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, February 26, 2018

DC Restaurant - f@@ing wonderful...

On your marks...
February 8th 2018

Got invited to an eating at DC Restaurant by Julian Teoh (of Julian's Eating - click here>>) through which Chef Darren had indicated some feedback would be appreciated. I'll do it dish by dish as far as I can remember. 

This was essentially a wine pairing exercise of Darren's new 7 course "Discovery" Menu (for which there was a special "DC X Love <3 Taste" degustation style winter menu for Valentine's Day) with an option to sample some organic wines from boutique style creators. This was a slight variation from the "Discovery" menu and included some slight adds to and takeaways from the dishes. The DC Restaurant Webby (www.restaurant-dc.com) says cost is RM568++ for the Full Monty of 8 courses, with optional add on Winter Black Truffle at RM288 and Natural Skin Contact wine pairing starting at RM115++ for two glasses.

DC Restaurant also has a four course "Light" option at RM328++ and a six course "Taste" menu at RM438++

I managed to get there reasonably on time despite the downpour that was going on (and strange that on both previous visits it was similar monsoon weather). Julian almost cancelled on me but, fair play to him, he battled the elements and Grabcars cancelling on him to get in only an hour behind schedule. Which had given me some time to write some fairly decent notes on the first three courses and elements and wines. 

Get set....
Short version
In general terms, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. DC Restaurant is the total package for fine dining in Kuala Lumpur. Excellent (if occasionally over enthusiastic) service, exquisite dishes, thoughtfully prepared and delightfully presented in a sedate, understated and elegant setting. Very good textural progression of both food and wines through the evening. 

Pluses were - getting left alone by staff at the downstairs reception area but getting offered the choice of fizz or water; getting shown to the table and recognised by sommelier like an old friend, excellent service to prepare table with bread, butter and water, crisp white heavy tablecloth, getting left alone to enjoy the dishes after a full explanation of the contents, Chef Darren coming out from the kitchen with the first dish to say Hello. 

My one gripe was in terms of the overall…  overall. Each of the individual dishes were standalone excellent. For me, some stood out as hugely memorable - the Uni in the shell and the Homage to Paul were massive and dishes I will remember across time.

I think my difficulty with the other dishes, wonderful as they were at the time, is that all somehow ended up tasting the same. All I can remember of them is foam and Ikura salmon pearls. They do add zap and class to a dish…  but when one is getting them on subsequent or later dishes, then it kind of all meshes together. Had a similar experience at Akelare in San Sebastian - everyone raved about it but all I could (and still can) remember of it all is that everything tasted of seawater brine and foam (see here for the write up>>). It was perhaps as a result of this that the Uni and Homage to M Paul stood out - simply perfect in their apparent simplicity. I think it has to be remembered that this was a tasting, and Chef Darren pulled out all stops to let us taste everything. So naturally any sequence would get messed up. On the night, though, and in the context of the whole sequence of dishes, less definitely felt like more. 

Dish by dish

"The Belon" : chive oil, fermented rhubarb
"Beets" Smoked cured butterfish; grilled cabbage; oxalis
Butternut squash croquetas: black truffle, sage Chantilly, seafood stew

The delightful Belon
This was a three course amuse to get things underway. I think I got told the Belon was set on some cucumber granite, with salt and texture being given through some fish egg pearls and some chive oil to slap the cheeks. The Belon oyster was perfect - fresh, just enough squidge for bite, and the perfect foil for the light crunch lent by the cucumber. The result was a briny throat cutter which indeed slapped the cheeks and scratched the throat and tonsils a treat. Though I didn't seem to detect much rhubarb; perhaps it got a bit lost with the chive oil? Notwithstanding, Excellent start.
(Note - had to Google Belon - forgot it was the oyster. Ulu saya…)

The Beets was beetroot foam ladled onto the cabbage and fish and resting on a bed of (I think) blitzed butternut squash. My notes say the foam got a bit lost against the ferment in the cabbage and tended to neutralise the dish. The textures were fun in the mouth, nice touches with the tweezered herbs (little purple things that the Internet says are Micro Benitade) that popped the teeth with a cute wasabi shock. 

