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.

Monday, November 30, 2015

IWFS at A Li Yaa - Serious Yum!

Restaurant Signage
November 28th 2015

Oh man, what a blow out these last four days. Thursday was A Li Yaa, Friday was clearing out a friend's wine fridge whilst feasting on roast duck and pork, Saturday was Old World New World at the Doubletree and Sunday saw us at Dengkil for our Tai Chi sifu's birthday. Belly feels totally busted and a bit dizzy from lack of solid sleep. Bit creasy in the gut as well, lot of different wines and acidities. And it ain't over - got a requiem house party for our Dr Gan tonight at the family home, though hopefully will be less boozy than these last beanos. Phoooooo. [sidenote - it was less boozy - one bottle covered a table of eight and one glass for Gan on the Prayer Table - cheers Doc.]

Not sure if all will get reported, but we should start at the beginning. A LI YAA has become one of the leading restaurants in KL for Sri Lankan cuisine. It has recently undergone both renovation and expansion and now sports a spanky black and white interior punctuated by toned photo prints to add atmosphere. Those who know their restaurant history would remember it as the Aria and one of the chain of eateries operated by the Bangkung Boys but which presumably did not fit with long term plans. Some conversation on the night seemed to suggest it had been taken over as a hobby project by one of the local gourmands to entertain his friends, though naturally this would be hearsay and not for present reporting. Will look to firm this up soonest.

A Li Yaa interior
Doc Rajan and Doc Bachan had been championing the A Li Yaa for some time at IWFS Committee and ended up negotiating a very good deal with the restaurant for an event. Docs Rajan and Stephen and not Doc May had found some very tasty wines for matching and suddenly we had a very attractive wine dinner at a very affordable RM238 all in. Some still felt it was a bit stiff and might be a tough sell, but response was brisk and we even had a waiting list at the end. It was billed as a "Masterclass" in Sri Lankan cuisine with an appearance by guest chef and food writer Chef Sapna Anand who would helm the kitchen for the night and serve up the menu that the restaurant offered for the recent Malaysian International Gourmet Festival. Also, parking would be free around the Plaza Damansara after 7pm. So goes the theory...

As said, the IWFS A Li Yaa had proved surprising in its take up by the members and a full house of 48 was for some reason quickly absorbed. Normally our Indian cuisine events prove a tough sell but this one delightfully surprised on the upside. It might have been the price point coupled with some lovely wines and the prospect of a Master chef of Sinhalese cuisine in the kitchen. Or more likely all of these. It seems the restaurant name actually means "elephant" in the Sinhalese language, which seemed quite apt for Malaysia since there are often many of them in any one room. Though on the night I did not see many. Perhaps they were all hiding. If so, they were very good at it. 

It was a wet Thursday evening of rain and diverted roads that marked the start of the night which did little to set a friendly mood, having taken near on an hour to cover what would usually take fifteen minutes. This was thanks to a serious diversion consequent on roadworks closing off the Jalan Johar turnoff which is our main artery to the Plaza Damansara. These closures may be announced, but we rarely get such memos. It was dismal slow driving in the incessant soul sapping rain. The city is really like a total building site and pretty much has been for the last twenty years. Like the rain, it just never seems to stop, with some other project always being necessitated by progress. Like living in an eternal state of roadworks. 

John and Pushpa
I dropped Lenglui at the restaurant door and scuttled off to illegally park at the other end of the Plaza Damansara on the main road. Of late, parking has become a real bear in this area - so many food outlets and most of them extremely well patronised. Time was there was no problem finding a space - clearly the bars and restaurants here are doing all right. Walking along the row of pubs and eateries proved this so, with lots of expat and young enterpreneur types parked with beer and snacks. And smoking. Ahhhhh…. that explains it - most of the outlets here are open air style and people still need a smoke with a beer. Me? No - not for ten years and counting. 

Having umbrella-ed my way back to the A Li Yaa I got directed to the upstairs where the dinner was to take place. I remember once having an Austrian wine tasting and an Italian G D Vajra tasting in this section when it was the Aria. At that time it was bright and somewhat gay, with daylight streaming through curtained windows. Now it looked like the Batcave, all shadow and rock and a long narrow dimly lit tunnel leading to the toilets and kitchen. There was an open section to the kitchen which would later get utilised for a souffle like dessert but for the moment it was closed off. There was a separate room into which everyone had been ushered to sup the fizz and mingle prior to the eagerly awaited chow down. As ever, the members refuse to go deep into such rooms, preferring to mob around the door and the bar where the fizz was being poured. Experienced IWFS drinkers know that the fizz rarely makes it past the first three rows of thirsty hordes. I parked in the second row, being unable to go deeper due to the, er, third row being in the way...

