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, October 25, 2017

IWFS at SupperClub@TREC - excellent!

16th October 2017 - What a great evening. Fantastically prepared French cuisine and matched with some excellent wines from the Lyonnaise. Excellent value too. This was also one where the cuisine improved from the initial food tasting at the restaurant. Well worth a visit. 

Specially prepared menu for IWFS - class!
This one came about as a result of Michelle from AsiaEuro Wines saying that the Asian Principal for M. Chapoutier Wines Edouard Payot would be in town to share some knowledge and would IWFS KL be interested in an exclusive get together? The wines would be carefully selected by Edouard to ensure that the food/wine pairing would be superb. Committee deliberated and when the magic words "AsiaEuro and M Chapoutier are generously subsidising the cost of the 6 high-end wines from M.Chapoutier for this event" were shared the deal was sealed. 

Michelle had also suggested the restaurant for the event - a Modern European outlet called the SupperClub KL @ TREC. This had been hailed as KL's Latest Entertainment and F&B Hangout which is located next to RSGC Golf Course along Jalan Tun Razak. TREC apparently stands for Taste • Relish • Experience • Celebrate and a visit there reveals that there are indeed many outlets at TREC to do all four. One of our friends insists on calling it SHREK and we don't have the heart to persuade her differently. 

The SupperClub KL is an upscale French Gastrobar and restaurant operated by experienced restaurateur Sebastian Haegal, who also operated the Flam's outlet on Jalan Telawi in Bangsar. The blurb has it as an "urban chic space features a large bar, dining lounge, a boudoir and outdoor terrace. Later in the night, it transforms into a swanky nightclub."  IWFS Committee went for a food tasting at the SupperClub and brought some tasty wines to chug and sip (corkage for which got generlously waived) to confirm the quality and were suitably impressed. Chef is Romaine Fabre, a Frenchman hailing from the prestigious Culinary Institute Paul Bocuse in Lyon. Romaine had worked in various Michelin star establishments in France and Switzerand, before coming to Malaysia and landing a gig at a French eaterie in Ipoh a couple of years back. All systems were go. 

Lenglui with, er, lengluis
Was a bit of a struggle to get there - Tun Razak at 7pm can be a bear with traffic trying to turn from Bukit Bintang. So either way you get backlogged. Once on the particular stretch, though, stay on the inside and look for the sign. Parking is good and plentiful, though much of the nearer spaces are taken up with reserved signs and fierce admonitions of threatened clamping if you park there before 9pm. 

On first entry, it is kind of New York night club dark and atmospheric and neon blue, but the dining area is sufficiently well lit to see the food and company. Low level music made for ease of conversation, as did islands of bar tables and stools which doubled for both drinks and dining. But the neon blue light on the porcelain in the washrooms was a bit too trippy for me. And I have never quite got comfortable with young smiling men in dimly lit bathrooms turning on taps and handing out towels. Time for some wine. 

This was the Belleruche CdR Blanc, and a very friendly and fruity blend of various grapes that produced a light and crisp sip that went down most easily. Perfect for aperitif and icebreaking and catching up with everyone. It seemed to be getting everyone well in the mood to enjoy the night. Always a good sign. Due to the traffic, we got there a bit late so I missed the bruschetta and canape things. Never mind, less is sometimes a good thing. We had had them at the food tasting.

Got sat and President David did the traditional thanks to all involved in the organisation of the dinner. This one was pretty much all May Peng, though the Money had taken over the bookings side during my absence. He introduced Michelle from AsiaEuro and invited Edouard to say a few things about the wines and then it was heads down and here we go.

The second wine was the Crozes Hermitage “Les Meysonniers” white which, in contrast to the first, was more full bodied and a bit chewy in the mouth. Probably the Marsanne grape which I always find a bit over medium in body and somewhat oily. Though this expression showed more suppleness and a leaner body than previously experienced. 

It was being paired with the Oyster dish, and the oyster with coconut was a revelation, the sweet flakes sending the oyster into a grainy chewy type experience. The caviar gave an extra hit of salt whils the cucumber lent soft crunch. A very good ensemble. I have no note on the pairing.

Oyster and Coconut - brilliant
The third wine was the Hermitage Chante Alouette Blanc, 2013 and everyone went raving nuts over it. I was struggling to see why, but figured what the heck and ended up buying two bottles anyway. Lenglui liked it so what to do? Got a nose of almonds, rich chewy mouth, honey, chestnuts, cinnamon syrup feel. 

