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  • Writer's pictureTien Chew

One Night Only

ATAS Modern Malaysian Eatery recently held an exciting four-hands dinner between its resident star Tyson Gee and pop-up extraordinaire Joeri Timmermans of Deadset Arvo. Getting the chance to see how two chefs with distinct styles riff on one another is always a spectacle.

I was curious to see what Tyson would whip up in a collaborative menu. Joeri, on the other hand, was new to me. I've never had the chance to taste his cooking, relying only on what I read from my peers and their experiences at one of his many collaborations around town. Needless to say, I was excited.

Aside from the excellent wine pairing, which favourably leaned towards jumai daiginjo, part of the fun I had that night came from guessing which dishes came from the mind of Tyson and Joeri with my dinner companions. I write this piece intending to shed some light on the two styles I experienced expressed course by course. And I still maintain my position when I say that I love ATAS' usual à la carte menu. If you have yet to try it, please do, I reviewed the restaurant not too long ago and loved the liberal riffs on Malaysian cuisine.

Highlights From The Night

Chicken (liver parfait) and waffles

Not pictured here is the second starter of the night – a sea urchin sandwich made with brioche and topped with thinly sliced guava flesh and purée. I must admit that the thought of pairing guava and uni did not appeal to me on paper but it won me over in the first mouthful. The mellow, slightly meaty texture of the guava purée introduced a sweetness that complemented the rich, briny uni. Holding everything together was that soft, buttery brioche. It's dishes like this that make me pause temporarily in between chews to appreciate what I'm currently savouring. And just when my palate began to ease up from such activity, on came Dassai 39 junta daiginjo with a koji-flavoured crisp. What a delight.

This interplay of sweet and savoury was continued in a different vein with the next dish. Chicken liver parfait and waffles, balanced by roselle and winter truffles, I also found quite captivating. That desirable iron aftertaste of the liver, mellowed by the faint floral sweetness of roselle and the buttery waffle, may have been on the milder end of the flavour spectrum, but it sure gratified. It was smartly paired with a bubbly rosé from Tasmania (Jansz) with the taste of summer fruits and fresh acidity.

Safe yet satisfying was ocean trout prepared with cucumber, crème fraîche, and seaweed oil. The dish was paired with a 2018 William Fevre Chablis SEA limited edition, a fruity, mineral-forward Chardonnay with a long finish. There was nothing groundbreaking about this entry. So why include this as a highlight, you might ask? Because it didn't need to be spin-your-head crazy, instead focusing on fresh and cool flavours to complement that oily trout. And I can definitely jive with that.

Now, if you're looking for pow, this was it.

River Prawn

It wasn't only the vibrant hue of orange and smoky black of that hefty prawn that caught my attention when this dish arrived. That yellow sauce, almost resembling a fried egg, was equally as captivating to the eye. Checking the menu informed me that I was somewhat half right with that egg reference, for the sauce was made with a mixture of salted egg yolk butter and horseradish, completed with strands of preserved lemon upon closer inspection.

This was quite phenomenal and arguably my favourite dish of the evening. That fragrant char that came from the sweet and plump prawn was complemented by a rich sauce simultaneously softened and spiced by horseradish. The addition preserved lemon rounded out the dish with a subtle bittersweet taste at the back of the tongue. Such balanced complexity was paired with Suigei junmaishu hatanishki, a refreshing and clean sake I thought was ideal for washing away bold flavours.

A surprise hit!

I managed to speak to Joeri before dinner, and he let me in on a sneak peek. He purposely chose an Australian wagyu blade because it was an uncommon cut in the local fine dining scene and because he wanted to show that even a blade steak if done right, can be just as delicious. And right he was.

The steak itself was cooked medium rare, with a well-seared exterior and a pinkish, juicy centre. By itself, it was an excellent steak, excluding the addition of the dressings, of course. That made all the difference. Joeri's homemade XO sauce, cheekily branded Gwailou XO with a ghost sign emoji 👻, gave the steak a subtle heat and a mild umami element, while the white kimchi (also homemade) introduced a bright acidic crunch.

You put the lime in the coconut

If I asked you to add an ingredient to a coconut dessert to give it a local twist, what would you use? I'd reckon tuak, the infamous Sarawakian rice wine, wouldn't be high atop your list. The night ended with two desserts, with the coconut sorbet, infused with tuck and served with coriander, providing a fresh, light relief to the heavier flavours of the mains. Although I'm not a fan of coriander, I can appreciate its inclusion here. Desserts were paired with Tatenokawa Yamagata umeshu, a plum wine that helped balance out this dish with an elegant albeit strong sweetness.

Veridis Quo

Ultimately, it matters not which dish came from which chef, for the meal was a successful statement in showcasing both chef's strengths. Some dishes and elements proved to be underwhelming, hence not appearing on my highlights reel, but overall I truly enjoyed my experience. And the wine pairings were spot on, playing a crucial role in elevating the food served that night and contributing to the convivial atmosphere.

Those eager to experience something similar can either dine at ATAS right now or wait for Tyson's next Dinner At The Long Bar chef's table series. Alternatively, follow Deadset Arvo to stay tuned for their next pop-up.

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