Chef Raymond Tham of Beta KL captures the intensity and mystery of Dom Pérignon’s 2012 vintage in an all-black menu

A recent invitation to a Dom Pérignon wine pairing dinner promised “an explosive Dark Harmony experience.” At Ilham Tower, Kuala Lumpur, guests dressed in black, adhering to the dress code, mingled in the dimly lit

A recent invitation to a Dom Pérignon wine pairing dinner promised “an explosive Dark Harmony experience.” At Ilham Tower, Kuala Lumpur, guests dressed in black, adhering to the dress code, mingled in the dimly lit event hall. One of the only things that caught the light was the champagne in their hands, glistening and sparkling in the glass. The darkness shrouded the night in enigmatic mystery, but all was about to be revealed when we took our seats.

A number of items, including pebbles, charcoal, blueberries, bark, succulents, and dried flowers in various shades of black, were laid out on the table in front of us. We couldn’t help but reach out to interact with the contrasting textures, a concept perfectly in tune with the evening outing: the Dom Pérignon Vintage 2012 Dark Harmony.

How to achieve harmony without first understanding the paradoxes? Contradictions are the cornerstones of harmony, coherent through synergy. And Dom Pérignon does a fantastic job of creating vintages that perfectly encapsulate and express the multiple characters of a year.

In 2012, the vineyards of the French region of Champagne were afflicted by unpredictable climatic changes. Summers blazed with fury and winters froze mercilessly, resulting in yields that vibrated with intense energy.

As each Dom Pérignon release has its own way of reaching and embodying the spirit of the brand, the Vintage 12 fully embodies its dark side. As if to seal a spell inside a bottle, Dom Pérignon manipulated five key elements – intensity, complexity, minerality, touch and precision – to engender a dialogue between the wine and its taster. Mysterious, sensual, intense and crystalline, it is a champagne that leaves its master charmed and enchanted.

You should know that this spell was crafted with extreme care and skill. Containing and streamlining the buzzing energy and contrasting flavors is no small feat. On the nose, it is ample and varied, mixing flowers and fruits with a hint of minerality. The bouquet opens with powdery white flowers and nectariferous apricot, followed by the freshness of rhubarb and mint, then spicy white pepper. It’s enticing and seductive. On the palate, the wine quickly works its magic. A vibrant liquid exploding with effervescence gives way to complex acid and bitter notes, and ends with a tension marked by toasted and russet accents.

Dinner for the evening was prepared by none other than Chef Raymond Tham of Skillet and Beta KL. Tham impressed with a five-course menu that not only reinforced the expression of “explosive black harmony,” but also looked the part. Dishes were all black, using ingredients like charcoal, seaweed and squid ink to give selected components a dark hue. Each course represented one of the previously mentioned facets.

Starting with Intensity, the appetizer of eryngii, Avruga caviar, leek, nutmeg, Espelette pepper and fried filo pastry felt more like an overall intro. The play on textures and, again, the contrasting flavors, served as a surprisingly enjoyable dish that hit all five points. For Precision, a slab of shima aji was accompanied by a lively and lemony yuzu sauce – although no one expected it to taste that way, given its dark, muted tone. Prominent and straight to the point, he sent a clear and precise message.

Between courses, there were live performances by artist Man Chien and contemporary dancer Wei Jun. The former completed a painting made using her hands, while the latter jumped and twirled in a dance that showcased surrealism and extravagance. Oyster, Lawas rice, endive and black cardamom, crowned with blackened kaffir foam, represented Tactile. A personal favorite, the dish also overlapped a lot with Minerality. At this point, it was obvious that the dishes were equated in all facets, but were perhaps named based on their higher suitability score in one in particular.

Then comes Complexity, the Chicken and Shrimp Silkie presented in the form of a roulade and accompanied by squid ink, celeriac and Sichuan pepper juice. Its scent first captured attention – quite similar to how Vintage 2012 works, in fact – followed by a visual presentation of textures in the form of the matte black mash, glossy juice and rough roller surface. Harmonious is the best adjective to describe the dish, and it went extremely well with the champagne.

Finally, the minerality was a combination of kombu seaweed, tamarind and lime. Even though it was marked as dessert, the dish leaned more towards salty than sweet, which surprised us. That said, it didn’t perform as well as the previous dishes.

Through this culinary experience, however, one has learned to pay more attention to the palate and pick up on the notes and expressions that a chef or winemaker has intentionally infused.

Group bookings can be made in advance at Skillet for those wishing to try pairing. The menu will be available for private arrangements until September.

Skillet KL, Lot 163, 10 Jalan Perak, Kuala Lumpur. For reservations, call (03) 2181 2426.

This article was first published on June 6, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.