Review: Contemporary South Indian-inspired Fare At Nadodi
Singapore’s foodies are typically drawn to Malaysia’s capital for its smoky, ribsticking hawker fare. But of late, one fine dining restaurant has had gourmets contemplating the trek across the Causeway to partake in a gourmet meal instead. It is rather apt considering that the restaurant’s name, Nadodi, translates from Tamil and Malayalam to mean ‘nomad’ or ‘wanderer’.
At this glossy-floored establishment tucked away in an aging building in Kuala Lumpur’s city centre, four partners have come together to offer a unique cuisine rooted in the South Indian flavours typically found across Malaysia and Singapore.
Executive chef Johnson Ebenezer cut his teeth at hotel restaurants in Chennai, while chef de cuisine Sricharan Venkatesh boasts a stint at that other progressive Indian restaurant, Gaggan. Akshar Chalwadi, “India’s most promising bartender 2011” according to Bacardi, heads the beverage programme, while brand director Kartik Kumar also boasts Gaggan pedigree as its former head of operations.
Together, they have created an aspirational dining experience that tries to toe the lines between tradition, modernity, and a melting pot of influences. Their menus are coined “journeys”, with a 9-mile Journey going for MYR460++ (S$150++) and an 11-Mile Journey for MYR490 (S$164++). There is also an 11-course vegetarian option for MYR450 (S$151++).
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Worth The Journey?
The cuisine’s conceit is convoluted. The food is designed to take diners through the likes of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sri Lanka, in the form of contemporary interpretations of their classic dishes. But account is also given to how these dishes are parsed in Southeast Asian style. So, what they call ‘Heads Up’, their rendition of fish head curry, is really a deconstructed Keralan fish molee.
The likes of espuma, smoke, nectars and sous vide cooking all congregate to lend modernity to the food. There are petit portions of slightly dry spring chicken grilled over a charcoal fire and served in a smoke-encased jar. The classic banana leaf meal is interpreted as a meringue leaf upon which sit miniscule dabs of things like tamarind and ginger pumpkin, red-rice daal and mango patchadi.
There are also delicious skewers of smoked Spanish prawns—an ode to Malaysian satay—seasoned with a rub of roasted rice and coconut powder, and served with a fermented tomato pickle that gave the dish a wonderfully piquant edge.
The best thing on the menu though, is what is essentially a luxed-up biryani. Served in a three-tiered orb, it comprises a salad of spiced Alaskan king crab, biryani cooked with apricot, raisins, prawns and saffron, and a truly delectable lobster Chettinad bathed in a silky, spicy gravy. Do away with the lacquered containers and the dish would be perfectly at home at a Keralan beach-side shack.
Which brings us to the dining experience beyond the food on the plates. As a fine dining restaurant, Nadodi lacks the polish that Singaporeans are accustomed to. The interiors are a little rough around the edges and small details like peeling crockery don’t fall in line with what one expects from an establishment that asks for top dollar in its city (granted, Malaysia’s exchange rate has made it a much more affordable meal for Singaporeans). The draw for us, then, is the unique cuisine that is so far unavailable on home ground.
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Nadodi | First floor (above ground) 183 Jalan Mayang (off Jalan Yap Kwan Seng), Kuala Lumpur 50450 | +60 32181 4334 | Nadodikl.com