Mission

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.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

IWFS at Dewakan - Best dinner this year!

Dewakan interior
April 21st 2016

Have to say I was initally apprehensive about attending this one. Foodie friend Julian's blog posting on his visit put the fear of perdition about the journey to get there in me. Though his enthusiastic reaction to the food was heartening. And Jeremy was championing the restaurant and numbers were a bit low. And when Lenglui said we would probably never otherwise go there, then the deal was sealed.

But O Lordy, what a deal. Dewakan ticked all the foodie boxes on the page. Ambience, service, food - absolutely stunning. Best event of the IWFS season. Will DEFINITELY go back with foodie friends who want to know what Malaysian chefs can do with Malaysian produce. Darren Teoh is a total star. 

Dewakan has been making waves in the KL foodie universe for quite some time. Frequently cited as Kuala Lumpur’s most exciting restaurant to date, the MIGF 2015 brochure (I think - can't find it now) holds it to be "an ingredient focused restaurant that reflects the bounty of produce from Malaysia. The cuisine is driven by the use of local and indigenous ingredients in the most imaginative way possible. Every aspect of the restaurant has been curated to deliver an enjoyable experience to our guests with as much emphasis to the service as it is to the food."

It is essentially an academy for future cooks and students keen to get into the hospitality sector, hence its location in a Private University. But it does open to the public for dinner from Thursday to Saturday to let the staff and students get some real world experience. It also does lunch Monday to Friday. The restaurant is helmed by Darren Teoh who is an avid believer in the beauty of local ingredients. Seems he began his career as a cook in Les Amis Singapore (No. 13 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant List 2016) and recently moved back to Malaysia to teach culinary arts in KDU University College Sdn Bhd. During this time at the school, he has authored "Redefinition", a collection of Malaysian dishes reinterpreted using modern culinary techniques. He was also briefly attached to Restaurant Amador (3 Michelin stars) in Langen, Germany and Restaurant Noma (2 Michelin stars and World’s Best Restaurant by Restaurant Magazine for 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014). 

The Dewakan blurb also says that the team there is obsessed with developing a restaurant where guests return home with great memories. I usually get a bit skeptical when I see what looks like romantic seduction - when I see it I usually find that the experience rarely matches such hyperbole. On this occasion, though, my skepticism was wonderfully unfounded. This one was a total event. 

It was a bit of a drive into the unknown to get here, but Waze performed like a trouper and got us there with little fuss or wrong turnings. I had recce'd the place on the Google Maps in the office and got an idea of where it was, though without the Waze the final few turns to try and arrive would eventually have killed me. Waze rocks! It told us to avoid Federal and take the E20 toll road. Only downside with the Waze is the apprehension you get when it goes quiet for a long time. We know that this means that all is mostly well, but perhaps a bit of reassurance would be… reassuring. Still took about 45 minutes to an hour to get there. 

Once in the KDU University complex, Jeremy had stuck IWFS signs on the fences leading to the car park. The serious looking guard at the gate turned out to be totally unintelligible in terms of what he was trying to tell us, but we smiled and he smiled and opened the gate and as we went straight we saw the Dewakan directly ahead of us.  There was an outside section where cars had already parked so we just followed suit. I think the Guard wanted us to park in the covered area - perhaps he thought it was going to rain. Nice man.

Sporting a glass frontage which looked out onto an open area, Dewakan has a classically modern ambience and feel about it. Dark oak floors with soft but sufficient lighting on neutral grey chairs and walls and with easy space between the sheeted tables.The kitchen is at one end with a serving area through which all the preparation can be seen, and a bar area at the other where those who had presumably come straight from the office were sucking down the Pol Roger NV with a vengeance. When I see this I know it's going to be good - people were in the mood to party. On a Thursday night some more.   Here we go again...

"What's he doing?" "Something cheffy." 
Some appetizers came round which were tasty enough, though there was one green leaf offering that had been shocked by something into frozen crispness and was absolutely amazing. This must have been the thing that Julian wanted to leap onto the tables and sing to the heavens about. It was something else. It came with a dip which was also brilliant. Only problem was that the darn thing kept breaking in the dip and I ended up eating the leaf and gunk Banana Leaf finger style. Most excellent, though hardly IWFS. So it goes - never stand on ceremony when the food will not allow one to do so.

The Willy Doctor and...  uh...  friend. Yes.
There was also a spring roll of raw potato and radish which bit nicely into the cheek and tongue. And it was all belter with the Pol Roger. I seem to have been supping a lot of this at various parties over the past few weeks or so. Must be a lot of in in the market at the moment, and at a fair price. Have to investigate - it is a crispily pleasant drop of fizz. 

