Thursday, March 22, 2018


The hallyu craze remains strong in Malaysia, evidenced by more Korean F&B franchises making their presence felt in the local food scene. Last November YG Foods –- a South Korean food and restaurant company headed by K-food and lifestyle celebrity Noh Hee Young as its CEO -- entered the fray with YG Republique.
The fully integrated K-style food and entertainment space chose TREC Kuala Lumpur as its base; enticing urbanites with great food, cool drinks and convivial nights out within its hipsterish, industrial vibe enclave. Warm overhead lighting lend shine to a raw backdrop of exposed brick and mortar whilst autograph scribblings and K-pop paraphernalia adorn gray feature walls.
K-PUB photo courtesy of YG Republique
Here, patrons get to experience the dynamism of Korean pop culture and entertainment as YG Republique accords the quintessential Seoul bar experience; a holistic all-in-one Korean food & dining experience with lively, entertaining vibes to boot.
The main space is devoted to Samgeori Butcher’s, a Korean BBQ/grill restaurant with an adjacent K-Pub, a Korean craft beer bar. We were told Samgeori Butcher’s has three outlets in South Korea, and a Bangkok outlet in addition to the KL outpost.
Channelling old-school Korean butchery, Samgeori Butcher’s exudes a laidback, retro-inspired interior: from its woody furnishings to vintage tableware and food presentation.
Premium pork and beef cuts are aged on premise such as the three different types of premium pork cuts cured in Cypress Pine, to imbue its delicate scent and allow the meat flavour to develop. Special sauces are developed and served to further accentuate the pork.
Pairing, sharing & gathering is the key maxim of K-Pub, YG’s answer to a Korean craft beer house. At sundown, music and entertainment draw post-work revellers through its doors in addition to the magnetic pull of mixologists’ magic and nifty bar food.
For a start, nibble on Assorted Dried Snacks imported from Korea which made great companions for beer and your fave drinks from the K-Pub, be it soju, makgeolli or maek (beer).

The runaway choice for most is inevitably chimaek, the renowned pairing of fried chicken and beer. We were instantly besotted with the delectable Garlic Sauce Fried Chicken (RM52, medium serving).
Peppered with bits of pickled bird’s eye chilli and red chilli, the chicken coated in sticky garlic sauce were scrumptious. A side dish of radish kimchi helped to cut any discernible greasiness (but there wasn’t any thankfully).

First-time patrons will do well to go with the Butcher’s Sampler (420g, RM170) comprising Spanish Iberico Pork Neck, Pork Belly & Jowl. Ample for for 2 persons to share, the meat cuts came nicely wrapped in newsprint butcher paper similar to the old days in Korea. 
The YG team acquitted the BBQ process deftly and efficiently minus any smoky residue bothering us. As we munched on assorted ban chan and two Korean salads, we had a nice time comparing notes on the cuts each of us preferred but frankly, the pork was sublime with the various sides of house dips, pickles, raw garlic and fresh lettuce.
Communal sharing is the way to go here with house specialities like the YG Special Budae Jjigae (RM60). Best shared between 2-3 persons, the robustly flavoured Korean army stew with pork, ham, sausage, kimchi, ramen and rice cakes left us feeling hot under the collar but utterly satisfied.
Chilli and spice fiends will find piquant succor from the fiery hot Spicy Squid and Pork Belly Bulgogi (RM35). Although the heat quotient caused our eyes to water and set tongues ablaze, we agreed its explosive taste was addictive enough to lure us back for repeat helpings.
YG Republique deserves a visit the next time you’re in the mood for some good K-pub nibbles and drinks, coupled with porky BBQ dining experience right in the heart of KL.
For reservations, call YG Republique, tel: 03-2110 4104. Address: HG-01 & HG-02 Hive, TREC, 438, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur.


Change is a constant in life and it's no different in the restaurant business. As of last October, Neroteca - a cosy Italian restaurant in Damansara Heights is now rebranded as Enoteca with new owners, management and chef in place. 
We had the honour of meeting the new Enoteca team recently, comprising Domenico Ferroni or Mimmo the affable Floor Manager from Roma, Annie Lim who's responsible for marketing and Abruzzo native, Chef Stefano Criber.
Positioned as a casual fine dining Italian restaurant serving up non-halal Italian cuisine, Mimmo assured us Chef Stefano strives to keep the house specialities as authentic as possible. Naturally, diners will find a handful of specialities from both Roma and Abruzzo alongside more familiar pasta, pizza, mains and dessert.
Interior-wise, the layout clad primarily in monochromatic shades remains intact. The intimate row of alcove seats are a magnet for romance seekers while a sleek floor-to-ceiling, glassy wine cellar takes pride of place at the back of the main dining space.
While we waited in anticipation for the chef's selection to be prepared, Mimmo treated us to an uplifting glass of sparkling Prosecco. The perfect ice-breaker to pave the way for the signature Tagliere Enoteca (RM99 full serving; RM50 half serving).
Freshly baked garlic focaccia served as the delicious canvas to showcase the six varieties of premium Italian cold cuts, two types of Italian cheese and antipasti: grilled vegetables and arancini (cheese stuffed rice balls deep-fried in breadcrumb coating). A substantial platter designed for sharing so it went down a storm with us from the get-go.

