As you walk through the entrance of the Mandarin Grill at the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur you notice a distinctive change. The entire restaurant is tinged with an orange hue, reminiscent of the Basque countryside, and the artwork has been specifically selected to create an atmosphere of calm and class. For 88 days, this restaurant has been transformed into Aziamendi 88, the first ever pop up restaurant in Kuala Lumpur that carries a 3 Star Michelin award by chef Eneko Atxa.
Aziamendi 88 strives to bring to you on a journey unlike any other, forming a very personal and carefully thought out experience. The approach to its culinary philosophy is clear, ensuring that attention to detail is complete for each and every dish, from bite to scent, all is taken into account. The entire experience is something that is sublime and understated, without too much flair, but enough that it inspires.
Eneko Atxa is the youngest chef to ever be awarded a 3 Star Michelin Award for his restaurant Azurmendi in Bilbao, Spain and has also opened Aziamendi in Phang Nga, Thailand, infusing traditional Basque fair with a Thai touch. His idea to open the pop-up Aziamendi 88 in Kuala Lumpur will introduce us to a speciality cuisine. His experience in the kitchen coupled with his understanding of culinary is seen in every dish.
“Every story has a beginning. This menu is a retrospective of the most successful dishes created by my restaurant in Bilbao. I hope my yesterdays will make your today.” — Eneko Atxa, Executive Chef of Aziamendi 88
In running Aziamendi 88, Atxa has Alexander Burger, the Chef de Cuisine, overseeing all execution of the menu, ensuring each dish is perfect before its allowed to be served. Burger is from San Francisco and has been working with Atxa for many years now and is competent in the execution of French, Spanish and Basque cuisine. When asked which dish on the menu is Asian inspired, and which Asian culinary flavours have you borrowed from, he said: –
“We are constantly searching for inspiration with all of our travels and experiences. I believe that the more we are exposed to different cultures, the more our cuisine is changing, like a living organism that is constantly evolving. You can see some different Asian influences in dishes like the squid noodles, morning glory ravioli, or coconut and passion fruit, however we always try to stay true and honest to Eneko’s philosophy and having the cuisine deeply rooted in the Basque Country.” – Alexander Burger, Chef de Cuisine of Aziamendi 88
You start this gastronomic adventure with the amuse-bouche prepared in a room that has been transformed into the perfect place for a picnic. Filled with autumn inspired leaves and candle lit lanterns, the room is reminiscent of a scene plucked from the Spanish countryside, from its brown hues to its makeshift tables and chairs. The décor will make you feel like you have been whisked away to a romantic scene from a film. The presentation of each dish has been very well thought out, and when asked what is the thought process with the creation of these dishes, Burger stated: –
“When we are creating dishes, it usually starts with searching for, or being exposed to, a high quality product. Once we find the quality that we desire, then as a team we work together to create and bounce ideas back and forth until dishes become finalized. There is a lot of testing and platings before we are finished with a dish and a large factor is listening to the guests each day, hearing their feedback, and adapting ourselves to the local palates.”
The iconic Picnic is a mixture of three little morsels and is served in a beautiful hand woven basket. The first of the three items, the Anchovy Mille Feuille, is perfectly flaky and light to the touch, which comes complete with a savoury crumble in your mouth. The Corn Toast and Caviar is luxurious to the bite with a combination of different caviar, ensuring a nice twist. The third amuse-bouche is the Mojito Bon Bon, a dollop of joy that bursts into a sharp lime flavour awakening your senses, preparing you for the meal.
The meal is followed by The Bonsai Tree, a unique appetiser complete with both cherry tomatoes, intensified with slow cooking, and edible bark, crispy pieces of dried “tree bark”, which has a smoky crunchy texture, which is nicely balances the sweet burst of flavour from the cherry tomatoes.
The next amuse-bouche is his iconic Truffled Egg, an egg injected with hot truffle jus. This dish takes remarkable skill to pull off as it requires a careful hand not to puncture the mid-state yolk. Axta goes further with localisation on this by using kampung chicken eggs, Malaysian free-range chicken, which has a stronger, more flavourful appeal.
The Garden is then set before you on a black slate, complete with a bounty of harvest, in micro proportions. The “soil” is made form dehydrated beetroot, rich and crumbly to the touch. Under all that soil is an intense tomato emulsion, cooked with cherry tomatoes and intensified in flavour, both sweet and tangy. This is topped with baby carrots, peas, a sliver of baby courgette and micro greens.
The Oyster Tartare, Plankton Marino and Algae is a definite favourite, a most thought out dish. A single Fin de Claire oyster is served at the perfect temperature, warm to the touch. Drops of marine plankton is scattered across the plate, for flavour and visual artistry. This dish is served with a side of tempura algae and oyster leaf. The oyster leaf emulsion is foamy and balances well with the metallic taste of the oyster. The ball of umami flavoured Japanese inspired stock gives it the right strike of flavour balance to this beautiful dish.
