The House of Krug’s name elicits nods of appreciation from true champagne connoisseurs, frequently touted as the producer of the world’s most luxurious and exclusive bottles, with even new vintages being difficult to obtain. But appreciating the French champagne goes beyond it being a tipple of choice: “We speak about Krug lovers. We call our consumers lovers because we fall in love with the brand and it is for life,” says Patrick Madendjian, Managing Director of Moët Hennessy Diageo Singapore & Malaysia.
Madendjian flew into Penang to induct one such Krug lover, chef patron Kim Hock Su of Au Jardin as a Krug Ambassade Chef. The one-Michelin-starred establishment in Penang recently retained its accolade for the second year running and is easily the island’s most renowned fine dining restaurant.
Su joins an elite list of only 120 chefs globally, the first in Penang and only the second in the country after Chef James Won, who are selected based on their culinary expertise, passion for exceptional quality, and an understanding of the nuances of pairing food with Krug Champagnes.
Despite being a highly decorated chef who has played a role in spotlighting not only Penang but also Malaysia’s culinary excellence and the ability of local talent to contribute to the world of fine dining, being a Krug Ambassade is much more than a feather in the 37-year old’s cap (or rather, toque).
“We have to thank Patrick for fighting for us,” Su says. “We have wanted to be a Krug Ambassade since day one of Au Jardin. We have been talking to Moët Hennessy Diageo for the longest time. We are super privileged, and it means a lot to us.”
A French citizen with a demonstrated history in the industry, Madendjian’s passion for luxury spirits was evident as his eyes sparkled as he spoke about Krug, why Chef Su was ultimately selected, and how the chef reflects the spirit of the House.
“Chef Su approached us and told us that he was passionate about Krug and would love to work closely with us. When you have a chef who kind of declares his love to you, you have to fall in love in return,” Madendjian says. “We started to research the chef and looked at his ethos. Chef Su is someone who looks at the gastronomy as a community. Helping the whole community to grow is super important as it is the essence of the Krug Ambassade, a family of chefs. When you look at them, they are all rock stars.”
Deserving of a Bouquet of Orchids
Each year, the House pays tribute to a ‘Single Ingredient’, and master chefs are tasked with creating recipes that showcase its versatility and limitless potential, just as they did with the humble grape. These are, of course, paired with an exceptional glass of Krug Grande Cuvée or Krug Rosé.
I had an exclusive first look at a multi-course menu centred on this year’s theme, Flowers. “If you look at flowers in general, the spectrum is huge,” Su says. “We found it interesting. We tried to include flowers that have vibrant colours but also carry characteristics at the same time. We saw it as something that encouraged us to think outside the box.”
As the cork of a Krug Grande Cuvée 171ème Édition was popped, my remarkable dining experience commenced with an amuse-bouche quartet. This included Thosai Bread, which was made in-house, paired with what seemed to be an unassuming heirloom tomato but was actually Tomato Chutney Butter. This was ingeniously fashioned in a mould to assume its shape and then dipped in refined curry leaves blended with coconut oil for a punch of zesty flavours. The course ended splendidly with the vivacious bubbles of a Krug Grande Cuvée 171ème Édition, with tasting notes recalling the captivating aroma of flowers in bloom.
The poetic beauty of flora and fauna was encapsulated in a tartlet of local ferns and herbs, appearing like a miniature garden on my plate. With a tartlet made of local seaweed forming the crispy base, foraged ferns and farmed flowers—including vibrant blue Borage flowers with a taste almost resembling oysters—were laid on a bed of Malaysian skipjack tuna and caviar. This paired splendidly with the velvety, rich and slightly tangy taste of the Beurre Blanc Espuma.
Another exceptional dish was an ode to Highland Cabbage, where we began with a creamy white Cabbage Anglaise topped with a refreshing and slightly peppery Red Cabbage sorbet. This was taken in between mouthfuls of a Cabbage Crostini base topped with Hericium mushroom with a tender texture that mimics crab and smoked Cabbage. The sweet ending of burst-in-your-mouth ikura added depth to the chunky texture of the crispy cabbage for two absolutely delightful mouthfuls.
Au Jardin’s pairing menu that will feature Krug champagnes as house pours will be launched after the Chinese New Year season.
More photos of Au Jardin and Krug
Photography: Norlman Lo