Le Venue revisited (many times over)
When it comes to good food, Penangites are spoiled for choices, from hawker fare to fine dining cuisine. Having said that, to mark a memorable evening, one would still have to ponder and think of an appropriate venue. Some restaurants have introduced fusion food that does not make sense while others have to implement nouveau cuisine with hardly anything on the plate and everything on the bill. Being prudent with their spending, Penangites would feel disgusted if they leave half full, having to stop at a nearby coffeeshop thereafter for a plate of sar hor fun. I would always assume that such places would not survive the tough clientele on the island, nevertheless although many have fallen, there are those who have managed to thrive. There are also many restaurants that serve mediocre meals that are simply forgettable.
So where would I go in the heart of George Town for an eventful culinary feast that promises an imaginative presentation and the ingenious combination of flavours that is simply astonishing? Le Venue at Lebuh Tye Sin is an obvious choice! What makes this restaurant brilliant is the culinary artistry of Chef Petr Fehér. He is able to combine top-quality ingredients into sumptuous delights.
My family and I started off the evening with a serving of its signature soft-boiled kampung egg appetiser. The egg was served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with a reduction of chicken stock coloured with bunga telang (butterfly pea flower) and topped with lumpfish caviar. The creamy yolk harmonised with the flavours on the plate made it a brilliant start.
Next was a new dish that was not yet on the menu – foie gras terrine marinated with Hennessy and Mascato wine served with a strawberry salsa. Very few ingredients were added to the terrine to distract from the rich, buttery taste of pure foie gras. This luxurious dish is a classic of French cuisine.
We also had seared Canadian scallops served with a citrus emulsion, topped with black caviar. The combination of flavours from the sweet succulent scallops and the refreshing dressing was simply delectable.
The next appetiser was a true art piece, a 3-tiered tower of wonder! On top of a crisp, circular squid ink tuile (baked wafer) were some diced ceviche Hokkaido scallops and microgreens. Below, a cone-shaped glass bowl held more marinated scallops; resting at the base in another glass bowl was an ice plant salad. Reluctantly, we had to break the wafer and dismantle the tower, mixing the scallops and salad to enjoy a riot of textures and refreshing flavours. I relished this dish immensely and would highly recommend it to all, except to those who are uneasy consuming raw seafood.
For soups, although there were only three of us, we had four offerings. Chef Fehér is brilliant at designing/making soups. My wife's favourite was the sweet corn bisque flavoured with lemongrass and thickened with coconut cream. A slice of the lobster tail was a treasured nugget in the soup. She continued with a second bowl; the broccoli soup was equally satisfying.
My daughter, who avoids all-things tomato like a plague, surprisingly slurped up the entire bowl of tomato and basil soup. Removing the fresh herbs on the top of the soup, I was able to enjoy the hearty mushroom potage better, sans the distraction.
That evening I was delighted to learn that Chef Fehér had "soup blocks" ready for takeaway. The soups are made of fresh ingredients without MSG, chicken stock, flour, corn starch, preservatives and chemicals. It is good up to nine months in the freezer at -18°C. Each 200 g serving pouch is sealed in a non-chemical nylon bag. Straight from the freezer, all I have to do is to boil the soup pouch for eight minutes, cut the pouch, pour and serve. This was just too good to be true. I bought some and will be back soon to stock up my freezer.
We also had cocktails. The first one that arrived was a Midori sour, an electric green concoction served in a martini glass topped with a mint sprig. The ingredients include Midori liqueur, fresh lime juice and egg white. I have to agree with the universal doctrine that good food and drinks are the recipe for a fun-filled evening.
For our main courses, my wife was served the al dente squid ink spaghetti accompanied by a Boston lobster tail and claws. The lobster was sweet and divine, so good, I will definitely order in future!
My daughter opted for the Barramundi served with corn sauce and the ice plant. She was very happy with the beautifully plated dish.
During our main courses, another beautiful cocktail arrived. This time it was a Blue Hawaii served in a tall glass of cool blue hues with splashes of bright red. The ingredients include Malibu coconut rum, blue cacao liqueur, full cream milk, pineapple juice and strawberry sauce.
I ordered the duck leg confit served with lightly-seared Rougié foie gras, velvety potato puree, braised red cabbage and an orange sauce. At the table-side, Chef Fehér grated some rock salt over the dish, the finest dusting of salt I have seen. The combination of foie gras and duck was such a lovely indulgence. The chef's presentation and eye for detail in every dish was phenomenal.
This can only arise from the great passion and dedication that lie within him. I hope many will come to enjoy his sublime creations.
The third sunrise-coloured cocktail was set in yet another tall glass – alcohol hovering above a fruit punch. The mixed fruit cocktail was topped with slices of fresh Fuji apple and a cherry. Without stirring the drink, unbeknownst to the drinker, a first sip from the straw would have tasted as if it were from an ordinary fruit punch. The kick soon arrived as the glass was being emptied. The conventional way of preparing this cocktail is done in reverse, with the alcohol layering the base. I like the flip and the happy ending that followed suit.
My wife was thrilled to bits and I have to say a big thank you to Chef Fehér for such a fabulous evening! I truly appreciate all the complimentary cocktails, appetiser, soups, pasta, foie gras and cake. His charming personality and generosity made that evening extraordinary, etched permanently into both our hearts and memory.
80, Lebuh Tye Sin, 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia.
T: +604 251 9833
HP : +6012 400 2072
Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
© All rights reserved
20 September 2020