Thursday, December 08, 2005


Luxurious shark's fin soup to gargle with?? Posted by Picasa

Crisp & crackly skin is the trademark of Chef Chan's famous roast chicken Posted by Picasa

Entrance to Chef Chan's Restaurant Posted by Picasa

Dainty delights of Por Loh Bun & Egg Tarts Posted by Picasa

MAN OF SUBSTANCE

Chef Chan Chen Hei’s success is the classic story of how a poor Canton-born lad fled the mainland with his parents to seek a better life in Hong Kong, managed to emerge triumphant in his chosen vocation despite facing numerous adversities.

His family’s impoverished background made the young Chan determined to rise above it all with sheer hard work, humility and self-belief. These traits eventually caught the eye of his senior who took Chan as his protégé. It was this talented sifu who taught Chan to appreciate his heritage of Chinese culture and food.

After working with several Hong Kong restaurants, the intrepid Chan joined Hotel Inter-Continental in Singapore in 1982. He rose to fame after having impressed none other than Mr Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of Harrod’s department store in London whilst the tycoon stayed at the same hotel as a VIP guest. So enamoured was Mr Al-Fayed with Chef Chan’s culinary skills, he offered Chan to work for him in France which the chef declined.

Chef Chan’s stature and legions of fans grew during his 13-year tenure at the Pan Pacific Singapore’s Hai Tien Lo restaurant. They include former Singapore President Wee Kim Wee, Hong Kong magnate Dickson Poon, top government officials, celebrities and the media fraternity.


An active advocate of Chinese food and culture, Chef Chan is ever willing to share his expertise and knowledge with young, aspiring chefs. His first cookbook, The Art of Taste: Secrets of the Cantonese Kithcen (Chinese edition) also won the Best Chef Cookbook award at the prestigious 2003 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Three years ago, Chef Chan ventured out on his own - the Chef Chan's Restaurant is just across the road from the famous Raffles Hotel. Despite its imposing, sombre interior with black ebony walls, grey-clad tables and ornate Chinese partitions, any doom and gloom feeling is quickly dispelled by tall, soaring red columns upfront and rows of traditional Chinese lanterns painted with delicate pink lotuses that hung overhead. The restaurant also showcases media articles and photographs of Chef Chan’s halcyon days in the hotel industry and his personal collection of Chinese antique furniture and decorative pieces including an ancient horse carriage and tall imposing vases.

The cavernous main dining hall, festooned with scalloped red buntings and huge glass showcases of quaint Chinese wedding attire, is designed to cater to large group bookings, wedding banquets and formal dinners.

Chef Chan’s popularity with ordinary and VIP customers lie in his simple yet masterfully prepared dishes. His signature dish, Shark’s Fin with Braised Superior Stock and Crab Roe (RMS$26 per bowl) is the perfect epitome of his inimitable skills, immense pride and passion in doing things just right. With a rich and flavourful stock, this classical delight is faultless, redolent with thick strands of translucent shark’s fin, creamy orange-hued crab roe and chunks of crabmeat.

Another highly sought-after specialty of his is Sautéed Beef with Snow Peas and Celery (S$20) in Black Pepper Sauce. The cubed beef, marbled with just a little fat, yielded an unbelievably melt-in-the-mouth tenderness with the robust peppery sauce heightening the meat’s full-bodied flavour. Sliced celery, green pepper and snow peas added crunch and imparted their own delicate nuances.

His famous Crispy Roast Chicken (S$28 for half portion) took Chef Chan six years to perfect. Its painstaking preparation requires the chicken to be hand-held over a wok whilst hot oil is carefully ladelled over it to ensure the skin turns out crisp and crackly. Yet the chicken meat remains succulent and juicy inside – superbly exquisite when accompanied by a dash of flavoured salt or the restaurant’s piquant homemade chilli dip.

Other outstanding specialties that should satisfy even the most discerning gourmands include Nanjing Salted Duck, Baked Crispy Fresh Prawns with Spices and Prawn Balls stuffed with Pate and Wine amongst others.

