I was fortunate to be invited to The Demon Chef Alvin Leung‘s “Molecular Madness” at Berjaya Times Square’s Samplings on the Fourteenth. Two weeks later, I still wonder, “what the heck did I eat??”. That says something.
In person, Chef Alvin is patient and obliging. Could you take a photo with him? Yes of course sure, come come. He looks you in the eye and thanks you for being there. He graciously accepts praises and complements, and you sense that he is very much used to them.
But of course. This is the bad boy of avant-garde Chinese cuisine, who holds three Michelin stars at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong and one at Bo London. You welcome anything that he devises, including his infamous “Sex on the Beach”. Visually it is a used condom on brown sand; in reality you’re eating a concoction of tapioca, yam, honey, Yunnan ham and mushrooms.
The evening kicked off with Jacob’s Creek chardonnay, of which I did not stop drinking. Some merlot for you, mam? No thanks, white please, the whole bottle if you will. Of course they thought I was kidding.
No sir, we do not joke about wine.
Chef Alvin greeted everyone and explained his cuisine and inspiration for his dishes. He looked smart in his black attire and tinted glasses. Later I found out that he has perfect vision.
We started with Tomato Chinois, a toned-down version of what he serves in his famed Hong Kong restaurant. It is tomato braised in rice vinegar, organic yellow cherry tomato with fermented Chinese olive, tomato foam, green onion, goat cheese and beetroot.
The juicy tomato, threatening to burst at the slightest touch was an explosion of sweetness and flavours. Other elements on the plate was a variety of bites and forms that came together refreshingly well.
Chef Alvin’s take on Umami Won Ton Mee was duck breast “Char Siu”, crispy squid ink paper, langoustine tartar, rice noodle and vermicelli, and flavoured with “Har Mi” essence. Though it did not hit the right notes for me, I appreciated the unique assemble, especially the black squid ink with gold leaf. I understand the challenges of serving to so many diners at one go; noodles do not hold too well in waiting.
The Chilli Crab/ Oyster Omelette Gazpacho, a fresh take on Singapore’s famous chilli crabs was served with cold, spicy seafood bisque. Crabmeat topped with a quail egg and a soft, almost foamish custard with barely recognisable oyster. The spiciness was a welcome change, I enjoyed it till the last drop.
While waiting for our mains…
We had 3 options for mains, I automatically went for the red meat, the Bak Kut Teh Short Rib. Though some may find the idea of swine-free bak kut teh unacceptable, I thought that chef’s interpretation of Klang’s pride and glory was agreeable.
The tender wagyu, served to us medium and laced with dark chocolate sauce was delightful. Paired with small watermelon cubes infused with Chinese angelica – or known to us as ‘dong quai’. The herbal taste to the sweet, cool watermelon refreshed the palate. Instead of “yau char kuai / youtiao”, we had mini Yorkshire pudding. Nice job, chef!
How do you reinvent Chicken Rice? Chef Alvin serves this dish in Bo Innovation, albeit named differently. 9 years aged Acquerello rice cooked in yellow chicken stock, served with wooden fungus and sand ginger.
Acquerello rice, grown in Northern Italy is regarded as designer rice, favoured by top chefs as it creates the perfect al dente risotto. It has the ability to absorb cooking stock well without becoming too sticky.
The rice, rich and delectable took centre stage for me. I cannot refuse beautifully-cooked risotto, with or without Asian twists. We licked the plate clean.
The vegetarian option, Black Forest was a hit among diners. Australian black truffle, Chinese steamed rice pasta braised with sweet soy sauce, baby black carrot, cat ear fungus, asparagus and taro puree.
For dessert, the Modern Ais Kacang. You never had ais kacang like this before. A myriad of colours and sweetness of different levels, with a variety textures to tantalise your taste buds.
You are looking at a festival of peanut butter & condensed milk ice-cream, freeze-dried raspberry, cherry snow, banana caviar, pandan chocolate chips, red bean meringue, salty caramel popcorn, blue Hawaii spheres, sous-vide strawberry with Sichuan & maple syrup. It was a lot of sweetness on one plate, I suppose that is how some people prefer their dessert.
You have to admit, it looks quite incredible. You have no idea what’s going on there.
Chef Alvin, with two award-winning restaurants under his belt, will bring his “X-Treme Chinese” cuisine to Toronto next year. He is also the hard-to-please judge on MasterChef Canada (“I AM GOING TO INTIMIDATE YOU.”)
Alvin Leung’s Molecular Madness was presented by BERJAYA University College of Hospitality and Asian Food Channel. Thank you for having us, it was indeed an eye-opening culinary experience.