|Dining Room at Neo Tamarind|
Neo Tamarind, MIGF 2014 Festival Menu
The Malaysian International Gourmet Festival menus continue to excite diners around the city. From the West to the East and lots of fusion in between, chefs have certainly been putting on a show this October, not only for the taste buds, but for the rest of the senses too. Neo Tamarind joins the line-up with an impressive location, creative menu and well-planned wine pairing.
Although located smack bang in the city centre on busy Jalan Sultan Ismail, once inside Neo Tamarind, you’d never guess you were in the heart of a bustling metropolis. A stone stairway, lined with bamboo and gently lit with hanging lanterns, leads diners up a magical entryway, which, by the time you’ve reached the peak, has marvelously wiped clean any memories of the traffic and noise left below.
|Stairs to the Restaurant|
The pathway turns to wood and the ingress is marked with two august fire torches. Ponds are lined with lanky reeds providing a green backdrop for the flickering light, which, combined, sheds an atmosphere of wild mystery.
|Neo Tamarind Entrance|
Striking in its simplicity, but remarkable in its elegance the interior is softly lit with warm up-lighting and discrete downlights. Polished cement and rustic surfaces incredibly combine with curvaceous candelabras, towering cascades, and bubbling pools, to fashion a space that is cool and clean, but at the same time graceful and exciting.
|Lounge Reception with View Into the Kitchen|
The menu is unashamedly fusion, incorporating western technique with a profusion of exotic seasonings, with meticulous Thai artistic presentation. We’re here to try the MIGF Festival Menu. Both full and light options, with and without wine pairing, are available. Of course, you know us by now, and we never do anything in halves, so we go all the way!
Canapés are presented in a trio of intrigue on a slender ebony slate: Blow-torched Tuna with Tom Yum Cream (wow!); Beef Tartar with Strawberry and Garlic Chip (another wow! – wedged between two wafers of dehydrated strawberry, fruit is tangy and meat is tender, crushed cheese crackers and balsamic reduction add further complexity); and Chicken Liver Terrine and Tart (chef’s version of a tart -super creamy terrine is rolled in crushed pistachios, topped with grated cherries, and plated on a sweet potato chip).
Paired with an Aussie Cape Mentelle, Sauvignon Semillon from Margaret River, the fresh accents in the wine match the sharpness of the tuna, but too serve to cut through the richness of the liver and beef.
Blow-Torched Watermelon, Alaskan Crab and Dried Bonito Flakes leaves the distinctive taste of the sea in the mouth. The fruit makes for a juicy mouthfeel and the white wine augments the fishy flavours.
First we down the savoury and tangy Sea Urchin Shooter, which swims in homemade plum sake in layers of colour in a shot glass. Next we take the creamy Uni (sea urchin) with Cold Soba Noodle Salad topped with juicy bubbles of salmon roe. Finally we mouth the Uni Sushi, which is layered with tiny fish roe and based with a tangle of shredded crisp yam chips. Each bite on its own has distinction, but true elegance is not seen until completion. There’s an intricate balance of textures and flavours that coalesce to form the overall experience. Impressive start!
We’re starting to see a pattern of careful yet innovative arrangement, and attention to the tiniest of details. We’re now prepared to be dazzled by every dish: these are not things to woof down, but items to be slowly digested, contemplated and discussed. Presentation, aroma, textures and complexity of flavour all provide thoughtful discourse.
Another mind-boggling eye-full of design is presented as the Fresh Tomato Salad with Ginger Flower Vinegar, Smoked Duck Salad, and Grilled Mushroom with Truffle Oil. Three must be chef’s lucky number as he has struck the trifecta again with this course. Both cherry and full tomato slices are tanged up with a lip-smacking ginger flower sauce. House smoked duck wraps around garden leaves, and king oyster mushroom is barely cooked giving a good texture to crunch through. A cheesy cracker is mixed with Thai herbs and hubby quickly munches it up, claiming it resembles popcorn.
Staying in Australia with the wine choices we move states to the Barossa Valley with a Kaesler, Old Vine Semillon. This dry white smells of a sunny winter day in Australia, of lawns recently moved and ripe citrus picked from orchards. It’s a fine match for the appetisers.