Dim Sum, another of Chef Chan’s forte, is available for lunch daily. Relish the exceptional Hong Kong ‘Por Lor’ Buns (S$3.80) comprising cottony-soft buns with their sweet, crusty tops and delicately sweet custard filling. Baked Egg Tarts (S$6) is another irresistible staple, memorable for the tarts’ impossibly thin layer of flaky puff pastry and egg custard, mildly infused with ginger juice.

On your next trip to Singapore, be sure to visit Chef Chan’s Restaurant for an incomparable dining experience.

CHEF CHAN’S RESTAURANT (non-halal)
331 North Bridge Road
#01-02 & 01-05/08 Odeon Towers
Singapore 188720
Reservations: 65-6250 3363/4

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


The cosy interior of Sao Nam Posted by Picasa

Lotus Leaf Rice - A Hoi An Specialty Posted by Picasa

Edible Masterpieces...note the refined web-like wrapping Posted by Picasa

Vietnamese-style Chee Cheong Fun? Posted by Picasa

VIBRANT VIETNAMESE FLAVOURS

There is more to Vietnamese cuisine than just pho (pronounced ‘fur’), the ubiquitous flat rice noodles with sliced beef and fresh herbs. And the new Sao Nam outlet at Hartamas Shopping Centre is out to prove it with their repertoire of refined Central Vietnamese specialities with a selection of Hanoi's most popular specialities.

Did you know that Hue cuisine is regarded as the best? At the height of its halcyon days during Emperor Tu Duc’s reign (1848 – 1883), many imperial delicacies were meticulously prepared and aesthetically presented in Hue to please the artistically inclined royal. Needless to say culinary artistry were at its peak then.

In the neighbouring city of Hoi An, however, dumplings and noodles were the rage thanks to the influence and presence of Chinese traders who came in the 1700s.

Chef Tran Luong, who has invaluable working experience with renowned restaurants back in Hoi An such as the Mandarin and Emperor, is entrusted with churning out the various house delicacies. Noteworthy starters include the traditional Cha Gio Re (RM16++ for 6 pcs), prawn and chicken spring rolls with home-made wraps, Banh Cuon Hap La Sen (RM22++, 6 pcs), steamed rice rolls with chicken and shrimp mince on lotus leaf and Banh Cuon Tom Ap Chao (RM22++, 6 pcs), fried home-made rice cakes with shrimp mince.

The spring rolls were outstanding for their crispy yet thin, lacey wrapping. Painstakingly made on premise by Chef Tran Luong, the filigree web-like skins bore testimony to the chef’s deft expertise and the hallmark of fine Hue cuisine.

Both the Banh Cuon Hap La Sen and Banh Cuon Tom Ap Chaou bore their nmistakably Chinese influence. The first starter is akin to chee cheong fun (flat rice noodle rolls) but shorter in length and less greasy. Filled with a minced chicken filling and a topping of orange-hued shrimp floss and crispy deep-fried sliced shallots, the rolls are imbued with the delicate scent of its lotus leaf wrapping. Try them with the accompanying sweet bean and peanut dip or fish sauce with minced garlic and chopped chilli for different taste sensations.

Equally memorable is the fried homemade rice cakes with shrimp mince comprises pan-fried squares of thin rice flour wraps enveloping some shrimp mince.

Salads also feature prominently in Vietnamese cuisine with Goi Hoa Chuoi Ga (RM22++) or young banana flower and grilled chicken salad from Hanoi topping the list. We like its invigorating taste and varying textures.

For main dishes, we recommend Bahn Khoai (RM16++), Ga Nuong La Chanh (RM18++) and Vit Nuong Sot Cam (RM32++). Bahn Khoai is a typical Hue specialty of fried open-face pancake with chicken, prawn, fish mousse and bean sprouts. Cut into wedges, this delectable pancake with its various toppings can be enjoyed, wrapped in either fresh lettuce leaves or rice paper lined with a sprig of mint and basil. It is a scrumptious mixture of flavours with crunchy beansprouts and fresh herbs nicely balancing the richer toppings.

Another dish that will find ready acceptance amongst locals is Ga Nuong La Chanh, grilled chicken with kaffir lime leaves. The boneless chicken is succulent and flavourful, with the fine shredded kaffir lime leaves lending it a mouth-watering aroma.