The egg dish was excellent. The soup was light and delicate, with a lot clean tasting fresh things going on. The touch of spinach elevated the cauliflower soup to something beyond its central taste. But it was the bread that really knocked the sucker out of the park. Crunch, carbo, salt and gluten. Triple yum. 

The fusion of cream, vegetable, egg and truffle resulted in a texturally pleasing goo which cut the wine magnificently. It took some of the tang and oil off and released almond and persimmon notes. Okay, maybe there was something in the wine I missed.

Cauliflower Soup with Poached Egg - magnificent
Around this time, I noted the literal translation of the third wine was "singing chicken" and recalled the French round song "Alouette, gentil alouette" I learnt in the Infants School (or Kindergarten as we would now know it). When sharing this with the Money, she flatly refused to believe there was such a song, even in the face of confirmation by her Lengjai, and went straight to President David insisting on a performance by me. Which seemed to hit a few memory spots of the older members who equally recalled singing it in younger days. Edouard refused to join the song, claiming he would prefer to dance naked on tables rather than sing. Handsome man that he is, I guess some of the ladies present might have enjoyed that. Maybe some of the men too...

The fourth wine was the Crozes Hermitage Les Meysonnier Rouge 2014 which gave off a bramble and forest berries nose and, for me, an initial odd salt and chemical taste blended with young cherries. May have been a bit of bottle stink or age. Either that or I was getting drunk. Probably somewhere between the two. The wine got better down the glass and bottle; medium body, a bit tight and lean, though in good balance, with fragrance and fire though a hint of blowsy. Or maybe I was just getting more drunk. Seem to recall someone saying they couldn't decide whether it was more Rhone-ish or Lyonaisse. I couldn't tell - the chemical hit had suggested Fukushima more than anything. And these things sometimes need context and get sipped against other expressions of the region. I would happily give a view at another time with other bottles on the table. On someone elses tab. Naturally. 

We got hit with an extra complimentary dish by the chef who served up his Risotto. There were only four spoonfuls per plate but it was full on magical - a chicken stock, salt and cheesy whack of rice and gunk in the belly that hits as only solid Risotto can. Outstanding dish. 

I had opted for the Beef Rossini which was very good. Top end tender beef perfectly seared and full of taste, rich Foie Gras, Robuchon buttery mash, wickedly excellent beefy jus, with the mushroom and truffle giving that spot on hint of earth. A total blast of texture and taste heaven and oh so good in the mouth and belly. What stopped all of this being excellent was the fact that mine and others on the table had clearly and unfortunately spent a bit too long waiting to get served and as a result came out a bit cold. Had it been served on hot plates to keep the food warm, it would have been contending for dish of the year and darned excellent. There we go - kitchen is stressed trying to chuck out the food. Dessert would also prove slow, though no one seemed to complain too much about it. Especially when the wines were still getting poured. 

Beef Rossini - if hot, would have been excellent
Wine number 5 was the big boy Chateauneuf du Pape La Bernardine 2014 and naturally went belter with the beef. Initially a lot of pepper and (for some reason) chili on the back of the throat and tongue sides and a bit lighter in texture than expected. When sipped with the jus, the peppered fruit got sweetened and gave off a rich and chewy dark spice plum feel. It also got younger with the food, more lively and zip zap in the finish. Lovely combo. The CdP is drinking nicely and has probably got a couple of years for the sweetness to mellow into something less sugar. Though I do prefer my CdP with a bit more fullness in the body. Anything less than medium in a CdP feels wimpy, non?

The Muscat was tasty in a crispy, sugary, grapey kind of way, though would probably have done better as an aperitif rather than a dessert - not enough whack or texture for this late in the evening. Still, didn't stop me from pinching the bottle and refilling the table glasses. Myself included. Of course. When the dessert finally came, it was a tasty low sugar match with loads of zingy strawberry fruit and biscuit crunch. The sugar in the wine got cut nicely by the zippy bite of the fruit and the cream came in to soften and bring balance to all. In restrospect, the wine was extraneous - coffee would have been perfect. 

Dessert - delightful
The service at SupperClub was very good, better than many alleged high end operations in the city Folded napkins on returns to the seat, wines poured well and in correct glasses, all plates at the table came out together (most of the time, a couple of odd blips in the middle), unobtrusive removals. Felt very well trained and professional. Kudos. Hope they can keep the staff. 

As I write this nearly two weeks after the event, I am still wondering how a young French boy can do a Risotto that can stand with the best of them. Massive taste but subtle touches as well, not your bog standard boil-in-a-bag and add truffle oil. Not sure how long he will stay here - enjoy him while you can. 

