Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Food Adventures January to July 2017 - June 2017

Prior to the two month sojourn around Wales, France and Sicily across August through to mid October, I had been a bit taken up with a project that took me away from the food and wine writing (and the songwriting and recording) but I then got a bit of a breather to try and reflect over where the Lengui and I had eaten over the previous couple of months (well, seven actually). So I figured rather than try to document them individually, better to just load them all into a single narrative and see how it looked. So this is a full-ish listing of where, when, and with whom we ate and drank over this period. Some are barely one liners, others have a bit more detail. Whatever, it made for a more than usually long read so it got broken down into months for ease of, er, digestion. Not sure if it will prove useful, but when taken in total it does represent quite a litany of gluttony. Phoooooooo....

June 8th Topshelf Tasca wine dinner 
Went with the Princess and the Texan, got sat near the door so a bit warm but could hear the conversation as compared to the echo machine that I remembered from previously getting sat further inside. Squid Ink cracker felt a bit dusty, though the Tomato and Octopus Salad that followed was fresh and the crisp little sweeties got nicely spritzed up with the vinaigrette. The tomatoes were some of the best I have tasted in a long time - that wonderful slightly sharp explosive bite you get when they are just off the plant and your cheeks get sprayed and splotched with the freshest sweet juice on the planet. I had the beef cheek which was delightfully rich and bistro whilst Lenglui chose the somewhat dry and slightly stinky duck. The duck felt just a shade too long on the kitchen table and the purines had started to ferment, or whatever it is that they do - had that slight stinky "ducky" scent and taste. I know this because we swapped - Lenglui does not do ducky duck. 

The wines were Sicilian and robust though not really sticking in the memory. Fair with the food, but didn't quite seem worth the asking prices. None of us bought. 

Somehow not as good as previous visits. An indescribable something has slipped. Can't put a finger on it. Maybe was the staff - felt a bit not confident in wine pourings and dish placements. And the ducky duck was a bit of a slip. Odd.
Amuse - Squid Ink Cracker with smoked Garlic Aioli
Tasca d'Almerita Regaleail Bianoc
Tomato and Octopus Salad - Marinated Heirloom Tomatoes, Grilled Octopus, Micro Herbs and Lime Vinaigrette
Tasca d"Almerita Regaleali Nero d'Avola
Braised Angus Beef Cheek in Red Wine, Charred Endive, Potato Purre
Roasted Duck Breast, Beetroot, REd Wine Jus
Tasca d'Almerita Lamuri
Tasca d'Almerita Cygnus
Lemon Parfait with Pistachio Basil Crumb and Caramelised Granola

June 11th St Regis Astor 1
This was a birthday for one of Lenglui's in laws celebrating a joint birthday with the spouse. Needed to get there a bit early to test out the sound system - Lenglui would be doing her "My Way" and for some reason I was to do "Green Green Grass Of Home" - the theme was golden tunes for golden years and this was as near that the old fart rocker in me could think of doing. Brian is not a ballad singer - he is Rock and Blues. Yes. Excellent state of the art PA system installed in the room, which was all in white with chandeliers and panelling - actually very tasteful. Our soundcheck done, we started off with some excellent vintage Moet being paired with some amazing nuts and later moved on to a tasty Chilean White and old favourite the Le Volte Italian red (3rd wine of the super Tuscan Ornellaia house). The food presentations were very tasteful, and the food equally so. Whether they matched the expectation of the large packet this repast must have cost I cannot say - never trust a white boy's views about high end non Western cuisine. But most of the Chinese attendees seemed to enjoy well enough, though none I spoke to raved about the food. But they didn't denigrate it either, so we take that as a sign of approval - when there is no whingeing about the food, then it is pretty good. 

The evening ended up as a big party with those wanting to have a sing being invited to do so. Lenglui is good at getting people to sing and dance and with me getting the party underway with the Karaoke and getting completely raucous, everyone ended the night on a high. I am cursed with a weakness for a microphone and some backing music. Also did a jam with a Penang Guitar group with some Chinese songs - my party pieces. And the Birthday girl (at age 80 plus) was able to sing a couple of songs with her mates which went down a storm. Lovely couple and very happy to have been a part of the night. Not sure I could go back under my own tab though - not in this lifetime. 
Deep Fried Shrimp Paste Boneless Chicken
Dried Shrimp Radish Cake
Fresh Fruit Salad
Soup - Braised Bird's Nest Soup, Shredded Chicken, Bamboo Pith
Braised 6-Head Abalone with Blossom Mushroom and Vegetables
Combo of Stir-Fried Prawns with Golden Garlic and Stir Fried Kailan
Chicken Ginger Soup Mee Sua
Fragrant Red Date Tea, Snow Fungus and "Tang Yuen"

June 12th Somewhere with Birthday group
No memory, notes or photos of food or venue - total blank. Might have been Marco Polo. 

