Chef Kevin Cherkas of the famed Cuca Restaurant in Bali and our very own Chef Jeff Ramsey recently collaborated to provide a carnival of sensory stimulation in last night’s (there’s one more tonight if you missed it – details at the end) Swig & Nibble event at Babe Kuala Lumpur.
Both Cherkas and Ramsey have reputations for surprising guests in every sense of the culinary world. And for two nights, a lucky KL crowd celebrated a gourmet party, unlike anything the city has seen before.
Swig & Nibble – A Gourmet Fiesta Like None You’ve Seen Before
Guests sipped, nibbled and mingled with other foodies. Conversations were easily sparked with creative recipes provoking engagement, and chatter was further lubricated by guest mixologist (and Asia’s top 10 bar award winner) Karl Too’s craft cocktails. All of this set to the backdrop of stunning panoramas of the metropolitan skyline and toe-tapping tunes spun by DJ Jason Martin.
Twenty (!) courses of small dishes served canape style were sampled over a period of two hours featuring the best of Cuca and Babe. For those who preferred wine to cocktails, there was a wine flight pairing four different wines in sequence to match the menu but many took advantage of Karl’s potions and the queue at the bar proved consistent and exciting.
The first two tapas out of the kitchen were the Sambal Lolli with sweet tomatoes, multi-seed cracker and kaffir lime from Cuca, and from Babe the Bunga Telur Crystal Chip wrapped in nori with aioli, bonito puree and yuzu. The former, served on a stick looked just like a lollipop and kicked the night off with a touch of childhood fun.
A fishy duo quickly followed with the Fish & Chips featuring whipped fish mousse, sweet potato crunch and spring onions from Chef Cherkas, and Sashimi Spring Rolls with chopped sashimi with crispy shell, soy gelee and spring onions from Chef Ramsey. Held in a purple cone the “fish and chips” held zero resemblance to the British staple, and “spring rolls” too proved a stretch away from the conventional.
Chef Cherkas celebrated veggies with his Mushroom Fritters seasoned with fresh ricotta, roast garlic and pickled mushrooms, presented on a bed of grass as if freshly sprouted after a night’s rain. Ramsey continued with the seafood theme making Tai Chazuke with kombu-cured Japanese sea bream, sour plum and a kelp tea sphere. If you get a chance to visit tonight, pop this one quickly in your mouth and then watch the reactions of your mates as the small balls explode in theirs.
Returning to the sea, Cuca’s recipe for Baked Scallop was a smash accompanied by mashed cauliflower and toasted butter crust. King Crab and Black Truffle Chawanmushi was Babe’s return and the savoury custard with dashi, ginger and butter ankake was equally well received.
Popcorn Chicken from the guest chef provided crispy marinated chicken sprinkled with sesame dust and a touch of zing with zucchini pickles. Distributed in paper cones, just as a portion of popcorn might be, they made easy pickings as patrons rubbed shoulders and bopped to the increasingly buzzy atmosphere. The home team served up Duck and Coke, roast foie gras and duck confit terrine with pickled mustard seed and coke gelee, which switched the talk to that of childhood memories and adult indulgences.
From Indonesian inspiration came Bali Soft Tacos with homemade brown rice tortillas holding braised mushrooms and chilli salsa. Babe’s kitchen sought Thai influence in their Pea-Nots starring a pad Thai prawn with lime, tamarind and vegetables.
Just over the halfway mark came Chili Chicken Satay with toasted coconut and lemongrass from Cuca, while Babe brought out a favourite, Chicken Char Siu comprised of 40 layers of crispy chicken skin terrine with sesame seeds and spring onions. Both – superb!
Hot Potato with onion fudge, charred scallions and spiced keluak gravy from Cuca was presented alongside Babe’s luscious crowd-pleaser, Wagyu Temari; a seared MB9 wagyu beef sushi with arima sansho soy glaze.
Sweets began to flow, literally, with Mango Yolk from Cuca comprising a liquid mango sphere with citrus in an eggshell resembling a soft egg yolk with a golden centre ready to be burst encouraging oohs and aahs in great “yolk porn” anticipation. Lie Mau with kaffir lime and calamansi curd and milk tea skin brought in some Asian persuasion.
Swig & Nibble Grand Finale
The grand finale saw two deceptively simple desserts, Apple French Toast (Cuca) and Babe-En-Dazs (Babe), marking the end but, as you may have guessed, nothing was quite as straightforward as the names might suggest. Cinnamon spiced apples furnished the base for creamy yoghurt with a sprig of tarragon in the first, while the second, cheekily packaged in an ice cream box and branded in a familiar label, sandwiched green tea gelato between a Valrhona Guanaja chocolate coating.
If you missed this unique Swig & Nibble gourmet get-together you can still get a taste of Babe right here in KL by making a reservation here, or on your next visit to Bali, save time for an experience at Cuca here.