Gooddam is definitely not your run-of-the-mill Italian joint. No signore. The nine-month-old restaurant does not serve pizza or tiramisu, nor are these dishes particularly missed at this establishment.
“We just tell our customers that we don’t have them here,” says Gooddam head chef and co-founder Daniel Yap.
There is more to Italian food than the aforementioned dishes, and Yap is keen to introduce the flavours of Piedmont, Italy where he spent time learning the nuances of the age-old cuisine.
The space is inviting – just like the staff manning the floor, who probably learned their attentive ways from the restaurant’s co-founder Miki Maria Lie.
“We’re prepping for an event tomorrow,” says Lie, to explain the buzzing kitchen and prep table. She brings the menu, a second iteration since the restaurant’s inception, and Lie says that they hope to change it every six months.
We start with Salame Of The Day (RM20); the cool refreshing rock melon sorbet is sweet and matches the slightly salty meat slices and tangy balsamic vinegar jelly.
Next, we have the Highland Tomato (RM26) in rose syrup and watermelon radish, a great way to present fresh and plump tomatoes from Cameron Highlands, Pahang. The tomato chips and sun-dried tomatoes add crunch and texture to the scented appetiser.
Yap is known to bring back items from places he visits. He uses gula Melaka he sourced from Melaka, which is combined with a pinch of sea salt and then drizzled on cultured butter – churned at the restaurant, by the way. It goes well with their homemade sourdough bread.
Gula Melaka is also found in one of their mains, the Glazed Pork Rib (RM75). This time it is spiced, and accentuated with a balsamic vinegar glaze, fermented blueberries, puffed buckwheat and lotus root salad.
The ribs are tender and succulent, though we wish it could have been a little “wetter” with more glaze. The lotus root salad unfortunately overpowers the flavours of the meat, so it is best eaten separately, and the fermented blueberries are definitely an acquired taste.
Do order the Clam Pearl Rice Risotto (RM42) if you are a fan of clams, because there is plenty in this dish, with red snapper sashimi, topped with pickled cilantro stem and szechuan chilli oil and fried ginger.
Wait ... is that a description for a Chinese-style porridge? Why, yes it is.
“We want to give our food some local flavours. So instead of the usual Italian risotto, we have this version,” explains Yap.
Next up, Tajarin Yolk Pasta (RM45), a classic from Piedmont, that uses way more egg yolks than other pasta recipe calls for. It is made fresh and served with smoked guanciale (cured pork jowl), pecorino cheese and toasted chopped hazelnut. The pasta is eggy, and is similar to the Sabahan dish mee Tuaran, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has a homemade effect that fills not only your stomach, but your soul as well.
The best dish of the night goes to the Poached Seabass (RM65) with king spinach, fermented mustard green, charred zucchini, carrot puree, with fish bone sauce.
Everything on the plate gels well together and is strategically there for a reason. What is the reason, you may ask? To make us happy, of course.
No meal is complete without dessert and we sure hit the jackpot with the beautifully crafted Damak Chocolate Ice Cream (RM34). The chocolate is sourced from a small-scale single origin chocolate producer from Damak, Pahang, and the ice cream is made right here in Gooddam. To add to the perfection are Grappa, keluak powder and braised pear.
Gooddam also has a decent selection of wines, mostly Italian and mostly by the bottle. There is also a 10-course tasting menu (you’re encouraged to make reservations at least one day ahead), at RM238 per person (RM348 with wine).
If you are convinced that your next dinner should be at Gooddam, go with an open mind. The dishes here are the result of the interpretations by Yap, Lie and gang, with a few misses but definitely many hits.