In sum, the entire experience was very, very good - the food was excellent, the wines were excellent, they paired nicely and thoughtfully, and the ambience, service and company were outstanding. And all for RM300 a pop. And 10% off the purchase prices of the wines which a goodly few of the assembled rightly took advantage of. And easy and secure to park. Doesn't get much better. 

SupperClub KL @ TREC 
Lot 12-14 Electric Boulevard 
Jalan Tun Razak 
Kuala Lumpur 55000


Mini Duck Bruschetta
Toast with Smoked Salmon and Sour Cream
Toast with Goat Cheese Cream and Walnut
Truffle pastry puff stick
Cotes du Rhone Belleruche Blanc 2015

Poached Oyster, Avruga Caviar, Cucumber with Coconut Milk Foam
Crozes Hermitage Les Meysonnier Blanc 2015

Cauliflower Soup with Poached Egg, Creamy Spinach, Duck Lardon and Truffle
Hermitage Chante Alouette Blanc 2013

Beef Rossini, Black Angus Tenderloin topped with Pan Seared Foie
Gras with Truffle Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Mushroom Duxelle and
Fresh Truffle slices
Chicken with Morels Cream and Mashed Potatoes
Crozes Hermitage Les Meysonnier Rouge 2014
Chateauneuf du Pape La Bernardine 2014

Strawberry Lovers : declination of strawberries in different textures , with vanilla pastry cream , pistachio and yogurt sorbet
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2014

Belleruche, Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc, 2015
This wine is a blend of Grenache blanc, Rossanne, Viognier, Clairette and Bourboulenc. After cold pressing and fermentation in stainless steel vats, it is left to age for 5 months on the fine lees. This bright yellow hued wine displays an intense and expressive nose with aromas of apricot, fennel and floral scents. On the palate, it is fresh and rounded and finishes with hints of aniseed.

Crozes Hermitage “Les Meysonniers” Blanc, 2015
The Marsanne grapes are harvested by hand on maturity from vines of between 20 to 40 years old. This pale yellow wine with brilliant green lights, is fresh and supple on the palate. The first nose is on quince, peony and roasted almonds.

Hermitage Chante Alouette Blanc, 2013
Hermitage wines possess a rich historical past. They were enjoyed in the Roman times under the name “Vienne” wines and were later called “St. Christopher’s Hillside” wines. Later on, they were known as “Tournon wines”.

The “Hermitage” name first appeared in the 17th Century in memory of the Crusade knight, Henry Gaspard. After the Crusade, he lived as a hermite on a hillside where he planted the first vineyard. Alexander Dumas and Tsar Nicholas II, were amongst the early connoisseurs of this highly prestigious wine.

The Chante Allouette is made from Marsanne grapes from 3 vineyards; Le Meal, Les Murets and Chante-Allouette. The wine is aged for 10 months to 12 months, and during this period, it is frequently tasted to determine the perfect timing for bottling. This brilliant green gold wine has a complex, yet subtle nose of quince, walnut, honey, acacia, ginger and a hint of linden tree. This elegant wine is full flavoured on the mouth with a long finish with hints of almonds.

Crozes Hermitage “Les Meysonniers” Rouge, 2014
This intense purplish red wine, with a defined nose of red fruits, blackcurrant and raspberries, is made from syrah grapes hand harvested at maturity from 25 year old vines. It is round and ample in the mouth and finishes with flavours of stewed fruits and vanilla.

La Bernardine, Chateauneauf- du- Pape, 2014
This wine is made mainly from Grenache with small proportions of Syrah and Mourvedre. The grapes are carefully selected during harvesting to ensure the best bunches are used in this wine. The aging is done in concrete tanks for 12 to 15 months. This intense crimson red wine displays a complex yet subtle nose of blackcurrant and plum, followed by roasted coffee, cinnamon and cherry. On the palate, it hints of spice and fruit, with a lengthy finish.

Muscat Beaumes de Venise, 2014

Beaumes originates from an old French word “Balmes” which means caves, and Venise from the name of the province “Vennaisson”. This dessert wine is made from muscat petit grains, which are harvested over several pickings of fully ripened grapes. This golden hued wine has a powerful nose of candid fruits and flowers. It is well balanced, has great length and a good and steady aromatic persistency.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Nicolis Wine Dinner at Stoked - Nice!

