Once Upon A Dining @Volti at Shangri-La

It’s the restaurant week, arranged by Wongnai to shake off the out-of-reach feel of upscale dining. We have dined at so many well-known restaurants, many times upset by the imperfection of the signature dish which was almost always overrated. That already set us up for an offensive expectation. As soon as we sat down, we started to glance around all the items on the table and how the hall was decorated.

A few tables were dedicated to Wongnai’s reserved customers. A hard-paper menu was placed in the middle of the table. We then found out that the 3-course dinner selections were not offered on a regular basis; they were created especially for this restaurant week. We were immensely satisfied with the creativity of the menu.

The furniture and tableware were in the collective red-black-white shades. All utensils were real silverware, carefully placed along side the white high quality china bone plates. Olive oil and balsamic sat fashionably in a glass bottle with double openings, ready to be mixed in a bread plate.

Yes, we were impressed.

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Soon a bread basket was placed in front of us. No butter. The bread pieces looked so interesting  we couldn’t help asking details. There was the onion foccacia, looking like a torn piece of bread, patched back together and exploded all over its mold. The smell came right out: onion it was. The thin sticks laid by the side. They were crisp, but not too cracky. Garlic it was.

The foccacia was hard on the outside, soft in the middle. The best thing about it was that it was easily tearable from the big piece, allowing us to eat bit by bit. The baker probably knew his bread was so good that it would be hard to resist not munching them too much before the real deal arrived.

On to the appetizers. We ordered all they had to offer and there we found: “the best dish.” Our “best” here is compared to ALL the dishes we have had so far. Hold it there, we’ll explain in details.

The dish is called “63 Degree Poached Free Range Egg.” What we saw was just a fluff of foam, topped with generous slices of truffles. The excitement was high and we couldn’t wait to figure out where the poached egg was. The first touch into the foam was unexpected; it had its own weight, texture, and body. The mousse, as we rather called, sat dangling on the spoon with the truffle aroma. First taste was, yes, it’s truffle, then…yes, it’s foamy, but no, it’s not egg. I think we were explained later that it was in fact potato foam mixed with egg whites. The flavour and texture was insane. Soft bubbles engulfed the tongue and, when broken, delivered the slight saltiness balanced with a very satisfying  eggy after taste. We had to literally stop each other from indulging in the dish too fast.

And we did find the yolk! It sat quietly underneath all the bubbles, waiting for our attention at last. We held our breath, before breaking the yolk, half hoping that the yellow streak would be let out, half hoping the otherwise. The yolk didn’t run; it was boiled so well – at 63 degrees – that the yolk stopped just right when it was still red but not runny. That jelly-like texture of the yolk, surrounded by the mousse, finished with a chewy bit of truffle put us to rest. Okay, we thought this meal was just worth everything at this point.

But no, not yet, that was just the first dish!

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Another appetiser that came side by side with the Poached Egg dish was the Scallops Carpaccio with green peas puree, watermelon, and mint. It was really really pretty. Like a garden with lots of colourful flowers. The scallops were equally sliced, cooked just perfectly with subtle flavour that did the ingredients justice. We didn’t quite make sense of the jelly peas puree, but eating all the ingredients together – especially with the fish roes and watermelon – made a nice welcoming bite. (Okay, I need to give it to the dish: watermelon and scallops were supposed to be married. They were like a couple that people never thought would go along but end up having an amazing marriage.) It was a nice compliment with the Egg Poached, though losing our attention for a long while after served.

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Next were the main course: Premium Grilled Australian Beef, served with rocket, balsamic, and parmesan cheese + Homemade tagliolini, with fresh crab meat, zucchini, chilly and sun-dried cherry tomato. The beef was medium rare as we wanted. Texture was just right, not too hard to cut through, not too chewy. The sauce was not too far from the commercialised steak sauce, but we could actually feel that the sauce was made from the authentic cookbook. No starch added. No stupid flavour-additives needed. It was just that pure, liquidy, tangy taste that you would look for to round up the taste of the steak. The balsamic reduction drops on the edge of the plate was not negligible by any means. Just a drop of it added another layer to the taste. The balsamic dressed rocket salad had a mix of bitter spinach leaves to elevate the layers of flavours. It was no ordinary salad. Looking closely, and we knew the leaves were carefully picked and prepared. Nothing was to discard. The dressing was given just the right portion with the leaves. Yes, we checked all the leaves. We were still surprised at ourselves, haha.

We came to understand the style of food here at Volti: the food stood true to its originality. Just simple food done right, done well, done perfectly. Every little detail counts a lot as it made the big picture complete.

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The crab tagliolini was exceptional. Though we tasted the so-called “homemade” pasta many times, this dish actually retaught us what “homemade” was supposed to taste like. The pasta was soft but stretchy, almost felt like it was about to be torn apart but still stayed put. Flavour was all there. Crab meat was generously – and I really mean generously – provided. This was no “let’s-put-some-crabs-to-make-it-a-crab-pasta-dish” kind of amount. We had big, juicy crab pieces in every single spoon until our very last bite. I literally couldn’t believe it. Again, all the small details made me rethink about all the pasta dishes I had in the past. The zucchini slices and plump tomato halves you saw there made so much sense to the dish, almost indispensable, that I kept tasting them one by one. The tomatoes were star.

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After spending quite some time to finish the main dishes, we finally waved our hands to the waiters to serve the final dessert dishes. A PannaCotta with, lemon, strawberry, and Amaretto di Saronno was served in a high ball kind of glass. Beside it sat a big plate of Vanilla Millefeuille with puff pastry, bourbon vanilla, and strawberry sorbet. To end the meal with something memorable, the waiter came with a liquid nitrogen, pouring into the PannaCotta, leaving on top of it chilled mascarpone flakes. Our PannaCotta suddenly looked like it just stayed outside the house in snowing winter. The look and the serving gave us an amazing experience but the taste of the PannaCotta itself was, at least for me, quite expectable. It sadly tasted just like any other PannaCotta. Quite a let down here for me although the other diner (my co-author) thought otherwise. The sorbet was refreshing and the mascarpone added the chill elements to the bite though didn’t have much taste shining through. Cracking the puff pastry of the Millefeuille was, however, very fun. The puff cracked with that nice sound signalling a perfect bake, and didn’t crumble down as we usually see with other puffs that failed. The vanilla mousse packed the vanilla and bourbon flavour, giving you the sweet taste you expect from “Vanilla.” The sorbet was the same one with that atop the Pannacotta. I’m not a real dessert fan, so I couldn’t say much about the dishes except that they didn’t leave me longing like the other previous selections.

After all is over, our receipt came. Just to mention, it came in a little pocket with the gold embellish. This just went to show that a hotel dinner room really paid attention to every minute detail – from balsamic drops to colour plating to receipt pocket. This is why it has always beaten the wanna-be trendy restaurants out there.

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