That was how Senior Sous Chef, Eugene Lee described the use of culinary technology in a kitchen like Tanzini Upper Deck. While the Tanzini restaurant serves food all-day, with a more casual menu in a similar environment, the Upper Deck on the 29th floor of G Tower is only opened for dinner and features a 7-course degustation menu. Which bears the question, if technology fueled equipment is commonly used in high volume production kitchens such as banqueting or centralised kitchens for efficiency and quality maintenance in the output, how would it be a worthy investment for a fine dining kitchen like the Upper Deck, which serves a maximum of 80 people at one time?
Let’s take sous-vide cooking for example. Usually used to preserve freshness of produce for storage, it is a different ballgame here for food is prepared as ordered. With a little bit of imagination, the vacuum-packing and water bath machine can be used to achieve quality in another aspect and in this case food presentation. To demonstrate, the chef prepared a potato-apple terrine with the sous-vide technique. In order for the thinly sliced potatoes and apples to stay in place during the cooking process, the water bath was employed and to allow the potato’s starch to break down to a desired texture; not over nor undercooked and maintained its shape during panfrying. Biting into the layered terrine, it is evident that precision through experimentation was carried out to find the perfect water temperature and timing. In another sous-vide cooking twist, a dessert called ‘namelaka’ (to mean creamy texture) was made. Conventionally, the white chocolate is cooked over a double-boiler till it achieves a caramel-like colour but it takes time and the possibility of burning or uneven batches. To ensure that it does not occur, the Upper Deck kitchen seals up the chocolate chips and immerses them in the water bath for 12 hours and that ensures a standard colour, texture and evidently the quality of the dessert. In a sense, cooking the chocolate for such a long period brings it to a point of “spoiling the chocolate” but because it is done in a consistent and gentle temperature, the same result is achieved and frees the team to explore more in the creation side. The chef tells us that the sousvide machine is used in a variety of ways, aside from its original function and that “if it could talk, it would probably scold us for abusing it!”
For both Chef Eugene and Executive Chef Johnny Fua, understanding the ingredients remains paramount as cooking is part science and part art, one must know the possible reactions of an ingredient to be able to apply the appropriate technology to invent new items or even re-invent a traditional. If you have always had the smoky effect at a barbeque setting, technology has made it possible to bring it into a pristine setting such as Upper Deck without the conventional ‘fanning fire’ method. Using a smokegun, the aroma of woodchips was infused into the little cups of amuse bouche, sealed and as we lifted the lid, the scent served as a precursor to what we were about to taste with the herring and the briny flavour of the fish and smoky element that lingered in our mouth for a moment.
Stating that everything is technology, even the oven, but what makes them great is the human mind and the boldness to imagine the possibilities of equipment’s ability beyond what it was supposedly built for. Both chefs agree that they cannot live without equipment because of the avenues it has opened for them to create a multi-sensory fine dining experience. While diners are more sophisticated and willing to spend for an intimate evening such as one at the Upper Deck, Chef Johnny laments the lack of such equipment suppliers in Malaysia. Perhaps there is still the label of ‘molecular gastronomy’ that hangs around causing people to be apprehensive of not comprehending the dining culture but the chefs resist the term for it may box them in. Instead, they simply call it ‘good food’ with the element of science and technology coupled with a modern and progressive style that anyone can appreciate.[box style=”rounded” border=”full”] Tanzini Upper Deck
Level 29, G Tower, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours: 6.30pm-10.30pm daily (Sundays closed)
Tel: +603 2168 1899