The tasty chest whacking Gavilan
June 14th Spanish Wine Vina Pedrosa dinner at Stoked
Enjoyed this one. Tasty food, tasty wines, great company. Particular shout out for adding the honeycomb to the Iberico Collar - sweet and spicy and lovely piece of meat - home run with this one. Matching a prune with the beef was also cute - a sweet hit to the firmish meat. Not sure about dessert, but the table oo-ed and ah-ed so I guess it was well received. Bought six of the cheaper Gavilan Crianza - the others felt in need of bottle time and were more austere than the fruity and juicier sibling. The Gavilan also has enough oomph to whack the chest and make you feel more of a bullfighter than, er, you might otherwise ever want to experience. 
Trio of Canapes
Raventos I Blanc de Blanc 2014
Duo of Tuna - Akami & Nouten, Radish, Ponzu Sauce
Vina Pedrosa Cepa Gavilan Crianza
Iberico Collar - Hungary Honey Comb, Button Mushroom, Lettuce
Vina Pedrosa Crianza
Beef Tajine - Prune, Tomato, Roasted Green Capsicum
Vina Pedrosa La Navila 2009
Vina Pedrosa La Navila 2012
Chocolate Version of Yeung Ji Gum Lo
Pomelo, Praline & Vanilla Ice Cream
Coffee Tea Petits Fours

Canapes Trio
Duo of Tuna
Iberico Collar and honeycomb - wicked good
Beef Tajine and Prune - well tasty
June 21st IWFS at Dewakan
Our IWFS for June 2017 was at Dewakan. Madness traffic thanks to being in the middle of Puasa month made me miss a turn with the result that the four in my car were a bit frazzled on arrival at the restaurant. Perhaps it was this that made me pretty much forget the whole meal. I remember the Cremant being wonderful, and the Duck being its usual magnificent self. But the rest of the dishes and wines are lost in mist. Traffic will do that to you. I remember talking to Chef Darren who seemed to suggest that Dewakan might be on the move to premises closer to the city. Which would make me a lot happier and more able to introduce the place to friends. I might also remember my next time there with a little more clarity. 
Aperitif - Cremant, Extra Brut, Albert Mann, Alsace 2014
Viré-Clessé, Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Macon 2013 
Marcel Chapoutier, St Deschant Blanc, Saint Josephs, Rhone 2009
BIDOR DUCK BREAST WITH BLOOD SAUCESmoked Pike Conger, Custard, Fermented Long 
Bouchard Pere et Fils, Clos de la Mousse, Beaune 2005 
Chateau Bellefont-Belcier, Grand Cru classe, St Emilion 2005  

June 23rd Sapore with Texas
Reserved a table with the gang for Texas to check whether Sapore would be a candidate for an upcoming birthday dinner. Had the usual cold cuts with lardo on bread followed by pasta, pig and steak. Finished off about eight bottles between the ten of us. Yes. 

June 27th Soo Kee with House of Pork
Ten of us parked around a table crowded with glasses and plates and dishes that all came at about the same time. Can't remember what we ate, but there was pig and Soon Hock fish in there somewhere. The signature Prawn and fried Taufoo and meat in their thick goo with steamed rice is as near to simple perfection as you can get. I remember pulling someone about the need to say "Please" when requesting a dish to be passed to her; the phrase "Eh, that one you pass to me ah," might be acceptable in Jinjang but not in company of the House of Pork. Ah.

June 28th Robson Heights Guys Night
Bit subdued with only six guys, but superb Pai Kuat ribs and Tilapia Steamed Fish got the evening moving. Six bottles finished, some Oyster Bay whites and some various reds. Soul food. 

June 30th Sapore with Rubber Baron
This was just the four of us with the Baron come to sample the Lardo, the Roast Pig and the Steak. Which we did in the company of his magnificent 2000 Bordeaux paired against my 2007 Armand Rousseau - the last of the legendary Vinum Malaysia sale. The pig was its usual magnificent self, as was the lardo on Chef's oven baked bread, and the steak we had was stellar. Service was straightforward even though the place was quite full - Sapore seems to have made it in spades in its short time of existence. It is an easy place to relax into - not too many frills, quite homely with a few wall paintings for effect and soft lights. Haven't seen the Baron as relaxed as he was that night  - good food and wine will do that to you. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Food Adventures January to July 2017 - May 2017

Prior to the two month sojourn around Wales, France and Sicily across August through to mid October, I had been a bit taken up with a project that took me away from the food and wine writing (and the songwriting and recording) but I then got a bit of a breather to try and reflect over where the Lengui and I had eaten over the previous couple of months (well, seven actually). So I figured rather than try to document them individually, better to just load them all into a single narrative and see how it looked. So this is a full-ish listing of where, when, and with whom we ate and drank over this period. Some are barely one liners, others have a bit more detail. Whatever, it made for a more than usually long read so it got broken down into months for ease of, er, digestion. Not sure if it will prove useful, but when taken in total it does represent quite a litany of gluttony. Phoooooooo....

May 3rd IWFS Committee Dinner at Stoked
At our monthly IWFS Committee meetings, everyone brings a bottle to share with everyone else. At the end of the year there is usually a surplus of bottles so a dinner gets organised to drink them up. This year was decided to have it at our regular meeting place and Yin-How came up with the menu. We also brought extra wines to fill out the spectrum (ie fizz and white - seemed to be a preponderance of reds in the surplus bin). Didn't take any notes, and having just consumed a glass or four during the meeting was pretty much in no state or mood to do so. We stood around for a while quaffing more fizz before seating to some lovely glassware and excellent wine service all night. Some lovely wines came and went. Foodwise was mostly good, ranging from the usual excellent seafood dishes to the grim Rossini which needed a second heating from most of our table. At around RM350 a pop, felt a shade stiff but then I am half Scots. I can probably claim Irish because of my name spelling - should I go for an Irish passport in view of Brexit??
Trio of Canapes - Sainte Maure Goat Cheese and Dried Apricot, Chicken and Mustard Seed, Amaebi and Caviar
Octopus - Baba Ghanoush, Pomegranete
French White Asparagus - Slipper Lobster, Fine Leaf
USDA Prime Rossini - Mash Potatoes, Spinach with Perigord Sauce
Chocolate Sable - Frozen Berries, White Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Ice Cream
Coffee Tea Petits Fours
Roll of Honour

