There had been much hype about this restaurant, nestled within KDU university’s campus at the very interestingly dubbed Utropolis in Shah Alam. Helmed by the Les Amis trained chef Darren Teoh, they’re known as Dewakan, which is an amalgamation of Dewa (God) and Makan (Eat). Their purpose is true, which is to express the local Malaysian bounty through their cuisine in a farm-to-table sort of manner. I reckon it’s about time for this movement to happen, and I was very much looking forward to this meal. I was also particularly keen to see if the chef picked up a few tricks whilst he staged at Noma, which I had the pleasure of dining at in Tokyo (Read Here).
Sitting unassumingly on the table was what we thought to be a table ornament. Soon the waiters presented to us a sauce of local fermented fish mayonnaise dipping sauce, and it was revealed that the ornament contained some edible twigs! The texture of the “twig” had some crunch to it, although I wonder if it was wise to leave it on table with the risk of losing its integrity. The flavour itself was a bit bland, but augmented by the potent but delicious mayonnaise, which made the dish truly shine. The flavours were redolent of the fish crackers that is commonplace within Malaysia.
The next amuse that came forth was their take on the Malaysian cucur with kerisik and shaved duck and spinach. The flavours were decent and had good texture, although lacking a bit of flavour punch to the dish.
The final amuse was a fried wantan of sorts, containing lamb ragout and jackfruit. I definitely give it to the chef for his attempts to blend local ingredients with the Western techniques. The fried wantan was crispy, but the inner bits were a tad too hot when served. The lamb ragout itself was tasty albeit the dish could have used more jackfruit, which was almost non-existent.
In lieu of the razor clam stated in the menu, we were served a raw local mackerel with local herbs used for the traditional ulam, bunga telang (butterfly pea flower, with the genus and species also known as the Clitoria ternatea), pomelo and a side of what I recall as lime jus. The flavours were delicate and well balanced, and the pomelo was notably sweet and pleasant. The jus on the side rounded the dish off by providing a good dose of acidity. A refreshing start to the meal.
The next dish was a well presented plate of roasted and raw king oyster mushrooms with green curry paste, yoghurt, and dried mackerel flakes. Slivers of raw mushrooms were served on the side, which honestly were a bit lost with the potent green curry paste. The roasted mushrooms had good flavour and texture, which paired well with the yoghurt sauce.
Subsequently, we were served a striking dish of roasted egg plant with garlic emulsion, jackfruit nuts infused with herbs, edible twigs and potato glass. The flavours of this dish were rather delicious, and the texture and look of the potato glass was brilliant. Definitely the highlight of the meal thus far. That said, this was a deviation from the menu which was not mentioned by the waitstaff. Certainly a lesson learned I reckon is to better manage the customer’s expectations, as we were looking forward to the forbidden rice porridge.
The following dish was red prawn tartare with fiddlehead ferns, pegaga and bunga telang dressing, and a grilled prawn on the side. The combination of flavours from the prawn tartare and the crisped fiddlehead fern and fried prawn shell was good, but the tartare by itself was a tad too fishy for my liking. The grilled prawn on the side was well cooked, but could have used a touch more seasoning.
The following main was a charcoal roasted corn-fed chicken, chicken ragout with betel leaf, and a puree of kailan. The chicken really tasted of chicken, which is a good thing! Unfortunately the chicken was overcooked, and the skin could have been better crisped. The chicken ragout with betel leaf was decent but not particularly interesting.
What came next was pomfret steamed over turmeric leaves, with water chestnut foam and a side of local vegetables, salted egg yolk, sweet potato crisps, and slivers of water chestnuts. Now, being born and bred in a Chinese family, steamed pomfret is a staple dish that we have in our family meals, thus I was curious to see the chef’s take on this dish. The steamed pomfret was very light albeit unfortunately a bit overcooked. The vegetables on the side were quite nice, but the salted egg yolk bit seemed a bit disconnected from the dish. This course had much potential, but cookery could have been a bit more tighter and cohesive.
For the final main course, we had a confit of lamb breast with spring onions, onion and Marsala puree, and pickled rose petals. The cookery of the lamb was very good and luscious, whilst the addition of the pickled rose petals brought some acidity and texture to the dish. The Marsala and onion puree was decent but too sweet for my liking. Probably the best cooked meat of this meal, especially with the addition of the pickled rose petals.
For the first dessert course, was a dehydrated cashew nut crumble, with white chocolate, Mulberry ice and jam. The dehydrated cashew nut had good flavour, and was well balanced with some of the sourness from the Mulberry. The white chocolate “candy” had an interesting, almost chewy texture to it.
The following dessert was a beautifully presented Gula Melaka marquise with gula melaka cookie, shards of sour meringue, topped off by the very striking bunga telang and a side of pulut ice cream. I particularly enjoyed the rich flavours of the pulut ice cream and the Gula Melaka marquise paired with the sour meringue, albeit the dish could have done without the cookie in the middle.
Replacing the smoked chocolate with banana, was a dark chocolate tart with jackfruit and green bean crust, served with an “Air Batu Kacang” ice cream. The tart itself was decent, punctuated by the flavour of the dark chocolate and jackfruit. The ABC ice cream itself was skewing towards the flavour of red bean, and was not particularly impressive.
We capped off the meal with some handmade popsicles of pineapple and coriander, and melon. The pineapple popsicle was brimming with pineapple flavour, but the addition of the coriander seemed superfluous. The melon popsicle itself had an odd flavour that was mildly unpleasant.
Rough around the edges, the service at Dewakan was decent and the ambitions are high. The food itself highlighted a lot of the local bounty, albeit the execution and flavours could use a bit more refinement and depth if it wishes to contend with the big boys across the globe. That said, there’s plenty of potential for the restaurant, and I reckon farm-to-table is undoubtedly the way forward for the future for cuisine around the globe, which is more sustainable and highlights the diversity and beauty of oft ignored local ingredients.
Location: Lower Ground flr, KDU University College, Utropolis Glenmarie, Jalan Kontraktor U1/14, Seksyen U1, 40150 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia. +60355650767. Website