Pairing Chinese food with Moët & Chandon at Lai Po Heen

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Most people eat their Chinese food with Chinese tea, but I like to think we’re not most people.

We really like champagne and we really like Chinese food so when Lai Po Heen, the award-winning Chinese restaurant at Mandarin Oriental KL was having a special one-night only Chinese food and champagne pairing event, we decided to go for it.

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We did’t regret it one bit. Ingredients that you’d find in the most traditional Chinese cuisine, like abalone and fish maw, were curated into a special menu to go with Moët & Chandon’s portfolio of its most famous champagnes in one delicious and not to mention bubbly evening.

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No better way to embrace my Chinese roots — topped up with a little bit of bubbly!

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Upon arrival, a flute of Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial was shoved into our hands, meant to be enjoyed with a series of canapés. Clockwise from top: A shredded king crab salad that was creamy and sweet with a fluffiness that made it too easy to eat with the champagne; a smoked duck rolled in seaweed which rich game and smokiness was enhanced with each sip of the Brut Impérial; and sweet and sour prawns that left a delicious tanginess on the palate, matching the fruitiness of the champagne perfectly.

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Entree 1:  Mushroom bun, steamed goldfish dumpling and deep-fried lobster roll paired with Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial

This was a lot of fun to take a part. I started with that round globe in the centre that looks like a mushroom but was actually a steamed mantau. Inside, stuffed assorted mushroom and foie gras burst forth with the most robust earthiness, making it taste like a refined mushroom indeed. Next to it was a deep-fried lobster roll that was delightfully crispy and boasted a satisfying chewiness in the middle. It doesn’t look it from here but that dumpling in the dim dum basket was shaped exactly like goldfish in which fresh springy prawns resided. The mix of intense flavours with light profiles let the best layers of the Brut Imperial champagne unfold in a sequential bloom.

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Entree 2: Double-boiled fish maw with morel mushroom paired with Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2006

True to Chinese food traditions, the second entree was a clear soup that, quite the contrary to its appearance, packed a lot of flavour. This double-boiled fish maw and morel mushroom with maca soup was sweet and hearty from start to finish and drawing out the sweetness of the fish maw was the fruitier Moët Grand Vintage 2006. Its silvery top notes matched the delicateness of the seafood-based broth perfectly.

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Main 1: Braised Australian 3-head abalone paired with Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Rosé 2006

Cooked to that perfect point of being al dente without tasting rubbery, the abalone was a delightful course in all aspects. In flavour, it packed the best earthiness laced with the sweetness of the sea. The mushrooms added an extra dimension to the already fragrant sun-dried scallop sauce it was bathed in. Matching the heavier flavours was the Grand Vintage Rosé 2006 which matured botanical nuances buoyed that mushrooms and green crispness of the bok choy beautifully.

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Main 2: Longevity noodle with Hokkaido scallop paired with Moët & Chandon Rosé Imperial

This was my favourite dish of the night. The longevity noodles came in a creamy seafood broth that lingered long after you swallowed. Balancing out that tenderness of the noodles were slices of seaweed with that lent a nice bite to the dish. The scallops were nicely done, being grilled just a touch on the surface so the centre maintained its natural sweetness. The sweet seafood flavours were heightened with the Rosé Imperial that drew out the minerality.

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Dessert: Ginger milk pudding and deep-fried mini sesame balls with egg custard

After all that champagne, it was nice (and wise, I dare say) to be served a hot cup of coffee or tea of your choice to go with our dessert. I didn’t quite fancy the ginger milk pudding because I don’t like ginger in whatever form but I loved the sesame ball. Crispy on the outside, warm molten egg custard awaited on the inside to coat your mouth with the most delicious creamy sweetness. The sesame seeds added a nice bite to the pastry ball and a fragrance that built in the subtlest of manner with every bite.

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It was an immensely satisfying dinner through and through with good food, a skilled pairing and even better company, can you tell?

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