Woo-ed and wowed
GU YUE TIEN
Lot B5-A, Chulan Square,
92 Jalan Raja Chulan,
50200 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2148 0808
The new menu at Gu Yue Tien in Kuala Lumpur is set to bowl you over as award-winning chef Frankie Woo demonstrates his expertise at combining flavours, both Chinese, Western and Japanese.
THE Panfried Cod Fillet with Wasabi Butter Soya Sauce at Gu Yue Tien is a slight variation from the award-winning dish that won Frankie Woo a gold medal at Salon Culinaire in Singapore in 1994.
Instead of cod, he used salmon in his original version with two pieces of fried salmon skin perched on the fillet sitting on a wasabi butter soya sauce.
Now we were having the cod version at his restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, and revelling in the creamy cod and crunching on the fried cod skin. Who would have thought of deglazing soya sauce with butter?
There was this rich buttery aroma that worked well with the cod, with the thin stream of wasabi on the plate giving an added kick and the rosette of pickled ginger completing the assembly.
The cod is one of the items on the new seven-course RM99++ menu that Woo has put together. There is a choice of three dishes in each course – cold dish; hot combination; shark’s fin soup; fish, prawn or crab; pork, beef or lamb; rice or noodles; and dessert. This means that there are 21 new dishes, and the talented chef thought them up in just two days!
“My mind works non-stop, thinking about fine dining dishes,” Woo said. “My inspiration comes from going out to eat and talking with friends about food.”
There is always a thread of the unusual running through the modern Chinese cuisine that Woo advocates. Before he started Gu Yue Tien, Woo was head chef at Lai Po Heen at the Regent Kuala Lumpur and already regarded as a trend-setter.
“At Salon Culinaire, the judge asked me how I got the idea of frying the salmon skin,” Woo recalled. Then the Norwegian salmon supplier tried to pry the recipe out of him.
The cod was the fourth course in the menu. We had started with the Sliced Pork with Rolled Shredded Cucumber in Spicy Garlic Sauce. This had a thin slice of chilled pork neck meat wrapped around shredded cucumber and drizzled with a Sichuan hot bean sauce laced with garlic and chilli. Pop it into your mouth, and there is the sensation of hot and sweet, like in a subtle rojak sauce, that combined delightfully with the meat and crunchy cucumber strips.
Of course, a trip here is not complete without having the Gu Yue Tien Soft Boiled Egg with Foie Gras. This is an all-time classic, a staple on the menu for the past seven years. It’s a perfectly steamed three-minute egg, topped with bits of panfried foie gras with a dash of soya sauce and black pepper. The combination of half-boiled egg and foie gras is amazing. Diners at the restaurant often ask for two or three more helpings.
This foie gras egg received rave reviews when Woo was invited by the renowned James Beard Foundation to represent Asia in a world charity event at the Rockefeller Center, New York in 1994. He cooked alongside “iron chefs” like Wolfgang Puck, Nobu Matsuhisa and Cheong Liew.
“Most chefs would poach the egg, but I steam it the Chinese way. There are four methods in Chinese cooking – cheen, char, chow, ching (fry, deepfry, stirfry and steam). The western techniques are poach, panfry and grill. There is no such method as steaming.”
Woo still holds fast to traditional Chinese cooking, as shown in his Double-boiled Golden Coin Shark’s Fin in Teochew style. The main ingredient for the stock is old chicken, and a huge pot of it is put on a roaring fire for six to seven hours to boil down the liquid to a third. You can taste the natural sweetness and the smooth thickness of the soup. This, the chef attributes to the collagen boiled out from the chicken bones. A piece of Iberico ham enhances the soup.
There’s one soup that Woo does wonderfully well, and that’s the Pig Stomach Soup. It’s hot and peppery, and you just can’t stop drinking it till the last drop!
We moved on to the Deepfried Spare Rib with Mushroom Sauce and Pumpkin Mousseline. But you could also opt for the Panfried Australia Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom Sauce or the Wok Charred Rack of Lamb.
Woo steams the spare rib for 45 minutes with Chinese herbs like pak kei, tong sum and donquai before deepfrying. The mushroom sauce is made from the stock of double-boiled mushrooms. Some pesto sauce is drizzled round the plate. Woo has counted 10 flavours in this dish, including from the herbs, the mushroom sauce, the pumpkin, the basil in the pesto sauce, and the zest from the mustard. The point is that everything comes together with aplomb, with the velvety meat falling off the bone.
The striking flavours of Woo’s food continued with the Dumpling Soup with Mian Xian or flour vermicelli. We slurped up the peppery soup and loved the almost al dente smooth noodles and the meat dumplings.
Dessert was a Durian Pancake, filled with pure D24 durian and a little cream, accompanied with ice cream.
Dimsum is also served at lunch, and there are set dinners for 10, ranging in price from RM698++ and RM798++ to RM1388++.