and vegetables terrine. The veal was a specialty of Chef Val, who loves to cook with red meat, and was also Dato’ Ranbir S. Nanra personal favourite.
Land or sea: The Fillet of Pike Fish Prepared two Ways – Grilled and Steamed, with Pickled Root Vegetables, California Purple Potatoes and Saffron Citrus Sauce; and the Broiled Veal Loin with Baked Oxtail Ragout in Filo Pastry, Merlot-Coconut Risotto and Vegetables Terrine
Midway through the meal, a surprise performance by songbird Datin Maylene Yong and Dato’ Leonard Tan entertained the dinner party, who marvelled at Leonard’s on-key imitation of Louis Armstrong in Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me to the Moon.’
Pitch-perfect duet: Dato’ Leonard Tan and Datin Maylene Yong
To end the evening a dessert of ivory chocolate eclair with feuillantine crust, apple carpaccio and framboise jelly with almond cream was served, a combination that received rave reviews from the diners.
Sweet ending: Ivory Chocolate Éclair with Feuillantine Crust, Apple Carpaccio and Framboise Jelly with Almond Cream
Wrapping things up, Dato’ Steve brought out Chef Val and his team, noting that the evening had “been everything you can imagine.” Festival Advisory Committee Member Datuk Dr Jagjit Singh Sambhi, who was already a big fan of Samplings, added a few words saying it was a night he would not have missed for the world. He also stated that if MIGF kept at its current pace, the country would soon be world-renowned for its gourmet dining scene. He then raised a toast to Chef Val and his team, which everyone happily drank to.
H.E. Samkelisiwe Mhlanga was also asked to say a few words, thanking Dato’ Steve for inviting her, and remarking that the Festival was a great way to get the diplomatic corps out to sample the many offerings of Greater KL.
HE Samkelisiwe Mhlanga says a few closing wordsA night to remember
A full Festival Menu at Samplings costs RM258 nett per person without wine, and RM468 nett per person with wine. A light Festival Menu is also available at RM198 nett per person (without wine). To view the menus, click here and to read more about Chef Valmurugan, click here.