Beets, fish and butternut = nice!
The accompanying fizz (a 2010 1er Cru Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus Non-Dosé) was quite friendly, fair yeast, low in acidity, delightfully fine bead and bubble and a slight amber tint suggesting some time on the lees (NB the wines would all be Natural Skin Contact). Perhaps lacking the whack of the more traditional Houses, this was nevertheless a lovely wine to start an evening of fine food. It went hugely well with the Belon whilst the Beet foam brought out a slight mineral flinty feel on the mouth and teeth. 

Third up was a slight change - Chef Darren had added the scallop to the dish, since the carpaccio to come was a shade more "of the day". Fair enough. The scallop felt a teensy shade aged on the bite but still possessed of that brilliant Hokkaido taste. The seafood sauce gave a natural bisque feel to the thing, though it felt more bouillon than bisque in mouthfeel (no bad thing; any heavier would have killed the whole thing). The pumpkin croquetas were lovely - crunchy little vegetal bites full of sweet taste and slinky texture. And the combo of these with the seafood sauce was excellent - full on taste in the mouth and thud in the gut. Adding the sage gave the clear hint of herbal and country and nicely genius. Much enjoyed. 

Excellent scallop!
Wine Two had made an appearance at this time - the 2016 Domaine Stephane Ogier Viognier. Opulent apricot nose, acacia honey mouth and tint, good grip going down with pomegranate and passion fruit finish. Quite firm and full in texture, though not overly oppressive as some Viogniers can often be. I have no note on the match, though memory serves to say it was not bad. Lack of note suggests it was not spectacular either…  Which, given that it was being paired with a soupy element, is more positive than not. Very little wine pairs well with soup. Have to try it again…

Slight digression - It was about this point that I realised that I was eating alone, and making my notes…  and quite enjoying the solitude and engagement with food, pen and paper. And found myself wondering if this was how the Michelin people all feel on their solitary missions in pursuit of gastronomic Nirvanas (? is there a plural of Nirvana? Nirvanae?) When he joined me a couple of minutes after this thought, Julian shared that he had some years back vowed to himself never to dine alone and be seen as some saddo with just his pen and book for company. "Life is too short to dine alone," are his foodie watchwords. The last dining alone I could remember was somewhere in Cannes in September 2017, and I cannot remember a previous one to this. And as said, I had been much enjoying it! Perhaps it was the novelty of it - most of my dining outs are with the Lenglui or one of the foodie groups and this solitary exercise had been enjoyable as a result. But I can see that the shine would soon wear off if doing it for every restaurant visit. Julian says by engaging all the senses during a dinner, one can still recall the salient points and reproduce them in writing at a later time. Which he does hugely well. He has great powers of recall. I still need the pen and paper. 

Fresh Carpaccio of the day (airflown from Hokkaido)
Black Truffle vinaigrette

Salmon Carpaccio
Got a large explosion of salt on this from (I think) celeriac and the black caviar pearls. There was lots going on in this dish - caviar salt, truffle oil, mushroom textures - it looked fantastic. And tasted fantastic. But the side result was that the magnificent day fresh Salmon got completely overwhelmed. If the added bits were aimed at enhancing the fish, for me they overshot and supplanted rather than supplemented. Food sometimes needs to speak for itself - given the quality of the fish, this would have been one of those occasions. Little bit of caviar, maybe some yuzu infused creme fraiche, wheat cracker for texture - job done. 

The Viognier had a happy hit with the vinaigrette, which nicely softened the very slight oily note on the wine. Worked well. At this point, the remains of the fizz were still beading. Fantastic! 

Extra Dish

At this point Darren served an extra dish - day fresh Uni from (I think) Hamamatsu Prefecture in Japan, served in its shell with scrambled egg and parsnip foam. This was outstanding. Got butter, sweet salty egg, slurpy gooey texture and that gunky Uni slimeball. It all slipped down like a squidgy, buttery, salty half boiled egg but with that total sense of the Uni throughout. Like the best half boiled egg you ever tasted but with a bite of bisque. So nice. We had been given a narrow spoon with which to consume the thing - a straw might be a better alternative.  I tried some of it on the sourdough bread and butter; didn't need it. Magnificent on its own. This one is up there with some of my most memorable eats of my life. Six days later writing this, I can still taste it. Total brahma.

