Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Babe: Japas Fun Dining @ Clearwater, Damansara Heights


Can you keep a secret? Babe - one of 2015's most anticipated new restaurants - has declared a launch date of Nov. 20, but the truth is, it's already open for business. If you'd like to visit while this venue is still free of crowds (all the better for enjoying an untrammelled 11th-floor view of the city from Damansara Heights), reserve a table for Wednesday or Thursday this week.



Babe's chief asset is its chef, American-Japanese Jeff Ramsey, an affably approachable figure who helmed the kitchen of Tapas Molecular Bar in Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, when it earned its first Michelin star. But his resume extends far beyond that - Ramsey's career has now taken him from Chicago to KL, where Babe harnesses the sum of his expertise in everything from classic sushi to deconstructed food, with all the requisite froths & foams, to unleash an impressively imaginative experience.


Ramsey sets the stage for a meal teeming with theatrical food-science wizardry - the spotlight on 'Japas,' or Japanese tapas, hints at a heightened sense of humour & wonder, embodied by degustations priced at RM150, RM200 or RM300 per person (an a la carte selection will be introduced soon). Surprise is the key element to dishes such as this opening salvo of the most comprehensive 17-course, omakase-style dinner - warm potato mousse crowned with smoked coconut strips (their savoury flavour ends up evoking bacon, but with clear vestiges of tropical fruitiness), laced with slivers of clams & onion marmalade.




The meal progresses with a confident logic & easy flow - Ramsey's second course retains the motifs of seafood & smokiness: Oysters smoked to accentuate their brininess, balanced with yuzu sour cream. That's followed by sashimi 'cigars' - spring rolls with a light, crisp skin, stuffed with a trinity of tuna, salmon & yellowtail, made nuanced with soy sauce gel & sparks of wasabi.




Plenty of playfulness ensues - the 'curry buns' comprise macaron shells constructed of baguettes, painstakingly transformed into crunchy-airy pastries through a complicated-sounding process, filled not with sweet ganache but a salty centre of Japanese pulled chicken curry. Practically everything here is a mind-teasing, palate-tickling combo of tastes & textures: Seared Wagyu beef presented in the fashion of sushi, on a base of crunchy potato croquettes that seem hollow at first but reveal a filling of potato mousse on the initial bite, followed by frozen spheres of romaine lettuce blended with Caesar dressing, sprinkled with parmesan on a cushion of crouton dust - it supplies the dynamics of a salad but the dimensions of a dessert.




Fish comes to the forefront for the compellingly aromatic cypress-smoked yellowtail sushi, konbu-marinated sea bream with with toasted rice puffs & a burst of liquid sour plum laced with shiso & tea, as well as a carpaccio of striped horse mackerel with konbu gel - each brings vibrant new-millennium twists to familiar sushi-counter traditions, marrying style with substance.



Charcoal-grilled Alaskan king crab legs & butter-dripped Wagyu beef pack a robust protein punch with a pleasurable chew.




It's a long dinner, but fatigue doesn't quite set in, since the food stays consistently engaging. We like the fanciful presentation of the Manga Crab - soft-shell crab that's supposed to look like it's been sliced with a samurai sword, with its green guts oozing out (actually coriander vinaigrette with turmeric mayo) over a plate artistically printed with edible charcoal mayo. Each serving is relatively small, but the sheer richness of the ingredients means that even heavy eaters might feel satiated by the time the ikura gohan - butter-seasoned rice blanketed with salmon roe - surfaces. But save space for what Babe bills 'The World's Juiciest Lamb,' a succulent chop that comes with a caution attached (spoiler: the worst that happens is a spate of squirting).



Desserts are almost an overload of flashy flourishes, memorably living up to Babe's tagline of 'fun dining' - in the months ahead, expect to see many social media videos of the smoking meringues; dunk each one into the liquid nitrogen for eight seconds, pop them in your mouth, & you'll have instant 'dragon breath,' exhaling cold 'smoke' from your nostrils.



