Dining Room

Special thanks to Macalister Mansion for extending this food review invitation.

Macalister Mansion is a prestigious boutique hotel at Macalister Road, providing guests with an exceptional level of comfort near the heart of George Town. In front of this 8-room hotel are a swimming pool and an adjoining bar, which are usually obscured from public view using ingenious arrangement of hedges.
The name of this British-era colonial mansion pays homage to Col. Norman Macalister (1760-1810), the third British Governor of Penang (then known as Prince of Wales Island). The structure was restored to its former grandeur while preserving its historical value.
The ground floor of Macalister Mansion houses several eateries. Each section is meticulously designed to the finest detail. At the west wing is the Living Room, a casual dining restaurant which serves local and international fares in a family-oriented setting.
Guests who prefer something lighter can also explore the range of in-house pastries at the Living Room. As a tea house, the eatery also offers a range of gourmet teas by TWG Tea.
Looking for somewhere to mingle around after a meal? The Cellar is furnished with the right ambience for the drinking crowd. Macalister Mansion has two climate-controlled wine cellars - one located within The Cellar itself and another just across the central patio.
Stocked with over 300 wine labels from around the world, it would be difficult not being able to find a drink of one's pleasure. Meanwhile, casual drinkers may also opt for red or white wines by the glass; there are around 20 house wines to choose from.

Should guests prefer more intimate setting to enjoy exquisite wines, there is a private room at the far end of the bar. Cozy sofa pieces, refined artwork and dim lighting define the classy ambience of this room.
Located at the east wing of the mansion, The Den is a smoking room with a decent range of fine cigars and prized whiskeys of different national origins.
My visit this evening is focused on the Dining Room, a fine dining restaurant which is open for dinner only. At the center of the dining room is a mock tree with white bark and foliage. Combining classical and modernist themes, the Dining Room affords an excellent setting for romantic dinners and social gathering alike.
At the helm of the kitchen is Chef Johnson, who has nearly decade-long experience working in several Michelin-starred restaurants across the globe. Chef Johnson strives to harmonize European culinary techniques with local ingredients. Instead of conforming to traditionalist dogma, Chef Johnson prefers to assimilate diverse ingredients together in a seamless fashion.
"Much Ado About Shrooms" is the theme of tonight's 5-course dinner menu. Each of the 5 main courses revolves around a different type of mushroom.

Dinner service commences with an Amuse-Bouche. Laid on the stone plate are elements of three different temperatures.

Symbolizing warmth is a piece of fish cracker seasoned with salt and lemon emulsion.
As for room temperature, the representative is a mini tartlet topped with diced tomato.
Last but not least, the chilled state is presented by lemon apéritif in a shot glass.
Like many fine European food establishments, freshly-baked bread is served on the house. The bite-size bread rolls are presented over a bed of roasted coffee beans. I appreciate the combination of fresh bread aroma with that of premium coffee beans.
The first course, Black Trumpet, is presented in form of an oversized asparagus. Resting on its juicy stem is trompette de la mort (black trumpet), a fungus that commonly grows in several temperate countries. Also present to enhance the mushroom's savoriness is Alaskan snow crab. Poured on the side is creamy yuzu sabayon, which is meant to impart a lovely sense of citrus tanginess.
The second dish, Porcini, emphasizes the satisfying earthy flavor of porcini mushrooms. The "soil" is primarily made from porcini, carrying subtle sweetness in addition to lovely fungus appeal. Sautéed porcini mushrooms on top take charge of the saltiness aspect. Included in this exquisite treat are charred leek and edamame. There is also sous-vide poached egg on the side.
This porcini-centric dish is paired with Banfi Toscana Le Rime Chardonnay & Pinot Grigio. Taking advantage of the Mediterranean climate of central Italy, this white wine carries a lovely sense of acidic fruitiness.
Tonight's culinary adventure moves on to Morel, which is presented in purée form as part of velouté sauce. Morel is seldom cultivated and is usually harvested from the wild, which drives up its price due to scarcity. Velouté is encircled by roasted walnuts and day-old bread. Dusted by a light sprinkle of morel powder, this dish is gratifying to the very last morsel.
This morel-themed dish is paired Spanish white wine: Monopole Rioja Viura 2011.
Orange Sorbet serves as interlude between flavorful dishes. Its slushy sourness helps to reset the palate in preparation for the next course.
Eryngii is the next star of the gastronomical line-up this evening. Also known as king oyster mushroom, eryngii is renowned for its thick stem which regularly plays the role of "meat" in vegetarian cooking. In this dish, the vessel for grilled eryngii is black cod, commonly known as sablefish. The fillet is gently cooked with olive oil in order to preserve the fish's soft texture. Besides eryngii, other actors on stage are chopped thyme, scallop flakes and fresh dill. All ingredients are gracefully brought together using red wine sauce.
Eryngii is to be paired with Esser Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from California, United States. Unfortunately this wine is not available for the time being, so another red wine is served in its place.
Progressing steadily through tonight's dinner service, Enoki is the next dish under the spotlight. Taking the center stage is char-grilled Wagyu ribeye steak cooked to medium rare (à point). Beef is taken from grass-fed cattle, which is leaner than its grain-fed counterparts. In spite of this, this dish is prepared excellently; I love the scrumptious pink flesh at the center.
Covering the steak is sun-dried tomatoes pesto with crushed pine nuts. Roasted chanterelle, garlic chips and basil are also used to draw appetite. As for the gravy, enoki mushrooms take point in the form of beurre monté (butter emulsion). I feel that the emulsion is on the saltier side of things; I personally prefer milder taste.
As for wines, the steak goes well with Evan & Tate Metricup Road Shiraz 2014 from southwestern Australia. The climate in this region is similar to that of the Mediterranean.
Moving on to desserts, Black & White Truffle is an interesting assimilation of confectionery with the truffle, one of the most sought-after fungi in European cuisine. At the base of this dessert is chocolate mousse infused with truffle essence. The mousse surrounds a heap of truffle ice cream and fresh berries. At the top are chocolate shards made from 70% dark chocolate, as well as meringue crisps. This dessert is commendable overall and decisively demonstrates the creative use of complementary ingredients in a harmonious manner.
Tonight's dinner service concludes with a glass of Trimbach Muscat Reserve. Produced from grapes from Alsace, France, this dry wine is notable for its distinctive fruitiness.
The 5-course "Much Ado About Shrooms" dinner is priced at RM228.00 net. For an additional RM100.00, 5 glasses of wine are included for pairing. This mushroom-themed menu is only available from 20 September 2016 to 20 October 2016. Prior reservation is recommended to ensure that the waiting staff provides the best table service that Macalister Mansion has to offer.

Name: Dining Room
Address: 228, Jalan Macalister, 10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-228-3888
Business hours: 7:00pm-11:00pm, closed on Mondays
Website: http://www.macalistermansion.com/diningroom.html
Coordinates: 5.41945 N, 100.31904 E
Directions: Macalister Mansion is located on the one-way stretch of Macalister Road (Jalan Macalister), after Loh Guan Lye Specialists Centre and also on the left side of the road. Dining Room is located behind the front desk. Parking is available within the mansion's spacious compound.

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