Parked on the ground floor of Fraser Place is a quaint little eatery that you might take for any simple restaurant, but do not be mistaken, this is Skillet at 163, one of the better bistronomies with a touch of fine dining. With French fine dining techniques using local ingredients, Skillet at 163 is heading this new wave of Malaysian ingredient inspired fine cuisine, from their Asam Laksa reminiscent lobster bisque to their take on their molecular gastronomy inspired yee sang, bringing exciting times to the Malaysian culinary scene.
As you enter Fraser Place, you are instantly greeted by wooden furnishings throughout the restaurant. This humble place is lined like a corridor that opens up to its open concept bar and connecting kitchen at one end, and at the other, a staircase leading upstairs to somewhere more intimate, better suited for closed parties or private functions.
Skillet at 163 was founded by owner and Executive Chef Raymond Tham, who began his career in hospitality management at Kolej Damansara Utama (KDU), Malaysia and obtained a degree in Business Administration in the UK. He then received a scholarship in Westminster of Kingsway, London, one of the oldest culinary schools in the UK, and started his career as an apprentice in Wentworth. He continued on to work with Fairmont Hotel in the Bermudas for 2 years before moving back to Malaysia to teach at KDU. He then worked as a chocolate technical advisor for Barry Callebaut Asia Pacific including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan. Shortly after, he collaborated with a group of friends who loved to dine and travel to open what we know today as Skillet at 163. When asked what his philosophy is when it comes to cooking and how would he describe his cuisine, he stated: –
“I find it is important to cook with passion and love. This is one of the secret ingredients that I always shared with my team. For me, I would say imagination and creativity. I will not label our cuisine as something that only uses local ingredients or your typical European cuisine. I believed there shouldn’t be any boundaries in cooking nowadays. I will not force myself to just use local ingredients for the sake of using it but does nothing for the dish. I also don’t believe in only using imported ingredients just to make a dish sound more sophisticated.” — Raymond Tham, Executive Chef of Skillet at 163.
At Skillet at 163, you may choose a selection from their menu or if you would like to sample their mini degustation, you can opt for the 5 Course Menu, which can be supplemented with wine pairing as well. When queried what cuisine do they borrow from the most, Tham stated: –
“I am most influenced by Malaysian, Chinese, British & French cuisine. My cooking represents my influences, being a Malaysian Chinese who used to lived in England and having been introduced to French eating cultures by a group of good friends and chefs.”
The first course was titled Scallop, consisting of Hokkaido scallop and apple tartar, taro hair, -196°C pomelo, pickled jicama and beetroot carpaccio, peanut, kaffir lime and plum dressing. This dish was inspired by the Malaysian lunar new year delicacy the yee sang, consisting of an amalgamation of raw fish, vegetables, fruits and crackers, but with a molecular twist. The fresh scallops and apple tartar bring a nice sweet and sour punch to each bite, with pickled jicama and beetroot adding a pleasant bitter sweet crunch. The -196°C pomelo adds a nice and unique temperature play. The kaffir lime and plum dressing is traditional in many ways, but the kaffir lime also adds a nice sour and astringent taste bringing the dish together.
This dish was paired with the Prosecco Extra dry Sanfelleto Valdobbiadene NV, adding a nice luxurious start to the meal.
The second course was the Foie Gras, consisting of Madras foie gras and chicken liver paté, cardamom prune compote, curry leaf tempura, brioche toast, and caramelised macadamia. The tender piece of foie gras and chicken liver paté was served in a nice portion, complemented with a trio of components which helped it sing. The curry leaf tempura added a spicy bitter crunch, while the caramelised macadamia gave it a nice nutty candy flavour. The perfectly toasted brioche balanced it with a different kind of sweetness from the candied macadamias while the cardamom compote gave it a nice sharp tangy tone. This dish was paired with the Late Harvest Viognier, Geogaphe, Australia 2013, although usually paired with game meat, it was able to balance the taste of the foie gras dish.
The third course was the Lobster, a lobster cappuccino, with a pineapple and parmesan raviolo, torch ginger, asam (tamarind) and mint. This dish was probably one of the best of the night, inspired by the Penang asam laksa, where the raviolo was filled with minced pineapple and parmesan, in a rich seafood broth. The torch ginger and tamarind (a favourite ingredient of the chef) brings out a savoury and sour punch, the kind you would not normally get with a lobster bisque, making this dish a great interpretation of east meets west. An outstanding dish.
The first option of the fourth course was the Chicken, consisting of a Dong Gui (Angelica root) broth steeped chicken breast, dried scallop XO sauce, arrowroot dauphinoise, pickled fennel, goji berries with dong gui cream espuma. This dish is another testament to creativity of east meets west, where the chicken breast was perfectly cooked with the skin still crispy on the outside, but packed a very flavourful punch from the bitter sweetness of the angelica root. This very traditional Chinese influence, including the use of dong gui, arrowroot and goji berries, usually comes as an acquired taste from Chinese herbal cooking, is interpreted very well. The arrowroot is reminiscent of potato dauphinoise, but starchier, and the dong gui espuma brings the dish together that leaves you wanting more. Another excellent dish, and probably our favourite dish on the menu.
This dish was paired with a Sauvignon Blanc, Daisy Hill, Marlborough 2013, a not too sweet white wine, perfectly complementing the chicken dish.
The second option of the fourth course was the 300 Minute Grain Fed Beef Short Ribs, an Arabica coffee braised short rib, celeriac mash and glazed vegetables. The short ribs were perfectly flavoured with a nice bittersweet tinge from the coffee, cooked to a perfect texture, coming loose with the pull of a fork. The celeriac mash was a nice change up from the normal potato mash, leaving more texture a slight pungent tinge. The shredded deep fried vegetable leaves added a nice savoury bitter texture bringing the dish together.
This dish was paired with a red Cabernet Sauvignon, Portee Station, South Australia 2014, bringing out the deep flavours of the short ribs.
The fifth course, the dessert course, was the Textures of Chocolate, consisting of white chocolate ‘popcorn’, cocoa soil and a raspberry coulis. This dessert was quite the spectacle, bursting with white chocolate ‘popcorn’, and apt to its name, having the crunch and texture of freshly popped corn. The cocoa soil and raspberry are signature pairings, which gave it a nice bitter, sweet and sour balance.
The dessert was paired with a port, which was the 20 years Fine Tawny, Down’s Douro NV.
The Skillet at 163 Experience
The great thing about Skillet at 163 is that it doesn’t pretend to be a fine dining restaurant, but does that thing which under promises and over delivers. The food is great for people who enjoy fine dining but prefer a more relaxed environment. When asked what their approach to customer service was, Tham replied: –
“We believe everything should be personalised. Every customer comes with a different expectation and occasion and all we want is to be able to be fair to everyone. There is no such things as being a VIP at Skillet. Everyone who comes to dine pay the same and therefore gets the same treatment.”
This down to earth approach coupled with the mixture of Malaysian dishes with French touches and techniques are quite unique to the Malaysian dining scene, and this place is one of the more affordable dining experiences you can find in Kuala Lumpur which would not instantly break the bank. Definitely worth a check out, especially for the Lobster Cappuccino.
For more information about our other reviews, see our Skillet At 163 Christmas 2016 Review.
Lot 163, 10, Jalan Perak,
50450 Kuala Lumpur.
+603 2181 2426
10.30 am to 10.00 pm
| PHOTOGRAPHY BY: LILA BAKAR | WEBSITE: SKILLET AT 163 |