A Night of Epiphany

When the chef owner of one of the best fine dining restaurant in Indonesia collaborate with a Michelin Star Guest Chef, naturally I’d expect something extravagant. However, Gilles Marx and Olivier Oddos reminded me the basic thing that is often overlooked in the flashy fine dining scene.

Most of the times, beginner musicians are obssessed by flashy techniques (guitar’s right hand tapping or drum’s double pedal) while ignoring their raison d’etre: to serve the song. Of course, Ringo Starr can play complicated part in “A Day in The Life”, but when he played Beatles’ gentler songs such as “Here There and Everywhere”, he didn’t go over the top, simply because the song didn’t require it.

The same thing happens in fine dining scene. I won’t blame you if you think that this scene is all about beatifully plated food in much smaller portion, decorated with excessive edible flower, and fancy ingredients such as foei gras and caviar. However, some chefs believe that their main goal is to serve ingredients, especially French and Japanese chefs. Sashimi is a perfect example. Even though serving raw sliced fish may looked dead simple, ask any Japanese chefs how much time needed to learn the art of sashimi. Apart from the knife expertise (along with shoyu and wasabi, of course), it involves no fancy cooking method or equipments, simply because the fresh raw fish is good as it is. I guess this is the message that Gilles Marx and Olivier Oddos were trying to convey in Amuz’s collaboration event in February 7th -9th 2018.

Olivier Oddos

In Indonesia, Gilles Marx already got the exposure he deserve as the chef owner of one of the most successful fine dining restaurants in Jakarta. However, Olivier Oddos also has some crowning achievements. Oddos was born in 1970 in Bordeaux, France, entered the culinary world at the age of 16 and worked at numerous Michelin-starred restaurants. Even at a young age, he was sometimes chosen as a chef. At the La Tour d’Argent, at that time a 2-starred restaurant, Olivier worked as a second chef.
In 2000, at the recommendation of the head chef of La Tour d’Argent, Olivier came to Japan as a cooking instructor for Le Cordon Bleu Culinary school. After a year working as a Technical Director and Executive Chef at the Kobe and Tokyo branches of Le Cordon Bleu, he opened Chez Olivier in Ichigaya in 2009. Olivier considers himself to be both a chef and restaurateur. Thus, to provide the best possible dining experience for everyone, everyday at his restaurant, Olivier is involved not only in the kitchen, but also in the selection of wines and in the service.

Set Menu
Oddos displayed some of his Japanese influence in the first dish: Hokkaido Scallops Sushi and Crab Meat, Yuzu Lime, Cider Vinegar Jus, Granny Smith Apple Jelly, Chioggia Beet. The dish exhibited the freshness of the Hokkaido scallops and crab meat, they didn’t even let the seasoning gets in the way. The first dish left me both excited and curious for the upcoming dishes: Soft Poached Organic Egg, Mixed Herbs Jus, Vermouth Mushrooms Fricassee, Pan-Seared Duck Liver Foie Gras Cube & Black Perigord Truffles. If sugar is the source of sweetness as salt is to the saltness, perhaps foie gras is the source of umami, and the sous vide poached egg at 54o C and the Black Perigold Truffles accentuated it even further.

The third dish is my personal favorite: Steamed Coral Grouper Fish, Squid Ink Arborio Risotto, Arugula – Ginger Emulsion. I can drool just by recalling the memory of the grouper’s texture, soft, yet firm, slightly sweet, only fresh grouper can taste this good. While pleasing to the eye with its intense green, I need a bit concentration to appreciate both the subtlety and complexity of the arugula and ginger emulsion. Arguably the best dish of the night, but certainly the most memorable one! 

The dinner then proceeded to the Pan-fried Australian Wagyu Beef Fillet Steak, Smoked with Cherry Oak, Red Wine Sauce, Eggplant Puree and Blue Cheese Emulsion. Again, Marx and Oddos put the wagyu in the spotlight and build the rest of the ingredients around it. I believe they want the guests to taste the delicacy of the smoked fillet steak by toning down the intensity of the red wine sauce and the eggplant puree and blue cheese emulsion. The dinner ends beautifull y with Passion Fruit Cremeux, Fresh Citrus, Lime Sorbet, a refreshing dessert to clean the palate. In fact, it was doing the cleansing effect so well that made me ready for more dishes. Unfortunately, that was it.

I can’t make any comments about the wine pairing as I had the chance to dine along with IWFS (International Wine & Food Society) Jakarta, who, fortunately, brought themselves some Bordeaux wines to go along with the 5 courses of the set menu. One of the most memorable ones is the super smooth, elegant La Mission Haut-Brion 1978. Hey, it’s Bordeaux, what more can I say?

Among all 5 dishes, I can clearly tell that Marx and Oddos were exposing the freshness and the quality of the ingredients to another height. The seasonings were very subtle, they won’t even let the spices steal the spotlight, it is as if they build everything around the main ingredient. This approach seems like the complete opposite of Indonesian food’s approach which rely heavily on the use of spices. They also don’t go over the top presentation-wise, in fact, no excessive edible flowers, just some simple, elegant dishes, and again, fresh ingredients.

The collaboration is an epiphany for me in many ways. It may took some time and effort to appreciate the “mature” approach conveyed by Marx and Oddos: their bravery to tone down the taste of the rest of the dishes to highlight the quality of the main ingredients. Simple, yet intricate.It reminded me of what fine dining is (should) all about. It’s not as easy or direct as, let say, early Beatles, it’s more to Pink Floyd, if you know what I mean.