Our fizz time seemed to go quite quickly but pleasantly with a delightfully perfumed prosecco that was light and fluffy and had a charming gaiety about it. My note says it was a bit like drinking pillows that had been fragranced with Turkish Delight. Not one that had too much complexity about it, but when you are in need of cheer after an hour on the awful roads it was excellent. It was also being served with some pretty fierce appetizers! There was a mutton kind of thing with hot sauce alongside some tortilla chicken wrap. Both were very good with the fizz, letting the bubbles soothe the hot pain that the food was inflicting on the tastebuds.

We were called to order and shepherded back into the Batcave, which would prove dark and hot and not really geared to take large numbers. The seating was eight tables of six people each, and two of these tables were parked at the other end of the long narrow bar that took up half the width of the room. People were shoehorned into their seats to leave just enough room for the waiting staff to squeeze through with the courses and the wine. 

The narrow hard walls made for reverberating conversation that made hearing what was being said across the table virtually impossible for the borderline deaf like myself. And trying to get up and say hello to neighbours was not initially possible - we were all trapped in our seats in this echo chamber of a room. The venue may have a future as a recording studio, but as a restaurant it needs sound absorbing drapes or some sound traps to disrupt the echo and reverb. Yes, I know my audio.

David got the evening underway with Thank Yous to those involved in putting the evening together. He also brought out Chef Sapna to talk a little about the food. Seems Chef is an accomplished graduate from Le Cordon Bleu Bangkok and is acclaimed for her private dinners with ‘My Test Kitchen’ sessions. She has also authored the cookbook ‘New Indian Kitchen’ and, in collaboration with A Li Yaa, presented the 7- course specially crafted dinner that would take us through a variety of authentic and titillating flavours presented in a modern style. She spoke well and quickly and got out of the way to let Rajan talk about the wines. He quickly got drowned out by the reverberating conversation and moved swiftly to a close to save his voice. Smart move.

The wine was pretty fast in getting poured though the food felt a bit slow in getting from kitchen to the table. Though once it did start coming it all came out pretty much at the same time - kudos to the kitchen for getting this right. 

Our first white wine was the Wolftrap, a South African Viogner blend of Viogner, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc which gave the wine a crunchy Rhone like texture. Like the Prosecco, the Wolftrap had a floral nose, with a firm and weighty punch in the mouth and a whipcrack salty lash across the tongue and cheeks. 

The Vermicelli Crusted Fish Cake, er, Croquette
It was being matched with the Vermicelli Fish Croquette, which was essentially a cold yet crunchy fishcake which made for a pleasantly solid bite of potato through which the wine melted into clean sweet freedom. Coating the croquette with vermicelli and deep frying made for a wonderfully crispy bite, and the smooth filling contrasted well - it felt like eating crusty mashed potato mixed with lots of fishy flakes. The side of vegetables added a lemongrass vinaigrette kick which was intensified by what felt like pops of pomegranete - nice and zingy on the tongue. 

Prawn and the excellent Rasam
The whole was total bliss - crusty crunch carbo with seafood smooth set against zing and lemon. And nicely underseasoned, which would become a characteristic touch all night. I grew up on fishcake and chips as a kid and this was a brilliant reminder of some of the best from that time though with the addition of the superb vermicelli crunch. Great starter. And an intelligent choice to pair with something as low to mid weighty as the Wolftrap - as the Doc's wine notes said, a lovely food wine that indeed partnered without masking the food. 

Next out was the Prawn and Rasam which was oh so good. The Rasam I get in the food stalls is usually a complete assault of salt which rips the tongue and cheeks to shreds whilst getting the blood pressure to pop off the mercury scale. This one retained the salt but in far less quantity so that the spice could actually be tasted. Full marks on this one. The remains of the Wolftrap didn't really do much to aid the Rasam but it cut the excellent and juicy prawn a treat.

