Eat Drink KL: October 2019

Thursday, October 31, 2019

MUME, Taipei

Ranked seventh this year among Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, MUME might be burdened with expectations it can't completely meet. It nonetheless merits a visit for its parade of thoughtfully conceived creations, particularly a wagyu tartare that's revelatory, conveying a deep purity of flavour and lively freshness of texture. Everything else is enjoyable enough, though from the tartlets to the colourful crudo, the milkfish with abalone to the ox tongue, this meal in Taipei works best to illustrate how chefs dedicated to their craft strive to keep exploring new horizons and pushing their boundaries.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

WichiWichi Tapas & Cocktail Bar, Subang

It's a terrific time to be a cocktail enthusiast in Subang Jaya: There's finally a tapas bar here that can stand shot-to-shot with its respected counterparts in KL, serving potions and platters of playful wit and pleasurable wonder.

The search for WichiWichi might be an adventure on its own, scouring an industrial enclave to seek the former yarn factory that now houses WhupWhup restaurant. WichiWichi occupies what was the office space above WhupWhup, more cheerful and colourful than most cocktail parlours, with a mural that whimsically portrays the partnership of Liang and Pojoo, the couple who founded WhupWhup and WichiWichi (the bar's name reflects their nicknames for each other).

Teaming up with talented bartender Danny, a familiar face for bar-hoppers in PJ and TTDI, WichiWichi is Liang and Pojoo's labour of love.

WichiWichi describes its food as 'fun-sized' - what makes these tapas impressive is also the quality of the produce, the confidence of each recipe's execution, and the accessible prices.

The Duck, Mofakor! (customers can try reading that name in the voice of Samuel L. Jackson) clocks in at RM18 for juicy, fleshy cuts of savoury poultry on mashed potatoes, soaked in a gently sweet-sour sauce made with Mo Fa Kor dried-fruit candy, oranges and onions, sprinkled with bits of the nostalgia-drenched candy for a treat that generations of Malaysians might adore.

Eel enthusiasts will enjoy the excellent Unagi & Seaweed Pesto Rice, pairing ravishingly tender eel with grains of both briny and herbaceous notes, cushioned with warm, comforting scrambled eggs - for RM25, it's well worth travelling to Subang for, whether you live in Bukit Bintang or Bangsar.

Liang, a vibrantly creative chef, has oodles of success with exploring popular ingredients and transforming them into unexpected ensembles - what might look like yong tau foo are chillies stuffed completely with melted mozzarella cheese, oven-baked for seven minutes and blow-torched with sourdough crumbles for extra texture (RM12). Nicknamed T-Boz Chilli, this might be fiery enough to bring a tear to your left eye, according to WichiWichi (the bar's love for 1990s R&B and rap is further underscored by a soundtrack that swings from SWV to Slim Shady, Blu Cantrell to Jay-Z).

WichiWichi is a bar that strives to be as welcoming as possible - even if you're visiting in shorts on a Saturday night and you've never tried ceviche before, the folks here want you to feel comfortable in ordering the Smoked Salmon Ceviche, cured with apple cider vinegar, moist but firm, conveying hints of coriander, cumin and chillies, ideal for folks who love the invigorating nuances of fresh fish (RM15).

If fowl is more up your alley, the crowd-pleaser is the Spiced Buttermilk Grilled Chicken Fingers, rounded out with fries for that perfect protein-plus-carbs pairing (RM18). And there's still more to investigate, from the mysterious uni-based dish called What You're Sea-Urchin For to the Cream Cheese Masak Merah Haruan Fingers that seems to smash culinary borders.

Another surprise is the availability of aged wagyu beef here - no shortcuts, since each beautifully marbled cut is aged for at least three weeks. We sank our teeth into a 35-day-aged Australian A5 ribeye that scores major points for smooth succulence and sheer concentration of flavour (RM68 for 100 grams; completed with creamed spinach and mash).

Carnivorous cravings can also be satiated by the sous-vide Aussie lamb rack, prime meat that yields a full-bodied lusciousness, buoyed by minty dynamics (RM35).

