The Perfect Hideaway
It was the fourth day of Chinese New Year when I received a text from a longtime culinary comrade that said something along the lines of "Tien, Happy CNY! Would you like to have dinner at Hide next Tuesday?". With the holidays fresh behind me, where I spent a good chunk of it in a semi-euphoric state induced by grapefruit IPAs and time spent bantering with my loved ones while holed up at home, I leapt at the opportunity to dine out once more.
Fast forward a week or so later, and I'm told that the entrance to the restaurant is hidden, with only an image of a wall of paintings somewhere at the entrance of The Ritz-Carlton Residences to serve as my only clue. I won't spoil how I got in, but it's a clever little trick that successfully sets the tone for the night – one that preludes fun and engaging gastronomical surprises.
Pro tip: don't mistake Hide for a sushi restaurant like I did. It is pronounced "haid", not "heeday". Sometimes not knowing about a restaurant beforehand gives me the rare opportunity to expect nothing, want nothing, and enjoy it for what it's worth. This was one of those times, except that my Japanese language-trained brain read the restaurant's name and assumed it was named after a head sushi chef instead of its English meaning. Doh!
The restaurant is designed to give diners an intimate and close-up connection with the kitchen team, all of whom seem to be fairly young with a fire in their bellies. The dinner table, a hightop U-shaped table reminiscent of a sushi bar, only has 13 seats available per seating, which there's only one of every night. This all makes sense when you take a look at the current 13-course degustation menu (RM650++), with the option to make it 14 courses if you decide to add on Kagoshima A5 wagyu (RM168 supplementary) to the menu.
The first course of the night took me by surprise when I was served at the door shortly after I stepped into the restaurant. It was a paloma raindrop, the classic cocktail featuring tequila, Campari, grapefruit, and soda water, suspended in an edible translucent casing. Although I only had a brief moment to enjoy my welcome refreshment, I welcomed the herbal-forward, citrus-spiked flavours the aperitif offered before I pressed on to greet my friends.
A seafood-themed trio of starters was served shortly after all party members were present, and we had sufficient time to exchange pleasantries and nip on bread. I went straight for the Shigoku oyster, with a name that meant "top", "best", or "ultimate" in Japanese by its creators, Taylor Shellfish farms in Seattle, Washington. Served with caviar, shiso, and fermented daikon, the petite oyster had a firm flesh with a somewhat intense briny taste balanced by the shiso's freshness and the gentle umami presence of the fermented daikon sauce.
I quickly gravitated towards the bright yellow of the Narabi uni resting on delicate pommes soufflés next. Once in the mouth, I was surprised to find that the flavours arrived in inverse. The taste of the potato hit first, slowly making way for the butter and soy glaze to do a little number before the creamy and lightly briny uni landed and stole the show.
Saving the most amusing for last, Hide's take on pop culture's favourite dinosaur plays down its size for a contemporary twist on the Tunisian Brik. Two sheets of razor-thin feuille de brik pastry sandwiched ocean trout, capers, cornichons and lemon confit (cured with sugar and salt for 14 days). Crunchy, oily, and sour, the flavours of this tiny T-Rex unfolded so quick that I really needed to take a moment to pause and taste to enjoy the kitchen's playful expression.
As the meal progressed, it became increasingly clear that Hide's launch menu is a culinary collage of ingredients, dishes, and treats taken from cuisines the world over. This was, of course, articulated by sous chef Lucas Ong and executive chef Shaun Ng. It was contemporary fare done with a local twist.
The seafood theme continued with the arrival of the first entrée – kombu-cured sea bream served with persimmon vinegar, soup, and juice, marigold sprouts, cucumber, and finger limes. The ingredients signalled Japanese and Korean cuisines. Light, refreshing and zesty, it was a surprisingly green-forward dish despite the sea bream dominating the headline. The slight spice from the jalapeño and coolness from the diced cucumber was a brilliant contrast, as was the zing of the persimmon and finger limes that really lifted up the fish. My friend and fellow food writer Renyi from Robb Report said it best when she said that it tasted like Spring on a plate that night.
Hide's take on a classic Brazilian street snack once again took me by surprise. It was my first time trying dadinho, a deep-fried tapioca sago-based treat with cheese usually nestled inside. In hide's case, the restaurant used gouda and parmesan and took it to the next level with French truffles. Despite my aversion to truffles, I admit that their inclusion gave the incredibly delicious cheese and tapioca duet a much needed earthy elegance. The dadinho had crispy, crunchy edges that hid the soft, texturally satisfying tapioca sago and melted cheese inside. This was indeed a highlight of the night.
Mud crab egg chawanmushi served with truffle, goji, and dashi kept appetites roaring with a crustacean-forward flavour profile. The slightly earthy mud crab meat was balanced with prominent dashi flavour, the steamed egg's lightness, and the mild bittersweet presence of goji. It's a dish that I was told by Shaun that it took many attempts to perfect. I would say that the team's hard work paid off as it shows in its balancing act of flavours that does all it can to make local mud crab taste so distinguished. Bravo.
Continuing to hit it out of the park, I was then served Japanese octopus cooked two ways, riffing off Spanish cuisine. First braised to soften the meat's firmness and then deep-fried to seal in its juices and give it a crunch, the octopus was unbelievably tender, almost resembling the likeness of pulled beef in the mouth. The use of fermented chilli as a sauce introduced a relatively bold XO sauce-like element that paired fittingly went the thick smoked eggplant purée. Nasturtiums, on the other hand, added a bittersweet balance. If Hide's dadinho was my favourite of the night, this came in an incredibly close second, and that's no easy feat considering the number of fantastic dishes served that night.
The seafood streak continued with black cod atop koshikari rice, convoy panache, and pea tendrils. The short-grain rice, cooked with sambal, had a satisfying gentle heat that acted has to soften the char of the cod. What I loved most was the binchotan-infused smokiness of the grilled cod that played nice with the pea shoots' freshness, a lovely showcase of nature's freshness and man's manipulation of fire to cook a prime piece of fish to primal satisfaction. My friend and ex-colleague Karmun of First Classe describes each bite "a warm hug with each spoonful".
The litany of seafood dishes finally took a break with duck breast's arrival, air-dried for 14 days and served with squash purée, radish ceviche, and duck jus. The first bite revealed incredibly crispy skin, almost akin to well-made siew yoke's crunchiness, with rather enjoyable and lightly gamey meat. The squash purée provided a smooth, slightly sweet relief to the duck's meatiness, while the radish ceviche I thought served a purpose similar to the daikon given to sushi eaters cleanse the palate.
It wasn't just the pieces of food on the plate that made an impression. Up until now, my dinner party and I have marvelled at the plates used at Hide. Each was memorable, recognisable, and identifiable in its own aspect. In fact, most of the design elements involved in the restaurant are in one way or another influenced by Shaun. He tells me that he believes that design plays an integral in elevating a dining experience. As I am a fan of good design, I couldn't agree more. Sammi of Tatler Malaysia, another friend and ex-colleague present that night, also praised the tableware in her review.
I have to be honest. It was at this point in the meal where I felt 90 per cent full. 10 courses in, and I was more or less completely satisfied and stuffed. The meal could have ended, and I would have gone home one happy diner. The full degustation menu, however, had one more ace up its sleeve.
A5 Kagoshima wagyu, an optional add-on, was the most decadent thing to arrive that night. I was served a rather generous cut, and I admit that my worn out palate and my rapidly diminishing capacity at that moment probably held me back from thoroughly enjoying this perfect slab of prime beef. But enjoy, I still did!
The beef's gorgeous marbling, incredible full-bodied flavour, and interspersed specks of luscious fat were entirely sealed by a smoky and even somewhat crunchy crust, no doubt a result from Shaun's dexterous use of the binchotan grill. The woody maitake, sweet caramelised onions, and buttery mash does wonders to accentuate the beef's rich natural taste.
Three desserts to end the night. Two tropical, one a chocolate flight.
The first was a pina colada twist – calamansi zest, coconut snow, and cookie tulle to assist. A sneaky surprise, pineapple chunks...caramelised? Coconut to soften the sour-sweet blow and a buttery crisp cookie that made me go "woah".
The second was a tribute to a CNY icon, think and you'll catch it on your mind's horizon. Love letters oh so flaky, having this banana, lime, mint, and yoghurt sweet treat won't make your heart go achy. It's a little more banana dominant than I expected, but Malaysian flavours definitely connected.
Lastly, the chocolate to end the night. Mixed berries, cocoa nibs, streusel, and sponge makes everything feel alright.
Ok, ok. Enough with the horrible rhymes. I swear I'll give you no more cringy times.
While I did enjoy Hide's desserts, I felt that they started off on a great foot with the coconut-focused dish and ended with a heavy thump with the chocolate dish, which was the least interesting and most conservative of the bunch. It's not that I don't enjoy chocolate. It's probably also to do with the fact that I lapped up 13 courses prior to last dessert and several glasses of wine, and my brain was just catching up to my body's sudden shift in weight. My palate was done for the night.
Hide starts off strong with its intimate concept showcasing the talents of a young and passionate kitchen team who's free to create fun and engaging dishes crafted from global influences. At RM650++ for the degustation, the 13 courses you get is well worth the price of admission. If you're willing to come hungry and have an inclination to trying new flavours, you'll be pleased with what Hide has to offer. I know I most certainly was.