Octopus is the 'it' seafood now, its versatility revered by chefs from the East and West. At Enoteca, the sublime Piovra Arrosto Con Spuma Di Burrata & Pesto Rosso -- boiled and grilled octopus with mousse of burrata cheese and red Mediterranean pesto sauce knocked our socks off with its appetising textural and flavour composition, whetting our appetite for the much anticipated feast ahead.
"NO cream!" declared Mimmo when he presented the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara (RM35) with a flourish. Yup, real spaghetti carbonara doesn't include cream. Instead, the lightly rich sauce was made using eggs, black pepper and pecorino cheese. The suckerpunch of deep-seated savouriness was bestowed by bits of guanciela -- fatty Roman pork cheek bacon. It was soooo good!
Ah, rivalling the spaghetti in the taste department is Chitarra Alla Montanara, an egg pasta typical of Abruzzo; the strands cut using an implement known as chitarra (pronounced key-tahr-rah, Italian for guitar). Tossed with porcini and chunky Italian sausage in brown sauce perfumed with truffle oil, the scrumptious housemade spaghetti was a befitting tribute to Chef Stefano's roots.
Want something luxe to sink your teeth into? Then call ahead a day in advance to request for the new speciality of Chitarra Alla Aragosta. Sautéed with chunky tomatoes, the pasta embraced the delicate sweetness of lobster meat, making it a sumptuous delight to relish.
Creamy, aromatic butter sauce with crushed walnuts lent warm rusticity and comforting appeal to Cappelletti Di Ricotta, Spinaci In Salsa Di Burro Aromatico & Noci (RM32), another new menu debutante. Any Italian mama worth her salt would approve of the tender,  handmade ravioli dumplings filled with ricotta and spinach in that pool of sinfully lush sauce.
The wood-fire pizza oven on premise means this perennial Italian fave is guaranteed to be on-point. Simplest but the best representation of a true Italian pizza has to be the classic Margherita & Basilica Pizza (RM26). Generous slather of tomato sauce, lots of mozzarella and fresh basil atop a thicker than usual crust ensured this pizza was superbly satisfying. Another variant that got the nod from us was the Gorgonzola Salsiccia Pizza -- a winsome dual topping of melted gorgozola cheese and chunky housemade pork sausage.
Apple cider vinegar formed part of the marinade for the pork chops or more correctly, Costoletta Di Maiale Ai Funghi Porcini & Raviolo Di Patate & Mele Al Ginepro.
According to Chef Stefano, the meat was marinated for 24 hours before it was sou vide.  To complete the dish, the pork chop is seared and served with demi-glace alongside roast potatoes. While the saucy pork jus splatters didn't do justice to the look of the dish, we assure you the resultant taste scored highly among our dining party.
More pork for thought appeared in Stinco Di Maiale Alla Birra E Miele (RM68), Chef Stefano's signature Italian pork shank braised in red wine served with boiled vegetables. While the meat was tender, it remained toothsome to the bite and suffused with the discernible wine and herb accents. A dish evocative of a heartwarming Italian hearth and home.
Appreciative oohs and aahs were heard the minute our palates got a sampling of Tagliata Di Pluma Iberico Al Tre Pepi Su Letto Di Rucola & Carciofi Grigliati (RM105), Iberico pork neck slices with 3 types of peppercorns. Grilled and served with rocket and marinated grilled artichoke, we made short work of the yummilicious pork secretly wishing for more.
Less is more holds true when it comes to La Milanese (RM32), a deceptively pared down fried pork chop. The flattened and lightly breaded fillet cooked in clarified butter left us smitten; its juicy sweetness resonated on our tastebuds via creamy mash potatoes and the housemade yoghurt dip.
Italians are sticklers for tradition hence there's no surprises in the dessert department. Most diners wouldn't dream of leaving without the typical pick-me-upper of Tiramisu (RM24). The coffee-flavoured ladyfinger sponge layered with mascarpone was mildly laced with alcohol but upon request, you can order extra shots of grand marnier to give the dessert more boozy kick.
I particularly enjoyed Semifreddo Al Pistacchio (RM24), frozen pistachio mousse with its pistochio biscuit crust. A defyingly simple treat to leave an indelible impression if you're partial to everything nutty.
Surefire crowd-pleasing Chocolate Lava (RM28), warm molten chocolate cake with vanilla gelato is on the menu too. Dark, fluffy and oozing with liquid chocolate at the core, most people will find this too irresistible to pass up.
Again, the failsafe option is to savour the house-churned I Nostri Gelati (RM15) in a choice of pistachio, chocolate or vanilla. Served in cialde, housemade wafer 'flower' cups, the cool treats wrapped up our visit to Enoteca on a pleasantly sweet note.

For reservations, call Enoteca Italian Restaurant KL, tel: 03 2011 5725. Address: 15 & 17, Plaza Damansara, Jalan Medan Setia 1, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.