Stoked fans the embers of a scorching-hot new era for Medan Damansara's restaurant enclave - replacing Ribs By Vintry, this admirably ambitious effort by KL's long-venerated Vintry group is one of 2015's most notable F&B freshmen, with a rustic elegance that evokes a French wine cellar & an oven-powered oeuvre that sparkles with steaks, seafood & much, much more.
Stoked may be Asia's first restaurant to bank on Bertha, a British-built, cast-iron charcoal & wood-fired oven that fuels meat-loving establishments across England, from Searcys at The Barbican in London to The Plough Ivy Hatch in Kent. Stoke's mild-mannered executive chef Yu Yao oversees the 300-kilogramme oven, carefully cooking everything from meat to vegetables at soaring temperatures of up to 600 degrees Celsius to lock in moisture & flavour while imbuing a smoky char in the produce.
This is one of those rare & precious restaurants with a start-to-finish consistency of thoughtful excellence. It begins the moment you enter, welcomed by a sterling service team (spearheaded by manager Daniel) that's determined to take care of you thoroughly. Even the amuse bouche that emerges is far from a time-passing afterthought - whether it's foie gras terrine with mango & balsamic sauce, cherry tomato stuffed with molten mozzarella, chicken tinged with truffles, duck with capsicum, or a bread roll with sumptuous butter, the curtain rises in a manner that foreshadows culinary stagecraft at its most captivating.
Come ravenous & commence with the roasted beetroot, blood orange & mascarpone cheese (RM25), a composition of lyrical nuances that sing like the sweetest symphony. Stoked is also a maestro of mushrooms - its medley of roasted field fungi with confit garlic & onions (RM25) proves a persuasively orchestrated melody of earthy chords, aromatic notes & voluptuous tones.
When Vintry founder Yin-How & his team first tasted this pan-fried foie gras with cubed mangoes (RM48), they realised they were on the right track in birthing an ingredient-driven restaurant that commands the understanding of what makes food good & how to showcase recipes that shimmer with skill, honesty & imagination.
Seafood showdown: Our vote goes to the grilled squid with arugula & truffle vinaigrette (RM38), thanks to its enjoyable subtleties of complex flavours, since the seared scallops (RM38; with orange & fennel salad) turned out a slight shade too dry. Still, both manage to impressively mix confidence & character in their conception with graceful restraint in their preparation.
Here comes the main event: Steaks are Stoked's forte - the reasonably priced repertoire begins with the Blackmore Wagyu 'Bavette' Skirt Steak (RM80 for 200 grammes & RM115 for 300 grammes), wending its way through an Aussie chilled Black Angus rib-eye (RM78 & RM112), tenderloin (RM88 & RM125), USDA Prime rib-eye (RM98 for 200 grammes) & Wagyu Sirloin MB5 (RM108 & RM155), tackled with a consummate respect for the meat that results in robustly flavoursome succulence.
Yin-How's inspiration for Stoked stems from a visit years ago to Victor Arguinzoniz's Asador Etxebarri in the Basque Country. It's no surprise then that the passion for flame-licked meat burns bright here - Stoked plans to soon also offer a steak tasting platter for sharing & sampling, featuring three cuts in one serving. Here's a potential preview, with slabs of rib-eye, tenderloin & the one-off bonus of a lamb loin - unbeatable for those evenings when you need to chow down on meat & more meat.
The zealously clear-eyed attention to detail extends to the meal's accoutrements - distinctive sauces like the wasabi yuzu that packs a green chilli pepper's punch, intriguing salts like the Hawaiian Black Lava, cutlery like Laguiole knives, & even the water: the UK Chefs' Choice award-winning Hildon mineral water, chosen for a natural purity that complements Stoke's fare.
Fans of Stoked will be forced to make multiple visits here - fish is a should-order, with a locavore philosophy that brings in Malaysian catch like a whole flounder (seasonal prices prevail) from Perak's coastal town of Hutan Melintang & coral trout (RM78) from Selangor's Tanjung Karang. The flounder we had was clearly a beautiful fish, & it was ravishingly done.
It could be worth enquiring about off-menu specials - you may be rewarded with juicy, fleshy guinea fowl. But if not, take consolation in the always-available guinea fowl eggs en cocotte, luscious with prosciutto, button mushrooms & truffle oil.
Customers who cherished Ribs By Vintry will be heartened to learn that Stoked still serves pork ribs, including the finger-lickin' rosemary Iberico (RM72), the Barbarian Ribs (RM74) & Original BBQ Ribs (RM45). Enjoy with oven-cooked sides like Japanese purple sweet potatoes (RM15) or pumpkin chunks with prosciutto crumbs (RM15); even the leeks, a vegetable we love to hate, turn out to be atypically tender & tasty.
When dessert arrived, we thought the best was over - but we were wrong. Stoked has produced an unbearably compelling sticky date pudding (RM25) that ranks as the best we've had in KL - it scores A+ for taste (sweetly punchy but not cloying), A+ for texture (straddling the balance between fluffy & dense), A+ for temperature (fresh & warm), served with sea salt for extra dynamics & Fatbaby vanilla ice cream for an exuberant contrast. One of our favourite desserts this year, no ifs, ands or buts.
Nothing else quite compares to the pudding's magnificence, but the dark chocolate mousse & soil (RM25) is nonetheless a cacao lover's fantasy, while the mixed fruit salad with yuzu ice cream (RM25) comprises a dreamy mix of ripe morsels of avocado, grapes, dragon fruit, kiwi fruit & mango. Even the dark choc truffles yield a pleasant surprise - the tang of ginger.
A discussion of Stoked wouldn't be complete without its Italian-built Enomatic wine dispensers, which enables customers to try a meticulously curated, evolving selection of 24 wines - including some uncommon vintages - in three serving sizes: a 25-ml tasting portion, a 75-ml half-glass & a 125-ml full glass. Prices range from RM5 for some tasters to RM20-RM56 for a glass.
It's a enlivening & enlightening experience, both for the wine novice & the pundit, taking the Vintry brand to fun new heights. For a steak/seafood & wine dinner, Stoked seems an easy recommendation; many thanks to the team here for the hospitality.
Stoked Restaurant & Bar
Jalan Kasah, Bukit Damansara, Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur. Tues-Sun, 12pm-3pm, 6pm-late. Tel: 03-2096-1645
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