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, March 7, 2016

IWFS Chambers Grill - dam solid!

February 24th 2016
IWFS KL President David Teh

Thoroughly enjoyed this one. Wonderful food, wonderful wines, great atmosphere, superbly professional service. And the KL Hilton has got its Car Parking act together with a flat rate for diners! The Gods seem to be smiling.

David had been on a Carnivore's dinner quest for some months leading up to this one. There were three in the running for the business, but all seemed to be sticking on severe corkage charges. Chambers were the more friendly in this regard and equally friendly in discussion and menu content. They got the gig.

"Skewered to Perfection" is the tagline of Chambers Bar & Grill which opened its doors in September 2013. The Press Release at the time shared that the restaurant "introduces an innovative new grill room concept where gourmands can sink their teeth into prime cuts of meat beautifully aged up to 36 days and grilled on skewers “ala minute”. Prepared over hot charcoal, lava stone or upright in a sandpit around a charcoal pyre in traditional “robatayaki” style, this innovative “grill on a skewer” concept is sure to attract serious carnivores looking for a new way to enjoy the perfect cut of meat."

New IFWS KL Member Kit Ong with Toru Kurokawa
Equally unique to Chambers is the custom designed and climate controlled Himalayan Salt Tile Dry Aging Cabinet where the meat gets hung and dried hung and dry aged from 14 to 36 days to extract excess moisture and give the meat an intense depth of flavour. "This unique aging process coupled with the different grilling techniques creates an alchemy of flavour and smoky infusion that is guaranteed to delight meat aficionados." Carnivores like me were salivating like Pavlov's proverbial dog at the thought.

There was a little bit of concern with only 28 having signed up with one day to deadline, but following a gentle reminder from the Secretary numbers swelled overnight and we got 47 in the end. Following on from the previous All White Affair at the Food Studio, Committee thought it would be a cute idea to have everyone dressed in at least a "splash" of red as a sartorial contrast. The idea was to match the fashion colour with the red food and red wine, and it had the additional benefit of being in keeping with Chinese New Year festivities - red being the most auspicious colour in the CNY palette.

The Ladies in Red. And Gent.
And it worked nicely - everyone was most supportive of the red idea and it did make for a colourful conversation starter for everyone ahead of the dinner. Some of the ladies were stunning in their combinations. some of the gents were quite natty and dapper too, even down to the red socks. Whether there was any "hidden" red on the attendees was not pursued - we are a society of taste and decorum. Aren't we?

We were all gathered in the open lounge reception area at the door to the Chambers happily sipping on a lovely little Prosecco which was light and fruity yet with enough silky zing to keep everyone asking for refills between all the compliments for the ensembles the assembled had put together. Supposedly a rose, the colour seemed a shade anaemic though none the worse for it. It didn't have that sense of the insipid that other Spumantes occasionally display. "Il Fresco" by name and the nature reflected it. Great easy way to start the evening and a good foil for the pimento infused bruschetta that was doing the rounds.

We got seated and David called dinner to order, introducing Chef Marc to talk about the food and subsqeuently myself to talk about the wines. Chef Marc Fery is a well-travelled chef with a world of influences whose motto remains: "Love goes through the stomach, and healthy food is what makes you happy.” He has more than 17 years of extensive experience working with various luxury and flagship hotels and award winning establishments including Michelin-starred restaurants. His French roots nurtured him with exquisite taste buds and his passion for gastronomy, while his German upbringing instilled a strict discipline which he brings to the kitchen.

Chef Marc was quite fast in his talk, presumably keen to get back into the kitchen. I was equally quick. I said that presumably those who were keen to know about the wines had already read about them in the dinner notice that got sent to all members, whilst those who did not were hungry and thirsty. I do try to be considerate.

Prawn Cocktail
First dish was the Chambers Prawn Cocktail. Whenever I see the title, I automatically think back forty years to my introduction to it at the Butlin's Holiday Camp at the Pig and Whistle in Minehead. They were small chintzy bowls of prawns around a cup of cocktail sauce with some chopped lettuce and I loved them. That sweetly sour orange and red peppered salad cream dip which slipped like the nectar of the Aegean coast across the tongue and cheeks - wonderful stuff which we never got at home and which made the holidays that much more special.

