Hmm… Blogger playing up a bit. Not letting me drag photos to position. Complained twice but no response. So the layout is a bit basic and skanky to my eyes. Time to shift to Wordpress? Sell Google shares?
Have to say at the start, I enjoyed BAbe. It was nice. And fun. Pretty much all of the dishes worked and the food was far from insubstantial. No complaints. Happy to go back again. Did too.
Prior to our December visit, the organising Hustler had told us we didn't need to bring any wine as the list there was fairly okay and the corkage was fierce. Well, and maybe, but… Hmmm. I figured better to play safe and bring a couple just in case - the worst that would happen is that we just take them back home unopened. On this occasion, my preparedness proved prescient as we got a phone call from Hustler whilst en route asking if we could return home and retrieve some extra booze. Seems the wine list had been declared grim and dire by the assembled. As luck would have it we were being diverted back home due to our usual road being blocked off for LRT construction (with no one knowing about it until it happened on the day, which is pretty much usual) and a massive traffic jam was ensuing. We got back, picked out some wines from the fridge, and in taking the top road to Damansara got to the Babe in ten minutes. On arriving and being happily able to park on the road outside, we found ourselves actually behind the Hustler who had gone on a swift drive to the Cold Storage to load up on some guzzle.
|Curry Burger and Salmon Canneloni. Tubular.|
Entering the Clearwater building, a guard gets the lift for you and you exit into a nicely lit area and (if your timing is good) an immediate dusk sunset view across the uptown skyline. This has to be one the best views in the city, and well worth the price of admission. Must have been a brahma here for New Years Eve with all the fireworks. Photo didn't do it justice, hence its omission from this post.
|Whitefish sashimi and Air Blown Beef Crunchies. Wicked.|
Everyone was already there and hungry to suck down the fizz which seemed to be taking an eternity to chill in the kitchen's ice fridges. I asked for some action and after five minutes with no response eventually grabbed two ice buckets and brought them to the table. The staff seemed a bit frazzled and clearly not used to a thirsty white boy taking charge of the booze arrangements. Well, we were all pretty parched and wanted to cheer the sunset…
|The Pichon Longueville. Darling wine.|
The restaurant is split into the air-conditioned inside and the fan cooled outside. For our December visit we were inside whilst our January trip saw us venture outside. Think I prefer the inside. The outside got too noisy due to a combo of ceiling fans, a fair bit of outside ambient noise and high ceilings - the result was that I could not hear the descriptions of the dishes given by the pleasant waiter - - his words literally went straight out of the window. Also, his diction was a bit not good which suggests maybe a need for some training here by the restaurants - please make your staff louder and clearer to be heard by the borderline deaf like myself above the whirring of the ceiling fans and the drone of the traffic. Though being outside does give an unadulterated and magnificent view across Kuala Lumpur. The skyline from this side is very pretty and big city, all twinkling and neon. Nights like this make you feel quite blessed to be living here.
Overall, the food was nicely interesting. They call it Japas, which is a contraction for Japanese Tapas. Lots of nice cross textures, with occasional umami and zip from a wide range of ingredients combined in a spanky steel kitchen. Every single dish sizzled with taste and texture and cute surprise. There were lots of explosions on the tongue and across the cheeks, lots of coatings and tongue zappers and also a late night cool snort through the nose. All taste bases were well covered, though perhaps on reflection a bit too well covered. Sometimes a bit of air and sensation between dishes is welcome. As memory serves, this was all out assault.
|Soft Shell Crab|
|I have no idea...|
We were on to the beef which came with some sweet potato puree to which a dab of mustard was genius and some Fatt Choy gave a sour vegetal crunch and a slight bitter note. It also came with truffle infused tissue which we were told to smell whilst eating to give the sense of truffle in the dish. Presumably is just a dab of truffle oil on the tissue. Crazy? It worked brilliantly and was indeed enough to get the sense without the thing overpowering the dish as truffle can sometimes do. Have to try this at home.
