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.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Shook! at Starhill. Yes we were...

Lenglui loves signing up for these hotel cards which give you various freebies which often include dining at the restaurant outlets there. So it was with the YTL platinum card she had recently been sold on - we got a free set dinner for two at the Shook! in the Starhill on Jalan Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur. 

We figured the last time we had eaten there together was over a decade ago - I remember a wine dinner with some lovely Virgin Hills red in the early days of our journey into wine. But no memories surface of having eaten there since. It is not really on the dining map for us. Actually, none of the hotel restaurants seem to have been on the map of late, with the exception of the Hilton and the excellent Iketeru and Le Meridien with the equally excellent Prime. Used to be we'd be all over the place - Lai Po Heen at the Renaissance and the Regent, Shangri-La Lafite and Zipangu, Ming Court Palace - we don't seem to find reasons to go there anymore. Probably the massive car parking all the hotels are charging these days - don't feel the need to get scalped anymore than necessary.

So it was with some degree of hope for a good evening that we parked up and wandered around the Pavilion and the Starhill killing time ahead of our 7.30pm date. Never knew there was a Debenhams in the Starhill. Time came and down we sat. The band had started up, a jazz quintet which proved somewhat overpowering in terms of both volume and song selection. It might have been entertaining for the patrons wandering around the Starhill but for those looking to enjoy a quiet meal it was not at all so. 

Don't get me wrong - normally I like my music and in a different context the band would have been very entertaining. A Blues band with a burger and beer at the Bulldog is Hartamas is a good night for me. But for diners looking for quiet romance, this was very jarring. One song belted out just before they took a break had all five seeming to want to bust a gut to outdo each other in thrash terms. Possibly playing for themselves and not for the patrons. I understand - I've been there.

But now being sat on the other side of the table, it really doesn't fit. Five was at least two and probably three musicians too many for a restaurant, though I understand that musos must be hired to keep certain people happy. When the band stopped and the piped lounge jazz got played it did make for a much more pleasant experience. And the Shook! ambiance is geared nicely for intimate business and romantic seduction - one of the prettier restaurants I have been in for a while. But serious thought needs to be given as to whether the band is an attraction or a nuisance. We found them a nuisance which is Reason One why won't be going back to Shook! Which is a shame because there was a very attractive looking wine dinner being promoted for one week's time. We seriously considered booking but when the band got going we now fear the same will happen on the Wine Dinner night and wreck the whole evening for us. No confidence. Not going to take the chance. 

The other reason we won't be going back (though possibly a bit unfair) is that the food was not really of a standard that we have gotten used to. The starter salad was fair, but the sashimi was bland and some of it (to my taste) not fresh. We sent one serving back, saying there was something definitely fishy in the tuna and perhaps chef could give an opinion for us. The replacement came without tuna and though the whitefish was very good the salmon remained bland. The waitress assured us that the tuna was indeed fresh and possibly it was because we might not like the taste of it. Which felt a bit condescending but there you go. I think I've eaten enough sashimi to know which is fresh and which is not. You don't go to Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo and come away without learning what is the dogs in sashimi. This offering of tuna at the Shook! was nowhere near. Maybe it had been left on the plate in some heat somewhere a bit too long. One does kind of expect a bit more from a place affiliated to a top star hotel. Fail.

The Salmon Terikayi was overcooked and the Chicken Teriyaki was massively sweet though the Miso had good umami without being too salted. The dessert was pleasant in a chocolate stodgy kind of way. No coffee but warm water and car parking were free. Got a free bottle of wine when the waiter slightly bent the rule for voucher redemption which was nice. Should have tipped him but the rest of the night kind of made me forget to do so. 

On top of all this, the a la carte menu felt a bit all over the place - western, eastern, meat, fish - and in various styles and presentations. Prices felt a bit hefty too, at least on the meats. And the wine prices I saw were, er, shooking. RM100 corkage was standard and this just seemed to have been added to the supermarket price of the wines on offer. Didn't feel like much imagination here. Maybe we'd have to give the place another shot for fairness, but given the prices and markups for booze I'm a bit loath to do so - rather go somewhere we know and like rather than look for hopeful new venues. 

Having said this, the place was clearly doing decent trade. Folks were sat at the bar with drinks and young trendies and business types with partners were getting seated and ordering up the food with abandon. And on a Thursday in the dead centre of KL town where the traffic is the most horrific. So it must be doing something right. Though I did see one group flashing the YTL Card so possibly this was it. Maybe I'm getting crusty and aged and prefer somewhere less musically loud when dining. But I don't see a strong reason to return any time soon to the place. Shook!? By the band it certainly felt like we had been. Lenglui gave formal feedback - we'll see what happens.

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