Fine-dining Indian restaurant Nadodi shines the spotlight on the many-layered cuisines of South India, and presents them with contemporary panache.
One of the most difficult things about elevating any cuisine into the realms of fine dining is the scepticism, disdain and sometimes affront that it triggers; this comes more often than not from those who grew up on it. This is especially so for those of more humble, or “ethnic”, origins; just ask Sricharan Venkatesh, Chef de Cuisine at Kuala Lumpur’s progressive fine-dining restaurant Nadodi.
“If my mom or grandmother tried the dishes we make here at Nadodi, they’ll disown me,” India-born Venkatesh laughs, not-quite-so-jokingly. “They’ll say this is not Indian food.”
Well it’s certainly not the South Indian cuisine they grew up with, but that’s mainly down to form. The progressive South Indian restaurant is unusual in Kuala Lumpur’s gastronomy scene – or much of the Indian diaspora, in fact – in that while it pays tribute to the ingredients and flavours of the Indian subcontinent, it presents them in ways you normally see in modern European dining.
But the flavours; the flavours are definitely those of India. Indeed Venkatesh, along with Head of Beverage Programme Akshar Chalwadi and Brand Director Kartik Kumar, have developed a menu that draws on their memories of growing up in the Indian subcontinent, particularly borrowing the flavours of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, as well as Sri Lanka to its south.
Their Humble Broth is a great example. Based on the traditional South Indian rasam, a tangy and piquant soup that’s pretty much prepared in every single South Indian household served as an accompaniment to any meal. Here it’s totally reimagined as a clear broth. Sweet heirloom tomatoes from Cameron Highlands are crushed by hand and mixed with spices, chilli and tamarind juice, cooked down slowly to release all the flavours, and then rendered clear. The flavours are honest and authentic, and the broth warms the soul even as it warms the belly.
There is also its version of the Puliogare, a popular South Indian tamarind rice dish usually cooked on special occasions or festive days and used as a sacred offering. But here, Nadodi substitutes rice with Chinese round barley, and then serves it up with a red snapper filet that’s been lightly grilled and smoked over charcoal.
Sometimes the restaurant pays tribute to an indigenous ingredient. In the case of the cheekily-named I Am So Prawny, it’s the young coconut, an ingredient most vital in South Indian cooking. Here the dish fully utilises the coconut and its byproducts – fermented coconut flatbread is served with a prawn kheema which incorporates coconut oil, grated fresh coconut and desiccated coconut, along with a butter churned through with kopara (copra), the fermented and dried kernels of the coconut.
Indeed you’ll find all the familiar Indian spices used at Nadodi – such as jaggery, cloves, coriander and fenugreek seeds – and other less familiar ingredients such as ajwain, asafoetida and even kal paasi (stone algae).
We loved Beneath the Cloud, which sees carefully-picked meat of the Alaskan king crab served atop a saffron curry but also crowned with a fumet foam, while sprigs of dehydrated chillies provide colour and added punch. Then there’s Silence of Our Lamb, a dish of lamb loin that would not look out of place at a modern European restaurant, except the jus accompanying it is actually a spicy rogan josh-like lamb curry.
Unusual too are the cocktails offered at Nadodi; Chalwadi’s cocktails are more than just alcoholic tipples. Many of them are gastronomic experiences in their own right. Frozen Lake, for example, sees a smoked salmon infused gin combined with fennel, basil-infused vodka and basil sugar syrup, and even gets a touch of chili oil for some kick. Or how about the Tamarind Earl Grey, a rye whiskey-based concoction that’s inspired by the puliogare?
But perhaps the most creative is their signature Rasam. This cocktail uses a house-made distillate rendered from the remains from the making of the rasam (first by sous-vide in vodka, and then redistilled in a rotary evaporator). It’s a great example in the practice of sustainability as well as the collaborative nature in which a restaurant’s kitchen can work with its bar.
“Our cuisine is also constantly evolving because of where we are — Malaysia, a vibrant, multi-cultural country with diverse Malay, Chinese, and Indian culinary influences. We try to incorporate ingredients that are synonymous with Malaysian culture, paying homage to where we are today,” muses Venkatesh.
It’s perhaps the combination of creativity, modern technique and authentic South Indian flavours that’s helped it attain some degree of notice. Since launching in 2017, Nadodi has landed accolades like Most Innovative Restaurant 2016/2017 at the 20th Malaysia Tourism Awards, and the Best New Opening at the Time Out Food and Drink 2017 and 2018 awards.
In fact, at the rate Nadodi is gaining culinary recognition for its take on South Indian cuisine we’re rather sure Venkatesh’s family won’t disown him. No, his mother would be really proud that he and his team are elevating South Indian cuisine into global consciousness.
Dinner at Nadodi costs MYR 360++, MYR 430++, and MYR 490++ for 7-Mile Journey (seven courses), 9-Mile Journey and 11-Mile Journey respectively. There’s also a 11-Mile Journey vegetarian option available at MYR 450++. Liquid degustation (cocktail pairings) are an additional MYR 260++, or MYR 280++ for wine pairing.
Address Lot 183, 1st Floor Jalan Mayang, Off, Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, Kampung Baru, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 6pm to 11pm Mondays to Saturdays
Tel (603) 2181 4334 or (601) 7296 9520