Monday, September 29, 2014

Chef's Table Dinners @ Topshelf, TTDI

Topshelf has introduced beautifully composed omakase-style chef's table dinners, expected to take place once a month, on the final Sunday of every month, featuring multi-course menus exclusively crafted for one night only by chefs Chris & Gary. Make your reservations early; seating is likely to be limited to 12 persons per dinner.

These dinners are intimate affairs, ideal for folks seeking a different sort of restaurant experience. Guests are generally seated around a communal table set-up (though that's not compulsory; on request, they can obtain their own separate tables), where Chris & Gary explain each course & work shoulder-to-shoulder, performing the plating in full view of everyone.

September's introductory dinner kicked off with an amuse bouche of crispy-thin, delicate cones, deliciously stuffed with tuna sashimi marinated in soy sauce, cream & shallots, & 'planted' in aromatic coriander seeds. A texturally terrific showcase for how Chris & Gary are able to dive deeply into playful experimentation & satisfy their creative side with these special menus.

Here's a salad that comes very close to tasting like dessert, thanks to its garnishing - a thick, nectarous gel of lingonberry & an invisible spray of elderflower & extra virgin olive oil, furnishing a fruity flavour & floral fragrance to enliven the leaves & spears.

Surprises are the cornerstone of a menu of this nature; this turned out to be a magnificent wild mushroom consomme, blessed with wonderfully well-tuned nuances of herbaceous earthiness - a true treat for fans of fungi.

Topshelf's a la carte repertoire focuses on French & Italian, but the chef's table dinners stretches those boundaries. Here's a Spanish-influenced summer dish - mackerel cured with vinegar, salt & sugar; the fish is lusciously fresh, illustrating how good mackerel can actually get. This plate is piquant, not merely by way of the mackerel but through the pickled shimeji mushrooms & piquillo pepper puree too. Crowned with crunchy chorizo crumbs, with squid ink to beautifully blacken a visual feast.

Gary had a stint in Alabama awhile back, so here's some Southern-style cooking to drive away the blues: Breaded quail breast (the next best thing to fried chicken) with charred corn, accompanied by succulent-savoury confit quail thigh & mustard cream. 

Flavoursome Angus striploin on a cushion of mashed potatoes mixed with aged cheddar; maybe less memorably inventive than some of the other courses, but no less pleasurable.

Dessert's a delight; basil ice cream with berries, black sesame macaron & green tea cake. There's a lot going on with this plate (the sauces carry interesting dimensions), but the complexities work - as they do from start to finish throughout this dinner; every course is worth slowly savouring & talking about, taking us on a journey that's a testament to the skilfulness of the chefs.

The cost: RM120++ per person; add RM60++ for pairing with nicely chosen wines. Very fair bargain, all things considered. Note that the menu will probably evolve as the months go by, so what's served in September might well change in October.

The next chef's table dinner is expected to be on Sunday, October 26. Can't wait until then? Head over for Topshelf's refreshed, reinvigorated a la carte menu instead, available Monday-Saturday (the restaurant is usually closed Sundays), with possible highlights like pork belly confit, pork shoulder stew & baked halibut with celery & melon concasse.
Original introduction to Topshelf: April 12, 2012.

Topshelf @ Taman Tun Dr Ismail
61 Lorong Rahim Kajai 13, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. Open daily, 4pm-12am. Tel: 03-7727-7277

Check out the latest edition of Eat Drink KL: 100 Favourites, featuring 100 recommended restaurants for July-September 2014, including more than 20 new entries for this quarter. 
This eBook is available to read or download at this link: http://eatdrinkkl.publ.com/2014C 
The October-December edition of the eBook will be available on Monday, October 6.

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 (even before they're featured on this blog), F&B promotions & other tasty tidbits.
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Sausages to sambal. Muffins to marshmallows. Peanut butter to mango chutney. Cornflake ice cream to honey aloe yogurt. Lavender-laced lemonades to lychee-&-guava juices.
Eat Drink KL: Small Businesses, Huge Flavours is the first eBook to help customers navigate the diversity of independent F&B entrepreneurs who bake & boil in their own kitchens, offering some of Malaysia's finest, most fascinating food products.
This resource will be continuously updated with new listings: www.eatdrinkkl.publ.com/businesses 
Check out EAT DRINK, a new F&B website jointly run by The Expat Group (TEG) & Eat Drink KL. This website features all of our up-to-date reviews, plus exclusive weekly articles & a searchable database on restaurants in KL & Selangor: EatDrink.my

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Bar by Sam Kinugawa @ Empire Damansara

The Bar opened this week with no fanfare, no flashy launches & no hype, hidden on a secluded corridor with no foot traffic, providing pleasurable proof that some of the places most worth unveiling are the ones that modestly try to fly under the radar.

