A birthday affair at the Java Tree
If you are dining at the Java Tree of the E&O Hotel, I would recommend that you arrive an hour earlier to enjoy classic cocktails and good wine at the Farquhar's Bar. This was exactly what my friends and I did. It provided us the opportunity to catch up on recent happenings and engage in meaningful conversations.
The newly refurbished Farquhar's Bar is modelled on a vintage cocktail bar serving up an array of drinks and bar staples. The Prussian blue decor with dark leather and olive green sofas coupled with subdued lighting offered a cozy atmosphere to relax and while away the time.
From the Farquhar's Bar, we continued our evening at the Java Tree and took along with us our drinks. Entering through the Palm Court into the dining area of the Java Tree, a ceiling-high painting of a grand old Java tree greeted us. The charming decor of rich dark timber tones harmonised well with the classic white ceiling boards and screen panels that embraced the vibrant colours of the setting sun.
After placing our orders, we were served soft, white miniature mantou with mango chutney along with brown bread and butter.
The old-school, creamy crab bisque topped with crab meat and caviar was rich and decedent. My friends as well as my daughter truly enjoyed the soup and they wished there was more of it.
The Waldorf Salad, an American classic of fresh apples, walnuts, grapes and greens, was visually appealing. Do you know that the first Waldorf Salad was created in New York City in 1893, by Oscar Tschirky, the maître d’hôtel of the Waldorf Astoria? Here at the Java Tree, the apples were julienned instead of being cut into cubes as in the original recipe. At first glance, the julienned apples coated with mayonnaise were mistaken for enoki mushrooms.
Crispy black pastry shell were filled with stir-fried jicama, carrots and cuttlefish, topped with shredded egg and salmon roe. Penangites will quickly draw a comparison between them to the Nyonya Pie Tees, which have been perfected through generations. When I make Pie Tee at home, the key ingredient that adds zing to the petite beauties is the sambal belacan (soured with calamansi lime). Without it, the delicate balance of taste and texture between the crispy shell and the aromatic vegetable filling is unfortunately not captured.
Oxtail is not something that you would find in a canon of Nyonya ingredients. I would presume that this is simply because there is not enough meat on the bone to make it a main ingredient. I was excited to see it listed in the menu – Oxtail Gulai. It was served with brasmati rice and a trio of condiments on the side. Again, locals would swiftly compare this dish to beef rendang or other familiar curries that have won the hearts of many.
One of the main courses ordered was the whole Dover Sole à la Meunière, served with potato brandade and beurre noisette. The generous portion was welcomed by neighbouring friends.
I opted for a showstopper dish – the Beef Wellington. The tender beef tenderloin encased in a golden, puff pastry was served with some garden greens. I enjoyed the dish and it was gone too soon. I wished had more on the plate.
My wife selected the Entrecôte 10 oz steak, topped with a classic Café De Paris butter. It was served with a bowl of baby vegetables and some French fries. She savoured the prime cut which went well with a glass of red wine.
My daughter, on the other hand, decided to go for the Chicken Fricassee which is a classic French dish that is timeless. An oven baked chicken breast was served with potatoes and a mixture of wild mushrooms. She polished up the plate so professionally you could see your reflection in it.
I was happy to receive a complimentary chocolate mousse cake crowned with a chocolate medallion of the Hotel's logo. It was a thoughtful gesture that was much appreciated. Also, a big thank you was due to the chef for plating the cakes which I had brought along.
To mark a memorable evening, I knew the importance of concluding the dinner with something sublimely beautiful that tasted heavenly. For that, I ordered five delicately crafted cakes from one of the finest patisserie shops on the island, Le Petit Four. Some of the cakes even had flecks of gold and silver.
My birthday wish that evening did come true. My life is filled with amazing people and wondrous memories.
Opens daily: 6:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Opens daily: 2:30 pm – 12:00 midnight
Eastern & Oriental Hotel, 10 Lebuh Farquhar, 10200 George Town, Penang
T: +604 222 2000
Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
© All rights reserved
11 January 2020