Tuesday, July 22, 2014

3-michelin-starred dinner in kl

a three-michelin-starred dinner in kuala lumpur -- what are the chances!?

i was absolutely thrilled when i received a fb message from asian food channel (afc).

"i would like to congratulate you for winning a pair of tickets to enjoy a
 three-michelin-starred dinner by alvin leung"


what followed was my almost instantaneous gleeful confirmation to afc for details and subsequently a couple days of eagerly awaiting for the dinner night. :) 

molecular madness by chef alvin leung
oh, what joy!

before i start gushing about the event at the samplings at the fourteenth in berjaya times square, a quick snippet on the man of the evening. a masterchef canada judge, chef alvin leung is the brilliant mind behind bo innovation, one of the five three-michelin-starred restaurants in hong kong and ranked 15th under asia's 50 best restaurants 2014. his new restaurant in london, bo london has recently earned its one star status in less than a year as he dishes out cuisines similar to its hong kong counterpart, x-treme chinese

pre-cocktails ensued as the other dinner guests arrived where shortly after, we were ushered in to the petite dining space of about six tables of ten. it was a pretty intimate dinner setting with a promised demonstration from the man himself later in the evening. what i love with the dining space is the 'open kitchen' where we can see the chefs at work as we looked forward to a memorable evening ahead. 

a quick run through of the night's menu, sprinkled with a dash of humor by chef alvin tells the story behind the culinary adventure that we were about to undertake - his creations begin with the region's signature dishes elevated harmoniously, applying with the science of molecular gastronomy. a mix of east and west which is the foundation of the success story based on his renowned x-treme chinese.


appetizers :: tomato chinois 
tomato on vine braised with "pat chun" chinese glutinous rice vinegar, organic cherry tomato with "lam kok" fermented chinese olive, tomato foam, green onion, goat cheese, beet root. 

a lovely piece of art with natural bright hues of the tomatoes being centrepieces upon the streaks of green onion oil and a brush of lightly sweet and earthy beet root upon the white canvas of a plate. this was a great way to start the meal with its freshness, and tartness with a tinge of natural sweetness of the cherry tomatoes. the tomato foam on the left wore the familiar tastes of ripen tomatoes in an airy manner to go against the briny finish of the fermented chinese olives that also had a lovely crunch. however, the goat cheese was a tad off in flavor. 

i've saved the best for last which i found in the red tomato braised in pat chun (aka chinese glutinuous rice vinegar). the petite red tomato drank up the pat chun to give itself a plump disposition with the fragrance of the vinegar but oddly still sweet from the tomato. 

appetizers :: umami won ton mee
duck breast "char siu", crispy squid ink paper, langoustine tartar, rice noodle & vermicelli, flavor with "har mi" essence. 

an interesting presentation where the dark colored squid ink paper were dabbed with some gold leaf for some color and bling which stood out most prominently next to the orange toned noodles. what caught my attention was the innovativeness of the squid ink paper. i have never seen/tasted it before but it had similar nuances of seaweed with a salty sea flavor that almost melts on the tongue. 

the langoustine hid under the sail of the squid ink paper - clearly lightly cooked instead of tartar (chef alvin joked that it was tartar to the extreme - extreme rebel, that is!)

langoustine is a crustacean that resembles a crawfish, which has a cross between a shrimp and lobster where the freshness was oozing with its natural sweetness of the flesh punctuated by a dab of herbaceous sauce. the noodles were slightly overdone and soft but emphasized the shrimp flavors, intensified by the fine dried prawns, garnished atop the vermicelli. 

initially being unaware that it was duck meat, the gamy "char siu" caught me by surprise. then one look at the menu and it all fell into place with the borderline-dry-tenderness which had the familiar sweetness of the char siu that mingled with the smokiness. overall, a creation that celebrates umami flavors as its name impressed.

appetizers :: chilli crab / oyster omelette gazpacho
oyster custard, chili crabs

core ingredients of crab meat, oyster custard and soft boiled egg were center stage as the cold gazpacho streams down the odd shaped bowl. 

a sip of the cold soup offered a sweet, thickened broth with a hit of heat at the end. 

a display of the chef's ingenuity by the deconstruction of the classic singaporean favorite -- a deconstructed chili crab without the hassle of having to peel the crab, if you will. the oyster custard packed the brininess of the sea which somehow exalted the natural sweetness of fresh crab meat. it was topped with a soft boiled egg to impart some richness. on its own, each ingredient was disjointed but combined, it was a meticulous interpretation of the modern chili crab.  one minor issue was there were some small pieces of shell in the crab and so did a few more diners. 