Vietnam’s French colonial heritage comes to the fore in Vit Nuong Sot Cam or crispy duck with orange sauce. Similar to the famed specialty of duck à l’orange, the tender slices of duck breast with a thin layer of fat underneath its skin are aptly complemented by a mild, sweet citrusy sauce that counteracts the meat’s richness.

The Bun Bo Hue (RM14++) is the Hue version of beef noodles in soup. Slightly different from Hanoi’s popular pho bo (beef noodles), this broth is darker, more intense and full-bodied.

The Com Hap La Sen (RM18++) is the Vietnamese take on Chinese hor yip fan (steamed rice in lotus leaf). Redolent with the subtle fragrance of its lotus leaf wrapping and studded with diced chicken, dried shrimp and lotus seeds, this rice dish will probably go down well with less adventurous diners.

Round off your meal with desserts such as Che Khoai Mon (yam and sago in coconut milk, RM8++), Chuoi Chien Cot Dua (banana fritters with coconut milk sauce, RM8++), Che Long Nghan (longans stuffed with lotus seed syrup, RM8++) or Banh Flan Bi (caramel custard in pumpkin, RM16++). Otherwise a glass of Vietnamese drip coffee is just as good.

The outlet adopts a modern, minimalist approach to its décor, incorporating fabric lanterns and large colourful graphic posters. Service is informal but fast. The dishes may seem a little pricey but like its pioneer sister outlet in KL, the new Sao Nam is steadfast in upholding its food quality and taste authenticity.

SAO NAM (pork-free)
Lot P36 2nd Floor
Hartamas Shopping Centre
Plaza Damas, Jalan Sri Hartamas 1
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Reservations:6201 0225

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Tasty Curry of Minced Sea Crabs Posted by Picasa

Simple & ingenious...Salmon & Waterchestnut Salad Posted by Picasa

A Sampling of Indo-Chinese Pleasures Posted by Picasa

Romantic repast - open verandah at Tamarind Springs Posted by Picasa

Gourmet Repast at Tamarind Springs

Despite hearing so much good things about Tamarind Springs from friends and acquaintances, the inclination just wasn't there for me to seek out this destination restaurant. As we hurtle towards Ampang/Ulu Klang on the elevated highway, I really have no idea what to expect. Of course the dark storm clouds gathering on the horizon didn't help alleviate my apprehensions.

It was almost twilight when we located Tamarind Springs. Its wooden gated doorway reminded me of a luxury resort entrance - as we stepped over the threshold, it was as if we had entered into a completely different dimension. Surrounded by lush garden greenery and a descending white pebble walkway set with wooden steps and flanked by twinkling tealights on both sides, it was indeed a sight to behold. Romantic, dramatic and mysterious were what came to mind immediately.

As we made our way to the restaurant proper, we passed a large pond filled with water lilies and a tinkling fountain. Above us the trees are aglow from the cocoon-like lanterns suspended in midair. Staff dressed in traditional Indo-Chinese attire welcomed and ushered us to a semi al fresco verandah, overlooking the verdant jungle nearby.

Tamarind Springs was aptly named after the waterway that winds through the restaurant's property. While its sister outlet Tamarind Hill specialises in Thai cuisine, Tamarind Springs serves modern, refined interpretations of Indo-Chinese cuisine by Executive Chef Somkhuan Wandee. This Chiang Mai native who acquired her culinary skills from her mother, is greatly inspired by her grandmother who once had the honour of serving the King Of Siam.

The Indo-Chinese menu comprises a repertoire of Laotian, Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisines. Laotian food share many similarities with Thai cuisine for its robustness and liberal use of spices while Cambodian food is influenced by Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines.

As one of the participanting outlets in the Kuala Lumpur International Gourmet Festival that will be held from November 10 to December 8, 2005, Tamarind Springs has planned a special Festival Menu priced at RM280++ for 2 persons. But do check out their a la carte menu too which is just as exotic and exquisite.

