I have already waxed lyrical recently about Al Amar Express, and the fabulous hospitality of the staff, and owner of Al Amar. They must have liked us, for we were invited back for yet another session, this time, at their Central Kitchen, and also to sample their MIGF menu.
To the uninitiated, MIGF is the Malaysian International Gourment Festival, beginning from 1st Oct - 31st Oct, for participating restaurants. The theme this year is "IT'S RAINING CHEFS". We were really very privileged to have been able to have an insight into their central kitchen facilities, and quite honestly, I was very impressed with what I saw. I had no idea that Al Amar was such a large set up, I assumed they had their two outlets at Pavilion and Fahrenheit 88 and that was it. But, they also do a lot of catering, and not necessary restricted to Lebanese food, as can be seen by this tray of canapes that greeted us upon arrival.
I particularly like the asparagus spear wrapped in beef. The anchovies canapes was a bit salty but then again, what are anchovies if not salty.
Fancy a tart or two? That pineapple ravioli thing is absolutely yummy. Thinly sliced and dried or grilled, I'm not sure, pieces of pineapple, wrapped around a piece of moist cake with a hint of coconut.
The tour begins....
The kitchen, which meets the HACCP standards, (the ISO equivalent for Food Establishments), is immaculate, and is highly professionally organised. Red knives for meat, blue for fish, green for Greens, cold rooms that are as cold as -25°C, and systematic receiving and despatching bays. Quite the dream kitchen, if you ask me. Restaurant kitchens seem to be quite hellish, and hot, but the working environment at the Al Amar Central Kitchen seems to be rather pleasant.
That's Ralph Zeidan there with the Exec Pastry Chef. Joseph Afaki,the owner, with Rusell,
The treasure house, where all the goodies are stored. From cold rooms to the spice room that stocks precious cargo like saffron. Imported Almaza beer from Lebanon, chick peas by the ton, fava beans, all the ingredients that form the core of middle eastern cuisine. It is a veritable Aladdin's cave for the foodie.
Al Amar has a fully equipped catering service, with all kinds of cuisine, and crockery and cutlery as well.
THE AL AMAR MIGF SPREAD
The Lebanese Four Seasons
Labneh Trio With Lebanese Southern Tapenade and a Brush of Thyme. Labneh is that creamy tangy yoghurty cheese dip, and these three balls of it are coated with different spices.
Silky smooth labneh that just titillates the palate. I remarked that it was a rather large pre starter. That was the for the Sunny Start.
For the summer blooms, apricot glazed beetroot tartar on mango leather and rocket coulis.
The taste of beetroot, a very underutilised tuber in our asian cuisines, is refreshing, and almost tangy. The bitter rocket coulis adds another dimension to the sweetish sourish flavours of the beetroot tartar. The mango leather is extraordinary, so thinly sliced, its almost unidentifiable, as is this piece of lotus root. (below)
The piece of lotus root, with a piece of err...dill, I think, stuck onto it, is almost transparent. How they managed to slice a lotus root like that, and where the holes of the lotus root went, is a mystery to me.
For the Autumn Flavours, Spinach bonbon, soujouk mille feuille, and herb crust filled with hommos and grass fed baby lamb fillet.
Lovely parcels of spinach, in a light filo pastry wrap.
I love these lamb sausages. They're full of flavour, almost gamey, and the texture is nice and firm.
This unique thing, I am not sure if it's made to resemble a fish, but contains lovely hommos, and those bits that are the "eyes and nose" of the fish are actually pieces of lamb fillet, which most of us missed.
For the mains, or RAINING CHEFS, a choice, the first being Pan Seared Red Mullet Fillets with Sayadieh Rice & Drops of Fish Jus...incidentally, that rice is amazing. Cooked in fish jus, similar to the way that we would cook hainanese chicken rice in a chicken broth, the flavour is quite extraordinary, and the rice is good enough to eat on its own.
The red mullet is firm and not overcooked. The chive garnishing is used because the Lebanese have a similar kind of flower.
The other choice is Braised Rack of Lamb with Stuffed Baby Marrow and Vine Leaves accompanied by a Garlic Mint Sauce.
These vine leaf wraps are absolutely delicious, different from the ones we had at Al Amar Express. Where those were sour, these are savoury, and meaty.
The lamb rack, OOOHHH MYYYY, to die for. Perfeccctly braised, a glorious pink on the inside, cooked to perfection, and so very tender. The marinade is subtle, and leaves the natural taste of lamb intact, but yet, without that lamby smell that many Malaysians cannot take. Where is the rack, you ask? Well, they lovingly carve out that chunk of meat the base of the lamb rack.
Stuffed baby marrow. Its stuffed with a meatball that has meat and rice. Rather unique.
And for the Sunshine after the Rain....Nougat Glace laid on a bed of vanilla pineapple confit. I am not a nougat fan, as I usually find it sickeningly sweet, but surprisingly, this nougat glace was not.
Spiced chocolate shell. Luscious ice cream within a chocolate shell sitting on one half of a macaron.
The thing about MIGF menus is usually, the prices are exorbitant. However, surprisingly, this menu by AL AMAR is very reasonably priced at RM98++ without wine. You can opt for the wine pairing at RM138++ per person.
Lot 6.10, Pavilion