Great seafood, adventurous offerings. Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal is sold on the lavish seafood spread at a hotel
LOBSTERS, crabs, prawns, crayfish... who doesn’t love seafood? But unfortunately, they’re not cheap. In Europe, which suffers from a big problem of over-fishing, the price of popular seafood is so high that more and more people are looking towards alternative fish, and crustaceans, to satiate their seafood cravings. In doing so, they are opening the doors to more adventurous offerings.
This is exactly what Chef Michael Elfwing, chef de cuisine of Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s Senses Restaurant and his team, are trying to promote with their Friends Of The Sea gourmet seafood promotion.
The menu includes seasonal delights such as spider crabs, Hokkaido scallops, Brittany blue lobster and all kinds of oysters from Denogal, Ireland, razor clams, yabbies, sea snails — the list is endless.
All the seafood ingredients are sourced from around the world and are air flown on a fortnightly basis to ensure that everything’s fresh.
“Everyone eats prawns, so why not try something new... like yabbies instead?” begins the charming Elfwing, as he guides me to a basket filled with exotic-looking fish and crustacean friends. “With the promotion we’re trying to work with not only the sort of seafood that people are unfamiliar with but also, sustainable seafood.
From lavish chilled seafood platters that allow guests to enjoy the “taste of the sea” minus any embellishments to delicious bisques and chowders, this is the best opportunity to sample some of the finest seafood as prepared by the well-reputed Elfwing.
FRIENDS OF THE SEA
The team is keen to drive the sustainable agenda with this promotion and as such are using suppliers that are Friends of the Sea-approved. Friends of the Sea is a non-governmental organisation, whose mission is to conserve the marine habitat and is now a main international certification project for products originating from both sustainable fisheries, and aquaculture.
“Europe has a problem with over fishing because they’re very bad with controlling what people catch,” says the Swede. “We have a quota of how much we can catch, but not one on the size. So if you go fishing in Europe and you catch a very big fish, you’re very happy. In Australia, they impose a size quota so they’re essentially protecting both small marine life and the big ones, as well as those that are good for breeding for the future. The fines are very high. Australia is one of the countries that has been very forward-thinking in its sustainability agenda and protecting what they have.”
It’s the ingredients that drive this promotion. Along with sustainably-caught prawns, scallops, blue lobster and the unusual razor clam, which is similar to the bamboo clam but larger, they’ve also brought in delicious white fish offerings, such as French brill and Mediterranean Sea Bass as well as deliciously sweet mollusks, like sea almonds, sea snails and winkles.
“We’ll cut the skin a little bit to open the meat and then add some olive oil, lemon, chilli and garlic before going into the very hot oven,” shares Elfwing. “Some European fish are not that good steamed because the meat becomes very soft. So when you steam them, they just get flooded with water so you need to grill or put them in the hot oven.”
Tropical fish, adds Elfwing, are different. The meat is firmer so they’re good to steam because they hold their shape.
Some of the dishes on the menu come with a bit of drama when they’re being served. And some presentation tricks. “You have to have a bit of fun for the guests and not just put the plate and run away!” chuckles Elfwing.
CHALLENGES WITH SEAFOOD
Overcooking, says Elfwing, is the biggest challenge one can face when cooking with seafood. But, he adds: “If you start with nice seafood it’s hard to go wrong because a lot of them have their own flavour and unique texture.”
The scope for seafood is wide and you can get really adventurous, says Elfwing. “There’s a lot of things you can do. Don’t be afraid to overpower your seafood dish. Some people worry about putting too much chilli, garlic or lemon... actually these things go really well because sometimes seafood can end up being very plain and clean. If you give it a bit of love and flavour, it actually stands out quite nice.
Adding, he says: “None of the fish we’re using at the moment are very oily so all the flavours are quite clean. Maybe I wouldn’t do a heavy curry or a spicy sauce, but there’s nothing wrong with putting some chilli on top of the fish rather than an overpowering sauce.”
Having spent more than 15 years in the kitchen refining his craft, Elfwing has little problem conjuring ideas for new creations. So where do the ideas come from? He smiles, tilting his chef’s hat. “Ideas come from my travels, food memories and generally knowing what tastes good together. Oh, and the right mood is also very important!”
The Friends Of The Sea menu at Senses Restaurant is priced from RM88++. Visit www.life.hiltonkl.com/dining