Chef Nizar at 32 at the Mansion

Updated: 21 Sep 2012
Photos by Su Aziz

Simplicity at its best, Su Aziz savours a menu that allows ingredients to speak for themselves.

17 years of living in a Scandinavian society has altered Chef Nizar Achmad’s flavours to that of Nordic skew. On his plate is often where fresh ingredients star uninterrupted except when his Javanese up bringing add a surprising end note which is terribly pleasing.

It’s his second month starring as the guest chef at 32 at The Mansion on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah and he has a couple more weeks to go. Steadily, the 38-year old chef has created a following for his simplistic Nordic flavours – proving Penangites’ discerning palate is hungry for evolution.

Unlike the man himself, his flavours are calm, languid and straightforward. They contradict his complex and energetic self, which I suspect, stems from having one foot in his exotic birth land and another in cool, staid Sweden.

Playing with what is available on the island, he serves blanched tiger prawns lightly coated with homemade mayonnaise and dill atop paper-thin crackers. A squeeze of lemon juice onto a bite of this appetiser reflects balmy weather – fresh, zesty but with just a dash of creamy.

His playful side bubbles up in his sophisticated version of the Swedish meatballs. Keeping it simple, the meat is left to shine in its own flavour accompanied by parmesan infused mashed potatoes and whole raspberries. The latter offers a delicately crunchy texture to the velvety ones of the mash and brown sauce, making each mouthful a fun but elegant experience. The raspberry is a well thought out substitute to the cranberry jam that normally accompanies this popular Swedish export.

Besides meat, seeing his Nordic influence and training, the other option would be to order his fish dish of either cod or salmon that has been known to be done just right – crispy skinned on the outside and moist on the inside.

A forkful of Nizar’s minced meat in cream cheese wrapped in blanched then baked savoy cabbage leaves not only offers a tenderly chewy texture amidst creaminess, but is punctuated by an eyebrow raising spiciness of cili padi that surfaces on your palate as a discreet undertone. Cleverly, the chilli simply complements the creamy bit, making it quite an addictive dish. Bear in mind, he uses absolutely no flavour enhancer such as MSG in his recipes.

If this savoury offering reflects his maturity in adapting flavours to his present clientele, his desserts simply mark his boyish side with a touch of sexy. Whether you opt for his soya milk sorbet, Oreo cookie cake or melt-in-your-mouth chocolate decadence, you’re sure to find these lightly sweet indulgence a satisfying end to his meal. Just be warned that you will be cultivating an addiction – one that you can, luckily, satiate until the end of September.

Try out Chef Nizar’s menu at 32 at the Mansion here.

Tags: Features