A Table of 15 Chefs: Goulburn Valley Chef’s Table at Soleil
It was around 10 am that I received a phone call when the speaker at the other end said, “Hi Mr. Nicholas, it’s Iman from Soleil. Chef Evert would like to invite you to a chef’s table where we will be hosting 15 chefs. It will be a dinner focusing on beef.” I did not know which chefs were going to be in attendance but I knew it would be a fascinating dinner nonetheless, and I have to say, the dinner definitely did not disappoint.
It is not every day you get an opportunity to dine with one, what more fifteen chefs. With each handling their own restaurant during dinner service, it is uncommon to be able bring them all to the same table at the same time, yet that is exactly what Belgian-born chef Evert Onderbeke of Soleil has done. This exclusive Chef’s Table dinner featured five cuts of Classic Fine Food’s Goulburn Valley beef prepared five ways, with a selection of wines to match.
The dinner was hosted by chef Evert Onderbeke of Soleil and Nicolas Le Toumelin, General Manager of Classic Fine Foods, with also Darren Chin of DC Restaurant, Chai Chun Boon of Copper, Pedro Semper of St. Regis, Antoine Rodriguez of Le Meridien and amongst other chefs from Jake’s, Zenzero, Banyan Tree, Werner’s Group, and YTL in attendance, but what made the dinner the more interesting were the conversations that went on amongst the chefs.
We started the evening with pre-drinks over a casual but well-built negroni, a perfect aperitif to start a meat heavy meal, as the Italian classic did help prepare the palate.
“We gathered these chefs for the chef’s table to review the beef and it’s also a good for chefs to catch up with other chefs.”
The cocktails of the night were made by Iskandar John Lough of High Society Spirits, which were served with canapés while the chefs started arriving. It was then where all in attendance started to get acquainted with each other, some chefs familiar, some chefs new.
The first course was a Vietnamese Beef Salad using the striploin. The dish was a simple appetiser, which were cubed and lightly dressed, and worked well with its decent level of tenderness. The simple preparation which is common to Vietnamese cuisine aided in the showcasing of the striploin.
The second course was the Beef Tartare with Pecorino Sorbet and Kaviari Transmontanus caviar. This course was prepared with the flank steak. If you’re familiar with chef Evert’s cuisine, you will know that he is quite well known for his preparations of beef tartare. This simple yet very delicate dish is very difficult to handle, where you have to ensure that all the sinews are removed carefully, and then delicately prepared. For what the flank lacks in fat, it makes up in flavour, and was balanced well with the grassy umami from the pecorino sorbet, with the briny umami of the caviar.
We were served with a 2012 Pommard 1er Cru Les Arvelets a beautiful burgundy which had a softness to it, with notes of dark berries, making it pair decently with the first two courses.
“I personally love Burgundy wine, I find that it’s a lighter red which pairs well with the lighter dishes.”
Conversations were abound all night long, from the availability of truffles out of season to the forbiddenness of foie gras, which is what you would expect being argued over a table of that many chefs. We talked candidly about the preparations of beef and what cuts worked with each dish from how each cut should be worked differently according to preparation.
The third course was a Braised Intercoastal with Jerusalem Artichoke and Beetroot. The intercoastal is a cut that is taken from between the ribs, and may have a certain chewiness to it, therefore braising is a great way to present this cut. The nuttiness of the Jerusalem artichoke and sweet earthiness of the beetroot worked well with a braised cut.
The dish was paired with a cocktail prepared by Iskandar called the Peat Around the Bust, with a Laphroaig as its base, leaning on the spirit-forward side, which helps bring out the flavour of the steak cuts served.
“I chose to pair a cocktail in between the courses as a surprise for the chefs and also to showcase that cocktails too can be paired with meat dishes.”
The cocktail on its own was decent, especially for fans of peaty flavours, with a certain deep sweetness. On its own, it works with meat pairings as the zest from the lemon contrasts the heaviness of the meat.
The fourth course was the Tenderloin with Giuda-style Artichoke, Chanterelles and Black Garlic. The tenderloin was cooked medium rare, and went well with the black garlic and chanterelles, with the sweetness of the black garlic adding a sweet umami flavour.
“We used premium grass-fed beef sourced from natural grown 100% pasture fed British Cattle.”
The heavier courses were paired with a Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande 2012 Saint-Estephe, an acidic dry red that went well with the heavier meaty courses, from the intercoastal onwards.
The fifth course was the Oven Prepared Ribs Grilled Over Binchotan with Thai Béarnaise, Ginger-Sesame and Marinated Vegetables. One of the most flavourful cuts of the beef, the OP ribs were grilled over binchotan to ensure a consistent heat on the medium rare cut.
The beef goes through a very stringent process and only PRS graded carcasses are allow into this brand.”
The generous portion was enough to feed a village, but was also cooked perfectly well. The sauces served on the was honestly not needed as the quality of the beef was so good it did not require anything else, but nonetheless, Chef Evert went over and above. You can tell how good this cut was by the fact that the chefs attending were all volunteering to pick at the most prized part of the cut, the bone itself.
The dinner ended with the Valhrona Passion Fruit Inspiration, which was really a shame that most attendees couldn’t finish as the OP ribs ended the night for everyone before we could reach dessert.
The night ended with Iskandar making us a couple more drinks, with him making a decent version of the classic yellow chartreuse-forward Alaska as well as Darren Chin generously offering up a bottle of 2004 Cristal.
What a wonderful collaboration which managed to highlight five different cuts prepared in five different ways, with each cut prepared in the best way to showcase what the cut could offer. However, what really brought the dinner to the next level was seeing the mutual respect and collaborative spirit of the chefs willing to aid and advice each other.
“It’s good to get updates from the industry, we build camaraderie. Lots of interesting planning and discussion of upcoming future collaboration that are in the pipeline.”
Chef Evert Onderbeke is one of those highly underrated chefs, especially with his calm and quiet demeanour, but when you get to know him a little bit more, you’ll realise his understanding of local flavours and use of ingredients is actually quite wide and progressive.
Soleil Restaurant & Wine Bar
Lot 7 & 8,
Damansara City Mall,
Damansara Town Centre,
50490 Kuala Lumpur.
+603 2011 8261
Weekdays 10.00 am to 10.30 pm
Weekends 9.00 am to 10.30 pm
| PHOTOGRAPHY BY: NICHOLAS NG | WEBSITE: SOLEIL RESTAURANT AND WINE BAR |