Entering the Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa (A Shangri La Hotel) you get a sense of the world as seen by James Hilton in his famous book ‘The Lost Horizon’, a sense of calm and tranquillity.
The Rasa Sayang on Batu Feringgi beach is one of the oldest in the Shangri La chain but as you roam around the spacious open lobby you only get a feeling of opulence and serenity for the Hotel has been kept up to its 5-Star rating in every way.
My reason for visiting the Rasa Sayang Resort was primarily to try the renowned Feringgi Grill which has been under the spell of the young Chef De Cuisine, David Pooley and his much talked about menu for the past 9 months.
First, however, let me set the stage for those of you have not had the good fortune to have experienced Shangri La on our very doorstep.
The Feringgi Grill is situated on the mezzanine floor of the Garden Wing and has superb views over the immaculate tropical gardens all the way to the famed palmed fringed Feringgi Beach and sea beyond.
The restaurant has a glass wall which opens up the luxuriously decorated Bar and restaurant to the surrounding landscaped flora and fauna as you experience the comfort of the moderately set air conditioning whilst viewing the surrounding tropics.
The walls are decorated with a dated brick which I was reliably informed came from the owner and founder of Shangri La, Robert Kwouk’s, family Island villa. This is not only very attractive and comforting but has a tinge of the resorts green credentials by recycling the demolished building.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Australian Chef De Cuisine David Pooley and spent a very enjoyable 40 minutes or so getting to know a little about the man behind the menu.
David hails from recent stints in both food capitals of Australia, Sydney and Melbourne. He has a very respectable resume for a relatively young guy and is most definitely a man on a mission, a mission to ensure that divine food is served in style.
He has over 10 years of culinary experience and was most notably sous chef at both award winning restaurants Quay and Claude’s in Sydney.
Quay specialised in modern Australian cuisine and is the highest ranked Australian restaurant in the world and was voted No. 27 in the Pelligrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It has also won top honours in the Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards and the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide as “Restaurant of the Year” for two consecutive years in 2009 and 2010.
The Australian Good Food and Travel Guide (AGFG) rated Quay four “chef hats” and Claude’s – a thirty year veteran of fine dining offering modern French cuisine – three “chef hats”.
David Pooley honed his abundant skills here under the tutelage of talented celebrity chefs and some of Australia’s finest like Peter Gilmore of Quay and Malaysian born Chef Chui Lee Luk from Claude’s.
David started his culinary career at the tender age of 15 as an apprentice in the Pacific International Hotel in Sydney followed by several dining outlets throughout the state of New South Wales.
David said, “The art of cooking has always been a passion and true love of mine from an early age. Growing up in my grandparents’ cafe, I knew becoming a chef was where I wanted to be. For me, it is all about the guests and giving them the best – a unique, attractive and most memorable dining experience possible!”
I asked David where he sourced his ingredients from and he said that most had to be imported to get the very best of quality. However he went on to point out that this did not detract from their freshness as it was only a 5-6 hour flight to Perth which is where most of the imported meats and fish came from.
He would like to source more local produce but as a 5-star establishment their guidelines and quality control are the strictest possible, but did source as much local produce as was available within the above quality-control constraints.
After discussing my culinary likes and dislikes David suggested I try the Tasting Menu which is “just as the label says on the tin”, a menu selection selected by David to highlight the entire range of the menu available.
This is available for RM 175++ and is an extravagance that is worth treating your palate to, for this is no ordinary menu and nor are the ingredients any old thing thrown together. This is art for the mouth to enjoy and the eyes to savour whilst the nose gently absorbs the show as it unfolds.
Like all good stories there is a beginning, a middle and an end but also like most good stories a lot happens in between these points.
To get the show on the road we were served with an Amouse Bouche – quiet literally a bit of fun for the mouth to enjoy – a preamble. In this case it was a quails egg very lightly pouched to just seal the white, enough to allow the shell to be taken off very carefully and then dipped in Panko breadcrumbs and quickly deep-fried.
This is popped into the mouth and as you bite into it the quails egg explodes treating your mouth to a sumptuously silky yolk with a firm eggwhite coated in crunchy breadcrumbs. A combination difficult to understand unless you try it!
