I was recently treated to a lovely Mexican gourmet dinner hosted and prepared by the young, aspiring chefs of INTI's school of hospitality and culinary art.
I have never been to a dinner prepared by students from a culinary school before, so I was not entirely sure what to expect. I even made sure to manage my expectations before going to the dinner.
But I was pleasantly surprised by the experience and let’s just say they definitely broke some high scores here.
Entering the Akira Restaurant at Inti’s Subang Campus we were greeted by students dressed in suits and formal serving uniforms.
The venue was beautifully presented, with tableware elegantly laid out and peppered with a few cute sombreros to remind their patrons of the cuisine for the night.
The menu on the table told us that we will be having a 5-course meal, and I was looking forward to it all.
Our first dish was a jicama and orange salad served with candied hibiscus. The jicama (a turnip that we also use in our Malaysia rojaks) was fresh and crunchy, the oranges were incredibly sweet, the dressing plus hibiscus lent a sour, refreshing hand, and the rocket a little bitterness.
Alone, each was definitely too strong, but combined the flavour ended up being surprisingly in sync. I can honestly say I had never tasted this particular profile of food before and it definitely piqued my curiosity.
Next came our soup and I knew I was in a foodie realm I had yet to traverse. The Tarasca Soup was made from tomatoes, beans and spicy chilli, reminding me of a typical Western minestrone. But they also added feta cheese, fried strips of tofu and coriander. I loved it.
Next was our entree, which was spicy salsa, tender duck, avocado, onions and cherry tomatoes on a handmade corn taco. The salsa was exceedingly spicy, but lovely, cutting through the salty duck quite well. My only complaint was that the duck was a tad too over-salted, overpowering the fresher ingredients.
It was explained to me that Mole just meant ‘sauce’ in Mexico and that this changes from region to region within the country.
This was also the only meal that we could choose between chicken or prawns. I had the prawns, and my companion, the chicken; both were excellently prepared.
My prawns were fresh and her chicken dish was tender and juicy.
The mole was made out of sesame, almonds, pine nuts and a dash of white chocolate, giving the thick sauce both savoury and sweet flavours. The pomegranate seeds just added to the binding of all these unique tastes.
Probably my favourite thing on the whole menu: the goat’s milk caramel ice cream. Handmade by the chef with a grinder, it was a lovely combination of vanilla, caramel and goat’s milk! The corn cake was a tad dry, but the ice cream more than made up for that.
It was later explained to us that Chef Eliezer Campuzaco Lopez, the instructor leading the team that night, had come from Mexico City and was inspired to introduce ‘true’ Mexican food to Malaysians. So not only was it an educational experience for the students, but for us diners as well.
And really, the experience was quite fantastic. The servers were extremely attentive to our needs, our water glasses were never empty and they took note of what we liked and disliked and offered us alternatives.
According to Mr. Cheng Mun Kid, the Dean of the school, he had hoped this experience would help prepare his students for the real world and allow them to excel when they graduated.
With a menu that changes monthly, and the international experience that their students have from partnering with Kendall College in Chicago and the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, I expect that their students will come out to make new waves in the F&B industry.