The view of Kuala Lumpur from the 51st floor of THE FACE Suites is enough to put you in an expansive mood, and Tangerine does not disappoint.
The restaurant, remade into a fine dining destination since late last year, offers only degustation menus in three, five and seven courses of RM138, RM188 and RM288 nett respectively. There is a big wine list to help you spend your money while lingering over the view as the sun sets over the city and its lights come on.
Décor-wise, the restaurant is suitably restrained and luxurious with a high ceiling, thick carpeting, plenty of space, pastel colour scheme, gleaming surfaces to amplify subdued lighting and a glass wall overlooking the city skyline.
Table service was generally very good with the staff being friendly and solicitous without being obsequious — just close enough to explain the menu and allow guests their privacy.
For the five-course degustation menu, there were three amuse-bouches, one palate cleanser and complimentary bonbons at the end of the meal. Warm, fresh table bread — brown, Mediterranean and sesame — paired with truffle butter set the level of expectations. Presentations were visually stimulating without being over-the-top, glitzy or veering into kitsch.
Amuse-bouches allow chefs some creativity: Seared tuna with apple and cheese, pea panna cotta topped with Parmesan cheese (looking like miniature kueh talam) and a chicken log and herb sachet in double-boiled broth highlighted the harmonious, tasteful approach of the Malaysian chef who heads the kitchen.
Pale honey-yoghurt cheese, green basil crumbs and crumbled nitro olive served to showcase the first course, the refreshing, lightly cooked Pearl Tomato Compote, with the colour palette seemingly proportionate to the flavour contributions.
Three plump cherries with stalks were not what they seemed, being orbs of decadently smooth foie gras coated in lipstick ruby-red and served with crushed nuts and a curled tuile wafer in the Foie Gras Cherry of the second course. The alternative course (hardworking food reviewers go to extraordinary lengths on behalf of their readers) was the Portobello Tortellini, a feast for truffle lovers, a painstaking construction of shaved truffle, truffle foam, powdered truffle malto and truffle tortellini, warmly luxurious and fragrant with truffle in multi-textured choice.
The third course, Cured Hokkaido Scallop, was dressed in leaves of garden pea mousse and black caviar, making for delicate, nuanced mini-mouthfuls of light marine flavour, with an alternative choice of Brittany Lobster Tartare, rather more robust and dressed with saffron foam and crustacean bisque.
A pause for Iced Avocado and White Gazpacho, rendered into a froth, and served on a bed of ice, to reset the palate in preparation for the fourth and main course, which offered five choices in duck, fish, beef or lamb — enough for the most finicky diner.
The Wild Cod was spectacularly good, seared to a lightly crusty golden brown, and yielding to firm, pearlescent fish within, offset by butter-smooth potato and leek soufflé, julienned baby fennel, light passion fruit foam and given a kick in the taste department with Kalamata olive crust — dark and strong tasting in comparison.
One of the alternatives, Daube of Wagyu Beef Cheek, was achingly tender, lending new life to the overused and much abused phrase “melt in your mouth” with a distinctive beefy flavour, accompanied by mini Yorkshire pudding, caramelised shallots, pickled beet wedges and rosemary crisps that resembled wings. The meticulous attention to detail was evident in the preparation and colour and flavour combination.
Spanish Goat Cheese Gelato, smooth as yoghurt but milkier and richer, especially when paired with a selection of cookies, fruit and meringue, completed the meal with a choice of coffee or tea and complimentary sweets — macaroons, chocolates and the such to leave a lingering sweetness.
As an opening salvo to Tangerine’s attempt to establish its cred for good fine food, the current menu is an unqualified success, a tribute to Chef Arini’s passion and attention to detail as well as the on-the-top-of-the-world setting. The menu changes on a regular basis, and it is unlikely that the current remarkably overly modest pricing will stay as it is for the dining experience that it offers, making this something of a bargain for food-lovers for as long as it lasts.