A Touch of Thai @ Essence, Sheraton Imperial KL
Essence Restaurant @ Sheraton Imperial KL
A Touch of Thai…
“Sawadikap! Welcome to Thailand!”
Fond memories of my last trip to Bangkok played in my mind as I walked up the stairs to the first floor of Sheraton Imperial KL. The most memorable thing about Bangkok, for me, was the food. Exotic parcels of Mieng Kam, spicy green curries, fragrant bowls of Tom Yum… oh, I loved it.
Thai food is in the top three of my favourite type of cuisine, so you can imagine my excitement when I found out that a ‘A Touch of Thai’, a two week promotion showcasing exotic Thai specialties, would be held at Essence Restaurant, Sheraton Imperial KL.
Cindy Yoong (Director of Marketing & Communications) and her lovely assistant Evelyn showed us to our table in the private room.
Smart thinking on their part, as the noise that erupted later from JD & Dilly (Red Breakfast), Terry (Red FM Drive), Hazim (Red Weekends), Frat Mustard (theQguides.com), Donovan Chin (Photographer) and myself, hit some pretty high decibels. Cindy and Frat’s alter ego, Jek Tan had a more civilized conversation in the corner.
Newly appointed Executive Chef Rajesh Kanna joined us, and gave us a guided tour through the restaurant.
The colours on the walls were bright and exciting, while the various buffet islands showcased a spread of cold appetizers, salads, Japanese sushi, a local section featuring Malay and Indian specialties, as well as a Chinese dim sum section and steaming hot soups. The variety was spectacular, and Chef Rajesh explained that for the promotion, various Thai dishes would be added and featured in each section of the buffet.
Four different menus would be rotated over the two weeks. Guests would be able to enjoy appetizers like Spicy Green Papaya Salad, Spicy Vermicelli salad with Prawn & Minced Chicken, and Fresh/Boiled Vegetables with a variety of Thai dips.
Various kinds of soups including different versions of Tom Yum tempt you with their fragrant scents, while main courses like Prawns in Red Curry, Grilled Cod with Green Curry Sauce and BBQ Duck with cherry tomato and lychee will certainly satisfy any craving for spice. Do check out the live action stations where chefs would be wok frying numerous Thai noodle dishes to order.
“Let’s go back to the room,” Terry whispered. “I’m hungry looking at all that food!” We skipped merrily back to our table.
First up, a teaser to the meal to come. Tall, cool drink called Hot & Spicy.
A blend of pineapple juice, coconut milk, and the not so secret ingredient: blended chili padi. JD was the first to try it and let’s just say the heat was a little too much for him!
Dilly was better at handling the spiciness.
Overall, the rest of us loved it and Hazim and I sat quietly sipping on ours until our glasses were almost empty and there was fire in our bellies.
It was time to meet the Guest Chefs who had flown in all the way from the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Tower, Bangkok.
Chef Charoensri Vatatnayut, 53, is the Sous Chef at Thara Thong (Royal Thai Cuisine). She loves to incorporate European influences into her Thai cuisine, but today, she informed us in her gentle demeanor, we would be tasting very traditional Thai dishes. With her was Demi Chef De Partie (Cold Kitchen) Burin Pongchang, 36, on his second trip to Malaysia. They presented us with our first dish.
Chef Charoensri explained to us that this was a light starter, usually made with mince pork in Thailand, but here she had substituted pork with chicken.
A great deal of preparation went into mixing herbs & spices like oyster sauce, pepper, coriander, minced chicken and crab meat. The mixture is shaped into little patties, then deep fried to a golden brown. The patty was light, and fluffy, and it was mind-boggling at how such an uncomplicated starter could have so much flavour.
Next up, the Larb Gai.
This is one of Thailands most popular dishes. Traditionally made with minced pork, at Essence we tried it with minced chicken. It’s simple, yet effective. The spiciness from the chilies, combined with the savoury chicken and sourness from the lime juice is truly exotic.
The Larb Gai is served on lettuce leaves that adds a touch of freshness. Trust me. You’ll be going back for more, or in my case, if you’re with Terry, he might try to steal yours.
Our second Thai inspired drink arrived. Lemongrass juice with lychee and vodka.
Then, it was time to sample one of the most famous dishes from Thailand.
Tom Yum Goong
Hot and sour! The Tom Yum broth itself was a fragrant blend of fragrant herbs, chili, lime, galangal, lemongrass, fish sauce and fragrant kaffir lime.
