Kikubari: Meatless Mondays Tasting Menu

April 7, 2018

Meatless Monday stalwarts and skeptics alike should take note of a new tasting menu that's now being offered once a week by progressive Japanese restaurant Kikubari: Chef de cuisine Jun Wong is a full-fledged omnivore, but she's no stranger to exploring the realm of plants for cooking, coming from a family that consumes relatively little meat. Her team has worked hard to create recipes that showcase the vibrancy of sustainable vegetables in a variety of fresh flavours and wholesome textures.

This tasting menu, priced at RM228++, is slated to completely change monthly. For April, customers can expect four courses, each meticulously conceived by a separate member of the Kikubari culinary brigade.

We kick off with Billy's amuse-bouche duo - the first half shimmers with the sweetness of compressed amera tomato with dashi, mingling with house-fermented tofu that evokes cream cheese, their lively nuances rounded out with the crispness of bubu arare baked rice crackers and a sourdough tuille. The second part spotlights one of Billy's favourite ingredients, daikon, in a preparation influenced by the soul-food stew of oden; this is a lighter rendition, its mellow umami warmth enhanced with the uplift of kombu shoyu and truffle oil. It's a lovely, clean-tasting combination of appetisers with a clear attention to detail.

Next up is sous chef Hafiz's butternut squash flan with pickled squash and squash puree with Japanese curry cremeaux - essentially squash done in different techniques, each delicately delicious, harmonising together with one another without scrambling over the top. A concoction that epitomises the essence of Kikubari, demonstrating the chef's understanding of ingredients, respect for how best to handle them, and a sense of restraint that lets them ultimately shine.

Syaban's barley risotto is the main course, sauteed with edamame beans, blanketed by baby spinach with the firmness of raw spinach but the look of cooked, bolstered by creme fraiche, spinach parsley puree and parmesan tuiles. If dishes truly reflect a chef's personality, this speaks to Syaban's reliability in bringing his A game to the table and executing a very solid barley risotto with thoughtful complements.

Dessert is the brainchild of Kikubari's youngest chef, John - carrot cake with walnut crumble, carrot orange gel and mascarpone ice cream, richly enjoyable to the final bite, with a playfully personal meaning that involves Easter and bunnies.

The regular a la carte menu remains available Mondays, so you can supplement your meal with more vegetarian possibilities, such as addictive enoki 'chips' with matcha salt and corn puree (RM22) and sweet potatoes roasted with sage butter (RM33) - ideal snacks for a restaurant where you'll find rosemary and sorrel being cultivated inside and sugar peas outside. 

A tea pairing selection is in the pipeline for the Meatless Monday menu, but for now, order a carafe of sake or one of the numerous wines. All in all, this is a promising harbinger of further stimulating projects that Kikubari is planning. Perhaps up next: Fans of fermentation, keep a close watch.

L3-01A, Damansara City Mall, Jalan Damanlela, Damansara Town Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Open Monday-Saturday, 630pm-1030pm. Tel: 03-2011-8200

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