More surprises come with the Red Capsicum Bisque and Salmon Ravioli. A wooden chopping board holds a square bowl with three rounds of ravioli in the corners. A bright red capsicum stands vivid and shiny in the corner. Once lifted, a thick red liquid flows out. The hole on the end of the board is perfect for placing the used pepper as the stalk fits perfectly inside and holds it in place. Boursin cheese with black pepper seasons the pasta. The soup itself is rather mild. When mixed however with the pasta bites, the flavour broadens into a most likeable scoop.
Chef Sombat (a Bangkok native) comes out to check in on us and we’re soon enamored by his charm. He says, “This is my fun dish!” He is humble and clearly passionate about his creations. He informs of a small herb and veggie patch he has growing next to the restaurant, and numerous tales connected to each dish. Speaking excitedly, with energetic enthusiasm, he tells the stories from behind the scenes. It soon becomes obvious this chef cooks from the heart.
|Chefs at Work|
Spicy Tomato Shooter is reminiscent of a cool gazpacho. It’s full flavoured with a punch of spice that seems to disappear just as quickly as it fired up our mouths.
This time a threesome from the sea arrives on stretched out ceramics. Smooth potato mash clings to the bottom of a fillet of Pan Roasted Red Snapper sided with Pineapple Salsa. Grilled Snow Fish is drizzled with Strawberry Balsamic and topped with berry quarters. The fish is clean and meaty and the sauce tart and sweet. A chewy wafer-thin rice cracker adds adornment. Lastly, an unexpected combination is found in the firm to the bite Roasted Tiger Prawn with a creamy Gorgonzola Polenta. It’s given a fresh spurt with a juicy lychee round. Each piece shows intricate workmanship and we continue to be awestruck with the amount of work and planning that must have gone into composing this menu.
Pan Roasted Duck is a plump slice of poultry with an ample layer of fat trimming the top. Small spoonfuls of chili sauce, a red cabbage purée (mixed with red vinegar, cinnamon and brown sugar) and a surprising stripe of velvety chocolate sauce embellish the side. Tender Duck Confit with Couscous benefits from a lovely citrusy-ness from a kumquat slice, and Pan Seared Foie Gras comes with a dense, slightly sweet brioche, ideal for sopping up the yummy lines of Mango Miso that fold around the liver.
|Duck Main Course|
The fish and poultry are accompanied by a Babich, Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand. Dark berries immediately stroke the nostrils with the first nosing, followed by whispers of herbs. It’s round in the mouth and ends with a caress of spice. It does well with both dishes, but seems especially elegant with the duck.
The saying “Good things comes in threes,” is holding true for the MIGF menu at Neo Tamarind. Our last savoury plate of the evening sees a triune of beef recipes. Braised Beef Cheek is marinated for 24 hours producing a pillow-y soft texture, which falls apart with the gentlest of touch. Scallion oil, carrot puree and half rounds of daikon radish are cleansing accompaniments. Grilled Bone Marrow in Porcini Risotto is extremely rich. It’s so satisfying that only a couple of forkfuls are needed until every single taste bud is satiated. Pan Seared Wagyu Beef (MB7) with Beef Jus is best taken with a mushy clove of roasted garlic from the bulb on which it sits. It’s a clear winner for carnivorous hubby, and I think it’s pretty snazzy too.
An Argentinian Reserva Malbec from Terrazas in the Mendoza region brings out the best of the meat. Its layers of complexity follow the intricacies of the beef and seasonings. It’s toasty and smooth and worth sipping slowly as the finish is long and rewarding.
|Meat Main and Red Wine|
Going out with a bang, Spicy Churros, Mint Chocolate Truffle, Strawberry Cheese Cake, and Chili Sakae fuse a wallop of flavours onto one plate. By no means is this a subtle ending. Creamy cheesecake, perfectly cooked churros, and a heavenly chocolate, fill our mouths with sweet velvety bliss. Chef is proud of his homemade chili infused saké and it works well as a digestif, so we recommended saving it until the very end.
The Full Festival menu is available until October 31st and is priced at RM350 nett per person with wine pairing and RM290 nett without wine pairing. We suggest arriving at dusk to witness the change of light from day to night, and requesting a perch by the window if available. Also do allow a good few hours to fully savour, contemplate and delight in the entire menu.
Reasons to visit: inventive MIGF menu that will inspire hours of conversation over the intricacies of every bite, unique and elegant ambience unlike any other in Kuala Lumpur.
19 Jalan Sultan Ismail
+6 03 2148 3700