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, August 19, 2015

Favourite Wine and Food places in Kuala Lumpur

20th August 2015
Got an email from an overseas IWFS member in Tokyo asking for advice on where to eat in Kuala Lumpur (NB I am IWFS KL Secretary). I wrote back listing my favourites off the top of the head - places I would recommend to the general visitor to be able to reasonably go find on their own. And thought my reply might make a useful post. Anyone got any favourite places to add?


I received your email and am happy to give some suggestions for food and wine in Kuala Lumpur.

However, there are so many styles of cuisine here in Malaysia that it is difficult to give general advice. 

Maybe I can point you to my blog "Fine Food and Wine in Kuala Lumpur" which reports on restaurants I have visited personally and had a great time (or not!!)

The address is 

For fine food and wine, my initial suggestions would be Sage (The Gardens, Mid Valley) and Cilantro (Micasa, off Jalan Tun Razak). The food is consistently excellent, the wine lists are pretty good and both open for lunch (though phone first to check). Slightly further afield is Soleil where the fish courses are excellent. The DC Restaurant is also worth searching out, though a bit difficult to get to from City Centre. 

I also recommend the newly reopened Stoked with its cast iron grill - excellent beef steak and pork ribs with some interesting Japanese tweaks by the chef. And very good selections of wine. A bit outside the city but a good destination. 

These are all clearly Western cuisine places so the wines available tend to be more extensive. With Eastern cuisine (Chinese, Indian, Malay) eateries the wine lists are not so good. The upside is that they often do not charge corkage so you can BYO. They also do not have decent glasses.  Best for Chinese cuisine - Overseas Restaurant (Jalan Imbi), Marco Polo Restaurant (Jalan Raja Laut), Noble House (Imbi), Noble Mansion (Jaya 33).

I must say that I am not a great fan of Malay cuisine. Overpoweringly spicy for my palate. It also doesn't really pair well with wine. The best is Bijan in the Jalan Ceylon area, got a reasonable wine list though this area gets a bit shady after dark. Indian cuisine, we had a great event at the Delhi Royale sometime ago. There is also a very good steakhouse on the same block called Las Vacas. Both are reported on in the Blog. Thinking about it, there is also a Malay cuisine restaurant behind this block called Songket which was quite good for food but had horrendous corkage charges for BYO wine. And their wine list was not so very good. Haven't been back there for over a year.

For Japanese cuisine...  not sure I should say anything here...  it will not match anywhere near the quality of what I guess you might expect. I have visited Tsukiji market and the sashimi was amazing. My favourites in Kuala Lumpur are Kami Sushi (Sri Hartamas for Sashimi - bit outside KL) and Kamimura (The Weld, Jalan Raja Chulan for pork). Some of the hotels offer Japanese cuisine - all are pretty much of the same standard. 

Best regards

Brian McIntyre
Hon Secretary IWFS Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Saint Clair Wines at Stoked. Fierce!

Menu and Saint Clair
August 10th 2015

One of those evenings where the company and food totally outshone the wine. 

Yin-How's wine dinners are always good fun and we generally get lucky in getting selected to attend. so when the notice for a Saint Clair winemaker dinner came through the inbox, we snapped at it. We have been drinking Saint Clair wines for a good number of years now. Their Sauvignon Blancs are traditionally well made and eminently drinkable both as a crisp pick me up after a day at the office or as a starter to a boozy evening of Chinese cuisine and party. One of our favourites. 

It has to be said that parking at the Stoked is getting increasingly difficult, and tonight was no exception - lots of Beamers and Mercs and other snazzy cars taking up the spaces. I dropped off Lenglui and friends and headed back up the road to park up and walk back. Gets a bit embarrassing when you see your contemporaries getting dropped off by their drivers whilst you are plodding your way to the venue. There is also a hint of occasional lording it as they mention they saw you walking. There you go - we've all of us reading this made it far more than most of the world's population can ever imagine. And some made it billions more than others. Is all relative, n'est-ce pas?