The Gisselbrecht Riesling came out quickly and proved to be a belter - sleek texture, with crisp lemons and laid back Granny Smith apple fruit that wedded to produce a frisky finish. For me it came across as more Sauvignon Blanc than Riesling, though the characteristic crisp sweetness kept it within the frame. It was an excellent match to counteract the afterburn and afterburp of the remains of the Rasam. Got the air moving well, acting as kind of like an Alka Seltzer digestif for this aspect of the Sri Lankan cuisine. 

Stuffed Chili Crab with Pepper Coriander Crust
The Chili Crab was excellent. Perhaps a shade oversalted, yet so, so fresh with a chili nip, a cilantro zip and a cardomom pod pop. The Riesling proved a perfect match - the crab cut the acidity so sweetly whilst letting the chili zap the tongue with a surefire but mellowed hit. Got lychee and longan and crunchy tropical fruit with the food. This was total love at first bite and sip - double star excellent. 

String Hoppers with Sea Bass
The Sea Bass came out swimming in a bowl of deliciously spiced soup that was like a liquid kurma that had been lashed with butter creamy oil and delicately ground fresh spices. I was hoping for some crusty French bread to help soak the sucker up but no such luck - that would have been brilliant. There were lots of tastes and textures with this one. The fish I found a shade dry and the onions somewhat overcaramelised whilst the string hopper kothu (rice flour noodles) leaned a bit toward the stodgy. It all ended up as kind of a sweet butter smooth gunge with a pepper fire over a firm dry fish. Odd but interesting mouth sensations with this one. 

It was being paired with the Wooing Tree Beetlejuice Pinot which unusually proved somewhat forgettable on this showing. The Beetlejuice has shone at previous IWFS outings with Nyonya style food, but for some reason didn't quite make it to the notebook. It must have been good - perhaps a bit overpowered by the combo of intermingling tastes and textures of the fish and rendered somewhat forgettable to me. It was clearly drinkable because it got swept away. Just could not stand up to the food. I will have to look for and crack a bottle to check.

Cylone Lamb with Lemon Rice - yum
The Lamb was next and the accompanying rice would prove lovely with its big nosewhack of lemon and cilantro. I got light textured grains in combo with a kind of muruku spicy crunch and total masala spice blast across the roof. The Cylone lamb gravy was perfect - smooth yet firm and not overpowering with the spice. Together the lamb and rice became a filling clean mouthful of wonderful spice, taste and texture. Magnificent. 

Paired with the Belleruche, again the wine seemed to fade into submission. A tasty enough Cotes du Rhone on its own, it seemed to lose its character in the face of the tastes and textures of this amazing lamb and rice. A good partner but somehow not really bringing anything memorable to the table. I have had the Bellercuche on a previous occasion with a solid beef rendang and it was delightful in rendering the meat fibres into a decent spicy chew whilst adding a hit of firm fruit. Not tonight. Perhaps there is a context missing here - the senses had been pretty battered with such a massive array of sensations so much so that something somewhere had to give. At least neither red was a tongue ripping tannic monster that would have stunned an elephant. So on this level the matches were good. 

Orange Blossom Paysam with Rose Ice Cream - hmmm...
The Ice Cream dessert had that whiffy rosepetal sicky cream taste that somehow sets my throat and tongue on edge. Too much delicate perfume in the mouth for me with this style - puts me in mind of a harem for some reason, all stinky sweet perfume and pastel face cake powder that feels somehow unmanly and not for consumption. Must be just me - others sucked the thing down without a second breath. Not that I have ever visited a harem. That I can remember. Change the subject. We also got given some kind of coconut drink to wash the thing down and which I remember as being more perfume in the mouth. Mine got left on the table. 

One of the Appam - I stole two.
We got treated by the restaurant to some late night Appam, an Indian crepe made fresh and hot in the pan and which was brilliantly tasty - light coconut, crisp and crunchy skin with an egg souffle centre that slipped down without a second thought. Wonderful texture, nice salt and sweet combo. A great way to end the evening.

Doc Su Kim, Doc Stephen, Chef Sapna, Chef David Morris and Michelle Morris
Chef came out at the end to get thanked by David and said a few words. One of our guests on the night was Chef David Morris who oversees the Cordon Bleu school at Sunway, so both he and chef are alumni. He said Chef Sapna really rocked the kitchen on the night. Absolutely. 

