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.
ALVIN LEUNG'S MOLECULAR MADNESS
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!
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.