Glass and Flower at Flint
May 5th Flint with Amanti della Cucina Italia
The Amanti Della Cucina Italia has their monthly bash at Flint in Ampang. Which was a bit unusual since it normally prefers Italian places rather than meat houses. Nevertheless, nineteen Amanti braved the rainy Friday night traffic and parking, possibly due to the value on the food and getting a fair deal on booze (25% discount on purchases). Took two fucking hours in the car to get there - brain dead by the time I arrived. I recall sucking down a bottle of St Clair SB just to regain some brain function. Desperate. It felt a bit cramped inside the Flint with all the people milling around, though not overly so. Was a bit disappointed with the Wagyu skirt (or rump as I understand it to also be) - seemed to be a bit of a tough chew. But the minestrone and pasta ragout were excellent. We initially opted to pair it with what turned out to be some mid range metallic and teeth enamel removing Chianti. The replacement Barbera was better - smooth , black cherry jam on the nose and mouth, frisky tannins, slightly tart on the swallow, but a great palate and finish. Service was excellent throughout the night - very attentive, young and efficient. Food details follow:-

Minestrone - with Lentils and Grana Padano - a bit overpeppered but great taste. Rustic, authentic feel - soul soup, like a good bowl of Campbells but without the salt. The bread is magnificent. St Clair SB a bit bitter on first blush but brought into balance by butter on bread and pepper in soup. Yum.
Tajarin Pasta - with Smoked Beef Ragout - rich and full on the mouth. Well seasoned, but somehow needed a visual and zesty lift - looked like a Mee Pork dollop of pasta with ragout sauce and meat. I would have added some lemon, but then I would. 
Charcoal Grilled Wagyu Skirt - with Garden Salad and Balsamic Glaze - portions were generous and well seared and cooked. Good salt, well pink on the inside. But as said, the cut a bit tough but not so that it wouldn't go down. Just needed a bit more work than usual. Made a good sandwich for lunch the following day. 
Deconstructed Apple Crumble - with Strawberry Basil Sorbet - didn't work for me. The apple was a massive cruncher Granny Smith, total sharp green in taste and almost citrus. Brought tears to the eyes. Paired with a sorbet made for a double sharp dessert. I would have softened Granny with some plain vanilla ice cream. Perhaps a bit too Spanish experimental Mugaritz on this one - sometimes plain is best. 
The excellent Minestrone
Charcoal Grilled Wagyu Skirt - bit of a firm chew this one...
Deconstructed Apple Crumble - dam sharp
May 6th Marco Polo Wedding
Just for completeness, we were here. About ten tables in the back room of the Marco. Was a family occasion so the food was superb. Their Iberico ribs are total business. 

May 7th Marco Polo Pig Nick 
Phoo - sometimes it all comes in a rush, eh? But how not to go to the Marco when the Pig Nick has been ordered and the wine kaki are all fired up for it? Another good boozy night of food, wine, friends and chit chat. Total fun.
Marco Polo Combination
Peppery Bork Bone Soup
Suckling Pig with Glutinous Rice
Minced Pork Ball with Sugar Cane
Baked Iberico Ribs
Yunnan Ham on Tofu with Vegetable
A Twist on Noodle and Rice
Cool and Sweet Ice Cream on Egg Tart

May 11th Grand Imperial BSC Bangsar Birthday gang
One fo the gang claimed to be able to get special discount here so naturally we went along with it. Got a semi private room shared with one other group. This included a long table on which we could park our wines and the restaurant's ice buckets and get fair to good wine service through the evening. Lots of Prosecco and Sauvignon Blanc and Italian Reds paired with the Grand Imperial Four Seasons, Iberico Pork Ribs and various other dishes nicely enough, though the food did not leap out as stunning.  

May 13th Char Siew Kelvin
This was at some stall off the backroads somewhere toward Kepong. We were first to arrive and commandeered some tables. Darned good food washed down with various SBs and easy reds. The Money brought her Zweigelt which went gangbusters with the Char Siew - picked out delicate floral violets in the mouth with the sticky caramel goo on the Char Siew. Wish I could remember where it was and how to get there...

Me looking amazed that people ask me to sing..,
May 14th Steven Fung 60th Birthday Chinese Restaurant in PJ
The Unique Seafood is a place I have occasionally visited in previous years, though not in recent past. It seems to have fallen off the map as a place to go eat. Marco Polo is nearer and does well enough for us. Though the Unique remains hugely popular amongst the community for its big fish and value preparations. There is a banquet hall at the back, which was a first time for me - previous visits had been to the restaurant front side of things. 

The Birthday Boy is a Wedding Planner of many years experience and we first came to know him through singing with the Philharmonic Society. Lenglui's Line Dance kaki (friends) all know him from various weddings he has planned for their progeny's hitchings. The evening showed his brilliance at maintaining relationships through the years - he had people there from all over the block. And so many we knew from other circles. Amazing. It also showed his sense of show - four roast pigs were waiting at reception to be carved up and served to guests. After a quick soundcheck (I was singing Green Green Grass, Lenglui and her line dance kaki were to do a couple of dances for the Boy) we sat down and opened a bottle of Oyster Bay SB to whet the whistle. Someone went out and grabbed some pork and brought it back to the table. Delightful. The guests were wandering into the hall and when they saw we had tunpang the pork, some went back out to grab a plate or four. We finished our SB and stole a bottle of red from the bar for the table. 
Lenglui and the Siew Yoke Four
The food would prove to be standard Chinese banquet. Was good enough, though nothing stood out as stunningly memorable. The hall was long and white, the tables and chairs were white - I think the floor was light coloured too. Wondered whether this was how someone involved in the organisation thought that this might be what heaven looked like. Well, and maybe. Though I am pretty sure heaven does not have bigass loud Chinese Drum groups there - we were fricking DEAFENED when these boys got underway. People were very kind to my singing of Green Green Grass of Home. The Lenglui's dancers died - they were on too late in the bill and not really rehearsed enough. No one cared. 

