Hello, Coconauts! Tis us — Coconuts KL, eating edition. It’s been a minute, we know. While we’d like to tell you about the amazing vegan diet we’ve discovered, and the eight-pack we’ve sprouted since taking a break from restaurant reviews, but we’ve just been spending a lot of time eating the same nasi goreng. Sometimes you just crave simplicity, you know?
Anywhoo — we’re back, and so is our appetite and lust for life. How convenient for us that booze purveyors, the House of Martell, are teaming up with the “fun-dining” restaurant, Babe by Jeff Ramsey, for their second Wonderarium cocktail and “Japas” (Japan + tapas) party. Featuring a custom-made Martell Trunk, Chef Ramsey tries to inject a bit of imagination and fun into the typical sit-down dining experience. This time around, Wonderarium 2.0 will be exploring food and drinks with a Sweet and Sour theme.
Reader, we were at their last event, and we’ll be real, while no nasi goreng was served (really, best appreciated from our sofa) — it WAS fun. We saw our food a little differently, we met new people, and we also managed to get delightfully tipsy while doing it. Here’s a taste of what it was like, in case you were on the fence about attending the upcoming edition.
Wonderarium 1.0 featured Umami and Smoke as the theme, with three signature (stiff) cocktails, and a host of dishes paired with them.
All three of the drinks we tried last time were made with a base of Martell VSOP, but differed greatly in flavor profile of the finished product. While we weren’t crazy about the Rakkasei Highball, which utilized a little too much of that rice vinegar for the umami, we fell deeply in love with the Smokey Daisey, a mix of VSOP, mezcal, gula melaka, hibiscus and cranberry. The Otonana Haru Cha was a delight for gin lovers (of which, we are not), so we gave our glass to our friend, who in turn, gave us their Smokey Daisey.
In between, groups were called to the Martell trunk, a contraption custom-made for the Wonderarium events in Kuala Lumpur, and consisting of a lot of colored beakers, and hidden drawers.
First up were beakers full of soup, each colored wildly different from the next. Eaters were allowed to choose one, and we went with black, the color closest to our heart.
“Can you guess the flavor,” Chef Ramsey asked.
“Apathy with truffle oil?” our dead soul inquired.
“Hahaha. Mushroom. Wild mushrooms,” he told us.
Close enough — we could make out the smoky mushroom aroma in the creamy soup. Could we have drunk another bowl-full? Yes, but the point of fine dining isn’t to leave full — it’s to have fun.
Others in our group laughed and hesitated before drinking from blue, green, and yellow concoctions — exclaiming things like “Cucumber!” and “… chicken rice?”
Before we could spend time finding out what was what, a roving plate of canapes caught our eye, and we quickly grabbed three before the tray left, never to be seen again.
Ah, sweet sweet raw tuna, dressed and stuffed into a cigar-like shell. Crispy, cold, but perhaps missing a bit of that umami we would have loved in a dipping sauce. Alas, there was none, but we still ate everything.
It was a good thing that we loaded up on the sashimi rolls, because the next two trays that we saw contained our mortal culinary enemy, jelly. Look, reader — we just don’t like the way it moves. Very suspicious, the manner in which it wiggles about.
We took one bite of each so that we could tell you the following: The jellied tomato was alright, but the unagi (eel) terrine was a loaf pressed in Satan’s larder by Lucifer himself. There’s no need to ever put an eel in aspic, and we’re standing by that statement until judgment day.
Next up was an incredible ikura (salmon roe) tartlet, with fromage blanc inside. Now, part of the fun dining experience was to offer tarot card readings as we nibbled and drank, and would you know it — but it was in our future to miss further servings of our favorite dish of the night? The tart shell? Crisp, without being crumbly. The ikura? Expertly seasoned, fresh, and like a delightful ocean spray in our mouths of umami. The fromage blanc? A perfect foil.
After our reading, we searched for a waiter, begging for more ikura, but it was all gone. It was of little comfort that our card reading told us that money would soon appear (especially when it didn’t).
We ate more dishes of prawns, eggplant, and short ribs, lamenting ikura past, ikura present, and ikura future. A jazz band played in the background, and someone came around to give us another cocktail. OK, life’s not so bad.
Again we were called to the trunk, where Chef Ramsey offered us ice cream with aroma. Scent and taste are tied together, so what would it be like to smell our flavor, while eating a plain ice cream?
Well, mechanically — quite difficult. We ended up shoving what looked like a hollowed out Vick’s canister into our nostril, while eating.
“What do you taste?” asked Chef Ramsey.
“Cold? Sweet? Cream? It’s not mint chocolate chip!” we said.
“Blueberries and cream!”
Taking another whiff, we agreed with him, and decided to keep our little sniffer with us to take home. If we could trick our tastebuds into thinking we were having blueberries, maybe we could trick our stomachs into thinking we had eaten ice cream too.
We finished off with a very convincing Babe-n-Dazs ice cream sandwich, so much so that we didn’t bother reading the label, and took a giant bite, expecting some more of that sweet cream.
What we got was a mouthful of VSOP and fois gras ice cream. Was it good? Yes, very good — and very rich. Despite wanting to eat our weight in ikura, we were starting to get full.
“Are you going to finish yours?” asked our friend.
And before we could say “Cookies ‘n Cream,” it was gone, and into their mouths.
We sat back down, looking over Kuala Lumpur from Babe’s rooftop, with jazz playing in the background, and thought to ourselves — it ain’t nasi goreng and Netflix, but it’s pretty darn good.
The House of Martell and Babe will be hosting the second round of The Wonderarium, with a cocktail collaboration with the award-winning Osmund Bernard of Kenshin Bar, September 6 and 7 at Babe by Jeff Ramsey. Tickets are RM280++ per person.