Food & Drink

Opinion: Luxury Cuisine Has Become Lost In Excess

Lestari Hairul presents a diatribe against the adage to justify excessive luxury—because why not?

BY LESTARI HAIRUL | Jul 12, 2016 | Opinion

When I was a child and obsessed with history, descriptions of the meals that corrupt Popes used to have in the Middle Ages fascinated me. There were stuffed peacocks and swans, eels swimming in wine, and gobs of fatty butter for a particularly dairy-obsessed gluttonous Pontiff. Bigger animals stuffed with the carcasses of smaller animals, which were then stuffed with even smaller animals or fruits featured as centerpiece. One of the more intriguing tales involved Pope Leo X feeding his court jester a leather jacket stewed in a savoury sauce. Because why not?

And that seems to be the precise reasoning to any and all of the so-named luxury dining experiences you can obtain here: because why not? I don’t mean luxurious in the sense of the unobtainable, though that certainly is a factor for some meals. I don’t even think they’re that particularly good or have a measure of elegance and sophistication that some might associate the word with. The only consistent quality is an exorbitant price.

Look at the original Latin root of the word, luxus. “Excess” would be more apropos. Excess, when experimental cuisine gets out of hand and ceases to make any delicious sense on the palate. Why the fuck would you confit chicken wings and crumbs of crisps? Excess, when you present a slapdash of prized ingredients and call it a good cocktail to justify its ridiculous price. Absent of good technique, absent especially of good judgment and sense and what you’ll get is something of the nature of the parties the fat cats of the Middle Ages used to throw. Because why not.

If you would like to live the life of the high roller, participate in what you think that would involve. Pre-dinner cocktails of abysmal taste sprinkled with gold dust? Why not. VIP bottle service clubs hawking vastly overpriced champagne that’s not worth drinking? Why not. We are inundated with marketing spiel daily, but sometimes, the hunger for the novel and new that drives publications cannot be fed. Because sometimes, no amount of spinning can absolve the ridiculous.

The Russians and CÉ LA VI have come up with an experience for you to indulge in. USD2 million. That’s all you need to make it a night to remember. And most of it will be had atop that bastion to excess, and everything that this beautifully capitalist country stands for. Here’s the breakdown of what you’ll get:

  • A 45 minute helicopter ride round Singapore
  • A chauffeured Rolls-Royce drive
  • A luxury private cruise
  • 10,000 fresh roses
  • Custom-made designer furniture to be sat upon whilst you have your dinner, and then later delivered to your home
  • A live band
  • An "extravagant fireworks display to the envy of the universe" Christ.
  • A 2.08 carat “Fancy Vivid Blue” diamond ring that Jane Seymour wore, stuck in your food.
  • Diamond-studded chopsticks engraved with your names to eat with
  • An 18-course “Modern Asian” degustation menu involving the following:
    1. Fresh Belon Oyster with Champagne foam
    2. Almas Caviar
    3. Jamón Ibérico
    4. Gewürztraminer-Poached Foie Gras
    5. Veal Liver
    6. Lamb Sweetbread
    7. Bresse Poulet Consommé
    8. Striped Seabass
    9. Air-Flown Alaska Wild Salmon
    10. Verjus Sorbet
    11. Slow Cooked Pigeon
    12. Glenvale Pork Loin
    13. Apple-Wood Grilled Mishima Sirloin
  • Served with the following wines:
    1. 1988 Salon ‘S’ champagne
    2. 2008 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
    3. 1996 Domaine de la Romanee- Conti, Romanee-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru
    4. 1961 Chateau Haut-Brion
    5. and 1972 Oremus Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos

Now look at the list of food and wine. Are you tempted yet? Do you want to feast upon the ham and foie gras, the seabass, and the pork loin? Do those wines mean anything to you? Beyond brand names and perceived value, is it really the crème de la crème of all culinary experiences this world has to offer. 

The future looks ominous sometimes especially with recent world events. People are fighting wars of survival over commodities that the rest of us take for granted and waste just because. The mad ones are stockpiling resources, and getting ready for FUBAR situations. And closer to home, some folks are barely scraping by.

I kid. There’s no space to play this game of the others having it worse. Not if you have that USD2 million to casually blow. Because why not? Instagram that shit and let us see the mediated fabulous experience. Luxury is an experience denied for others. And you deserve it buddy. As long as you meet the cut at the discretion of the organisers, natch. They sure do want to keep the hoi polloi out, huh?