Saturday, October 21, 2017

Nayuta Chocolatasia @ Isetan The Japan Store, Bukit Bintang

By Aiman Azri
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With the catchphrase 'For Asians, By Asians,' this new chocolate boutique-cafe relies primarily on cacao beans from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, turned into treats that are made in Malaysia under Japanese auspices.

'Nayuta' is Sanskrit, roughly translating to infinity, while 'Chocolatasia' is an amalgamation of Chocolate and Asia. That spells out what Nayuta Chocolatasia hopes to offer - seemingly limitless possibilities of Asian-inflected chocolates, sold starting this week at Kuala Lumpur's ISETAN The Japan Store.


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Nayuta’s delicacies are developed by confectioner-chef Shunsuke Saegusa, who has devoted his past 14 years to the bean-to-bar craft. The chocolate here is single-origin, largely created with cacao sourced from our country's Koh Cocoa Farm in Pahang (which has produced cacao for over three decades), Bali's Kerta Semaya Samaniya Cooperative, Davao's Plantacion de Sikwate Cacao and Ben Tre's Puratos Grand-place Vietnam.


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Choose from 70% bitter chocolate, 60% milk chocolate, and 40% milk+ tablets, offered plain or in flavours like mango, coconut or cashew. Or bonbons in flavours that span tropical fruits like pineapple or passion fruit as well as Japanese flavours like matcha, sakura and yuzu. Plus, other offerings like chocolate financiers, bars and beverages.

Representatives of Isetan Mitsukoshi, which oversees this enterprise, say this concept caters "more toward the Asian palate, with milky chocolates" that convey soft textures, in contrast to European preferences for "bitterness ... and complexity."

The fun is in finding the right kind of chocolate for you - perhaps, say, a Vietnamese varietal, a touch fruity, with a lingering aftertaste that beckons you for another nibble.


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Nayuta Chocolatasia's Malaysian outpost is its first in the world; next up, Japan in 2018. Our visit here was at a launching ceremony with media in attendance.


Nayuta Chocolatasia
Ground Floor, Isetan The Japan Store, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Open 11am–9pm.


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Friday, October 20, 2017

Nice Catch @ Pavilion

By Aiman Azri


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From baby lobsters made into bisques to flash-fried squid and freshly grilled salmon, the newly launched Nice Catch at Pavilion shopping mall is now cruising full steam ahead with its range of premium fare from across the seven seas. We took a dip into the menu here recently and surfaced with a rewarding meal filled with fins, tentacles and claws.


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Let’s start with the Lobster Bisque (RM 23), a rich and creamy soup that relies on blanched baby lobsters and blended shells for its base, which takes one and half hours to prepare, before being served with a lobster tail, sprinkled with shrimp roe, for a broth that’s pleasurably decadent in both flavour and texture.


If you like soups, it’s also worth ordering the Wild Mushroom Crema (RM 17), which combines a quartet of shiitake, eryngii, button and oyster mushrooms with fresh pesto oil and crispy enoki to create a velvety soup with a slight crunch.


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Before we plunge into the rest of the seafood, there’s always space for a salad first: Go green with the Garden Crisp Salad (RM 17), bringing together oak leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, mizuna, red coral lettuce and plump cherry tomatoes, tossed with its own signature grapefruit dressing. It’s a little spicy, as there is some cili padi hidden inside.


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Seafood starters emerge next, both suitable for whetting the appetite: The Golden Squid & Salsa (RM 27) features flash-fried Korean squid with ginger and dried chillies over onion rings with basil leaves, ideal for sharing and snacking. If you’re searching for a chic-looking opening course, check out the Crispy Prawn Cocktail (RM 17), showcasing plump and tender hand-battered prawns, resting on a bed of greens and cherry tomatoes, dripping with ginger soy sauce for extra nuance.


