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.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Stoked in Damansara - Yes we were!

Welcome to Stoked!
First thoughts on the evening:
  • Nice ambience - cute use of wine boxes as lampshades. Smoky cottage rustic feel. 
  • Kenny G music - AAAAAAAARGHHHH!!!
  • Open plan - can see the oven and chef. Got good meat supplier, including Spanish beef, same as used at Extebarri.
  • Excellent beef - perfect sear and texture, lovely pepper rub, good jus, didn't overpower the meat. Stunner.
  • Dessert of ice cream with salt was wonderful - first time having salt with ice cream.
  • Definitely go back for the beef. New menu, but still retaining some old faithfuls.
Wednesday August 5th 2015

This was a wonderful evening of great food, wine and nonsense with the IWFS Committee and spouses. The IWFS regularly hold their meetings at the Ribs, and owner/operator Yin-How kindly provides glasses for the wines and cheesey nibbles for the hungry. Ribs has now undergone a revamp and makeover and is to be known as STOKED when its doors reopen (next week I understand). Main reason being the acquisition and installation of a 300kg Cast Iron oven who goes by the name of Bertha. Seems it took ten people to get Bertha off the truck and into position. She has pride of place in the centre of the restaurant. 

Chef Yao. With Bertha. Yes.
Bertha has a tray which takes wood chips and can do wonderful things with meat when you "stoke" the fire with a poker and stir up the embers to flame. Hence the renaming of Ribs to Stoked. Also, in modern parlance to be "stoked" is to be very excited about something - as in "Arsenal beat Chelsea - totally stoked!"  There might also be a somewhat more base connotation about Bertha getting stoked with a poker which is probably best to avoid - bit too ham sap for present company. Yin-How says Stoked will be experimenting with different types of wood (and hopefully MAKING their own wood) to see what flavours get more delightfully imparted by Bertha to the meats and other bits that get thrust into her metal insides. 

Other reason is new chef Yao who we don't know too much about at this time. Story seems to be he spent time in Japan learning up the techniques and is now keen to let them loose in a Western style concept. Should be interesting!

Yin-How had kindly offered up a dinner for Committee Members and spouses to enjoy a sampling of dishes from his new menu that would be on offer when the Stoked opened its doors. And a commendable fifteen were totally up for it. There was a wine theme suggested by David of ABA - Anything But Australian - which we all complied with. It became a pretty eclectic selection to which Yin-How did a very good job of arranging the order of drinking at the last minute!

Stoked interior
I got dropped off at the Stoked by Lenglui who was going for a Tai Chi session prior to the dinner. First thing of note was that the door had been shifted and the entrance now sported a reception and cashtill section guarded by a bronzed pig with a blank white sandwich board. Presumably El Porco will advise patrons of any specials available to the hungry hordes. The interior was red brick and cream cement with lots of dark wood, giving a farmhouse cottage feel. Stoked retains a separate wine reception area, and the original door area has been sectioned off by a glass door to offer a smoking area for cigars to be puffed with wines and the smoke being able to go straight out into the night air through a louvre style wall. Two main features - the use of wine crates as lights hanging from the ceiling and pride of place being given over to Bertha in the centre of the restaurant. Lots of alcoves in the walls which housed mostly Bordeaux bottles. Lighting was subdued though sufficient with halogen bulbs shining onto the tables. Certainly felt more of a "venue" than the Ribs - more restaurant and less cafe/bistro - though no less friendly and welcoming. The table for our fifteen had been set up along the long wall section with another table ready to house the Stoked glasses and wines all had brought for the dinner. 

Stoked interior and the hungry horde
We held our meeting in the usual private room where each member will bring a bottle from their collection for the others to try. The IWFS meetings have a particular style - things start quite briskly and as the wines get consumed the meeting starts to meander and drift and then there is a mad rush to finish the necessary and get down to the real business of food and drink. This evening was no different, though the rush was a shade more brisk than usual given that the ladies and the booze were waiting. We closed it out and trooped out to a tasty glass of crunchy cold bubbles that hit the spot nicely. Everyone had arrived so we all sat and chitchatted and took photos of the place and each other.

The house baked bread was excellent, and even more so with the truffle butter - it had that artisan salty crusty crunch feel though with a hint of smokey toast. Good bread always augurs well for a good evening!

Our Amuse Bouche was a Scallop Mousse, which quickly got labelled as Scaramouche by Lenglui (we are trying to crack an accapella version of Bohemian Rhapsody for an upcoming show in November). Tastewise I got pesto and tomato - sweet, smooth with fresh herbs. Creamy smooth, though for me it could have used some extra zip to zing the buds into anticipatory action - maybe a dab of yuzu or citrus lime or a tiny hit of strawberry or apple. 

