Words: Patricia Podorsek Photos: Monica Tindall
The holiday season is a time for people to dress up: Dress up their clothes, dress up their houses, dress up their lifestyles. This season, many restaurants in KL will be dressing up their tables with special menus and glittery cocktails. [email protected] in the heart of the capital is offering a “Festive Degustation” Menu to hustle in the Christmas spirit and the anticipation of the New Year.
As a worldwide cuisine, Malaysia may be lesser known than many of its Asian neighbors, but Chef Raymond Tham is working to elevate the awareness of peninsular flavors by integrating them into his fusion dishes at [email protected] His passionate approach blends the best of European and Asian standards with local flavors like kedongdong, ginger torch, and green dragon chives.
Festive cocktails lead the charge of Skillet’s seasonal menu. Spice heaven hits the olfactory senses before the glass of White Sangria ever reaches the lips. Aromas of ginger, cinnamon, and clove swirl with diced green apples, strawberries, and tangy fermented cranberries. The complex flavor brings the essence of cooler-climate mulled wine into the tropical zone.
Gin lovers will find refreshment in the colorful cranberry-infused version of the old stand-by, a gin gimlet. Bubbly and citrusy, this drink is as tasty as it is colorful. Although alcohol is served, [email protected] is pork-free and serves only halal-prepared meats.
Our lucky draw on the day’s Amuse Bouche was a single Scotch Egg wrapped in a neat package of minced chicken flavored with ginger torch. Followed up with a basket of rustic rolls and French herbed butter, and the meal was off to a great start.
The decadence of the Degustation Menu begins with Alaskan King Crab dressed up with Nashi pear, avocado cream, and salmon roe. The sweet and salty combination and mix of textures would have been enough to satisfy most palates, but the addition of “kedongdong granite” pushes this plate right over the top of culinary novelty. The locally grown fruit is frozen and shaved into ice to sweetly cool the salty fresco of the seafood.
The complexity of flavors needs something smooth and classy to complement, and Skillet suggests nothing short of European bubbles! We tried the French Champagne Veuve Clicquot, beautifully dry like raw bubbles floating down the throat.
In keeping with the decadent theme, the second course promises Truffles and Gold, a mushroom risotto served in a seemingly humble clay pot. Portobellos, shemeji and truffles are creamed with Parma Granado and garnished with 24K edible gold leaf… decadent indeed! The companionable Daisy Hill Sauvignon Blanc carries a crisp edge with stone fruit on the entry and citrus on the finish to balance the richness of the dish.
More luxurious food arrives with the third course, Pan-Seared Foie Gras served with madras curry sea salt, cardamom-scented prune compote, and brioche. Most intriguing was the curry leaf tempura, crunchy and fragrant, a spirited snack all in its own right. Paired with a Late Harvest Viognier by Roustabout, the concentrated sweetness of the wine sustains the richness of the liver.
The fourth course offers a choice of meat or fish. The Black Cod arrives upon a bed of squid ink cassoulet flavored with beef bacon. Alongside, you’ll find a Cameron Highland green dragon chives puree and a dashi reduction for added depth. With a side of Kombu salad, this is a truly international dish that becomes an unfolding gift of flavors.
A red carpet for the meat mains to come, the 2012 Chilean Rey Sol Cabernet Sauvignon captures the ruby red color of the season, and smacks of ripe berries, plum, spices, and toasted oak. It’s complex flavor and smooth finish provide a nice complement to the depth and texture of the lamb and duck.
The second choice for the main course bears pan-seared lamb loin in cocoa butter. Very smoky aubergine mash sits alongside a dab of miso and parsnip puree. Fermented cranberries add a touch of tang to the jus. A sprinkling of Brussels sprout leaves decorates the plates and crispy strips of gobo adorn the top.
For those not interested in the full degustation menu, a la carte options are always available. One recommended item is the pan-seared spiced duck breast. Tender and meaty, the bird is embellished with a soy glaze and accompanied by a sour cherry and duck jus. Served with parsnip puree and black trumpet mushrooms, this plate showcases the beauty and quality of the food at Skillet.
For the final course, a special edition of Skillet’s signature dessert, Texture of Chocolate, embraces the season. Working to appeal to all the senses, we first garner the smell from the pine rimming the plate. Hearing is next, with the 196C nitro cooking peppermint ‘popcorn’ made of white chocolate. Touch grabs a small hammer to crack the spicy chocolate and mint sphere, nestled on a bed of ground chocolate soil for extra texture. With 65% cocoa chocolate sauce poured over the top, you can imagine how the taste buds will come alive. We recommend this celestial treat paired with a snifter of Hennesey VSOP cognac.
As you dress up your house with ornaments to your tree and lights on the eaves, a good spot to dress up your palate is the degustation menu at [email protected] Just like we fuse culture with Santa and reindeer in a tropical country, you can enjoy the fusion cuisine of Chef Raymond Tham this season as well.
Skillet @163 will be open Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day with a special set lunch on the 25th. The Degustation Menu is available from now through the new year, priced at RM300+ alone or RM450+ with recommended wine pairing. Two persons are offered a discounted RM550+ or RM 850+ for the same.
Reasons to visit: The complex blending of local and international flavors in one luxurious menu for the season, and don’t ever miss one of chef Raymond’s desserts (reason enough to visit on their own).