[Travelogue] Neo Tamarind Kuala Lumpur- Hilltop Dining in the City

IMG_7274The first signs of Neo Tamarind peeks at you from behind a tall wall of bamboo trees along busy Jalan Sultan Ismail. White spherical lanterns light the mysterious uphill path that leads to the restaurant. Such an intriguing start to dinner!IMG_7284The restaurant has both in and outdoor dining, an alfresco bar with a pool table and a luxe lounge area with live DJ over the weekends.The main dining hall is cozy and sophisticated, complete with crisp white table linens and fine chinaware. The decor is clean and modern with contrasting  dark wood furnishing, cream draperies and trendy neo classical lighting. Service is impeccable. Staff are knowledgable, efficient, friendly and professional. IMG_7784Chef Sombat Kokasemkul hails from Bangkok but his culinary skills are international. After ordering a myriad of dishes including a couple of “Surprise me-s” (basically let the chef surprise you with something special), we got down to a welcome gingerly tea (its like something they serve you at a spa!) and a terrific bottle of wine!IMG_7290Shortly after, we were served an amuse bouche of Smoked Duck Salad. A little bunch of crisp greens wrapped within sweet, tender duck breast. The simple canapΓ©, didn’t quite blow me away but its always nice to start with an amuse bouche, if just to get your palate going! IMG_7300The party began with the beautifully executed Angus Beef Carpaccio. Thin beef slices were lightly flavored and eaten with salty Parmesan cracker. The combined taste was delightful! A tad salty, a tad vinegary, with aromatic olive oil, tomatoes and herbs. It was simple and delicious.IMG_7296Pan Seared Foie Gras with Caramelized Apples was very well made. The duck liver was nicely charred and melt-in-your-mouth juicy… the soft apples and sweet berries complemented nicely.IMG_7298Maguro Tuna.. Flamed and served with a unique and appetizing lemongrass ponzu dip. The fish was fresh and the bits of ikura added some texture and saltiness which was nice.IMG_7303The surprise starter was a beautifully plated Angus beef, lightly seared and topped with 3 different ingredients, namely a tender roasted garlic clove, a dried cherry tomato and a small piece of cheese. So you have to cut the meat up into 3 portions and taste each with its respective topping…plus a little of the dried chopped broccoli which adds some crunch to each bite. I’m usually aversed to eating whole garlic cloves, cooked or uncooked but found myself enjoying that first bite with the roasted garlic best! There wasnt any funky garlic taste nor scent. Instead it was sweet and creamy. So, don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. That was one yummy garlic!IMG_7379Our mains started with the fork tender Duck Confit Baked in Firewood Oven. Very succulent and not fatty at all. You think the flavorful duck meat was good on its own until you dip it in the accompanying creamy sauce.  IMG_7378The yummy sidekick sauce consisting white wine, cream, cocoa powder and mustard was worth every minute of the 4 hours it took to make! I also enjoyed the zesty limey couscous which balanced the flavors perfectly.IMG_7381Chef Sombat’s specialty, the Pan Roasted Firewood Oven Angus Ribeye Steak with Cafe de Paris was marvellously tender! I normally like my steaks rare but this medium cut was quite beautifully done. Effortless chewing required and barely any fats. The classic sauce was a perfect balance of quality butter and herbs without one overpowering the other. Very delicious and very good steak.IMG_7383Our surprise dish was chef Sombat’s Special Pho. Unlike the classic Vietnamese Pho (which I love). Here, there are no mint leaves, nor bean sprouts, nor lime, beef balls or flat rice noodles! Instead, the piping hot 4-hour broth made with beef bones and daikon was poured from a teapot into a bowl of thin wheat soba topped with sliced wagyu raw beef, basil, coriander and crispy minced garlic. This adaptation of the famous dish is disturbing for pho lovers like myself, who like the lime infused minty original. But close your eyes, don’t think pho, and you’ll surely enjoy this twisted version! The springy soba was refreshing in a hot flavorful meat broth instead of the usual cold Japanese sweet salty soy dip. The beef slices, just lightly cooked by the hot broth bath were succulent and tender. The broth, oh the broth, we cleaned out the lovely broth in the bowl and what’s left in the teapot!IMG_7380The Beef Tongue Ravioli was the only disappointment of the evening for me. I should have known, that teeny bit of beef tongue in a tiny ravioli could never satisfy me😟! However, it had an interesting red wine sauce, unconventional of the usual ravioli dish. Also, those were some beautifully made raviolis, its hard not to give credit by snapping a photo!IMG_7387The Matcha Creme BrΓ»lΓ©e accompanied by a passion fruit infused cream was a delightful blend of sweet, creamy and sour. A good crunchy torched sugar surface encased a fine, smooth brΓ»lΓ©e cream beneath. The matcha isn’t too strong nor bitter and the sweetness is neutralized by the passion fruit whipped cream.IMG_7391Vanilla SoufflΓ© with Kalamansi Ice Cream. The gorgeous soufflΓ© had a liquidy core instead of the usual soft fluff. I wondered if it was undercooked but tasted no signs of powdery flour. The light airy sponge was lovely and the suspiciously ‘undercooked’ creamy vanilla mush was equally delicious! The kalamansi ice cream was tangy, creamy and refreshing. It should be called a Lava SoufflΓ©! IMG_7389Finally, my favorite, the Chocolate Lava Cake with Starfruit. Forget raspberry purΓ©e.. The unconventional marriage of bitter sweet chocolate and charred smokey juicy starfruit was superb! THe slight bitterness in the charred edges of the starfruit highlighted the sweetness of the usually bland fruit. Never quite always the leading lady when it comes to tropical fruits, the starfruit unquestionably shone here in this dessert!

Start with a mild spicy sweet cuppa tea and a great bottle of red!IMG_7292Toasty warm charcoal, white and wholemeal bread on the houseIMG_7301Crispy parmesan cracker with crusted beef carpaccioIMG_7385That Cafe de Paris sauce is to die for!

And Pho something unique…

Neo Tamarind @ 19, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Bukit Bintang, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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