In all, a pretty good wine dinner. The food was well on point, with brilliant spicy tastes across a range of textures and combinations. The whites and pairing were excellent, though for some reason the reds fell a bit flat. The venue was a bit dark and dim and darn noisy thanks to hard walls and low ceilings and its narrow echo chamber of a room. Parking was not so easy, and neither was getting there.

I saw an elephant! It was Pink! 
Once the roads are sorted, I would definitely go back - the food was delightful and well worth the car parking pain. In fairness, the regular menu looks very different from the MIGF but the members in the know had already said that this was one event not to miss. The food is that good. Not sure what is the corkage policy is or the calibre of the wine list. But no matter, just bring your own and negotiate. As said, the only downside is the parking - it has got grim with distances between park up and destination getting longer. Next time maybe just take the Uber. Or a taxi, if you can get one. And who knows where you live and wants to go to there. And which doesn't smell cheesy. And whose driver doesn't open his door and hawk. And who will go by the meter. Haven't taken one for years. Good luck!

Who needs elephants? 
A Li Yaa Island and Restaurant Bar
Plaza Damansara
48 G&M Jalan Medan Setia 2
Bukit Damansara
54090 Kuala Lumpur
Tel +603 2092 5378

THE MENU

Cocktail Canap├ęs
Lamb cutlet & Chicken Tortilla wrap
murukku & cashew nut  
Prosecco Villa Sandi

Starter
VERMICELLI CRUSTED FISH CROQUETTES TAMARIND AND JAGGERY COULIS CORIANDER PESTO
Wolftrap Viognier/Chenin Blanc/Grenache Blanc 2013

Soup
PRAWN RASAM SHOT WITH PAN GRILLED PRAWN AND MUSTARD

Main Course I
STUFFED CHILLI CRAB WITH PEPPER CORIANDER CRUST, CARROT COCONUT SAMBOL, GREEN PEA 
Gisselbrect Riesling 2013

Main Course II
STRING HOPPERS WITH GRILLED SEA BASS
SMOKED EGGPLANT MOJU AND SAFFRON STEW
Wooing Tree Beetlejuice 2012

Main Course III
CYLONE LAMB WITH LEMON RICE AND CRISPYOKRA
M Chapoutier Belleruche

Dessert
ORANGE BLOSSOM PAYSAM WITH ROSE ICECREAM
AND CRUSHED PISTACHIO

THE WINES
Prosecco Villa Sandi NV
Prosecco has a quality revival on and this sparkling wine is part of that. It is crafted in a gently sparkling and off-dry style. Very pale in colour, with floral and citrus fragrances. The wine is crisp and clean with small bubbles and aromas of pear and honeydew melon. The fruit and freshness will carry the cuisine and open the evening with lingering bubbles

Wolftrap Viognier/Chenin Blanc/Grenache Blanc 2013
This South African blend draws from older Chenin Blanc and adds Rhone aromatics with the perfumed Viognier and more weighty Grenache Blanc. This drink-now wine has sweetness and hints of lemon zest in a balanced, fresh combination .It should partner spices without masking the flavours. From Boekenhoutskloof, Platters South Africa Winery of the Year 2012.

Gisselbrect Riesling 2013
This elegant wine from a long established family has won gold medals at Alsace and Macon major wine shows. Like wine judges we will enjoy fruit, acidity and a length greater than one expects from some other examples of this noble variety. Alsace Riesling has its own individual style, richer and more generous than those made in Germany. This is made possible by the region's sunny, dry mesoclimate and the shelter provided by the Vosges Mountains. The family winery produces a fine example here.

Wooing Tree Beetlejuice 2012
Don't call me Jumbo...
Don’t be put off by the memorable labelling; named after the critically endangered Cromwell Chafer Beetle, which is found in only one place in the world, Cromwell,Otago. The 81 hectare site has now been set aside as the Cromwell Chafer Beetle Nature Reserve to monitor and protect their habitat.
Ripe hand-picked fruit, gentle winemaking and maturation in French oak, 27% new, have resulted in a very approachable wine, with aromas of ripe cherries, raspberries and black plums .It has,a rich and smooth palate with fine grainy tannins to match the fruit with some savouriness after a couple of years in bottle. This vintage won Air New Zealand Wine Show Gold.

