At the media preview of the Art of the Wild dinner series held at Babe in Kuala Lumpur, we were given the exciting news that chef Jeff Ramsey — recipient of a Michelin star during his stint at Tapas Molecular bar at Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Tokyo — has been appointed Perrier-Jouët’s chef ambassador for Malaysia. The Art Nouveau-themed dinner — on until Nov 11 — celebrates this new collaboration with a fun and nature-inspired journey that truly showcases how well the chef’s style and the lively champagne are suited. Babe is known for Ramsey’s Japanese tapas, or ‘Japas’, and the multisensory experience that is full of fun and finesse.
The evening began with cocktails and mingling before we got to appreciate Ramsey’s culinary creations. At the bar, we sampled colourful vials labelled “Try me” — what a throwback to Alice in Wonderland — and we were told to guess what dish the flavours were meant to evoke. Variations of this little teaser for the evening’s meal are open to all guests, showcasing the playful side of the restaurant.
Babe’s dining area boasts a panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline and we were lucky enough to enjoy the light pink sunset washed across the sky. Both Ramsey and Perrier-Jouët’s brand ambassador Jean-Baptiste Gourvil welcomed guests and walked us through the menu. The first three japas were served with Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2008, which Gourvil said is one of the best vintages. “Belle Epoque is 50% chardonnay, which brings florality,” he added. The champagne was light and lively, with a fruity nose.
We started with the Crystal Gyoza, which were translucent and crispy parcels with a salty filling that resembled chicken floss, and a small serving of a light cabbage soup. Next up was caramelised ankimo, a Japanese monkfish liver dish which Ramsey dubbed ‘the foie gras of the sea’. The presentation was complete with a ladle of a passionfruit ponzu granita that released swirling dry ice mists. The crunch of the passionfruit with the silky soft liver was a textural dream with delicate flavours. Then came the uni, otoro, botan ebi tartelette, which was an unusual mix of premium Japanese seafood on a crunchy tart shell. The freshness of the seafood was beautifully balanced with the soy gelée and shell.
The next three courses really showed the chef’s creativity, making you rethink your assumptions about food. With these dishes, we had the vivacious Grand Brut, Perrier-Jouët’s signature drink. “It is actually a blend of more than 50 crus. A cru is a village, so you have grapes from more than 50 villages,” said Gourvil.
Cheekily named The BabenDazs, the first was a play on an ice cream sandwich that was oddly savoury. Its description read: Martell Red Barrel VSOP and foie gras monaka sandwich. Served in a packaging that is reminiscent of the famed ice cream brand, the texture of the mochi wafer was a surprising combination with the rich foie gras encased in chocolate.
Ramsey introduced the Steak Sandwich by saying “what you see is not what you get”, which turned out to be quite an understatement. At first sight, it looked like a simple open-faced sandwich, but only the meaty braised beef tongue was what it seemed. The bread was a tomato meringue, the green leaf a slice of parmesan, the tomato was wagyu tartare and the cheese sauce was actually mayonnaise. Although confusing, it was a delicious combination of flavours made sweeter by the Grand Brut.
The chef said the Nagano Walnut Soba dish was his favourite item on the menu as it transported him back to a loving moment with his wife. As champagne is said to be for lovers, the dish fitted perfectly with the evening’s menu. A more hands-on approach was needed for this dish (perhaps a subtle hint from the chef that love requires work). We were given a little mortar and pestle to grind walnuts for our sauce. After squeezing a syringe of oil into liquid nitrogen to create the frozen condiment, all that was left was to dip the cold buckwheat noodles into our walnut sauce and eat. The light and fresh flavours were wholesome and a great pairing with the Grand Brut.
The final three plates were paired with Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé, which was not as sweet as I expected. Not as floral as the other two champagnes, the Blason Rosé has aromas similar to mature red fruits and buttery pastries. The next two dishes comprised Yuan miso salmon with yuzu cream and daun kaduk, and truffle and ginger-marinated CO₂-battered Tatsuta chicken. We ended the evening with a delicate VSOP-infused chestnut and vanilla crème.
Said Gourvil, “One of the things that we are very proud of at Perrier-Jouët is our savoir faire. If you want to keep your savoir faire for more than 200 years, there is one thing that you need to avoid doing — changing your cellar master every two weeks. We are really proud to have had only seven cellar masters for more than 200 years.”
For the Art of the Wild series, diners can choose between The Excursion (a six-course meal for RM220+), The Journey (a 10-course meal for RM350+) and The Voyage (an 11-course meal for RM680+). To make reservations, call 03 2095 8599 or see here for more info. This article first appeared on Nov 5, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.