The visual and palate-pleasing Tamarind Springs Platter comprising hor d’oeuvres of omelette rolls, meang kam, steamed mussels dressed and tomato stuffed with minced chicken. Each of these appetizers teases the tastebuds with their varied nuances but the miniature meang kam parcels of crushed peanuts, finely diced shallots and ginger, dry-fried coconut, diced fresh lime and dried shrimp wrapped in betel leaves are particularly outstanding.

Another appetiser of Salmon Sashimi and Water Chestnut with a distinctive Laotian house dressing is equally memorable for its concoction of briny fish sauce, fresh lime juice, grated ginger and bird’s eye chillies giving added zing to the succulent raw salmon. Tempered by the gentle sweetness of sliced water chestnuts, this sublime salad is given a refreshing lift with sprigs of fresh mint.

For main course, the Khmer Sea Crabs and Banana Blossom Curry is a rich, creamy and subtly spicy curry mixed with minced crabmeat and chopped banana blossom. This delectable creation came served in two crab shells accompanied by yellow glutinous rice.

The Barbequed Beef Rolls in Sugarcane exemplifies the rusticity of IndoChinese cuisine perfectly. With a sprinkling of cracked pepper and the sugarcane’s inherent sweetness clinging coyly to the grilled thin beef slices, this simple, homely dish tastes utterly divine.

Even the Broccoli and Tofu (beancurd) in Spicy Almond Sauce exudes its unique Indo-Chinese trait with the inimitable fish sauce making its presence felt in the light, spicy sauce which tops this combo of diced beancurd, broccoli florets, fried cashew nuts and shallots.

Saigon Buo Loy or glutinous balls in ginger syrup concludes this menu on a high note.

Tamarind Springs is definitely one destination restaurant that we reckon will be worthy of your time and money. Dinner is definitely more popular due to the outlet’s ethereal and romantic ambience, so prior reservations are advisable.

TAMARIND SPRINGS (pork free)
Menara Indah Clubhouse
No 1 Jalan Kerja Air Lama
68000 Ampang Selangor
Reservations: 42520836

Business hours –12 noon to 3 pm for lunch; 6 pm to 10.30 pm for dinner. Closed on Mondays.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Summery treat of Strawberries, Vanilla ice-cream and Balsamic reduction Posted by Picasa

Warm the cockles of your heart with Prawn Bisque Posted by Picasa

No weighty problems with this Japanese inspired salad! Posted by Picasa

Green is in...Soba noodles, cucumber strips and Miso-basted Cod Posted by Picasa

Mini turkey? Nope it's a Spring Chicken! Posted by Picasa

SIMPLY DELICIOUS!

OK I got a confession to make - my family and I just love going for tea at Delicious at the Ms Read boutique, One Utama.

Long before I was invited for the latest review, we just love their chocolate cake, angel hair pasta and coffees. So how did their latest dinner menu rate? Well, I'm biased so I'd say its 89% good!

Modelled after trendy bistros overseas (especially Oz we reckon), Delicious does not confine itself to any particular cuisine.

Owner, Benjamin Yong explained: “Our dishes are mainly inspired by our travels abroad and ideas from our chefs. When a menu change is imminent, we will sit down and brainstorm over what’s feasible. But customers can always be assured we will focus on our main philosophy of serving good, reasonably priced dishes with prompt, friendly service.”

Available from 6 pm onwards, the new dinner menu comprises four entrées, four mains and four desserts, with enough variety to please the different generations in any Malaysian family.

The prawn bisque (RM11.90), a light creamy soup with diced prawn and coriander is a good example. The soup’s earthy and rustic nuances will easily appeal to the tastebuds of both young and old. In fact, we thought it comparable to a rich lobster bisque.

Another guaranteed crowd pleaser is the salt and pepper squid (RM13.90). Tossed in five-spice seasoning before they are lightly pan-fried, the calamari rings are tasty bites that went perfectly with its tangy and mildly spicy Thai-style chilli dip that was separately served on the side.

Weight-watchers will find the miso tofu salad (RM13.90) a godsend. The simple, wholesome and tasty combination of butter lettuce, cold beancurd dices, wakame (Japanese seaweed), grated radish and sesame seeds tossed in a piquant vinaigrette of shoyu and wasabi-based dressing is just ingenius!