The Bar - a name that's markedly minimalist - is spearheaded by the two-man show of Japanese bartender Osam "Sam" Kinugawa & his Malaysian partner Chin; the story goes that Chin once visited Kinugawa's Tokyo workplace, Bar Nems in Meguro, & was so impressed that he coaxed Kinugawa to come to Malaysia & helm a similar bar here.

The Bar is on Empire Damansara's first floor; it currently has no neighbours, since most of this complex's F&B outlets - from Boat Noodle to Sevencups - remain firmly one floor below. It's an elegant space with elevated seating at the counter that evokes the feel of a sushi bar, bringing customers to an even eye-level with Kinugawa, the better to stimulate conversation.

The still-serene interior is swathed in warm, welcoming hues; we also like the alfresco terrace with its verdant view. Our new favourite secret spot plans to smoke its own ham & cheese soon, serving them as snacks that might be a magnet for crowds.

No official cocktail list is offered so far, but we recommend this rendition of the Moscow Mule, comprising Belvedere Vodka & The Bar's own-made ginger ale. Most of the cocktails cost between RM30 & RM50.

Fruit cocktails are a speciality here; our best-loved mangosteen makes an admirable appearance, its tasty-sweet essence mixed with rum. Chin & Kinugawa say their dragon fruit cocktail is also a winner, but we'll save that for future sipping. Expect to hear more about The Bar in the months to come.

The Bar by Osam Kinugawa
112, First Floor, Empire Damansara, Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Open Monday-Saturday, 6pm-2am

Check out the latest edition of Eat Drink KL: 100 Favourites, featuring 100 recommended restaurants for July-September 2014, including more than 20 new entries for this quarter. 
This eBook is available to read or download at this link: http://eatdrinkkl.publ.com/2014C 
The October-December edition of the eBook will be available on Monday, October 6.

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 (even before they're featured on this blog), F&B promotions & other tasty tidbits.
Subscribe to Eat Drink KL Weekly for free via this following link: 
Note to subscribers on Gmail: The newsletter will be in the Promotions folder of your inbox.


Sausages to sambal. Muffins to marshmallows. Peanut butter to mango chutney. Cornflake ice cream to honey aloe yogurt. Lavender-laced lemonades to lychee-&-guava juices.
Eat Drink KL: Small Businesses, Huge Flavours is the first eBook to help customers navigate the diversity of independent F&B entrepreneurs who bake & boil in their own kitchens, offering some of Malaysia's finest, most fascinating food products.
This resource will be continuously updated with new listings: www.eatdrinkkl.publ.com/businesses 
Check out EAT DRINK, a new F&B website jointly run by The Expat Group (TEG) & Eat Drink KL. This website features all of our up-to-date reviews, plus exclusive weekly articles & a searchable database on restaurants in KL & Selangor: EatDrink.my

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Coffee As Booze: The.Bngsr Tavern @ Telawi & Vina Del Rey @ Nexus, Bangsar South

Calling itself 'a local tavern with a fusion twist,' this singularly spelled new bar is banking on a bright future in Bangsar.

The.Bngsr Tavern is a first-floor hideout with a chilled-out, sleaze-free vibe & strategic view of Telawi's streets.

The menu was still a work in progress when we visited, but the kitchen seems to have several intriguing ideas cooking, with bar snacks that include this board topped with spoonfuls of duck meat chopped up with capsicum, carrots & lettuce. Chicken tandoori & paneer pizzas are available too, while in a nod to one of Bangsar's streets, there's also a 'Jalan Bilis' serving of sauteed sausages with anchovies & onions.

By now, the bar should be offering a full range of booze; for this visit, we sipped on Patron XO Cafe, the popular blend of tequila with coffee essence (this is where our coffee theme kicks in for this entry).

Moving along, here's another new watering hole with potential: Vina Del Rey, a wine bar in Bangsar South's Nexus complex.

Vina Del Rey has an immensely impressive list of wine offered by the glass; we lost count of how many exactly, but they comprise varieties that span France, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand & more, mostly clocking in between RM25 & RM35 each.

 For this round, we tried South Africa's Barista Pinotage, a fascinating creation with rich notes of both coffee & chocolate. It'd be fun to pair this with food - Vina Del Rey hasn't launched its kitchen, but this wine might fare fairly well with meat & cheeses.

We've had coffee as tequila in this post, plus coffee as wine, so here's one more for the road: Coffee as beer. For that, we return to Desa Sri Hartamas' Buns Burger Bar. (Introduction to Buns: April 27, 2014)

Scotland's Harvietoun Old Engine OIl English Porter-style beer, with a scent of coffee grounds & a flavour of creamy coffee, buttered toffee & burnt toast. Reputedly the perfect beer with which to make an ice cream float.

