When it comes to Molecular Gastronomy or ultra high end cuisine where they explain every single dish to you, I only have one rule – if you are going to make me sit through some slightly annoying recitation and imbibe pretentious food, the food better be very good, and the orator better know his stuff because I will go into cross examination mode, and ask detailed questions about exactly how the dish was prepared from a cook’s point of view, and exactly what spice or ingredient went into it. I usually find the narrators to be inept and come away feeling that life have been wasted. And if the food is just pretentious and not delicious, the irritation builds up dish after dish like a tsunamatic crescendo, such that by the end I will be grumpy and vile (more so than normal), and feeling like I want to go on a lone wolf rampage.
Friends who know that I have found places like Sra Ba and Bo Lan in Bangkok pretentious and annoying, have convinced me never to go to Gaggan. Its a pity – top restaurant in Asia and fine Indian cuisine – what is there not to like ? And I love good Indian and curries and spices . But yet I know how the evening will end – It would be like a Gurkha having to sheath his Kukri, but tasting no blood. A sacrilege no less. I was convinced I would be disappointed like an erect skunk at a swingers rabbit party if I ever went to Gaggan. I never did.
So I was extremely chuffed when I was invited to dine at Nadodi with my favourite people in KL, who have eaten at more high end cuisines in the world at one end and the most dirty hole in the walls at the other, than most people would experience in several life times. I knew the wines will be dead serious every time we dine and there would be no exceptions to this rule – not in the last 10-15 years or so when we have dined together.
The meaning of Nadodi in Malayalam is “nomad” or “wanderer” or “gypsy”. For Kuala Lumpur’s newest Indian high end dining establishment, the food would be molecular – experimental but not too pretentious, playful yet purposeful, every dish striving to evoke childhood memories or an era gone by, or to tell a sentimental whimsical story of a neighbourhood, a place in time.
A meal at Nadodi is meant to be an odyssey, traversing the rice paddies of Tamil Nadu, the coastal fisheries of Kerala & the crop fields of the Jaffna Peninsula.
The article below talked about the 10 mile journey- we had the 17 mile journey! I was excited to see from my short sighted vision a blurry image of the wines we were about to drink , the orange hue of my favourite Saint Julien Ducru Beaucaillou (it was 1995 , one of the top years and drinking beautifully now) and the unmistakable almost austere pink and black lettering label of Vega Sicilia Valbuena No 5. The Rose was impeccable as usual but I was particularly intrigued by the white. I was misled in thinking at first it was a high end white burgundy as that was what was usually served, then I tasted the wash of minerals and changed my mind and thought it was a good German Riesling but which I wasn’t particularly sure about as it lacked the sweetness. I was shocked to learn it was in fact a Trocken. A Trocken that light and crisp with mineral undertones and with nary a hint of sweetness ? Just goes to show what a shit palette I have all this years and all the monies wasted drinking serious stuff – might as well feed me Shandy and supermarket swill. I was suitably chastised and sheepish.
The food came and the incantations started. Kartik, their brand director, explained every dish. And far from being irritated, I loved his presentations. Stories of Indian culture and fond reflections of what they used to eat as a child, he parried my questions with ease – how they sous vide, smoked, charcoaled, lightly grilled, blended, foamed, created. Every dish came with thought, passion and respect.
And how was the taste ? Some dishes were pleasant, many were pleasing and intriguing but as the journey went on, it became more and more tantalising.
I experienced a Bhutan like joy sucking in air that was crisp but thin – but of the purest form.
The stirring started from the tongue, it transversed space and time. I looked around and my fellow diners were wearing robes like me. We were at a benediction, not a meal. Such was the quality of what was served to us.
The prawns intrigued me. It was smoked yet had a slightly undercooked sashimi like consistency- I learnt that it was sous vide then charcoal grilled. Delicious. The salted lamb jerky served on a whole slab of salt rock was bursting with flavours. The Tsukiji catch fresh flown from Tsukiji market was presented in a delightful glass dome of smoke which permeated the fresh delicate fish and was unforgettable. The chicken briyani short grained rice was tantalisingly delectable, and oh that aubergine dish – I closed my eyes. Aubergine marinated with a spiced crust, chargrilled and sitting in a spiced masala gravy with a hint of truffle oil. It was sensual and tantric.
I didn’t want to go home.
Watch this video