Straight to the sauce: Chef Lian Yun Lei's all-new curated menu at Golden Dragon, Taj Coromandel
The North Atlantic scallop is bound to be a prized catch in any star restaurant’s menu.
The dish itself is served with a signature flourish by Master Chef Lian Yun Lei, an extremely popular figure who recently moved to Chennai after many years of heading the kitchens at Taj Bengal Kolkata.
Legend has it that Chef Lian is so famous in Kolkata that the hotel’s PR team never felt the need to create a profile of his for promotions.
Now, with just a few days behind him in Chennai, Chef Lian has diligently got down to overhauling the old menu at the Golden Dragon (set to be launched in the first week of June), bringing in his expertise to stir up some delightful flavours, especially in Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine, while also making a distinct point about the presentation of each of his dishes.
The scallops, for one, are a great example of Chef Lian’s deft handling of ingredients, brilliance with layered textures, and sophistication in plating.
As you open up a scallop with deft prods, the soft meat emits a plume of steam that rises up along the tines of your fork like vapour trails running across a steely sky.
The effect is almost surreal, as you never really feel like you’re actually just dining; with Chef Lian’s creations, tasting each dish actually seems closer to the joy of dissecting a work of art.
So, with each forkful, you get to imagine the experience of holding up a magnifying lens to a canvas — tracing the strong bite of the chilli flakes (which are pickled overnight), contrasted against the candy-like sweetness of the scallops. The effect, at the back of your mouth, is as refined as it is unexpected.
By the time you’ve cleaned up the plate, looking down at the remains of the chef’s creation, you’re also left feeling like a bit of an artist yourself.
But that’s just the magic of Chef Lian’s cooking. From the dainty Due of Asparagus Dumpling to the Aromatic Crispy Duck, each plate that emerges from his kitchen is served like works of sculptural art.
A bow to the master Chef Lian is particularly interested in the sauces accompanying his creations, and the results featuring his personal choice of condiments are nothing short of spectacular.
The Qiling Fish with Sichuan Toban Djan Sauce, for one, is a speciality that enthusiasts of Oriental cuisine will readily warm up to; the spicy-salty aftertaste is best washed down with a sip of green tea.
On a scorching summer afternoon, the green tea is also essential for an instant cooling effect on the body.
The Crispy Lobster with Chilli Butter Sauce, meanwhile, is served like a bona fide magnum opus — complete with a hollowed-out shell for an ornament on the side.
While the lobster meat itself is as fresh as you’ll find in the city, the subtlety about the dish is really all about the sauce.
One might even say, in a world of uncountable variations, Chef Lian’s chilli butter sauce rings home like the Holy Grail; not anywhere near overstated, and not entirely oversimplified, the mix demands
closer enquiry, if only to fully appreciate the light-handed balance of the mix.
To be sure, Chef Lian is lining up specials like an ace, with stellar offerings such as the Char Siu Pork, Spicy Mahti Chicken (flavoured with sesame) and the gorgeous Jimling-style jasmine seafood fried rice.
The best part yet is getting the chef to take a few minutes off and chat about his days back in Kolkata. As you’re likely to find, his stories are just as enjoyable as his culinary master-creations.
Now open for orders. Meal for two `4,000 (inclusive of taxes).
— Jaideep Sen