The Two Towers. Aliens. The Empire Strikes Back. The Matrix Reloaded. These films all have something in common with the article you're about to read, in that they are all sequels to groundbreaking movies and they all had the unfair burden of one-upping one hell of a good experience. Some succeed, others don't. Some aren't even true sequels.
What applies to cinema also applies to gastronomy.
First, some context. When I first visited Hide earlier this March, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience there. The whole concept felt fresh, the team felt well-oiled, and the whole first encounter vibe was extremely promising. Chef Shaun Ng and his team knocked out hits like mud crab chawanmushi, a cutesy T-Rex-shaped feuilles de brick fish sandwich, a flavour-busting cheesy dadinho and a fantastic octopus cooked two ways, among other stellar dishes. If you haven't read about the prelude to this review, you can always park this feature to the side for a few minutes and catch up on this feature.
As the months went by, and as Malaysia and most parts of the world played a vicious waiting game with a microscopic virus, Hide had joined the delivery game. A few weeks ago, I received an invite to try Hide's revamped menu. The chef's tasting menu is the same deal as its previous iteration – RM650++ for 13 courses, with an optional supplementary wagyu course for an additional RM225.
The sequel had arrived and I was curious about the follow up.
Apples To Apples
Whereas the first iteration of Hide's menu served a sepherified paloma, the second round spotlighted the always-enjoyable mojito. Made with rum, lime, and mint, the pop-in-your-mouth cocktail packed a surprising effervescent kick.
A seaweed brioche that reminded me of a 1-Up Mushroom from Super Mario Bros arrived next, served by pastry chef Michelle Wong. Why a 1-Up Mushroom and not Super Mushroom? Because of the nori, of course. Fluffy and adequately savoury, the playfulness continued with a trio of "snacks".
The T-Rex is now extinct and now in its place is Fat Jaws, at least that's what I'm calling it. A medley of Ehime tai (sea bream), wasabi, and lime made for a light, clean, and crunchy mouthful. Think of what ceviche would be like sandwiched between a feuilles de brick and you've got the idea. Good stuff.
A fish taco made of prized Kagoshima hamachi collar meat, a nasturtium leaf and puffed rice balls was one of the three served. Shaun informs me that gently removing the prized flesh from the hamachi's collar was a painstaking process that's worth putting in the time and effort due to the desirable smoothness of the meat found there. I concur.
Lastly, a Kumamoto oyster served with seaweed, ponzu, micro florals and cilantro oil. The ponzu softened the briny and slightly mineral flavours of the oyster for a more palatable, while vegetal properties of the oil rounded things out with a fresh coriander aftertaste. What the oyster lacked in size it made up for in taste and quality.
As the current menu heavily leans towards seafood, the restaurant selected a well-rounded French white wine to pair with the entire meal – a 2018 Lycée Viticole de Beaune Hautes-Côtes de Beaune from Burgundy. Partly dry and partly acidic, neither element was prominent enough to make for a characteristic wine, but it went fine with most dishes throughout the meal.
Ehime tai made a return with the first entrée, and triumphantly I might add. Several slices of two-hour kombujime-aged tai was served alongside even thinner slices of radish, edible florals and a tomato "water" concoction that contained lemon essence. Elegant and radiant, the dish's artful appearance translated beautifully on the palate, resulting in a clean dish that does a fantastic job playing with the acidity and sweetness of the tomatoes, the clean, slightly oily sea bream, and the bright but light hint of florals at the end. This is the second tai dish I've tasted at Hide that featured fruit distillate to enhance the flavour of the fish, the first time featured persimmon instead of tomato. While I enjoyed the former, I much preferred the second iteration.
