Chef Sam Leong cooks up a storm at Tao, InterContinental KL

Chef Sam Leong cooks up some wonderful contemporary chinese dishes at Tao, Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur..

We had no idea that Chef Sam Leong would be in KL, and for such a short time too.

It was fortunate then, that we managed to try his wonderful contemporary chinese cuisine at Tao, Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur, over the weekend. Too bad Chef Sam Leong was only in KL for the weekend. No matter, you can always sample his fine food, by paying the republic a visit.. his restaurant Forest, in Singapore, is famous for it’s modern chinese cuisine.


the newly refurbished Tao – super swanky contemporary Chinese restaurant at InterContinental KL

A bit of background on the energetic chef, who talks and the speed of light. A big advocate of contemporary Chinese cuisine, Malaysian born Chef Leong rose to fame with his Japanese-inspired wasabi prawns and coffee pork ribs creations, spawning many similar dishes in local restaurants. Harnessing his decades of experience with Chinese food, Chef Leong now works at Forest, Singapore. Drawing further inspiration from his wife, who is Thai and incidentally also named Forest, Sam likes to inject Thai-influences into modern presentations of chinese food.


Chef Sam Leong, of Forest Singapore

At the dinner, we were told of Chef Leong’s avant-garde style of cuisine, fusing popular Chinese classics like smoked duck breast with the decadent foie gras in crispy tofu. He likes to rock the boat (in a good way) by serving the mains first in a 13 course meal, and the starters and amuse bouche last. He has served even a 36 course meal, that took 4 hours to complete, in this manner and to great effect. Chef Leong says that, so many times in his cooking career, he has served lengthy, 13 course, dinner functions and the ladies tend to get full by the time they reach the mains. “How much better it would be, if you were served the pièce de résistance, i.e. the mains, first, don’t you think?”, he quips.

Well I never thought of it that way, but yes, I can see where the Chef is coming from.

I wonder if all other restaurants would agree to serve me in reverse, if I asked 😛


Anyway, as we eat, we realise that Chef Leong certainly has a knack for evoking memories and a comforting sense of familiarity in his food which is also exotic at the same time. Talking to the guy, you would not think of him as a Celebrity Chef, but he is. Chef Leong is cool because he so readily comes out to mingle and interact with guests, and he certainly has the gift of the gab, and he answers all questions we have to ask him with great enthusiasm, yet with humility.


Here is our meal, cooked by Chef Sam Leong and served in the reverse order – Mains first, and starters and amuse bouche last!


Crispy Duck Confit Stuffed with Radish Cake and Mushroom Sauce

Oh, I love it when we can get straight down to business, and not pussy foot around with tiny starters! When the Crispy duck confit gave way with a crackling crunch, I knew I was in 7th heaven.. or Tao heaven. It had the nice soft creamy texture of the radish (kind of like wu-kok) that was contrasted with a crispy outer layer, and the flavours in the confit of duck were magnificent. My only complaint was that the portion was too small!


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

Then, the meal just kept going upwards from there on. The Chargrilled Wagyu beef was delicious, but even better was the simplistic nature of the Sashimi beef Wagyu. So pure, so delectable. The foie gras just added more unctuous decadence to this dish. I would be happy to keep entertaining this sort of self indulgence, indefinitely.


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

A nice intermission of something healthier, in the form of a cold water fish. This grilled cod fish reminded me of Nobu’s signature dish. Totally loved this one.


Slow-cooked Scallop Mousse in Spicy Thai Consomme

As with all things in reverse, a consomme had to make an appearance. This modern twist on the tom yam gung was a nice surprise. It was spicy enough to make me break a sweat. Loved the billowy, airy scallop mousse, fashioned into the shape of fishballs, that just melted in my mouth.


Steamed Chawanmushi with Crispy Salmon Skin and Foie Gras

So interlude of healthy food over. Enter the Steamed Chawanmushi with Crispy Salmon Skin and Foie Gras. Supremely smooth, and again, we did not really feel the richness of all the dishes we ate so far, as the portions were really rather fine. As in small. I guess that’s what makes it so exciting a meal. The portions titillate, but never quite satiate. Very clever of the chef!


Chilled Homemade la Mian with Crab meat, Hot and Sour Consomme

A cold noodle dish that washed some of the richness of the foie gras way. I like the way the Chef kept layering light and heavier courses throughout the night.


Cherry Tomato Sorbet Marinated with salted Plum and Honey

As dinner drew to a conclusion, we were served the first palate cleanser of the night. This sorbet exploded with succulent cherry tomatos – a sweetness that was tempered beautifully by the salted plum.


Maraicbo Chocolate and Berry Shere, Chinese Warm Chocolate Tea – courtesy of Chef Darrell O’Niell

And then it was time for dessert all too soon.. I was sad to see that meal come to an end. I really enjoyed it.


Chef Darrell certainly knows how to make a dessert, that makes an impression! Hot chocolate tea is poured over the sphere, that melts and gives way to some more surprises inside..


berries, crumble and more chocolate on the inside – just gorgeous!


Contemporary Chinese cuisine definitely has its place in fine-dining, especially when pulled off with such finesse. I am now a big fan for Chef Sam Leong’s culinary prowess. I will definitely pay him a visit at Forest, the next time I visit Singapore!


Tao – Intercontinental KL’s newly refurbished Chinese restaurant.. exquisite in every detail


Next up… Tao’s Peking Duck… yum yum.. stay tuned!

Tao Chinese Cuisine
InterContinental Kuala Lumpur,
165 Jalan Ampang,
50450 KL
Tel: 03-2782-6128
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