The freshwater prawn was juicy, it was succulent, and oh, so flavourful. I had dibs on the prawn head, but unfortunately for me (everyone else was jumping up and down in joy because the prawn was cleaned and ready to be eaten) the heads had been removed.
Oh well, I still slurped down every last bit of the soup, as did Terry, who proclaimed to the table that this was his favourite dish of the evening.
We moved on to the main courses, and steaming scoops of fragrant Jasmine rice were placed on our plates. Terry had his own method to eating, and asked specifically for 3 separate spoons of rice to be dished onto his plate.
“Why?” asked Hazim, and rightly so. “Ah,” replied Terry.”So that I can try a different dish with each mountain of rice! Not just a pretty face, my friend!”
And so, our main courses arrived.
A dish with Indian influence, it is essentially beef in Massaman curry sauce. This is a dish that originates from Southern Thailand. The word Massaman meant “Muslim” in the old times, referring to the dry spices that were carried to Thailand by early Muslim traders. The smell itself gets your tastebuds going, and you’ll be licking your lips thinking about the blend of stir fried dried chilies, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, sugar, fish sauce and tamarind.
Of course, coconut milk is the predominant champion of this curry, giving it a full, creamy, robust flavour. This was an all round favourite, especially with Hazim, Donovan, and Frat, who couldn’t stop talking about how tender the beef was.
Gai Pad Takrai
This was a dry dish, of juicy chunks of chicken breast stir-fried with chili, lemongrass and crunchy cashewnuts.
Mild in flavour, it added lovely texture to the meal.
Pla Sam Rod
A fresh, deep fried fillet of red snapper, topped with sweet-sour hot sauce.
The sauce was excellent! Bright red in colour from blended chilies, it exuded all kinds of wonderful spices, initially sweet, the sauce leaves a fresh, limey after taste in your mouth.
It was my favourite dish of the evening, and I don’t really like fish, so that’s a sign of how good it was.
Pad Pak Ruam Mitr
To complement all that spice, we had a colourful mix of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and sugar snap peas, sautéed with garlic and oyster sauce.
Our final dish arrived, and it was just as magnificent as its reputation promised it to be.
Pad Thai is known as one of Thailand’s National dishes. It’s a traditional dish said to have been brought to the ancient Thai capital of Ayuthaya by Vietnamese traders. And we thank ‘em traders with all our hearts for introducing this dish to us.
I love the flat, rice noodles, similar to what we call ‘koay teow’ here, but lighter in feel. The noodles are pan fried with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice/tamarind pulp, chopped peanuts, beansprouts and egg, as well as chicken, prawns, and tofu.
Don’t be fooled by its delicate colour. The taste is predominantly sweet, with a hint of sourness from the tamarind, and bursting with flavour from the spices and fish sauce. Douse a little of the blended chili on top, mix it in and slurp it up with chopsticks to savour its true authenticity. A winner all around, and very filling.
We wished we had more space in our stomachs. But of course, there was always space for dessert.
The flesh of the pumpkin is scooped out, and made into custard with egg yolk and ‘Gula Melaka’.
It is filled back in to firm up, cut into wedges, and served. The sweet, smooth and creamy custard was rich and went down very easily.
Tub Tim Gnob
One of my favourites, the Tub Tim Gnob is a light and refreshing bowl of bright pink water chestnuts in creamy, icy cold coconut milk.
Banana In Syrup
We finished off with a sticky, sweet fried banana in syrup. What a way to end the meal.
It was a pleasure to be able to taste a few dishes from the different menus. I could only imagine what other delights would be served over the next couple of weeks. Chef Charoensri and Chef Burin certainly know what they’re doing, and I guarantee you’re in store for a treat.
If you’re looking for A Touch of Thai, head over to Essence Restaurant at Sheraton Imperial to spice up your life.
*Special thanks to Cindy, Evelyn, Chef Rajesh and the team at Essence for a memorable evening.
*Special thanks to Donovan Chin for the beautiful photographs. www.donovanchin.com
Starting Monday 14th June, tune in from Eleven2Three to win a voucher worth RM 150 to Essence Restaurant at Sheraton Imperial KL! The Big Red Red Food Review with me Aly. Only on Red FM, Today’s Best Music!
LUNCH BUFFET : RM 78 ++ per person
DINNER BUFFET (Food only): RM 98++ per person
DINNER BUFFET (Free Flow of house-pouring wine or 3 bottles of Chang beer) : RM 128++ per person
Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Sultan Ismail
Kuala Lumpur 50250 Malaysia
TEL: 03 2717 9900, 03-2717 9922