Words: David Stagg Photos: Monica Tindall
Email received from The Yum List, subject line: “Fwd: Guest Chef T.C (ex Noma Chef de Partie) pop-up dinner at Flint Ampang.”
Noma Chef in Kuala Lumpur!
Sorry? Did I read that right? Noma? As in formerly one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants? I read it again, “ex Noma Chef de Partie,” and was on the Google to make sure that I was thinking of the right place. And yes, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 Noma was considered to be the World’s Best Restaurant. I was going to do my first assignment at Flint experiencing the food by a former Noma chef. I could not have been any more excited.
Located in Ampang, nestled between cafes and restaurants is Flint. You are greeted with the lovely scent from the charcoal oven, the wonderfully named ‘Bertha’, and a pile of splintered wood that made me think of Ron Burgundy: “rich mahogany and leather bound books.” I could hear Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t no mountain high enough” and that was how I felt, nothing was going to “keep me from getting to you”… food.
Being escorted to your table you cannot help but notice the kitchen. It is exposed and you can see everything. I personally like this. You can watch your food being prepared, and listen to the sizzles, the clinks and the soft thuds of doors closing. It gives me a sense of confidence; you have to be proud of what you are making if you are going to let people see. The decor is charming. It feels industrial chic: exposed pillars, brick walls, concrete floor, and the name of the restaurant, impressively, in giant cast/wrought iron letter (in case you forget where you are). I am a sucker for this and they had me hooked. I was keen before, and by now I could not wait.
Some Wine to Begin
We were served a glass of Coté Mas – Crémant de Limoux NV Brut St. Hilaire, which was described by all as yummy and lovely, with a light citrus flavour. It was smooth and very easy to drink. This was how we started our Degustation Menu (RM288 or RM398 with wine pairing – we had the wine pairing) and I was ready.
Yin-How (the owner) presented us with two more wines: Domaine Trimbach Riesling 2014, and Alois Lageder Gewurztraminer 2014. He informed us that the Riesling is dry and crisp, and the Gewurztraminer displays dried fruit and floral notes. I am always hesitant with Gewurztraminer as the ones I have had in the past were often sickly sweet. This one, however, was delicious.
Snacks by a Noma Chef
When the waiter presented us with our first course Lacto-Fermented Plum and Flowers, my first thought was, “Is it a jelly?” It turned out to be was more like a cool floral tea, with flower petals that complemented the vinaigrette. The dish was very pretty and the added wooden spoon worked well with the delicate flavours. The Gewurztraminer went well with this and gave the dish a new balance.
Following was a Flatbread and Herbs on a slab of polished wood. The bread reminded me of a wishbone, delicately topped with marigold, dill, oxalis, and crème fraîche. With a good crunch and a touch of salt, the Riesling washed it down nicely.
Then BBQ grilled Baby Corn and Turmeric, dazzlingly arrived in a green nest, with a very light dipping sauce of horseradish whipped cream topped with a drizzle of (very green) turmeric leaf oil. Yum.
Frog and Garlic rounded off the first course. At this point, chef T.C. came over and, told us how to eat it (one bite) and explained he wanted to include frogs legs because they are classic Malaysian. The legs were brined for a day, French trimmed, cooked, covered in Kataifi pastry noodles, with a dollop of garlic puree and a couple of sprigs of oxalis. It was very messy, a little salty, and came straight off the bone.
OMG! The Bread!
While we waited for our second course a basket of warm, rustic smelling, olive ciabatta and truffle butter was planted on our table. The butter looked carefully sculptured with speckles of truffle through and shaved on top. Upon opening the bread a plume of steam escaped and I watched as my butter melted as I smeared it over the soft texture. The butter to bread ratio is practically 1:1, but that is okay because there is no fat in butter. Right?
A Nice Pinot Noir
It was then time for our fourth drink, a glass of the Pegasus Bay, Pinot Noir 2013. After one sip, it was easy to see why this wine was one of the top wines of 2016 according to “Decanter Panel Tastings.” You can taste the black fruit and ginger spice notes – it was divine.
After hearing about “pushing boundaries” and how chef T.C. and Yin How have plans for future collaborations, we were served Cucumber, Tomato, Galangal. It smelt like a warm summer’s day. The radish was crisp and the tomatoes exploded in sweetness. I have no idea if it was a soup or a salad. It had the comfort of soup and the positive feeling of a salad, with the little lumps of cucumber, and a symphony of oregano, marigold, and honeydew. I have never had anything like it. It was splendid and unique.
We continued with a bowl of Scallop and Green from Janda Baik, which had a beautiful aroma with crispy kale, dried shrimp fudge, nasturtium flowers from Cameron Highlands and horseradish crème fraîche. The shrimp fudge was certainly a taste of Malaysia. With a little of each on my fork, all of the flavours enjoyably bounced around in my mouth like a pinball bouncing from kale, scallop to fudge.
Up next was was the King Prawn, Carrot and Bisque, with a local king prawn and a sweet bisque made from the shell essence and nasturtium flower. The prawn was half cooked and half sashimi. Putting that uncomfortable idea aside I took it in with the prawn legs (a handful of those legs would go great with a beer) carrot and orange. It was surprisingly very good.
Wagyu and Some Red
The red wine arrived, an II Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2011. This smooth full-bodied red was the ultimate companion for the Wagyu Beef, Barley, Truffle. Cooked in Bertha, the meat absorbed her magic. The shaved truffle presented a strong earthy flavour, which went well with the mushroom tea (made from local ingredients; a meaty broth that I could easily consume as a bowl of soup).
Desserts by a Noma Chef
Alas, we head to dessert, and sadly no more wine (or you could order a serving of Calvados, as did we ;-). Apple, Lemongrass, Kaffir Lime. Gazing at my bowl I could smell the kaffir lime, a smell I associate with a curry. I must admit I am not a dessert guy, I could have finished my night at the beef a happy customer, but this was fantastic! Pearls of apple, lemongrass ice cream with crumbed roasted mandarin skin – which reminded me of Sunkist. It was very refreshing, you could do a serious workout and have this, and not feel bad.
Then we hear “second dessert… they are ready for their second dessert” – what an awesome phrase to be heard come out from the kitchen. The second dessert was Sweet Potato, Gula Melaka, Santan. Out of curiosity, I tried each part, and individually I was not fussed, but combine all the flavours with the lemon puree sorbet and they worked well together.
To conclude the meal we were served a chamomile tea with a Petit Four (savoury biscotti topped with pickled ginger) and on that note, I was done. I had survived my first food review experience.
Normally, I want to have a big meal, and afterwards, rub my stomach and admire my food baby. I also fall into a state of self-loathing – that could just be me. So, afterward, when I did not rub my belly in a paradox of happiness and self-loathing I questioned did I even do dinner? The answer is yes, yes I did. I may not have been so full I had to be rolled out of the establishment, but I was not hungry and I felt good about myself. Sure I wouldn’t normally have ordered a cucumber soup/salad, or lemongrass ice cream, nor would I eat a half cooked prawn, but T.C. has now opened my tastebuds!
You Can Dine with a Former Noma Chef Too!
Shift the idea of going out to dinner in the quest for substance, but going out for an experience. When you do that, you will realise that you can have a great time. And lucky for you, you have the opportunity to also dine with a former Noma Chef as they have extended the pop to continue on the 21st and 22nd of June. They have changed a couple of things, but honestly, for the price, you are crazy not to.
Reasons to visit: Degustation menu by a former Noma Chef from one of the World’s Best 50 Restaurants! Duh!
Flint: Restaurant and Bar
24, Persian Ampang,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
+60 3 4252 8262
* Flint is a pork free establishment.