I was introduced to the concept of a tasting menu in Sydney, when I attended MasterChef Billy's Halloween dessert degustation with Jenny. The invitation to be part of the first Italian tasting menu at Einstein Cafe was my first degustation experience in KL.
The cafe is situated on the first floor of a heritage shop-house on the historic Jalan Sultan end of Chinatown. The climb up the narrow and steep flight of stairs can be a little scary, especially with high heels.
The interior of the cafe exuded a sort of simplistic rustic charm - walls with peeling paint, raw plank tables and benches. However, it felt a little warm inside and I had a feeling that their low ceiling and many light bulbs contributed to that.
The cafe had just started under new management and this tasting menu by Pop Up Dining KL was their first major event. There are a few articles written about them if you Google this name, so I shan't go into details here. I shall, however, share that it was started by three friends; Daniel Yap, Miki Lie and Amanda Huang. They do not have a fixed pop up schedule, which means that following them on FB and Insta would be a good idea to keep track of where in the Klang Valley and when the next pop up will be held. And I believe that their menu is different each time.
Normally, the menu would consist of five or six courses, including dessert. Although they are not halal, they do not serve pork.
Plating of the food took place in full view of diners, who were even welcome to take photographs. When everyone was served their portion, Daniel came round to explain each dish - the ingredients he used and the cooking methods he employed.
We started with a plate of snacks, which I absent-mindedly forgotten to note what it was made up of (sorry). But yea, this was what it looked like:
Then, the antipasto of bagna càuda 'banana' with greens. And because I am Italian-illiterate, I had to look up the meaning of bagna càuda and thank God for the contributors to Wikipedia because I found out that it is a warm dip typically found in Piedmont, Italy but with numerous local variations. It is commonly served and consumed like a fondue. Basically, it is made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, butter and in some regions, cream. Normally, raw, boiled or roasted vegetables such as carrot, peppers, fennel, celery, cauliflower, artichokes and onions are dipped in it, fondue-style. This explained why I tasted anchovies when mixing in my "salad". The addition of banana to the bagna càuda gave it a distinct flavour. Am quite unsure how to describe that flavour but it definitely was a memorable one with a tinge of sweet.
Primo was a plate of saffron risotto with blueberry drizzle and originally, beef. But because I do not consume beef, they very kindly replaced it with prawns. Being the risotto lover that I am, I had no complains about this dish. I thought the blueberry drizzle went quite well with the prawns and saffron, which I did not expect.
Secondo comprised of chicken 'two services', which meant that there would be two chicken dishes served as second course. The first of the two was quite snap-worthy, as it came in quite an adorable construction - in an onion sitting on a bed of 200°C rock salt. We were wondering where the chicken was and surprise surprise, it actually did come in the onion! No wonder they called this dish braised chicken leg in onion bowl. I enjoyed this dish because I could taste the flavours of the chicken, which was braised for quite a few hours. However, unlike everyone else at my table who ate the entire onion, I gave my onion away. Not much of an onion-eater, I.
The second Secondo was an artistically laid-out plate of chicken mousse, deep-fried liver and oyster ball, orange jelly, cucumber jelly and spinach sauce. My palate was intrigued by the mixture of different flavours and textures. We agreed that the chicken mousse was slightly overdone but found the jellies refreshing. I really liked the deep-fried liver and oyster ball.
Then came my favourite part of any meal; dessert. It was a plate of carrot, medjool, seeds of various kinds and white chocolate. I liked how when mixed together, the combination of food textures made eating it a fun affair. I also thought that the seeds and carrot helped to balance the sweetness of everything else.
As we did not know what sweet bites meant on the menu, we were pleasantly surprised when we were given a piece of dark chocolate with preserved fruit and sunflower seeds each. How did they know that I am a total sucker for anything with dark chocolate? Hehehe, needless to say, it vanished within seconds.
I really admire these three young entrepreneurs. It is a challenge to adjust to different kitchens, different clientele and all. Good on them for trying out a relatively new concept of casual fine dining in KL. Hopefully, we would get to see and hear of them more.Einstein Cafe
58 Jalan Sultan, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Mob: +60 12 363 6004