|Beef with Sweet Potato Puree|
Sadly, our wagyu beef was a shade overcooked and came out cold with a slight tang suggesting some age. Its replacememnt was way better and belter with some teriyaki sauce which we were told helps cook the meat on the plate, taking it from medium rare to… actually a bit strange. Think maybe the teriyaki did a little too much magic to the marble and the end result was… strange. Not quite sure about this and my later notes don't recall anything. Will have to go back and try again to figure out what I was thinking. Meantime, I was still in love with my truffle tissue. I stole another and had a total nosegasm.
|Wagyu Beef and Truffle tissue. Nothing like a good snort of truffle...|
Dessert was Passion Fruit Meringue frozen dipped in Nitrogen which gets snorted out through the nose dragon fashion as you eat the crunched up delight. Very cute and nasal, though you need to carefully time the freezing so as not to burn the nose. Someone dumped the truffle tissue into the nitrogen which somehow preserved the smell and gave an earthy frozen truffle nose. Quite cute. I seem to remember someone wanting to eat the frozen tissue and getting sensibly restrained.
|The liquid Nitrogen and Meringue|
There were three milk ice cream desserts - one charcoal, one toffee and one something else (my writing gets illegible two bottles into a meal). The charcoal was weirdly wonderful and my favourite. The toffee had wonderful crunch and milky mouthfeel and the other one was all coconut feel and smell. All were lovely. Final dessert was one of those toffee sugar paper things that maybe had been nitro-frozen and to be eaten with dark rich chocolate style petit fours and gelatin bites. Extremely yum.
|Nothing like a good snort of Nitrogen too...|
On our first visit in December, the service was occasionally a bit slow and the wine service was pretty much non-existent - as said, I ended up taking command due to the staff being too busy getting food out from the kitchen to pay too much attention to the state of our glasses. I guess that is what happens with sixteen course dinners - it has to get out of the kitchen quickly so there is space for all the other dishes waiting to follow. Must be like a factory production line in there, all the chefs adding their individual bits to the dish on its way to us punters. I suppose we could self-serve ourselves, but it kind of defeats the point of going to a restaurant. Maybe need one of those Japanese conveyor belt systems with the dishes being taxi-ed around the tables. Maybe not - all it would take would be some oik snaffling our en route crab for there to be murder. Wines people brought were varied - some supermarket standard, others off the map delights. Have a memory of someone cracking a Bolly and the St Clair Pioneer Block SB 2014 we brought was delightful. Meaty body, crisp lemon zing, slight butter in the mouth and big finish. Chris and Sanjeev brought some superb Austrian wines, some of which were old friends from our IWFS visit there earlier in the year (still trying to write this one up - was a lot of food and party. Watch this space).
Staff were a bit more observant as to whether refills were necessary this time around, and were quite attentive through the night. Notwithstanding, I still feel there is a clear need for a dedicated sommelier and a team of wine waiters to relieve the endless running in and out of the kitchen by the staff. Either that or train them up to be more alert as to the states of the wine glasses on the tables. A dedicated sommelier / decent maitre d' would be better - he or she can keep a sole eye on the tables and glasses and hustle staff as and when necessary or step in and do the dirty when they are being stressed by the kitchen. As said, the outside area is a hugely pleasant place to have the dinner, with one of the best views of the KL city skyline in the entire metropolis. Some more, it was not too hot with the ceiling fans whirling away and cooling the evening and night air. BAbe must really suffer when the haze comes…
BAbe is not for everyone, but it is a cute food experience which, like Mugaritz in San Sebastian, should be done at least once in a lifetime. It gives a different sense of food and the experience of eating it, and occasionally challenges our preconceptions of how food should be consumed - 12-plus single bite courses rather than full plate starter, entree, main, dessert style. Never a bad thing to get preconceptions challenged.
|Lovely sipper of a Bordeaux...|
Which led to a discussion as to whether there was indeed any fine dining left in KL. The standard seemed to revolve around whether there were tablecloths on the tables, which marginalised most of the eateries. Those that remained got ticked off quite quickly. Cilantro came near the top, but we haven't been there for a while. Same with DC. The only other one seemed to be left standing was Lafite, which left us all immensely sad since none of us had had a good food experience there in the last three years. Our last outing with the IWFS where the fish came out fully boned was the final nail for many. Few people saw how VIP prices for this kind of presentation could be justified. RIP Lafite. Sage is still the default. Anyone got any thoughts on this?