Chef Wai at The Library
Words: Patricia Podorsek Photos: Monica Tindall
Any time Monica sends me some options for upcoming reviews and I see The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur on the list, I don’t hesitate to say yes. Consistently classy and inventive, the hotel’s haven for fine dining, The Library, has held onto its reputation as one of the finest fine-dining experiences in the city. This is largely due to the capable hands of Executive Chef Wai Look Chow and an incredibly well-trained service team. We are delighted to learn of a new seasonal menu this month, one showcasing contemporary international and Asian cuisine featuring the freshest seasonal harvests sourced locally and from afar.
The Library promises to take guests on a new journey with each visit, captivating the senses with innovative menus and an elegant ambience, which harmoniously and subtly changes with the seasons. The menu you’ll find below will conclude at the end of September and a new menu for the next season will commence in October.
Chic grays and golds greet us alongside deep woods and the embrace of lighted bookshelves that you’d expect from the name. Lines are clean and the lighting low, an elegant respite from the rain pouring outside and the bustling traffic of Bukit Bintang.
The restaurant manager, the attentive and personable Raj, settles us in with a cocktail to start the night. My Manhattan is smooth rye and spice, as warming as it is chilled. Monica sips a Negroni, cool velvet harboring the delicacy of the florals within. Caning jumps in with a Mojito, loaded with fresh mint and lime, as bubbly as the smile it prompts.
Tonight we are sampling the Seasonal Degustation Menu. It’s four beautiful courses, with some added goodies in between. Chef Wai plans to update his seasonal menu three to four times per year. He aims to mirror the availability of the finest ingredients, including those that can be found locally. He does his best to be thoughtful about the sourcing. For instance, only free-range chickens are used in food preparation. With our own bent toward health and sustainability, we appreciate this.
Chef Wai at The Library – Starters
Fragrant Gallagher Oysters lead the charge on the evening with Chef Wai at The Library. These plump marine treasures are layered atop pan-fried sushi rice then capped with sea urchin and baked gratin-style to a perfect medium. I love the creativity here! So often, we get oysters iced on the half shell, which – don’t get me wrong – I love and would never complain about! But here we begin to peel back the layers of the chef’s skill and ingenuity. This onigiri is fragrant, textured, and well-balanced, like all the world in one plate.
Next arrives a bonus appetizer off the a la carte menu. Browned edges give way to deep purple hues in the Pan-Seared Cured Tuna. Crusted in roasted Sarawak black pepper and herbs, the heat strengthens with a bit of wasabi then mellows with a splash of yuzu. The tender fish melts onto the palate in a wash of spice and sea.
Wine & Bread – Chef Wai at The Library
The wine pairing for the appetizer course is a 2016 French Chablis bottled by J. Moreau & Fils. Bright citrus rolls into hints of oak at the finish with a bouquet that reminds me of summer peaches.
Although it’s not really a course on the menu, I feel as though I could make an entire meal out of the artisanal cereal bread, made right here in the Library’s own kitchen! This mild sourdough is stone-baked to achieve a perfectly thin crust that cracks open like an eggshell to reveal soft dough inside peppered with seeds. With a little black truffle butter melting over the top, I can feel my own heart melting right alongside into a speechless mess.
The second course of the Chef Wai at The Library’s degustation menu yields a pan-seared Hokkaido Scallop, sliced lengthwise and served with double cream: a mascarpone-caviar glaze and a bed of Reggiano risotto. Everything about this plate feels cloud-like, from the pillow of flesh to the dreamy texture of the risotto. Even the silver lining of orange at the beginning… is it Grand Marnier? I’m too floaty to wonder too long.
With this course, the Chef recommends the 2018 Ingoldby Chardonnay from McLaren Vale. The earthy bouquet submits to the effervescent brightness of oak and citrus. The lengthy mineral finish brings the land to the sea and cloud of the scallops.
After a spot of tangerine sherbet to cleanse the palate, we move on to the mains. Guests have a choice of two. The first, Pan-seared Sous Vide Chicken, arrives with elegant sides of foie gras and truffle puree. Most decadent of all, Raj appears to hand-shave more foie gras over the top. The chicken is tender and juicy in the way that only brandy and port can provide, all dressed up in Sunday best by its companions.
The second main of the menu by Chef Wai at The Library, Wagyu Medallion, crusts melty beef tenderloin in a coat of butter, herbs, and more of that amazing shaved foie gras. A cute little pitcher of truffle jus accompanies the plate, and of course, I pour it all over the top indulgently. A cake of scalloped potatoes provides symmetry to the plate. Chef recommends a 2016 Cotes-du-Rhone by Croix de Bonpas. Its dark fruits flanked by liquorice complement the earthy nature of the beef and truffle.
An option of two desserts finishes the menu offerings, both steeped in chocolate, which makes me reconsider my previous declaration of “too full.” The first, Chilled Jivara Pudding, blends smooth Manjari chocolate with pepper from Sarawak to intensify the flavours. Topped with sugared berries and homemade ice cream, this is denser than mousse with creamy highlights of summer. I feel myself getting pulled back to the clouds.
The second option, a Double Chocolate Tart, is even more sinful than the first. A dark chocolate crust is filled with chocolate ganache stars enhanced by Grand Marnier. Strips of candied orange rind and pistachio add texture, and a scoop of homemade chocolate ice cream sends this triple out of the park into the home run zone. (A baseball reference, showing my true colours right there!) It’s fabulous and completely over the top.
Too early to close the evening, Chef hangs on to us for a linger over our wine with a parting gift of indelible sweets: bright mango macarons filled with Manjari chocolate. Gummy candy of intense raspberry and passion fruit. Crunchy cookies made of banda rose tea. These unbelievable extras will tide us over into tea time tomorrow! They are just one small snapshot of the thought and care of the food prepared by Chef Wai and his staff, among the highest-quality Asian and Western fusion found in KL.
Chef Wai’s Seasonal Menu runs 300 Nett per person, 450 Nett with wine pairing, and is available daily from 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Vegans and vegetarians can be accommodated; best to notify the restaurant when making the reservation. Reservations are recommended.
Reasons to visit Chef Wai at The Library: Reasonably priced degustation showcasing world-class talent.