The beauty of mixing and matching flavours is that it presents an opportunity for the palate to discover something new – unfamiliar flavour profiles that can sometimes be bizarre, yet intriguing at the same time. Combining techniques and ingredients in ways that are regarded as unconventional to a certain cuisine breaks down the authenticity of what a dish is supposed to taste and look like.

Authenticity aside, it has been apparent that chefs around the world are continuously looking for all sort of inspiration to make their dishes ‘special’ – which are usually something along the lines of ‘east meets west’ or somewhat ‘contemporary’.

What is more obvious is that some restaurants have even distinguished themselves to be purveyors of creative gastronomy – breaking the conventions of traditional cooking.

The traditionalists would continue to keep their valued recipes pure and untainted because these are food that never goes out of place and time; familiar flavours that diners come back for all the time. For modern chefs who are revolutionising orthodox cooking, the need to create and experiment with ingredients of sorts (most times seasonal) is fundamental to keeping the excitement in modern fusion cuisine alive.

Nuevo Latino
Dancing along the ideas of creative cooking, there is no stopping Chef Raymond Tham to constantly think of new ways to make dining experiences memorable while celebrating the flavours of fresh produce, both locally and globally sourced. Three years into the business, Chef Tham now brings a new flavour palate to his first restaurant, Skillet@163, inspired by his recent travels to South America; in particular Peru, Argentina and Chile.

Skillet@163 at Fraser Place KL

It was not until recent years that the rest of the world has become interested in the cuisines of South America and the new combinations that emerge with it.

“My recent trip to the beautiful Argentinian cities of Mendoza and Bueno Aires as well as Santiago in Chile has given me a new appreciation towards their heritage, food culture and fresh produce. With the new menu, I want to bring our diners along that epicurean journey infused in South American flavours,” begins the restaurateur who admits to ‘smuggling’ back 30 kilos of Choclo or Cuzco corn (a type of Peruvian corn) from Peru just for this new seasonal menu.

Food
The new 2018 summer menu combines a range of classic dishes (some Malaysian-inspired) with smacking nuances of traditional Latin flavours and techniques. In its degustation set (RM300 per person), the symphony of flavours begins with an array of hors d’œuvre that celebrate its respective hero ingredient.

Amuse bouche

‘Cauliflower’ is served on a choux drizzled with wholesome taste of smoky bell pepper; reminding you of the classic taste of Chilean tomato salsa. ‘Octopus Watermelon Cucumber’ on the other hand is like Monet on a plate, a trio of octopus ceviche, compressed watermelon and liquid nitrogen cucumber juice, served with black caviar, passion fruit and Cuzco corn kernels.

The ‘Umami Broth’ is just as enjoyable – delicious morel consommé served with noodles; a dish so simple but packed with comforting umami flavours. Another favourite is the ‘Artichoke Pineapple’ – charred artichoke heart sits on a bed of buckwheat soil and roasted pineapple puree.

“The next dish is inspired by the flavours of Peru. I had the opportunity to taste Huancaína, a rich Peruvian cheese sauce made of queso fresco, sunny aji Amarillo peppers and onions. Loving the flavours, I’ve decided to pair it with guinea fowl in a form of a tortellini,” explains chef Tham as he presents the ‘Guinea Fowl Huancaína’.

Guinea Fowl Huancaína

Plump and well-pressed, the dish showcases finesse with its beautiful presentation – tortellini served on a bed of huancaína sauce and vibrant parsley oil in a cracked egg-shell bowl. The pasta is thinly rolled and well-made, exposing the filling that is succulent and packed with flavours. While guinea fowl is usually dry and fibrous, chef Tham has been able to showcase the beauty of this delicate protein.

Nine appetisers and three glasses of champagne later, the menu continues with a choice between two mains: ‘Lamb Bak Ku Teh’ or ‘Beef Short-Ribs Coffee’. Both succulent and perfectly cooked, the lamb dish edges the beef by just a fraction with its complex flavours. The traditional flavours of a classic Bak Ku Teh (meaty pork ribs simmered in a complex broth of herbs and spices) are condensed into a dollop of thick creamy puree, served alongside two pieces of lamb – pink in the centre and charred on the outside – as well as elements of the herbal dish like mushrooms, beancurd skin and coriander.

Lamb Bak Ku Teh

As a finisher, ‘White Chocolate Peach’ cleanses the palate with well-balanced flavours of peach and berry compote, white chocolate mousse and a sour meringue that cuts through the richness of the dessert – the taste of freshness and surprise in equal parts.

Textures of Chocolate

If you’re up for something chocolatey and indulgent, the Textures of Chocolate is Skillet@163’s signature dessert that features the dramatic pour of liquid nitrogen into a chocolate sphere.

Champagnes and Wines
Diners can also add on additional champagne and wine pairing with the degustation menu for just RM250. The menu is specially curated to accentuate the unique nuances of each dish.

The dining experience begins with the Veuve Clicquot, Yellow Label champagne to ignite the palate with its fruity yet full-bodied notes. ‘Octopus Watermelon Cucumber’ however pairs exquisitely well with a vintage Riesling – the 2011 Sybille Kuntz Riesling Spatlese from Mosel, Germany.

Chef Tham also reveals that 2011 and 2012 were the best years for champagne and wine-making because of its really dry and hot summer. On that note, he serves a 2011 Il Carpino, Oak Pinot Grigio from Friuli-Venezia Giulia – with the guinea fowl tortellini. Perfumed with spicy notes with a deep citrus aftertaste, the orange wine balances the flavours of the cheesy Huancaina and parsley oil beautifully.

Argentinian Malbec pairs perfectly with ‘Beef Short-Ribs Coffee’

The main courses are paired with a choice of fragrant red wine with sweet floral notes – Terrazas, Single Vineyard Malbec from the Argentine Republic. The 2012 Argentinian red wine is a silky and elegant finish to the red meat; providing a rich and dark balance of flavours when paired together.

Verdict
Some of the dishes are infused with the flavours of South American cuisine in entirety. If you’re looking for the brightness of Salsa Verde with aji peppers or the sweetness of Alfajores, or even an empanada, you’d probably be disappointed. Chef Tham employs a more refined technique to inject and combine flavours subtly to ensure that the dishes fit the Malaysian taste buds.

The menu is an understated introduction to the vastness of Nuevo Latino cuisine. It is a great start for first-time diners to the complex nuances from the South American region. But if you have a penchant for good dry red wine from Argentina, don’t miss out. You will fall in love with the curated combination served here.

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, 12pm to 3pm & 6pm to 11pm
Recommended Dishes: Artichoke Pineapple, Guinea Fowl Huancaína, Lamb Bak Ku Teh
Price: 300++ per person with good wine options
Noise Level: Light and easy
Service: Attentive and helpful

Martin Teo
Editor
Martin has a bent for history and food culture, especially of the Peranakan heritage. Since the pandemic, he finds joy in plant parenting and continues to expand his collection of Philodendrons, Anthuriums, and Syngoniums. He's now on a lookout for the elusive Philodendron Florida Beauty to add to his urban garden.