We got instructed to sit down and get addressed by President David who thanked Jeremy, May and me for our contributions to the evening's festivities. We were sat with an IWFS newbie and our good friend the Willy Doctor, one of our resident urologists now making his celebrity name on the Friday BFM afternoon radio show. We normally have a quiet bet on how long it takes from the moment of getting seated with the good doctor to when the subject gets around to the penis. Normally takes about eight minutes - tonight it was three. It WAS going to be a good evening.

The bread came out with butter bedded on a leaf we were later told was cashew and which gave a bitter hit when chewed. Can't remember the butter, but the fizz needed some carbo and it was time to shut up and drink and enjoy the combo.

First out was the Blue Mackerel which looked a bit small on the plate and smelled a bit fishy on the nose, though it was full on flavour in the mouth and with good bite and chew. Nice touch of sharp freshness added by the Ulam Raja and Pomelo. The flowers added bright prettiness and lovely colour to the visual aspect and were pleasantly crisp in the mouth. Good engagement of all the senses on this dish, especially if one ate the flowers with the fingers. 

Cured Mackerel, Ulam Raja, Pomelo, Local Flowers 
Getting paired with the clean and lean Lafon made sense. Squeaky on the cheeks and throat and understated on the finish, with soft clean pears in the mouth. For some reason the flowers from the first course seemed to be strangely repeating with the wine. This was a most odd experience, like burping a bouquet of petals. There you go - only in Malaysia. 

Course 2 was the braised Aubergine which came out looking like a chunk of moss you might find  stuck to the root of a tree on the roadside. It looked like green dirt, putting me in mind of something you might find at Akelare or Mugaritz in the Basque. Tastewise, it came across like a delicately textured dim sum dish of fried onion in the mouth (the aubergine in the mushroom stock), with brown and white garlic sauces forming the visual yin and yang of the dish and giving salt and heat. Never did find out what the crunchy green dirt was, though the menu says Jackfruit seeds. It felt like fried peas that had been frozen and crushed. There was a delicate cobweb of glaze strung across the top which seemed to evaporate on contact with my breath on it. 

Aubergine braised in Mushroom Stock, Jackfruit Seeds, Black Bean Sauce and Garlic Emulsion 
Yet there was something essentially and quintessentially Malaysian about it. It had that dim sum feel of Cantonese cuisine but using the Brinjal and mushroom seemed to bring that vegetal earthiness you get at the Banana Leaf stall. And the green crunch gave a Rojak texture. This one captured the essence of each and fused them together into something that transcended the individual elements. Somehow encapsulating all the major cuisines into a single combo. Brilliant, brilliant. 

None of this sadly did much for the wine -  the gungey mushroom aubergine seemed to bring out an oily note to the Lafon. Not a great match, but the wine was still lovely enough to cut through. Though it did seem to run out quite quickly - a call for an extra glass was met with a report that it had all gone. Barely had a glass and a half - someone somewhere must have been sucking it down. Same with some of the later wines - didn't feel like there was quite enough before getting told it had all gone. Seems that 32 people drank 40 plus bottles, so either there was indeed enough or some tables had a better time than others. Couldn't really complain - both wine and food were excellent so perhaps an excess of one over the other might have upended the balance. Is just that you always feel you're missing out when there's not quite enough booze to satisfy. Like someone else is getting all the love. 

The Stonier (as memory serves) had been decanted and showed a lovely classic Pinot nose and beautiful cherry pop and pepper mouth and finish. The balance was excellent, as was the acidity, length and finish. Eight years in bottle, it was drinking well with a silkiness and ease that we don't see too often. Beautiful wine. 

The waiting staff came out with a spoon and chopsticks ahead of the third course, which also somehow seemed to underline the desire to encapsulate Malaysian cuisine in its diverse totality. You don't often get changes of mixed cuisine fighting irons across a multi course meal. 

The third dish was the noodles which had amazing texture - felt like biting through octopus legs. The broth was brilliant - a fantastic zip of chives and pepper with a lovely blend of tastes and textures across the dish and a great sense of umami about this one. Lot of chives here, whose texture suggested they had been lightly toasted. Quite herbal. Mixed with the daisy fresh solid chunk of Prawn, it was Ipoh Hor Fun but amplified into loud bold taste. Again, one of those where you absolutely KNOW you have had this Soul Food before and many times but not in this context and not with this delicacy or sense of the essential. Perfect seasoning. My note at the time was "dam fantastic, dam fantastic." Could have slurped this one all night. Now for THIS one I might sing and dance on the tables…   so good.

