Monday, 11 September 2017

Review of the Nadodi-DC "Four Hands" Dinner: A Liveblog

I was invited to the opening night of the collaboration between Darren Chin (DC Restaurant, which I believe is far and away the best "Western" restaurant in KL today) and Nadodi, the pioneers of South Indian avant-garde cuisine.  Collaborative dinners are very much in vogue these days, and a joint effort between a classically French-trained chef and South Indian cuisine specialists is guaranteed to be intriguing if nothing else.

I thought I would try something different this time, and "liveblog" this dinner, blow-by-blow, from 7pm this evening. As a story teller, I like to think, rethink, buff, shine, plane, reconsider and reshine my posts, for personal pride as much as anything else.  But just as some of the best traditional wines are unfiltered, maybe an "unfiltered" review might give the reader a better sense of place, of action, and my immediate, gutfelt, honest response to the meal as it unfolds. And this would be an ideal experience for this: if you want drama, if you love foul-ups, if you like a bit of slapstick mixed in with a bit of Kitchen Nightmares, what better occasion is than "Opening Night?"

So there you go.  I will be back at 7 pm this evening, I hope you can join me.

***

7.00 pm - In my Uber now. Traffic is surprisingly reasonable (relatively speaking, of course; this is KL in peak hour).  Reflecting on my meal at Nadodi a couple of months ago, which I didn't write up because they were still in soft opening mode. The teething problems then were real, including struggling to source decent quality seafood and a progression which was as puzzling as it was unsatisfying. But their Monsoon Remedy tomato soup was excellent, as was their three-tier biryani, two dishes which have left a mark on my taste memory. I'm hoping that with the passage of a few months, they have solved their sourcing issues and can deliver an amazing meal tonight.

7.30 pm - Destroyed staple (rice cracker coloured with edible charcoal, topped with yoghurt powder and pla la aioli) and Sour Cloud, a tart meringue filled with cinnamon and yuzu kosho. Destroyed Staple is surprisingly mild, Cloud is evanescent, leaving behind the barest hint of spice. A confident if understated beginning.

7.40 pm - Fallen Leaf, a tempura of parsnip leaf leaves one lasting impression, a not-very-mild sweetness which is disconcerting at this stage of the meal.  Cho-cho, a chayote parcel stuffed with a mash of lentils and ginger, has a delayed but pronounced kick, the spice lingering on your palate like the lengthy finish of a fine wine.

7.48 pm - Aphrodisiac, a French oyster topped with a passionfruit foam, isn't really turning me on because of its incredibly modest proportions.  I know, I know, it's not all about size but in this case it is; there wasn't anything substantial to bite on, and the only lasting taste memory is passionfruit.  A poori stuffed with bafun uni is better, but the poori is quite large to take in a single bite as recommended, and a bit more uni would have been welcome.

There ends the first six miles of our Fifteen Mile Journey. And bugger me senseless but this room is frickin cold!!!

7.59 pm - Foie gras with garam masala and tualang honey, with a garam masala brioche. Very good, the Viognier of Stéphane Ogier has the body to carry the richness of the liver, and floral hints which accord beautifully with the honey. The garam masala, unfortunately, is lost amidst the morass of decadence.

8.11 pm - DC's Galician octopus is up next, paired with a mango curry sauce from Nadodi. The whole thing works a treat: the octopus is superbly handled, tender yet more-ish, the pennywort salad adds crunch and acidity, while the fruity, spicy notes of the mango sauce complete the ensemble. Superb, the best dish of the night by quite a way, and the first preparation which realises the wonderful potential of this cross-pollination of concepts and ideas.

8.21 pm - An assortment of organic veg from Cameron Highlands, cooked and treated individually in the manner of Michel Bras' gargouillou. The spices here tend to overwhelm the flavour of the veg, unfortunately, but not a bad effort.

8.37 pm - The Monsoon tomato soup is as heartwarming and delicious as ever, but what are these soggy wisps in the soup?  Somen?  They don't really add anything to the soup and to the extent that they are meant to represent something of DC's signature somen dish, they are about as impactful as a 

I'm also starting to think the sequencing of this middle phase is a bit jumbled. I would have gone with the soup to signify the start of a new leg in the journey (and warm up my poor old bones in this icebox), then the veg to tantalise with its colour and texture, the foie gras then the octopus with its rich texture and flavour.

9.00 pm - A series of two signature dishes. First, DC's signature lamb rack with a croquette of smoked jackfruit seeds. It's good, and the suitably concentrated jus has a delightful peppery kick, but it isn't as good as I recall from my various visits to DC. I suspect this is largely due to the fact that the lamb has the same-same grey doneness throughout which is a hallmark of sous vide cooking, and not the enchanting smokiness and caramelisation of a good spell over the charcoal grill, which Chin usually executes to perfection himself.  But he has to work with what he has in an unfamiliar kitchen.  The struggle may be real, but the guests paying six hundred bucks each may not be able to sympathise.

9.30 pm - The signature Nadodi biryani, as good as before. A yoghurt spherification with pickled onions and a delicious brûléed eggplant with a three-nut puree accompany it to perfection. Excellent.

10.10 pm - A dessert of rose ice-cream with dehydrated rose petals and raspberry marmalade is set before me. I adore the ice-cream, delightfully creamy and with a very restrained and judicious dose of rose flavour, not plumbing the depths of cheap boudoir perfume as is the everpresent risk. The acidity of the marmalade balances the dish out nicely, although it smothers and murders the well-meaning Vajra Moscato d'Asti. I hate to belabor the point, but Moscato d'Asti is NOT a dessert wine, and no self-respecting Italian would ever use it as such. Sadly, and totally without any intention to condescend, rookie wine errors such as these are not uncommon in this market.

10.21 pm - Meringue and cashew  dome filled with pineapple kesari, a traditional Indian sweet (i.e. it is VERY sweet) of semolina, cinammon and cardamom. It is a good dessert, but if I thought the Moscato was murdered by the ice-cream, here it is utterly hung, drawn, quartered, massacred, obliterated and blasted into outer space by the kesari. A nice, hot cup of a strong tannic Chinese tea would have been ideal here.

And on that note, the Fifteen Mile Journey with DC and Nadodi comes to an end. Thanks for following me tonight, I'm now going to get out and get horrendously drunk, it's probably the only way I will ever get warm in this icy room...