Lolla at the Larder

Famed Sin­ga­porean restau­rant Lolla will be team­ing up with KL be­spoke cater­ers 23aubergine for a bril­liant cui­sine col­lab­o­ra­tion at Larder.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By SUZANNE LAZAROO star2@thes­tar.com.my

MEET as strangers, part as friends. And do it over squid ink and sea urchin pud­ding – now there’s a clincher if I ever saw one.

Along with all the sen­sual, unc­tu­ous rich­ness those six words con­jure, there will also be char­grilled Alaskan king crab legs, melt­ing braised beef tongue and steamed choco­late pud­ding ... in all, 11 sig­na­ture dishes from famed Sin­ga­porean restau­rant Lolla, at its two-nights-only Kuala Lumpur pop-up col­lab with lo­cal be­spoke food mae­stros, 23aubergine.

In the small, trendy din­ing en­clave of Club Street and Ann Siang Road, Lolla is a cre­ator and cu­ra­tor of Mediter­ranean-in­spired plates, as small and pre­cious as jew­els.

In its open­ing year, it made the Za­gat 2013 guide’s The 10 Hottest Restau­rants in the World list – and that sea urchin pud­ding has been on the tip of ded­i­cated food­ies’ tongues since it made its menu de­but.

Lolla’s brick-and-mor­tar fa­cade grew from its more ephemeral roots in Lolla’s Se­cret Sup­pers, the here-one-night-gone-the-next guerilla din­ing ini­tia­tive co-founded by Pang Hian Tee in 2008.

Pang lived in Lon­don for five years prior to this, and of­ten re­turned home to Sin­ga­pore armed with in­ter­est­ing, hard-tofind pro­duce to share with friends and fam­ily. The re­sult? “Count­less meals with good food and con­ver­sa­tion” and a steadily in­creas­ing de­sire to share the good things in life even more.

“One of the things I fell in love with in Lon­don was Cham­pagne. I was ex­cited by the va­ri­ety and qual­ity of small grower-pro­ducer Cham­pagnes that were then not eas­ily avail­able in Sin­ga­pore,” said Pang.

He started a small com­pany with like-minded friends, to im­port th­ese grower Cham­pagnes – and they de­cided to host the first se­cret sup­per in 2010 as a fun, in­for­mal way to in­tro­duce the bub­blies to friends.

Lolla’s Se­cret Sup­pers, in a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion each time, took off from then.

“We wanted the sup­pers to be faff-free, un­pre­ten­tious and cen­tred around good food, con­ver­sa­tion, pos­si­bly ac­cen­tu­ated by art, cul­ture, and en­ter­tain­ment – eat­ing ex­cep­tion­ally well in the un­like­li­est of places,” said Pang. “Af­ter a few in­stal­la­tions, the me­dia caught wind of it and seats were selling out 30 min­utes af­ter we an­nounced it.”

En­cour­aged by the re­sponse, Pang de­cided to open a brick-and-mor­tar in­car­na­tion with Lolla’s spirit – and Cham­pagne spir­its – and teamed up with his cur­rent part­ners.

“We wanted a ca­sual en­vi­ron­ment serv­ing in­spired, yet sim­ple, small plates,” said Pang. “Lolla com­bines the best in­gre­di­ents and sea­sonal pro­duce with Mediter­ranean in­flu­ences. I wanted a place that serves what I would love to have at my own ta­ble.

“In keep­ing with our se­cret sup­per be­gin­nings, we have a com­mu­nal ta­ble at Lolla that seats up to 22. We of­ten see guests from dif­fer­ent groups start­ing con­ver­sa­tions and even­tu­ally shar­ing their food and wine!”

That’s the Lolla spirit din­ers can ex­pect at the in­ti­mate pop-up ses­sions next week.

Pang spent eight years work­ing in KL, and finds the din­ing scene “dy­namic and ex­cit­ing”.