The amazing Uni - total brahma
It also spruced up the Viognier, giving bite and cut to the fruit and suggesting that this wine has a versatility with food that belies its initial taste. Got length, taste and fire. 

Takao cold somen: bafun uni, truffle celeriac: vegetal

Somen and foam - great textures and mouthbuzz
Dishes were coming out pretty quickly after consumption and clearing. The Somen was excellent, that cold taste and vermicelli texture giving al dente bite and chill in the cheeks. The Uni jus gave a seaside brine and smell, which disappeared on contact with the cheek to add a cute seasalt burn to the chill. I have a note that says "fish eggs supercharge the salt to electric zip on the tongue." Which suggests there was salmon roe in the dish which is not borne out by the photograph, so I might be confused here. 

The notes also say I only got the celeriac after the cheeks and tongue had calmed from their electric salt shock. It lent good crunch, but became almost an afterthought and a bit late in the ensemble. Maybe too much salt at the start?

It is perhaps a bit unfair to try and judge this dish, given that it came after the Uni Egg. They were somewhat similar in taste and content. It did go extremely well with the remains of the Champagne though - the combo of Uni, salt and eggs was perfect to let the fizz cleanse the mouth and palate. 

Snow Crab. Hmm...
3s silky egg custard
Snow crab: foie gras; agrumes

The notes say "Hmmm…   not sure about this one. Lots going on in taste terms. Crab is very delicate. Got the texture, got the salt (more fish eggs!!), the spring onion strips, good herbs. Feels some disconnect between the Crab and the almost salty Carbonara. Japanese Egg Mushi dish with Snow Crab and Foie Gras and paprika. It shakes!!" 

What I guess I was thinking was that I get the construction and the nod to Mushi style. All of the side elements seemed to sit well with each other. I was perhaps not clear how, taste and texture wise, the Crab and Foie Gras fit into it all. Perhaps one could think about deconstructing this one and have the Crab and Foie Gras on a separate plate for guests to test the combo for themselves. Let them speak for themselves and see how they sing with the Mushi?

Accompanying wine was the Esoterico, an orange tinged fruit bomb with a tangerine taste, almost like liquid Marmalade Lite. Very refreshing. Very artisan. But perhaps not quite wine. Kudos for the attempt to pair something with an egg dish. It kind of worked too, taking some of the edge off the ikura; same colour too.

The magnificent Octopus - brilliant dish
Extra Dish

The notes get a bit non existent here basically because Julian had finally made it through the rain (hello Barry Manilow) and was catching up on the courses and foodie news and other bits of chat. Which allowed me a little break from the food which was actually quite pleasant; let the belly relax for a bit and savour the previous before the next gastronomic input. Which would prove an off menu belter - Octopus leg with Portuguese Paprika sauce with a top of Passionfruit Foam. It was a cracker - excellent chew and bite on the leg with fire and citrus from the sauce and foam. And the tweezered tiny flowers and leaves gave visual and lightly vegetal bite and herbal hints to enhance the whole. Would be very happy to eat this again either as standalone or as sequenced to follow the Uni and provide a useful and necessary contrast against the more inherently salt infused dish. 

To my huge surprise and delight, the Esoterico wine went impressively well with the Octopus. It seemed to enhance the slight Citrus bite that was coming from the Passionfruit foam. Marmalade Lite wine with Octopus - who would have thought of it? (Note - the Esoterico is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, Fiano). 

Homage to M. Paul
Red mullet: potato scales: sauce maltaise

Homage to M Paul - fantastic!
More chat and wine guzzling brought Wine Four to bear, a Nebbiolo from the GD Vajra range. I had previously bought some of the Vajra range following a wine tasting in Plaza Damansara circa 2011. Not sure why - their subsequent drinkings felt a bit thin and reedy (can't remember the varietals - there was a Barbera, Dolcetta and one other) and finally got drunk up at one of the Tai Chi dinners (they are not so fussy with the wines as other foodie groups). This Nebbiolo had a rose petal nose and somehow floral fragrance and texture. Pleasant in the mouth, slight Pinot Noir feel, but way more feminine and approachable than many Pinots out there. 

