una buena comida
First, you boil the potatoes – cut in half – in cold water. For 22 minutes. Then you slice them into desired strips and poach for three minutes. Rest for a bit, then plunge into roiling hot oil for a minute and a half. Rescue from the fryer and allow to dry slightly, before tossing with aromatic Provenzal herbs. ¡He ahi! The most amazing fries – pillow soft on the inside, satisfyingly crunchy on the outside – courtesy of Argentinean Chef Diego Jacquet.
That deft hand of Chef Jacquet was at The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur recently to mark the National Day of the Argentine Republic and 50 years of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and Argentina. Taking some time off from transcontinental passage between his restaurants ZOILO in London and boCHINche in Singapore, Chef Jacquet’s three course menu at The Library was meant to celebrate the cuisine of his country.
And celebrate he did. Empanadas and tostados – street food upscaled – made the rounds before lunch began proper. The first course was Cangrejo y Humita Norteña – flaked crab on toast and humita (steamed corn cakes) – paired with a lovely Chakana Torrontes 2015. The warm bounce of the humita and the brine of the crab was given a zing by pickled radishes, tasting as fresh as a spring day. Then, praise the Lord, an amazing steak.
When a land is as vast and as rich as Argentina – the name of the country refers to Latin word for silver, argentum – there is no need to dress its fantastic produce in fancy trimmings or complicated dressings. An ounce of sauce covers a multitude of sins. There is no sin here. The steak is hunky, hefty and handsome, and cooked with little more than salt, pepper and oil. It needs no more than a careful touch to let its pure umami punch through to the taste buds. It arrived to the table still slightly smoking. A perfect grid of sear marks promised perfection. We were not disappointed. Paired with those amazing fries, chimichurri and glasses of smooth Luigi Bosca Malbec 2015, the effect is rapture. And simplicity. With ingredients this good, all you need to do is let them shine.
Dessert veered to tradition – an Argentine torta leche (milk cake), spun into Chef Jacquet’s torta de tres leches (made with three types of milk). To bypass cloyness, a citrus crumble and passion fruit sorbet added the necessary zest. Short and simple, it was a meal to remember for days. Even today, we still dream of that ribeye.
Unfortunately, Argentine beef is currently not available in Malaysia, which has some of the strictest halal requirements in the world, so the meat was flown in from Argentina specifically for the lunch. Chef Jacquet’s prowess may be culinary, but what he achieved with his lunch was diplomacy – there is no better argument to bring Argentine beef back to our shores than that. And when it does return, can we have it with a side of those fries? Please?