This was followed by Brik Pastry Cigar, Tomatoes, Goat curd, vinegars, olive, Dutch Basil. This is all it says in the menu and gives away very little to what you are about to enjoy.
You have two thin pastry cigars stuffed with a creamy mild but tangy goats cheese, served on a what I thought at first was Truffles but was I think where the olives come in served with lightly baked tomatoes with two intensely reduced sauces that are both sweet and sour in the purest of senses.
I am already starting to get a sense of what David is about. Visual presentation is delightful and the tastes are of the very finest but it is the textural combinations that are starting to delight my palate and surprise it at the same time.
Next came the Angus Carpaccio. Angus beef which is truly of the finest quality to be found anywhere which is uncooked, sliced so thinly that you can see through it and served on a bed of rocket pulp, peri peri and wood grilled capsicum with scattered pieces of Pecorino cheese (an intensely flavoured cheese similar to Parmesan but has a more subtle taste) and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
This was served with a home made bread stick coated in poppy seeds and extremely crunchy (again with the textures delighting and challenging the palate to extract as much enjoyment out of every mouthful as is possible).
This is where David deviated from the standard menu and we were served with the Seared Tuna which was absolutely superb, melt-inyour- mouth perfection. Served on a bed of salad leaves, olives, boiled quails eggs (that tasted like tiny miniature melon balls) and fresh herb leaves.
OK, now back on track with the tasting menu we were served the Five Spice Quail which was a selection of mushrooms and fungi, cuttle fish, Breast and thigh of Quail, Soy Mirin, Garlic Chives and coriander.
Not my favourite dish of the evening but still an enjoyable experience. I found the quail and fungi to be a little on the oily side but the mushrooms and cuttle fish were exquisite. As always these dishes are down to personal taste.
With perfect timing, next came a small refresher for the palate, a green tea sorbet . This was surprisingly sweet and I only had about half of it before my palate was refreshed enough.
Now with our mouths refreshed if not our waistlines (which were most definitely starting to feel a little tighter than when we came in!) the main star of the evening was presented. With a choice between fish or meat, in this case a fillet of Salmon or Loin of Lamb, I plumped for the Lamb whilst my dining partner chose the Salmon. Both were excellent and would have delighted me had I chosen either.
Yet again David’s words came back to me from before the meal about the quality of the ingredients. The Lamb was mouthwateringly divine, melt -in-your-mouth perfection. Having been asked how I like my Lamb cooked at the beginning of the meal and choosing medium rare, I was
delighted that it was indeed cooked to perfection. Set on a bed of hummus-like blended egg plant (aubergine) served with a compote of miso, pearl barley and shallots the Lamb ranked as one of the most memorable meals I have had for many a year.
I did get to sample my dining companion’s salmon which was again cooked just the way I like it. The outside of the fish was sealed and the heart of the flesh was barely cooked to another combination of flavours and textures designed to delight. The salmon was slow roasted with a crust of spices, pink onion, mustard cress, roe, mascarpone and radish.
Next, just to torture our fitto- burst waistlines, David deviated again from the tasting menu on a little side excursion with a delightful, elegant and very visually
appealing glass of mixed summer fruits (predominantly strawberries & water melon) topped with vanilla ice cream, violet petals and gold leaf. As enjoyable as it was refreshing and colourful.
Back on track once more we were served the dessert as mentioned on the menu which was Chocolate Pannacotta, banana marshmallow, rosemary popcorn and Earl Grey. The white chocolate logs filled with Earl Grey tea ice cream was such an unusual combination and was a wonderful way to end a culinary journey through the menu of Feringgi Grill as well as an insight into the culinary mind of David Pooley.
Coffee or tea was served with petit fours – four hand made chocolates filled with dark and intense parfait or a lighter more creamy filling.
Feringgi Grill offers a great match of excellent cuisine in an exceptional location.
Wine connoisseurs can indulge in the restaurant’sextensive selection of vintages from both the Old and New World, and cigar aficionados are spoilt for choice with Feringgi Grill’s world-class selection of cigars.
Two private rooms are available to accommodategatherings for 10 and 20people respectively.
After all this it was just left forme to thank our chef, talk a little of the menu and then waddlehome slowly, content as a kitten in front of a fireplace!
Batu Feringgi Beach
T: (60 4) 888 8888