It was being paired with the Homage to M. Paul, Chef Darren's interpretation of the Bocuse classic Loupe en Croute (Sea Bass in Pastry) which I was lucky enough to try at a lunch at the restaurant in Lyon in September 2013 (click here to read>>). And where Chef Paul himself came out to say hello to all the diners. Total moment. This was a delightful tribute to the legend, and made for a petite but substantial bite across fish and potato leaves and enhanced by the Sauce Maltaise (traditionally orange and Hollandaise, though I think more Orange on this presentation) and a dollop of (I think) Apricot. The delicately fried and layered potato leaves were… could have been a shade crispier and felt a bit "corn oil" rather than "duck fat". The Mullet was flakily superb and perfectly cooked. The combo came together nicely, the citrus matching the fish and potato and slicing through the starch and protein for a taste of Lyon here in PJ. Happy to have this one again.

The remnants of the Esoterico again surprised on the upside as a match, but perhaps on reflection not too surprising - Marmalade Lite and Orange is a total citrus bomb. The Nebbiolo also surprised, with its very light tannins cutting the fish oil and the light berry fruit shining brighter as a result.

Choice of Mains - 16hr slow roasted lamb rack (South Australia)
Comes with seasonal vegetables from our farm

Lamb and veg. Getting full...
Getting pretty full by this time. But the food kept coming. And the notes had died. Always a good sign. As a Welshman, I had naturally signed up for the Lamb - we Welshies were raised on it for an occasional Sunday Roast change from Chicken since it was readily available and not as expensive as other meats. Lamb Chops were also regulars on the dinner table whilst watching after school TV ahead of going upstairs to do the homework. 

For me, the lamb was a bit of a let down. I presume there is a reason why a rack of lamb tastes better after a 16 hour Slow Roast but this one went wide of my understanding. I didn't get it (though I must confess to not getting much of the slow roasting concept. Except for Beef Cheeks.)  My general preference is for medium rare with some sear and char on the outside. This one had the sear but the taste felt somehow not quite right. Maybe it was the Lamb; when one is raised on Welsh or New Zealand, the Oz is perhaps a bit of a poor relation. Something on the plate was also a shade oversalted to my tolerance (which is very low). The organic vegetables…   hmmm….  whilst I have signed on to the delights of biodynamic wine (as distinct from organic - biodynamic adheres to stricter standards of farming and cultivation), I find much organic vegetation lacking in taste. Maybe it is the soil, maybe it is the seeds - it all seems to taste like earth. Some of those on show on the plate (the carrots) looked as if they had undergone a swift blanche in organic unsalted water and prettily and deftly arranged on the plate. There were also too many of them for my preference - the veg needs to enhance rather than overwhelm.  Could have taken off half of the veg and there would still have been too much.  Julian later suggested that perhaps the Veg could come on a separate sharing plate - given that Malaysians love to share food, this would be a good fit. For me, whilst it might be a bit traditional, some Robuchon style butter mashed potato would have been a home run to soak up the salt and jus off the lamb. Some classics are classic for a reason.

Can't remember...
Regular readers will know that desserts are not really my bag and, though I happily wolf them down, I am usually too wrecked by the booze to offer any comment worthy of reading. But I do enjoy cheese and the DC Cheese Trolley is easily the best in the city. Fantastic offerings of a decent range of high end styles, it makes for a very French way of ending the evening and polishing off what is left of any red. Much enjoyed. I broke a rule and had a coffee whilst Julian opted for a very ornate and lovingly prepared cup of (I think) Chrysanthemum Tea. 