The humble dadinho returns on the autumn menu. Although, it no longer can be called humble after receiving a very luxe makeover featuring Narabi uni, Australian black winter truffles and an umami-packed brown butter and soy emulsion at its core. High-grade local areca palm oil was used to achieve that perfect crispy outer shell, which similarly gave off a wonderfully nutty aftertaste and none of that cloying oily aftertaste. Intermingled waves of flavour from both ocean and land satiates the palate with every chew, the mould holding everything together undeniably the satisfyingly chewy sago. The dadinho 2.0 was even better than I remembered it to be, thanks of course to tweaks and new additions like uni.
Up next, Hokkaido scallop and conpoy (dried scallop) dashi egg custard a.k.a. chawanmushi. There's something comforting about Hide's egg custard, with an almost homey quality to it. Sweet scallop meat, along with the salty-umami flavours of the dashi, primarily dominates the dish's flavour profile, but is expertly balanced with the use of enoki, spring onion, slivers of chilli, and sweet corn.
The follow up to the chawanmushi course was phenomenal, perhaps my favourite dish of the night – deep-fried Fukuoka amadai served with sous vide onions, a clam foam, and shiso oil. A forkful of everything was the way to go. The onion's wonderfully hearty flavours prefectly complements the gentler, milder flavours of the cooked amadai fillet. The inclusion of shiso oil added depth at the back with an herbaceous tang, rounding out a truly stellar dish.
I cannot overstate how well that fillet (and the accompanying scales) was cooked. Hide's amadai dish was right up there with the most memorable amadai dish I had, which was cooked by Hajime Otowa of Michelin-starred restaurant Otowa from Tochigi, Japan, during a special guest chef experience at The St Regis Kuala Lumpur a few years back. I'm told that the same areca palm oil used to deep fry the dadinho was used once again for the fish. Shaun tells me that the team put in the hours to really nail that crispy outer crust and crunchy scales while preserving that slightly oily and flaky consistency on the inside and it really shows. Bravo Hide.
Shaun lets me know that Hide's menu are based on seasonal produce. As certain ingredients, such as amadai, are highly sought after, there's a chance that this dish, or other dishes, may be replaced before the next menu arrives due to availability.
It saddens me then to tell you that right after what was arguably the highest point of the meal things nosedived to its the lowest point. Canadian gindara (sablefish) came served atop cacciucco, a Tuscan-style fish stew that leaned heavy towards shellfish. The skin of the charcoal-grilled gindara was satisfyingly smoky, giving way to an oily, tender fillet. The accompanying steamed kohlrabi ribbons and nasturtium leaves provided fresh relief from the bold flavours of the fish and the stew.
It was the cacciucco, the shellfish-charged sauce, that let the dish down. And it's all thanks to one dud – French mussels. You see, the mussels that Shaun and his team received for use in the cacciucco were not just frankly good, with a gamey taste so pungent and bitter that it completely overpowers and ruins the dish's desirable flavours. It's the one bad apple that ruins the entire pie unfortunately. Shaun informs me that he shares the same sentiments and that the mussels will no longer make a return. Phew.
My love of duck is well known and I rather enjoyed Hide's seared Silver Hill duck during my first encounter. The second time around however, Hide had taken their duck game to the next level. And it's all thanks to a 14-day dry ageing process that Hide notes was the ideal length of time to bring out the best flavour and texture from the meat.
The duck instantly redeemed the previous entrée. The incredibly satisfying skin (which the menu refers to as "siew yoke") and delicious tender and slightly gamey meat alone was already golden, but add in citrus-laced duck jus, roasted sunchoke purée, gastrique potatoes, and tangerine lace into the picture and I can safely declare this one of the best duck dishes in town.
After such a heavy hitter, a palate cleanser arrived in the form of elderflower and orange sorbet. Sweet, floral, and refreshing, I rather enjoyed this. Although, I must admit that the slice of beautifully charred orange didn't do much for me, despite being a fan what can be accomplished with grill and flame.
It was at this point in the meal where I feel the limitations of my stomach size. This sense of fullness was beat for beat how I felt during my first meal here, on exactly the same course. 13-courses are a lot. Especially if you decide to add in the supplementary course.