May 18th Albert Mann wines dinner at Grand Imperial at BSC Bangsar
Ah, this was a cracker. Excellent dishes on show at the Grand Imperial - stunning tastes and beautiful presentations. And the Mann wines facilitated by Singapore Alsace Society President Julian Teoh and Romanee Petrus Ivy Lim were spectacular. Twenty people sat on two tables with the Mann winemaker Mr Maurice himself able to tell us something about his Alsace winery and production techniques. Finishing touch was that Ivy had brought her glasses and some staff from her Tinto operation to help serve the wines which helped bring the whole evening into wonderful focus - aways good when you don't have to worry about whether the wines are getting poured into wrong glasses or in wrong order. Have to look for the menu and wines and photos - a truly excellent evening. Found the notes, will look to write this one up.
Roll of Honour
May 20th Yoong Char Siew lunch House of Pork
Organised by Lenglui, the Char Siew here is the total business. This place of legend is a roadside shophouse in Cheras, which made its name on Peel Road before it moved to its present location, though not before absorbing the Peel Road legacy into its name. We got here at noon and the place was already rocking. Sat with The Money and her squeeze, Princess, Texas and squeeze, and had lashings and lashings of Char Siew washed down with Money's amazing Austrian whites and a repeat of her Zweigelt red from the May 13th outing that was again total gangbusters with the Char Siew. Match made in heaven, and I hope there is Char Siew and Zweigelt when and if I get there. There was Siew Yoke with the usual Cloudy Bay which sucks up the salt a treat. Patin Fish in sauce came out at some time, but we were all topping up at this time. Everyone ordered takeaway. So. Very. Good. 
Food got whacked before photos could get taken. Hungry lorrrr...
May 20th Bonfire friends 40th Anniversary
Talked about the Bonfire previously in this series. Not much new to add. Manager wanted to levy corkage of RM50 on me per bottle. Good thing the host was also the owner of the place so got it dismissed. Had some huge prawns, chewy and peppered lamb, and as before the gratin potato was stellar. I guess you have to like the Australian barbeque style of preparation and cooking. I have yet to acquire the taste. Smoky and charred food to me all tastes smoky and charred, and one course of it is usually enough. Company was fun and boozy, which meant that the Baron's 2008 Sassicaia got sucked down in double time and my attempts to be extra judicious in the pourings to the non afficionados proved in vain. They whacked it absolutely. I have learned - keep two bottles in the covered cooler wine bag; one for the bibbers and one for the chuggers. Wine is wine, and no pearls before swine, n'est-ce pas? Oui. 

May 22nd Sanctuary7 Dombeya wine dinner
Owner Operator of Sanctuary7 and Winedaddy (and Petdaddy) Prakash had snagged visiting winemaker Rianie Strydom to grace this dinner and talk about the Dombeya and Haskell wines on show.  Sanctuary7 is a house in Damansara with a Balinese and Thai Garden setting in which private wine dinners take place before partying through the night to the video collection indoors. Food is generally good, though for me often lacking a degree of finesse given the calibre and pedigree of the wines Prakash puts on the tables. Ryanie proved a delightful ambassador of her wines - her passion, knowledge and commitment shone through the evening and her table stories of winemaking in South Africa were peppered with wonderful asides. We found we had mutual friends in Yngvild Steytler of Kaapzicht Estate and neighbour Louis at the Mooiplas - Yngvild and Louis were in Singapore and KL some years back as part of a South African wine mission exercise and Ryanie promised to pass our best to her. Always good when this happens. 

I had bought both Dombeya Chard and Haskell Aeon from Prakash on a previous showcase at the Sanctuary7 and they were both on show again. Dombeya-wise, we had the 2014 Chardonnay and 2013 Merlot, and for the Haskell we had the Haskell II 2010 (62% Shiraz, 33% Cab and 5% Mourvedre) and the Aeon 2012 (95% Shiraz, 5% Mourvedre). The Chard is magnificent - sleek tropical fruit and lovely balance across alcohol and acidity. Full, mouthbomb, sparky chewy wine but finishes like a thoroughbred. Match this easily with anything that the big name Chard producers can come out with. Lovely wine. We bought six. The Merlot was…  okay, but I confess to not being a great fan of the varietal. Blend it with the Cabs and yes, the mouth waters. But on its own…   it lacks a bit of body and whack for me. The Dombeya was clean and crisp and enough fruit to enjoy but not one for the home wine fridge. The Haskell II was a full on South African blend, all earthy brick soil and clean entry and finish. Can't remember much else. In contrast the Aeon is the business - power, elegance, drinking now but with a lot more time available in bottle.  We bought some more. Most pleasant evening. 

