Dining at Aziamendi 88 in Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur is a journey of senses; an experience that allows you to take in a multitude of flavours, textures and visual cues. A flair of Asian elements in Basque philosophy. I’ve been waiting to see what Chef Eneko Atxa, acclaimed Three Michelin Star Chef in Spain and his Chef de Cuisine, Alexander Burger have up their sleeves for their first pop-up restaurant in Malaysia.
My journey to culinary nirvana began with a tour in the garden, a mock of the garden at Aziamendi in Iniala Beach House in Phuket. After a trio of amuse bouche, I was then seated on a table where a bonsai tree with cherry tomatoes awaited. The tomatoes were sweet and unbelievably juicy, while the dehydrated tree bark gave it a savoury-crisp contrast.
I’ve heard so much about the Truffled Egg by Aziamendi and it was a delicate and delicious composition of the freshest egg yolk and hot truffle jus, finished off with a slice of fresh truffle. The flavours came together beautifully in my mouth.
The Garden is also an Aziamendi signature, a masterpiece of tomatoes, baby carrot, courgette and tomato emulsion in edible soil made using dehydrated beetroot. I was soon enticed with the taste of sea, via the Oyster Tartare Plankton Marino and Algae. Fine de Clair was used to create this and I love how the oysters, prepared three ways, paired beautifully with the Sauvignon Blanc our sommelier recommended.
Crab with Sea Urchin and Bloody “Mar” featured crab flakes with sea urchin mayonnaise, topped with a broth that is akin to a Bloody Mary cocktail. This was sweet and slightly peppery with a heady scent from the sea urchin.
Lobster a la Plancha on Herb Oil and Creamy Chives tasted as beautiful as it looked. The lobster was perfectly cooked so it was sweet, incredibly succulent and delicious with the Chablis. The mushroom tea indicated that we were in the mid-way of dinner and it was a clever play on Asian culture, where I was asked to infuse the dehydrated mushrooms into the broth before pouring it into a teacup filled with mushrooms. Light yet flavour packed, and so good.
Our following course was the Grilled Tuna with Fried Egg, Garlic Cream and Flowers, paired with a lovely Riesling. The tuna was lightly seared to allow the natural flavours of the fish to come through, and the egg yolk was done tempura style leaving the centre slightly runny.
I like how the dinner was a build-up of flavours – each course was focused on a key flavour and as we progressed through the dishes, the flavour profiles became more prominent. Almost like an orchestra where the build-up leads to a climax; Lamb Shoulder Lettuce, Tomato and Balsamic. This was impeccable. The flavours were clean but did the trick in accentuating the flavour of the meat, which was meltingly tender and needed little force is cutting through.
Desserts were also a strong feature at Aziamendi 88, each course was solid on its own. The Orange, Strawberries and Ginger Granite was as refreshing as it sounds, while the Apple, Caramel and Yoghurt had a good mix of textures from the apple bon bon and caramelised almond.
My favourite was the Black Olives, Goat’s Milk and Cocoa as this was a savoury-based dessert – subtly executed. Chef Eneko is the youngest chef to ever receive a Three Michelin Star award in Spain and he credits it to his nature of always prioritizing guests and creating difference experiences for each and every one of them. Being a chef isn’t about cooking amazing food, he says. It’s about always learning and understanding people and cultures, and how they enjoy pleasure. He then takes the learnings and combines them with his philosophy.
This father of two little girls (aged four and a year and a half) speaks fondly about his family in Spain, as well as his other family – the people he works with. To him, his fellow colleagues are also considered family and from the synergy he has with Chef de Cuisine Alexander Burger, the bond is evident. Their goal in Aziamendi88 is to evolve every day by learning from people, local chefs and understanding what makes them tick. Throughout 88 days, guests will experience subtle changes in the dishes and possibly some new ingredients. What you get at Aziamendi88 today might not be quite the same when you revisit on day 50 or even day 88.
The only way to know if that’s true is to find out for yourself. ;) 5% of the profit for Aziamendi88 will be given to Inspirasia Foundation, an organization that is close to the heart of Iniala Beach Resort. For more information about Aziamendi88, visit the website here.
To make a reservation, contact 03-2380 8888 or email [email protected] The Aziamendi88 experience is available for lunch and dinner except Sundays. Lunch menus are priced at RM198 per person (5-courses) and RM438 per person (8-courses), while dinner menus are priced at RM438 per person (8-courses) and RM598 per person (12-courses).
If you’re keen on some wine pairing (which is absolutely on point, in my opinion), the wine pairing menus are priced at RM298 per person (5-courses) and RM698 per person (8-courses) for lunch, while wine pairing dinner menus are priced at RM698 per person (8-course) and RM998 per person (12-courses).
Update: 10 August 2015
For a casual setup, one can always opt for Aziamendi 88’s cocktails and bar snacks at the MO Bar. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling the cocktails (all potently delicious), with my favourite being the Foam Head. A summer cocktail, if you asked me, this was a simple yet brilliant combination of Tanqueray Gin, grapefruit juice, vanilla syrup.
The Moonshiner Apple Pie is another cocktail I liked – made using Jim Beam bourbon, apple juice, cinnamon syrup, lime juice and finished with toasted light meringue. This was fragrant with spice and bark, a bit tangy from the lime and creamy at the top. Very enjoyable to drink, this one.
I love how Grey Matter was presented; with a side of dry ice for a visual appeal. This cocktail features Tanqueray Gin, infused with Earl Grey and apple juice, and paired with fresh lime juice for a refreshing finish.
Summer Spritz is definitely a drink for the ladies – very pretty and relatively lighter on the palate. This comprises aperol, sweet vermouth, watermelon syrup, fresh lime juice and ginger ale. Easy drinking but equally potent as the other three.
I like Cumbersome, a crisp tasting mocktail of apple juice, elderflower syrup, lime juice and cucumber. I would however, prefer to have this as a cocktail – vodka would do the trick. But for those who want a non-boozy affair, this is a great option.
The bar snacks aren’t just there to go with the cocktails; these are a class on their own. I thoroughly enjoyed the Foie Gras Mille Feuille and Mini Burger, both beautifully presented and terrific in taste. The foie gras literally melted in the mouth while the wagyu burger patty was tender and full of flavour.
I found the mushroom croquettes very addictive – crisp with a molten centre, one isn’t enough. Try the salmon roll and prawn brochettes, both are good in their own right and definitely a sight to behold. The lunch and dinner courses for Aziamendi 88 will require prior reservation to secure a seat but you can walk in for the bar snacks and cocktails.