Words: Craig J Selby Photos: Monica Tindall
Traditional Chinese feasts are a pleasure I have enjoyed since my late teens, living in mainland China. There is always something special about relaxing with friends in a private dining room, enjoying a subtle Chinese tea, and tasting ones way through multiple courses of stunning cuisine, each course adding a different layer of complexity and flavour to the previous.
Tao Chinese Cuisine, at the InterContinental Kuala Lumpur, is one such treasure, where traditional virtues of hospitality still take centre stage, and where Chef creates spectacular Chinese courses fit for a King.
On a recent visit, The Yum List enjoyed Tao Chinese Cuisine’s “Set Menu II” (RM 228 per person) – there are in fact four, distinctive, culinary creation menus. Set in a private room with new friends, we were treated to some of the finest Chinese cuisine available.
It was a rainy night, Kuala Lumpur traffic was being its usual uncooperative self, and we were all running late. That didn’t phase the team at Tao at all – their professionalism and perfectionism shone through, even though we were a little ragged from the weather.
For starters, we were served the “Tao Splendid Combination Platter” – a selection of delicate appetizers to get us in the mood to eat. The duck was excellent – tender and moist breast meat which just melted in the mouth. The crab claw croquet was exceptional – minced crab meat, lightly deep-fried. Claw optional. The birds’ nest dumpling is light and airy, with the crispy vermicelli noodle on the outside crumbling in the mouth at each bite.
Essential at any Chinese banquet is soup – our treat being a braised duo of scallop broth, truffle oil, egg white, and crabmeat. Not your typical broth, this soup had both depth and texture. Soft to the palette, but ever so tasty. The scallop broth was simple yet flavoursome, and mixing in the crabmeat and the egg white lifted the textures to give a hearty dish.
Fresh fish was next, with a whole steamed garoupa (head included – beware if you’re a little squeamish). Steamed with cordyceps flower, red dates, and shredded ginger, this firm fish was nicely cooked and absorbed the ginger well.
A favourite amongst The Yum List’ers was the spring chicken. Deep-friend whole spring chicken was infused with fermented shrimp paste. The chicken flesh was tender, with a delicious golden-brown batter created from the fry on the paste. Surprisingly the shrimp paste, which can often be quite pungent or overpowering, added only a subtle hint of its existence to the chicken.
The wok-fried soft shell crab offered good heat, being cooked with dried chili and fried garlic. The crab was subtle, mildly chewy, and generous in proportion.
A first for me was the braised assorted sea treasure. A selection of seafood delicacies, including fish maw, white fish, and other fresh seafood, this cacophony of seafood flavours was rather interesting. The softness of the maw had me thinking it was something else (until a kind gentleman pointed out exactly what it was), and the deep broth that accompanied it was rich in taste, and silky smooth. Fresh basil leaves were used to lift the flavours and add a freshness to the dish.
Seafood fried rice signified the end of the main dishes. Generous chunks of assorted fresh seafood, pickled radish, and crispy fried garlic chips made for a very tasty dish indeed. A nice way to finish an intensely diverse meal with comfort food, yet still highlighting fresh ingredients and creating great flavour. The rice did not disappoint.
Dessert with a Twist
Unusual for a Chinese banquet was dessert – homemade sponge cake with green tea ice cream and warm chocolate sauce. This gooey sponge got even stickier as the chocolate sauce melted the ice cream, creating a heavenly, colourful sticky mess of sweetness. I believe I had three slices – Caning too, if I’m not mistaken!
But the crescendo of the evening was the unveiling of Tao’s spectacular mooncakes. Ten individually curated mooncakes, covering traditional baked mooncakes, snow skin, and even a baked snowskin mooncake are on offer. The quintessential durian mooncake was proudly highlighted – interestingly enough with salted caramel chocolate to add intrigue. The marble snow skin was my personal favourite – a hint of almond permeated the snowskin, and the soft pandan paste complemented it perfectly.
Other options included sesame snow skin with Japanese purple potato and green tea, bamboo charcoal with assorted nuts, and roselle snow skin with cheese and spirulina. Certainly, the creative juices were flowing in the kitchen with these.
Overall, a stunning menu, and a very comfortable place to bring friends and business associates for dinner. Tao is a great way to experience classic Chinese cuisine at its finest.
Reason to visit Tao Chinese Cuisine: Stunning classic Chinese cuisine, attentive service, fresh produce, unique flavours, beautiful setting.