M Chapoutier Belleruche  
Michel Chapoutier’s team craft an accessible Rhone blend which pairs with spices due to the fruit and peppery notes of component grapes of Syrah and Grenache. Aromas of red fruits (mainly morello cherries) and spices such as pepper and anise are integrated in this fruity, well-structured Cote de Rhone.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

John Doe at Stoked - seriously excellent!


November 1st 2015

Must say I thoroughly enjoyed this one - excellent food and wines and a great atmosphere amongst all the diners on the night.

It all started with an email from Yin-How saying he had met some chaps in the UK whilst in the process of buying his Bertha oven for Stoked. They run the John Doe restaurant in Notting Hill London where they have their own Bertha and it all ended with them agreeing to come to Stoked to cook for a week. Hence the concept of the Pop Up Restaurant - the John Doe would "pop up" in Kuala Lumpur with chefs bringing their meat and veg direct from the London suppliers to feed the thronging hordes. Yin-How would match the wines for those keen to imbibe.

For me it was a no brainer - top class British restaurant with chefs expert in the Bertha grill bringing British ingredients. And some stunning looking wines at not unfair prices. Though Lenglui and others were a bit apprehensive at some of the proposals on the menu - things like Duck Hearts and Venison drew comments of Donald and Bambi and were felt to be not quite to everyone's taste and palate. O Walter Disney, the shadows you cast….  Seems Lenglui was not alone in preferring to avoid consuming Bambi's mother (or father) as Yin-How came back quickly with alternatives. Everyone was happier at this. Eventually got seven signed up with five of us ready to brave the hearts and bite the Bambi.  

Vivien and Barry
John Doe itself opened in October 2014 by Chefs Paul Fox and Mark Blatchford on the Golborne Road in Notting Hill, London and quickly gained critical acclaim from the foodie press. The website (www.johndoerestaurants.com) says the restaurant concept seeks to "shun the stuffy red leather Gentleman's Club cliche of game, while [seeking] to serve traditional dishes in a contemporary and accessible way." Both chefs have impressive CVs, with extensive experience in cuisine drawn from a wide range of positions. The restaurant prides itself on being at the forefront of wood and charcoal cooking in the UK and focuses on creating dishes built around Wild British game produce (ie venison and pheasant) and using sustainable British charcoal and wood. Seems a clear influence from Etxebarri in San Sebastian here. Why it is called John Doe is not clear and was not explained along the way. There is also a John Doe in New York, though presumably this is a separate operation as no connection between the two seemed evident.

Brian and Reto
The hordes did indeed throng. Our night was jam packed with nary a seat visible and everyone in a clear mood to enjoy. Lot of IWFS members here on the night who sensibly brought their own fizz to start the night - it did cross my mind to bring but got forgot in the last minute rush to get ready. Getting senile. So it goes. I had had Yin-How calling me to advise that chefs were not happy with the way that the hearts and venison had acclimated to the Malaysian humidity and had opted not to prepare and serve it. Instead we could choose either Bone Marrow or Chicken Sate for entree and Angus Beef or Pork Chop for main. The wines were screaming "beef" so my choices were determined - marrow and beef.


One of our party didn't really know the food and opted to follow my choices, the seeming reasoning being that I was "the expert" and that my choices should be sound. Hmmm….  not quite sure about this - my tastes are my tastes and it somehow doesn't feel right that they should be adopted simply because I am seen to have more food and wine experience. It kind of feels I might be held to blame if the food is not to one's personal taste. Additionally, we each of us have varying degrees of adventure in our food choices which can further be influenced by mood and gastric state. I think I'm trying to say there is always a context within which our choices are made. We are all on our individual food odysseys and need to bring our own journeys to bear both when and whether to choose to follow what others may opt for. I can always give my reasons for my choices, but it woud send everyone to sleep. No one likes a Foodiebore. Except maybe another Foodiebore

It would turn out that our table friend did indeed not like the Bone Marrow, even though for me it was darn outstanding. There you go - live and learn. Think I ended up stealing it from the plate. Along with the bread. Waste not....

We had bowls of bread on the table and these got consumed quite quickly with some truffle butter, er, truffled for the occasion. The bread felt a bit dusty and dry, somewhat ashen on this occasion. Not sure if it was baked on the grill but that might explain it. So it goes.

