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An odyssey of taste with Darren Chin

Chef Darren Chin creates an exquisite seven-course cognac pairing menu with Hennessy XO

Following the success of last year’s edition of the Hennessy XO Odyssey, the specially curated dining experience makes a welcome return in the form of a seven-course dinner at DC Restaurant.

The man leading the journey is none other than the restaurant’s chef-owner, Darren Chin, who firmly embraces the philosophy of ‘la Jeune Cuisine’ (young cuisine) in bringing out the best from Asian and European ingredients. We spoke to Darren to know more about the thinking processes, ingredients and work that went into creating the culinary odyssey that showcases Hennessy XO’s tasting notes.

The Hennessy XO Odyssey is available to the public from July 18 to August 15, every Tuesday to Sunday at DC Restaurant. Dinner is priced at RM888++ per guest and includes Hennessy XO pairings.

Sweet Notes: Botan Ebi with heirloom tomato granite, konbu, lemon basil and chilli oil
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Sweet Notes: Botan Ebi with heirloom tomato granite, konbu, lemon basil and chilli oil

Paired with Hennessy XO, on the rocks

Dinner starts off with a sweet offering of Botan Ebi, one of the most sought-after sashimi prawns harvested from the Hokkaido and Toyama prefectures in Japan. ‘We wanted to do something different for starters and we thought lobster, while great, is an ingredient we’ve done before. So we paired Botan Ebi with tomatoes from our garden to accentuate the sweetness of the prawns and Hennessy XO,’ said Darren. The result is a dish that goes perfectly with the iconic cognac on the rocks, setting the tone for the rest of the evening.

Infinite Echo: Takao cold somen with Ogawa Bafun uni and truffle celeriac cream
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Infinite Echo: Takao cold somen with Ogawa Bafun uni and truffle celeriac cream

Paired with Hennessy XO, with a splash of water

The fresh-tasting start is followed by the Infinite Echo, named after the delicate sweetness of uni that lingers on the palate. ‘It’s a dish that has been on the menu for the past three years, and has evolved to a point where it’s as good as it will be. It’s a true representation of my cuisine,’ he said.

The dish comprises two main elements: Takao somen noodles, which is marinated in a sauce made from mentaiko, kombu and a sourish ponzu sauce; and Ogawa Bafun uni, which sits atop the noodles. ‘We named the brands (Takao and Ogawa) in this dish because we wanted to make clear that we’re serious about sourcing the best ingredients for the right recipe,’ said Darren, adding that the particular brand of noodles was chosen from a list of 20, while the Ogawa Bafun uni is ‘one of the best that money can buy’.

‘The Bafun is a type of uni that comes only from Hokkaido; it’s smaller, has a slight bitter aftertaste but a sweet finish. It also has the right balance of minerality, which is what brings out the “infinite echo” when paired with Hennessy XO,’ he said.

Wood Crunches: Spring Galician octopus, green gazpacho and burnt leeks in dark rye crumbs
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Wood Crunches: Spring Galician octopus, green gazpacho and burnt leeks in dark rye crumbs

Paired with Hennessy XO, with warm water

Following the Japanese-influenced dish is another seafood offering, this time featuring one of Europe’s finest ingredients: Galician octopus. ‘I find that its texture and taste is something that guests can savour in small quantities. The “wood crunch” aspect comes from the leeks, which are burnt over coals and coated in a dry rye to give the dish crunchiness and a slightly sour aftertaste,’ he said.

Playing a key role in rounding out the dish is the green gazpacho – a recipe Darren picked up during his excursions to Bali – made from green papaya, avocado, green chillis and coriander. ‘Rather than going with the familiar tomato-based gazpacho, I went with a green gazpacho that adds a level of freshness to the dish, and balances out the heavy flavours,’ he said.

