My friends must think that I’ve gone missing by now. They’ve not heard of or seen my face for a good while now. But try explaining to them how your bosses and colleagues expect you to be a creative solution agency, an events company, a marketing & communications expert, social media titan, Bob the Builder, Leonardo da Vinci, Frank Lloyd Wright, home decorator, motivational speaker, photographer, video producer and street directory all rolled into one. Oh, and with all the recent international visitors we’ve been getting at work, let’s count in a travel guide in that long list of things to do.
My mum thinks I’m workaholic and busy hobnobbing with the big guys because I’m never home, or at least not when she’s awake. Restaurant and hotel PR managers probably think I’m a snob because I keep turning down their invites to catch up or to taste the latest dishes around. Frankly, I just don’t want to be “gently” reminded to put up a post-coverage article.
And you, my dear readers, probably think I’m dead since I’ve not been updating the blog regularly as I should. But the sad truth is that I’ve not gotten much time to spare at the end of the day and I keep going back to the same old few places because there is just not that many places that caters to late diners. So really, there is not much to write about these days. My life has become such a routine.
Of course it’s not always gloomy here. There are a days, albeit few and apart, where the stars miraculously align together and the universe decides to treat me with a weekend free of any commitments. Last Saturday was one of those special days. And that is how I ended up accepting an invitation for lunch at Dish, the Delicious Group’s casual fine dining restaurant located in Dua Annexe.
Speaking of stars aligning and all that astrological mumbo jumbo, you know how the universe just likes to send you a message every now and then? As if it knew that I was struggling to make sense of my work-and-life balance, it introduces me to one chef Steve Allen. You see this young but no doubt talented chef has worked with perhaps the worst boss one can possibly get, one who is known to hurl unrestrained abusive assaults in your way and kick you out the kitchen if you ever inclined to screw up. Perhaps by now you might have guessed that he has been working alongside none other than the merciless chef Gordon Ramsay himself.
Obviously by this moment, my own current predicaments seem rather minuscule and cannot be compared with working in the depths of Ramsay’s hellish kitchen.
While he may regaled us with tales of heated kitchen dramas in the past when he thought his days of working under Ramsay’s mentorship would come to an end, he was also quick to add, “In all honesty, Gordon isn’t as bad as you may think he is. That’s all for television. He hardly screams at anyone in real life. If ever you find him raising his voice at you, you know that is the end of your career in the kitchen.”
It must say something that Steve stayed with Gordon for over a decade where he is thankful to have learned not only culinary skills and techniques, he has also learned everything he needs to know in the food business including handling finances, business development and even how to build his own brand and showmanship.
Of course, working for a celebrity chef also has its perks. Bitten by the travel bug while helping Ramsay out in his TV shows and cookbooks, Chef Allen has recently flown into KL directly from London’s esteemed Claridge’s, where he was the Head Chef. He would travel as much as he can and was looking for an opportunity to expand his wings to this part of the world after discovering it two years ago. He got lucky. It turns out E&O’s managing director Datuk Terry Tham is a regularly dines at Claridge’s. See how the universe was hard at work once again!
Today, he takes on the new challenge as E&O’s Group Creative Chef. And with only for a little less than a month after revamping Dish, which is now his very own playground, he has already made quite a buzz with his newly created menus.
The first to roll out is an ala carte menu featuring 34 stunning dishes, which he has proudly managed to introduced his own brand of cool Britannia without isolating what Dish fans have come to love about the restaurant.
Taking note that women are mostly curious creatures and are usually more taken by what goes into the dishes and how they have been put together, he is confident that the new items like the Sauteed Scallops with Cauliflower Puree and Vitello Tonnatta will sent them lady hearts fluttering in the wind.
Cooking scallops perfectly is perhaps one of culinary greatest challenges, a simple task yet many has failed miserably. Here not only were they cooked well, they were interlaced with fine crunchy apple slivers, then laid on a fluffy puree of cauliflower with turkey bacon bits, topped with a couple of deep fried ‘keropok’-like cauliflowers, fragrant wasabi shoot, and finally sprinkled with almond crumbs for a sensational mouth feel. The Vitello Tonnatta is another highlight not to be missed; fine marinated veal slices beautifully assembled with arugula on top and thinly drizzled with spirals of tuna flavoured mayonnaise.
We also fell in love with the simple pleasures of the Seared and Marinated Tuna, Pickled Radish, Crispy Quail Eggs. I may be biased, but I love tuna. Especially thick, hunky cuts of moist red meat that has been seared no more than a millimeter off its sides. There were no more than a handful of ingredients, all beautifully curated on a white plate, yet it processed an exquisite play on textures and flavours. I couldn’t quite put my fingers down if it tasted Japanese, Korean, French or Italian. The taste was just universal. And it is almost impossible to share this dish with the others because I so badly wanted it for my own. Then again, I also wanted the luscious bowl of golden Pumpkin Soup with Mushrooms, Parmesan and Truffle all to myself too. What a little greedy monkey I’ve turned out to be. So who says only women enjoy having antipastis?
Steve further explains that he has also observed that guys aren’t so keen to share their food, perhaps due to having bigger appetites, they would end up being territorial with their dishes. Guess that just explains why I was hoarding the appetizers earlier.
Speaking of manly portions, chef Allen has also just finished creating the Lunch Set Menu, which typically comes in two courses (RM65) with a starter and your choice of either fish, fowl or beef. You can also opt for a dessert course for an additional RM10. The choice of steak would definitely go down well with the guys. This nice piece of 200g grain-fed meat on a chopping block comes with a side of melting truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, triple cooked chips which were perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy on inside and an avocado, tomato, pine nut and parmesan chopped salad. Gotta have some greens you know. Duck lovers would probably go for the double whammy of Seared Breast of duck on creamy potato puree and Braised duck leg with ginger carrot. Save some of the bread to dip into its slightly Asian-flavoured stew. The Lunch Set Menu is now set to change every two Wednesdays.
My favourite mains of the day was the Salt Baked Cod, Red Pepper and Lemon Sauce from the ala carte menu. Baked inside an inedible salty pastry, a delicate cube of cod was unveiled, lifted out and placed onto the centre of a beautiful arrangement made of sweet, juicy and plump peppers in every colour, oven-dried lemons, ribbons of zucchini and a citrusy red pepper puree. From my viewpoint, this was a masterpiece. And my palate quickly agreed in unison too.
Of course, no meal is complete without a sampling of desserts, after all we Malaysians love our cakes as Steve pointed out. The twisted slice of Caramel Chocolate Delice was a devilish indulgence and perfectly balanced with fresh raspberries, lime ice cream and candied lime rinds. We also liked the summery Pineapple Carpaccio, Coconut Sorbet and Tuille. Images of endless white sandy beach, warm sunshine, azure waters and grass skirts immediately came to mind upon our first bite. And just when you thought we were gonna cry “wee wee wee” home, we added a slice of Steve’s freshly made Lemon & Lime Drizzle cake to go with our coffee. It wasn’t surprising that it was also good (as if we were expecting anything less?), seeing how Steve started his culinary journey at the tender age of eight helping his ‘Nan’ prepare tea and cakes for customers of his mother’s hairdressing business at home.
With only the Weekend Lunch menu to be launched at Dish this week, chef Allen can then finally move on to concentrate on working on the group’s iconic café chain, Delicious. It is going to be a challenge restoring faith to a brand, which has suffered a backlash in terms of food quality and service in the past year. But if our afternoon at Dish is anything to go by, we’re quite confident that we can look forward to plenty of delicious days ahead of us.
Perhaps this lunch was just the universe’s way of telling me to just simply keep calm, carry on and continue to love what I do. Thanks Aunty PL for the invitation and the lovely afternoon.
***DISH Dua Annexe, 213 Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur, Tel: +603-2164 1286 Starters range from RM22 to RM48 / Mains starts at 58 / Desserts are all priced RM21.