Entering the Stoked felt like an IWFS dinner - pretty much all the usual suspects had equally signed up for the dinner and parked on a table that stretched pretty much the length of the restaurant! Though there were a few faces from elsewhere on the wine dinner circuit, and it was fun catching up with them. Though all they seem to want me to do is sing Chinese songs. I generally refuse these days - not everyone wants to hear a white man singing well loved Chinese songs quite badly. 

Yin-How was quick to point out the absence of elevator music and indeed the music (when it could be heard above the cacophony) was nicely judged and upbeat. 

Trio of Canapes
We were seated in the private room at the back, though when the doors are open then everyone is in one room. I got handed a large glass of the St Clair Sparkling by the lovely Ying, which was electric and fiercely acidic with seemingly little in the way of fruit.  A real cheek stinger, like having a dab of after shave but on the inside of the cheeks. The canapes helped tame the acidity and render it more user friendly. Of these, the tuna was very tasty and had great texture, whilst some finely diced cucumber on what felt like day-aged bread also tamed the sparky fizz. Missed the third canape. Though the bread rolls were wonderfully crusty and delightful with the truffle butter. Which again helped to tame the electric fizz. 

Yin-How called the evening to order and introduced Saint Clair senior winemaker Hamish Clark. Hamish spoke well and knowledgeably, though perhaps a shade long for some people's level of patience. Always difficult to judge how much to say. Seems he started working life as a CSI developing DNA databases and ended up making wine. Go figure. He also shared that Saint Clair is 100% family owned which is becoming increasingly rare and the winery harvested its first grapes in 1978.

The Vicar's Choice was gooseberry green, good whack of alcohol, lacks acidity. Firm and fair light to medium body, reasonable finish. Lacked the balance we are used to with previous incarnations - low acidity gave a flabby-ish feel to the fruit. I blended it with the sparky fizz - it worked! The overly acidic fizz boosted the flabby first SB and resulted in a sparky Vicar about which we could sing some praises!

Sashimi of Amaebi and Avruga Caviar
First course was a stunning meld of zip, goo and mouth melting prawn that set off buzzers and bells like a manic pinball machine. The fruit crunch of a perfect grape contrasted with the soft firm mush of a ceviche style sweet prawn topped off with caviar zip and swimming in a sharpish sweet white wine jelly. There was also a drizzle of Olive Oil to line the mouth to receive this amazing blend of tastes and textures. Gunk, crunch, sweet, prawn - so much going on in the dish. Really tasty. Would definitely come back to Stoked for this. 

Some more wine madame?
The Vicar (both blended and unblended) didn't quite work with the dish. Both wer ezippy in their own ways and seemed to fight with each other rather than support. Perhaps if the wine gains a bit of bottle age and the spark fades will it be a better partner. On this showing, it was all Rocky Balboa - whack you in the chest with a big hit of alcohol and put some hair on it.

We were presented with two SBs to sip with the Steamed Grouper - the 2014 Marlborough and the 2014 Pioneer Block 2 (though it may have been 3 - some confusion due to differing info on differing bits of paper). Doc wine said the Marlborough retails for about NZ15 at home. On the night it was clean and balanced, not much of a nose at first. Not much at second either, really…  Got green grass flint and minerality, lot of stone, sleek finish. An easy drinker - ordinary, but solid and more balance than the Vicar. Winemaker Hamish said we should be looking for guava and nectarines. Nope - missed these. 

Block 3 has a bigger nose of greengage and gooseberry and a little zap of honey with a slightly grippy throat but a long lingering finish of crisp apples and citrus. Better balanced than the others and the table preference for drinking.  But it needed to be cold - once it warmed a bit in the glass it lost its tongue and saliva puckering crisp acidity. Friend Molly liked it. We see it as being a match with early course Chinese cuisine - four seasons salty crustacean style. We bought a case.

