Be Our Gesuto
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
The Taman Tun Dr Ismail area has always been one of the more exciting dining hotspots in KL, with a diverse restaurant scene across a multitude of cuisines. Gesuto, an intimate modern Japanese establishment that opened in November of last year, is back in action and eager to make a name for itself after the MCO hiatus.
Gesuto, which means guest, is an exciting addition to the local growing food scene. Novel dishes, created by a kitchen helmed by an Italian chef, is the main catch here. According to the chef, Japanese cuisine was chosen as the centrepiece of the restaurant's culinary ethos because he believed that there are no limits to how Japanese cuisine can be applied to other cuisines.
I attended the restaurant's first wine pairing dinner with Moulin de Gassac (RM328 nett) late last month and sampled a selection of refined tasting bottles that night. While the food displayed a solid and creative foundation, the restaurant, in my opinion, is displaying the growing pains associated with new establishments. The kitchen's technical know-how is apparent, but certain dishes lack polish and finesse.
With that being said, I will admit that the kitchen was operating at full capacity that night and handled dinner service admirably. My experience having Gesuto's omakase is mostly a positive one, and I am almost certain that the restaurant will continue to grow better and introduce new and exciting creations to the local dining scene.
Setting The Stage
The restaurant itself is relatively small, located below Dough & Dolce on Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 1. This means that parking is limited and hard to come by, so those who prefer a smooth start to their meal at Gesuto should be prepared to be dropped off as there are several popular cafes and resto-bars around the area.
Once inside you'll be greeted by images of Japan clinging to blue wallpaper. The colour contrast of teal chairs and pinewood tables breaks the monotony of dark and deep colours making for a simple and understated ambience. I'd say that the decor creates a conducive environment for small to medium-sized parties to eat, drink, and be merry.
One can also dine at the counter should they desire, where you can witness the kitchen team plate dishes in the same vein as a sushi-ya.
The Nitty Gritty
This is why you're really here, the food. It would seem that Gesuto's emergence in the dining scene has managed to successfully attract the attention of numerous diners, as I received many inquisitive messages on my verdict during my review.
New restaurants may face harsh criticism. On the one hand, the promise of a new and exciting experience awaits, but on the other, such anticipation may create an unnecessarily high expectation from the kitchen and first impressions do matter. As a personal rule, I usually give a place another shot should my first visit be unsatisfactory. But I admit that not everyone may be as willing to do so.
Let's start with the omakase. The first dish, the amuse, successfully set the tone for the meal. Edamame fritter served with ika ragout and beetroot foam was not at all what I had in mind. The fritter itself resembled more of a korokke and less tempura-style fritter, which was what I pictured in my mind when reading the menu's description.
That green, clean edamame taste was very prominent, which I thought went rather well with the sharpness of the pickled beetroot. Fans of mushy peas will approve. The squid ragout, unfortunately, didn't do much for the dish, fading into the background. The wine selected for this dish, on the other hand, a Domaine Delmas Séduction Cuvée, was fantastic. This sparkling wine from Crémant de Limoux had an intense cranberry and redcurrant flavour supported by a bright minerality, complementing the beans' earthy notes and the beetroot's light bitterness.
The second dish was where the chinks in the armour began to show. Sashimi may look deceptively simple to prepare and serve, but balance is essential to highlighting a fish's flavours.
The Tasmanian hiramasa (yellowtail kingfish) served was appetising – sweet, juicy and filled with a mild, elegant flavour of the sea. The ikura on top I thought was unnecessary, as it slightly diminished the hiramasa's flavours with its own. The daikon and ice plant did a decent job of refreshing the palate in place of pickled ginger, but the real offender was the shoyu. There was too much shoyu served, which soaked into the daikon ribbons and hijacked the flavour of the fish with unwanted sharp spikes of concentrated umami. Restraint would have benefitted the dish greatly.
The 2018 Moulin de Gassac Sauvignon blanc, on the other hand, was too dry to complement the mild nature of the fish. However, the wine itself was surprisingly fascinating for me because of the earthy undertones, which I swear tasted like mushrooms.