This one at Chambers was way more elaborate, though the sald creamy paprika cocktail sauce did rekindle some of that taste memory from the way back when. The rest was a melange of textures, some good though some not so appealing.  The single prawn was a bit chewy and somewhat stringy in texture and with that kind of post frozen bite on it. Good chili fire on the chopped vegetables, which felt like a combo of potato and prawn but which the menu says was French Endive. It was a nice blend of textures - got raw potato crunch, prawn chew, a good meaty mouthfeel supplemented by the paprika infused cocktail sauce. The whole was…. okay. Good to okay. Presentation was pretty, though tastewise a bit Cruise Ship and missing something that would have taken it to another level.

The second fizz (Champagne Bara) had made its way to the table and was proving well tasty. Crisp and sleek, with a lot more body than the Prosecco, quite crunchy and with a nice chewy bite on the full fruit. Good acidity and fruit and zipping the lips to simultaneously accentuate and soothe the paprika burn of the Cocktail sauce. It would prove a nice balm on the downward journey too, though with a zappy raspberry crack as it hit the back of the throat. But somehow, it left one feeling still thirsty. There seemed to be something in it that made one want to keep drinking, almost a salty undercurrent that never quite slaked the thirst. Dangerous fizz, this one. But nice.

We had some toasted white bread brought out which went wonderfully with some brilliantly tasty and amazingly smooth Olive oil which had been infused with a chunk of green chili to give a spice hit. The bread had been baked with a sprinkle of sweetcorn which lent a welcome vegetal crunch. The light toasting was genius - lovely crunch which underlined the softness of the bread. 

The amazing Tomato Soup
Which made it a shame that it didn't quite last until the soup, which was magnificent and well applauded by most members I later spoke with. Sweet, not salty, fresh and full in the mouth, totally uncomplicated and allowing the freshest of ingredients to speak for themselves. One of the best Tomato soups I have had for a long while. Didn't get much of a crab feel about the thing except as a texture contrast, but no matter - the soup taste was more than enough.

It was being paired with a Premiere Cru Burg from the Les Lavieres patch in Savigny-les-Beaune by Bouchard Pere et Fils. I had said in my earlier talk on the wines that it is not generally possible to match wine with soup. There is just so little in the way of compatibility in either whereby looking to pair soup with anything is an exercise in futility. Better to just enjoy them separately. Which proved the case tonight. You can't match sweetly acidic Tomato and herb soup with a lightly fragrant Burgundy. It would be a total wine killer. And the wine was beautiful. Full cherry nose with an initial hit of farmyard (which disappeared, so assume bottle stink), wonderfully fragrant and in lovely balance. Light and bright and as clean as spring water. A total delight.

We were quickly on to the main reds with both the Chateau La Prade and Senejac being poured (the former I think from bottle, the latter from decanter). The Senejac came to me first for some reason. Although a 2005, there is way more time left in the bottle for this one. Massive nose of standard Bordeaux sniffs - bramble, blackcurrant though with a hit of some menthol - and a finish that was just wow, all silk and velvet and a scratch of mint on the back throat. Delightful.

The Cotes de Francs was a more easy drinker (not unexpected, given the 80% Merlot) and nicely balanced across fruit and alcohol with easy tannins. Cassis and forest berries on the nose, though a smack of farmyard on the second sniff which quickly disappeared so bottle stink the presumable culprit here. How it went with the Salmon I did not get a chance to try. Went nicely with the beef, though it would have stunned with lamb. 

Got beef!
The Angus Beef was excellent. Full, beautiful chunk of low fat beef, excellently seared, with good salt and low seasoning and perhaps a hint of olive oil? Italian style? Perfectly medium rare, hugely tasty, and hot - it came to the table still hot. I haven't had meat this hot for years. Freaking outstanding. The accompanying spinach gave a bitter note that contrasted well with the jus and the mash was firm and not over creamy. A magnificent combo of carbs, veg and protein, and a nice sweet touch provided by a tiny tomato and sprig of thyme. The food gods definitely smiled on this one.

