Malcolm Goh is wading into unchartered waters with the launch of Define: Food, his brand new restaurant perched along the popular Boulevard strip in Mid Valley. The eatery was set up in partnership with Ryan Yeoh (who runs the management side of the eatery) and Bryan Loo (of Chatime fame) and is owned and operated under Loo’s Loob Holding Sdn Bhd umbrella.
It is also the very first restaurant kitchen that Goh – who has helmed Asian Food Channel shows like Great Dinners of the World and Back to the Streets – has captained.
“I think it is the next progression in my career, because I’ve already tapped into TV shows, competitions, and universities, so I wanted to know what it is like to set up a restaurant. Instead of always having someone lead me, it is an opportunity for me to step into those shoes and see what it is like to actually run a restaurant,” he says.
Goh says it has been a steep learning curve, as he never had to deal with the nitty gritty realities of heading a restaurant kitchen before this.
“Now I realise it’s the small things that take up a lot of time during your day, like dealing with machine breakdowns, ingredients running out and layan-ing all the chefs. So it’s very different from just worrying about how to cook your fish and steak on any given day – it’s a lot more,” he says.
Define: Food itself is warm and inviting, with an open kitchen immediately catching the eye (“We have nothing to hide,” jokes Yeoh). Natural light streams in from the glass panels and the overall feel is one of cosy cheerfulness. There are few airs about the place, and it doesn’t really seem to scream “celebrity chef’s joint”!
Which is just as well, because Goh is keen to disassociate from the celebrity tag. “I hope people come for the food, not the celebrity association. I like it that way. I just want to focus on the food,” he says.
And there’s plenty to focus on in terms of the food, which is a wide smorgasbord of modern European influenced dishes. Goh took a lot of his direction from Yeoh and Loo, who are both seasoned travellers and die-hard foodies. The two took notes and pictures of food they had eaten or were inspired by and channelled this information to Goh, who tried to replicate these concoctions and eventually decide if they were realistic menu options.
Most of the elements on the menu are made from scratch, including things like bread and dessert. Yeoh says this is a conscious decision, as the team is very determined to keep the quality of the food high.
“Honestly speaking, our margins are not as great as other restaurants but we hope to show people that it can be done,” he says.
There are a lot of enticing-sounding things on the menu, but you might want to start with the classic mushroom soup (RM18). The soup is made using three mushrooms – button, shiitake and oyster, before being finished off with dried porcini mushrooms.
The entire mixture is then topped with truffle oil, mascarpone cheese and sautéed mushrooms. As a result, you’ll get a thick, almost pasty concoction with intense, complex mushroom flavours elevated by opulent truffle oil and soft, dense mascarpone cheese.
The soup is a tad salty, but once you mix it vigorously, it comes together nicely. And the crunchy garlic bread is really, really addictive!
The roasted tomato soup (RM18) is just as good – a smooth operator that has basil foam, parmesan grissini and pesto Genovese in it, with sundried tomatoes floating languidly atop. The soup is fresh and zesty with rich tomato flavours – it is one of those totally comforting things that will leave you with a lingering feeling of warmth and nourishment.
From the brunch menu, you can opt to have the Atlantic crab cake and eggs (RM33). The crab cake is made with 60g of pure crab meat and a little bit of egg to act as a binding agent. There are other accompaniments to this dish like the delicious béarnaise sauce and a 65°C poached egg, but it is the crab cake that is the real star here – a voluptuous ball stuffed full of plump tufts of meat from this popular crustacean.
There are quite a number of pastas on the eatery’s menu and you would do well to try some of them, including the crazy-good salted duck egg pasta (RM33). Made up of spaghetti, salted duck egg emulsion, curry leaves, smoked duck and crispy duck bacon, this is one of those sinfully good meals that calls to mind words like “heaven”.
“It wasn’t really something we came up with – we just knew the salted duck egg craze was there, so we wanted to tap into that,” says Goh. The combination of salty flavours in this dish are strong, punchy and robust, so be prepared for a total palate awakening.
Then there is the Provencal seafood risotto (RM48). The risotto is cooked in a seafood stock made from prawn and crab shells and as a result, the aquatic flavours are alive and swimming in this tomato-ey rice dish which is also filled with large tiger prawns, calamari, Pacific clams and mussels. It’s a hearty, wholesome meal that is underscored by the velvety softness of the risotto and the prevailing seafood flavours in the ensemble.
Goh came up with the honey soy glaze perch (RM35) in an effort to include something light amidst all the heavier offerings on the menu. The dish is composed of the fish, Asian cabbage slaw, ginger crustacean broth and in-house dry chilli shrimp pappardelle. It’s a reasonably well-executed dish, but one that doesn’t really leave a lasting impression – nothing really stands out or has a magnetic draw.
For dessert, there are lots of very interesting, Asian-infused options on the table. Like the Bomb Alaska (RM30) for instance. This dessert was inspired by a durian Bomb Alaska that Yeoh and Loo tried in Singapore, and this version includes pandan coconut ice cream and kaya jam, with an Italian meringue exterior and Grand Marnier flambe.
This is a revelatory sweet temptation, one that awakens every single one of your pleasure receptors. Each spoonful extracts delicious coconut-pandan-kaya flavours all entombed within a feather soft meringue encasing. It’s really hard not to fall in love at first bite.
The apple feuille de brick (RM22) is just as marvellous, and is a playful take on the classic French mille-feuille, with wafer thin pastry interspersed with apples, topped with salted caramel and enhanced by a house-made Horlicks ice-cream. The assemblage is a clever manipulation of textures and flavours – the sweet yielding of the apples, the flaky crispness of the pastry and the soft cushiony ice-cream. It’s a lovely exploration of the classic apple crumble but taken to new, improved heights.
It’s obvious that everything in this eatery is evocative of true blue comfort food – all the things you crave when life is good, bad or just plain upside down. Goh agrees and says that’s exactly what they were gunning for.
“Yes, that’s what we’re going for. We might take things off the menu and add new things, but we’ll always have comfort food in mind,” he says.
29-1, Level 1
Mid Valley City
Tel: 03-2201 1316
Open daily 11am to 11.30pm