Related read: 5 Ways To Dine Like The Japanese
From a fumble comes a successful gamble – a black currant meringue, foie gras, and ume marmalade macaron. The foie gras, with its wonderful gaminess, hits but not too harshly, immediately making way for the berry's tartness to promptly deliver a sweet-sour punch. The macaron shell itself is dense and chewy, which I rather liked. The chef lets me in that this dish required detailed attention to carefully balance the sweetness of the macaron with a low-in-sugar meringue so that it wouldn't overpower the foie gras.
The single umeboshi present was meant to refresh the palate with its intense sourness, but I found it to be way too strong, mainly when I ate it in between macarons. Despite this, it was a creative and delicious entry.
The lighter, gentler nature of the 2018 Moulin de Gassac Guillhem rosé, especially in colour and flavour, helped to extend the dish's sweeter notes. The wine perfectly matched the dish's robust flavour profile, making for a fascinating interplay between food and drink that really worked for me, despite me not being a diehard foie gras fan.
Gesuto's scallop and truffle gyoza were rather peculiar taste-wise, but it came out as another winner in my books. Like the edamame fritter, it looked less like it sounded on paper and more like Korean mandu dumplings. This was arguably my second favourite dish of the night. And those that know me well understand that I have no particular love for truffles. So this was a pleasant surprise.
The dumpling shell itself was soft and well cooked, the truffle element stronger on the nose than on the palate (which I appreciated), and the scallops sufficiently sweet. A drizzle of clarified buerre blanc sauce gave the dish a semi-rich agent to bridge the gap between earth and sea.
A 2018 Moulin de Gassac merlot was chosen to pair with the dish, and the lighter red actually worked well with subtle hints of berries and a dry finish.
In my review of Beta KL, I had a fascinating palate cleanser that went beyond the commonplace sour or spicy sorbet. I'm glad to see restaurants taking creative risks with their palate cleansers, which can sometimes be the most unexciting part of the meal. Gesuto's kenchin-jiru, a broth made from shiitake, kombu, root vegetables and tofu, falls in the "interesting" palate cleanser camp.
The restaurant's take on this Japanese staple definitely wasn't traditional. The broth had interesting tom yum vibes with an unmistakable miso and shiitake front. There's also an ultra-light ginseng aftertaste with a slight bitterness towards the back, aided by the aroma of ginger flower that I find rather appealing.
The apex of the night was, regrettably, another fumble for me. The use of gochujang was rather clever, adding a dimension of flavour and spice that would be tough to achieve with Japanese seasoning. The closest substitute I can think of is either sansho pepper or yuzu koshou, but gochujang works perfectly here. My complaint was that while it worked well with the lamb rack, there wasn't enough of it to feel its prominence, unless that was actually the chef's intention.
Cooked medium-rare, the lamb itself was underwhelming. However, I do like my lamb cooked to a higher level of doneness as I enjoy that wonderful char that I think elevates the meat, so this can be chalked up to just a personal preference. The taste of the meat itself was actually rather tasty with only a slight gamey quality. It's the texture and bright pink colour that I think some diners may find off-putting.
The soft-textured and piquant eggplant confit, contrastingly, had a lot going for it. After the first bite, it easily became a must-pair with the milder lamb. The wine chosen for the dish, a 2016 Moulin de Gassac Terra, was a more pronounced red that benefited from the gochujang's spicy notes, which similarly aroused the wine's inherent spiciness.
I've never used the words "dessert" and "bento" before, but now I can. This was another example of the Gesuto's creativity coming through; think of a petit four but done on a broader scale to become a full-fledged dessert that the entire table could enjoy. A variety of nine miniature desserts, from financiers and banana cake to black sesame, yuzu, and matcha truffles and chocolate pudding, was served.
Most of the dessert bento's pastries were excellent and well crafted, especially the black sesame truffle. Confession: I have an affinity for anything black sesame. Nothing to fault here really, except that perhaps not every diner may get the chance to sample each petit four. But that's really just nitpicking.
P.S. Gesuto's monthly tasting dinner is priced at RM138+