Barry and Kelvin
The first wine was proving very pleasant, zingy acidity and excellent balance, with orange and peach looming large in the fruit section leading to a lengthy sleek and clean finish.  The Heretiers Lafon is one of Vintry's standby wines which we sometimes pick up at the sales and it proved a most excellent partner to the leek.

First course of leek looked pretty on the plate and the wood clearly infused into the dish with a strong carbon zap on the tongue. It was soft and crunchy and a total delight on the teeth. I love that slight stringy chew as the fibers get stuck on the gums and the sweet vegetable gives up its goodness to the tongue. I seemed to get a baked bean tomato sauce feel on the tarragon and lentil sides along with a slight hit of pepper and oil. 

Ash Roasted Leeks
The second wine (Trimbach Pinot Gris from the Alsace) was like a grenade in the cheeks, total fruit bomb of peaches and nectarines exploding and countered by a honeyed rosehip note and a scorching banana finish. Very full body and very tasty, though perhaps a shade unctuous for longer term quaffing. 

Matching with the Octopus made good sense, with the chewy saltine tentacle deftly undercutting the wine's weight and fire and softening the peach mouth and finish. The octopus itself was quite firm on the bite, with lovely char from the grill and sweet from the aioli. Chickpea made sense to give a fibrous backing, though it felt that the herb adds got a bit lost in the mix. The aioli was the genius that brought the ensemble into focus, lubricating both octopus and chickpea into a delightful texture that satisfied both tongue and belly with deft and heft. Excellent match between wine and food. 

Roasted Cornish Octopus
Everyone was starting to warm up as the CdP came to the table. It was an immediate crowd pleaser which everyone supped with so much deep joy that a bottle got bought to extend the pleasure. It was a darling - wonderful grip on the roof of the mouth. Big and lush, voluptuously chewy dark sweet fruit, with everything in wonderful mid weight balance. Bramble and berries on the nose, all frisky and deep forest fresh. A lovely, lovely wine. 

The bone marrow came served in its hunk of bone. Previous bone marrow dishes I have been served have been "handled" in the sense that the marrow seemed to have been scooped out and repacked in the bone. This one was a solid chunk of lardo- like goo that eventually tumbled out onto the plate with a single swift dig of the fork. It had a light though fatty gelatin-like texture with a taste beyond words save to say that I hope to return in any future life as a butcher's dog. Yes. Get three Big Woofs for this dish. Amazing taste and texture, like a firm lump of dripping lard laced with Bovril. Certainly doubt you could ever get this anywhere in Malaysia, and a masterstroke to serve with the bone dry toast. One for the ages. 

The amazing Bone Marrow - woofwoofwoof!
Another masterstroke to serve it with a CdP - the firm tannins slashed through the Marrow like a steel samurai which supercharged the fruit and gave a tangerine and wild herb hit that took the whole ensemble straight to vinous church - slight citrus zap and mid weight full dark fruit paired with the boney gunk and bread giving a total beyond words boom in the cheeks. Brilliant match. 

The next dish we found a bit strange both in taste and location within the menu. The coal baked crab claws is on the John Doe menu in London so it is "British" in that sense. But the presentation and taste had clear elements of Thai, Indian and Malay. We got sambal, spice, santan and satay sauce - and o so beautifully sweet and soft crab meat. The ensemble felt a bit on the dry side which was exacerbated by the addition of chopped fried garlic which added some useful texture and heat. Consuming it with the CdP was not really a match - the slight fire in the dish fed the slight fire in the wine. The result was that it all felt a bit confused; the dish was excellently prepared and tasted really good, but we would expect to get it in a Thai/Indian/Malay kind of environment rather than a British eaterie. It was very good to eat, but we got a bit confused with the context.

Crab Claws
I think perhaps the kitchen was in a no-win. From a degustation perspective the crab would clearly offer good relief to the palate to come between the marrow and the main. Yet from a wine match perspective it should have come after (or even before) the Octopus. Indeed, an earlier menu did have it after the Octopus. The dish is also quite oriental in taste and texture, and perhaps for it to come earlier would have whacked the tastebuds into pepper oblivion so that appreciating the wine pairings would become practically impossible. There was also the menu change necessitated by the chefs deciding not to go ahead with the Duck Hearts which would also help swing the balance. Hobson's choice, choose the option that generates less damage. Fair enough. Have to find out what the thinking was here.

