a. The Italian Renaissance
N 43° 50′ E 11° 20′, 14th Century
The Renaissance (Italian: Rinascimento, from ri- “again” and nascere“be born”) was a cultural movement that spanned roughly between the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Florence in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life in the early modern period, its influence affected literature, philosophy, art, politics, science, religion, and other aspects of intellectual inquiry. This intellectual transformation has been viewed as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern era and it is best known for its artistic developments and the contributions of such polymaths as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who inspired the term “Renaissance man“.
One of the distinguishing features of Renaissance art was its development of highly realistic linear perspective. The development of this was part of a wider trend towards realism in the arts. As as result, painters also developed new techniques by studying light, shadow, and, famously in the case of Leonardo da Vinci, human anatomy. Underlying these changes in artistic method, was a renewed desire to recreate the beauty of nature, and to unravel the law of aesthetics; with the works of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael representing artistic pinnacles that were to be much imitated by other artists until today.
Earlier this year, Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur has transformed its hotel entrance into an art portal, commissioning the unique work of Chinese artist, An Xiaotong entitled ‘Everywhere’. Upon arrival at the hotel, guests are welcomed with striking colours displayed at the hotel entrance and ceiling along a narrow walkway. With the intention of resetting the guests’ mind when entering the hotel, the art piece features extended branches in bold red branches against electric blue to exemplifies a network of cities that spans everywhere throughout the world.
b. The Renaissance of Italian Cuisine
N 3° 9′ E 101° 42′, Present Time
FAVOLA means ‘fable‘ in Italian and is the latest edition to Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur’s stable of fine dining restaurants, replacing the once opulent Al Nafourah. Italian dining in the city hasn’t been very interesting of late and its opening couldn’t come in a better time.
Together with other master food bloggers like A Whiff of Lemongrass, Masak-Masak, KY Speaks, Cumi&Ciki, Fatboybakes and Ravenous Rabbit, I had the privilege to sample its extensive menu courtesy of the lovely Ms. Cheryl Lum, the establishment’s Director of Communications. And at time of press, judging from her current Facebook status, she is also in charged of the entire building while her boss is away on holidays.
The evening started off with freshly baked bread from the oven with 3 dips. My favourite has got to be the potato with truffle one. What a great way to begin.
Within minutes of our arrival, the wait staff brought out a sampler of Cold Antipasti (RM35 for a selection of 5) from the Crudo Bar which includes the following:
i. Octopus tossed with chopped garlic, chili flakes, sea salt & olive oil
ii. Seafood Salad in a dressing of garlic, chili-olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkled with Italian parsley
iii. Bresaola, shaved dried beef topped with a visually stunning mixed of rockets, fresh fig, pink peppercorn and drizzled with lemon juice and extra virgin oil.
iv. Bruschetta with cured salmon, portobello mushrooms and buffalo mozzarella topping
v. Caprese, a unique salad of buffalo mozzarella layered between slices of tomato, basil, anchovies, garlic confit, and oregano. Probably the least interesting of the lot, but looks can be deceiving!
Next came the platter of warm Caldo Antipasti with:
i. the excellent crispy Sardines sauteed with onions, sweet raisins, pie nuts, bell pepper in olive oil and vinegar. I highly recommend this!
ii. breaded Cod Fritters served with basil salsa and garlic sauce. The garlic sauce was just exquisite.
Their resident Renaissance Man, Executive Chef Antoine is definitely one saucy guy. On the same platter were also 2 variations of Panzerotti (deep fried folded pizza dough), which looked like curry puffs to the me! But now that Boo_licious mentioned it, it does look like miniature calzone pizzas. The Porcini version was filled with marinated mushrooms, mozzarella and grilled bell peppers while the Vegetali was filled with grilled vegetables in fresh tomato sauce.
You can also choose to order these antipasti individually at RM20 a portion and opt for it to be served at the Crudo Bar.
Just when we were getting stuffed on appetizers and ready to move on to the mains, two more antipasti dishes arrived on our table. First was the plump and perfectly Roasted Scallops (RM20) served on a bed risotto – made impressively from finely chopped cauliflower and truffle. This was worth ditching the bread and potato truffle dip for. The final appetizer was the Fresh Mussels stuffed with Minced Chicken, garlic and herb in tomato sauce (RM20). Yes, stuffed with chicken! What a novelty of textures and flavours. Thanks to BFF for giving up yours for me!
Our portion of carbohydrates came to the grimace of one Ciki monkey. Seriously, what’s an authentic Italian meal without it? Well, more for us I’d say. The Conchiglioni Marinara al Cartoccio (RM40) was expertly baked in a parcel of fresh clams, herbs, tangy tomato sauce and topped with sprigs of melted cheese. The shell pastas were perfect transports for the zingy sauce to travel into our salivating mouths. Molto squisito!
I’ve always been a fan of risotto, and the Risotto con Aragosta (RM45) cooked in stock of lobster and asparagus, with huge lobster chunks, lemon zest and green peas foam hits all the right spots and wasn’t too creamy at all.
But it was the Lasagna al Forno (RM40) that took the cake as the evening’s most indulging dish. This is no ordinary peasant food. It was made with alternate layers of fresh egg sheet pasta, braised Wagyu beef cheek, cheese crust and doused with truffle oil. How’s that for luxury? From here forth, no other lasagna will ever be good enough for me. Ever!
To indulge us meat lovers, Cheryl also included the velvety Roasted Lamb Shoulders (RM50) cooked with rosemary, garlic, black olives and tomato jus; the very aromatic and comforting Veal Osso Bucco in rich jus (RM70) – I could have smelt it coming from a mile away; and the ridiculously tender and juicy Veal Escalope “Due Modi” (RM60), done in two styles. One pan-seared, and served with lemon butter sauce while the other coated with bread crumbs, parsley and Parmesan. Salivating yet?
For me, the true measure of a good Italian restaurant lies in its ability to churn out indulging and comforting dessert. Favola did not fail to impress with their incomparable creamy almond Panna Cotta (RM20) perfectly paired with a minestrone of fruit and encased in a delicate sugar veil and the ricotta cream mixed with wild red berries on a sweet dough, aptly named Frutti di Bosco (fruit of the forest – RM20).
However, what I was looking forward to the entire evening was the highly acclaimed Illy Coffee Inspired Tiramisu (RM20) served with Chocolate Shavings after reading EatDrinkKL‘s review. This well-loved Italian dessert has been exquisitely reinterpreted with layers of soft sponge soaked in freshly brewed Illy coffee, panna cotta, mascarpone foam and topped with crunchy cookie croutons and explosive carbonated candy bits (think Pop Rocks). Now, that’s what I call an ending with a bang!
Not only does the food here speak for itself, the warm spirit of dining here is characterized by playful indulgence, togetherness and comfort of an Italian family meal. With excellent service and a beautiful interior inspired by the romantic Renaissance era, Favola isn’t just the stunning rebirth of a hotel’s restaurant, but it could also signify the resurgence of alta-Italian cuisine that KL-lites have been waiting for.
Note: Special thanks to Ms. Cheryl Lum for hosting this wonderful evening. And yes, I do realised that the layout of the comics above are more Mondrian than da Vinci. But did you know that Mondrian started off his career as a naturalistic artist? And that Naturalism (art movement) is a by-product of the Renaissance era? By the way, I aced my theory in art college. *wink*
Level 8, Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur,
No.2, Jalan Stesen Sentral,
Kuala Lumpur Sentral,
50470 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603 2263 7434 (Dining Reservations)
Opens for lunch and dinner daily, except for Saturday lunch.