It's already spring. As we continue to grapple with the wretched pandemic, the world keeps on spinning, birds keep on chirping, and restaurants keep on innovating. Malaysia has just started its third lockdown, and as I type this, I am fully aware that those who read this review may not be able to taste the dishes for the time being.
The current predicament aside, Skillet At 163 has updated their seven-course degustation (RM450) and four-course discovery menu (RM198) to reflect the current seasons. Chef Raymond Tham and his team's spring/summer 2021 (SS '21) menu, which I had the great fortune to have alongside a Perrier-Jouët pairing, continues to cement the restaurant as a frontrunner in the gastronomy scene. The follow up to an absolutely fantastic autumn/winter 2020 menu, the current menu is light and bright, emphasising freshness and bold flavours.
I tried the SS '21 degustation menu, but you'll find most of these dishes on the discovery menu as well. I've said it many times, and I'll repeat it, Skillet At 163 deserves your hard-earned money. With great value for money, excellent service and food that continues to shine, the SS '21 menu warrants a revisit if you can't remember the last time you dined at the restaurant or a visit if you have yet to make your maiden trip.
Dish By Dish
After you get the fire in the oven going with the amuse bouche and bread start of the meal, the first dish to arrive is a plump oyster from Miyagi-ken, served with pickled shallots and kedondong granita. This is the second time I've had this dish here, and it still is all kinds of awesome. Salty, creamy and sharp acidity all comes together here. The oyster's creamy-briny notes are already a draw, but the acidic crunch of the shallots and the sour-sweet combo of the granita takes it to a whole new level while keeping it refreshing on the palate.
The dish was served with Perrier-Jouët's Grand Brut NV, fruity and fizzy champagne that accentuated the kedondong's presence and had faint umami notes lingering in the background.
Asparagus was up next, which was arguably the best dish on the menu, in my opinion. With it being in season, chef Raymond and co. took a classic springtime ingredient and dialled it all the way up by introducing polenta, sea urchin, smoked koji foam, ikura, toasted quinoa, duck bacon bits and black garlic.
That duck bacon was only mildly salty, adding a layered texture to the juicy semi-charred asparagus. The toasted quinoa added nuttiness and crunch, a signature ingredient in chef Raymond's arsenal. The uni was svelte and added hints of the sea, while the black garlic calms that brininess with pungent umami notes. The crisp green of the asparagus keeps the whole dish from being too flavourful. While this dish may contain many parts, they all work together harmoniously to produce pockets of flavour for you to discover and enjoy.
Helping to further bind all the flavours together on the palate was a 2011 Sybille Kuntz Riesling Spätlese Trocken. The honeyed, dry minerality of the riesling helped to refresh the palate and was also rather palatable on its own.
Beautiful to look at and equally as delicious; if you're a fan of escargot, you've lucked out. French escargot comes served with charcoal soil, parmesan ice, kulim (jungle garlic), puffed rice and yoghurt caviar.
Each bite revealed a nutty, herbal-dominant taste softened by the somewhat milky and acidic yoghurt caviar, charcoal soil, and puffed rice. The escargot itself was tender with a rather mushroom-like quality that was quite enjoyable, especially when the soft-as-ice parmesan accentuates this beloved French ingredient.
This dish was a celebration of spring, with a deep focus on earthy ingredients put front and centre, that worked on many levels, but even more so when taken with the mineral-laced riesling.
A sunflower shaped puff pastry stole the spotlight in this next dish. Resting underneath that thin madras spice-dusted pastry is a perfectly seared foie gras, served alongside a brioche and dried longan jus. The main star of the dish was undoubtedly that contrasting crispy texture against that buttery foie gras. The longan jus added a touch of sweetness and deftness that balanced the richness of the foie gras, while the brioche’s lovely buttery quality enhanced that fatty goose liver.
Served with Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé NV. The wine's bold, bubbly mouthfeel and strong red fruit notes of strawberry and raspberry is a much-needed refreshment to a heavy dish.
Diners will get to choose between aged Cherry Valley duck, a rack of lamb, salmon or Australian M6 wagyu for their mains. Alternatively, the wagyu course can be upgraded to Japanese Omi wagyu for an additional RM160, which is what I had. The wagyu's marbling was fantastic, yielding rich fatty mouthfuls that fully satiates.
The charred greens add a nice slightly charred crunch, while the svelte potato helps to soften the almost liver-like gaminess introduced by that sweetbread. Served alongside a dry, oaky, black-fruit forward 2012 Château de Fonbel Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, this quintessential French wine really shined alongside the wagyu, complementing both natural and char-induced flavours.
Raymond's chocolate dishes always taste great, thanks to his past experience as a chocolatier. There's a choice between yuzu and chocolate dishes when it came to dessert, but I had the latter paired with the always fantastic Martell Cordon Bleu.
The salted macadamias opened up the bittersweet qualities of the mocha mousse and ganache, creating a textural and flavour contrast that satisfies. Introducing sips of Cordon Bleu further pushes towards the ambrosial territory. Chocolate and cognac, what's there not to like?
Longan bread served at the start of the meal comes full circle in the form of pain perdu at the end, a wonderfully smoky, toasty, and caramelised treat to end the meal on a high note.
Skillet's SS' 21 menu wows with tight integration of light and bold dishes sequenced throughout the meal. While Raymond's A/W '20 menu ranks higher, the current menu is still a fantastic experience. You'll want to bookmark this one for when the MCO is over folks, you deserve a treat once these lockdown blues subside.