 The.Bngsr Tavern
32A, First Floor, Jalan Telawi 5, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur
Open Wed-Mon, 4pm-1am

Vina Del Rey
G-1, Nexus Bangsar South, Jalan Kerinchi, Kuala Lumpur
Daily, 10am till at least 11pm. Tel: 03-2242-2878

Check out the latest edition of Eat Drink KL: 100 Favourites, featuring 100 recommended restaurants for July-September 2014, including more than 20 new entries for this quarter. 
This eBook is available to read or download at this link: http://eatdrinkkl.publ.com/2014C 
Link expires Sept 30, 2014; see blog entries after that date for new link.

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 (even before they're featured on this blog), F&B promotions & other tasty tidbits.
Subscribe to Eat Drink KL Weekly for free via this following link: 
Note to subscribers on Gmail: The newsletter will be in the Promotions folder of your inbox.

Sausages to sambal. Muffins to marshmallows. Peanut butter to mango chutney. Cornflake ice cream to honey aloe yogurt. Lavender-laced lemonades to lychee-&-guava juices.
Eat Drink KL: Small Businesses, Huge Flavours is the first eBook to help customers navigate the diversity of independent F&B entrepreneurs who bake & boil in their own kitchens, offering some of Malaysia's finest, most fascinating food products.
This resource will be continuously updated with new listings: www.eatdrinkkl.publ.com/businesses 
Check out EAT DRINK, a new F&B website jointly run by The Expat Group (TEG) & Eat Drink KL. This website features all of our up-to-date reviews, plus exclusive weekly articles & a searchable database on restaurants in KL & Selangor: EatDrink.my

Friday, September 26, 2014

Purple Pasta @ Oasis Ara Damansara

A purple reign has dawned in Oasis Ara Damansara, where this pasta perfectionist recently replaced Epiphany Coffee - though the outlet's ownership basically remains the same as before.

It's a complete revamp - pretty much everything has been changed, from the name to the menu to the furnishing. Worth noting: Purple Pasta retains a warm service team that works hard to keep customers happy.

Plenty of pastas here (more than a dozen recipes), but since the restaurant is still fine-tuning its selection, there's only one purple-ish preparation offered for now: Spaghetti aglio olio, dyed with a (reputedly) natural colouring, tossed with smoked duck, leek, garlic, chilli flakes, a poached egg & basil-infused olive oil. RM18; currently available during dinnertime. Tasty enough - the colour provides more of a visual enhancement than a flavour boost.

Purple Pasta is particularly popular among office workers for lunch, thanks to its no-frills RM5 pastas - think carbonara, marinara sauce or brown gravy. But it's probably worth upgrading to the RM15 varieties, accompanied by the likes of baby octopus in Japanese mayo sauce. Other RM15 possibilities: Clams in red rice wine, lamb in bolognese sauce & more.

Prices are kept relatively low at Purple Pasta, so patrons can graze on a sauteed prawn salad with arugula, lettuce, cherry tomatoes & balsamic vinegar for RM8) ...

... or gobble up 50 grams of flavoured popcorn (caramel, cheese, seaweed or kimchi) for RM5.

Italian-inspired coffee granita (RM7) works sufficiently well for dessert, though affogatos are available too for the same price.

The novelty of a new colour returns for the latte, served with a spoonful of Azuleta violet sugar.

Kitsch aside, Purple Pasta remains serious about its caffeine; there's cold brew coffee alongside an espresso/flat white range that relies on a Colombia-Guatemala-Indonesia-Brazil blend.

Purple Pasta
Block D, Oasis Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya. Daily, 1030am-10pm. Tel: 03-7859-9998

Check out the latest edition of Eat Drink KL: 100 Favourites, featuring 100 recommended restaurants for July-September 2014, including more than 20 new entries for this quarter. 
This eBook is available to read or download at this link: http://eatdrinkkl.publ.com/2014C 
Link expires Sept 30, 2014; see blog entries after that date for new link.

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 (even before they're featured on this blog), F&B promotions & other tasty tidbits.
Subscribe to Eat Drink KL Weekly for free via this following link: 
Note to subscribers on Gmail: The newsletter will be in the Promotions folder of your inbox.

Sausages to sambal. Muffins to marshmallows. Peanut butter to mango chutney. Cornflake ice cream to honey aloe yogurt. Lavender-laced lemonades to lychee-&-guava juices.
Eat Drink KL: Small Businesses, Huge Flavours is the first eBook to help customers navigate the diversity of independent F&B entrepreneurs who bake & boil in their own kitchens, offering some of Malaysia's finest, most fascinating food products.
This resource will be continuously updated with new listings: www.eatdrinkkl.publ.com/businesses 
Check out EAT DRINK, a new F&B website jointly run by The Expat Group (TEG) & Eat Drink KL. This website features all of our up-to-date reviews, plus exclusive weekly articles & a searchable database on restaurants in KL & Selangor: EatDrink.my