Best Cheese Platter in town!
Chef Darren, Julian and I had a post meal discussion and all shared thoughts and observations over a half bottle of hugely tasty Ile des Vergelesses. This was my first time to sit down with Chef and share thoughts and wine about food and the business. I found him to be hugely passionate about his craft. His knowledge, his justifications for his choices, all coming from a deep dipping into various cuisines, though French styles and preparations have clearly captured his heart. In the foodie community here in Kuala Lumpur, he is way ahead in the top top echelon, vying with Darren Teoh of Dewakan as to who is king of the mountain (or perhaps, in our case, the Klang Valley…). I am not going here, because the styles and approaches and consequent results are different. Though conversation did stray as to whether a "Darren and Darren" evening might work - the conclusion was:  difficult, not impossible. Perhaps a Food Channel TV Series contrasting both could work? 

Whatever, both should be celebrated for their guts, their innovation and missions, and their huge dedication to their art and craft of food preparations. There is a sense of locavore in both, though I find Dewakan Darren more open to deconstruction of Malaysian staples whilst DC Darren prefers French style approaches to technique. I am guessing that they have to put up with a lot of opinion from their patrons. Though I would further guess Dewakan Darren gets less as a result of the deconstruction aspect - there is little else to compare it with as opposed to DC Darren who is up against the entire tradition of French cuisine. 

In this context, I did detect a slight sense of frustration from Chef Darren. Kind of like he has been banging his head against the wall of the Malaysian Palate and feeling that it is starting to hurt. 

It is a total truism that in Malaysia everyone is a food expert. From "which mamak has the best Roti or Nasi Kandar" to "Durian nuances between northern orchards and the south"; everyone has a view which they want (nay, NEED) to share. And I have noticed that this often becomes more so when one is a Malaysian of wealth, position and status and, as a result, becoming occasionally of the opinion that such opinion demands the highest respect and needs to be unconditionally agreed with by everyone else. Kind of like one must kowtow to Datuk and Datin because, er, they are Datuk and Datin lah! And they must know better!! Why? Because they are Datuk and Datin lah!!! I occasionally wonder whether this opinion giving becomes self serving; that Datuk and Datin give their opinions because they think they need to be seen to have opinions and also need to be seen to be asserting them over the minions. I guess we have all heard this somewhere - "Ay, Chef (pronounced "tchef") you know, ah, nex' time, ah, you put some chili on the foy grass. Ah. You try try.  Waaaaah, ho seck no? See.. (pulling out a small container) I always bring some chili...   you mus' put chili on foy grass one. I tell you, mus' have, good for parang, hor..." 

So those chefs who stick to their recipe guns and politely and firmly refuse suggestions to add chili or some other left field ingredient to allegedly improve a dish over which Chef has cracked his head to try and perfect it need all our support. They need our encouragement. They need our patronage. They need to be reassured that their sense of gastronomic adventures will continue to be supported. Otherwise they will simply up sticks and find a more supportive community for their endeavours. They are an endangered species that can easily get killed off by the continual numbing headbutts of self delusional opinions and insistence that all the kitchens of the world should follow suit with the seemingly unassailable and persistent viewpoint that all dishes need chili.  

I would not want to see DC shut its doors and watch Chef Darren set up shop overseas to farm his food and prepare it for a more appreciative crowd. But I also know that everyone has a limit. 

I told Chef that I liked the variations of plate shapes and colours and separate cutlery for each dish. Nice bit of theatre in being allowed to select the knife for the main from a range of colours. And I got a great sense of traditional French with cute little inputs of Japanese which helped the dishes pop. Julian grumped a bit against Chef using similar ingredients in different dishes throughout the progression. He also grumped a bit against the "looks" of each of the dishes all flowing together and looking somewhat "production line" and kind of the same. Having similar visual arrangements showing on dishes throughout the progression is apparently not good form. Okay...  makes sense. I grumped a bit against foam and pearls on seemingly everything and a perceived need for variation to allow the dishes some space to distinguish themselves individually. All of the dishes were very good, some were exceptional, though as said perhaps in need of a little bit of tweaking on the pearls and foam to lend ebb and flow to the sequence of dishes. Which actually can be seen to exist on the set menus - the four and six course menus flow nicely whilst perhaps it is only the full Monty eight course that feels like it overdoes things with the foam and pearls. Very good wine pairing, showcasing some lesser known styles and labels and their abilities to match the dishes. I will be going back for this menu. And the wines pairing. 