Steamed Ming Prawns, Brined Radish, Dried Vegetables, Cold Prawn Broth 
At this point, I began to notice how good and efficient was the standard of the waiting service. So far it had been quietly polite and unobtrusive and it was only when I saw a new napkin folded on the table after a bathroom break that it registered. This level of attention you tend not to expect in Malaysia. When I asked a question about one of the ingredients, our serving friend was quick and knowledgeable in the response. Seems they cleared from the left side which I was advised was the proper side to so do. There you go - learning all the time. One point of critique - they did not pour wine for the ladies first. Well, they ARE trying to be Malaysian, no?

I also noticed that the food seemed to come out all at the same time and in pretty quick succession time following the plate clearance. Chef clearly has a tight lid on the kitchen. 

Dish Four was the Smoked Pike Conger, Custard, Fermented Long Beans Relish, Roasted Okra, and Clams Foam. This dish seemed to give off an almost deconstructed Japanese feel, kind of like a whole Bento lunch crammed into a single dish. But without the rice.  The Pike felt steamed and had a full on Tilapia chew and whack in the belly. There was a Tau Foo feel on the mushroom, and a good vegetal hit from the Okra whilst the custard gave it that chawan mushi egg custard feel. The tastes melded well whilst the belly could not complain about the fullness of it all. And the Thai Basil leaves were genius, giving a sweet soft fire and herbal hit to the whole thing. Perhaps for me a question over the clam foam - it did give some good air to the dish but for some reason I got a duck hit. Perhaps it was me, but there did seem to be some clash going on and the clams were in the forefront. Good dish on the whole, though. Very filling and well tasty. Got a double wow in the notes.

Smoked Pike Conger, Custard, Fermented Long Beans Relish, Roasted Okra, Clams Foam 
The Stonier was also being paired with the Pike. I have no notes on the pairing. Lenglui kindly let me see off the remains of her Lafon which had retained its spritzy clean feel in the glass. Very nice. 

The immediate reaction to the duck breast was "ducky" - that nose and mouthfeel that suggests a bit gamey and farmyard - but this duckiness faded after the first bite. Lovely chunk of duck meat and delightfully roasted. The Rillette was equally excellent - great texture, and seasoning and reminiscent of the big beefy meatballs we would get at the Cardiff Indoor Market when I was a kid - meat, fat, salt and pepper and oozing taste. Fantastic - love it when the tastes take you back in time. Though I would have liked some bread and butter to add some fat and counter the slight dryness which the blood sauce did not quite seem to address. [Note - when I was a kid these meatballs had a name - faggots. I would have used it in the text but I recognise some people are sensitive to its use. Shame - in this context, for me it's the absolute descriptor I associate with the taste - they were brilliant with tinned peas and vinegar and gravy. There you go. Strange how some words gain a dissociative meaning over time totally at odds with their original understanding].

Roast Duck Breast, Duck Leg Rillette, Beetroots, "Blood" Sauce 
I had reservations when I saw the Marimar Pinot being dug out for the dinner. This was a massive full on chew-and-spit-pips wine and roared like a bear when we had it with lamb about three years back at the Saujana. But on the night it was a belter - still full in the mouth, but far more in balance and with lovely pepper and a range of textures through the drinking process. Fading slightly, and still with a slight barnyard tang on the nose, but ultimately power and class and so good to have drunk it now. The fullness of the wine meant it stood up well to the chunky rich and tasty Rillette and the tannins cut the Duck breast purines perfectly. Good match. 

Dessert was Gula Melaka which paired slightly warm Pulut ice cream with soft coconut to create a wonderful sensation of the freshest coconut flesh. I got a slight hit of Toddy, that sweet smelly hooch made from fermented coconut which, when paired with the meringue and marquiese, produced a wonderful airy crunch and bite with a boozy coconut rasp. Wow. 

Gula Melaka Marquise, Sour Meringue, Pulut Ice Cream
Chef Darren and team came out to take a bow and photos. I had a quick chat, though others were very keen to get selfied with him. Clear passion for the use of local procuce in the creations and pushing the creations in terms of technique and combinations. His parting shot to me was "keep spreading the word." Any way I can, Chef, any way I can...   Save your pennies for this one - it will be worth it. There is a wine list, though if you are as fussy as we are at the IWFS you will want to take your own. Crisp spicy whites with a cracking Pinot for the duck will do you. Kudos to the Kiwi for his choices in this one. 

Dewakan staff with Chef Darren Teoh (right)
Chef Teoh clearly has culinary roots in Chinese cuisine yet his grasp of quintessential Malaysian tastes coupled with his ability to isolate and infuse them into the predominantly Malaysian produce based creations I find to be quite brilliant. There ARE quintessential Malaysian tastes across all the cuisines you can find here, and Chef having found a way to showcase them makes this a truly unique Malaysian dining experience. Fine Malaysian Cuisine dining. At last. 