May 27th IWFS AGM
Held at the Impiana Hotel in KL for the second year in succession. They give us a nice room in which to conduct the annual business, great glass service for the flutes, and good staff behind the bar who listened and responded intelligently. Shame that the food was pretty grim. Salted and stodgy pastas, cold meats and sauces, painfully small oysters. I seem to remember the potatoes and vegetables were the only edible thing for me. Hope we are not back there next year. Awful. Got ubered there and home by Princess. No Lenglui - on birthday duty in Tacloban. 
Princess, Kiwi and Ajeet the Bohemian Rhapsodist
 May 30th Noble House In Laws birthday lunch
This was a birthday of a Lenglui in-law and with Lenglui overseas I was the representation. A Roasted Pig was carved and distributed in celebration. Standard Eight Course banquet for lunch. No wine, but someone poured a whiskey toward the end which somehow went quite well with the noodles. Or perhaps it was just the hunger for some booze. Can't remember much about the food. Think it was good, but I find the banquets at the various restaurants do get a bit ordinary after a while and tend toward all tasting the same. Don't remember any standouts. Birthday cake was massively creamy and sweet. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

108 X Dewakan = Foragers Paradise. But Where's The Beef?

Chef Kristian Baumann
November 11, 2017

My original title for this post was "WTF???" but on reflection that was a gut (?) reaction rather than a reflection on what was in fact a solid challenge to expectations of both eyes, belly and camera. The eleven courses went by quite quickly and seemed to travel through the alimentaries like a breath of air. If we are what we eat, then at least for one night in this lifecycle I feel I have been cleansed. Purified, even. Not fully sure if it was enjoyable, but it is done. Yes. Thank you and Amen. What?

Dewakan chef Darren was collaborating with chef and co-owner of Restaurant 108 in Copenhagen Kristian Baumann for two nights at the Dewakan. The email blurb said that Kristian shared the same appreciation for and emphasis on ingredients and produce, as well as holding to similar philosophies of hard work and hospitality. Kristian, a Korean-born Dane, is now the head chef and co-owner of Restaurant 108 in Copenhagen’s Christianshavn district. He spent his early career at restaurant noma, after which he helped to set up Restaurant Relæ, before becoming head chef of Restaurant 1.th. In July 2016 he opened Restaurant 108 with noma’s René Redzepi. The restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star in February 2017. So pretty much Foodie Rock Star coming to perform in Kualal Lumpur, and snap up your seats fast! 

Butterfly Pea with Okra and Rose. Maybe
The blurb also shared some of the dishes from the menu at Restaurant 108: 

  • Cured mackerel washed in celery vinegar with last year's gooseberries and spruce wood oil.
  • Raspberries filled with caramel made from rose hip, served with rose hip granita and oat raspberry cracker.
  • Braised lamb shoulder glazed in its juices, and fermented honey with grilled onions, elderberry capers and greens from Krogerup.

Tables would be for 4 to 6 pax, with limited tables for 2 pax, and that dietary restrictions could not be catered to for this event. RM450 for eleven courses with wine pairing sounded like a deal, so in we went. 

Mango in Ginger
The communication between Dewakan and me was a bit lax on this occasion. Having dutifully sent off my request for Lenglui and I to dine, I got no response from anyone, not even an acknowledgement of receipt. It was only when I got a email from The Governor saying Dewakan had asked him to ask me if it would be all right to sit with his party of six that I got any inkling we were on board for the beano. Whisper came back that the Maitre D' had moved on from Dewakan so perhaps that would explain. Even so, hearing nothing from anyone felt a bit…  not right. 
The aforesaid email blurb also said we should expect creative dishes that would in turn challenge and comfort. This creativity did not apparently seem to carry through to the wines chosen for pairing - one of the group checked with Sommelier on arrival for the dinner and reported to our party that the wines were two fizz (one a Cava) and a Pinot Gris (I did not see the wines, so strictly this is hearsay - they might have been magnificent, though I do defer to the friend's judgement in wine). The same one had previously suggested the eight of us on the table bring our own wines to sup, since apparently the IWFS members get a waive on corkage. So the decision was made to indeed sup our own and forego the suggested pairing wines. 

Pisang Raja/ Coconut Bananas. Two of them. Yes
And we had brought some beauties - there was a vintage Dom Perignon in there somewhere (2002, I think) along with my 2009 Pascal Bouchard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos and 1er Cru 2009 Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Folatieres and finishing off with the Governor's Chateau Leoville Poyferre 1996. 

Charred Eggplant with Keluak
Lenglui and I arrived and immediately got greeted by old friend and fellow thespian turned chef Chris Bauer and partner Eddie. Chris now operates the Cantaloupe and has a business card saying Troika Sky Dining which seems to cover Claret, Strato, Fuego and Coppersmith in addition to Cantaloupe. He also thrust two glasses of very tasty Rose Fizz into my hands, saying that they were overpoured and thus in need of immediate drinking to avoid unnecessary warming. Seemed perfectly logical, so naturally I acceded to his demand. I also promised to visit his place, having so promised on each occasion over the last six plus years we have ran into each other and never yet made it there. There is now a deadline of the end of this year - it is about time to try his cooking again. Last time was when he had opened Frangipani which is now almost two decades ago just after we shared the stage in a production of The Fantasticks. Try To Remember…  the time has indeed flown. 

