Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Two Michelin Star Chicago Avenues Chef Curtis Duffy @ Senses, Kuala Lumpur Hilton
Visiting chefs are often a touch and go situation. Put them in a different environment away from their comfort zone aka their own restaurant kitchen and things seem to go haywire. Occasionally we get a rare incidence where the food tastes exceptional no matter what as the chef upholds his standards despite being a 1000 and more miles away from his hometown.
I must admit I was blown away by Curtis Duffy's cuisine. He impressed us all with his harmonious flavour pairing with a touch of molecular gastronomy and his beauteous plating that made every creation a masterpiece. Even though he's pretty young, the chef had already chalked up a few accolades such as working with Grant Achatz at Alinea and subsequently moving on to Avenues, which was awarded two Michelin stars. Definitely a man to look out for in the future for greater things.
I was lucky to get a double dosage of Duffy's food, a sampler taste from his cooking class and the full ensemble for dinner which I shared with good friends, the elusive Paranoid Android and the charming Aly's Wonderland. Dinner started off with a chilled amuse bouche that numbed the tongue a little since the green pellets were frozen. The flavours like anise hyssop blooms were a little unfamiliar to us except the umami-laden sea urchin but we all enjoyed it tremendously. Subsequently, we were served the slow poached salmon cooked sous vide, a dish he had also demonstrated for his cooking class. It's paired with the liquorice like flavours of fennel in various layers - firstly an intense fennel sauce, followed by fennel fronds and the poached fennel slices. On the side were chopped black olives, a mustard vinaigrette and absinthe green foam.
Next it was our big favourite of that night, the scallops served with a white poppy seed milk that was paired with a romaine lettuce marmalade and nasturium flavours in the form of leaves and pretty blooms. It's hard to describe this dish but the soft sweet scallops went beautifully with the creamy and slightly sweet hot broth extracted from white poppy seeds and the romaine lettuce marmalade. We all wished for more just like Oliver in the musical.
The next dish was a familiar one for me since I also had it for lunch. A hearty wholesome dish named grains, seeds and nuts, this dish warmed our tummies with its protein rich ingredients. It's essentially a barley risotto with a layer of amaranth, quinoa crunch and a block of hazelnut oil in a form of powder. The dish comes with a sunflower seed broth. Finally, we reach our main course and on paper you won't expect coconut flavours to pair well with wagyu beef ribeye except in a rendang but this version works so well especially when it is paired with preserved kumquats and yuzu puree to cut through the rich creamy coconut taste.
With a blink of the eye, our wonderful dinner was almost at the end. To clear our palate in a fun way, it was time for the sudachi liquid ball. Encased in a thin white chocolate layer, you pop one in the mouth and crunch down on the thin shell to let the tangy liquid out. It can be a shock to your senses like Aly's reaction, if you don't expect the liquid. I reckon this will be perfect party poppers to get the mood going. Last but not least was the chocolate ganache piped out like spaghetti strands. The rich chocolate taste is paired with a hazelnut financier, cacao rocks, an intense cassia caramel, huckleberries and stevia leaves.
We were pretty lucky to also meet up Duffy and his sous chef, Steven that night since it was their last stint before they flew back to America. I also did my civic duty and took them over to Bayan Indah to introduce them to Rohani Jelani and her wonderful local herb garden. Hopefully there'll be some interest in incorporating local flavours in their dishes since Duffy loves Thai and Japanese flavours already. Who knows? Maybe the next time when you dine at Chicago's Avenues or Duffy's soon to open restaurant, you may find teh tarik sorbet mingling among bold American flavours on your plate.
Kuala Lumpur Hilton
Tel: 03-2264 2264(Pork Free. More pictures are in my Flickr set.)
*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here is entirely based on my personal tastebuds and may vary for others. This review is time sensitive; changes may occur to the place later on that can affect this opinion. The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from this place for writing the review.