By: Jade Yong
Nadodi has been pushing the envelope with South Indian flavours for over two years in Kuala Lumpur, and with each year, they hone their craft finer than ever. Such is the nature of fine fine dining - you keep up with the world and thrive, or you stay stagnant and die. There is no in-between.
Sricharan Venkatesh, the Chef de Cuisine of Nadodi, works in tandem with the team to develop new dishes and attempt at going against the grain in what we perceive Southern Indian and Sri Lankan food to be. But even he can’t help but let slip a tinge of guilt while he describes his dishes: “If my family knew I was making this dish like this, they would disown me”. We laughed about that, but fully with the knowledge that when you make changes to something so steeped in tradition, there are bound to be naysayers - family or not. The way the 28-year-old Sricharan speaks about South Indian cooking - as well as all the ingredients that lends complexity to the cuisine - reflects his obvious love and passion for the food.
Having dined at the restaurant on multiple occasions, it was nice to come back and experience its evolution. Nadodi, when it first opened, flexed hard on its ability to bring a cuisine that is so traditional, and turn it on its head, making it accessible to diners who aren’t as familiar with South Indian culture - or more specifically, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sri Lanka. It has since been through a journey of experimentation and self discovery, with many tried and tested favourites being replaced and brought back on to the menu over the past 2.5 years. Always changing, always evolving.
This new menu that has just been introduced in June reflects Nadodi’s progression since they opened. One notable point of experimentation for Chef Sricharan is in using older, less “sophisticated” grains like millet and barley in some dishes as carbohydrate substitutes. At the same time, he also marries these ingredients that are indigenous to India, with the best ingredients from around the world like Japanese yuzukoshō, scallops from Hokkaido and duck imported from France.
We started our “11 Mile Journey” with a delicious, three-part amuse bouche called Bites that set the tone for the feast to come: a beetroot “burger” with no eggs, Nadodi’s take on traditional Malaysian pietee with jackfruit seeds, garlic, and cucumber, as well as a mushroom mousse tart with Chettinad spices, and dehydrated curry leaf. There’s also a “9 Mile Journey” for those with a smaller appetite, although we really recommend the full menu, and don’t hesitate to indicate your level of comfort with spice levels, as the kitchen is all too understanding to cater to palates from all kinds of backgrounds.
Delighted with the start of our Nadodi experience, we had Duo, which is a paniyaram that was crispy fried on the outside, and sour and fluffy and tasty on the inside with a tasty anchovies and curry leaf filling; While the kola urundai is a delectable chicken meatball covered in breadcrumbs and fried, we wished we could have more!
Taste buds cheekily tantalised, the kitchen upped the ante in a big way and served up what turned out to be my editor’s favourite dish of the night - Out of the Shell - which had a big, perfectly done piece of scallop still basking in its super fresh, natural sweetness on a bed of tangy millet and curry - its colour evident from the spinach, broccoli and green chilli among other spices.
When it came to our next dish, Chef Sricharan put in some extra love and effort. The Puliogare is one that is close to his heart because it’s a traditional South Indian tangy rice dish that he grew up eating in his vegetarian household. His rendition at Nadodi features a lightly grilled, delicate red snapper that’s served over charcoal at the table, and we had it with a bed of barley - a delectable replacement to rice for this dish, thanks to the springier texture of barley - coated in a tamarind and sesame oil paste.
Our palate cleanser was the Guava - a pink guava, calamansi, chili & strawberry sorbet that was almost too pretty to eat, not to mention the flavour punch of sweet and sour. It was elegantly done, and our tongues felt awake and ready for the next step of our culinary adventure.
Thinking that the juicy scallop and delicate fish would be a hard act to follow, the next dish blew this writer out of the water. The I Am So Prawny is a prawn kheema which sits on a deliciously fragrant flatbread, and sinful kopara butter on the side. We spread kopara butter on the flatbread and took every ounce of willpower not to devour it on its own right there and then. Thank goodness we persevered, because the combination of all kopara butter on flatbread and prawn kheema was a delight for the senses. The kheema had a perfect balance of spices and its combination with coconut made this a dish I’d come back for again and again.
The Humble Broth is a soup that I’ve had all three times at Nadodi, with variations so mild it is barely noticeable. That said, it was this very tomato and drumstick rasam dish that caught my attention during my first visit, this will be something for first time diners to look forward to.
Regular diners at Nadodi know that the globe always makes its appearance at the end of our meal. This version features a savoury puri whose tender crispiness sent a shiver down our spines, and a snappy little passionfruit sambol tossed with tomatoes and grated coconut that was the perfect accompaniment to the main, which was a mouth-watering duck confit masala. At this point, we were stuffed and didn’t think we could muster any more space, but the mere taste of all three flavours combined produced such sheer delight on our taste buds that we couldn’t help but keep going for more.
Not one to shy from competition in the kitchen, Akshar Chalwadi who heads the Nadodi bar came out in full force to impress with his liquid concoctions. Akshar has won his fair share of recognition from the industry, and was even named India’s Bartender of the Year in 2011. This was evident when he served up one of the most experiential cocktails I’ve ever had, and interestingly made with the “leftovers” from the rasam broth I had earlier that night. After being used to make rasam, the tomatoes go through an infusion then extraction process to make full use of ingredients and in the kitchen’s effort to minimise waste. The cocktail is at once hot and cold, sour, sweet, frothy and oh, so delicious.
We left Nadodi with full hearts and definitely full tummies. The fact that it’s just around the corner from the architectural marvel that is the Petronas Twin Towers is the icing on the proverbial cake. Standing there looking at the towers, and reflecting on our satisfying meal, the only thing that came to mind was how in building great things, there will always be some push back. Knowing that and pursuing greatness anyway, Chef Sricharan really had no reason to feel any guilt at all!