Chef Darren Teoh with Dato' Jeremy Diamond, IWFS
One of the dinners of the year - actually of the last few years. Total standout in terms of memorable ambience, service, food preparations and tastes, and paired wines and company. Absolutely memorable across all boxes. Do go there if you get the chance. Especially if someone else is driving.

Thank you Dewakan - get you a double ARNIE - I'll be back - more than once.

DEWAKAN
Lower Ground Floor
KDU University College, Utropolis Glenmarie
Jalan Kontraktor U1/14, Seksyen U1,
40150 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia
 +60355650767
Website: http://www.dewakan.my
Email: dewakan@kdu.edu.my

OPERATING HOURS
Lunch: Mon to Fri – 12 Noon to 2:30pm
Dinner: Thur to Sat – 7pm to 9pm
Closed on Sundays and certain public holidays.
For Phone Reservations:
Monday to Friday only @
10am to 12pm, and 3pm to 5pm only.

Farewell Milky Ice Lollies
THE 6 COURSE MENU

Appetizers
Aperitif - Pol Roger Brut Reserve

01 BLUE MACKEREL
Cured Mackerel, Ulam Raja, Pomelo, Local Flowers 
Heretier Lafon Vire Cleese 2013

02 BRAISED AUBERGINE 
Aubergine braised in Mushroom Stock, Jackfruit Seeds, Black Bean Sauce and Garlic Emulsion 
Heretier Lafon Vire Cleese 2013

03 HOME MADE NOODLE 
Steamed Ming Prawns, Brined Radish, Dried Vegetables, Cold Prawn Broth 
Stonier Pinot Noir Reserve 2008

03 PIKE CONGER 
Smoked Pike Conger, Custard, Fermented Long Beans Relish, Roasted Okra, Clams Foam 
Stonier Pinot Noir Reserve 2008

05 DUCK 
Roast Duck Breast, Duck Leg Rillette, Beetroots, "Blood" Sauce 
Marimar Estate Pinot Noir "Don Miguel Vineyard La Masia" 2006

06 GULA MELAKA 
Gula Melaka Marquise, Sour Meringue, Pulut Ice Cream

THE WINES

Pol Roger Champagne NV
This great wine is distinguished by much more than its links with Winston Churchill. The mid palate weight may come from a generous use of reserve wines yet the lemony core and brisk fine bubbles continue to make this a very fine and  classy Grand Marque champagne.

Hertier Lafon  Vire Cleesse 2013
This widely sought after Macconais Chardonnay is well integrated in its fruit, minerality and subtle oak.  From Wine Advocate 90 points Oct 2014 ” The 2013 Vire-Clesse has an utterly charming nose that seems more finished than the others, with fine tension and focus. The palate is very well-balanced with fine acidity. This comes over as being very precise and poised.”
Wine Enthusiast 90 points

Stonier Pinot Noir Reserve, Mornington Peninsula 2008 
This wine pulled from deep in our cellars is crafted by the renowned Mornington Peninsula producer with Burgundian nuances and evident maritime influences Vines date back to the late 70s. Savoury notes will delight Pinot lovers in this evolved wine. A subtle Pinot for sure, with fruit, but not overpowered. There are layers of flavour over a solid back drop of oak with pretty aromas and tastes structured around a raspberry and cherry core.

Marimar Estate Pinot Noir "Don Miguel Vineyard La Masia" 2006
“The color is a beautiful garnet, classic Russian River - as is the fruit, loaded with black cherry flavors. There's mocha in the nose and perfectly balanced hints of elegant oak, which contributes a rich texture. The mouthfeel is round and engaging, classic Pinot Noir, with a note of lively spice at the end. The finish is long and the wine shows great aging potential. Alcohol 14.1% bv. (From Winemaker’s notes)

"This vineyard, in the cool Green Valley part of Napa, continues to produce outstanding, ageworthy Pinot Noirs of distinction. The 2006 is a large, powerful wine, distinctly Californian, packed with cherry, cranberry, cola and spice flavors that are immature in their fresh jamminess. But with a dramatic tannin-acid structure, and a just-right touch of new French oak, it will improve in the cellar. Best after 2010." (Wine Enthusiast 93/100)

5 comments:

  1. Nice report Brian.

    I know you didn't order from it, but what did you think of the wine list?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you bro. I remember taking a quick drunken look at the wine list and thinking "not bad" though the details did not register. Fairly eclectic choices which should pair well with the food. You supplying? You should. Alsace's best would be excellent with the Dewakan dishes. Cheers!

      Delete
  2. Hello Brian, do you have an email address where I could reach you? :) Thanks a lot and cheers, -- Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jean, can reach me at gwailoah@hotmail.com

      Delete
  3. Nice and interesting information and informative too.
    Can you please let me know the good attraction places we can visit: Akbar Travels holiday

    ReplyDelete