Should you have the appetite to enjoy one more main, then I recommend adding the Sher wagyu, kanpachi tartare, and white sturgeon caviar on rice. It's a fascinating and delicious six or seven spoonfuls of surf and turf, where rich pockets of wagyu fat complements the leaner greater amberjack fish in unexpected yet gratifying mouthfuls. A seasoning comprising ginger scallion oil and Hide's housemate sake-soy blend adds umami and saltiness. The tartare, on the other hand, features chives, a wasabi lime vinaigrette and fresh wasabi to complement both the beef and fish. While the wagyu shines in this dish, the ever presence of the sea isn't very far behind thanks to the mild salinity of the caviar and kanpachi. Bringing this all together was a lightly-flavoured rice that I'm told by Shaun uses three to four different soy sauces, dashi and two months worth of R&D to perfect.
While truly delicious, I strongly recommend only going for this if, a) you're really hungry because b) it's harder to appreciate the dish when you're full and definitely if c) affordability isn't an issue.
When I say you need space for the supplementary course, I mean it, because Hide serves a salvo of desserts for its final act. The first dessert – a riff on the Pina Colada – was rather refreshing and rather delicious, I enjoyed it now as I have the first time I had it. As it was served, pastry chef Michelle explains during serving that the sugar levels were tweaked in this current iteration and I agree, it really is better with a more moderate sweetness. It's a dessert that treats coconut, pineapple, and rum, what's not to like? Especially when it features Malibu Caramel-infused roasted pineapples to contrast the cooler coconut ice cream.
P.S.A. For those who would like to exclude any use of alcohol in any of the dishes, such as the use of rum in the dessert above, I recommend informing the team in advance of your intended dinner.
Also, dinner could have ended here and I would have gone home one satiated man. I'm of the opinion that 14-course meals are best reserved for days when you feel as if you have the appetite of two.
Dessert number two was also light, featuring peach, lychee and forest fruits as background support. Refreshingly sweet, a little tart, and a touch floral, I enjoyed this simple yet effective dessert. Ever had canned lychees and peaches over vanilla ice cream as a kid? I did, and this dish reminded me of that dormant nostalgia that lingers at the back of my mind. It seems I wasn't far off the mark as well, as the team tells me that the dish has conceptual roots in those ubiquitous flavoured packet drinks you find in houses during Chinese New Year.
Chocolate is the last thing you'll eat at Hide, a fitting yet heavy choice for a truly indulgent meal. Varlhona's Madagascar single origin Manjari 64% chocolate, chosen for its fruity flavour profile, is paired with with passion fruit and hazelnut ice cream for this dessert. Pairing chocolate with something sour is a tried and true combination that leans more on the safe rather than the experimental, but that's not to say it wasn't enjoyable. I liked how well the hazelnut ice cream complemented the richer notes of chocolate and acidic qualities of the passionfruit. Although, I would have preferred just a bit more passionfruit to counter that decadent chocolate.
The Second Verdict
So is the sequel better than the original? Was Hide's new menu a Godfather Part II or The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride?
Firstly, think of this menu as more of a 1.5 refresh to the original more than a true blue sequel. Hide's new menu does many things right, balancing between keeping the core of its original menu alive and well as well as offering something fresh. First-time diners can still discover what Hide has to offer in its blossoming first year and returning eaters can still try new dishes that deserve your time and money.
The whole kitchen also feels more confident than it was during its debut, which is a welcoming sign of progression. Sous chefs Soon Si Yin and Nigel Lazaroo are amicable to guests during service, dishes feel tighter and signature items come enhanced. I noticed dishes also incorporating more local Chinese ingredients and influences this time around, a sign that Shaun is embracing more of his inner culinary roots. Both menus have their merits and both are good (with its own hits and missteps), but I say that my first visit clinches the win ever so slightly due to that first-visit novelty.
My second verdict? Hide is still a phenomenal and exciting dining experience that is worth the asking price.