Monday August 21, 2017

This ended up as a fun and light hearted evening full of noise and chatter and good food and wines. This is being written a full two months after the event, thanks to rescuing some photos of the evening from a phone purge and finding a copy of the menu with some notes thereon. The memory of the food is a bit fuzzy, but the photos speak for themselves. Well tasty food and well tasty wine!

The well tasty veggie chips and horseradish dip
Oyster Gelee - yum!
Yin-How excels at bringing in very tasty wines from a range of producers to the restaurant to pair with the food output of the kitchen. And naturally we are very happy to support! Especially with two Amarones on the table. Has to be said, though, this is not a style I tend to buy, mostly because the ones previously tasted have been sweet fruit bombs that sent my dopamine cells ecstatic and snapped the gauge off my sugar level tester. Also the prices make me squeak. I get it that the labour intensive production and holding times for maturation require a higher premium; it's just that I don't really want to pay through a duck's butt to die faster of sugar related overload. Already doing a good enough job with the wine sales that seem to be cropping up with increased regularity and the irresistible prices that some of the distributors seem to occasionally offer. There is only so much wine one can drink and store, n'est-ce pas? Yes.       Actually, no - everyone I know is a sucker for a wine bargain, myself included. Have to find more occasions to share the good stuff. 

The August adventure for Stoked brought the wines of the Nicolis family from the Veneto region of Italy to the table, and Giuseppe Nicolis, the second generation owner of the winery would be hosting the dinner. Nicolis is one of the established smaller sized producers whose wines have consistently been well received by critics, and Giuseppe would showcase the full range of his Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone wines, and would also include one from the rare single vineyard Ambrosan. 

Herbs Foccacia and Balsamic
In his promo email, Yin-How shared that the Amarone of Nicolis was one of the first wines that piqued his early interest in the grape, showing him the depth and complexity that wine was capable of. He says that "the name Amarone instantly conjures up a classically powerful, slightly off dry and unique style of red wine." He has clearly tasted the good stuff - as said, my previous Amarones had been boozy blackberry jams in consistency and taste. I was hoping for enlightenment on my road to Damascus. Well, Damansara if you live in KL...

So it was that a full house of 32 sat at 7.30pm for our canapes. We were with Mr and Mrs Texas who had quickly got stuck into the bowl of foraged flowers and vegetable chips that went belter when dipped in the horseradish dip and washed down with the welcome white. Wine Searcher says that the Sasso Bianco is a bit rojak in terms of the varietals that go into the blend, though indicatives include Trebbiano, Vermentino and Sauvignon Blanc. The Mantellassi website also notes that this producer makes many wines including those from grapes Grenache (Garnacha), Vermentino (Rolle), Chianti Blend, Cabernet - Sangiovese, Sangiovese, Eau-de-Vie, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Wine Searcher also says that this is one of the least expensive Maremma Toscana wines, circa RM33 as exchanged into Euro (about E6). It was a bit meh on its own but perked up nicely at the sight of food. Nice easy poolside pizza white. For the dishes, the flowers were chewy, the chips had lovely salty bite, the oyster was zippy in the spice and the bread was wafer crisp and melted on contact with the mouth. Lovely stuff. Calls for more horseradish went unanswered. 

Sweetbread and Tomato Sofrito
Don't really have much in the way of notes for the dishes and the wines, but the standouts were the tomato herb sofrito and the sirloin. The Softrito was whisper light and wonderful texture and salty sweet across the tongue and made for a good mush contrast with the sweetbread. The sirloin was beautifully cooked and full of tender meaty bite and chew though the kale on the dish felt somewhat raw and a shade earthy. My Monkfish was a touch overdone yet still tasted good, though I didn't quite get the gnocchi; dusty grey balls looking like moonrock or whale's balls and drenched in a sicky sweet soy sauce. Tastewise it made for a good pairing with the fish, but it didn't leap off the plate into the eyes or the camera. As ever, can't remember dessert. 

Winewise, the 2008 Amarone was the acclaimed star and I saw a little of the light with this one. Way less jam and far more welly than my previous samples, this one had full firm fruit, lovely tannin and structure, balanced alcohol and a decent but not overwhelming thwack in the chest. The 2010 felt a shade less powerful up against its big brother, though still did enough to merit three ticks on the menu. Sometimes you need a taste of class to understand the fuss and bluster. We ended up buying the 2013 Seccal for its overall friendliness of approach, firmness of body and texture, and ease of sip and drinking. A versatile drop that will stand with ease in the company of manly boozers or fine bibbers across a steak table. Regret to say that the Amarone is still a bit the wrong side of price friendly to the Scot in me. Just as well it was sold out - Scotsman could make the excuse "ah, that's a pity, would LOVE to have bought a couple..." Maybe next life. 