The Senejac was an excellent companion to the beef, cutting the low fat and both gaining and lending suppleness as a result. Cracking pairing.

The serving staff were very professional in their service and wonderfully generous in their pourings. Which makes it surprising that I have a note on the dessert. Regular readers will know that normally my imbibing renders the making of notes after the main a rarity. I must have been sober. Whatever, the fruit was brilliantly fresh, the mousse even, and the strawberry coulis acidically sweet. Didn't finish it - the booze was still going around, and I got a decent second pour of the Senejac which the Panna Cotta would have killed. 

Jag and Jill, er, Su Gill
Did a bit of saying hello before people left for the doors, which had made me hungry for a third to nightcap. The decanters had stopped their rounds so I did a Mossie and scouted the bottles for some leftovers. The professionals don't usually decant the whole bottle for fear of sediment entering the magic bowl. In this, experience holds that their judgements as to when to stop the pour vary, and on this occasion the variance was somewhat over-generous. Got a decent glass from one bottle and admonished others to do the same. I don't recall them doing so.

Dr Jagjit and Andrew Diamond
What a cracking dinner, all the more so because it was so unexpectedly good. Hotels tend to play it safe food wise, but Chambers has a chef who clearly puts a premium on ingredients and taste. The wines paired well, and the red theme brought a mood for a good time wanting to be had by all. I will definitely be back and hopefully soon. Have to find out more about how the aging process impacts the meat and why the Himalaya Salt thingy they have does this. The Science of Beef - we foodies need to know these things. Cheers!

David and Chef
Chambers Bar and Grill
Hilton Kuala Lumpur      
3, Jalan Stesen Sentral,
Kuala Lumpur Sentral,
50470 Kuala Lumpur
Phone:+60 3-2264 2264

Villa Sandi Rosato Spumante "Il Fresco" NV

Chambers Prawn Cocktail
French Endives, Cocktail Sauce, Cherry Tomatoes
Champagne Bara, Grand Rosé de Bouzy 2005

Roast Roma Tomato Soup
Pacific Blue Swimmer Crab Meat with Basil Essence
2005 Bouchard Père et Fils Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Lavières

Grilled Scottish Loch Fyne Salmon Cutlet
Green asparagus, crushed potatoes
Charcoal grilled Black Angus eye fillet
Sauté spinach, creamy Yukon Gold mash
2005 Nicolas Thienpont Chateau La Prade, Cotes de Francs, France
2005 Chateau Senejac, Haut-Medoc, France

Strawberry Pana Cotta
Cointreau Marinated Forest Berries with Red Currant Coulis

David and Chambers Team

Villa Sandi Rosato Spumante "Il Fresco" NV
Dating back to 1622, and now owned by the Moretti Polegato family, the exquisite and characteristic Palladian-style Villa Sandi is located in the heart of the Prosecco area at the foot of the Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG hills.

Villa Sandi uses a unique "on-demand" production technique which refridgerates the Prosecco must upon crushing, keeping it at 32° F until it is needed. Upon request, the must is brought to 59-61° F and this "on-demand" process guarantees that every bottle of Villa Sandi Prosecco is always fresh and lively and maintains the features of freshness, floral and fruity notes, typical of Prosecco.

Blending Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero grapes, the Il Fresco Rosé shows a light and bright rose color. Aromas of raspberry fragrance with slightly spicy undertones lead to a playful palate of crisp acidity with spicy sweetness and a creamy mouthfeel. This delightful sparkler is dry, fresh and zesty.
85 Points Wine Spectator

Champagne Bara, Grand Rosé de Bouzy 2005
Established in 1833, La Maison Bara has built a reputation as the great ambassador for the champagne village of Bouzy, including its famous red wines. All of its 11 hectares are situated within this famous Grand Cru commune. Chantale Bara has now taken over from the legendary Paul, her father, to ease the Champagne House of Bara in to its seventh generation.

The house style is accordingly generous and rich, the tirage taking place over a minimum of four years in the 100 year-old cellars, dug 36 feet under the property. The champagnes are colourful and rich, voluptuous and honied, yet always finely balanced and pleasingly textured.

