Sparsely furnished to a fault, Mad Hatter Desserts is, quite frankly, visually indistinguishable from the litany of cafés in Damansara Uptown. But when whispers of an underrated figure with an unusual flair for pastries reached our ears, we decided it wouldn't hurt to placate our sweet tooth. Rarely seen without his signature Panama hat, self-taught pâtissier Marcus Low invited us to preview the 8-course Christmas menu at Mad Hatter Desserts. Post-visit, we daresay these desserts wouldn’t look out of place on any Michelin-starred tasting menu. Here's a teaser of what's in store:

The First Dessert Is See-Through

A veritable surprise, the base of our first dessert is clear and almost colourless, bringing Alinea's translucent pumpkin pie to mind. Golden Osmanthus Jelly, a 300-year-old Chinese dessert, is given a 21st century-resurrection by way of a dessert taco. We are instructed to pick up the circular coaster of osmanthus jelly—a tricky and slippery task—and to fold it into a half moon; lychee granite, peach gel and goji berries stand in for queso fresco, guacamole and salsa.

The Second is Assembled Before Your Eyes

"Maybe you can relate," begins Marcus. "The Tiramisu of my childhood always had the word 'Tiramisu' sifted over the top in cocoa powder. Otherwise, it wasn't legit," he jests. Using this memory as a springboard, the self-professed 'Mad Hatter' proceeds to turn Italy's most popular dessert into a Scrabble board of sorts. Theatrics are involved: using plating tweezers, neat letters fashioned from coffee cream are transferred onto Lego-sized bricks of coffee dry foam. "T-I-R-A" is spelled out on my dessert while "M-I-S-U" goes to my companion, inspiring him to send a cheesy photo to his girlfriend. "MISS U 2!"

Several Courses Put Local Fruits On A Pedestal

Marcus, a chef I’ve added to my personal pantheon, localises the art of pâtisserie by putting Southeast Asian fruits on a pedestal. Heart of jackfruit is stewed and used as a substitute for dates in a sticky pudding; binjai, labelled a 'forgotten fruit' on the internet, finds new purpose as a pudding; and mango cosies up to pomelo in a cylindrical coconut dessert. 

At Mad Hatter Desserts, little is done to disrespect the 'King of Fruits', which is served in its purest form alongside brown and black rice. And while I've heard of durian husk being turned into handmade paper, I am charmed by the news that crumb toppings can be crafted from the seeds. And why not? After all, cempedak seeds are delicious deep-fried.

Two Takes On Malaysia's 'Black Truffle'

Buah keluak, a tricky ingredient to work with, is intoxicating at its best, but slightly traumatising when gone bad. "On average, 80 percent of every batch we get is good, while 20 percent ranges from 'not as good' to fetid," divulges Marcus. While the kernels are a key ingredient in the savoury stews (Sop Rawon and Ayam Buah Keluak) of Indonesian and Peranakan cuisine, Mad Hatter suggests a new culture by going the sweet route with macarons and mochi. The combination of the latter's velveteen skin and heady filling will forever cling to my memory like Velcro.

The Final Dessert Is Superbly Spicy

Ideally placed at the end of any lengthy menu, ice cream rarely gets the boot, even if you're stuffed to the gills. It's cold. It's refreshing. And in today's case, it goes through the roof of the Scoville scale. My natural instinct is to reach for another spoonful of cucumber sorbet, but that only fans the flickering flames on my tongue, with the pickled chilli acting as hot coals. So I brave another spoonful to offset the heat, but the relief is temporary—it’s a sadomasochistic cycle of pain and pleasure. What a way to leave an impression.

The Christmas Menu 2018 at Mad Hatter Desserts is available on December 24-25th, 2018. Customers in pairs are charged RM300 nett for 8 courses (and multiple off-menu refreshments). Reach out via Whatsapp/012 370 4327 to reserve your spots.

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