Babe, Japanese Tapas Fun Dining Over KL

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Babe is the brainchild of Michelin-starred Chef Jeff Ramsey, featuring playful and artsy modern Japanese-tapas, or “Japas” as Ramsey terms it.“Babe is about fun dining as opposed to fine dining” proclaims the restaurant, setting my expectations for an evening of culinary discovery.

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Babe is located at the pool deck of BE Urban wellness center in WORK@Clearwater building at Damansara Heights in a quite area of Damansara Heights.

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On arrival we were greeted by a stark and eclectic interior, made to look vast with the generous use of mirrors; decked with velvet seats over a splash of red carpet offset by dark tables and transparent designer chairs.

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Seated in the al fresco area, we feast our eyes on the gorgeous and mesmerising views of the iconic KL city skyline, dominated by the Petronas Twin Towers and KL Tower. Fun to watch how the skyline changes as the evening darkens.

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Chef Jeff Ramsey was born in Japan and embarked on his culinary training in 1996 at Tako Grill in Bethesda, Maryland (USA), and had trained with Masayoshi Kazato, the official Sushi Ambassador of Japan. He was also mentored by Chef José Andrés, protégé of the legendary Catalonian chef Ferran Adrià of elBullí. More recently, he helmed the Tapas Molecular Bar at the 6-star Mandarin Oriental Tokyo hotel. A very personable and humble chef.

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The tasting menu at Babe offers an eclectic mix of flavours, textures and sensations for a theatrical and multi-sensory dining experience, and lives up to its playful billing.

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After a flute of Torella Cava, the fun starts with the The Surprise Drink. Served in a test tube, mine is Chicken Rice, which took a bit of getting used to as your mind tries to figure out what you are drinking. It does not resonate with me; something more zesty would have been a better palate opener.

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The soup fares better – Japanese Clam Chowder with Potato Mousse, Smoked Coconut Bacon shreds, Onion Marmalade, Chive Oil & Clam Sphere. The airy mousse harbours treasures that you discover as you dig in, coming together well, the final reward being  the ball of clam juice  as it bursts in your mouth.

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The Chicken Char Siu is utterly sinfully – made from 40 layers of compressed chicken skin that’s baked and lathered  generously (albeit a tad overly so) with char siu sauce.

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Next comes 3 appetisers, all  artistically presented.  The Tai Chazuke – Konbu marinated Seabream, Toasted Rice Puffs, Sour Plum Gel with Shiso & Tea is an excellent juxtaposition of ingredients, flavours and textures.

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The Smoked Canadian Oyster with Apple Granite is delicious – well-chilled,  zesty and refreshing; the brininess of the oyster is well balanced by the sweet, sour and cold apple granite.

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Another trio of snacks follows. First is the Sashimi Cigars – crispy spring roll stuffed with 3 kinds of sashimi: tuna, salmon and yellowtail, laced with  soy sauce and wasabi.

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The 2nd is the most unusual Caesar Salad I ever had, in the form of a frozen romaine lettuce sphere, Caesar dressing, croutons, cheese smoked bacon coconut & parmesan, almost like a macaroon.

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And lastly, the Niku Jaga that looks like sushi but is actually seared Wagyu beef on a crunchy potato shell stuffed with potato mousse. A very clever interpretation of a Japanese classic beautifully presented in a traditional wooden box.

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The next course of Shima Aji – Stripe Horse Mackerel with Sesame Powder with Konbu Gel is more ordinary, compared to its predecessors.

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This dish has a story – the 1000 Year Old Smoked Cypress Hamachi Nigiri. The wood used to smoke the fish is from twigs fallen from very old cypress tree that are very scare. The  Yellowtail is accompanied by a clam sauce and served in a round wooden box, where the smoke bellows out as you open it. The aroma of the smoke does play on your sensory buds.

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I vote this as the most innovative dish of the evening – Ikan Keli (catfish). I couldn’t have deduced that it was made from fish. It tastes like Bak Kwa grilled meat. The catfish meat is grounded with spices and teriyaki sauce, made into sheets, baked, and then grilled before serving. Really tastes like the real McCoy.

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On the seafood front, next is the Charcoal-grilled Alaskan King Crab Legs. My wife likes this dish (me too) a lot. Plumb and fresh crab meat is given a whiff of smokiness from the charcoal grill, perfect with just a teeny squeeze of calamansi.

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Virtual Truffle Steak is  another playful dish. The waitstaff hands out a tissue doused with truffle oil for us to smell it first before embarking onto our steak.

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The most fun dish has to be the dessert of Nitro Puff – yuzu meringues that you dunk into the liquid nitrogen for 4 seconds, pops into your mouth and then exhales through your nose for that Instagram-worthy ‘dragon breath’ as the smoke bellows out.

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The Petit Fours tries its hand at the culinary mid games; you pop the wafer-thin Strawberry wrappers while sniffing the milk-scented paper.

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We end the engaging meal with the Hojicha Ice-cream and the Coconut Lime Sorbet & Smoked Milk Ice-Cream. A light and refreshing end to a very creative and fun dinner.

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The quality of the ingredients and the artistic presentation deserve high marks, and the snacks are sized well so that you don’t get overwhelmed at the end of the meal. The alfresco seating was rather plain and could have been better dressed to enhance the fun element of the dinner.My other gripe is that the food was not as well-paced, and at times seem rushed; with the next course arriving before we have even completed the last.

This was more than made up for by the warm and friendly waitstaffs who are very knowledgeable about the food and ingredients. Overall, the innovation  of Babe impresses; and most of the creations work well. Babe should certainly be on the must-eat list of any gourmand visiting Kuala Lumpur, especially given the more than reasonable price of the degustation menu.

Babe
1th Floor, Work@Clearwater, Jalan Changkat Semantic
Damansara Heights, 50490 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia.
Phone: +60 320958599


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