All fired up by Bertha

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE - By AB star2@ thes­tar. com. my

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.

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