Next-level din­ing

The in­au­gu­ral chef’s ta­ble ex­pe­ri­ence at Nobu KL was a les­son in food pos­si­bil­i­ties and de­li­cious­ness.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By ABIRAMI DURAI star2@thes­

IMAG­INE hav­ing a top chef whip up a spe­cially cu­rated menu, based on what­ever your heart de­sires – wouldn’t that be some­thing?

At the one-week only in­au­gu­ral Chef’s Ta­ble at Nobu Kuala Lumpur, which fea­tured Nobu Dubai’s chef de cui­sine Herve Cour­tot, Malaysian din­ers were treated to a boun­ti­ful eight-course cu­rated meal (priced at RM695++), the high­light of which was that they could tell the chef what they felt like eat­ing, re­sult­ing in a hand-crafted, highly per­son­alised ex­pe­ri­ence.

Cour­tot, who is French, worked at a num­ber of Miche­lin-starred restau­rants in France be­fore join­ing Nobu in 2008. He is the chef de cui­sine of Nobu Dubai and the cor­po­rate chef of Nobu, re­spon­si­ble for the op­er­a­tions of Nobu fran­chises at Riyadh, Monte Carlo, Moscow, Cape Town, Doha, Mar­bella and Ibiza.

Ac­cord­ing to Cour­tot, the idea be­hind the chef’s ta­ble is to give din­ers the op­por­tu­nity to meet and talk to the chefs and dic­tate ex­actly what they’d like on their menu for the day – likes and dis­likes, al­ler­gies, pref­er­ences, predilec­tions – ev­ery­thing is taken note of.

“Ba­si­cally, we speak to the cus­tomer and see what they like, what they don’t like, if they are al­ler­gic to any­thing, and we build the menu around that. So it’s a more VIP ser­vice that we give to guests.

“I think now peo­ple like to know what they’re eat­ing, where the prod­uct is com­ing from, and to meet the chef who is cook­ing be­hind the scenes. And it’s some­thing fun – you can see the re­ac­tions of the cus­tomers when they eat – it’s fan­tas­tic!” says Cour­tot.

Cour­tot largely ac­cepts any and all culi­nary chal­lenges, although some­times he does have to draw the line, as some re­quests may go against the ba­sic tenets of what Nobu of­fers.

“From one ta­ble to the next, the menu can be dif­fer­ent. I have cus­tomers who say ‘I like more raw fish or don’ t want any raw fish’ so we build the menu a la minute, so this is the fun part.

“Some­times, guests will chal­lenge you and say ‘I only want to have a din­ner with lob­ster and beef.’ And we’ll try and do that. But if some­thing goes against the Nobu phi­los­o­phy or con­cept (like a guest who only wants bread), I will not do it,” he says.

Some of the high­lights from the chef’s ta­ble were a cou­ple of dishes that were spe­cially brought in from Nobu Dubai, like the salmon tataki with black sesame dress­ing and jalapeno jelly, which fea­tured per­fectly cooked salmon jux­ta­posed against the sweet­ness of black sesame dress­ing and sticky jelly bits, which gave the whole dish a play­ful bounce.

Then there was the Chilean seabass with dashi ponzu and yuzu white choco­late, which Cour­tot came up with af­ter work­ing on a col­lab­o­ra­tive din­ner in Dubai with renowned choco­late brand Val­rhona. The fish was per­fectly cooked and sur­rounded by a rich white choco­late moat which was sweet but not sickly so. It was the sort of dish that opened your eyes to the pos­si­bil­i­ties in­volved in sweet-savoury in­ter­plays.

The wagyu hobayaki with an­tic­u­cho den miso was an­other eye-opener. The beef was cooked in an eu­ca­lyp­tus leaf, which im­bued it with a light smok­i­ness. The over­all cook­ing of the meat was per­fect – but­tery soft and akin to pieces of satin glid­ing grace­fully down the throat.

Cour­tot also worked his magic with Malaysian in­gre­di­ents, in­cor­po­rat­ing fresh lo­cal yuba skin into his scal­lop yuba dish. The dish was a les­son in tex­tures – the pil­lowy soft scal­lop couched in­side crispy flash-fried yuba skin, which in turn led to a de­light­ful sen­sory ex­plo­ration.

“I was amazed! For me, fresh yuba is a new discovery, so when I came here and they said we have fresh yuba, I said, ‘What?’ I knew I needed to do some­thing with that,” he says.

Given the pop­u­lar­ity of some of the dishes from the chef’s ta­ble of­fer­ings, Cour­tot says there is a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity that some will be in­cluded per­ma­nently on the Nobu Kuala Lumpur menu.

“When you see the guests af­ter their din­ner, you can ask them ‘Which dish did you like?’ And for me, it is im­por­tant that I do special dishes for them be­cause if peo­ple keep say­ing, ‘I love this dish’, we can add it to the menu. So it’s di­rect feed­back from the cus­tomer,” he says.

Given that the over­all chef’s ta­ble con­cept stretches a chef’s imag­i­na­tion and forces them to think cre­atively and on the spot, does Cour­tot at all find it chal­leng­ing and (se­cretly) a pain in the neck to come up with dishes that are to­tally de­pen­dent on din­ers’ some­times fussy ap­petites?

Ap­par­ently not at all. “It’s fun. As chefs, we spend a lot of hours in the kitchen, so we need to have fun. If you don’t have fun cook­ing, you need to quit!” he says.

The but­tery soft meat of the wagyu hobayaki cooked in eu­ca­lyp­tus leaf was truly rev­e­la­tory. — Pho­tos: YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

The Chilean seabass with dashi ponzu and yuzu white choco­late was a de­light­ful flavour odyssey, the sweet and savoury meld­ing in tri­umphant glory.

The discovery of fresh yuba skin in­spired this dish of crispy flash-fried yuba skin with ten­der scal­lop in­side.

The chef’s ta­ble ex­pe­ri­ence at Nobu ‘is a more VIP ser­vice that we give to guests,’ ex­plained Cour­tot, the chef de cui­sine of Nobu Dubai.

The salmon tataki with black sesame dress­ing and jalapeno jelly of­fered bursts of bouncy jelly, sweet sesame and per­fectly cooked fish.

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