Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Espresso in KL.

with Prof. Massi and Prof. Francesca

I have waxed lyrical about espresso before...and to the depths of trouble addicts like us...um, me take to get the prefect espresso. Click here to read how my guru, Prof. Thanet roasts and brews his coffee.

The perfect cup of espresso remains the holy grail. Italy have many little cafes who continue to make fantastic espresso decade after decade, but outside of Italy, good espresso is kind of hard to find. The ubiquitous Starbucks is a joke amongst espresso connoisseurs - their coffee is always over-roasted, bland and tasteless...one dimensional. This is done on purpose, in the name of quality (the ISO kind) so their coffee tastes the same everywhere, which necessitates the lowest common denominator. However, there are small stores here and there which make good espresso to satisfy our delicate palate. Mecca by King and George Streets in downtown Sydney is one such place. Paul Bassett's own cafe in Tokyo is quite interesting...a rose amongst the siphon community, where expensive beans are the order of the day, and not many spend time to make espresso. A few establishments in Seattle, New York City, San Francisco are also good.

My own coffee journey, sometimes seem to be a struggle for good espresso has its interesting experiences and tastings. My Italian friends, originally from Firenze (wow, what a beautiful city if there ever was one) but now teach at SMU, offered to take me to an espresso place in KL, right opposite the hotel we were staying where we were part of the judging panel of the Journey Through Time Watch Exhibition in Starhill.

We crossed over to Pavillon - a spanking new shopping centre right where Bukit Bintang Girls School used to be. Right smack in the middle of KL's Golden Triangle. Espressamente - an shop which is run by the famous Italian coffee roasters Illy. However, amongst home roasters, who have super fresh coffee (consumed between 2 days and 8 days of roasting) at their disposal, this usually means stale coffee...roasted in Italy...who knows how long ago.

But the barista in Espressamente know their stuff. Clean machine...La Marzocco, no less...ground in a Mazzer...but alas not on demand by the cup...the ground coffee sat in the dispenser...I am not sure how long it sat there since being ground. But this shop has a rather high turnover..so perhaps an hour. I know my Coffee Green buddies are cringing...as am I...an hour of grounds are stale.

The menu was quite interesting...with many variants based on espresso only found in Italy. Massi had a kind of macchiato...and Francesca had a cappucinno. I ordered a espresso doppio.

The latte art was reasonable...that they even attempted is an achievement. But the image was not defined, or clear. Well...Francesca enjoyed her cup.

My espresso had a great big head of crema. And it was a rather huge cup...larger than a doppio should be.

The color of the crema is light brown...hmm...would have preferred a deeper shade, and some molting - tiger stripes as observed if one has a naked portafilter. My first thought was that, ah...the Illy beans have Robusta in them...so big crema, but large bubbles, will dissipate quickly...but I was wrong. The crema sat for quite a while. Even a spoonful of sugar took a while to settle...impressive.

A quick whiff before drinking...on the nose, not particularly intense...kind of standard espresso. On the palate, it was typical commercial blend...a bit bitter, with a small undertone. A bit two dimensional. The mouth feel was fair...no thick, liqourice mouth feel. Medium body, slight acidity. Very little after taste. Not bad...much better than Starbucks, or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, but this was no Mecca or Paul Bassett.

Ground Floor
The Pavillon
Bukit Bintang Road
Kuala Lumpur
AFAIK, they have only one outlet in Singapore...a kiosk outside Tangs.

Photonote: don't know why the colour of the crema is different in the two espresso pictures. I think the WB is correct for both, as can be seen, both cups are similar. The colour of the crema was more like the first picture of the espresso than the second.
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