Looking back, I now can see the artistry with which each dish got prepared. The aesthetic of the plate arrangement is not something that I tend to notice at the table - memo to self: engage the sense of sight a bit more rather than the mouth and the tongue and the wine and the belly. 

Has Chef Darren grown as a Chef? Clearly the answer is yes - whilst the food on my previous visits was little short of excellent, I had yet to really remember a dish the day after the meal. Now I have two, maybe three with the Octopus. Thank you Chef for these. And I think there is a related point here as to whether I have grown in tandem as a foodie punter and supposed writer. No point to keep commenting if you stick with the same internal paradigms and hack phrases. In this, I believe I have - looking back at the early writings, there seems more breadth of thought in the more recent responses to dishes. Depth is next. I think it is incumbent on all of us who profess knowledge of our subjects that we look to grow. Especially if we claim to know our food. By sparring and sharing, and being willing to learn and experience the new, we all grow. And we all have to WANT to grow. If one doesn’t have this sense of adventure, if one doesn't find joy and bliss in the new, then perhaps best to stick with the hawker stall and not look to impose one’s food views on the world. At least one won’t be short of chili there.

Winter Menu - DC Taste X Love <3 by Darren Chin

"The Belon" : chive oil, fermented rhubarb
"Beets" Smoked cured butterfish; grilled cabbage; oxalis
Butternut squash croquetas: black truffle, sage Chantilly, seafood stew

Fresh Carpaccio of the day (airflown from Hokkaido)
Black Truffle vinaigrette

Takao cold somen: bafun uni, truffle celeriac: vegetal

3s silky egg custard
Snow crab: foie gras; agrumes

Homage to M. Paul
Red mullet: potato scales: sauce maltaise

Choice of Mains
Comes with seasonal vegetables from our farm

Supplement add on Jean Larnardie Duck Foie Gras 50g panseared RM70++

Magret de Canard
Charred leeks: crosnes: chive jus
16hr slow roasted lamb rack (South Australia)
Japanese Matsuka A5 Wagyu 130gm (additional RM210++)
1/2 Brittany blue lobster tail poached in lobster butter: lobster sauce americaine (additional RM178++)

Choice of Dessert or Cheese
Desserts by Chef Han
Kaki: persimmon
Clementine sherbet: yuzu curd: sesame wafer: almond crumble
"In depth"
light crunch meringue: black sesame pannacotta: red cherries: creme fraiche sorbet
Le fromage
5 types of cheese from our cheese trolley

Grand Finale
Assortment of fruit jellies

Cafe ou The
Illy coffee or assortment of Jing tea (additional RM18)

RM438++ per pax

Course pairing - Add on Winter Black Truffle (tuber melanosporum) - RM288, a la carte RM75

Discovery Food X Natural Skin Contact wine pairing
Sommelier Selection Food & Wine Pairing Packages 
2 glasses – RM115; 
3 glasses – RM155; 
4 glasses – RM205

1. Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus Non-Dosé 1er Cru 2010 WS 91 RM65 (glass) RM450 (bottle)
Vin Blanc 
2. Domaine Stéphane Ogier, Viognier de Rosine 2016 RP 90 RM60 (glass) RM330 (bottle) 
3. Unico Zelo Esoterico Spices Blend, Adelaide Hills 2016 WS 88 RM60 RM330 (Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, Fiano) 
Vin Rouge ”Natural Wine” 
4. Lucy Margaux Merlot, Adelaide Hills 2016 WS 88 RM60 (glass) RM250 (bottle) 
5. GD Vajra Clare J.C. Langhe, Nebbiolo, Piedmont, Italy 2016 WS 88 RM60 (glass) RM310 (bottle) 
Dessert Wine 
6. Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Grand Cru Rangen 2009 WS 94 RM60 (glass) RM320 (bottle) 


NB all prices taken from DC Restaurant website February 2018 and will naturally change over time; do check with the restaurant prior to booking as to whether prices have been updated.

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