Scaramouche... can you do the Fandango?
The Cattier Champagne gave way to a Nigl Rose Fizz which was lively and lovely - a sharpish salty acidic cheek pinch with tongue puckering acidity and a very nice crunchy biscuit mouth. The sides of the tongue were taking big hits from the wine. Pleasant hits, mind you, but it did throw the fruit a bit off in the balance. The tongue map says this indicates sourness and salt. Clean and lean which slipped down a sweet cherry treat. Lovely drop of pink fizz. Only one bottle of it. Sad. Could have chugged this one all night.

Next wine was the St Clair Gruner Veltliner which lacked the crispness of its Austrian ancestor but made for a smooth enough and Rieslingesque sweet sip. There was also a Vermentino from Corsica somewhere in the sequence which surprised in its excellent balance and crisp fruity whack in the mouth. 

The Vichysoisse was firm and full, with additional creamy vegetal texture given by the eggplant and a salty zip from some caviar. Presentation was nice, though the whisked potato soup still had a bit of grain and powder to it. Not sure what potatoes were used but I get this kind of hit from large mashed russets. It was pleasant enough, but didn't quite stun - not enough in the dish to make it really memorable. Perhaps a sprig of rosemary and a dab of wasabi oil to give some heft to the potatoes. The wine washed it down very nicely, with the crisp acid sucking up the grain and sending it down the tubes.

A Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc was next in the glass. Massively green, with grassy gooseberry and green pepper on the nose. Slender in body, but a frisky mouthfeel and a crystal clean finish. 

We were having it with the Foie Gras, the first taste of which was GAAAAAAACK - got a smack of gamey liver in the mouth suggesting a bit too much age on the FG. Bit like that little lick of rust you get from an overaged wine - not quite right. Though the rest of the FG was fine, no problem taste wise. Was the first time I'd experienced liverish FG. Interesting. Though it could have been the wine in the system initially reacting to it. Perhaps the system wasn't just quite ready.

The mango gave a signature squeaky sharp sweet acidic zip which cut the fatty Foie Gras a treat and gave a zappy pinch on the cheeks. Nice touch to pair a quintessentially Asian tropical fruit with a quintessentially French delicacy and it totally worked. The Balsamic Reduction was perhaps a bit too reduced, though - almost toffee in texture and taste and which stuck to the plate like a limpet squid and difficult to scrape off.  

Foie Gras with Mango and Balsamic Reduction
For me, Foie Gras needs bread and my request for more was swiftly answered by the staff. The artisan bread brought the whole combo into perfect sync - the salty crust with sweet mango splattered foie gras and a scrape of the Balsamic was an excellent salty swoooosh across the mouth which sent the whole thing ballistic. Wooooo.... Total belter. Winewise, the Cloudy Bay was not a great match, and neither was the following St Clair Wairau Estate - the first hit from the latter was a szzzzzzt sharp slap on the back of the mouth, with acidity that sucked all the spit from the tongue. Got a lot of soursop and citrus lime - though it gave a lovely finish showing some finesse and nice complexity. There you go. Be great with Crabs, though. 

The food and wine came pretty fast tonight and the next up Tagliatelle was excellent - totally fresh pasta and not too heavy with the sauce (which for some reason came across as a shade sweet for my taste, through the delightfully fresh baby tomatoes). The Duck Breast was very good - excellent meat and with enough pink to render it juicy and wonderful. And a lovely woodsmokey skin that tweaked the nose and cheeks without being too overseasoned. I also seemed to get a slight hit of marmalade. 

There was also a garnish of Parmegiano shavings which didn't quite work for me with the duck. It gave a clunky gunky clag feel at the back of the throat that seemed to mess with the oils in the duck - maybe too much in the fats area. But it was great with the tagliatelle and sauce. 

Tagliatelle with Wood Smoked Duck
We were having it with a Palisser Estate Chardonnay 2012 which was very pleasant and did good justice to the pasta, though the dish would have paired magnificently with the Craggy Range Pinot that followed had it been poured in sufficient time. So it goes. This is a beautiful Pinot - sleek, refined, clean drinking with understated power both on the front and back ends. The one glass we had went way too quickly - another that we could have supped all night. I think I have a bottle somewhere…

For the main we had a Triebaumer Blaufrankisch and a Vieux Telegraphe CdP to set against each other. The Blau was tasty and wonderfully balanced without being overpowering in any area - good sleek power and fruit with a clean lingering finish. The CdP was much sweeter on the nose and in the mouth - got jammy cranberry and a thumping whack as it hit the cheeks. 

The Tenderloin was excellent. Nice aged texture on the meat, lovely wood sear, light peppercorn in the rub and jus and done to medium rare perfection. Big Bertha did her work wonderfully well. Adding the watercress for texture and herb worked well, giving a vegetal crunch for contrast. I generally prefer my jus on the side rather than doused over the top as it gives me a better sense of the quality and sear on the meat. But on this occasion it didn't matter - one of those rare occasions where the jus enhances rather than overpowers and masks the meat. Really well done to the chef and double thumbs up to Bertha for the beef. 

