January 17, 2013

Tao Cuisine, Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur: My Gastronomic Adventure with The Master of Modern Chinese Cuisine, Sam Leong!

An Unforgettable Menu Degustation Affair by Chef Sam Leong!

Never the one to be a follower, Masterchef Sam Leong sees gastronomic adventures like no other! Deemed the The Master of Modern and Contemporary Chinese Cuisine, the man knows no boundaries and often asks ‘Why not?’ while others ask why. With a culinary knowledge of over 26 years, this humble and prodigy chef, with an impressive list of accolades, was here recently at the newly refurbished Tao Cuisine at Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur to leave a lasting sensorial impression to gourmet connoisseurs.

We asked Chef Leong what was his inspiration behind his culinary adventure and he humbly replied that he is passionate about serving lengthy courses in small portions to evoke diners’ culinary experience to greater heights. While serving 13-course was a norm for him, his maximum was a 36-course experience which took 4 hours to complete. Recently, he took a turn in his culinary adventure when he received feedbacks from female guests who told him that by the time they were done with his many starter courses, they were too full to enjoy his delectable mains. This inspired him to now go beyond the norm and start his culinary servings with main courses or heavier ones and work backwards to the little Amuse Bouche while completing the experience with desserts!

A trend setter in modern Chinese cuisine, Chef Leong is a man who wears many hats! In addition to his gastronomic culinary repertoire as the director of corporate chef for the acclaimed Tung Lok Group, Chef Leong is a culinary educator, mentor, consultant and has also had several cookbooks published. He has also appeared in several cooking shows and competition as judge and is the first Singaporean chef to join Singapore Airline’s International Culinary Panel of world-renowned chef. On the personal note, Chef Leong is married to his Thai wife, Forest, who is shares his passion for cooking and has two children. He mentioned that he takes some of his inspiration from his wife’s Thai heritage as well. They have both started a culinary school together to go back to the roots of their passion.

I adored the revamped Tao Cuisine, previous known as Toh Lee at Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur! At a glance at the entrance, one is discreetly ushered into a long hallway with a magnificent Chinese inspired grand door that opened up to a modern and contemporary ambience. Tao is filled with an eclectic interior of Chinese influence design intermingling with clean contemporary motifs. A long panel of 3D cherry blossoms adorned a side of the restaurant, giving the whole ambience a softer and colored background.

The main dining area comprises of a magnificent contemporary rendition of a flowery motif of glittery sparkling lights that hover above diners as they dine in the intimate and gorgeous ambience, simulating dining beneath stars at night. The new restaurant is also sectioned up to allow guests more privacy while there is also options of several huge private rooms for private functions. Unlike normal bright lite restaurants, Tao Cuisine offers guest an intimate fine dining experience in an elegant and dim atmosphere. Helmed by Chef Wong Lian You, guests are treated to a modern twist on Chinese classics at Tao Cuisine.

Crispy Duck Confit Stuffed with Radish Cake & Mushroom Sauce

Diving straight into the 8-course of the evening, we started with a main of Crispy Duck Confit Stuffed with Radish Cake & Mushroom Sauce. Renowned for modern presentation, the first course was nicely set with minimal items for maximum effect. A square cube of golden battered duck confit was nicely fried with radish cake and sat on top of an earthy mushroom sauce. Playing cleverly with soft, rich and crispy textures, the cube was a great starter to turn on one’s appetite. What I like was also the innocent looking cherry tomato with a dollop of pesto sauce that really refreshed the overall dish!

Char Grilled Wagyu Beef with Sea Urchin, Sashimi Wagyu Beef & Pan Seared Foie Gras

This dish is simply to-die-for! Beware as I raved continuously about this dish that won my heart, soul & senses. Minimal presentation again, this three part course showed off wagyu to its maximum height in flavors and textures.

A thin piece of pure raw wagyu is ingeniously wrapped around luscious seared foie gras and crunchy fish skin. A bite of this exuded soft chilled beef with creamy tender goose liver and a surprising crunch factor from the fish skin. Tasting rich and silky smooth, this long cylindrical meat is almost an orgasm in a bite!

The char grilled wagyu crowned with melted sea urchin was another beautiful representation of the luxuriant wagyu. Soft and rich with fatty goodness, the beef flavors were heighten by the exuberant and decadent sea urchin creaminess and a little peppery note from the sauce.  The crispy bits of the charred beef were decadent while the inside was juicy. A little side of brunoise mushrooms and beans was barely noticeable as the wagyu took centerstage in full glory!

Char Grilled Black Cod Fish with Wok-Fried Eggplant in XO Sauce

As we backed into the fish course, the dish went a little lighter in flavors and textures with Char Grilled Black Cod Fish and Wok-Fried Eggplant in XO Sauce. Refine as can be, the black cod was a wee bit oily but I was glad that it was served with a little pickled shallot to balance out the oiliness of the fish. Deeply rich in aroma and flavor, the cod was a little sweet and salty in taste while the piece of XO sauced eggplant was medium robust in flavor.