Our party wandered in over the next twenty minutes and naturally I had to explain where the booze we were drinking had come from. One perhaps feels one is missing out otherwise, or that I was hoarding the fizz. A champagne brought by one of the party got opened in an effort to catch us up and the evening was underway. The whites were parked in an ice bucket by our Sommelier whilst the reds were cooled in the fridge. Having been requested to take our seats, Chef Kristian came out quickly with the first course and explained what it was all about. This someone coming to explain the dishes would become a theme of the evening, though it would be different kitchen members doing so. Perhaps this is all part of the training. Became quite entertaining - or should that be that enter-training? 

Banana Blossom with Butter Sauce. Maybe...
I wish I could say that I pay attention to such descriptions at the dinners I attend, but much of the time it just does not stick in the brain. Too busy farting with the camera to take a shot before the thing gets devoured. Also being partially deaf in a room full of echoes with diction deficient friends and restaurant staff means that little effective conversation enters the head. Memo to self - pay more attention to chef and ask him or her to speak up and clearly. Maybe I should offer to teach diction to chefs in exchange for food?

Petai and Mushroom with Water Chestnut
The upshot of this excuse means that much of the tasting notes (or lack of them on this occasion) increasingly have gotten marginalised in the surrender to the pleasures of the evening. Which happened here - the individual food dishes and their tastes got forgotten in the wine and company and ambience of the restaurant. The service of both food dishes and wines were extremely good, the attention to the visuals and the presentations of the dishes was excellent, the wines were delightful and all well received by everyone - but it was one of those where the taste of the food became somehow secondary and subsequently not really memorable. Some textures come back - the pomelo, and there was a mango dish slightly cooked in (I think) ginger that was a replacement for ( I think) the quinine and daikon. The rice and condiments made for good combos of crunch and zippy vegetable style bites whilst the coconut shaved ice was a fantastic finisher with the mint tea to close. Lots of smells and sights and a wonderful experience - but a bit like DC in that I can't remember much about the tastes. Perhaps it is me - the tastes somehow don't register at these grand and exquisite meal affairs. But then how is it I can still remember the Baked Fish at Paul Bocuse, the Sicilian pizzas, the T Bone Steak and Bone Marrow at Chez Paul, and the Bresse Chicken in Beaune Hotel de Ville even now when it is years later? Maybe I am just too peasant for these artsy style food affairs. There you go. The 108 x Dewakan will be remembered for the wines, service, ambience and company - but somehow not for the tastes of the dishes. Visually stunning, and excellent creativity and finesse in the elements. Just can't remember what it all tasted like. All the dishes seemed to float past the tongue and cheeks and drifted into the belly with barely a wisp of a memory of their brief existence. 

Rice Two Ways with Condiments
Equally, I don't remember anyone on the table raising a "phwooarrrrr" at the tasting of any of the dishes. I know I didn't. Sorry… 

As said, the presentations were all quite visually creative and cute, and made for conversation around the table. Most of mine was spent chatting to the Governor about travel, writing, and his upcoming memoirs. Very engaging, and all his stories about life on the Plantations are amazing. The Governor can tell a good story.  

Rice Two Ways with Condiments
He was also insisting on opening his second Leoville in the face of protests from the rest of the group given that dessert was in the process of being cleared. My laying of a corkscrew on the table brought discussion to a swift close and the cork was duly popped. And O what a delicious wine - sleek, rich chewy fruit that totally popped on the cheeks, with full cassis nose, excellent balance, and drinking delightfully. The Governor keeps a good cellar.

Fried Mantou with Jackfruit
As noted at the start of this write, there seemed to be something purifying in all of this vegetarian fare. One sensed some strange yet meaningful communing with the Earth and perhaps the Gaia spirit that some say permeates and connects all that lives. Well, and maybe, but the entire table was absolutely gagging for something to land in the belly with some semblance of a thud. Lots of cute and delicate, but not much in the way of whack or substance, or "beef". Remember the old Burger King advert of old where the tagline was "where's the beef?" Very. Apt. Indeed.

Rambutan. Two. Yes.
Chef Darren's Signature Duck sprang quickly to mind as a solution to all this internal growling, but no one dared ask for a serving amid all the Vegan vibe going on in the place. Our table were jokingly talking of going for a Char Kwey Teow supper or breakfast or something to fill the gnawing chasm of something missing from the evening. As it was, we all went meekly home after paying the bill and taking a gentle Waze guided slow and steady drive back. I felt the need for some decent carbo to settle the stomach ahead of the bed and raided the fridge for some crackers and a glass of water. And half a Welsh Cake - a taste of the homeland currently being brought into Malaysia by Marks and Spencers in KLCC. Little round cakelets made from a dough of flour, raisins, egg and sugar and baked on a hot plate with a scrape of oil. Fills a belly hole in a way like no other. Veggie friendly, too. Fell asleep watching the football. 

So…  the surprise of the menu proved to be a challenge to our expectations of Dewakan given the absence of any form of meat from the evening. Kind of like an omakase vegetarian evening dependant on what could presumably be foraged from field and market. Had we known in advance it would be non carnivore, we might have not signed up; certainly given the dishes described from 108 in the blurb, perhaps an expectation of some animal protein was not unreasonable. Still, the prospect of an ex noma chef teaming up with chef Darren should have pre-warned us to expect the unexpected and best we just turn up for the gastronomic ride and take what comes. Given the fare and ingredients, though, I would definitely have balked at paying the RM450 for it, world class chef or not. Banana with salt and coconut? Two Rambutans?  Difficult to see where the added value was. Certainly didn't feel like it appeared to be on the plate this time around.

