Modern Cantonese Cuisine at Li FengCulinary Talk
Cantonese cuisine is without doubt one of China’s best. And you will find some pleasant surprises in what Li Feng has to offer for Jakarta’s foodies, writes Petty Elliott.
Many of us may struggle to put a name to regional cuisines in China. In addition to Cantonese, there are of course other fine regional styles including Szechuan, Jiangsu, Zhejian, Fujian, Hunan, Anhui and Shandong. Like regional Indonesian cuisine, each offers distinctive taste characteristics, ingredients and cooking techniques. And equally for many of us it would be a dream come true to travel around China learning more about all these regional differences. For now let’s enjoy the familiarity of Cantonese food, frequently mild and fresh, slightly sweet and without the robust flavours and fiery spices favoured in Szehuan. I have been told the spiciest regional Chinese cuisine is in fact from Hunan region, from combinations including chilies, ginger and other herbs.
Li Feng, the new Cantonese restaurant at Mandarin Oriental Jakarta has very modern décor with outstanding reproductions of old maps by Matteo Ricciound around the dining room, inspired by the history of the Spice trade between China and the old Jakarta, Batavia. Matteo Ricciound was an Italian priest and missionary in China, known for his 16th century map of the world in Chinese characters, which inspired European exploration in East Asia.
The menu on offer is very wide, including cold and hot appetizers; barbeque dishes; stews and soups; abalone, sea cucumber and fish maw; Cantonese specialty beef, poultry, lamb and pork; tofu and vegetables; rice and noodles and a long list of dim sum and dessert. While enjoying my jasmine tea I noticed several different sambals on the table - house made with a smooth texture in small plates, Chinese style chili oil was served on a tiny ying and yang design saucer with sliced birds eye chilies, Indonesian style on the other side on the small tray with soya sauce in tiny pot. Thus the guest has the option of adding more robust flavour to the elegant, delicate flavours of Cantonese dishes.
My first course was fish skin with a perfectly crunchy texture covered with creamy salted eggs and it was delicious. Frankly it was difficult to not to ask for more.
Next came the chef’s signature trio seafood combination platter. Sweet and sour fish roll was served with pine nut, deep-fried fresh squid, fragrant salt and pan-fried Hokkaido scallops plus green spring onion and ginger sauce. The portions were very generous, showcasing the freshness of the seafood with great texture especially in the scallops. The spring onion ginger sauce reminded me of pesto with a perfectly balance of ginger, green spring onion and saltiness.
I chose Imperial Kung Fu soup, of stewed chicken and quail with Matsutake, cordyceps flower and dried logan. It had very delicate and elegant flavours, perhaps a touch too delicate. I hope no guest is tempted to add chili sauce into as it will ruin the simplicity of the flavours of this dish.
The star of all the dishes bearing this chef’s signature was the deep swan dumpling with black pepper duck meat. The presentation was dramatic, a plate with 6 black swans with rose petals. The waitress then poured hot tea into small holes around the plates and smoked effect from dry ice appeared to give impression the swans swam on misty lakes - star perfection! I really enjoyed the tasty, flaky pastry texture, reminding me of the flavours of fried dumplings from a Michelin Star restaurant in Hong Kong. The meaty rich duck meat with soya is highly recommended and something you must share with your fellow diners. Add a touch of chili oil will provide a mouth-watering layer of flavour. My last dish was pan-seared lamb chop with superior vinegar sauce, a sweet and sour offering with the lamb chop cooked to perfection.
Good things come from a good team. When Executive Chef Loy from Singapore came to my table to say hello, a nice touch, I was reminded that I have also met Chef Fei from Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou last year when he visited Jakarta to undertake research before establishing Le Feng. Chef Fei, one of the top Cantonese chefs designed the menu and trained the culinary team at Li Feng.
Unfortunately, I did not have room for dessert but I asked for lemon sorbet and it was a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, with a delightful texture from crumbs. It had proved to be a lovely lunch indeed and I can recommend Li Feng as a place for any occasion - from business lunches, to more casual light meals with friends or a family brunch on Sunday, tapas style, and not forgetting dim sum as part of feast of modern Cantonese cuisine.
Li Feng at Mandarin Oriental Jakarta
Jl. M.H. Thamrin, Jakarta
T: +62-21 2993 8825
Lunch: 11.30am – 2.30pm (Mon-Fri) 11am – 3pm (Sat & Sun)
Dinner : 6 – 10.30pm (Mon-Sun)