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When it comes to mains, the restaurant’s pride and joy is Nice Catch’s Spicy Seafood Feast (RM 159, but  price varies on seafood used). Our giant pot contained a beautiful Canadian Lobster slathered with Hot and Spicy Lemongrass sauce, fuelled by bird’s eye chilli from Vietnam. It’s exquisitely sharp and spicy, with a sauce that’s so tasty, you could enthusiastically eat it on its own. Still, it comes with fluffy fried mantou to lap up any remaining sauce.


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Other options include something for everyone, from the indulgent creaminess of the Cheesy Seafood Bake with Corn Dodgers (RM 55; well-portioned chunks of Norwegian salmon, Korean squid and zucchini baked in house-made tomato coulis, topped with mozzarella cheese) to the irresistible crispness of the Battered Fish & Friends (RM 55 for a golden-fried grouper fillet, partnered with prawns, chips, salad and a grapefruit tartar sauce) and pure simplicity of the Classic Grilled Catch of the Day (RM 55; Norwegian salmon that practically melts in the mouth, with mustard dill and garlic soy sauces - this is usually served with sautéed zucchini and cherry tomatoes, but we skipped both since we were stuffed by this point of the tasting). It’s worth noting that Nice Catch pours plenty of effort into its sauces, made in the kitchen with thoughtfulness and a twist or two.


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For folks not into seafood, it’s OK to stay on dry land here with the Grilled Paprika Chicken (RM 30) - relatively juicy chicken breast that’s been marinated for 24 hours, then grilled and basted with your choice of sauce, mustard dill or ginger soy. It’s served with fragrant salsa rice, sautéed zucchini and cherry tomatoes for a complete meal.


There’s dessert too to wrap up the Nice Catch experience - try the Crunchy Cookies & Berry Parfait (RM 19), a lush, pure-vanilla soft serve with mixed berry compote, finished with chocolate chip cookies for an enjoyable medley of flavours, textures and temperatures.


Coolers kept us well-hydrated: The Botanical Passion (RM 13) is a tall glass of Earl Grey tea infused with Thai basil leaves, while the photogenic Minty Cool (RM 13) oozes style with its refreshing blend of Chamomile tea, Mojito coulis, muddled mint leaves and slivers of crunchy cucumber.


Many thanks to Nice Catch for having us here.


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Nice Catch,
1.18.02, Level 1, Pavilion, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Daily, 10am-10pm.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

New Chef, New Menu: Stoked @ Medan Damansara

By The EDKL Creative Team

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Malaysian sizzle meets Nordic cool: Farm-to-oven restaurant Stoked welcomes a new head chef, Toraik ‘T.C.’ Chua, one of KL’s most proficient young culinary talents, fresh off a 14-month stint that concluded last year at Copenhagen’s Noma.

T.C. worked with Stoked’s sister outlet, Flint, in June 2017 on a series of pop-up dinners that stamped him as a local presence to watch. The collaboration worked so well, T.C. is now formally shepherding Stoked’s kitchen, infusing the menu with lessons from Noma in synergistic harmony with Stoked’s largely locavore principles.

The heart and soul of Stoked remain its focus on fresh, forthright produce, sourced primarily from within our national borders, prepared with care and conscientiousness. T.C. continues to champion those values, with a personal passion for foraging through forests and farms, scouring for herbs and speaking with harvesters.

You’ll be ushered into the meal with T.C.’s regularly changing selection of amuse-bouche, most recently constructed around kitchen-made chips with roe and dehydrated watermelon. Stoked’s sourdough bread also makes for a memorable prelude to the meal, baked with an established starter that T.C. secured in Denmark, in a thoroughly satisfying nod to the crackly-crust, tender-crumb sourdough that he savoured in Copenhagen’s Mirabelle bakery, paired with pistachio butter for a nifty nuttiness.

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The selection of starters is where T.C. showcases the singularity of his work and experience - the Beef Tartare Nordic-Style (RM48) tuned up our curiosity and turned out to be a true standout. The beef is aged and smoked for a compellingly nuanced depth of flavour, dyed with beetroot for an unconventionally rich hue. Instead of being served simply with a side of toast, the tartare is laced with crumbled rye morsels, enhanced further with hints of truffle, horseradish and caviar - not our archetypal tartare at all, more elaborate in preparation but emphatically enjoyable for that.

