Review: Wine Pairing Menu At Altitude, Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur
An oenophile's wet dream, Altitude at Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur stocks many wines we're well familiar with, and plenty more that we've yet to sample.
The restaurant's wine pairing menu, a joint effort between executive chef Alexander Waschl and certified sommelier Suraya Kaiv, underscores the science behind food and wine pairings. Much like a harmonious marriage, the right pairing should accentuate both parties' best attributes.
Bound to spark love at first sight among wine enthusiasts, Altitude's floor to ceiling wine chillers carry a dizzying array of New and Old World wines. KLCC's twinkling lights seem just a stone's throw away from the 53rd floor, while a live band sets the mood for a romantic evening with your beau.
Technology might be taking over the role of matchmakers in this day and age, but there is no algorithm for the subtle art of food and wine pairing just yet. Your best bet? Consult a certified sommelier such as Suraya Kaiv. With a Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Award under her belt, Kaiv overseas stock control in Altitude's cellar.
See also: 30 Insider Tips To Drinking Better
Fruit + Fruit
More in favour of congruent (whereby similar flavour profiles are placed cheek by jowl) than contrasting (dissimilar flavours are matched to strike a balance) pairings, Altitude's executive chef and sommelier conspired to bring forth matchy-matchy tastes and tipples. The citrus notes in the Salmon Gravlax with mango and orange purée mirror the fruit-forward Pinot Grigrio, Placido Italy 2017. Honeydew is the first aroma I pick out, whereas a fellow diner is adamant about finding notes of pear.
See also: What Do Your Genes Say About Your Wine Choices?
Herb + Herb
"Herb sounds vague," I joke by way of praising chef Alexander's slightly intoxicating Herb Scented Cream Soup. The truth is, says the good-natured chef, there are simply too many in the mélange. Peekytoe crab meat on crispy toast provides a nice contrast of textures with the velveteen broth, which shares the same floral, grassy notes as the Sauvignon Blanc, Sixty Drops New Zealand 2017.
Powerful + Powerful
"If it grows together, it goes together," say gastronomes with regards to food and wine pairings; hence the Goulburn Valley Smoked Beef Sirloin and the Cabernet Sauvignon Teusner "Gentleman," Australia 2016. To have cooked the beef anything beyond pink would have been to disrespect the cattle, the farmer and the terroir on which the two collaborated so successfully. Thankfully, chef Alexander has the degree of doneness perfect to a T. Grippy tannins and a long finish in the Cab Sab play out agreeably with the red meat and the earthy truffled mashed potatoes.
Smooth + Smooth
Purists deem it sacriligious to pair white fish with red wines, whereas pragmatics believe it's better to match a wine to a sauce than a protein. Those who fall under the former have only to taste Altitude's Pan-Roasted Sea Bass with marinated arugula and lemon dressing alongside the bright and light-bodied Pinot Noir, Wairau River, New Zealand 2017 to retract their statement.
Fat Vs Acid
Albeit being a challenging starch to master, the Forest Mushroom Risotto at Altitude arrives perfectly al dente. Mushrooms done two ways—dehydrated and plump—are scattered among translucent pools of olive oil and opaque smoked cream. In spite of being independently delicious, the risotto and Grenache from Belles Vignes, France 2015 make for strange bedfellows. A Grenache with higher levels of acid and tannis would have cut through each mouthful of creamy risotto more beautifully.
See also: Cheat Sheet: The Red Wine Varietals You Need To Know
Sweet Vs Soft
Most chefs adore bubbly for good reason—it goes like a dream with most dishes, sweet or savoury. In tonight's case, we pair Angove "Chalk Hill Blue" Bubbles, South Australia with an 'interactive' Chocolate Tartlet; the tubular treat is meant to be knocked over and smashed to smithereens to reveal fresh berries, crème Chantilly and 66% Caraïbe grand cru dark chocolate fondant. Small and steady chains of bubbles in our beverage provide an inkling of high-quality, and its soft finish with stone fruit aromas evens out the sweetness of dessert.
See also: Yap Kean Chuan's Top Tips To Becoming An Award-Winning Pastry Chef
From soft to semi-hard and mellow to brazen, an assortment of imported cheeses sails into the dining room to help us make a dent in our drinks. Housemade bread, dried and fresh fruit, onion compote and mango relish provide apt accompaniments.
See also: Moët & Chandon's Winemaker Teaches Us How To Pair Fine Champagne With Malaysian Flavours
Well thought out from start to finish, the wine pairing menu at Altitude is full of complexity for those who enjoy dissecting pairings, although the layers aren't essential to one's enjoyment. You’ll journey through earth and ocean, aromas and acidity... even the faintest hint of forest floor. Enjoy the ride.
Priced at RM425 per person, the wine pairing menu includes 4 courses and 4 wines. Dial +603 2113 1823 or email Altitude-KL@banyantree.com for reservations.
See also: Ask A Chef: What Is Modern Malaysian Food?