As one may expect, truffles feature heavily on Skillet@163’s latest Autumn/Winter 2020 menu — but it was another dish that caught our eye.
Stepping into Skillet@163 is, for me, like visiting a dear friend’s home. It’s comfortable, familiar, and constant with its quality of modern European cuisine helmed by Chef Raymond Tham. Its menu is also constantly changing to reflect the seasonal produce in Europe — another constant I can get behind.
When autumn beckons, a star ingredient stands out: black truffles. Any other year and Chef Raymond would have travelled to harvest his own, but alas, the pandemic stopped him from doing so this year. Thankfully, imports are still a thing and we get to enjoy the spoils right here in KL.
Guests at Skillet will have the opportunity to try several variations of the Autumn/Winter 2020 menu. For lunch, there’s a choice of the 2- or 3-Course Lunch Menu priced at RM75 and RM88 respectively. For dinner, there’s the five-course Discovery Menu (RM148) and if you’re feeling generous, try what I had — the Degustation Menu (RM430++). Whichever menu you choose, I trust you’ll have a good time. Let’s begin.
An easy start
To start off our meal, we were presented with a duo of amuse bouches and Skillet’s bread of the day with truffle and mushroom butter. However, it was the first dish that really spoke to us about the beginning of the autumnal flavours. We believe that truffles are the epicentre of autumn’s seasonal harvests. But elsewhere in the world, there are other ingredients that deserve attention. In our first dish, we were presented with the Hokkaido Scallop. While the scallop was the star of the dish, it was the other ingredients accompanying the scallop that brought out its fresh, briny flavours.
Jerusalem artichoke was in season, blended into a delicate purée and made the bed that the scallops sat on. There was also an unusual ingredient within the dish — sea lettuce, reminiscent of seaweed in flavour but with a filmy texture, not unlike plastic. It’s a wonder that our sea creatures often mistake plastic for food. When pieced together in a dish, all the light elements melded together, but never overpowering one another.
Next, we have the King Crab — another autumn seasonal speciality. For this dish, Chef Raymond has chosen to interpret the king crab two ways: one as a refreshing salad, the other torched with heavier flavours. Placed side by side on a plate, we were invited to first taste the king crab salad, and then the torched crab. Alternating between refreshing and heavy flavours, we were able to appreciate the versatility of this crustacean. The salad was refreshing, the lightly poached crab still maintaining its briny flavour but balanced out with the freshness and zestiness of orange. On the flip side, the torched king crab was creamy and heady, leaving us wanting more. Fortunately, there was more down the menu to look forward to.
Forest Woodland certainly felt like walking through the woods in autumn, foraging for truffles. In fact, it was precisely Chef Raymond’s inspiration, manifesting in a mushroom tart comprising four different varieties: portobello, shiitake, morel, and porcini. On the topmost layer, we see beautiful layers of portobello, looking almost like the terroir of a landscape. But hiding underneath that a filling made from those four mushrooms with a jammy sweetness owing to honey. At the bottom layer is a thin, buttery crust holding it all together.
We were encouraged to use our hands — something I gladly did. Upon lifting the tart closer to my face, I was hit with aromas of the rich, buttery crust and the woodiness of the mushrooms. Alternating each bite with a sip of a rich mushroom consommé, this dish is pure heaven for those who love mushrooms. Every bite brought forth wave after wave of each mushroom’s individual flavours — the umami ones of shiitake, the nuttiness of morels, and the woodiness of porcini.
Next, we see a favourite ingredient of Skillet’s: foie gras. Those who tend to dislike this French ingredient because of its texture and overpowering taste will enjoy Chef Raymond’s rendition of Foie Gras in his autumn/winter 2020 menu. This time, it’s rendered into a custard with a texture not unlike chawanmushi and topped with shavings of black truffles. It’s a simple dish made decadent with its ingredients. The foie gras custard was silky with the unmistakable flavour and richness of liver, coupled with a rich jus.
Then, we move on to the main courses. I chose Venison while my dining companion picked the Duck — that way, we would be able to try out more mains. The Venison was well cooked with nary a gamey flavour, complemented by the raisin jus for tartness and squash purée for sweetness. The two accompanying elements went perfectly with the venison, allowing you to easily finish the course without being overwhelmed by the meatiness of the dish.
The star, however, was without a doubt the Duck. Dry-aged for four to five days, the duck is then seared to perfection, keeping its skin crispy yet the meat succulent. That first bite for me was magical; the crunch of the skin to the rich fattiness of the duck meat was unlike any fowl I’ve ever tasted. In fact, I even likened it to the taste of the Chinese-styled roasted pork, much to Chef Raymond’s amusement. However, he took no claim for the duck’s taste, crediting it all to the excellent quality of the produce. He then divulged a secret to us: the duck was not imported from some far-off European country. In fact, it was from our own backyard — sourced from a farm in Penang. Chef Raymond certainly did this quality local produce justice, dry-ageing it and then accompanying the dish with house-made cherry kombucha and a side of charred lettuce with a lime and honey dressing. The latter added brightness to the fatty flavours of the duck, while the tart cherry kombucha (cherries soaked in kombucha) toned it down, making for a tastefully balanced dish.
Before the dessert is served, we cleanse our palate with a refreshing Rice Wine Granité with pear and osmanthus. Dessert is a signature of Skillet’s — Signature Texture of Chocolate, featuring Chef Raymond’s favourite use of dry ice for added drama. A chocolate sphere is presented to us, drizzled with dry ice, and then broken with a mallet to reveal more different renditions of chocolate underneath. If you’re a regular at Skillet, this will be a familiar dessert to enjoy. We end our meal with the Autumn Petite Four, accompanied by the cherry kombucha drink itself. A perfect end to a decadent meal.
Chef Raymond has once again managed to showcase excellence in utilising seasonal ingredients perfectly, whether local or imported. The Autumn/Winter 2020 menu at Skillet is testament to that, boasting not just quality produce but skill in bringing out its authentic flavours. If you’d like to treat yourself to one of the tasting menus, make your reservation here.
(All images: Lifestyle Asia KL / PohNee Chin)