It was a quiet weekday mid-afternoon at Sri Hartamas. We had gone a little out of our way to seek out a cosy little cafe. Urban Spoon, it was named; almost cliche, I thought to myself. The neon blue signage did not indicate that it was a cafe that I would normally frequent. However, the moment we stepped in, we took pleasure in the slightly rustic yet contemporary setting. It was to be an afternoon of leisurely dining.
As it would transpire, it wasn’t to be the only time during this visit that initial indications fool me.
Hunger takes hold of me, and I agree to an order of carrot and orange soup – a bewildering combination to imagine. That has always been what I thought of fusion cuisine anyway – strange. The idea of merging two completely different flavours didn’t seem to sit right with me. That is, until I had a taste of what Urban Spoon had to offer. Deconstructing the whole idea of the concept with my own food insights, I would think that it started of as a basic carrot soup. Characterless. Uninspiring. Boring. Breaking convention, onions were added for sweetness and texture, and balanced out with orange for an unexpected twist of sweet-sourness. Bordering between sweet and savoury, in came fresh, chunky shrimp to give the soup its identity without robbing it of its personality.
That, I’d like to think, is the whole ideology behind the fusion cuisine at Urban Spoon. It’s not about taking two heterogeneously-evolved dishes and simply merging them. It’s about taking base ingredients without limiting to the “usual” ingredients, and evolving the dish as a whole.
Magic. I could hardly notice any strange (I would imagine) orange flavour in my savoury soup.
My love for deep-fried battered food has never run very deep; the perfect stage for Urban Spoon’s stuffed jalepenos to take me by surprise. I had imagined that they would be overly oily and taste mostly like batter, but it was the complete opposite. The batter served its purpose – to keep the jalapeno’s flavours locked in; and there certainly is a lot of flavour to lock in. So much sweetness locked within its tender green shell, masking the creeping spicy burn that eventually filled the back of my throat. It’s the kind of spicy that packs a punch and gives you a kick, without robbing you of the ability to feel your tongue. My lovely companion did not seem to enjoy it as much as I did (she’s never been a fan of stuffed chillies of any sort), and I didn’t make much effort to pretend to be disappointed. After all, more for me.
Even their mojitos (my favourite cocktail) couldn’t escape a little reinvention. I noticed strong notes of ginger in my mojito; very pleasantly refreshing. Extra combo points for having it right after a spicy appetizer!
Fish is hardly my first choice of mains when I have the option of beef or lamb; but this time I decided to just give in to the faith that I have for Urban Spoon’s chef, Tawfeeq Seow, whose 18 years of experience (including being an executive chef at the prestigious JW Marriot hotel in KL) clearly makes a testament for itself. While the supremely fresh and immaculately cooked cod is an important base, and the vegetables and trimmings are also very important to the overall impact of the dish, I would have to say that if a single element defines the entire dish, it would have to be the sauce. What initially seemed like balsamic vinegar reduction (yummy!) was in fact far beyond. Hints of cinnamon and spice, among other more subtle notes (super yummy!) prevailed alongside the balsamic base. I would perhaps say this has been the best fish dish I had ever eaten in my life, and I wouldn’t hesitate in ordering it again during my next visit.
I guess it goes to show, that sometimes, you can’t let your first impressions lead your decisions. We have to look beyond the cliche and the quirks. The menu at Urban Spoon goes beyond fusion. I would describe it as “freedom”.