The soup de jour is the Crab with Sea Urchin and Bloody “Mar”, a dish that is served with dollops of uni mayonnaise, crab meat flesh on the side, and showered with a crimson seafood broth. This bisque was rich and frothy, with highlighted notes from the crabmeat, and a tinge of bitterness from the Ixora blossoms.
The last appetiser of the night is the Foie Gras Ashes from the Grill, displayed on a wooden log. This dish comes in 3 layers, bread, cream and ashes. The foie gras is confusing to the eye, as the dark colour of ashes plays on your mind. The toast as the base is firm and crispy to the touch, topped with a thick layer of foie gras cream. The dish is then grated with foie gras ashes to give it its cinder appearance.
The first entrée to be served was the Lobster a la Plancha on Herb Oil and Creamy Chives, a single portion of lobster flesh, not overcooked, still in in its springy form. The lobster is further decorated with dollops of chive cream, herb oil, and a crispy chive flavoured cone filled with minced lobster and chopped chives.
The following entrée was the Fried Black Cod, Red Pepper Juice, Tsuyu and Parsley Emulsion, a simple yet elegant dish. The morsel of perfectly fried cod is interestingly flavoured with red pepper juice, leaving a slight astringent and capsicum taste on the tongue, while the tsuyu, made from dashi, mirin and soy sauce, gives it that sweet and savoury kick.
The next dish to be served is the Mushroom Tea. As interpretations of the traditional mushroom soup is currently in vogue, Aziamendi 88 has managed to top it all off. The soup is served in 3 containers, a teapot for the soup, a teacup filled with raw mushrooms and tea leaves and a teacup filled with a combination of thinly sliced mushrooms. This interactive soup is prepared this way: Firstly, you take a few teaspoonfuls of the tealeaves mixture; add it to the soup to infuse, then pour it into the drinking teacup. Delicious and a wonder to witness.
The main course of the night was the Lamb Shoulder, Pesto, Parmesan and Pine Nuts, a flavourful cut of lamb, perfectly cooked that a tug of the fork pulls apart the entire slice of lamb meat. The balsamic marinade makes its way through sharply, while clamped between two flaky crisps, ensuring a well-balanced bite. The balls of Parmesan cheese were light to the touch, almost watery in texture, goes perfect with the pine nut and pesto flavours present throughout the dish. Compliments to the chef from selecting lamb as the main course, which is quite uncommon.
The dessert course came in a pair of three, firstly the Orange, Strawberries and Ginger Granite. The granita, is a great fruity, spicy and tangy palate cleanser, perfect before the final two desserts. The next dessert, the Apple, Caramel and Yoghurt is presented as a delightful little sorbet, with candied apple strips infused with mint, a side of piecrust crumbs, and dollops of applesauce bonbons, sweet, savoury, minty and tangy, all in one bite. The final dessert was the Black Olives, Goat’s Milk and Cocoa, the prefect ending to the night. This dish is amazingly balanced, with the goat’s milk ice cream at its centre. Savoury black olive crumbs pepper the base of the ice cream with cocoa gold leaves littered throughout, balancing the dish with a profound tinge of bitterness.
In addition to creating amazingly detailed and thoughtful cuisine, they work with many charities and believe in sustainable development. 5% of all profits made from the Aziamendi 88 pop up will be donated to United Voice, for people with learning disabilities and Inspirasia, a charity that provides for health, disability, education, and disaster relief.
The Aziamendi 88 Experience
The menu at Aziamendi 88, although only for 88 days, is ever changing. When asked about what guides and changes the items on the menu, Burger replies: –
“We try our best to work locally and seasonally in our menus. Since we are always open to learning new things, we are constantly working on our menus to try and improve everyday. We stay true to our philosophy that if you make a small change everyday, then by the end of the year you have made big changes. For us, guest satisfaction is a top priority, so we listen to everyone that dines with us to see how the people react to our cuisine. From that, we can achieve new inspirations.”
If you are looking for a great dinner experience, that takes roughly about 3 hours for the 12 course menu, look no further. This restaurant lives up to its reputation and the experience itself is worth every dollar spent. It is of no wonder that Atxa has been awarded the 3 Star Michelin status and will only continue to accumulate more as his career goes on. Kindly take note that the menu changes throughout its whole time in Kuala Lumpur, so be sure to visit their website. A reservation is also highly recommended as booking are extremely hard to come by.
50088 Kuala Lumpur,
+603 2380 8888
Opening Hours: 6:30 pm to late
| PHOTOGRAPHY BY: AZIAMENDI 88 & MANDARIN ORIENTAL KL | WEBSITE: AZIAMENDI 88 |