Bara’s Rosé is "a cornucopia of delight, its redcurrant and rosehip core energised by the addition of 12% of Pinot Noir from Bouzy, its balletic mid-palate bursting with joie de vivre and exhorting the drinker to the highest possible spirits.  With 2008 as its base year and plenty of Reserve Wine adding complexity, this is a broad-shouldered, vinous Champagne with a lively mousse and no lack of focus on the finish."   Simon Field MW, Wine Buyer BBR

2005 Bouchard Père et Fils Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Lavières
Les Lavieres is a Premier Cru climat of the Savigny-les-Beaune appellation in the Cote de Beaune sub-region of Burgundy.
Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru wines are those produced under the strictest conditions of the Savigny-les-Beaune appellation, from grapes grown within officially classified Premier Cru vineyards. Les Lavieres is located east of Savigny-les-Beaune village, where the Rhoin Valley widens out onto the plains between Beaune and Corton.

Deep ruby, darker in hue than many burgundies of this age, nose is smoky, earthy, with a hint of new oak, and pine/cedar notes, but little in the way of fruit. The palate however shows true pinot red fruit, with a hint of tannic dryness, but not intrusive, and lovely balance. Medium-length finish which is elegant, rounded, if not exactly silky. Good effort and drinking well.   Tanzer 87 - 89,  Jancis Robinson 17/20, Wine Enthusiast 92/100

2005 Nicolas Thienpont Chateau La Prade, Cotes de Francs, France
Cotes de Bordeaux Francs is the appellation title for Cotes de Bordeaux wines made specifically from three parishes of Saint-Cibard, Tayac and Francs at the very eastern edge of the Bordeaux wine region. They lie roughly eight miles (13km) north of the Dordogne river and are actually much closer to Bergerac than Bordeaux city itself. Nevertheless, the wines made here (both red and white, dry and sweet) are in the classic Bordeaux style and are produced from the classic grape varieties.

From a blend 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, the aroma of this delicious wine is shows licorice, earth, jammy blackberries, dark cherry and a hint of vanilla. Moderate and somewhat astringent and persistent tannins which lead to a good finish.  Tanzer 87 - 90  Cellar Tracker 89 (from 34 notes).

"The finest La Prade I have ever tasted from proprietors Nicolas Thienpont and Thierry Valette, this 1,000-case blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc easily competes wit the “big boys” of nearby St-Emilion. Dense purple-hued with a sweet perfume of black currants, cranberries, cherries, licorice, earth and subtle wood, it is an opulent, full-bodied, velvety- textured seriously concentrated effort with no hard edges." Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (April 08)  91/100

"This classic, powerful, age-worthy claret should last for 10-15 years or more."    Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (May 06)

2005 Chateau Senejac, Haut-Medoc, France
Ch. Sénéjac is one of the better known Crus Bourgeois of the Haut-Médoc, located near to the vineyards of Margaux, just outside Parempuyre in the far south of the Haut-Médoc region. It is a historic estate of 150 hectares, of which only 38 are under vine, and the wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (25%) and Cabernet Franc (15%). It is matured in oak barriques (25% new) for 18 months. Recently the estate has changed hands and is now owned by Monsieur Rutsman.

This Cru Bourgeous is characterized by an almost black color deep in his younger years. A very expressive nose exhales the scents of black fruits and spices. In the mouth presents many Senejac scale and intensity whilst remaining smooth and civilized by the finesse of its tannins. This is a charming and distinguished wine to drink young for its fullness and fruit or even better let it age slowly to find the race of its terroir.  WS 90  "There's lots of grapey character, with blackberry and hints of smoky oak. Full-bodied, with lovely soft tannins and a long, caressing finish."  

Blackberry, tobacco and forest floor on the nose. Dry with dark fruit, earth and cedar on the palate. Strong tannic structure, acid a little high, tannins integrating which soften down the bottle. Toasty oak notes, anise and chocolate. Overall a good value and nice drinking wine with limited complexity and upside. Decanting helps.

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