STORY BY JOY KARABACZEK
In the world of gastronomy, the cuisine of China that encompasses several distinct styles originating from its various regions, is clearly one of the most favoured and sought after, with Sichuan, Shandong, Jiangsu, and Cantonese food being arguably the four most prominent and influential. Launched on the auspicious date 8th of August 2016, Li Feng restaurant at Mandarin Oriental Jakarta is the latest Cantonese restaurant to steal the spotlight.
Ancient Chinese junks from Fukien traversed the wide ocean routes to Batavia, now Jakarta, to trade in precious spices, silver, and elephant tusks, among others. This colourful history has inspired the inception and interior design of the newly-opened Li Feng restaurant of the Mandarin Oriental Jakarta hotel.The hotel’s general manager Maximilian von Reden explains the meaning of the “Li Feng” name and the restaurant’s concept. “We understood that the Chinese fine dining scene in Jakarta desperately needed a venue where delicious Chinese food with reasonable prices in a convivial atmosphere could be enjoyed. From the start, we wanted to offer the freshest of ingredients, both home-grown and air-flown, and at the same time, support local farmers and their products.”
“The concept of ‘beauty in abundance’ was born, where families and friends enjoy traditional and authentic Cantonese dishes which are transformed not just into culinary delights but visually appealing creations,” Max continues. “We are pleased to be the first Chinese restaurant in Jakarta to partner with a chef from mainland China. The young, award-winning Cantonese Master Chef Fei from Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou will come to Jakarta on a regular basis to provide special events for Li Feng’s discerning guests.”
Mandarin Oriental Jakarta’s experienced Executive Chinese Chef Loy from Singapore will ensure that Li Feng’s clientele will be pampered with his culinary skills and innovative dishes to complement Chef Fei’s vision.
Patrons who catch a glimpse of Li Feng’s interior from the restaurant’s entrance will be intrigued by the expansive ceiling’s shimmering, flowing ocean sculpture of crystal blue mermaid scale-like fragments interspersed with amber crystal junk sails, created by renowned Czech crystal sculptors Lasvit. The three striking main chandeliers, one of them depicting Chinese lanterns, the other two brilliant coronas of cylindrical prisms that seem to float in the air lend an air of elegance and calm.
On one wall is a massive gilded glass oeuvre “A Voyage of the South” by Hong Kong artist Helen Poon featuring a map of Asia in 1602, drawn by Italian missionary Matteo Ricci. The map traces the ancient sea trade route between Batavia and China. The circular table tops and other furnishings were manufactured in Bali, and the Chinese floor carpet of swirling floral patterns completes the interior’s main colour scheme of jade green, ivory, dark brown, sea blue, and maroon.
The hostesses and female servers sashay around in shantung silk cheongsams, while the waiters are decked in tang suit jackets. Their colours represent royal status (blue), good luck (red), and prosperity (yellow gold), designed by well-known Indonesian designer Poppy Dharsono.
An authentic Cantonese chef’s aim is to preserve the original flavours of each dish’s ingredients. Chef Fei’s specialties include the flavourful Sweet and Sour Chicken, artfully decorated with long wooden dowels that prop up a cloud of gossamer spun sugar threads. Another succulent eye-popper is the deep-fried miniature Black Swan Dumplings with Black Pepper Duck Meat. It consists of scrumptious titbits atop a special dish which exudes wispy smoke as hot water is poured in, to evoke a delightful scene of black swans on a misty pond. A toothsome palatepleaser is the Braised Hele Crab with Japanese Rice in Hoisin Sauce that brings out the richness of the sweet crabmeat and bright orange roe.
A venue for visual and gastronomical feasts, Mandarin Oriental Jakarta’s Li Feng invites guests to savour mouth-watering delights without breaking the bank.