Somehow the slow-cooked lamb shank ravioli (RM16.90) failed to excite although the gently poached hand-made ravioli were stuffed with tender pieces of braised lamb shank. But I do like the arugula or rocket salad drizzled with a tangy balsamic reduction atop this ensemble.

The main course of grilled miso cod (RM29.90) on a bed of marinated cold soba and long strips of crunchy cucumber deserves top billing. Imagine the soft, buttery texture of grilled cod imbued with the delicate nuance of Japanese bean paste melding perfectly with the crisp, clear flavours of green tea soba noodles.

I love the pared-down presentation of its roasted spring chicken (RM28.90), akin to a miniature Christmas turkey. It was really tender and juicy, with enticing scents of lemon, garlic and rosemary. A mound of fragrant olive rice and grilled zucchini rounded off this delectable creation nicely.

Local flavours abound in the ‘ikan masak assam pedas’ (RM28.90), albeit with a contemporary twist. Still you’d be hard-pressed to fault the pan-fried boneless sea bass fillet with its tantalizingly spicy sauce of ground chillies, tamarind and finely sliced bunga kantan or ginger flower. Served with steamed white rice, raw ulam vegetables of cucumber, blanched long beans and okra, and traditional sambal belacan, this delightful dish will satisfy those who prefer more Malaysianised dishes.

I am not big on 'pulut hitam' but their sticky black glutinous rice (RM9.90) comes with ‘red ruby’ dices (like 'tab thim krop') crowned with a scoop of homemade coconut ice cream. Mix them up and you’d get an inherently smooth and creamy sweet porridge.

Equally superb is the ‘chendolicious’ (RM9.90) – a glass of fat, green ‘chendol’ strands and melted gula melaka (palm sugar) topped with coconut ice cream.

But my vote goes to the pear and cardamom pudding (RM11.90) - a lovely dense cake studded with poppy seeds and imbued with the delicate aroma of cardamoms. With a whole poached pear in it and some pouring cream on top, this dessert is truly to die for!

Lastly, it will take much will power not to succumb to the balsamico strawberries (RM9.90), a sublime dessert of hulled strawberries and vanilla ice cream drizzled with balsamic reduction.

What else can I say? Mmm...sedappppp! (Delicious!)

DELICIOUS BY MS READ (pork-free)
G1A Ground Floor
Bangsar Village
Bangsar
Kuala Lumpur
Reservations: 22881770

F315 First Floor
One Utama Phase 2
Bandar Utama
Petaling Jaya
Reservations: 77241086

Trio of Three Appetisers Posted by Picasa

Fancy starting with Oysters Gratin in Orange Cup? Posted by Picasa

Codfish & Mash...Quirky but Yummy! Posted by Picasa

Decadent Black&White Cake Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

JAPANESE BY DESIGN?

Anything new is bound to have advocates and detractors. So it is with chefs and restaurants that dare venture beyond the norm. Even world renowned and highly acclaimed eateries like Nobu and The Fat Duck have their fair share of accolades and criticisms.

Still it won't stop gourmands like Larry Gan from pushing the envelope with his daring restaurant ventures. After opening the trendy 'U' Japanese eatery in Bangsar, Uzen is the evolution of its sister outlet's success.

For Uzen is not your run-of-the-mill Japanese restaurant so be prepared for surprising twists when you dine there.

An ardent globe trotter, Gan and his wife, Caroline personally worked on Uzen’s interior design and menu concepts that remind them of their many overseas forays.

“From our travels, we discover that there is a vacuum in Kuala Lumpur for more sophisticated restaurants that will attract cosmopolitan travelers and local gourmands,” said Gan. “Uzen is modeled after trendy, popular eateries in London, New York and Sydney such as Nobu and The Fat Duck.”

There is no tatami mat in sight nor any kimono clad service staff. Instead, Uzen looks more like an ultra-cool, upmarket jazz club. The snazzy décor features raw, milled steel walls, custom-made furniture in futuristic designs, shiny, multi-layered tiled walls, and old railway sleeper tracks refurbished into sturdy dining tables. The lamp shapes are hanging works of art – some are wrought from traditional fishing baskets and bamboo fish traps banded with milled steel bands whilst others are fashioned into circular shades reminiscent of flirty frou frou skirts using squares of steel netting threaded and bound together. Even its tableware comprises specially commissioned clay pieces by Penang-based artist, Yee Kwai Hoong. The talented lass also worked closely with the Gans to execute the outlet’s edgy interior design.

