Food + Drink

What to expect at pop-up restaurant Aziamendi 88

Where praise is due


By Buro247

What to expect at pop-up restaurant Aziamendi 88

I’m not the kind to take pictures of tiny food or to close my eyes and smell it before putting it in my mouth; if I’m being perfectly honest, I find that all terribly pretentious. But 2015 being my year of never saying no, I fell for the hype and acquiesced to a lunch at Malaysia’s first three Michelin Star pop-up restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, Chef Eneko Atxa’s Aziamendi 88. 

Chef Eneko Axta, a culinary mastermind

I was already partway sold on the fact that Chef Eneko Atxa is Spain’s youngest chef to obtain three Michelin stars for his restaurant Azurmendi, in Bilbao. Azurmendi was opened in 2005an haute cuisine restaurant with Basque influences—and received its first star from the Michelin Guide in 2007. The next two stars followed in 2010 and 2012 and then a year after, Atxa opened Aziamendi at Iniala Beach House near Phuket, which fused traditional Thai flavours with Atxa’s own Spanish roots. Iniala Beach House and Aziamendi have long combined the world of haute gastronomy with charity and art, and have transferred this concept to Aziamendi 88. The pop-up restaurant features a specially curated contemporary art exhibition by Wei-Ling Gallery. All the pieces on display are able to be bought by diners, with five percent of all proceeds donated to Inspirasia Foundation as well as United Voice Malaysia. But as well meaning as Aziamendi 88 is, a restaurant is still about food.

Amusement by Kim Ng, one of the pieces displayed at Aziamendi 88

Our reservation was for lunch on a weekday, so we opted for five courses with no alcohol because we’re busy people.  We began with one of my favourite combinations since gin and tonic: egg and truffles. My favoured rendition of this dish is shaved black truffles over scrambled eggs topped with aged parmesan for a little bite. When an egg yolk on a spoon was set in front of me, my eyes just about rolled into the back of my head. Then I put said spoon in my mouth and was transported: smooth, creamy egg yolk delicately injected with hot truffle broth (to begin the cooking process from within) burst in my mouth and soothed my patience.

Heaven will rain truffled egg

Mollified with the promise of good things to come, I was again miffed when the next course was tiny vegetables lying atop what looked like soil and to make matters worse, served on slate (what’s wrong with a normal plate?). I was further horrified when the kind waitress explained that the soil was actually beetroot (beetroot tastes like soil to me) and was almost too afraid to take a bite but as a firm believer in writing from experience and because of stupid new year’s resolutions, I took a literal plunge with my spoon. Every bite was a burst of tomatoey goodness (a most fortunate circumstance because I only started to like tomatoes about five years ago). The tiny vegetables were tiny but tasty but I began to long for something meatier.

Interestingly plated and aptly-named "The Garden"

Years of tuna sandwich lunches lovingly prepared by mum meant that the next dish of grilled tuna, fried egg, garlic cream and flowers was not my favourite. Nor is dessert because my sweet tooth applies to one great cocktail a night and then I’ve moved on to a bottle of whiskey. But in between the fish and sweet course, something magical happened. I’m not very keen on red meat and was slightly crestfallen to find out that we were having lamb. The tenderest slice of lamb shoulder was artfully placed on a pristine white plate (yaay for real plates!) with a boldly painted streak of green pesto that made my heart swell with Buro pride. I also love cheese and the parmesan ball accompaniments did not disappoint. The lamb was well-seasoned and so very tender; and the combination of lamb, pesto, pine nuts and parmesan was a transcendental experience.

Sweet little lamb

I learned a lot about myself during that lunch. I learned that gastronomy can be as artful as couture, that stuffy food can be enjoyable (especially without exhausting descriptions) and that most importantly, to never judge books by their covers and to give things a chance. Life is full of surprises and Aziamendi 88 was a spectacular one.

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