Another great meal to start off the festive season.

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

I was invited by the inimitable Chef YC of Above Gastrobar to sample their Christmas menu.

Naturally I was thrilled and rearranged my schedule to make my evening free.

I had been dying to try Koji, that miraculous mold I was introducing to my dear readers in my last article where I was relying on Chef YC’s introduction on the topic.

Now I was going to taste it for myself.

I must say I was not disappointed. The dishes where he used his own fermented Koji were as he claimed. Tender and umami as in the abalone.

While other dishes lived up to their promises and some new elements totally fascinated me as in the “Latok”, a kind of seaweed looking like green pepper pods on a stem.

Norwegian salmon cured with salt, sugar, lime and lemongrass, served with sea grapes (Latok) from Sabah, and a granita made from sugar cane juice and green guava juice.

Tartelette filled with tiger prawn which are first lightly grilled then hot smoked with earl grey tea leaves, mixed with an aioli made from 2-month lacto-fermented habanero, yuzu juice, and 3-month honey-fermented garlic. Finished with pickled cucumber, pickled shallot, and ikura (salmon roe). Lacto-fermentation is a process whereby yeast naturally found in fruit or vegetable consumes its sugar and converts it to lactic acid, giving it a complex and lasting fragrance on the palate.

Abalone marinated for 24 hours in barley shio koji, which is grilled over charcoal before it is sliced and served. The protease in koji breaks down the tough muscle fibres, transforming the usually tough mollusc into a tender, delectable morsel. The chawanmushi is made from egg and local soy milk, just lightly seasoned to preserve the innate flavours of soy. To finish off the dish, a dash of consommé made from abalone liver and mirin is poured on, as well as a few pieces of barley koji tempeh which is lightly deep fried to caramelise the sugars within.

Iberico pork jowl, lightly dry brined with salt, skewered and grilled over charcoal. Accompanied by a rojak sambal.

Rojak of green mango, ambarella, kyuri cucumber, bird’s eye chilli. The yam croquette breaks away from the traditional wu kok by having no filling but rather fortifying the yam with a leek, spring onion, shallot, ginger infused lard, while adding cream to lighten the texture.

Atlantic cod, lightly salt and sugar cured, pan seared until golden brown. Served with sautéed chayote dressed with charcoal oil, and hazelnut. The sauce is a foamy clam-meat infused cream which is then split with a chive oil.

Local honey pineapple, grilled over charcoal. Coconut milk, lime and jasmine ice-cream. We infused coconut milk, cream, and milk with fresh jasmine flowers for 24 hours to get a strong hit of jasmine, while balancing it with the fragrance from lime zest and juice. Spiced crumble made from dried shrimp, shallot, garlic, and candied ginger to give a sweet and savoury edge to the dessert. Pandan honeycomb adds another layer of texture and a bit of bitterness to round out the dish.

Dining at Above Gastrobar is always an adventure. A gastronomic exploration into new and exciting ingredients and out-of-the-box pairings.

Do catch the 2 day Christmas menu on 24th and 25th December.

Merry Christmas dear readers.

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