It’s worth scrambling to Stoked sheerly for the tartare, but the other starters we sampled each succeeded too in balancing a purity of produce with refinement of technique - from seafood (grilled squid with cauliflower puree, jicama and mussel foam; RM48) to poultry (smoked spring chicken with daikon risotto and spicy herbs; RM44), T.C. and his team convey a clear-eyed vision of translating honest ingredients into remarkably rounded recipes, relying on unwavering skill and imagination.

From time to time, T.C. might also offer off-menu seasonal items like girolles that augment the deliciousness of the steamed egg custard with zucchini and crispy shrimp in smoked fish broth (RM42).

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Through it all, the kitchen fans the embers of Stoked’s charcoal-and-firewood-fuelled core. The main events are still the grilled protein galore - all so good, they’re brushed with only the most delicate of embellishments.

If you love fish, the whole Malabar red snapper (RM132 for about 800g) is a portrait of perfection, proving that the Stoked team are artists in their own right. This is fish cooked to its ideal, where every slice of flesh articulates everything a fine catch should taste of.

Breast of lamb is a less typical cut, but it begs to be lustily devoured here too, sturdy in its fundamental flavour, supple in its final texture (RM85).

As part of the Vintry family of restaurants, Stoked has never been a slouch for wine pairings - we eased into our meal with the bright Galician sprightliness of the Lagar De Cervera Albarino 2016, a citrusy companion, before effortlessly embracing the dark Gallic sophistication of the Vieux Telegraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014, a ripe-cherry charmer. Satisfyingly heady.

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Massive appetites will be rewarded with a monumental accomplishment - Stoked’s Dry-Aged Stanbroke Wagyu Tomahawk Marble Score 7 (RM 660 for 1kg+, likely sufficient for four patrons) is every ounce the epitome of a piece de resistance, a magnum opus of meat in its uncaged, primal glory.

For beef of this calibre, justice is done and served - the steak is dry-aged for several weeks in wagyu fat, locking in a full-fleshed umami that’s indomitably bovine, scorched in Stoked’s signature Bertha oven to seal the smooth succulence, crusted in a ragingly good char. Even after thirty minutes of eating this, we never tired of it, but to ensure an engaging experience, a trio of salts - Hawaiian lava, English sea, and smoked English - are set at your disposal on the table.

With the hallmark of a consummate chef, even the sides aren’t an afterthought - at any dinner, the Grilled Local Greens (RM18) and Grilled Baby Corn (RM18) would be high points in their own right, the former featuring Malaysian-cultivated rocket and cress with a beguilingly complex dressing that channels notes of nori, shiitake and porcini, the latter made crackly with crispy rice and savoury with parmesan. Great enough to eat on their own.

Desserts don’t let the dinner down - the elderflower yoghurt with coconut crumble, sweet potato puree and coconut ice cream (RM 25) and apple medley with sago, kaffir lime oil and yoghurt sorbet (RM 25) are luscious, nectarous and deserving of a full-blown swoon.

This was one of our favourite meals of the year - and we never even got to the king prawn mi-cuit with mango kerabu or the Iberico collar with tomato sofrito and peach beurre blanc. Stoked is really hitting its stride.

Many thanks to the team here for having us.

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Stoked Restaurant & Bar
120-122, Jalan Kasah, Bukit Damansara, Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur.
Open Wed-Mon, 12pm-11pm. Tel: 03-2096-1645



Stay up to date: The Eat Drink KL newsletter is sent by email to subscribers every Monday; it's the Klang Valley's foremost weekly round-up of new restaurant openings, F&B promotions & other tasty tidbits. Subscribe to Eat Drink KL Weekly for free via this following link: https://confirmsubscription.com/h/d/5106C196432BB23D