Review: Nadodi Gives Us Optimism For The Future Of Fine Dining
With the economy taking a massive hit from the pandemic, fine dining restaurants the world over have scaled down their operations.
Not Nadodi, however. Despite entertaining the idea of introducing stand-alone dishes, the team has decided to continue doing what they do best, which is to serve epic dégustations.
"I wanted to introduce à la carte offerings. After all, you need manpower to execute a tasting menu," says head chef Sricharan Venkatesh. "But sometimes, the locals take you by surprise."
Heavily bearded, as is de rigueur during lockdown, he gazes at a group of revellers across the room. A customer, whom we can only assume is celebrating her birthday, sports a sparkly tiara that matches her toothy smile. She isn't the only one who's excited to be out of the house; tonight's reservations have surpassed the restaurant's expectations—Nadodi is operating at full capacity for the first time since CMCO.
See also: The Top 20 Restaurants In Malaysia 2020
Granted, Nadodi now seats less customers to comply with social distancing measures, but no longer is it a husk of a restaurant; life has flowed back into the dining room, which hums with life and energy.
We place ourselves in the able hands of the team, who introduces us to a series of South Indian street snacks, from moreish duck puffs redolent of miniature hand pies to fermented rice pancakes presented as cutesy 'ice cream cones'. Not unlike Massimo Bottura's dish dubbed The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna, Nadodi's Dosa, Sambhar & Chutney is all about maximising the best part of the dosa—the delightfully crispy circumference.
Vilified for its vagueness in the world of wine and spirits, the word 'drinkability' is nevertheless what comes to mind when I meditate on Nadodi's dishes and drinks.
Tonight, liquid enlightenment comes by way of Nadodi's renowned rasam. Undersold as Humble Broth, it is anything but. Every state in South India, every household even, has its own recipe for rasam. Three types of tomatoes, garlic, coriander, and curry leaf go into Nadodi's. Sour and extremely well-balanced, the soup is served in a fancy filtration system with a round-bottom flask. As kids say these days, it's "so extra."
A pastry chef in his past life, Akshar Chalwadi, who spearheads Nadodi's beverage programme, takes pleasure from embellishing his cocktails with small snacks. Whether it's wild coriander tempura, fruit 'leather' or tomato chutney atop an itsy bitsy cracker, some sort of tidbit almost always accompanies Nadodi's cocktails.
"Goat cheese-flavoured gin, did you say?" Wide-eyed with wonder, my dinner date chomps down on a cheese cracker dusted with dehydrated strawberries before sampling his grog.
I've said it before and will say it again: Nadodi's cocktails are strong enough to hold their own ground; should the restaurant ever decide to open a separate or an attached bar, I'll be first on their bar stools.
Of Nadodi's mains, the Pumpkin Erussery sticks in mind—and to my teeth. Apricot meringue affixes itself to my incisors, a quenelle of sorbet melts in my mouth, and shards of sugar glass lend the dish an auditory aspect.
Hums of approval follow the Hokkaido Scallops and the Meen Curry with Seabream, but I am most titillated by the translucent bodies of sakura shrimp that have been spun into Keema, a dish historically linked to the Mughals.
"Keema literally means minced meat as it's usually prepared using beef or goat, but I use prawns as our clientele is comprised of many pescatarians," explains Venkatesh. Surprisingly meaty for seafood, the dry stir-fry reminds me of rendang, and proves that dietary restrictions can yield contributions to the culinary canon.
Save for some Iberico lamb chops that skew 'Western' (almost as surprising as meeting a Caucasian monk in Lumbini), the progression of dishes flows to tell the tale of Indian culture and civilisation. Like the Ganges, which holds the collective memory of her people, Nadodi allows itself to be carried along by the current (trends) while underpinning ancient rituals.
Fragrant as a spice bazaar and spicy as the 1MDB scandal, venison curry and biryani round out the savoury segment of The Nadodi Experience.
"You know that guy who complains about needing mamak or McDonalds after fine dining? This is the meal to shut him up," groans my plus one, flashing the crew a grateful smile.
The Nadodi Experience
Experience Menu | RM 490+
Wine Pairing | RM 280+
Liquid Dégustation | RM260+
- Photography Ong Ning-Geng