The Expat Group, Malaysia’s leading media company for expats, holds a monthly ‘wine dinner’, during which expats gather for an evening of fine dining and good company. This month, the dinner was held at The Intermarks’s Chinese restaurant; Tai Chinese Cuisine, following the success of the July dinner at the hotel’s Japanese eatery.
At Tao Chinese Cuisine, diners are not given the traditional “lazy Suzan” experience, during which you unconsciously devour far too much food and leave feeling rather too full. Here, Chinese cuisine is elevated to an elegant affair, with individually served dishes, exquisite presentation and lighter foods that retain all the flavour, but are not so heavy on the stomach.
Entering the oriental-inspired dining room, guests were greeted with a glass of sweet moscato; somewhat of an unconventional choice in wine for pre-dinner sipping that would have been more suitable served with dessert, however, enjoyable all the same.
Waiters circulated with trays of appetisers, comprising of a sweet and juicy Marinated Cherry Tomato; simple yet beautifully flavoured, Crispy Boneless Chicken; moist and perfectly seasoned, and, my favourite bite; Kataifi Roll; succulent prawn wrapped in crisp kataifi pasty and topped with a gentle and creamy wasabi mayonnaise.
After half an hour or so of mingling, we were ushered to our seats, and the meal began. Tables were meticulously arranged, with ample wine glasses for multiple tastings and an elegant floral centrepiece. Upon each chair lay beautiful floral cushions and a constellation of tiny white lights lit the room from above.
After being served with traditional jasmine green tea, our first course arrived; the Tao Combination Platter of fried oyster; majestic in its shell and topped with a fruity and mildly spicy mango salsa, studded with punchy spring onion and a slice of honey glazed chicken roll with a crisp, shiny skin and juicy meat wrapped around crunchy veg, sprinkled with black and white sesame. The plate was dusted with a ribbon of green and red, atop which sat colourful edible flowers; a very pleasing presentation.
Next came the Double-boiled Sea Treasure Soup in Coconut. I was slightly cautious nervous to try some of the treasure hidden in the cloudy broth. Sea cucumber and abalone are not ingredients that I am accustomed to, or had ever eaten in fact. Much to my surprise, they were not the horrors I was expecting. I can’t say that they tasted of anything really, anthough I was not too taken with the texture of sea cucumber. Sea creatures aside, the broth itself was flavoursome, well seasoned and readied the palette for the next course or Baked Cod Fillet with Spicy Pomelo Plum Sauce. Spicy it was not; perhaps toned down for the majority of Western palettes that are adversed to spicy foods. Despite this, the sauce perfectly complemented the succulent, just-cooked, stained orange fish, while the pomelo provided a sour element to balance the sweetness. I would perhaps have preferred with fish skin to be crisp rather than soft.
If I had to choose a favourite dish, the Slow-Cooked Chicken Drumstick with Chinese Herbs in Bun could well take gold, although it took a little reassembling before I could eat. The crisp bun verged on pastry, crisp, thin and buttery. The meat fell effortlessly off the bone when I attempted to remove the drumstick from its vessel. I have once major complaint with this dish; plastic was used to line the bun, I would imagine to avoid the juices soggy-ing the bread. This should have been removed before serving; a dish should never arrive containing elements that cannot be eaten and I would have quite liked the juices to flavour the bun last minute. Once I had packed the meat and all its flavoursome juiced back into the bun, the dish was an absolute delight.
Our last savoury course was Poached Shanghai Pot Stickers served with Garlic Sauce and Chilli Oil. This was a very modern take on traditional dumplings, which would normally be served plain with a soy and vinegar dipping sauce. Presentation resembled that of an Italian pasta dish, the a thick, creamy and sweet sauce, livened by drops of piquant chilli oil and freshened with finely chopped spring onion tops. The meaty filling soaked up all these flavours for a truly comforting plate of food.
The meal came to a close with a light and refreshing dessert; Homemade Layer Cake with Green Tea Ice-Cream and Warm Chocolate Sauce. I suspect that they layer cake had been rethought into a simple sponge, as I saw no layer – perhaps there was only the one layer? I happily cleaned the plate regardless. Dessert arrived as a square of bouncy sponge, topped with a well-executed quenelle of creamy green ice cream, sprinkled with chopped pistachio nuts. The chef then made his way around the dining room to pour each individual served with the silky chocolate sauce. The sauce was clearly made with a good quality, high-cocoa chocolate and was light rather than overly sweet and rich.
For me, wine and Chinese food are a slightly awkward pairing, therefore a wine dinner is perhaps better suited to another cuisine. However, that is not a reflection on the meal, which I greatly enjoyed. The chefs at Tao Chinese Cuisine have masterfully transformed Chinese classics into sophisticated “white plate affairs”. Everything was perfectly cooked, well-balanced, bursting with flavour and spice and each course lead smoothly to the next. I highly recommend this restaurant and would love to return for more fantastic food sampling in the future.
Tao Chinese Cuisine
The Intercontinental Hotel
164 Jalan Ampang
Open for lunch 11:45-14:30 Mon-Fri / 11:00-14:30 Sun & public holidays
Open for dinner daily 18:30-22:30