John Doe Pop-Up Dining @ Stoked, Medan Damansara

October 30, 2015

From Notting Hill to Bukit Damansara: Stoked, one of KL's top new outlets of 2015, has teamed up with London's like-minded John Doe - a charcoal-fuelled eatery that focuses on game cooking - to bring in British restaurateur-chefs Mark Blatchford & Paul Fox for a unique pop-up dining experience that runs 29 October until 1 November. For fans of honest-to-goodness English ingredients - from Cornish octopus & Cotswold venison to Berkshire pork - this is one of those rare & genuine treats worth scrambling for, with limited tables still available for lunch & dinner everyday through this Sunday.

Order the six-course menu, which primarily targets the dinner clientele but is available by request for lunch too. The meal kicks off with ash-roasted leeks, fleshy & succulent, with lentils & a creamy tarragon dressing that bears tangy-savoury traces of passata, red wine vinegar & capers - a recipe straight from John Doe's own repertoire back home, lightly blackened & warmly cloaked in the gentle nuances of wood, fire & smoke that form the cornerstones to Stoked & John Doe's ethos. A starter that accentuates the vibrantly honeyed fruitiness of its optional pairing of Heritiers Lafon Milly Lamartine 2013 (Macon, Burgundy), 

 Seafood comes next - most of the produce for this menu is flown in from the UK specifically for this four-day pop-up. The grilled Cornish octopus with chickpeas, paprika & aioli flaunts a flavoursome tenderness that might transport you to a fishing island's tavern if you close your eyes, concentrate & chew. Complex but clean flavours emanate from these meticulously crafted offerings, thanks to the British-built Bertha oven - still the only one in Southeast Asia - that's powers Stoked's kitchen. 

Here's our personal high point (as well as the favourite of our neighbouring table): Juicy, coal-baked crab claw meat, laid over steamed rice, its soft brininess blanketed by a sweet, mild Keralan coconut milk curry sauce, with assertively zesty accompaniments of coconut slivers, cucumber & tomatoes. A memorable interpretation of comfort food imbued with an Asian accent & an irresistibly international appeal. Complemented by a lively Domaine Trimbach Pinot Gris 2012 (Alsace, France).

A fowl dilemma rears its head for the following course: Customers have to select from seared duck hearts with green beans & mint or brined chicken satay with wood-roasted peanut sauce. We prefer the hearts, but they could be an acquired taste for patrons without a penchant for the pleasures of offal. The satay is the safer bet, with a thick, smooth sauce & crisp, perky salad - it might be a bit tame-tasting for folks familiar with the spicy robustness of local satay, but it fits into the flow of this meal. Partnered with the earthy Domaine Vieux Telegraphe Telegramme Chateauneuf du Pape 2012 (Rhone, France).

An even trickier choice comes next: Berkshire pork chop with salsa verde or Cotswold venison haunch with bone marrow & watercress. There's no wrong decision though; both have their merits - the pork carries rich characteristics that separate it from Malaysian meat, with a brawny, marbled bite, while the venison also packs a flavour punch that comes from good game, unabashedly matched with melt-in-the-mouth marrow. Order one of each main course to share with your companion, with two glasses of the ripely jammy Tenuta Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2009 (Tuscany, Italy) to round out the food.

The chuck steak - a Wagyu/Aberdeen-Angus cross - was a surprise extra (not actually available for most of this week's meals), with a punchy marinade & sauce that evoked Thai inspirations. We wrapped up with a darkly seductive chocolate terrine, studded with roasted pistachios that preserved the theme of oven cooking to the end. Coffee or tea, plus petit fours, are included in the meal; if you're fortunate, there might be the bonus of John Doe's beer ice cream - better than a pint of bitter - one of the most satisfying alcoholic desserts we've had in KL. Stoked x John Doe runs through this Sunday. Dinners clock in at RM280 nett per person or RM398 nett with wine pairing. There's also a more compact three-course lunch menu for RM100 nett with a tempting highlight of lemon-brined guinea fowl with aubergine & sumac. Many thanks to Stoked for having us here.

Stoked Restaurant & Bar
Jalan Kasah, Bukit Damansara, Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur. Daily, 12pm-3pm, 6pm-late. Tel: 03-2096-1645

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