“I’ve been tempted many times to stage a se­cret sup­per week­end around KL, where I could show­case my favourite bak kut teh stall in Jen­jarom and my favourite restau­rant in Bant­ing that serves fresh toddy!” he said.

But first, next week’s pop-up will draw on the 15-year friend­ship Pang has en­joyed with David and Jes­sica Nathan, the hus­band-and­wife team be­hind 23aubergine.

The com­pany spe­cialises in ver­sa­tile, orig­i­nal event cater­ing, each with its own nar­ra­tive. “That’s why we don’t have a fixed menu; we like to meet with the clients and cre­ate some­thing tai­lored for them, around their needs and their sto­ries,” said David.

When Pang was work­ing in event man­age­ment in KL, many of his events were catered for by 23aubergine. And the re­la­tion­ship con­tin­ued, re­gard­less of his fixed ad­dress.

“Jess was ac­tu­ally our guest chef for Lolla’s Se­cret Sup­per 2 in Oc­to­ber 2010,” said Pang. “When David men­tioned that they had moved into a new space, I thought it would be a per­fect op­por­tu­nity for us to re­cip­ro­cate!”

That space is Larder by 23aubergine in Am­pang. It’s not open to the pub­lic just yet, but will play host to spe­cial events like this for the time be­ing. “It’s a sim­ple, clean, un­fussy space – we are not a white table­cloth sort of restau­rant!” said David.

“I’ve seen Jess in ac­tion in the kitchen many times over the years,” said Pang. “Be­sides be­ing very cre­ative in her de­liv­ery, what is more im­por­tant for us to be able to de­liver the proper Lolla ex­pe­ri­ence in KL, is her un­com­pro­mis­ing de­mand for qual­ity, and fas­tid­i­ous­ness in the kitchen.”

Lolla’s chef de cui­sine, Sai­ful Aziz and Ger­ard Raj, the ju­nior sous chef, will be com­ing over to work with the 23aubergine chef in the kitchen, while Lolla man­ager Teh Su Fen will work with the ser­vice team.

No wines will be sold on the two nights, so a BYO pol­icy (with a small han­dling fee) will be ef­fected. David and Jes­sica will work on non-al­co­holic bev­er­age pair­ings as well, which can be or­dered for a sep­a­rate charge.

This pop-up is hope­fully the first in a trio of col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween Lolla and 23aubergine.

“This in­stal­ment is purely Lolla’s food, be­cause we re­ally want peo­ple to ex­pe­ri­ence the well-cu­rated menu, which has such great va­ri­ety,” said David.

“Take the sea urchin pud­ding, for in­stance. It’s so deca­dent, un­like any­thing we had tried be­fore. The kombu but­ter. Even the way the ox tongue is cooked, the way it takes on the flavours of the aro­mat­ics, and is so su­per­tender and aro­matic.”

The sec­ond planned in­stal­ment should see 23aubergine tak­ing over Lolla’s kitchen. “Then per­haps the third will see a menu split be­tween us both.”

“The ul­ti­mate aim for us, as al­ways, is for the din­ers to have a nice time – en­joy our food, have great con­ver­sa­tions, and maybe make a few new friends,” said Pang.

“There’s no se­cret – it’s just about good food, good wine, friendly, knowl­edge­able and ef­fi­cient ser­vice!”

The Larder by 23aubergine x Lolla pop-up will fea­ture a menu for two at RM500. It will run on Aug 4 and 5, at Larder by 23aubergine, 379A, Per­siaran Am­pang, KL. To book, call 019-907 7061 or email info@23aubergine.com.

A Lolla sig­na­ture – the unc­tu­ous, un­ex­pected squid ink and sea urchin pud­ding.

Gas­tro pop-ups tend to be as much a meet­ing of minds and hearts at the ta­ble as they are in the kitchen. — Pho­tos: Lolla

Scram­bled eggs topped with pre­cious shav­ings of Bot­targa.

‘Su­per-ten­der’ braised tongue which has soaked up a whole lot of flavour.

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