With a lofty reputation forged in the science lab-like kitchen of Tippling Club, Singapore, serving up modern, avant-garde cuisine at its finest, chef Ryan Clift was recently in Kuala Lumpur for an exclusive four-day residence courtesy of Hennessy, held at The Brasserie, St. Regis Kuala Lumpur.
Ranked among the best Asia-based restaurant by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Clift is famed for his Midas touch at pairing cocktails with his food. Although the dinner at The Brasserie took on a more Japanese approach, he managed to incorporate a touch of molecular gastronomy into the menu.
First course – snacks paired with Hennessy V.S.O.P Highball
The first course married two distinct dishes from different cultures—Japanese and Thai. Presented on the left was a condensed tom yum curry topped with grated coconut. Rich, sweet, tangy, creamy and lightly spiced, the yellow tom yum was a wonderful start to a gourmet feast that was about to transpire.
Providing a dose of juxtaposition to the tom yum was the charcoal-flavoured capsicum. Chargrilled to bring out its natural sweetness, the soft capsicum slices were coated in charcoal and lightly dusted with the char produced during the grilling of the capsicum. Complementing the capsicum was a gorgeous Burgundy-hued sauce made from soy sauce and wasabi, bursting with the fifth flavour—umami.
Second course – Petuna ocean trout with beetroot, smoked ox tongue and horseradish cream paired with Hennessy V.S.O.P Radicle cocktail
The second course was meticulously plated with the inspiration sourced from the ocean as evident from the beetroot juice spattered onto the plate in the shape of corals. On top sat a generous-sized cured trout that any cured-meat connoisseur would approve thanks to rich marbling and a smooth texture that melted on the palate upon contact. Its intense flavour was a sharp contrast to the sweet, Oreo-like freeze-dried beetroot granules mixed with milk sprinkled next to the trout.
Third course – roast leek and potato consommé parsley root, parsley chlorophyll and wild herbs
Despite its “green” appearance, the taste defied the expectation I had and the stereotype one usually associates with chlorophyll. The supposed “green” taste was simply washed away by a flood of garlic cream made with white Burgundy the moment the waitress poured it into the bowl, lending much-craved warmth and comfort like homemade chicken soup on a frigid day. If there was one dish that no-one could have enough of, this was it.
Fourth course – wild turbot paired with faux squid risotto, lobster, turnip and watercress emulsion paired with Hennessy X.O
If you thought it was an Italian-style risotto, you would be disappointed—and that isn’t a bad thing. Risotto’s role had been diminished to becoming a side-kick to the star that was the fleshy white wild turbot, perfectly cooked while retaining the juiciness without being too flaky. The wild turbot is prized for its delicate flavours and Clift made sure that that objective was achieved by complementing the natural sweetness found in the flatfish with risotto and lobster bits to elevate the flavours and the depth with assorted textures.
Fifth course – A4 Toriyama wagyu with horseradish burrata, Japanese fruit tomato and artichoke paired with Hennessy X.O
Being a chef is more than just equipping oneself with faultless culinary skills, it also extends to sourcing the right ingredients from suppliers who are trustworthy and dependable. This thick cut of Toriyama wagyu was specially flown in from Japan from farmers whom the chef has recruited to supply all of his eateries. The reason was obvious the moment the knife sank into the medium-cooked beef as all it took was an effortless carve before the beef fell into a tender slice. A normal-grade wagyu steak simply pales in comparison to what the Toriyama wagyu as the latter was more complex due to its higher umami content yet it was so light that it danced and glided on the tongue.
Bonus – Major Tom-inspired dessert
When Clift said it was inspired by his love for sci-fi, he wasn’t joking. Perhaps he was half-joking when he said that when NASA wanted to let its trainee astronauts learn what space smells like, he was commissioned to take the space-worn suit and load it into a machine to dissect the chemistry. The machine later printed out a card where the formula borne a compound of mandarin and Madras curry. A sorbet made from mandarin and Madras curry was presented in the shape of an asteroid. Cheesecakes were magically transformed through freeze-dry technique into tiny capsules stored in a brown semi-transparent plastic bottle prescribed by Dr R Clift.
Sixth course – texture of coconut paired with Hennessy V.S.O.P Coco Loco Cocktail
The final course before we called it a night was an Asian delight, making good use of Malaysians’ favourites such as sago and coconut. It was a brief yet insightful glimpse into the genius of Clift without embarking a journey down south to Tippling Club.