Steamed Grouper and Jumbo Asparagus
The Steamed Grouper was perfectly poached, and the meat was excellent - slightly sweet but with that briny hint of the sea and tighter texture of meat that suggested wild rather than farmed. Someone remarked that labelling the Asparagus as Jumbo was a bit optimistic, though it was wonderfully crunchy and bitter but not unexpectedly killed the wine - asparagus always does, it just makes wine taste metallic and bitter. It was the sauce that brought the dish together - a ginger citrus lemony lime buttery creation that was a total delight on its own and totally cracking with the fish. Here, the asparagus came in with a vegetal hit to take the edge off the citrus and add balance across the ensemble. This one worked and totally rocked. 

It's a hard life in the tropics...
Unfortunately, the wines didn't really work with the dish. There was too much acidity going on in both the wine and the citrus ginger that it became a battle as to which had the better acetic level. The Marlborough gave total GAAAAHCK in the throat as it reacted with the citrus and butter - felt like the throat was having the toilet brush treatment. The Block 3 fared slightly better, with the leaner wine easing the ginger and citrus to let some floral notes poke through. Though a good Chablis would have knocked the dish into perfection. So it goes - we know for next time. 

The Pinots came out after a brief intro from Hamish. The first was the 2013 Block 14 - light cherry nose, medium texture, which I found a bit harsh on the finish. Didn't see the alcohol content, but must have been a bit on the high side. Quite fierce overall, not desperately friendly.

The second was the 2012 Omaka - not much immediately apparent on the nose, lean and a bit austere in taste and texture, and still at least 3 years too young to drink. Very frisky, not in balance. Similar in finish to the Block 14, something not quite….  proper. Not to say the wines were bad, just not much out of the ordinary and missing something in terms of being something I would buy and happily consume. One for the Orcs from the Lord of the Rings movie rather than the elves. Maybe.

The Double Duck
The double Duck came out and was excellent - perfectly done, great skin, tasty meat and brilliant jus, though the Breast was better than the leg on the night. It was also drenched in some vinegar sauce which (of course) didn't sit well with the acidic Pinot. But then neither of these Pinots really gave much to the dish even though as Hamish said the pairing with duck is traditionally a match from the gods. Not tonight, old son. They just came across as harsh, and clearly needing time. Though the Omaka did show some class when supped with the remains of the bread and truffle butter - it enhanced the cream and the butter cut away the harsh acidic finish. There you go.

People were getting up and getting nicely raucous, clinking glasses and calling for more booze to cheer friends and neighbours. What booze remained in the bottles made it to thrusting glasses thanks to the standout service of the wine staff at Stoked. I notice one gets less fussy about what is in the glass when there is a need to raise it to some long lost friend (though long in this context can be about three to four weeks). It became a big noisy party, so from this perspective the Saint Clair wines did their convivial job. 

Cheers back!!
The evening ended with a delightful Longan Parfait - cold ice cream and crunchy crisp longan, with passion fruit giving zap and the cold frozen mousse-like parfait giving a smooth butter creamy chew for everything to swim in. Totally lovely and lively blend across textures and sour fruit and milky cream tastes. Come back to Stoked for this one too. 

Longan Parfait
So - excellent food (though generally cold - we were the farthest from the kitchen so I guess that explains this one), average wines, excellent company. All of the food was pretty standout, especially the fish with its ginger lemon sauce.  

Cheers three!!
The wines I found generally disappointing. The reds were a bit mean and fierce, and the whites were lean and green though we did buy the SB Block No 3. Yin-How gives great discounts when you buy on the night. Saint Clair is our house wine and our normal go to for taking to the Chinese restaurants. Though not the 2014 vintage at this point - they all need time to let the massive green even out. We'll revisit the Vicar next year at sale time, though whether he will take us to church remains to be seen. Didn't quite get us there on this night.

Peace and lurve!!