Monkfish and gnocchi. Yes.
This was my first introduction to the culinary offerings of Stoked's new master at arms in the back room. Somewhat different in approach from the previous chap whose real passion (I feel) remains the fish. This one shows more integration in what is on the plate and the scavenge, er, foraging bent in his background is clearly en vogue. Whatever, he can certainly cook a decent steak. And there is always some good thought put into what kind of offerings will go with the wines being presented, rather than the slight feeling of wine clearance one occasionally gets at some of the other pairing dinners. 

Sirloin and Laguiole Bone utensils
Nice to see a range of plates being used and the addition of Laguiole bone cutlery for the beef was most pleasant. Staff were well controlled and wine pours across the room looked fair. Though perhaps Yin-How's glass got a shade more attention given his long association with the producer. Nice to remember old wines and their makers. Some of them do indeed come to be friends. 

Sgr Guiseppe Nicolis explains his wines
Nicolis Wine Dinner at Stoked Restaurant & Bar

Foraged Flowers, Tamarind
Chips of Local Vegetables
Oyster Gelée, Spicy Herbs
Herbs Foccacia, Balsamic Leather
Mantellassi Sasso Bianco Maremma 2015 RM105

Veal Sweetbread, Tomato Herbs Sofrito
Valpolicella DOC Classico 2015

Mushroom-Glazed Cod, Gnocchi, Port Jus
“SECCAL” Valpolicella DOC Classico Superiore Ripasso 2013 RM145

Dry-Aged Ribeye, Grilled Onion & Kale
Amarone della Valpolicella DOC Classico 2010 RM280 (Vinous 90 points)
Ambrosan Amarone della Valpolicella DOC Classico 2013 RM375 (Vinous 91+ points)

Mixed Berries, Yoghurt Sorbet, Filo Pastry
Coffee / Tea

Petits Fours

NB wine prices were after discount but with GST

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ben's KLCC - Butter Chicken Curry is Belter!

October 19th 2017

Been away for the last two months on a bit of an odyssey taking in Wales, France and Sicily, with lots of food and drink adventures generated along the way. As they are not really Kuala Lumpur dining, I think perhaps they require location in a separate weblog for ease of distinction. It will probably be called "Brian's Travels and Eats" following the simple yet memorable example of that of my mate Julian and his excellent blog "Julian's Eating". Will keep everyone updated as and when things get posted there. Especially on Sicily - brilliant food, excellent wines, wonderful people, and well reasonably priced. Would definitely go back there. Maybe get to see Mt Etna this time - bugger rained us out for our three days on the slopes. 

Anyhow, reason for this post is to give a shout out to Ben's in KLCC and look to kickstart the food writing after such a long layoff. Lenglui and I have been frequenting Ben's on and off for the last five years or so, mostly as a dinner spot ahead of a show at the MPO with our still missed Dr Gan (three years this Halloween).  It was and remains solid well prepared and tasty food and not priced so that your wallet squeaks too loudly. 

We found ourselves there for lunch on Deepavali first day 2017 and for some reason it all came together. I had the Butter Chicken Curry with rice and a lovely Mint Raata with cucumber and cranberries in yogurt with plain poppadum, washed down with a pint of draught beer and all speedily served by friendly professional staff. Paired with the company of the Lenglui and the view over the KLCC pond and dancing water against the internal city skyline, it all made for a surprisingly memorable lunch. I concede it might not be the first choice destination for many, but I was nicely impressed enough to want to pen this report. The quality of the ingredients, the mix of tastes, the perfection of the beer on a dry throat with curry and rice, all welded together by getting sat with a window view on a sunny day in the centre of KL. Haven't felt so good after a lunch in the city for a long time. Most pleasant indeed. I did not photo the food because I didn't expect to write anything about it. Strange how it goes, eh? Sometimes you got to thank someone or something for times like this. Hope to return to enjoy it again sometime soon!

The skyline view over the pond from Ben's at KLCC
NB Lenglui had the Monster Nasi Lemak which she said felt a bit ordinary - it came with a serving of battered soft shell crab which she felt didn't really add anything in taste terms. I didn't try it so maybe I shouldn't speak out of turn. I've had Steak Sandwich, Fish and Chips and Salads there on past occasions, all of which were solid. I'd easily go back for any of them. Though this Butter Chicken Curry and Beer was belter. Well worth a try.