Slow Cooked Scallop Mousse in Spicy Thai Consommé

The dish is quite deceiving with its delicate sight. Two quenelles of light as air scallop mousse swam a clear and intense broth. It really was a lovely surprise as the intense flavor of sour and spicy notes hit the sense of taste with a garlicky and lemony finish. Echoing a clear rendition of tom yam broth, I loved the spicy consommé with slivers of tomato and bits of coriander. Chef Leong played the dish with a contrasting effect of delicateness of the mousse with the intense flavor of the consommé beautifully!

Steamed Chawanmushi with Crispy Salmon Skin & Foie Gras

Based on a classic Japanese dish, Steamed Chawanmushi is amped up with precious cubed seared goose liver coated in a thick sweet sauce.  The steamed savory egg custard has the quintessential texture of softness filled with aromatic egg flavor. What make the dish a star was the pairing of the velvety sweet foie gras and crispy salmon skin! The dish was so scrumptious; there was utter silence as everyone took personal space-out moment in enjoying this dish…

Chilled Homemade La Mian with Crab Meat in Hot & Sour Consommé

Heading to almost the front end of the course, Chilled Homemade La Mian with Crab Meat in Hot & Sour Consommé was super icy cold. The not so spicy but intense sourness really evoked my senses with a tingling sensation as I slurped up the thin noodles with crunchy bits of black fungus and greens. The chunks of congealed crab meat were a little bit salty on its own but were ok when savored with the sour broth and noodles.

Cherry Tomato Sorbet Marinated with Salted Plum and Honey

Finally arriving at the Amuse Bouche course, this little miniature is again deceiving at sight. Powerful with concentrated flavor of sour sensation, the sorbet is absolutely a dynamite of flavors despite its size. The icy cold pop of tomato flavor with the sour sweet dried sweet plums had me flabbergasted at its power of flavors!

Maracaibo Chocolate and Berry Sphere with Chinese Warm Chocolate Tea

With all great meals, it must end at some point. What started with a grand entrance of the gourmet experience also ended with a grand exit. Ingeniously created by Executive Chef Darrell O’Neill, Maracaibo Chocolate and Berry Sphere served with Chocolate Tea is simply mesmerizing. The sphere is even lavished up with gold leaf edible paper for extra fanciness!

As I gawked at the gorgeous chocolate sphere, a warm chocolate tea is poured from some heights onto the sphere to melt it and unveil its hidden treasures. The dark bittersweet chocolate shell revealed chocolate mousse with berries and crumbly bits of cookie dust. Each spoonful of chocolate bits, mousse and tangy berries was sensual and sexy.  We were also spoilt with Chocolate Bon Bons with Sorbet by Chef O’Neill. It was indeed a bittersweet ending!

Truly hypnotized by Chef Sam Leong’s menu degustation, this wannabe fan has only pure admiration for his skills, creativity and effort. I am thoroughly fascinated by how he arrange his layers of light and heavy flavors throughout the meal while serving just enough to tease one’s craving for more in the next course. Though he is only here for a few days, I would encourage foodies and gourmet connoisseurs to at least try and experience his masterpieces at least once in a lifetime. One can do that at his restaurant Forest in Singapore should one ever visit there. He also has several cookbooks with one work in progress for purchase just in case you want to experience his modern Chinese cuisine on your own!

Rounding up the evening, I also spied Tao Cuisine’s appealing menu which boast a list of classics modernized by Chef Wong such as Traditional Peking Duck enhanced with Truffles, Foie Gras or Eringi Mushrooms, Baked Cod Fillet with Spicy Plum Pomelo Sauce, Boneless Chicken Wings dressed in Oolong Tea with Plum Sauce, Fried Canadian Oysters in Mango Salsa Dressing and more. There even a lush list of dim sums to tease gourmand palates. Looks like the revamped restaurant is more than just a refurbish restaurant but the menu has taken heights of modern Chinese cuisine to another level!

Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur
165 Jalan Ampang
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Tel:  +603 2161 1111
Fax: +603 2161 1122

Business hours:
Lunch every Monday to Friday from 12.00noon to 2.30pm
Lunch every Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays 11.00am to 2.30pm
Dinner daily from 6.30pm to 10.30pm


  1. I must admit that is indeed an extraordinarily 'ATAS' cuisine ehh~~ best chef + fine ingredients = BAAAMMM!! a meal fit for the kings and queens! ;P

  2. Jen, Chef Sam Leong was in KL? OMG!! I am his fan and I got his cook book and I have tried cooking some of the recipes in there. You lucky gal get to meet him in person. When I go to Singapore next, I have to go check out his restaurant.

  3. What a magical experience. I might even say this has been my best meal this year to date!

  4. The duck confit looks good! But the dessert makes me drool omg! :D So. much. CHOCOLATEEEE!!!!

  5. Such a nice experience to meet the chef in person!

  6. I like the new TAO... so elegant. And that Char Grilled Wagyu Beef with Sea Urchin, Sashimi Wagyu Beef & Pan Seared Foie Gras looks divine... :)