Trio of Canapes
Saint Clair Bubbles Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc NV

Sashimi of Amaebi and Avruga Caviar
Sweet Spot Prawn with White Wine Jelly and Shiso Cress
Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Steamed Grouper with Jumbo Asparagus
with Ginger Citrus Sauce
Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Saint Clair Pioneeer Block 3 Sauvignon Blanc

O you cheeky boy...
Duo of Duck Leg Confit and Roasted Duck breast
served with Braised Belgian Endive and a Framboise Vinegar Sauce
Saint Clair Pioneeer Block 14 Pinot Noir 2013
Saint Clair Omaka Pinot Noir 2012

Longan Parfait
with Passion Fruit and Vanilla Ice Cream

Coffee or Tea
Petits Fours

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nathalie's Bastille Day - tres bon!

July 14th 2015

Doc Su Kim and Doc Stephanie
Got an email from the Kiwi with notice and invitation from Nathalie's Cuisine Gourmet to come and celebrate the French National Day with a special menu. Everybody seems to rave about Nathalie's cuisine, and the IWFS have had occasional functions there through the years. Nathalie's food also seems to make an occasional appearance at house parties we have been invited to, and on these occasions the food has been creative, tasty and full of charm. 

Whilst the restaurant on Jalan R Ramlee remains the flagship, Nathalie also operates the Gourmet Studio in the Publika (to which we have yet to go), though ask me how to get to the place will draw a blank stare - getting from the Car Park to the Publika restaurants continues to totally confuse me even after years of going there. For some reason I find it hugely confusing - very little in the way of effective direction and lots of the elevators seem to lead to dead ends from which there is no alternative save to turn back and start again. I avoid the place if I can, though we now have a general rule - look for the Daiso and everything else usually follows.

We had not been to Nathalie's for a good few years, certainly well before I started getting half serious with all this blogging madness. No real reason, it just fell off the map and what with all the foodie groups the Lenglui and I seem to hop around in there's barely a free night in the week to try somewhere on our own. My last memory of it with friends from the UK remains pleasant though having the brightly lit Arab Malaysian camel staring at me all night through the window felt a bit disconcerting. There must have been curtains, just have no memory of them getting drawn. Or of thinking to ask to shift the table to get some relief from the smiling beast. 

Doc Rajan and Doc Stephen
We thought it opportune to take some decent French wines to imbibe - after all, it was Bastille Day and if you're going to celebrate it with good wine friends then might as well go all out balls to the wall with the booze. So out came the 2012 Leflaive Clavoillon Puligny Montrachet and a 2009 Lafon Volnay, the last of the legendary Vinum sale of 2011 when they cleared out their KL outlet. Got some darn tasty wines that day. Nathalie corkage was RM50 a bottle, but totally worth it for the excellent service and glassware. Was nice to get good value for corkage money compared to some of the standard crappy warehouse goblets and the "you got corkscrew, ah?" level of service for which substantial corkage sums get demanded as a matter of course at other eateries in the city. For the wine service alone at Nathalie's I would go back.

Chef for the night would be the jolly and prosperous looking Clara from Provence who made a great name for herself at the Yeast across town with excellent bistro style preparations and the most magnificent bread (though in fairness she diverted credit to her pastry chef who has opened a bread store somewhere else in the city the name of which escapes me - Huckleberry, it might have been). Doc Stephen said her cooking style is a bit more traditional than Mme Nathalie, which I took to mean we could expect a more earthy and rustic feel to the dinner. Works for me - who needs ostentation when we are trying to sing Le Marseilleise?

The six of us were parked thankfully out of the stare of the giant camel and we quckly settled into our evening. Doc Stephen had opened a Cattier pink fizz which he said was related to the second most best selling in the world, the  "Ace Of Spades" which comes in a gold coloured bottle and goes for E300 a pop. Story goes that when Jay Z fell out with the Cristal people, he stumbled on to the Armand de Brignac-produced Ace of Spades champagne and featured it in one of his videos. Armand de Brignac is part of the Cattier family group, which has been in the wine business since 1763 and makes its champagne in the village of Chigny-les-Roses. Following this, he bought the rights to the label from the US company that owned it and has been promoting it like crazy right now in night clubs around the world. 