Grainge Angus Tenderloin
Winewise, the Blau did it better for me than the CdP. It gave wonderful support to the meat without overpowering and partnered extremely well in all departments - fruit, tannins and a hint of black pepper on the finish. The CdP was a bit more cloying and syrupy, though still a lovely drop to have with a meal. 

There were a few more wines to end the night. Of these, the Sasso Al Poggio Chianti from Piccini stood out as an evenly balanced and eminently drinkable red. Something out of a decanter (I think Chateau Clinet) felt a bit uneven and tough and a bit difficult to enjoy. 

The Sticky Date Pudding was lovely. Full whack of treacle and dates. We were advised to add a hit of salt to it and this took it to another level. It smacked the tongue tip and cut the sweet toffee smack - this let the ice cream come forward and lend a smooth milky cream foundation for the treacle and spongey pudding to slip delightfully along the system. Really good. Salt with Ice Cream - who would have thought?

Sticky Date Pudding
We had a sweet Eiswein with dessert which also worked wonderfully - sticky apricots with a cut of citrus syrup to brush the cheeks in preparation for the hit from the dates and the cream. Lush, sinful, salty heaven. 

Wine service was excellent, as one would expect from one of KL's leading wine suppliers and restaurateurs. The music was perhaps a bit too eclectic - I got Kenny G through Shakespeare's Sister to (I think) Linkin Park. It seemed to be somehow fighting the smokey farmhouse ambience of the place and left me a shade confused as to what image and feel Stoked might be aiming to project. Maybe can think about French Lounge Jazz (Aznavour) or maybe even that cheesy accordian music you get on those Souvenir of Paris CDs in Montmartre. Or country Gypsy fiddle - Stephane Grappelli - or classical guitar. Something with a hint of sophistication. But Kenny G…   definitely no. Didn't work. Stoked is a restaurant, not a department store elevator. 

Chatting with Yin-How after the dinner, he shared that his beef supplier was getting the same meat that got supplied to Extebarri in San Sebastian. We all went there in 2013 and it remains one of my absolute best meals of my life (see my post elsewhere in this blog). He asked Chef Yao to bring some out and it looked magnificent. If it can be grilled and seared Extebarri style then this will be world class. Absolutely have to go back and try this - certainly saves paying airfare to get to San Sebastian... 

The Spanish steak, same you get in Extebarri, San Sebastian. Next time...
I like to see what I remember about a restaurant a couple of days after dining there. For me, Stoked stokes up memories (sorry couldn't resist!) of great ambience, excellent beef, tasty duck, lovely bread and the mango foie gras that went with it. Great wines and service. And Bertha impassively waiting to take whatever Chef can give her. Bertha is the star around which everyone revolves and will command love and honour by all who seek to dance with her. Yes.

Happy? Happy. Yes.
I like the idea that Stoked is aiming to offer European style modern preparations a la Michelin chefs in terms of presentation and content. I also love the idea of incorporating Asian twists with standard Western style ingredients (ie Mango with Foie Gras). And whilst some of the dishes on show on the evening were indeed worthy of top end  standard - the tenderloin, the dessert - others showed promise but seemed to lack some element of bonding and unifying that takes a dish from the good to the exquisite. The tastes and textures and presentations were there, just needing an extra lick of something Mastercheffy to help elevate the dish to the stratospheric. Given its cuisine, Stoked will invite comparisons with DC and Soleil and other international cuisine eateries and will jockey with these in terms of market position and niche. But Stoked still does pork, which distinguishes it from these places. And the Vintry group do their pork dishes extremely well - still for me some of the best ribs in town at the erstwhile Ribs and Vintry at Jaya 33. And decent comprehensive wine lists to satisfy most palates and budgets, and which can stand as some of the best in Malaysia.

But this is early days and one can never judge definitively or absolutely on a single visit - these tend to be reactions rather than reflections. Six months down the line, things in Stoked will have settled and come into focus and these same dishes will have gained from comment and experimentation. And I am expecting the beef will be even better, especially that chunk of Extebarri loveliness after it has been through Bertha's steely and fiery clutches. Phwoooar. Now thinking about getting stuck into THAT gets me stoked - and you should be too! Cheers!!

The tally for the night
120-122 Jalan Kasah, Bukit Damansara
03 20948262


with Roasted Eggplant and Caviar

Foie Gras
wth Mango and Balsamic Reduction

with Wood Smoked Duck Breast with Home Made Tomato Sauce

Roasted Grouper
with Braised Artichoke, Garlic Confit and Roasted Capsicum


Grainge Angus Tenderloin
with Watercress and Black Peppercorn Sauce

Siicky Date Pudding
with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramelised Sauce

Coffee, Tea
Petits Fours

No comments:

Post a Comment