Preparing Dessert at the table
As in all things, there is a need for balance and the Yin of this vegetarian cleansing was met the following night with the Yang of a large home griddle cooked steak with milk and butter mashed potatoes, steamed buttered sweetcorn and fried onions. With loads of salt and pepper and a glass of Markovitch 2011 Pinot Noir. Absolute and total bliss. Thus was internal gastronomic equilibrium restored and the expectations of the belly totally met.  Fine dining vegetarian experiences have their place, but sometimes a bloody good steak is necessary to satisfy and stick in the craw. Some of us need our beef. 

Coconut Shaved Ice with Roselle and Pandan

The Lovelies

Butterfly Pea and Okra with Peanut and Wild Rose

Belimbing with Pomelos and Blackcurrants

Quinine with Daikon

Pisang Raja with Fresh Almond Oil

Charred Eggplant with Keluak and Hazelnut

Banana Blossom wth Butter Sauce

Petai and Mushroom with Water Chestnut

Rice Two Ways with Condiments


Fried mantou with Jackfruit

Coconut Shaved Ice with Roselle and Pandan

Herbal Tea

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Food Adventures January to July 2017 - April 2017

Prior to the two month sojourn around Wales, France and Sicily across August through to mid October, I had been a bit taken up with a project that took me away from the food and wine writing (and the songwriting and recording) but I then got a bit of a breather to try and reflect over where the Lengui and I had eaten over the previous couple of months (well, seven actually). So I figured rather than try to document them individually, better to just load them all into a single narrative and see how it looked. So this is a full-ish listing of where, when, and with whom we ate and drank over this period. Some are barely one liners, others have a bit more detail. Whatever, it made for a more than usually long read so it got broken down into months for ease of, er, digestion. Not sure if it will prove useful, but when taken in total it does represent quite a litany of gluttony. Phoooooooo....

April 1st Private Dinner at One World Hotel
This was a private room for about ten tables and pretty good vegetarian dishes. We were told by our host that it was to be followed with a talk by a Buddhist teacher so out of respect we didn't bring any wine. As it turned out we were sat on a table of serial boozers who equally didn't bring booze. I offered to go downstairs and grab a couple of whites and reds from the supermarket but was told no need. Next time I will listen to my better instincts. We drank (admittedly very good) Chinese tea all night and listened to about an hour of the Teaching before making excuses about it being way past bedtime. Which was true, but in reality we wanted to get away - these sessions can go on into the serious small hours and the devoted hang on to every word uttered by the guru while we less devoted choke back yawns out of politeness to the host. Whatever gets you through the night…

Sidethought - in gatherings of people of Chinese descent, I have observed that no one ever seems to want to make the first move to get up and go. I seem to recall reading once that the longer the evening goes on, the greater mark it is of the table enjoying itself which gives great "face" to the host or hostess. In contrast, leaving early is the reverse. It is also the case that when one gets up to go, then this can get interpreted as a signal for everyone else to also leave. So the result is that no one wants to be seen as the bad guy to get up and signal that the party is over when it might well be the fact that this is exactly what everyone wants to do! But trying to stay awake during a talk after an evening of sobriety - no. I'll listen to the podcast. We had some passengers to transport home so I got up at 11.45pm on the excuse of needing to get them to bed. Everyone said goodbye to us and then in total contrast to all of the above all sat back down to continue listening. I didn't get a podcast. 

April 3rd Banfi Wine Dinner at Stoked
Written up separately. The wine rep remembered me from a dinner he hosted when there was an Italian restaurant in Le Meridien. Wines were not spectacular then - same with now, though there was one that shone reasonably well. See separate post here>>>

April 4th Sapore with Amanti
This was our intro to Sapore and a belter it would prove to be. Lots of wine, fantastic food from Chef and a raucous night had by all. Magnificent Roast Pig, superb Rigatoni, and the Lardo on fresh baked olive bread was spectacular. The first of many visits. See separate post here>>>

April 5th Nadodi
This was a food tasting with the IWFS KL Committee to ascertain whether the place and the food were of sufficient standard to hold an event there. We bring our own wines and blag free corkage on the promise of bringing about 40 pax there. Committee was indeed sufficiently impressed to want to have an event. For some reason, it can't quite seem to get sorted...  See separate post here>>>

April 12th Sapore with Ho Chiak gang
For some reason, there was an invite to El Manica by the Porsche Club Malaysia and Lenglui and I got pressganged into joining the party. Not that it was a hardship. Well, not at first - seemed like the PCM had pretty much ordered the chef to empty the pantry given the amounts of food coming out. Way, way too much. But it was all darn good. Especially the T-Bone - oh, so good the meat. Give the Flint up the road a run for the money. Usual wines, lots of Italian - I finished off my stock of Ciu Ciu bought two years back from a friend of the Hustler (well, I thought I did - recent search on the shelves unearthed two more - can't seem to get shot of it...). Drinking well. Sucked down a few St Clairs and a magnificent bigass heavy thick bottled Chilean Cabernet whose name escapes at the moment. I have found that the bigger the bottle then the better the wine to be a general truism when it comes to both North and South American wines. This one was belter with the steak. 

April 14th Nam Lee Cheong
Not really a food report, just to include the NLC wine store on Jalan Bukit Bintang for old times sake. Used to be a regular at the monthly tastings, but I have sworn off them for a number of years now. I get very drunk, sing a few songs, buy wines which taste great at the time but not so later, and inflate my blood sugar and pressure as a total result. I prefer wine with food rather than getting chugged in such "tastings". And truth be told I don't really enjoy getting blitzed and shitfaced on wine; the hangovers are mental and the following day is wasted. At least with food you have something to soak up the booze. This one was a Montes tasting and some lovely wines were on show. Ended up buying a 2012 Montes M, their flagship Cabernet, on quite generous discount which I have drunk with pleasure on previous occasions. Chugged it recently with a home grilled US Ribeye, power and silk with a hint of green pepper and a wonderfully rich fulfilling finish. Very nice indeed. 

