You say Po-tay-to… I say Po-tah-to? Well last week we definitely went all potatoed-out for the US Potato Culinary Challenge and I feel very honoured to be invited as a blogger judge for this very special event. The US Potato Board (USPB) has partnered with the Culinary Association of Malaysia (CAM) to launch the challenge as a platform for our creative local chefs to demonstrate their skills and culinary excellence using none other than these US Potatoes. 5 Chefs, representating each of their F&B Outlet whipped up their best creations and we were very lucky to have tasted them all.
Of course, we were not the only judges, there were also the representatives from the Chef Association of Malaysia and USPB contributing to the final score. The winning chef will be awarded a study tour to the USA for a week specifically at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) along with other chefs from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Central America. Nice huh?
Chef KK Yau, Secretary General of Chef Association of Malaysia said: “We are pleased to collaborate with USPB on this wonderful competition. Potatoes are a main staple in Malaysian households as well as in the F&B arena. Being a chef myself, I am excited about this campaign which I believe is an ideal platform for healthy competition amongst Malaysian chefs.”
So let’s take a look at the dishes, shall we? The first dish we judged last week was presented by Villa Danieli, Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur. I’m no stranger to Villa Danieli having dined there a couple of times so I had high expectations for the food there.
From Left: Purple Potato Puff with Salted Duck Egg and Duck Skin served with a Hoi Sin Sauce, Open Face Spinach Lasagna with Pumpkin Puree, Potato and Mushroom Filling topped with Buffalo Mozzarella, Idaho Potato Croquette filled with Braised Beef Cheek and Indian Spices. Love the colourful presentation and the fusion of Chinese, Western and Indian.
The Purple Potato Puff is the crowd favourite, with lovely crispy batter, fluffy filling. The salted egg added the important umaminess and a pleasant surprise came as a form of crispy duck skin. The Spinach Lasagna has clean flavours, though I felt the pasta sheet was slightly overbaked on my side. The croquette was very special indeed, once again blessed with a crispy exterior and fluffy mash centre with bits of comforting tender beef cheeks intertwined. Very complex dish, and very enjoyable too.
Next we moved on to The Suka Restaurant & Bar located just right next to the Parkroyal. Having never been to the place, I wasn’t sure what to expect but on first impression I liked the relaxed ambience especially the tall ceiling.
The dish was presented by The SUKA Restaurant & Bar looked impressive too: On the right was Mash Potato filled with Steak, topped with Cheddar Cheese and served with Mushroom Ragout, On the left was Seared American Cod topped with Deep Fried Ginger, on a bed of Grapes and Cherry Tomatoes, Bell Pepper and Tomato Chutney. The presentation looks a bit busy, but nonetheless appealing.
I attacked the mash potato first and loved the slightly lumpy texture with a hint of smokiness. It was well seasoned and fabulously buttery too. The steak, however was a little tough. Perhaps a braised variety would be a better pairing here. Everyone loved the cod, of course, pairing superbly with the fried ginger and the lovely chutney.
The night was still young, and we adjourned to our next venue and met Chef Kiong of Banker’s Room. Although starting to feel pretty stuffed with all the good food. But one look at Chef Kiong’s dish and all the sudden my appetite is back.
Of all the dishes, I loved this presentation the most. It looks just like a pretty garden, doesn’t it? I also felt that this was the most creative dish out of them all with the interesting components.
The main star here is the savoy cabbage filled with mashed potato, mango (!) and salted egg yolk. The inspiration comes from mooncake, believe it or not. I thoroughly enjoyed the flavour combination here. The Potato “Bone Marrow” is stuffed with minced chicken tinted with sage, inspired by Chinese dumplings. Again very surprising and it worked too. The 2 discs on the side were Potato “Tamago”, they are made of potato, egg, shoyu, mirin and sugar and I adored them! This is the winner dish for me.
We continued our judging few days later and started at Dorsett Regency Hotel Kuala Lumpur’s Checker’s Cafe tonight. The dish was Sous Vide Strip Loin with Parmesan Crust, Foie Gras Roll (wrapped with Turkey Ham), Potato/Pumpkin Puree, Sous Vide Vegetables and Black Pepper Sauce.
The strip loin has a beautiful pink centre, which is promising. Sure enough, it was wonderfully tender and the crust complemented the flavours well. Being a fan of foie gras, I enjoyed the buttery smooth liver, cooked to perfection. The potato components were a little disappointing purely because they didn’t give enough on the plate to go with the rest of the dish. But as a main course, it’s still very much well-executed.
The very last spot we went to was Muzeum Pub and Bistro, all the way in SetiaWalk, Puchong. Seems a little odd to have a pub/bistro on the list but one look at the dish we could tell this young chef has plenty of potentials.
Yet another beef dish: Pan Seared Tenderloin with Potato Foam, Confit Potatoes (Idaho, Purple and Sweet Potatoes), Potato Pave with Mushrooms, Shallot Jus. The presentation is elegant and the colours are definitely visually appealing. Unfortunately the beef came out almost well done when I requested for Medium Rare. The Pave was tasty enough though with the earthy mushrooms. I also enjoyed the little confit potatoes, especially the purple potato chips.
Well, as I said to the rest that night, I won’t be touching potatoes for a while! Unless they are as good as these dishes, of course. Thank you US Potato Board for the great opportunity, all the F&B Outlets for the great hospitality and good luck to all the Chefs.