Its extensive menu is rather ambitious given that Uzen can only seat 70 persons. Many are classical Japanese delights with an updated twist or given fresh interpretations, inspired by innovative outlets such as Nobu and Shunju.


Should you decide to dispense with the menu, leave it to the Uzen chefs to surprise you with their creations for the day. The omakase set (chef’s creations) priced between RM115 and RM175 per person gives the outlet chefs opportunity to express and surprise you with their creativity, allowing for frequent changes to the set menu using fresh, seasonal produce. “The element of surprise is always there so you can be assured of new dishes all the time,” said Gan.

Our omakase set commenced with seafood salad of sliced prawn and octopus layered between slices of lotus root, red and green peppers, and carrot. The crunchy root vegetables certainly emphasized the seafood’s freshness and delicate flavours. A simple dressing of apple vinaigrette rendered the whole ensemble refreshingly crisp and tangy.

This was followed by gratin of oysters in an orange cup with gelatine and deep-fried shredded gobo (burdock root). A sublime warm appetizer that would be remembered for its rich, creamy and indulgent nuances after the cold dish served earlier.

The fresh sashimi – slices of raw shake (salmon), kampachi (amberjack) and shiro maguro (butterfish) – came nicely presented in a hollowed ice bowl. We had a hard time deciding which of these splendid fishes taste better.

To cleanse the palate, we sipped on melon cocktail before partaking two other subsequent chef’s creations. The first comprised a piece of crisp Belgian endive filled with strips of raw tuna, salmon, squid and avocado in a mayonnaise and wasabi dressing and topped with a dollop of lumpfish roe. We like the clever interplay of flavours and textures.

Even though I found the mashed okra with salmon roe atop a slice of tomato and gelatine a little too slimy and mushy, this creation was unconventional for its textural and taste contrasts.

Our main course of gindara teriyaki (RM45++) with creamy mashed potato fared better. Basted with just a hint of teriyaki sauce to enhance the fish’s natural sweetness, the buttery cod was exquisite.

The teppanyaki ribeye (RM42++) is simplicity at its best. Teppan-fried with butter and a dash of salt, pepper, soya and minced garlic, we enjoyed every tender, succulent mouthful. Discerning diners can request for wagyu or Kobe beef (charged at prevailing market price).

Dessert ranges from macha or green tea ice cream with red bean (RM12++), dorayaki or Japanese pancake with red bean filling (RM12++) or Uzen’s cake of the day (RM10++). We had a most decadent black and white chocolate cake on the night we were there, so check on what is available for the day.

Since opening, this chic outlet has quietly drawn many a corporate captain and the city’s well-heeled high society through its doors. Uzen may just be paving the way for the next generation of edgy ‘ethnic’ restaurants to open in Kuala Lumpur.

UZEN (pork-free)
1st Floor Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Reservations: 2032 1388

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Great Oyster Fritters to start your meal Posted by Picasa

Flavourful Lamb Kebabs  Posted by Picasa

BBQ chicken Silk Road-style Posted by Picasa

FLAVOURS FROM THE SILK ROAD


Sweet surrender - Bukhara's Grand Dessert Platter

Did you know the Bukhara restaurant at Suria KLCC was actually opened to showcase the inter-cultural culinary heritage of the Silk Road pursuant to our former Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s visit to the fabled city of Bukhara in Uzbekistan?

That's right. Bukhara is not a Middle-Eastern restaurant but was named after one of the oldest Uzbek cities of the same name. Famed for its historical and architectural splendours, Bukhara is set on the great caravan crossroads, near the Taklamakan Desert where the Silk Road spans across from China to the Western World.

Consequently, the Bukhara restaurant simply encapsulates a varied selection of Central Asian specialties in its menu. Meaning diners will have an insight into this criss-crossing of Chinese, Indian, Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cultures and cuisines due to the bustling spice and silk trade along the dense network of large cities and smaller towns, starting from Xian to Istanbul from the second to fifteenth century.

