Thursday, December 14, 2017

Babe: New Fun Dining Menu

By EDKL Writer A.A.


Recently marking its second birthday, Babe is maturing into a restaurant that's proficient beyond its years, but it hasn't lost its sense of buoyant, young-at-heart playfulness.

Still spearheaded by its founding chef Jeff Ramsey, with executive chef Chu Wei Sin keeping the kitchen firmly on track, this is still the place that strives to woo patrons with a fun - instead of settling for fine - dining experience, showcasing impishly original dishes unseen elsewhere in KL.


The thrill of Babe begins even before you take a single bite. The view of KL's skyline is lovely from this vantage point, with familiar high-rises and a canopy of trees visible in one swoop. And we're tickled by how the oshibori is offered to customers, sprouting up from pristine white tablets into wet hand towels to help you freshen up.

And then, the magic truly commences, as you follow Babe down a rabbit hole into a culinary wonderland. Like Alice, we approached these mysterious, mystical potions placed at our table with much curiosity, being informed merely that we were meant to taste them and try to figure out their flavours.

We failed; it turned out that one was miso soup, and the other was astonishingly chicken rice - the complete recipe transformed into pure liquid, intact with nuances of chilli and ginger.

The flavours change regularly, so you'll likely experience something else when you visit - some customers have even encountered char kuey teow.


Babe currently boasts a reasonably extensive a la carte menu, but many patrons prefer to put their fate in the kitchen's hands and order the 12-course Fun Dining Menu of 'Japas,' reinterpreting tapas through the prism of Ramsey's contemporary finesse with Japanese cuisine.


Much of the pleasure of this meal (RM450++ per person) emanates from the surprises sprung by the kitchen, the twists and turns that lie in wait around every corner. It's best not to read too much about the menu in advance, so we'll keep this relatively brief, with minimal spoilers.

Babe recently launched its Fall/Winter menu, relying partly on produce that's presently at its seasonal peak in Japan. We'll get to some of that later, but the feast kicks off with the Lomi Lomi Salmon, a nod to a year that Ramsey once spent cooking in Hawaii - this is the perfect appetite-rouser, stuffing salted salmon with tomatoes and allium into a crispy nori cone for a burst of bright, punchy flavours.


There's also whimsy and joy bundled into the Prawn Siu Mai, with its outer layer of translucent purple potato that's fried instead of steamed, serving as a cup for prawns and cous cous, a delicious mouthful that's delightfully laid on pebbles that look like candy of endlessly vivid hues.


The seafood theme is embraced further by the Kanpachi Noodles, featuring smooth, slurp-worthy slivers of calamansi-marinated fresh amberjack, contrasted against dashi-steeped tomato and basil oil for an elegant juxtaposition of ocean and land. 

There are many other ingredients assembled on that plate, as is the case for most of these courses, woven together with visual beauty and textural harmony.

The Edible Mai Tai keeps things light - morsels of pineapple turned into a solid cocktail, imbued with the heady elements of a Mai Tai, including a little rum, served on ice in a glass with a Polynesian wink.

The next nibbles come closest to the restaurant's remaking of sushi, but in true Babe form, what we perceive is often very far from what we taste. 

The Crab Mousse & Otoro Airbread is a densely crisp mini baguette, hollowed out and filled with crab meat, draped with cured fatty tuna belly - the stuff of a 21st-century omakase, it seems.

Babe's Duck & Coke might sound like a drinking challenge, but it's a sweet-savoury little delight, a crispy chicken skin wafer sandwich that's layered with foie gras, duck confit and a Coke-infused strip that bears Babe's own imprint.


The "Steak" Sandwich is a charmer (check out the cartoon cow that complements it), but it also springs surprises, relying on braised beef tongue instead of a cliched bovine cut. It's packed with plenty of flavour, rounded out with beefsteak tomato (heh), tomato meringue and cheese 'lettuce' for a head-scratching taste bud tickler.

The unagi with sunchoke mousse, vanilla and thyme caviar pearls and burdock root needs no mind-bending sleights of hand though - it's terrific, eel prepared to the pinnacle of pleasure, brandishing all its sublime subtleties.

 

It's easy to understand why the Braised Abura Bouzu is one of the climactic courses - succulent whitefish is flanked by bubbles that burst in the mouth with braising sauce, providing that surplus splash of flavour that makes each bite exponentially more enjoyable. We also appreciate how Babe's team takes genuine relish in describing most of these dishes and providing helpful tips on how to best consume them.

The show-stopper is protein that you can cook at your table - the Kagoshima A5 heritage beef is prepared in a modern homage to sukiyaki, each slice ravishingly marbled and achingly luscious. It's simultaneously delicate and decadent, tipping over to the latter with the final flourish of a truffled onsen egg for dipping. We'd happily have this again and again.


A duo of desserts to cap the feast: The "Lie-Mau" might look like lime, but it spills the truth with the first chew, revealing its essence of kaffir lime, calamansi and kasturi lime curd within a milk tea gummy shell. Again, a lovely tease that successfully accomplishes its goals.

You can end on the deconstructed Strawberry Shortcake - pure strawberry sponge, almond cake and liquid sable and pickled rose petals, all pretty in pink - or stay on to dissect the spread over cocktails that embody the sprightly spirit of Babe, like the Jungle Bird (with an actual chocolate bird) or the Kaiju's Tale, which fits perfectly in with the Japanese themes at work. For pairing with food, the Estrella Damm Inedit, known as the beer that Ferran Adria helped to create, is the logical choice.


Many thanks to Babe for having us; it was certainly fun.

Babe


11th Floor, Work@Clearwater, Jalan Changkat Semantan, Damansara Heights, 50490 Kuala Lumpur. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 6pm-11pm. Tel: 03-2095-8599


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4 comments:

  1. Is that one of those plastic takeaway containers, the one used for the steak sandwich? Love the song by Styx, an all-time favourite!

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    1. Suituapui: it simulates that appearance! :) and yes, i like that styx song too ... though my favourite styx song is one of their later ones, called 'show me the way' :)

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  2. That looks like a truly spectacular dinner...exquisitely presented....right down to sheer class with the 'Babe' imprint! ^o^

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    1. Contact.ewew: yes, there are so many courses, but they really put a lot of thought into each one :)

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