When it is good to be BLUE
A rare whisky; a chef’s inspiration; specially sourced homegrown ingredients laid out for a night of culinary exploration.
Such was the dinner affair mapped out by Johnny Walker Blue Label recently, heralding the collaboration with chef James Won who designed a “discover rarity” culinary journey. The specially crafted four-course menu, paired with the highly sought-after Blue Label at Enfin by James Won in Kuala Lumpur, brought diners to further depths of enjoyment while appreciating the unique character of the whisky.
The Blue Label is generally described as having a dash of raisin sweetness on the nose, with notes of almond, slight bitter aftertaste of herbs, richness of dark chocolate and wispy tobacco on the palate, ending with a long finish.
According to chef Won, the general attributes of the Blue Label struck him as definitive and masculine, and so, to give a balance of flavours, he focused instead on the softer, feminine side of the brew.
Many of the ingredients he used championed social enterprise, with due respect to the environment. From the Long Semadoh settlement in the Lawas division of Sarawak to the interiors of Pahang, you get Borneo Heirloom rice grain and Semai cocoa, and there’s also Job’s Tears from Sarawak.
“For example, the dessert is based on single origin cocoa, obtained from Semai orang asli plantations, which gives a different degree of sweetness to the chocolate.
“You get different textures, aroma and a different sort of sweetness,” he described, adding that he always manages to find something new and different about the Blue Label each time he drinks it, and it is these little nuances that have inspired him to come up with his menu that highlighted notes of sweetness, saltiness, sourness and bitterness.
To kick off the night’s dinner, amuse bouche was an interesting trio of Nigiri that was aloe vera stretched over Borneo heirloom rice, prized for its light and chewy texture, beautiful colour and exceptional fragrance, dotted with tropical sturgeon caviar on top, which effectively tasted like a very healthy sushi; a recreation of the egg with parmesan tofu and sea urchin for the yolk – unusual but not too jarring on the palate; and a tartlet consisting of scallop chip, hazelnut and creme fraiche that easily disappeared in a pop.
The entre was all about texture play – briny and buttery Malaysian Tropical Amur sturgeon caviar, with daikon (Japanese radish) and kombu dashi (kelp) puree and brioche.
It’s not a well-known fact, but Malaysian caviar harvested by T’lur Caviar, is quite highly rated in the world. Hopefully, its source stays a best-kept secret, known only to discerning chefs and connoisseurs who appreciate its quality, otherwise once it’s openly thrown out there, before you can say fish eggs, it’ll be over-fished and gone!
There was also roasted Hokkaido scallop and yam bean puree, which slithered down the throat smoothly, leaving one surprised and trying to decipher the subtle flavours. The scallop was torched on one side and kept raw on the other. It was a novel way to experience scallop for sure, though I’m not quite convinced about the icy jalapeno granita. Me thinks the cold, icy tart contrast was probably meant to be a palate cleanser, except that it came with the scallops so everyone was a bit thrown off by the duo!
When chef announced the main course, he said that it was akin to fatty pork, so to expect the rich Omega 3 oils to subtly coat and and lubricate the protein.
The Malaysian sturgeon fish truffle meumere with sturgeon skin collagen sounded like it would plump up my skin immediately, given its unctuous description. It came sitting on a shallow pond of rice kouji, Bario wine sauce and exotic mushroom. It was a pretty solid block of protein, and the wine sauce provided a unique creaminess for a balanced flavour.
I always tell myself that I won’t eat dessert, but chocolate is pretty hard to resist, and especially since it’s Semai single origin cocoa mousse, Johnny Walker Blue savoiardi with Batang Kali single origin cocoa coated Job’s Tear’s, an ingredient which chef Won was using for the first time. Known as Dale Kerukub locally, it is a native heirloom grain cultivated for generations by the Lun Bawang community.
What I liked about it was that the sweetness wasn’t paralysing as some desserts are, and the avant garde plating dressed it up perfectly.
At the end, it wasn’t really the end, because there was plenty of Blue Label to keep the party going!
Thank you, Johnny Walker, for a chance to discover rarity!
The Discover Rarity degustation menu by Johnnie Walker Blue Label is available at enfin by James Won from January 1 to March 31, 2020, at RM688++ and additional RM268++ for pairing with Johnnie Walker Blue Label.