The Brunello was magnificent. Full in the mouth, hitting the entire surface with a massive whack of ripe dark plum and damson. Not over tannic, Very sleek finish, and pleasantly long and full, got a hit of gunmetal carbide and a slight liquorice gaaaack on the finish - that shock of something perhaps somewhat off somewhere. Might have been the tannin hitting the teeth and taking some enamel from them. Quite a masculine wine, though one felt perhaps there was a gentlemen hiding somewhere underneath the macho exterior.

The magnificent Scottish Angus Wagyu Beef
The beef was little short of totally wonderful - the meat was perfect in its tenderness, the char had smoke and ash, a little hint of salt and magnificent underseasoned jus. It got served in slices with a side of gravy. One of the absolute best chunks of meat to ever get chewed by these teeth. Perfect char, perfect meat, perfectly prepared - excellent, excellent, excellent. My only complaint was that there was not enough of it - we only got about three slices each when the whole side of the Angus would not have been enough. It also took the gaaack off the Brunello to bring the wine into excellent focus. Magnificent dish and pairing. 

Chocolate Terrine
For once I remembered the dessert, despite a distracting glass of Nikka whiskey from David. Full salty chocolate that filled the senses and coated the cheeks with total cocoa. The pistachio got swamped by the total envelopment that this small chunk of chocolate did to everything. Smooth silken cocoa throat that brought this magnificent evening to a perfect close. 

What an absolutely wonderful evening. Food, wines, people, wandering the tables saying hello, lots of new memories. And no Kenny G music. The wine flowed, the fellowship rang, the friends laughed and the good time was had by all. Total Brahma, as my old guitar oppo Stuart might say (he passed five years ago, cancer). Though I did need a marmite sandwich and a can of cold Soda water to settle the growls before bed. Not quite enough food to soak up the wine. Had a brief word with Chef Mark who was clearly having a great time in Kuala Lumpur. He confirmed that the hearts and venison were a bit not right and better to let them go. He also shared that much of the veggie and sides were Malaysian sourced. Be darned difficult to get them through customs - always fear of a hidden nasty getting past and infecting the local produce. Fair enough. Seems also that Chef Paul was apparently a bit under the weather and not on duty that evening - KL climate can do that to the new visitor, especially if he had been broiling in the heat of a KL kitchen. Got to keep hydrated with the 100 Plus. Hopefully we will see a return of John Doe to Malaysia in the near future. The concept was clearly a tremendous success given all the positive comments I heard from the assembled. 

David, Yin-How, a pooped Chef Mark and a happy Death Metal wannabee
Or can also try and persuade Yin-How to persuade his friend Victor Arguinzoniz, chef and owner of Etxebarri to do a Pop Up of their own. Absolute wow if that could happen. 

But the whiskey was a definite mistake - only got two hours sleep as a result and was Walking Dead Voodoo Zombie for the following day. The price I pay for the liquid kiss of the Lady Firewater and mixing the grape and grain. Normally I know better and can resist, but that extra bottle of the CdP must have lowered the resistance and increased the invincibility quotient. We love the booze, but we sometimes forget that the booze loves no-one. As Christopher Hitchens once said, alcohol can be a great friend but a terrible master. Got that one right. Amen, and cheers!!

Y'all come back now, hear?

STOKED X JOHN DOE 

A Pop-Up Dining Experience
29th October till 1st November 2015 

Dinner Menu

Ash Roasted Leeks
with Lentils and Tarragon Dressing
Heritiers Lafon Milly Lamartine 2013 (Macon, Burgundy)

Grilled Cornish Octopus
with Chickpeas, Paprika and Aioli
Domaine Trimbach Pinot Gris 2012 (Alsace, France)

Roasted Bone Marrow
with Toast and Parsley Salad
- or -
Brined Chicken Sate
with Wood-Roasted Peanuts and Crisp Salad
Domaine Vieux Telegraphe Telegramme Chateauneuf du Pape 2012 (Rhone, France)

Coal-Baked Crab Claws
with Keralan Curry Sauce, Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Scottish Highland Wagyu Angus Chuck Steak
- or -
Berkshire Pork Chop
with Salsa Verde
Tenuta Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2009 (Tuscany, Italy)

Chocolate Terrine
with Roasted Pistachios

Coffee or Tea
Petit Fours
RM280 nett per pax 
RM398 nett (with wine pairing) per pax