If I wanted to have a high end dining experience in KL right now, I can’t think of any restaurant I rather be in than Nadodi which opened in KL barely a year ago.
From the very first time I tasted Nadodi, I was very sure this restaurant was destined for culinary pre-eminence and it would only be a matter of time before the Michelin stars came a knocking.
Nadodi is a culinary journey honouring the food found in the ancient linkage between Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sri Lanka in the South of the Indian Subcontinent. Chefs Johnson Ebenezer and Sricharan Venkatesh, who both grew up in Chennai, seek to disrupt traditional flavours by deconstructing much loved childhood dishes but at the same time, paying homage by introducing to the world the delights of such cuisine through their interpretation and visualisation.
Whimsical playfulness abounds while delivering food with soul and nostalgia.
If I had to sum up their cuisine in only one phrase it would probably be Indian Molecular Gastronomy. Someone would invariably draw a parallel to Gaggan, the restaurant in Bangkok which has won best restaurant in South East Asia in successive years. I have not been to Gaggan myself but everyone I have spoken to who have been to Gaggan have given me extremely mixed reviews.
So I’m not sure I’m doing Nadodi any favours by mentioning them in the same sphere. What I do know is that Nadodi is already on the quick path to culinary greatness and mark my words, people will be clamouring for reservations (if they are not already) in no time.
My group of gourmand friends from Singapore and I dropped in to Nadodi over the weekend. It was an evening of revelation for all of them who are trying Nadodi for the first time. I think it was the mark of how deeply they loved the food and the experience that, midway through the meal, we agreed to cancel our firm and definitive plans to have supper at Jalan Alor, because we wanted to go to bed with the flavors of Nadodi on our lips and the images in our consciousness.
After last night, there are now 8 more nomads out there who are already planning the next meal to Nadodi, anxious to tell the world about this relatively well-kept secret of a gem.
Beverages to soothe the throats of weary travelling nomads
Our 11th Mile Journey was accompanied by two magnums of Pichon Lalande 93 and 94. But we also wanted to try a couple of innovative cocktails which Nadodi was famous for and Kartik, their brand director, recommended that we try Passionade and the Cocktail with no name.
Passionade was a drink made of passion fruit, pomegranate juice and vodka. The cocktail with no name served in a quail egg like cup sitting in a birds nest had hints of lime, gin based and the coup de gras was the introduction of truffle oil which gave it a heady hedonistic fragrance.
And so it begins
A meal at Nadodi is a cultural and gastronomic experience and journey. Pay attention to the story told by the manager, the servers and even the chefs about each dish, the context and the reasons why the dish was created. Take heed of the ingredients used to evoke a certain emotion and the cuisine it was emulating.
The enjoyment of the food served will be in a different realm.
The 11th mile journey started with a trio of amuse bouche.
The first was a mini spring roll like finger which contained something which tasted of coconut rice – soft and yielding.
The second was a whimsical and delightful green wafer made to resemble the Banana Leaf you would be served food upon in a southern Indian curry restaurant, and they even had little chutney pieces on the “leaf” positioned to resemble the various condiments that would come with your banana leaf meal. Quite intriguing and it tickled the funny bone. And it was bloody delicious to boot. This was one of my favourite dishes of the day.
The white chocolate like rock is lentil yoghurt vadai with a dash of chilli and spices dusted with dehydrated yoghurt powder. Many of us liked the savoury taste of the “rock vadai”.
The appetisers started with Surprising Duo. The first was a shrimp impaled on a satay stick which you dipped into a tomato chutney. The prawns were coated with a podi coating and smoked over cedar wood. The smoky pencil lead chateau Lafite wood shavings aroma were amazing.
This was accompanied by a round savoury tart with a base made with chettinad spices and the fillings were the crispy air dried meat of guess what ? Rabbit!
That explains the bugs bunny fluffiness. What was particularly clever was that the tart was completely covered in “twigs” and “vegetation” which reminds me of a rabbit burrow.
They should have called this “The Red Room”.
The Beets three ways was a hit with most of us. Two beetroot crisps rose majestically on a hill of beetroot sorbet dusted with a sea of blood red beetroot powder with a curry infused base of shredded coconut and peanuts. The delectable taste matched the drama and brave colours of this dish.
The briny taste of fresh Hokkaido scallops blended beautifully with swirls of mango curry. It rests delicately on a turf of Centella (pennywort leaves) and ginger flowers.
This was another big hit with most of us who love fish-head curry. It was fish head curry deconstructed with a twist.
It came in a Long barrel Cup and what you saw on top were shards of lemon flat rice which resembled waves. You were asked to plunge your spoon right down to the base of the ocean like you were fishing to get to the generous chunks of coral trout that were at the bottom. The middle layer was a curry soufflé so as you reeled in your catch right to the top, you tasted three sensations – the firm but delicate flaky fish, the creaminess of the soufflé in the centre and the crust of the flat rice on top with a lemony hint which balanced the seafood and curry.
It was pure genius.
A delightful mid journey snack to cleanse the palette. Cucumber, lentils and iced shavings. The yellow globs were turmeric. Coconut nectar was then poured in to present a cold clean concoction to prepare your mouth for the next dish.
It’s Smoking !!
Nadodi tends to have a dish which comes smoked in a glass dome which I love.
The last time I was here, it was a piece of beautiful white fish air flown from Tsukiji that was sous vide, then grilled and then smoked in the dome upon presentation. I still think about that fish and wonder when we can meet again and have babies together.
This time it was a spring chicken smoked with burnt onions and the charcoal smell was incredible. The caramelised onions completed the picture.
Nadodi excels in their lamb every time but this time the lamb really takes the goat (in a manner of speaking).
The Rosella leaf has lots of health and medicinal qualities including maintaining healthy teeth and gums. The chefs deep fried it tempura style to produce this beautiful garnish that we devoured in no time. It was paired with a beautiful crusted sous vide lamb saddle and a small cube of ginger cookie on the side.
Please look at the magical colour on that lamb. It tasted like it looked.
One of our doctor friend at the dinner who detested lamb proclaimed it the dish of the evening for him. Enough said.
The Nomads Globe is what they use to house their signature Brani. They use short-grained rice more widely cooked in the region of Dravida Nadu as an inspiration for this dish.
The globe opens up to reveal a Jaffna crab salad, a lobster curry and a nicely seasoned and moist prawn short grained brani.
Sodhi is essentially a vegetable stew cooked with lentils, drumsticks, turmeric and coconut milk. It is commonly spooned over idiyappam, or sometimes known as pol(coconut) hoppers or putu mayam (as it is called in Malaysia), a type of steamed rice flour made into noodle form.
Sodhi infused ice cream sits beside a small ball of putu mayam. It is also flanked by a delicious piece of pineapple yuzu infused cake with a slice of truffle nestling on top.
Textures of Milk
The second dessert consisted of palkova, a delicate whey meringue, honey cured yoghurt with Sri Lankan palm sugar and a very fragrant rose milk snow.
My dining companions declared the ensemble utterly delicious.
Choosing our Chai and Petit Fours
A dazzling array of Chais to choose from.
The Chai was served with Petit Fours- whimsical butterflies perched on a branch were made of cardamon and kiwi, while the curry puff sitting on the river pebbles were cotton candy infused with pistachio.
Nadodi, until we meet again.