Words: Suji Gupta Photos: Monica Tindall
Exciting times in KL, friends: the MIGF is on! The Malaysia International Gourmet Festival runs for the entire month of October, and here is what they say about who they are: “Building on the success of 14 consecutive years, the 2014 edition of the Malaysian International Gourmet Festival will carry on the tradition of serving up exciting Festival Menus. For the entire month of October, the top chefs of the country will do their utmost to entice and excite food lovers unleashing their creativity in their Festival Menus.”
|The Talent Behind the Scenes|
From the moment we entered the restaurant, the soothing leather, glass, wood and mirrors, and hues of blacks, greys and whites created an intimate atmosphere that’s chic and intimate. The aroma from two special grills, for which Chambers Bar and Grill is famous, permeated the air with a promise of delicious treats to come.
We at The Yum List were indeed ‘enticed and excited’ by the special menu created by chef Kazi Hassan. He eloquently explained to us the passion behind the choices he made for this special month: the love of fresh, high quality, organic produce is what drives him to create his signature dishes. He focuses on Victoria, Australia, as a place that has an abundance of nutritious organic vegetables and fruits, as well as a good selection of meats for sourcing many of his star elements.
|Black Bamboo Bread and Grissini|
We started the wine-paired Full Festival Menu (RM333++ with wine, RM258++ without wine) with the charcoal grilled Wagyu beef, and a beautiful quinoa slaw with spiced orange drizzle. The super-thin slices of meat were perfectly pink in the center and just melted in my mouth. The quinoa salad was a personal favorite of mine: a crunchy mixture of purple and red cabbage, red capsicum, bean sprouts and spring onion, with a sprinkle of quinoa on top. Most quinoa salads that I have had are mostly made up of this protein-packed grain, with a few vegetables intermixed, whereas Chamber’s slaw was focused more on the vegetables and the organic orange drizzle provided a citrus spiciness (it contains coriander, chili and soy sauce!) that brought the meat and slaw together in an dazzling combination, with no bitter vinegary flavor that some slaws fall prey to. This starter was paired with a very dry sparkling wine, the Tenimenti Conti Neri Prosecco: its bubbly lightness a perfect balance to the refreshing appetizer course.
|Charcoal Grilled Wagyu Beef|
|Tenimenti Conti Neri Prosecco|
The first Main Course is made on Chamber’s signature Robatayaki grill, a fascinating structure of charcoal leaning in toward a towering flame, where the meat is cooked on skewers a few inches away from the charcoal. The grilled baby snapper came balanced atop a delectable combination of perfectly chewy (yet not tough or crunchy) black wild rice from Canada, and herbal Shimeji mushrooms. Carrying over the fruity theme from the starter, lemon zest strips topped the whole mound.
|Robatayaki Grilled Baby Snapper Fillet|
It was fun to see how the Robatayaki grill worked, because it became clear why the skin on the baby snapper was crinkly yet not crisp: it is cooked on a skewer, protruding from what looks like beach sand, a small distance from the flame and the charcoal. The fact that you watch your food being prepared at Chambers adds a fun twist to the outing!
|Firing Up The Grill|
My favorite part of this entree was actually the orange and red capsicum tucked in the wild rice – they positively popped with succulent flavor, and set a nice contrast to the shimeji, which were mild with a pleasant texture. Paired with this dish was the Balduzzi Reserva Chardonnay from Chile; we felt that it mirrored the creamy butteriness of the fish for the start, but its lively green citrus fruit tones refreshingly cleansed the palate at the finish.
|Balduzzi Reserva Chardonnay|
I thought to myself, “Thank goodness the portions are moderate!”, as we headed into the next course: a North African themed combination of Spring Lamb Cutlets under a dukkah crust, with strawberry and chickpea couscous. I am not usually a fan of lamb, so I was happily surprised at how much I liked these petite cutlets — I have a suspicion that the amazing spices of the dukkah crust was what won my taste buds over! A heady mix of cumin seed, coriander, pistachio, fennel and black pepper, this crunchy coating was mouthwatering, supported beautifully by the mild flavors of the couscous. The strawberries in the couscous tied in nicely with the fruit theme that ran through every course in this menu. The lamb was tender, pink in the center and masterfully seared on Chambers’ specialty layered grill – we again watched Chef Hassan’s team cooking these to perfection!
|Spring Lamb Cutlets|
|Lamb Close Up|
Maurizio, the manager, chose a Clarendelle rouge from France, to compliment the lamb entree. Clarence Dillon winery is known for their blending of grapes, and this red is no exception; it is a skilful blend of three traditional Bordeaux grape varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc). Giving it time to breathe is a good idea; I felt that it improved with a little air.
|Clarendelle Rouge Inspired by Haut-Brion, France|
And then, on the last main dish of the evening, the certified Angus Porterhouse dry aged in a Himalayan salt cabinet – the first of its kind in KL! The steak, prepared on the lava stone grill, comes topped with ginger shiitake, fava beans and a curious froth that is a “soya caramel emulsion”. I have to admit, I was a little unsure about what this bubbling concoction was going to bring to the dish, but I can sincerely report that it was the TOP highlight of the menu for me. The luscious saltiness, the light frothy consistency, it just all came together to flavor the beans and the beef so that you wanted to make each mouthful last forever! It infused the mushrooms and the fava beans in a way that a heavier sauce could never do. We joked that if Chambers Bar and Grill sold it in bottles, I would have certainly bought a few right there and then!
|Dry Aged Certified Angus Porterhouse|
At this point, I would have thought that the mention of dessert would just be TOO much to think about – no room after such a full menu of entrees and starter. However, and this is something I really loved about Chef Hassan’s choices, I didn’t feel stuffed or heavy. His dishes seem almost to focus on the vegetables and grains, even though this is a restaurant that features a grill. But this is not your typical steakhouse, with a huge slab of meat in heavy sauces, with a side of vegetables that are either an afterthought or very starchy. The chef’s love of nutritious fresh fruits, veggies and grains is abundantly obvious, and leads to a meal that leaves you feeling pleasantly sated, not bursting and sluggish!
So yes, dessert – bring it on! Three very dissimilar sounding treats came artfully arranged on a large plate: ivory white chocolate emulsion, pink guava sponge, and sour plum sorbet. I started with a bite of the sour plum sorbet and just had to smile – I was expecting TART and sour, with real bite, just from the name. But it was like a mouthful of an autumn day – refreshing, spicy (thanks to a tiny bit of pepper, we were told) and just plain delightful.
|Ivy White Chocolate Emulsion|
While we were waiting on dessert, we’d discussed sponge cake and our preferences surrounding that, but when the pink guava sponge came we realized it was NOT in any way a cake. It had more of the texture of a marshmallow, and the pink guava flavor is unmistakable. Nice tropical touch! And then I ended this delightful journey with the ivory chocolate emulsion, which came topped with pert little mint leaves, three cute-as-a-button raspberries, and sat atop a summer berry compote (blackberries, currants, and raspberries). Mmmm. The texture of the emulsion was less silky than panna cotta, more of a clean finish and the compote below was robust and tart, a perfect match to the white chocolate sweetness.
Chambers’ MIGF menu, its inviting ambience, the professional service – it all adds up to a wonderful place to go for a delicious and enjoyable evening!
Note: a three course option is available as well at RM198++ per person, with RM75++ per person extra for the tasting-size wine selections.
Reasons to visit: watch your dinner being cooked on the grill; healthful choices; great variety of sides; well thought out MIGF menu.
Chambers Bar and Grill
Hilton Kuala Lumpur Hotel
3 Jalan Stesen Sentral
+6 03 2264 2264