In each city, there are always a handful of daring restaurants that make it one of their goals to change diners’ perceptions. In Kuala Lumpur, Nadodi is one of them, as we discovered on our recent visit for its first-year anniversary menu. Focusing on reinterpreting the southern Indian fare (that we know and love in Singapore too), the kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Johnson Ebenezer and Chef de Cuisine Sricharan Venkatesh. Both of them grew up in Chennai, an agricultural hub and capital of Tamil Nadu, so you know you’re in good hands.
Open for dinner six nights a week, diners have the option of a seven- (RM360+), nine- (RM430+), or 12-course (RM490+) menu. They also offer a 12-course vegetarian menu (RM450+), but for any first-timer at Nadodi, the 12-Mile Journey, featuring hand drawn illustrations by the chef, is the one to go for. Those who love food with their drink, wine pairing is available at (RM280+) per person, but we opted for the Liquid Degustation (RM260+) to see the synergy of food and beverage at Nadodi.
Starting with a cocktail and three bites, the gin-based Cocktail with No Name was prettily came in an eggshell that exuded a nice truffle scent.
Shaken with basil, 48-hour infused truffle fat, lime, and egg white, it’s more refreshing than it sounds and prepped us for the mildly spicy trio that represents a South Indian state – Tamil Nadu (Kira Bath), Kerala (Banana Leaf), and Sri Lanka (Vada).
Kerala stood out the most. Each morsel was party of flavours – sweet, spicy, tangy – and textures, especially the chlorophyll-based meringue, and resonated well with the banana leaf inspiration.
Next up from the liquid degustation, a deconstructed Bloody Mary that accentuates the lingering head in your mouth after the snacks. It may look more like a palate cleanser, the depth of flavour and layers will convince one otherwise. Topped with vodka caviar that gives bloody good – excuse the pun – punch, the sorbet sits on Bloody Mary soil (made with dehydrated tomato and flat rice), dehydrated Bloody Mary granite, and chili flakes for good measure.
Course number two, Surprisingly Duo surprised us with the pairing of prawn satay with a rabbit tart. Seasoned with Avalose (a roasted rice powder with coconut and fermented tomato pickle), the crusted smoked Spanish prawn takes meat on a stick to another level with a tender and flavourful crustacean. Unfortunately, the smokiness was rather lacking, as well as in the cedar wood-smoked tomato pickled sauce. The acidity from the pomegranate and pickles filling didn’t save the filo pastry topped with 48-hour air dried rabbit floss from being dry, so we’re glad to see they’ve replaced it since.
The Pina Colada and Red Kari did, however, restore our faith. What makes the one-bite cocktail sing is the excellent contrast between frozen sphere of coconut cream and the filling of pineapple reduction and Malibu gel. Even if you don’t like beetroot, don’t pass the verdict so soon. Done three ways – beetroot sorbet, beetroot curry, and beetroot glass – the highlight of this refreshing rendition of a popular Sri Lankan curry is the the synergy between beetroot and the accompanying coconut peanut espuma and beetroot pickles.
Mango is certainly the focus in the next pairing of Shell Shock and Mango Margarita, and one of our favourites of the night. The pan seared Hokkaido scallop was cooked flawlessly and accentuated with sweet mango curry, lime caviar, and tinge of green from Sri Lankan watercress. The party in your mouth continues with the one bite cocktail of vodka blended with mango and lime, sitting in an edible nest of dehydrated mango and topped with black rock salt.
Cocktail number five paled in comparison with the little flavour bombs we’ve come to expect. Served in a seashell vessel, just for the heck of it, Passionate is Head of Beverage Akshar Chalwadi’s winning Bacardi Legacy cocktail in 2009, featuring rum, passionfruit and pomegranate juice shaken with basil leaves. Fish head curry – well-loved in both Singapore and Malaysia – is paid tribute to in Heads Up. All the elements are layers in the ceramic mug, starting with fresh local coral trout at the bottom, followed by a rich and coconut and tamarind espuma, then lemon rice crispies and seaweed – delicious and comforting.
Next, a palate cleanser in Coco Loco and savoury cocktail in Rasam. The former pairs a granite made with coconut water, dill, and cucumber and a nectar of turmeric and coconut water reduction while the latter is an alcoholic take on a South Indian soup. Prepared with cold vodka and spices found in the soup topped with a warm foam of egg white, lime and rasam powder; it’s a great play on the flavours reflective on the original dish. The cocktail also paired well with the first of the main courses, Its Smoking!!. A reference to a popular movie in Tamil Nadu (“Smoking Gun”), the charcoal-grilled chicken is served tableside with coconut smoke. The aroma of the charred bits and coconut smoke was lovely and kept us going for more.
Not sure if they ran out of names by cocktail #7, but the whisky-based Spicy and Creamy is quite literally that. The combination of buttermilk, cardamom, and black salt soothed the spiciness of the previous dishes while the yogurt-like texture and flavour of the buttermilk paired well with the Sour Billy. Sitting on a tamarind chutney and rosella leaf tempura, the sous vide lamb chop is finish with a ginger meringue cooking on the side. Though not too gamey, the texture of the meat was inconsistent and the ginger cookie didn’t express well on the palate. Thankfully, Nadodi’s signature and last of the savoury courses – Nomads Globe – was a winner.
Presented in three stacked vessels (reminiscent of what we experienced at Gaggan in Bangkok), the top layer revealed a Jaffna Crab Varai – Alaksan king crab salad, turmeric, and condiments – followed by Cheemeen Choru, a biryani cooked with saffron, prawns, apricot, and raisins in the middle. The trio is rounded off with Lobster Chettinad, a curry from the Kannur region that is more creamy than spicy due to the use of more coconut milk and less chillies. We liked that the curry didn’t overpower the natural sweetness of the lobster and the fragrance of the biryani.
The first sweet treat arrived in the form of Pols Hopper, Nadodi’s version of the classic Putu Mayam. While we didn’t get the garnish of black truffle, the flavours were excellent. The coconut milk ice cream balances the coconut sambar crumble and the red rice idiyappam (the rice flour that’s pressed into noodle form before steaming). It’s customary to serve tea or coffee after a meal, and the last cocktail manages to do that with Tea, the last cocktail and the only warm one of the lot. The concept is on point as well, where gin, ginger, jasmine, and lemongrass tea is served in a dissolvable teabag of dried ginger and ginger flower.
Finally, as all fine dining restaurants do, there’s a deconstructed dessert for the last plate. Textures of Milk feature a pavlova made from palm sugar and cultured yogurt, whey meringue, honey curd and buttermilk snow.
A show of technique rather than a show of Indian and Southeast Asian flavours with Pols Hopper, we did enjoy the nostalgia from the honey curd, which was reminiscent of caramelised condensed milk (a childhood favourite).
Overall, there were definitely more hits than misses over the long menu and the presentation of every dish was well thought out and beautifully executed.
We also appreciated the effort put into the liquid degustation, making it more of a fun experience. Malaysia might not be a place known for fine dining like Singapore or Bangkok, but there’s so much potential and we wouldn’t’ mind returning to try their seasonal menu that changes on a quarterly basis!
Nadodi is located at Level 1, 183 Jalan Mayang (off Jalan Yap Kwan Seng), 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, p. +6017 390 0792. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-11pm. Closed Sunday.
Top Image: Pols Hopper