a short intermission allowed diners to watch from the open kitchen as the dinner service intensified while the chefs were hard at work preparing the mains.

main :: bakkuteh short rib
beef short rib, compressed watermelon with "chinese angelica", aromatic bakkuteh chocolate.

not quite the conventional entree of meaty broth, it was updated to petite cuts of the short ribs cooked to medium so it remains tender and succulent, topped with a thickened chocolate sauce (mole sauce-inspired), finished with a pinch of salt and instead of the side of rice, a mini profiterole. i was wishing for a more obvious sear on the short rib but in the spirit of the braised meat in the traditional soup version, it worked.

the mini profiteroles were soft and worked as a replacement of the chinese mantou but eaten with the chocolate suggests a eastern+western collaboration. the chocolate mole sauce embraced the classic flavors of the aromatic bakkuteh that mingled graciously with the bitterness of the cacao and contrasted with the freshness of the sweet watermelon cubes, some of which had a light bitter flavor from the infusion with 'dong guai', which has similar flavors of ginseng. what was missing was the aroma from the fragrance of the chinese herbs in the sauce for the completeness of the dish to bring it to another level. 

main :: black forest
black truffle, chinese steamed rice pasta braised with sweet soy sauce, baby black carrot, cat ear fungus, asparagus, taro puree. 

lovely black truffle and several slices of the earthy goodness!

enough said?

not quite.

while the truffle was such a punctuating presence, the other elements came in par by offering a special something that worked in a way that i've never imagined would. the black carrot was lightly sweet unlike its common orange counterpart, where the subtle sweetness was mimicked by the creamy and starchy taro puree. the asparagus was a pleasant bright green addition to the monotonous dark grey colored dish, which is a departure from his other vibrant works of art. 

the chinese steamed rice pasta or "cheung fun", seared on one side for texture to the otherwise soft roll of pasta that was slightly sweetened by the soy sauce. it was slightly chewier - almost akin to korean rice cakes. chef alvin left no doubt that the black truffle was the star of the dish as small pieces of truffle was weaved in between the layers of the rolled pasta. it was an excellent dish where the level of earthiness from the truffle was perfection.

as the dinner was nearing the end, chef alvin kept the momentum of the meal going with a molecular gastronomy demonstration of the dessert creation. he announced that it was a virgin dessert, not because it was alcohol free but rather it was the dessert's debut to the public. we were one of the firsts to try his newest creations.

dessert :: modern ice kachang
peanut butter & condensed milk ice cream, freeze dried raspberry, cherry snow, banana caviar, pandan chococlate chips, red bean meringue, salty caramel pop corn, blue hawaii spheres, sous-vide strawberry with sichuan & maple syrup. 

an ode to a local favorite of shaved ice dessert, chef alvin applied his modern cooking techniques to highlight the many ingredients in the equally striking colorful dessert. 

while i applaud him for his courage to experiment to the extreme, this may have been too far over the end of the spectrum of extreme. it was a beautiful dish but just like he would coined it in masterchef canada: it was an asian confusion of a haphazard dessert with too many elements that felt disjointed and had too much going on at the same time. 

some of the elements brought a semi frown on my face but was compensated by the sweet, creamy ice cream and i absolutely loved the pandan chips which i would conclude as the best element on the eplate because each chip gave a burst of fragrant sweet herbaceous punch. even so, a rather disappointing closer to the meal. 

despite the minor shortomings, it was a lovely, yummy dinner spread (mostly) infused with the creativity of chef alvin leung, featuring the application of molecular gastronomy to elevate the local favorites to different level of sophistication that could sway the conventional taste buds to either love or hate the modern take on the traditional flavors. what i am impressed with is his accomplishment of creating modern cuisines while the dishes strongly reiterate its identity and flavors that makes it truly chinese. 

thank you afc for such a great experience and the opportunity to meet up with chef! :) 

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experience and taste buds may vary for others.

Monday, July 14, 2014

bbc waffles • standing theory

it's been a while since i've been this excited about a dish.

so much so that this plate of awesomeness deserved its own entry. it's been around since nov 2o13 but it was only about 8 months later that i stumbled upon this brunch delight on my instagram feed.

it was an immediate reaction. waffles always catches my attention effortlessly and the rest was history. i knew i had to a piece of it and quickly. thus, off i went to standing theory in ss2 that very weekend with {owy}. 

all for this must-have dish: THE b.b.c. waffle.

we reached the cafe that was situated within a commercial row in the midst of the housing area and finding a parking space was a little challenging since parking was so limited and the road was narrow. 

