Gobo Upstairs Lounge & Grill,
Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur,
Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2332 9910
Business hours: 11.30am to 2.30pm (Monday to Friday),
6.30pm to 10.30pm, daily.
THE dawn of spring in countries blessed with the four seasons, brings about excitement among cooks as the white asparagus makes an appearance for a brief spell at marketplaces.
To manage white asparagus, farmers cover the shoots with soil as they grow, depriving them of sunlight and as there is no photosynthesis, they remain white in colour.
The white spears have a milder asparagus taste but are said to be rich in vitamin A, C, E and K and are packed with antioxidants.
Unlike its green-skinned cousin which is available throughout the year, the white asparagus is a delicacy in Europe and its limited availability makes it a much sought after ingredient.
Though uncommon in this part of the world, it is a versatile vegetable that can be prepared in a variety of cooking styles, said Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur sous chef Melvin Brandon Chong.
Chong who has been dealing with a whole load of white asparagus recently, has come up with six creative dishes featured in an ala carte menu at Gobo Upstairs.
“White asparagus can be cooked in any style, be it Western or local.
“One just needs to be creative and imaginative in using the ingredient,” he said.
In an adventure of tastes with the vegetable, chef Brandon served for starters Grilled Asparagus with Smoked Salmon, Balsamic Orange, Baby Romaine Leaves, Croutons and Truffle Vinaigrette (RM35) and Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg, Parmesan Cheese and Hollandaise Sauce (RM35).
The combination of smoked salmon, with its delicate salted taste against the citrus and balsamic flavours and crunchy grilled asparagus was a medley that worked, especially with the truffle vinaigrette completing the presentation.
The second starter was reminiscent of breakfast as chef Chong chose to incorporate a dish, paying tribute to legendary chef of the 1800s Auguste Escoffier, who invented this classic favourite.
“This is the most classic dish invented by Escoffier and it brings back sweet memories of my early days as a chef,” he said.
It is best to work your fork and knife into the poached egg as soon as the dish is served, to allow the yolk to run out of its pocket and enhance flavours of the other ingredients on your plate.
The green asparagus is invited to the party in the Asparagus Soup with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms and Mascarpone Cheese on Grilled Sour Bread Sticks (RM22).
In this creamy vegetarian offering, chef Brandon uses white asparagus for his stock, adding green asparagus for colour and slices of white asparagus for a contrast in texture.
A popular main course item at the restaurant is the Asparagus Risotto Cooked with Arborio Rice, Sautéed with White and Green Asparagus, Grilled Chicken and Parmesan Cheese (RM38).
With the rice cooked slightly al-dente, the dish can be overwhelming for those who find the sharp taste of Parmesan a bit too much but I enjoyed this presentation for its simplicity and taste.
Chef Chong explained that cheese helps enhance the flavour of the asparagus hence the inclusion of mascarpone and Parmesan in the promotion.
The other dish that wowed me over was the Brown Butter Almond Crust White Asparagus with Pan Seared Salmon with Caramelised Onion and Caper Cream Reduction (RM50).
When indulging in salmon, the dining experience is made even more enjoyable if the skin of the fish is nicely browned and crisp.
To get the full flavours of this dish, each element on the plate needs to be eaten together.
The caramelised onion cooked with olive oil, salt, bay leaf and brown sugar starred alongside the brown butter almond crust to make this dish simply outstanding.
In the Sautéed White Asparagus with Wild Mushrooms Glazed Au Jus Grilled Mulwarra Black Angus Tenderloin and Pomme Puree (RM130), local farm button mushrooms are cooked with white asparagus in the beef jus, giving them an addictive finish.
Having experienced an enjoyable lunch, there was no need for dessert but to enjoy a drink while taking in the scenic view from where I sat.
The asparagus promotion is available from April until the end of the asparagus season.
This is an observation by the writer and not an endorsement by StarMetro