Fine dining in Kuala Lumpur? You bet. We previously visited Nadodi for its first anniversary a year ago, and last month, we made our way to the Malaysian capital again for the sole purpose of eating at the restaurant. After all, the founders describe their food as “engaging nomadic cuisine”, and being nomads ourselves, we could hardly resist.
Nadodi’s founders comprise of three South Indians: Head Chef Sricharan Venkatesh, Brand Director Kartik Kumar, and Akshar Chalwadi, who heads the beverage programme. The first two boasts long stints at that other progressive Indian restaurant in Bangkok (yes, we’re talking about Gaggan), but Akshar isn’t too shabby himself – he was once named India’s most promising bartender by Bacardi in 2011g. And having spent the early years of their culinary careers outside their hometowns in places like Mumbai, Kolkata, and Delhi, these guys know a thing or two about the ever-evolving cooking of nomadic cultures.
As Gaggan shuttered its doors in August, Nadodi might be the contemporary Indian successor that the world needs. Only now, you can forget the chicken tikka masala or naan. Their focus is on South Indian cuisine, drawing influence particularly from the regions of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Sri Lanka. Open for dinner six nights a week, tasting menus run from 9-Miles (MYR430++) to an 11-Mile Journey (MYR490++). But for any first-timer, we say the latter is the one to go for. Wine pairing is also available at RM per person, but we go for the Liquid Degustation (MYR260++) instead to experience the synergy of the food and drinks.
You’re looking at time-worn flavours with new age cooking flavours. A trio of snacks to start the journey: a delicate rose pink sphere that contains a short of cardamom-infused jaggery water, reminiscent of the traditional Indian beverage pannagam; a nasi lemak ‘burger’ with meringue buns sandwiching a sweet sambal hijau paste; and an excellent Chettinad-inspired mushroom shortcrust tart made with local button and splitgill mushrooms that’ve been cooked with stone algae and masala spices.
We get a tantalising cycle of small dishes and cocktails. The Street Staple — Sricharan’s take on kalaki, a deep-fried egg street snack that’s now transformed into an egg shell of silky masala-infused egg mousse — is paired with Akshar’s mildly fishy Frozen Lake, a concoction of salmon-flavoured gin, fennel, and basil-infused vodka. Or Pickle Me, which showcases both Western and South Indian methods of pickling by way of an Alaskan King Crab-pickled daikon salad, and a pickled young jackfruit brioche sandwich accentuated with spices like fenugreek, cumin, and green chilli. The latter uses mustard oil, and it works wonderfully with the accompanying Passionfruit, a punchy tipple of turmeric-infused gin with ginger cordial and a tasty rim of salt, chilli flakes, and sugar — reminiscent of that cut fruit and sugar-chilli combo you’d find on the streets.
Somewhere along the line, you will arrive at the Humble Broth, something we think is Nadodi’s best dish. Based on the classic rasam, a piquant soup of tamarind, tomatoes, chilli pepper and cumin, this version takes things up a notch with heirloom picks from Cameron Highlands that are pressed by hand, slow-cooked, and combined with chive flowers, curry leaf oil, and an assortment of other spices. Naturally, Akshar is the kind of person who’d use the leftovers to make a Rasam cocktail: think rasam sous-vide with vodka combined with a cordial of lacto-fermented tomatoes for maximum flavour.
It’s the kind of comforting thing you need to close off your night. That is, until the actual dessert arrives. In true fine dining fashion, there’s a deconstructed-style bowl of stone algae and cinnamon ice cream presented on pistachio-chocolate soil and dried walnut sponge. Finished with a bittersweet Valrhona chocolate drizzle and sliced Morello cherries, it truly is Sweet, Spice & Everything Nice.
At this stage, it’s hardly about whether Nadodi will get a big award (think Michelin and 50 Best kind of big) behind their name. It’s just a matter of when.
Nadodi is located at 183 Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, p. +60 17 367 0200. Open Mon-Sat 6pm – 9.30pm. Closed Sun.