After many bite-sized courses, it's a jolt to suddenly see an elaborate dish for sharing, intricately plated with complex ingredients - the centrepiece is almond brown butter cake, but the star is the Yamazaki whisky ice cream (indelibly garnished with a 'broken bottle'). It brings this dinner full circle, with a beginning & an end that are both punctuated with smoky subtleties.




One more for the road: Miso butterscotch soft sweets with edible wrappers, popping-candy chocolate bars, & strawberry 'tissues' with milk-scented paper. And with that, Babe does what not enough restaurants accomplish, managing a meal that's strong from start to finish, successfully juggling inspirations from across the globe with innovative aplomb. It'll be interesting to watch this place evolve; imminent plans include a full-fledged bar that'll be whipping up molecular-mixology cocktails. A bit of trivia: Babe's name is, unfortunately, not a nod to Take That's second-best song of all time, but an acronym for Best of Asia at Be (Be is the wellness centre of the Clearwater Group that owns everything in this building, including the Ploy & Way eateries).



Babe KL
11th Floor, Work @ Clearwater, Changkat Semantan, Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur. 
Open Tuesday-Sunday for dinner. Tel: 03-2095-8599


This restaurant is available for bookings under TABLEAPP, which enables customers to make instant reservations at Malaysia's top restaurants, while saving time and money in the process. Reserve your table at this restaurant by clicking here.


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23 comments:

  1. So how long did you take to finish the 17-course degustation menu? Seems a lot of dishe although everything looked small :) RM300 for 17 dishes sounds like a steal... Per dish per se

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    1. Leo: it was about two and a half hours ... many of the dishes came quite quickly, with less than a five-minute gap between most courses :) and yeah, it turned out to be quite a filling dinner, and all things considered, worth the price ;)

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  2. I had the pleasure of trying Chef Jeff Ramsey's food when he came to MOKL last yr, and it was so good! Sounds like a delicious, memorable and fun 17-course meal!

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    1. Baby Sumo: chef ramsey still has a lot more tricks up his sleeve, so i think it's worth checking him out here! :)

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  3. That's one hunky chef! Love the "quotations". Broken bottle? No, thanks. Oh? More cushions? Are they the in-thing over there or what? :D

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    1. Suituapui: the chef is married, but he certainly attracted the ladies' attention here! i like cushion seats, with all the extra padding, heh :D

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  4. The price of RM300 for 17 dishes seem very reasonable ;) I'd like everything except for the cold smoke from my nostrils! :D Instagram worthy that 'broken bottle'....but not sure about eating it as it's all sugar....hehe! Do the items on the degustation menu stay the same or changes on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?

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    1. Contact.ewew: heh, the cold smoke thing was a bit scary at first, cos the meringue gets super-cold when it's dipped in the liquid nitrogen, and if we had dunked it too long, it would almost have been like dry ice on our tongues ;D heh, you're right about the broken bottle being pretty much sugar, but it did serve an extra purpose also to add a snappy crunch to the dish :) i think some signature dishes will remain, but he'll switch up others often, though there's probably no regular frequency :)

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  5. They seem to be very serious about their food presentation

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    1. Ken: yup, high marks for presentation (and high marks for flavour too!) :)

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  6. Is PLOY still there?

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    1. KY: yup, Ploy is still kicking around on the ground floor! :)

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  7. Wo wo ......just book a table for our 10th wedding anniversary and can't wait to check it out ? Very privilege to check out some world leading restaurants from Noma, Demark & FatDuck in UK plus many more and I would like to include "Babe" in our top favourite collection and I am confident it will ...............

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    1. Unknown: hope you enjoy the experience at babe

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    1. Salma: there've been some changes now at Babe, and for this month, there's a 15-course degustation that costs RM200, including dessert but without drinks. so to be safe, you'll have to allocate between RM400-RM500 for a dinner for two

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  9. Hi, I checked their website as well as instagram. Where did you get the info about the 15 course degustation? Thanks very much!

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    1. Christine: some of my friends went last week. it's best to call the restaurant to check :)

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  10. Checkout their insta

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  11. Hello. I can't find their prices online and they weren't picking up. Would you happen to know the prices now? For Feb actually.. lol

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Rm150, rm200 & rm300 with ++

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