Spicy Edge: Snow crab consommé infused with lemon balm; Japanese snow crab, white asparagus and culantro nam kim
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Spicy Edge: Snow crab consommé infused with lemon balm; Japanese snow crab, white asparagus and culantro nam kim

Paired with Hennessy XO, with warm water

The Odyssey then goes from Europe back to Asia with a two-part dish centred around the Japanese snow crab. Served first is the crab consommé, which is followed by the crabmeat served with crab sauce and summer truffle. ‘The two-part dish came about because we wanted to use every part of the crab. We didn’t want to throw away the shell, so we boiled it – without seasoning – and made a broth, which we then infused with lemon balm, a herb that’s similar to verbena but with a lemony aftertaste,’ he said.

The second part of the dish highlights the snow crab meat, which has a finer texture and sweeter taste when compared with Alaskan king crab meat. The dish is complemented with a familiar Thai element: nam kim, a dipping sauce made with lime juice, salt and sugar, which is made unique with the addition of culantro, a type of long-leaf coriander that has more floral notes compared with the more grassy-tasting coriander. ‘To round it all off, we added a sauce made from the intestines of the crab, which gives it an intense, crabby flavour. My cuisine is all about texture, flavour and balance – and this dish encapsulates it,’ he said.

Flowing Flame: Organic chicken marinated in betutu spice, celeriac-carotene sauce and grilled heirloom parsnips
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Flowing Flame: Organic chicken marinated in betutu spice, celeriac-carotene sauce and grilled heirloom parsnips

Paired with Hennessy XO, with a splash of cold water and ice

Also inspired by Darren’s trips to Bali, the chicken dish is made from organic chicken marinated overnight with spices used in making ayam betutu, a Balinese roasted chicken. ‘I toned down the spiciness so as not to overwhelm the complex flavours of the cognac, while maintaining the betutu spices such as galangal, turmeric, ginger, red onions and garlic,’ he said.

The hero of the dish is the chicken, which is sourced from Uncle Rani’s Chicken Farm, an organic farm based in Kuang. The livestock there is raised ethically and healthily, ensuring that they taste good – so good, in fact, that Darren ranks it as one of the world’s best. ‘I’ve tried the best poultry that money can buy – pigeon de bresse, poulet de bresse, Italian Chapon – and this is better,’ he said. ‘It’s very important to me to emphasise the source of ingredients and the respect of how the product is being raised and delivered to us.’

Rising Heat: Italian veal fillet poached in milk and lightly grilled foie gras, served with red kampot pepper emulsion
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Rising Heat: Italian veal fillet poached in milk and lightly grilled foie gras, served with red kampot pepper emulsion

Paired with Hennessy XO, neat

Ending the night’s savoury dishes is a luxurious dish of Italian veal sourced from the northern part of Italy which carries a beautiful texture and flavour. The other wow factor of the dish comes from the Cambodian kampot pepper, which is incorporated into the foie gras-based sauce – a mix of Eastern and Western influences that summarises the dinner’s goal of taking the diner on a global gastronomic odyssey. ‘The idea of “rising heat” comes from the kampot pepper, an appellation d’origine protégé (AOP) product that comes in three variants: white, red and black. We chose the red pepper because it has a floral, almost candy-like taste that isn’t as spicy compared to its black variant,’ he said.

Chocolate Lull: 100% Arabica coffee ice cream, spiced hairy banana, M’hencha and lemon chantilly
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Chocolate Lull: 100% Arabica coffee ice cream, spiced hairy banana, M’hencha and lemon chantilly

Paired with Hennessy XO, neat

The dinner ends on a bittersweet note of chocolate, coffee and bananas: a familiar combination that’s elevated when paired with cognac that’s drunk neat. The hairy bananas used in this dish are spiced with cinnamon, clove and anise before being grilled, while M’hencha is a Moroccan cake that adds texture to the dessert. ‘The bitterness of Arabica coffee paired with Hennessy XO is the perfect marriage that accentuates the bitterness of the cacao in the chocolate,’ he said.

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