{owy} was a tad surprise that it was not as packed as she expected. she had warned me that the popular dish could sell out after a certain time - which was why i insisted upon getting here early. 

the decor took on an affinity towards industrial minimalist with a splash of red punctuating the grey walls. similarly, the collection of mismatched tables, stools and chairs seemed to echo the theme with some injection of colors and finally finished with exposed bulb lamp to complete the story. i kinda adore the blackboard art on the menu behind the counter as well as the signs for the restrooms - a personal touch.

the petite menu for brunch/ lunch (11 am - 4:3opm) was limited and all four items were unrelated and from different regions.

my first impression, this cafe has the case of identity crisis. however, on the flip side, it offers enough variation and perhaps they only serve food that they are proud to have their reputation pegged onto - as they have admitted on their facebook page. 

we don’t serve a hundred items on our menu.
but we’ll serve from any cuisine. there are no strict rules when it comes to how we approach our food.
we’re small on the number of items – but big on the quality.

i think it took me longer to decide on the drink since the food was decided even before i got here. lol. btw, orders and payment are at the counter, cash only [#protip] but the food & drinks will be served at your table. glasses of plain water - self service at the counter, please. 

drinks all day -- tea/chocolate :: earl grey | (rm 7)

standing theory serves ronnefeldt tea which is founded in frankfurt by its namesake and it has been served in premium hotels and gourmet restaurants all around the world. {owy} seemed to enjoy the brew. 

drinks all day -- white :: cappuccino | (rm 1o)

their coffee menu offers flat white and cappuccino but no latte. however, the layer of coffee foam suggested this cup was more akin to a latte instead of cappucino. a lovely presentation with the coffee art and tiny cookie on the side. a decent cuppa joe but not as smooth and had a borderline over-brewed bitterness end note on the tongue. 

lunch :: b.b.c. waffles | waffles, smoked bacon, banana, fat baby cornflake ice cream + gula melaka syrup (rm 16)

this was the classic case of savory + sweet combination, which is probably one of my favorite-est  flavor profile. 

b.b.c.= bacon. banana, cornflakes ice cream. 

say whattttttt? 

what intrigued me more than the combination of the ice cream, waffles and bacon was the cornflakes ice cream. and the fact that it bore the name fat baby ice cream

fat baby ice cream lovingly describes their cornflakes flavor as ::

"we’ve all done it, soaked our cornflakes in the milk to get that slightly smoky milk flavour – that flavor is, what we believe, the best bit of eating cereal in the morning. this ice cream captures that and we’ve even added clusters of cornflakes caramelised with honey to boot. truly a breakfast of champions in our books!"

how i see it, this dish could do no wrong. it has already won half the battle even before i tasted it with its main elements 

√ bacon  {my motto: everything is better with bacon.}
√ waffle { my current obsession.}
√ ice cream {and a breakfast for champions one at that. 'fat baby' says so.}
√ banana { add something healthy to make us feel better}

first bite : yummmmm.. i smiled.


such satisfaction. 

the flavors of warm, smoky and savory, crispy bacon contrasted harmoniously with the cold creamy, slightly sweetened milk flavored ice cream with a the soft banana forked with waffle that absorbed some of the rounded sweetness of the palm sugar syrup. what made the dish special was fat baby's cornflakes ice cream which was as promised and i was pleasantly surprised with the occasional cornflakes that remained crunchy. it was reminiscent of frosted flakes in very cold milk. 

i loved the bbc waffle despite the waffles itself was overcooked where its texture was crispy all the way through with burnt edges where i was hoping more of an airy inside encased by crispy shell. (fix this pleaseeeee!) it also made me wonder if the dish could be elevated with the banana caramelized.

come afternoon, the crowd started bustling in and it quickly became really loud. if you were hoping to have a long chat, it would be not the best place as the other diners will give you the stare, eyeing for your table.

i have to admit that i am very biased towards savory + sweet combinations especially when it involves bacon and waffles. the b.b.c. waffle at the standing theory has clinched a spot on my favorite brunch food list and i can't wait to go back to have seconds. so i guess it doesn't matter if their menu only limited to four dishes for lunch cos i will always go back for the chosen one. 

standing theory | location
26, jln ss2/1o3,
473oo petaling jaya

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

p.s. my molecular madness dinner experience with alvin leung is a blog entry in progress :) can't wait to share about it!