Cricket Carbonara @ Gastro Bar, By Burgeon

June 8, 2016

When we mentioned Gastro Bar By Burgeon's cricket pasta to a friend, his first response was, "Why on Earth?" That's a fair question that this ceaselessly inventive restaurant is happy to answer. Chef Justin Yap & his kitchen brigade are all about telling stories through their food, harnessing both local & foreign inspirations to create pretty special offerings that bring together the familiar & the strange. For much of Gastro Bar's menu, the team regularly scours the markets of Taman Megah & Taman Tun to source for produce, but for their latest effort, they headed to the town of Banting for carrot-fed crickets (reared to feed birds & completely safe for human consumption), crafting the first insect-themed recipe we've seen in a Malaysian eatery.

You'll find 12 pomegranate-infused & curried crickets on your plate of squid ink durum wheat pasta, entangled with morsels of Chinese lap cheong & Cajun-spiced tiger prawns in a mix of kaffir coconut cream reduction & cilantro-garlic emulsion that's meant to evoke Peranakan flavours (think of this as a Southeast Asian carbonara). It's as enjoyable as any well-executed pasta, with fresh, pleasing flavours - the crickets (which remain live in the kitchen until orders come in) serve a purpose, supplying a light, almost airy crisp, with a slight grit for textural contrast. In terms of flavour, they're much milder than the fried insects of Bangkok; so beyond the visual shivers, they're as inoffensive as, say, croutons. Plus, if insects truly are the protein of tomorrow, it's time Malaysian restaurants get a head start on the future. This is well worth trying, but hurry - it's a bug's life for this week only at Gastro Bar, everyday till Sunday (June 12). The cricket pasta (affordably priced at RM28) is part of a newly launched exploratory menu that aims to showcase a uniquely different dish every week. Advance reservations for this dish are recommended, since the restaurant offers limited servings daily.

But for the genuinely entomophobic, no fear: You can still savour insect-free pastas & noodles from Gastro Bar's regular menu. The recipes maintain a sense of elegantly versatile playfulness - caramelised sweet onion pasta with grilled striploin, Parmesan tuilles & cilantro-horseradish cream (RM38) & mee sua with Shaoxing-cooked prawns, napa cabbage & crispy shallots in a prawn-&-pork broth (RM28) are only two examples. Click here for some of Gastro Bar's other a la carte highlights.

And if you need liquid courage to help you confront the crickets, the bar comes prepared: The strongest cocktail available is the Caipirinha (RM38); or even better, have the Amrut Fusion whisky (RM35; distilled from barley from Scotland & India). For teetotalers, Gastro Bar offers distinctive mocktails (the cucumber-elderflower soda & rambutan ice-blended with red dates, raisins & butterfly pea flowers are both beautifully refreshing), most of which can also be transformed into cocktails (spike your lychee-plum soda with gin & your pineapple-mango soda with rum). And for the final touch, experiment with what wine pairing works best with crickets - it's probably debatable, but we'd opt for the house white for the cricket pasta & save the red for the steak pasta & prawn noodles. Many thanks to Gastro Bar for having us back.

Gastro Bar, By Burgeon
8 & 10, Jalan BM 1/2, Taman Bukit Mayang Emas, Petaling Jaya.
Now open Tues-Sun, 6pm-1030pm, except public holidays. Tel: 03-7497-5373

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