All fired up by Bertha
Charcoal- fired meat and seafood steal the show at Stoked. A A But if you do get the chance, try the Wood- Smoked Queensland Giant Octopus ( RM58). Served with roasted Brussel sprouts and a saffron and vanilla aioli, the octopus is cooked well – it cuts perfectly but isn’t rubbery or spongy. The charred bits are particularly yummy, and give this very premium cephalopod a rugged edge that does wonders to endear it to diners.
If you’re after something to soothe and sate, the Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Winter Truffles and Artichoke Chips ( RM42) will do that and so much more. The artichoke chips are a little like garlic chips and give the soup a nice, albeit slightly bitter, textural crunch.
The soup itself is divine – a creamy, pea green smooth operator that glides down your palate like silk. It’s flavourful and rich but also strangely calming, almost like having a warm bath after a long day.
For a taste of just the sort of premium stuff you can expect to find at Stoked, you might want to ask if they’ve got the French Charolais beef ( RM118), recognised as one of France’s most prolific breeds. The beef arrives warm and quivering, hearty red in the middle, charred on the outside and silken soft to the touch.
Stoked serves all its grilled lamb, pork and beef dishes with a selection of four condiments – English sea salt, smoked English sea salt, Hawaiian lava black salt and a piquant yuzu dip.
Make sure to try them all, because they elevate the beef from star to superstar, giving it distinctly different flavour profiles depending on what you’ve chosen to eat it with. The dish is simple and uncomplicated but good meat doesn’t need much in the way of accoutrements anyway, and let’s be very clear – this is really, really good meat.
The same can be said of the Iberico Abanico ( RM72) which is char- grilled and served with haricot beans and a harissa sauce. The iberico is cooked perfectly and has soft, delicate flavours and a lovely mouthfeel. It has also found a suitable mate in the harissa sauce, which gives it hearty dimensions without endeavouring to steal its thunder.
Then there is the Whole Flounder ( RM75) a fleshy, fresh fish from Hutan Melintang, a large fishing village in northern Malaysia. The fish has a teriyaki glaze and is cooked very, very simply with little in the way of condiments, bar a couple of lemons.
As a result, you’ll really appreciate the freshness of the fish, the way it flakes beautifully when pulled apart, the slight smokiness of the skin and how it tastes on the tongue. The only downside is it’s a tad under- seasoned. SEVEN years ago, newly- married and all- loved up, Wong Yin- How set out on his honeymoon to Spain. Wandering into hallowed gourmet barbecue hotspot Asador Etxebarri, he realised he had fallen in love all over again. But this time, it was to charcoal- grilled food.
“I was very captivated by the restaurant in Spain and kept going back every year. In the last two years, I really felt that I needed to do something along those lines. I just thought it was time to do what I really wanted to,” said Wong, who is the founder and managing director of Vintry Cellars Sdn Bhd, which owns Stoked, the charcoal oven restaurant and bar in Medan Damansara, Kuala Lumpur which Wong opened last year.
Housed in the space formerly occupied by another KL stalwart Ribs by Vintry ( also owned by Wong), Stoked is a beautifully appointed eatery with pristine white tablecloths, gorgeous Laguiole ( a renowned French brand) steak knives and fresh flowers on every table.
It’s the sort of place you’ll want to dress up for, because otherwise it will probably outshine you.
And standing proud in the heart of the open kitchen lies big Bertha, a massive 300kg English barbecue grill and oven that Wong commissioned from its family- owned maker and which Stoked now uses as its primary licence to grill, fuelled by charcoal and firewood.
“I started researching ovens around the world and came across this, the Bertha. I made a trip to the United Kingdom, met the owner who designed my Bertha and we’re very very happy with it,” said Wong, adding that the eatery is the first in South- East Asia to use the oven.
The Bertha’s main advantage is its ability to cook meat at high heat whilst also keeping it moist, a feat that many open- burning ovens are unable to replicate. This means that premium cuts of meat get treated to a lot of tender loving care and are also cooked 40% faster than on an open grill.
It is clear that Stoked takes its meat seriously. You only need to look at the menu to see what you’re dealing with – choice options like iberico pork ribs, USDA choice striploin, Blackmore wagyu tri- tip and even a particularly beguiling- sounding French wild partridge.
Having said all that, the restaurant is also part of the burgeoning locavore movement, sourcing vegetables locally and seafood from local fishing villages in Pulau Ketam and Hutan Melintang.
The menu changes every two weeks or so, so you’re unlikely to see too many repeats.