What the Bukhara chefs have done is refined and modernised the visual presentation of these rustic and unsophisticated dishes while retaining the original flavours.

Our evening started off well with Taklamakan Chill (RM9.80++), an invigorating concoction of honey, ginger ale, lemon slices and mint and Shalala Sunrise (RM9.80++), a zesty blend of pineapple, orange and lemon juices.

The Lamb Shurva (RM14++), hearty lamb stew thickened with spiced lentils is a flavourful broth that must be eaten with Bukhara’s assorted homemade breads.

We had a fair idea of just how much the Middle-Eastern, Indian and Mediterranean influences have left their mark on Central Asian cuisine with the Paneer Falafel (RM16++) and Oyster Fritters (RM28++). Deliciously crisp on the outside and oozing with melted cottage cheese inside, the fried chickpea and sesame seed croquettes are representative of the first two facets whilst the fried oysters in crisp batter are clearly a Mediterranean inspiration.

Other noteworthy appetizers include Honey Date Fritters (RM16++), Dukka Prawns (RM20++), deep-fried prawns coated with Middle-Eastern spices and Bukhara Meze (RM22++), a platter of ‘hummus’ (chickpea purée), pickled dills, dates, fried cornmeal, mashed tuna, ‘falafel’ (fried chickpea balls) and ‘dolmas’(rolled up grape leaves with spiced rice and minced meat filling).

A firm favourite with our former premier, the Barbecued Chicken with Sumak (RM32++) is reputedly one of Bukhara’s best-selling dishes. No prizes for guessing why as a whole succulent chicken leg has been marinated with a mixture of aromatic Middle Eastern spices prior to it being grilled to perfection. We thoroughly relished it with the accopanying piquant sauce that was mildly sweet and fruity.

Lamb is popular in Central Asia so it is only natural specialities such as Moussaka (baked minced lamb with layers of eggplant and yoghurt RM30++), Flame-Grilled Marinated Lamb Rack (RM45++) and Lamb Kebab (RM36++) can be found in the menu. We daresay the skewered lamb with Mediterranean-style vegetables and a citrusy barbecue sauce was truly sublime as the tender meat was richly imbued with a spiced marinade.

The Bukhara Pollo (RM25++) and Hyderabadi Biryani (RM25++) are two rice dishes evocative of the Silk Route's famous spice trade. Cooked in a pot sealed with a layer of pastry dough on top, the former was scrumptious as all the wonderful flavours of the various ingredients – marinated chicken pieces, raisins, cashew nuts, cloves and hard-boiled egg -- were fully absorbed by the highland rice. If you choose to have the latter, you’d find the lamb, cardamoms and a whole green chilli render it stronger and spicier in flavour.

To conclude, sweet-toothed diners can opt for the Grand Selection (RM28++) featuring an assortment of Bukhara’s desserts in miniature portions. It constitutes warm semolina cake, lemon tart, cardamom cream, ‘baklava’ (caramelized almonds, pistachios and walnut in a fillo purse), chocolate brownie and ‘basboosah’ (coconut pastry with hints of rose water, cinnamon, walnuts, and sugar syrup).

We suspect the only stumbling block to the outlet’s even greater success is its slightly upmarket and elegant ambience which can be intimidating. Once they overcome the initial fear of stepping in, many will find the outlet is pretty inviting with its desert sand dunes patterned walls, coupled with natural wood and glass accents. Décor is kept to a minimum with some Islamic calligraphy artworks and pottery on display.

Diners won’t have any problems getting the wait staff’s attention as each table is equipped with a small, wireless gadget that summons designated service personnel to the customers’ tables for placement of orders, bill settlement or any form of assistance during their meals.

So if you have yet to discover what Bukhara has to offer, now is a good time as any to go for a Silk Road experience.

BUKHARA (halal)
Lot 137 1st Floor
Suria KLCC
Kuala Lumpur City Centre
50088 Kuala Lumpur
Reservations: 2168 8221
Opening hours – 11 am to 11 pm daily