Jaded with wine pairings? WichiWichi also promises cocktail pairing possibilities, kicking off with the sultry, sensuous union of foie gras popiah, unveiled with smouldering theatrics at the table (RM31), with Monkey Needs Smoke, a new twist on the Old Fashioned (RM40). It's a delightful duo - the liver is decadently silky (a superb steal for this price), the beverage is delectably smoky (blended with Monkey Shoulder Scotch, banana-infused Amaro Montenegro, Angostura aromatic bitters and orange bitters); you can also choose to add peated and smoky whiskies to elevate the experience.

By travelling off the beaten cocktail path to Subang, plenty of rewards await at WichiWichi - the reviving welcome drink is Tie Me Down, Tie Me Up, putting the spring back in our step with its senses-awakening citrus appeal of Damrak gin and Cointreau combined with yuzu puree, yuzu tonic, lemon juice and basil seeds (RM35).

Danny has designed several signature cocktails that bear intriguing tales - feel free to ask him or the team about these, since the intimate warmth of WichiWichi extends both behind and in front of the bar; customers should expect to relish genuine personal conversations whenever they visit, especially since Liang and Pojoo try to be here as often as possible as well.

There's an illicitly tantalising touch to the Pablo Peso (RM35), with a base of Agwa de Bolivia coca leaf liqueur that Escobar would have approved of, flirting with cucumber-infused Bols Genever 21 and elderflower syrup, concluding on a more astringent note (like Escobar's life) with cucumber bitters.

Seasonal concoctions are also offered - Gin & Juice (RM21), meanwhile, should have Snoop Dogg's seal of endorsement, available through November's end, a refreshing change from regular gin-and-tonics, made nectarous with a mellow dash of sugarcane juice.

Our favourites of Danny's elixirs interweave sophisticated sensibilities with a young-at-heart spirit - the WichiWichi Cendol (RM35) is a marvelous makeover of Malaysia's classic chilled dessert, more than slurp-worthy with house-made coconut sorbet, coconut juice, kidney bean syrup, gula Melaka and pandan extract, plus the final adult touch of Bacardi Carta Blanca - irresistible for all ages.

And even for those of us who try not to sip coffee after sundown, there's no denying the Morning After Kopi-O, a risky but remarkable alchemy of Tito's vodka and frangelico with the caffeine hit of Kahlua and cold brew coffee, bestowed a final punch by salted egg foam that's meant to evoke having soft-boiled eggs with your kopitiam coffee (RM35).

There's more to return for, including Prohibition-era cocktails to match the speakeasy mood, such as the Bee's Knees, Mary Pickford, Blood and Sand, Hemingway Daiquiri, and Boulevardier.

All in all, WichiWichi is definitely a destination to bookmark for the Klang Valley's bar watchers. Many thanks to the team here for having us.

WichiWichi Tapas & Cocktail Bar
12, Jalan SS13/3B, Subang Jaya, 47500 Selangor.
Open Wednesday-Friday, 5pm-1am; Saturday, 3pm-1am; Sunday, 12pm-8pm. Tel: 016-205-5020

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Waroeng Batavia, Kota Damansara

Spearheaded by a crew from Sumatra and West Java, Waroeng Batavia is a friendly stop for the street flavours of Indonesia - for a savoury start, snack on the Set Pempel Kapal Selam, a Palembang-origin platter of assorted fishcakes, including some stuffed with boiled egg yolks (RM20.50), then finish with an addictive martabak, the griddle pancake that's a cousin of Malaysia's apam balik (have it with a sweet-salty, creamy-crunchy filling of Kinder Bueno and cheese for RM20).

Waroeng Batavia
11, Jalan PJU 5/20a, Encorp Strand, Kota Damansara, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Open Tues-Sun, 11am-10pm; Mon, 9am-10pm. Tel: 03-7490-2003

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Tairroir, Taipei

Tairroir offers one of Taipei's most inventively exquisite dining experiences - a multi-course trek through Taiwanese produce, reinterpreted through a contemporary lens, with highlights of ingredients that span local clams with Guguan Beluga caviar, yellow garlic chives, bean sprouts and bonito flakes; Penghu oyster with crispy duck egg shreds and seasonal vegetables; summer bamboo shoots with silver herring tempura (our favourite for the evening); Pu'er tea silkie egg congee; chicken wing stuffed with braised abalone; belt fish with pickled young ginger, Yunlin white asparagus and goji berry bearnaise; Pingtung pigeon; bitter gourd sorbet with apple tea foam; and pineapple cake with salted egg. The wine pairing is well worthwhile too, with stimulating choices throughout.

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