Guesting at The Library from 6 to 10 March, the dishy Shanghai-based Chilean proved to be a notable choice to kick-off the Ritz-Carlton's highly anticipated Guest Chef Dinner Series 2018. His impeccable credentials include his present Executive Chef position at NAPA Wine Bar & Kitchen, stints with Chile’s fine Alegre restaurant and Tokyo’s 81 Restaurant where he was awarded one Michelin star for his artful wizardry at melding Latin American, European and Asian influences.
An excellent San Feletto Prosecco Brut opened our lunch on high spirits. Crisp, bright and moderately dry, the Italian sparkling wine awash with delicate fruity, vanilla and nutty nuances boasts a long, satisfying finish. Truly a worthy choice to accompany the chef’s opening volley.
Araya's impressive wealth of experience drawn from Chef Ferran Adrià’s legendary three Michelin-starred restaurant El Bulli came to the fore from the get-go with his playful amuse-bouche: a triumvirate of Crispy Scallop and Herbs, Smoked Celeriac Hen Egg followed by Tomato Water with Shrimp & Watermelon, and a Beetroot Tartelette.
We were astounded by the various components of this stunning curtain-raiser. Starting with an impossibly thin, crispy savoury scallop skin dotted with dill cream, it was well-matched by a dainty coin of a tartlette anointed with a dollop of refreshing beetroot purée.
Served in a whole egg shell, the cloud-light celeriac mousse evoked spasms of shivery delight in us before we proceeded to slurp up every drop of the umami-rich tomato water. Tiny cubes of watermelon frolicked with a sweet, springy poached prawn for textural and flavour contrasts.
The pace picked up with a whole slippery Oyster crowned with Caviar and Cauliflower Cream. Flecks of fresh lime zest and sichimi (smoky, sweet ground red chilli and Japanese sansho pepper) bestowed fleeting yet discernible accents into the sumptuous dish. It was superbly paired with Vionta Albariño Blanca, a Spanish white brimming with complex tropical fruit notes and crisp acidity on the palate.
We then discovered warm gingery notes melding harmoniously with the inherent sweetness of the exquisite Scallop Ceviche. Supplemented by a chorus of clean, refreshing cilantro and green apple flavours, it came with Ventisquero Reserva Sauvignon Blanc - an on-point wine flaunting elegant citrus, pineapple and floral dimensions.
Chef Francisco's game-changing Arroz Verde or green rice held us spellbound with its luxuriant creaminess and lush oceanic sweetness. His secret? Using clam stock and spinach purée to render the plump short-grain arborio rice until the grains turned soft albeit nutty to the bite. Translucent carpaccio slices of Carabinero shrimp — deep-sea red shrimp coveted for its robust flavour — and crispy fried prawn legs heightened the dish’s appeal.
We swooned as the delicious creation formed a winsome alliance with Vina Muriel Reserva Blanco Viura — a rich, straw gold Spanish white with whiffs of lime, floral and oak overtones.
Our gastronomic adventure continued with the otherworldly speciality of Shrimp with Yuba, Caramelised Onion & Dill hitting our palate on a meteoric scale flavour-wise. Sous vide in olive oil for half an hour, the tender, springy tiger prawn reclining on a silky soft sheet of yuba left us gobsmacked. The unctuous caramelised onion bits & savoury dill sauce were to-die-for, a perfect counterpoint to the dollop of celeriac puree hidden underneath the sheer skein of yuba and little wedges of baby radishes.
Crisp, mellow tropical fruitiness of the Ventisquero Reserva Chardonnay proved a spot-on match for the Japanese Orange Sea Bream with Calamari and Zucchini Blossom. Every element of the dish – from the fried zucchini flower stuffed with prawn mousse to the splash of squid ink sauce and intensely flavoured prawn bisque was so raveworthy and refined, we felt as if we had soared to heaven. Honestly, it took all our willpower to resist from licking the plate clean!
The dessert of Almond Financier with Pandan Ice Cream couldn’t eclipse the earlier show-stoppers. Decent though the little cakes were, their pairing with the quenelle of pandan flavoured ice cream and bits of raspberries barely made an impact with us. The saving grace was the surprisingly good Roustabout Late Harvest Viognier, a likeable tangy-sweet dessert wine with expressive of herbal-floral aromas.
Catch Chef Francisco Araya at The Library until 10 March from 7pm until 11pm. His mastery will be showcased in a seven-course dinner priced at RM350 nett per person with an option of wine pairing at RM500 nett per person.
For reservations and enquiries, please call The Ritz-Carlton KL, tel: 03 2142 8000 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.