Dining with my Spiritual Uncle and KL Gastronomic Sifu again in KL.
This time, we’re dining at a relatively new French/Japanese restaurant called Kikubari helmed by Chef De Cuisine Jun Wong.
Chef Jun Wong has spent time in the kitchen of Cilantro, KL’s most enduring bastion of fine dining, and one of my favourite haunts in KL for a long time.
She then worked 5 years abroad in the three-starred Robuchon au Dome in Macau and two-starred Narisawa in Tokyo, Japan. And in Australia, the two-hatted Sixpenny.
She also helmed rustic French restaurant Le Petit Flot in Sydney.
First impressions of Kikubari – modern chic hues, dark stone walls and soft lighting provided a warm relaxed ambience. I really liked the zen floor. It was clear glass showcasing a zen garden beneath suggesting that one needs to slow down one’s heartbeat and find your inner chill to enjoy the experience that was to come.
An extremely delicate Corton Charlemagne White burgundy certainly helped the process. A few glasses in and I was purring like a white Persian in heat. Then the Grands Echézeaux Grand Cru was opened and I had to stop touching myself at the table.
My dining companions have a rule – never, never be an imbecile and eat on an empty stomach. We have to line the stomach with enough acidity before the food arrives. I think it’s an age old Sanskrit teaching that has been passed down for generations. Right up there with the Kamasutra.
It makes you witty and charming and be a better person, at one with your karma and the infinite cosmos.
The amuse bouche arrived. Baby potato with caviar, sour cream and chives. Nice combination but I found it a trifle plain. A little savoury umami may make it perfect. Maybe baked aged Gouda bits which is currently my favourite thing to throw over truffled angel hair or onsen egg? That savoury umami would have done wonders with the sour cream.
To be fair, I guess amuse bouches are not mean to overpower the palette and it is meant to be built up slowly. So strong robust flavours may not be the way to go. What do I know anyway ? I was a slightly buzzed a…hole being fed good food. So shut up and try not to slobber. And stop touching yourself.
I really liked the seafood offering. Lightly sautéed mussels and prawns with cherry tomatoes in a flavourful jus reduction. The mussels were intensely flavourful and unbelievably tender. Chef Jun came to our table at the end of the night and I asked her did she sous vide them ? No – the mussels were flash cooked in white wine – the good old traditional way. Kudos – great skills to make them that delicate and tasty . Crispy Sakura prawns were introduced giving it the slight Japanese twist blending nicely with chilled ice berg lettuce. The creaminess of the prawns was tantalising as only really fresh exotic produce can muster. It’s certainly not your typical John Doe prawn. And the head was deep fried and you just popped the whole thing in your mouth and it tasted of heaven. The whole ensemble was brilliant.
Grilled Hamichi and Asparagus in dashi sauce and edamame beans was next. The Hamachi skin was nicely crisped up but I would have liked the flesh to be ever so slightly less firm. But perhaps I was just being finicky here. It was delectable and I finished it in no time.
I believe that a Chef who works well with vegetables shows a different realm of skill. In this case, the steamed cabbage with anchovies sauce was a big hit with me. The Charcoal grilled cauliflower with homemade salted egg Yolk sauce with wasabi and mustard also added a different dimension to eating vegetables.
Another dish that wowed me was the deep fried artichokes skin nestled in artichoke purée . The perfumed artichoke puree was comforting but the reward was to come when you made your way to reach the deep fried artichoke skin in the centre. It erupted in the mouth resplendent with umami flavours. It was wafer thin and crispy fried. Delicious.
I have a few gastronomic idiosyncrasies. In a good Chinese restaurant, I regard the fried rice to be a litmus stick for how good the restaurant is. The cooks ability to coax the umami “wok hei” out of their simple fried rice always intrigued me . If a french or continental restaurant offers chicken, I always feel compelled to try the chicken as it is the most difficult meat to get right and highlights the chef’s confidence and intricate culinary skills. I was wavering as the other option was miso infused beef cheek but roast chicken it is.
The skin was done well – crispy and rich. The meat was not dry but if I had to pick to a fault, it wasn’t exactly moist either. Perhaps that dish would have done better to have the chicken sitting in some sort of jus or reduction – perhaps salted egg reduction with sake and mirin, if it’s not too weird ?
Home made toufo ice cream with kumquat jam was really interesting but it was the second dessert- home made vanilla ice cream with blue cheese and brioche that blew me away. The sharp tanginess of the blue cheese paired beautifully with the plain vanilla ice cream, and the brioche gave it a nice savoury bite.
It provided a scintillating finish to a perfect evening.