Our Cattier Rose was very pleasant - good biscuit nose, chewy fruit and crisp firm bubbles on a sleek finish. Jay Z clearly knows his booze. Not sure if Bee Gurl likes a tipple. Have to find out. 

Three Finger Food
First up was a Blue, White and Red cocktail, served with a selection of Three Finger Food. The cocktail was Blue Cacao, Vodka, a sweet and sour mix of syrup water and lime juice and rimmed with coconut. Bit sweet but tasty - coconut was an interesting twist on salt around the rim. Never drunk a flag before.

The Three Finger food actually needed a fork and spoon - it was NZ Oyster in crunchy baked seasoning, Celeriac Soup with Truffle oil and some kind of flaky pastry vol-au-vent with toasted cheese that went straight into the maw. Tasty and quickly consumed with little ceremony. Hungry. 

The chicken Free Range Poultry and Foie Gras Terrine, Green Apple and Hazelnut Dressing was very peasant and pleasant, kind of straight from the farm kitchen and bursting with taste and texture. Very good. The apple and hazelnut made sense but got a bit lost in the acetic salad dressing that kind of overpowered them. Lovely colours on the plate from some red cabbage, rocket,  and purple flowertops.

Free Range Poultry and Foie Gras Terrine
We had it with Doc Stephen's Sauteurnes which ticked pretty much all of the boxes - balance, power, good sweetness and acid. Body felt a shade light, though perhaps this was infancy. Lovely mouthfeel, all apricots, honey and a shade of apple. Didn't get the name for this one. Definitely a natural with the FG - there really is nothing like a sweetie with a dollop of high end pate on a crusty hunk of bread. With butter. Those of us who are slaves to the tongue and belly prostrate ourselves to such things. Yes. We. Do.

Veal Blanquette
There was a choice of John Dory Grenobloise or the Veal Blanquette. We opted for the veal, Lenglui not being a big fan of the John Dory. Whilst we find veal normally tasteless, this one just leapt off the plate - meaty, textured, and drenched in a wonderful wine and mushroom sauce that made the whole thing sing. Totally perfect with both the 2012 Leflaive Clavoillon and the 2009 Lafon Volnay. The Leflaive on its own felt a bit off balance with the acidity fighting the fruit, but when paired with the food it just came into its own. Got fragrance, power, and complexity - nectarine and roses and a magnificent finish. And the Volnay was a total star - power, elegance, superb balance and body, peppered cherry and full fruit and probably at its peak. As said above, we had bought it for substantial discount at the Vinum Clearance sale of 2011 when it closed down its KL Office. Sometimes the wine gods smile. A very fine wine which we were very happy to have drunk and shared in the company of excellent food and good wino friends. 

John Dory Grenobloise
The Fourme D'Amert Cromesqui with Herbs Salad was a cheese croquette with a soft blue cheese centre and served with fresh sparky herbs which made for a charming prickly mouthful of crunch, goo and electric zip on the cheeks. Visually, Clara had speared it with what looked like a Musketeer's cutlass, which was quite cute. Lovely meld of salty cheese and potato. We were on the Doc's CdP by this time. Earthy, terroir driven, bit farmyard at first but evened out down the bottle and in the glass. Powerful, good chewy fruit, bold and firm tannins, silky finish. Big full bodied wine, but elegance as well. It was just a total pleasure to chug this baby. Beautiful as an end of the evening nightcap. 

Fourme D'Amert Cromesqui - speared. All for one...
I have no memory of the Crepe Aumoniere except for swallowing it very fast, which suggests it must have been pretty good. Or I was still hungry. We were all pretty merry by this time, though the Doc insisted on cracking his Tuscan Warrior. This was also a belting wine, coming across as a quite earthy and honest stand-up wine full of body and character - put me in mind of a lovable Gondolier rogue shouting the Italian odds at his competitors whilst romancing your girlfriend - irresistible not to like. Think I am getting to understand the Doc's taste in wine. 