Nam Lee Cheong owner Tony Leong with Wine Girls
April 20th Soleil with IWFS
I have gotten into the habit of not taking notes at wine dinners of late. Partly is because for many places I have written on the food before and the wines and tastes all seem to roll into one set of standard adjectives and descriptors. The result feels that repetition seems to be creeping in. Also it does get in the way of enjoying the company and the booze due to frequent visits to the notepad. I originally thought this was one of them since I couldn't find a note anywhere. Then they showed up. Will look to write up soonest.

Short version is that Chef was well on form and the paired wines from magnum were well good. I have memories of remaining sat with Mossie and The Jag and scouring the bottles for the vinous remains of the day. Vaguely remember getting lucky. No prisoners taken. 

Small Appetiser - Snapper Carpaccio, Calamansi Sorbet
Tribaut Brut NV, Champagne
Irish Oyster and Duck Liver Snow - Brined Tomato Jelly, Avocado Foam, Cucumber Broth
Grand Bateau Blanc 2015, Bordeaux
Hors D'Oeuvre
Seafood Risotto - Grilled Fremantle Octopus, turkey Chorizo, Piquillo Pepper
Fibbiano Casalini Chianti Superiore 2013 Tuscany
Grilled Northsea Cod, Soft Sheel Crab Crumble, Miso Bearnaise, Green Pea Coulis
Veal Tenderloin, Roasted Sunchoke Puree, Baby Vegetables, Bali Long Pepper Sauce
La Fleur Du Bouard 2011 St Emilion
Fleur Cardinale 2011 St Emilion
Poached Peach, Vanilla Panna Cotta, Belini Sorbet, Raspberry- Tomato Coulis
Chateau D'Anna 2010 Sauteurnes

April 23rd G8 Lunch
This is one of Doc Wine's foodie groups that has been going for a number of years, all having met at a Wine and Spirit training course. The Doc's squeeze was cooking Nyonya and he roped me and Lenglui in to join the fun. Each G8 member brings a covered bottle and the assembled seek to ascertain on a blind tasting what it is. Some lovelies get brought by the members. I brought my remaining Weinbach Capuchin Pinot Gris brought back from the Alsace trip which was well received - lean, sweet and crisp with a chewy honey apple that has yet to finish - can still taste it now. Amazingly tasty food, full of spice fire and texture, and which showcased the thoughtfully selected wines to some excellent degrees. Spice and serious light to mid textured wines make for some wonderfully perfect matches. Brilliant, brilliant lunch and all the more so for being wonderfully convivial and vinously serious but not overly so. 
Egg and Prawn Salad with spicy Thousand Island style sauce 
Kangkung leaf - crisp and chewy
Brilliant Pineapple Salad with cucumber, nuts and spice
Wicked Chicken
Roll of Honour
April 27th Dewakan with Leeuwin Estate wines
Organised by Michelle from AsiaEuro wines to showcase the new vintage of this winery of legend. We got a heads up at a previous dinner and on arrival found ourselves on a table with IWFS chums. 

Located in Margaret River in WA, the Leeuwin Estate wines are praised high to the heavens by the Wine world and probably rightly so. The pretty and well laid out marketing card we got on the table listed all the big names and all the nice things they said. The Chardonnay has ranked in the high 90s by WS, Halliday and Vintage since the 2007 vintage. Indeed, I now recall a magnificent Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chard I had with Lenglui at a specially paired Gourmet Wine Dinner on board the Crystal Serenity. Can't remember the vintage, but the Cruise was May 2015 and moored off Monaco. The dinner was a bit ordinary but this was a standout wine. The winery is also to be lauded for commissioning art works to grace the annual labels (like Mouton Rothschild). Absolutely in full agreement. Which is why I was a bit miffed that this evening didn't quite cut it for me. Probably it was that the wines were all new vintages and all in clear need of bottle time before being paired with food. The early whites were racy, inside cheek rippers and not quite in balance on this palate. I found the first Sem/SB blend a bit on the sweetly light side and pretty non descript, though our table seemed to guzzle quite a lot of it. The Riesling felt it had some potential, and drew the accolades from the Kiwi, but the higher acidity seemed to need time to even out. The Chardonnay….  I didn't get it. Perhaps in need of a different location and a different dish.  And notwithstanding some lovely offers on the lovelies for the night, on this showing they were a bit of a long shot punt for me for adding to the wine cellar - I prefer a bit of lightness on the palate than these bold chest whackers seemed to be presenting. The Dewakan food was its usual stellar standard, though the wines looked like they had been shoehorned into the menu and didn't really pair well. I would have omitted the Cabernet and doubled the Chard with the Duck and put the Shiraz for the Quail. I might also have brought some earlier vintages to compare and contrast. But that's me. There you go.

2016 Siblings Semillon/Saugignon Blanc
Prawn Umai and Green Sambal
Art Series Riesling
Puding Jagung
Art Series Sauvignon Blanc
Slow Cooked Red Snapper
Art Series Chardonnay
Roast Duck Breast with "Blood " Sauce
Art Series Shiraz
Roast Quail with Century Egg Puree
Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon
Gula Melaka Marquise and Pulut Ice Cream