Chef Michael Chew blends the old and new for Zuan Yuan’s latest à la carte selection
A CHEF’S work is never done. Just ask Michael Chew of One World Hotel. Besides having to cope with guests’ special requests and ensuring the taste and food quality remain consistent at Zuan Yuan, Chew has to rack his brains to come up with new dishes for the restaurant’s à la carte menu about twice annually.
“We usually change about 30% of the entire à la carte menu,” says Chew. “The new line-up often consists of the most saleable dishes from our past promotions, updated interpretations of certain traditional specialities and inventive offerings inspired by current food trends.”
His appetisers of Crispy Soft Shell Crab in Vinegar Honey Sauce (RM20++), Deep-fried Dried Scallop with Crispy Leaf Vegetable and Seaweed (RM24++), and Smoked Duck with Jellyfish (RM28++ medium, RM56++ large) fall into the last category. The cross-cultural culinary influences and ingredients are cleverly combined to create palate pleasers that even the less adventurous will find acceptable.
With more diners eschewing shark’s fin, Chew has stepped up to the plate with his Braised Crab Meat Soup with Gingko Nut and Asparagus (RM28++ small, RM40++ medium, RM60++ large) as a noteworthy alternative. Brimming with chunks of freshly shelled crab meat, gingko nuts and crunchy nibs of chopped asparagus, the viscous broth is soul-satisfying good. Plus it’s less damaging on the wallet too.
If you love the musky odour of truffles, the Pan-fried Cod With Braised Morel Mushroom and Black Fungus in Truffle Oil-scented Oyster Sauce (RM33++ per individual serving) will have you hooked the minute you get a whiff of the dish’s strong earthy aroma. Not only does the fish’s rich, sweet creaminess heighten the pricey fungi’s natural scent, its dulcet smoothness also serves as the perfect canvas to highlight the other ingredients’ spongy-crunchy texture.
Well aware that home-style specialities will invariably score with local diners, Chew’s Steamed Ridged Gourd with Dried Shrimp, Golden Garlic and Glass Noodle (RM25++ per portion) harks back to a familiar homey offering from the 1970s – a simple dish of sautéed cucumber julienne with glass noodles and dried shrimps colloquially known as tai yi ma kah lui (second aunt marrying off her daughter). Naturally, the chef’s version is more refined with the soft, smooth chunks of ridged gourd or angled luffa topped with a sprinkling of imported dried shrimps and minced garlic, served on a bed of slippery, translucent glass noodles.
The chef also replicates selected Teochew dishes, albeit with permissible tweaks to suit Zuan Yuan’s culinary approach. Bite into a tender morsel of the Wok Fried Diced Chicken with Chinese Leek, Onion and Chilli Sauce (RM30++ per portion) and you’d discover the dish’s aromatics assert their piquant accents in your mouth within seconds.
A little tau cheo (Teochew preserved soya beans) goes a long way in the Stewed Grouper Fillet with Dried Chilli and Garlic in Teochew Bean Sauce (RM38++ per portion). The briny beans together with the dried chilli and garlic lend a noticeably robust dimension to the crisp batter-coated fish.
When it comes to dessert, you can take comfort in the fact that most of the offerings are refreshingly light yet sweet enough to satisfy you. The delicate fruitiness of the Double Boiled Pear with Osmanthus and Honey (RM10++ per portion) and Chilled Lemongrass Jelly with Dragonfruit (RM10++ per person) are undoubtedly the lesser of most sugary evils.