Crepe Aumoniere
Looking at the photos, there was also the Eiffel Tower biscuit done like a tricouleur which was visually cute but a shade sweet on the tongue. Had forgotten all about this one - well squiffy by this time! It did help to soak up the booze, though. Never a bad thing. I have half a memory of coffee...

Tour D'Eiffel, er, biscuits
Will definitely have to get back on Nathalie's mailing list. The cuisine was just the right shade of rustic to lend an undertone of merriment to the somewhat austere restaurant ambience, though get a group of Malaysian foodies together with their wines and any austerity will get kicked out of the door double time. Noisy and full of life - I love it!

The ambience was lovely, the food was very good, the wine service excellent and the company stellar. Vive le Nathalie's, vive le France!

Cuisine Gourmet by Nathalie
Menara Taipan
Jalan Punchak (off Jalan P Ramlee)
50250 Kuala Lumpur
tel 03 2072 4452
email   contact@cuisinegourmetbynathalie.com

Come Celebrate the French National Day at Cuisine Gourmet by Nathalie!
Menu at RM185++

Blue, White and Red cocktail, served with a selection of Three Finger Food

Free Range Poultry and Foie Gras Terrine, Green Apple and Hazelnut Dressing

John Dory Grenobloise, Crushed Potatoes or
Veal Blanquette in two ways, Fragranced Pilaf Rice

Fourme D'Amert Cromesqui, Herbs Salad

Crepe Aumoniere, stuffed with Pears and Apples, Apple Tatin Ice Cream

Cattier Armand de Brignac NV
2012 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet "Clavoillon"
2009 Lafon Volnay
2009 Dom Du Pegau Cuvee Reservee CdP 
2007 Orma Bolgheri IGT, Toscana.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

G-Spot in Plaza Damas - well hit!

Shout out for a small eaterie in Plaza Damas called the G Spot. G is for George, according to the logo, and it is a tiny little hole in the wall place next to our favourite DVD store on the street level of the complex. It is in the middle of the same block as the TGIF. Lenglui and have been there a few times for lunch over the past few months and they are consistent in their quality and seem to be surviving as a result. Inside sits about ten, outside sits about...  ten. It is clean, breezy, and plays Jamie Cullum jazz. Very pleasant. 

We like their Fish and Chips hugely because you get two pieces, it is hot, the chips are light and crisp and crunchy without being dry, it comes with a slice of lemon and some zippy tartare mayonaisse, and best of all……  (drum roll)…..  real vinegar for the chips. Total taste of the UK here in KL. Was RM35 for two baskets of Fish and Chips - not unfair. The coffee looked good, too. 

Hope they survive. So hard to find decent fish and chips in KL. Many have come but have gone quite quickly. Hope the G-Spot survives. They've certainly hit it for us every time!

M05 Plaza Damas
Jalan Sri Hartamas 1
Sri Hartamas 50480 KL

Tel 03-6206 5612

Update February 2016 - they are now indeed closed. Dam shame.

Stoked - couple of clarifications

Got some fact clarifications from Stoked restaurateur Yin-How about my scribbles:
  • Chef Yao did not train in Japan. He was trained in Japanese and western cuisine both in Malaysia initially and overseas for the past 6 years.
  • The steak is aged Spanish but not exactly the same as the one used at Asador Etxebarri, just in case there is any confusion.
  • We were having problems with the AV system that night and could not play our usual selection of music which is jazz oriented. Sorted now!
So there we go - Bertha's beautiful Beef and Chef Yao's yummy creations in the superb sophisticated surroundings that is Stoked, and sans Kenny!! The Universe is back in its sublime perfection. Thanks Yin-How!

Note to self - There's a lesson here which you still have yet to learn after twenty plus years of copywriting - check your facts and perceptions because they may not be how you see them. Yin-How was wonderfully graceful in his gentle corrections, but the point remains he shouldn't have needed to make them in the first place. Didn't keep the ego in check here. Didn't live up to the Mission Statement. Not good. Look to reign it in in future. 

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