Nadodi, the Tamil equivalent of “nomad”, invites you on a metaphorical journey through Tamil Nadu, Kerala and northern Sri Lanka. These sensory peregrinations also awaken perceptions of tradition, ritual and even lifestyle. The journey is experienced through 11-, 13- and 15-mile dégustation menus priced at RM380++, RM410++ and RM440++ respectively. Wine pairing costs RM260++. This is the second such incarnation since the restaurant opened, hence “Nadodi 2.0”.
The restaurant is U-shaped with a cutout for an outdoor area and boasts an upstairs bar that is bathed in the light coming from the Petronas Twin Towers. Rich marble on the floor and end-walls, linen-draped tables and tall leather chairs set the tone for refined luxury, enhanced by selective spotlighting, black-and-white photographs on one wall and cinnamon roll-inspired lights overhead. It’s quiet, cool and elegant. Service is solicitous — our waiter explained the idea behind each dish and the cutlery was changed after every course.
The 13-mile journey commenced with three courses: a small cone of desiccated coconut paper in a metal cage contained the Fermented Staple of Idly, Sambar and Chutney, reduced to a single mouthful of instantly familiar tastes — the essence rather than the substance — of a South Indian breakfast.
Presented on a round stone was Pol Puff — distilled Sri Lankan pol sambola in a single pale puff, airy and sweet, and containing the vital ingredients of coconut, spices, cinnamon and carbohydrate.
A coconut-wood spoon held the Malayali Trade, a rectangle of red rice pittu dotted with coconut, carrot and pumpkin creams, on a yellow bed of chilli yogurt with dried peas. It was intense, spicy and grainy, a miniature snapshot of Kerala.
Smoky fragrance with a nutty texture infused with Indian spices was Smoking Seeds — mashed, spiced and smoked jackfruit seeds, beguiling both visual and taste elements for what it was, was not what it seemed and was presented as a bird’s egg in a nest.
Sri Lankan beetroot curry was reinterpreted in a mouthful of Red Kari, which was julienned beetroot on lentils and coconut foam, and sprinkled over with beetroot dust. Smooth and spicy with the crunchiness and flavour of beetroot.
Out of the Shell paid tribute to the fishing tradition, evoking sea foam washing over seashells, with a bloody scallop on a bivalve shell. Appearances notwithstanding, the Hokkaido scallop was meaty, luscious and cooked in a spicy tomato sauce redolent with star anise seed and slightly provocative coriander foam. Salty Finger vegetable provided a tangy and briny counterpoint.
The catch of the day in Fishing The Backwaters was barramundi, a smoothly enticing morsel heightened by coconut cream and balanced by the green rawness of shredded pennywort.
In Tales of Musa was a patty of blanched, mashed, spiced and pan-fried banana, sprinkled with desiccated, grated banana flower and resting on a cake of cooked and reconstituted banana stem. There were layers of texture, the stem providing a neutral element to the intensely flavoured, spicy, nutty plantain, invoking verdant tropical climes.
I had the most full-bodied, richest rasam I have ever tasted in the Monsoon Ritual. The rasam was slow-cooked, strained tomato broth richly infused with a tang of traditional spices and presented at the table in a kitchen distiller. Heated from below, the soup absorbed further flavour from fresh coriander and curry leaves before descending into a lower chamber from which the soup was poured into a bowl with spiced oil and lentils. Heartwarming and superb.
Was Hannibal Lecter a gourmet? Silence of Our Lamb was sous vide lamb rack, served on a spiced coconut reduction, sprinkled with desiccated fennel and curry leaf crumble. Luscious, tender, moist and delicious, enlivened by the curry paste.
The audacity of combining lobster and truffle in a coconut yogurt with curry leaf oil paid off in The Strings, accompanied by string hoppers and coconut and potato sambar. The combination was light and refined, a richly luxurious and curry-reminiscent mixture.
The desserts displayed the same thoughtfulness: Kandy Tea Story being chocolate mousse encapsulating almond financier cake and the Mind of a Coconut revealed to be coconut ice cream on sea coconut chips with coconut crumble and cane sugar.
The diner wanders the shores and hinterland of the regions, sampling the culinary richness without undertaking the physical journey, elevating the palate with an appreciation of Indian cuisine. Traditional ingredients are used yet tastes are reinterpreted. Innovative, clever and thought-provoking, Nadodi deconstructs and reconstructs routine South Indian food yet preserves the essence and challenges the norm in a journey both of cuisine and the mind.
Nadodi, first floor, 183 Jalan Mayang, off Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Tel: (03) 2181 4334. For more information, visit www.nadodikl.com