SeeFoon Forages in Morel Soho
It’s hard to forage in Malaysia unless you follow a knowledgeable Orang Asli who still lives off the land. But in other parts of the world where foraging is practised, not just by those who live off the grid but by ordinary folk like you and me, mushroom foraging is not only productive for the kitchen but also great fun. But not without its risks though; for picking the wrong mushrooms can kill you!
I know only of one kind of mushrooms that one can forage in Malaysia and that is after a thunderstorm and these white “thunder mushrooms” spring up in one’s garden. They have a wonderful fragrance and when lightly pan-fried in butter, are yummilicious. Alas, these are rare occurrences nowadays unless you live close to the jungle.
Being a lover of all mushrooms in whatever shape and form, perfumed or otherwise, I now head for Morel whenever a mushroom craving hits me. I remember the first time I went to Morel when they first opened almost two years ago and demanded to know why they named their restaurant after a famous mushroom when they didn’t have any on their menu. This has since been rectified in a big way and mushroom maniacs like myself can indulge to my heart’s content.
Chef Aw Kah Meng, a homegrown Ipoh chef who left for the big bright lights of Singapore in 2004 to hone his skills, has worked his way up the kitchen ladder in many big-name establishments like St Regis, Swissotel The Stamford, Raffles Plaza. More impressively and probably accounts for his culinary flair, he has worked with Bruno Menard, the 3-star Michelin Chef who is permanently based in Singapore.
Initially, after he opened Morel with his wife Siau Hooi when patrons like me were clamouring for mushrooms, Kah Meng ‘foraged’ in Malaysia, looking for suppliers who were able to deliver some of these rarities. He began with dried ones, offering Morel (finally!) and Porcini (Cep); then frozen (porcini) and now he has a source of fresh porcini and fresh black truffles.
Buonissimo I say and let the mushroom banquet begin!
I covered all the delectable dishes on the Morel menu in my review dated July 16, 2018 (issue 285), and today I am adding new menu items which I found delectable.
First off, it’s worthwhile to note that all of Morel’s pasta is homemade and cooked to al dente perfection. So is their bread. The dilemma for you, dear diner, is to decide whether you want tagliatelle, spaghetti or fusilli or whatever is on offer for the day and in what combination.
Here are their new offerings:
Bruschetta, homemade apple-wood-smoked ricotta cheese on home-baked sourdough bread topped with fresh French porcini mushrooms. There are four slices in one order so do share; RM29.90.
Next, we had Mesclun Salad with balsamic dressing, runny yolk egg, quinoa, bread croutons, parmesan cheese with slices of tender pork belly contrasting well with the crispy greens; RM28.90.
Mussel and Clam Soup was umami, tinged with white wine and a spicy tomato sauce, the bivalves tender and fresh, served with bread; RM24.90.
The homemade spaghetti cooked in tomato sauce, topped with shredded lamb shank, arugula and morel mushrooms, dotted with pine nuts and finished with grated parmesan cheese was a sumptuous meal (we shared) at RM56.90.
This was followed by my favourite meat dish here at Morel’s, the Black Angus Beef Cheek with asparagus and mashed potatoes. I have had beef cheek before but Morel’s version comes on the top of my list; coated in a velvety smooth sauce – a reduction from bones (not your out-of-a-bottle spoonful of store-bought gravy stock), the cheeks so soft and tender that you can cut with a fork and when eaten with the ultra-creamy mashed potatoes you have a mouthful of heaven; RM65.90.
Follow this with the Porcini Mushroom Risotto and I found myself almost rolling off the table from surfeit! Arborio rice cooked à la minute with porcini mushrooms and if that wasn’t fragrant enough, I also detected more than a hint of truffle oil. Add a square of gold leaf, shaved parmesan and you have a risotto fit for a king; RM37.90.
As for desserts, my dear readers know that I am not known to have a sweet tooth but when you put a Truffle Coconut Pannacotta in front of me, a wobbly eggless coconut pudding topped with mangoes, fresh berries and truffle honey, my sweet tooth emerges and I tuck in with gusto; RM16.90. On top of this, you add the Morel’s own Tiramisu (one of the best in Ipoh) and you have the perfect end to a gourmet meal.
If Alex Castaldi, GM of Banjaran Hotsprings and Resort and as Italian as they come, finds in Morel some of the best Italian food he’s eaten in Malaysia, then we can surely take his word for it. In Alex’s words, “I like Morel and am happy to see such a young talented chef cooking and serving with such passion and authenticity. Whenever I visit, I get a taste of home. Go try Morel – definitely worth a visit!”
If you haven’t been, it’s high time you did! And you don’t have to blow the budget to get a taste. They have a daily changing 3-course Lunch Menu for RM19.90.
A-G-12A Soho Ipoh,
Jalan Sultan Iskandar,
Tel: 010 9287291 or 011 242 02450
Tuesdays-Sunday & Public Holidays : 11am-3pm; 6pm-10pm