If you opened a nasi lemak and rendang eatery in Chittenango, New York, voted sixth whitest town in the state, the locals wouldn’t know enough to criticise the flavours. Perhaps they’d have an opinion or two about the creaminess of the rice or the toughness of the beef. But otherwise, they’re no experts. Similarly I wouldn’t know if the coq au vin has too much red wine or gone too heavy on the butter or if the chef used inferior beef stock. This classical French dish is not something I grew up eating.
So it’s particularly vexing when I hear a chef detail his deconstructed masterpiece, assembled as shimmering dew drops on the gossamers of a humanity’s greatest hopes and fears, then taste the damn thing, and instantly realise he’s been selling hot air. If a nobody like me can tell the difference, surely we’ve hit rock bottom.
Thus you can understand my underwhelming response to yet another Hennessy X.O Odyssey invitation. I can cut the ribbon without the fanfare folks, and declare this excellent smoking room cognac to be as good as it says on the tin. This X.O is easily one of my favourites, with its fruitier style and grappa-like aromas. Of course you’ll have to taste this cognac on your own to decide if it’s right for you, but surely it deserves an opportunity to warm in your hands.
Taking my own recommendation, I showed up just as it started to drizzle. Brand marketers had thoughtfully hired a parking valet; kudos and special thanks for that. The DC Restaurant is nestled in a little nook along the cramped shop lots of Taman Tun Dr Ismail. There is no glitz on the signboard or glamour at the door. Just a trapezoidal logo that re-appears subtly throughout the restaurant, its signature mise-en-scène that piques interest if you’re the curious type.
Hennessy cocktails were served, along with neat snifters, on the ground floor reception/open kitchen; a stylish room of marble, spices and bronze pots. Once the highly discerning lot of KL’s best fluff writers were jolly and pink, we were ushered upstairs to sup. Chef Darren Chin is the son of David Chin, founder of the Dave’s Deli Group. A local institution for PJ families and one that grew on entrepreneurial grit and hard-knocks.
Dinner began with a botan ebi, heirloom tomatoes, konbu, lemon basil and chilli oil. A mouthful that played on both texture and flavour. It was perfect with Hennessy X.O on the rocks. And that’s certainly no meaningless ditty. Other taste profiles included takao cold somen with truffle celeriac cream, taken with a X.O with a dash of water. Or organic chicken, veal and snow crab in bertutu spices, poached in milk with foie gras emulsion, and black summer truffle respectively. Each plate purposefully requiring an enhancement from the Hennessy X.O, either neat, with cold water or ice.
Maybe it’s just me, but I keep bumping into men in kitchen whites that are pathological narcissists. Benefit of the doubt to their over-informed palates but I can count on two fingers the number of times I’ve sat through a dinner and thought, “Wow, this pairing just works”. From apéritif to digestif, I enjoyed every morsel and stayed till the lights were turned on. A wonderful meal and exactly the experience you’d love to share with friends again.