A Raw Review: Willow, W Kuala Lumpur
Hello there, it's Ronn!
A Raw Review. My column where I give my honest reviews of all the noms I have had the opportunity to try; delivering the true essence of food reviews: raw.
It's fun, casual, and simple; and I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts as much as I enjoy writing them for you.
One of my favourite things to do when I was a Lifestyle Writer at BURO was curating the monthly list of new restaurants and cafes; partly why I'm so passionate about food writing. So, it's only normal that I kickstarted the food blog with a roundup of my own.
In December 2020's list, you will notice Willow — the new restaurant that's now occupying the space in W Kuala Lumpur which was once Saint Pierre (by Chef Emmanuel Stroobant). Located on Level 8 and right in front of Flock, the spirit of hospitality and gastronomy lives on in the form of Willow.
This fine dining restaurant — formed to mirror a spring garden that embraces the willow bird when winter arrives — offers a menu utilising a modernist approach with its East meets West culinary philosophy; fusing different cultures with heart and soul. Unsurprisingly, the eye-catching decor draws you in. Dua Lipa definitely wasn't singing one look is all it takes to fall in love but you sure can imagine.
Willow is available for lunch and dinner but for this visit, I opted to have their lunch, featuring their Executive Lunch Menu — comprising of two-course and three-course options; priced at RM95+ and RM125+ respectively. #ThatIsASteal. A steal, indeed.
Well, without further a food ado, here are some of my favourite dishes from Willow:
1 | Scallop
The first of the two starters I had came in the form of pan-seared scallops with lemongrass veloute, sea foam, seaweed, and chili oil. Picture yourself being part of your favourite underwater-centric film (probably not Aquaman or Titanic). Think about the beauty and serenity that is the ocean — embodied well by this very dish.
A hint of heat fuses with the mild acidity from the delicate veloute — adequately complementing the plump scallops. If you're like me, you'll also enjoy the slightly brackish seared sides of the scallops. The sea foam and seaweed provide additional dimensions; transporting you to the divine yet mysterious ecosystem of the ocean; both in mind and palate.
2 | Hamachi
The next appetiser following the previous dish is soy cured Hamachi crude with avocado puree, tomato water, dill oil, and Granny Smith — an apt representation of East meets West in terms of appearance. Vivid shades of green dominate this dish; integrating with the beautifully arranged layers of Japanese amberjack.
While slightly saccharine on its own, you get a gustatory rush of sweetness and acidity with Granny Smith apples. Mildly piling on sweet factor is the buttery avocado puree; providing nutty and tart undertones. I love how the zesty yet mellow dish invigorated my senses and kept me excited for the mains.
3 | Short Ribs
Next on the menu are the mains and I'm kicking Round 2 off with short ribs. Alright, you know that the short ribs are the centrepiece — but can you identify the ingredient that completes the dish? Are you ready for the reveal of gastronomical proportions? Three... two... one... drop your answer.
If you guessed corn, you're right! Here you have BBQ-glazed beef short ribs with different variations of corn — in its true and glorious form, in crouton-like cubes, and as a puree. While I've never been the biggest fan of corn, I'd have to say that I was definitely swayed (even if it's just for a little).
On one hand, you have tender and sufficiently-cooked short ribs and on the other, you have tomato sauce accentuating the flavours of umami, acidity, and sweetness. I actually enjoyed having these different components on their own. The variations of corn not only helped sweeten the meat but also (surprisingly) softened what's usually a rich and heavy offering.
4 | Chicken
Chicken, chicken, something, lunch. Another option on the lunch menu is pan roasted chicken breast with eryngii mushrooms, as well as pistachio and chicken sausage. It's quite a commotion but these ingredients blended rather well, somehow.
Adequately cooked and seasoned, my favourite part of the dish was the toothsome and crispy skin. The sapid crunch definitely provided the flair while the jus amplified the meat. However, I'd be lying if I didn't acknowledge the sausage as the star of the show.
The unique concoction exudes culinary creativity — like a pistachio in a sausage (sing this line in the tune of Life Goes On by BTS). Smooth and piney pistachios added palatable dimensions — with ample crunch and texture. #MorePlease. All in all, it's a blissful dish and one worth returning for.
5 | Lychee
On the lunch menu, you'll find three dessert options: Yuzu, Cookies & Cream, and Lychee. I'll be honest; they were equally tempting but I opted for Lychee in the end. The dessert comprises of lychee panna cotta, nata de coco, coconut crumble, and lime sorbet.
If you're looking the ideal finale to a great meal, you'd want to consider this. Without being overpoweringly dulcet, the dessert really shines. The lime sorbet's thoroughly refreshing and enjoyable whereas coconut crumble presented the bite.
Aromatised with lychee (perfect for the warm Malaysian weather), the panna cotta had a gentle wobble and a floral undertone as well as a firm and silky consistency. It's a delectable conclusion but of course, I'd love to check out the other desserts too.
Willow might be new to the dining scene here in Kuala Lumpur but it sure is a welcome addition. Its menu is an amalgamation of cultures and while there's always room for improvement, there is still a lot to shout about. The music is true to W KL's playful essence (although not handled by the hotel) and the setting is any Instagrammer's ideal playground. Clearly. The team at Willow was also really attentive — ensuring that the dining session went well. It'll be really interesting to see Willow's next step; and to learn more about the people running the establishment.
Level 8, W Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur