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Apr 26, 2012 07:54 AM

Kuala Lumpur - Swine heaven at S.Wine

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - S.Wine, the wine & pork specialists at Publika spared us a lengthy trip to New York for a taste of David Chang's pork-belly buns at Momofuku: it re-produced the braised pork belly sandwiched within steamed mantou buns with scallions & crisp pickled cucumbers. The version at S.Wine was extremely fatty though, and the taste was far from the deliciousness which Chinese diners would expect from what seemed like "dong po" pork (東坡肉).

The starter: parma ham with sweet melon, topped with peppery arugula was nice, but predictable.

We also tried the house specialty: barbecued pork-ribs, served with a creamy, sharp slaw and a bunch of not-very-good fries which didn't quite do anything for the dish. The pork-ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender, but not as tasty as I'd have liked (even Tony Roma's or HRC do better ribs here in KL).

I'll need to come back for some other intriguing-sounding Asian choices on the menu: Hainanese pork chop and assam pork curry, among others. Like many non-halal restaurants in Muslim-Kuala Lumpur, S.Wine thrived more on the novelty of being a trendy, hip eatery serving pork to the hungry (and rather deprived) non-Muslim minorities, mainly the Chinese-Malaysian populace, rather than actually offering good cooking. All the dishes here tasted "meh", and wouldn't pass muster in neighboring cities like Singapore, Bangkok or Hong Kong.

Address details
S.Wine Cafe
Lot 1A, 83-95, Level UG1
Publika, No. 1 Jalan Dutamas 1
Solaris Dutamas
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-6209 1716

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  1. Oh well.

    Those "David Chang Pork Buns" - they do look a little "off" and the buns look a little too "big" and dense for the meat... I remember commenting on an old CH thread about how the Momofuku Ssam stuff wasn't *that* novel and mind-boggling, one would have eaten something similar in the Far East/SE Asia (even if not completely identical) from ages ago - but I don't seem to be able to find it now. Here's another thread on making your own, though: :-)

    2 Replies
    1. re: huiray

      Even the Dongpo Pork at Seletar Hills restaurant in Singapore tasted much better.

      What David Chang did quite well at that time was to introduce Vietnamese-style sweet pickled crispy cucumber to play off the cloyingly-rich fatty braised pork belly. But like you've stressed previously, huiray, it's really *not* that ground-breaking.

      1. re: klyeoh

        Can't help but chime in on the pork buns. I had a love/hate relationship with Chang's pork buns when living in NY - they were over-hyped and expensive for what they were, but so tasty I couldn't stop eating them. Have since cooked myself many times (including the buns) and they're easy to replicate. I must say I recoiled at S.Wine's chunky version when I saw the pic - they look so strange.

        Another knock-off I saw was at Ippudo (in HK) and it was pretty poor. Iceberg lettuce (yawn), mayo (ugh) and pork belly. Momofuku use hoisin sauce (sweet), quick-pickle cucumber (sour/salty) and spring onions (tangy) -- a bright and really well balanced snack. These ones at Ippudo were bland and boring. I think in effort to do something different (lettuce & mayo) they forgot to make it tasty.

    2. Back at S.Wine for another "pig out" this evening:
      - Watermelon, basil, peanuts & deep-fried pork belly salad;
      - Spicy pasta with pancetta & mushrooms
      - Crisp-skinned siu-yuk
      - Hainanese pork chop with chips

      P.S. - the first time I'd had Hainanese pork cops in more than a decade! And it sure tasted good!!

      10 Replies
      1. re: klyeoh

        So there is hope for the place!

        The siu-yuk looks just fine. :-) Hmm, regarding the pasta - it made me wonder if places like this or Italian joints there provide **properly made** traditional Roman pasta carbonara?

        Hainanese pork chops. Heh. I imagine Coliseum Cafe would still serve "traditional" faux British (Colonial) stuff like this - I guess you haven't had it there...

        1. re: huiray

          I'd been to the Coliseum, huiray. Unfortunately, it's turned halal these days - so, no more pork chops there.

          No, I'd not found genuine carbonara here in KL. It's hard to come by even in Singapore a decade ago, but influx of good Italian chefs had changed the landscape in Singapore quite a bit.

          But KL's Western cuisine still suffered from being largely pork-less, and standards are about 15-20 years behind Singapore.

          1. re: klyeoh

            Oh? The Coliseum is halal? Oh my. I remember our talking about the place on a few occasions (e.g. re: their T-bone steaks), but don't remember about its being halal nowadays. Old age on my part, no doubt. :-(

            Regarding pasta carbonara - it's actually really easy to make "properly" - so long as you can get proper pancetta or (better) guanciale [OK, good bacon can be a substitute] and good quality durum semolina spaghetti or equivalent...

            1. re: klyeoh

              I was told that Chiaroscuro on Changkat BB served a truly authentic carbonara, and that its chef Andrea felt very strongly (to put it mildly) about liberties being taken with his beloved cuisine.

              However, it appears to be closed and Andrea is now at Il Lido, which is halal. And sure enough, it does not feature any version of carbonara on the menu, turkey bacon or otherwise.

              1. re: Julian Teoh

                No way that I'll go for turkey "bacon", Julian! First time I was in Plan B (Bangsar Village) last year and they served me this breakfast fry-up - it consisted of something along the lines of beef "bacon", turkey "ham" and chicken sausage!! That was the last time I ordered breakfast from *that* place.

                Hmm, come to think of it, Plan B is owned by Benjamin Yong - who also owns this piggy S.Wine place.

          2. re: klyeoh

            Hey, I like the look of the watermelon, basil, peanuts & deep-fried pork belly salad;

            Was it nice? I'm imagining the watermelon would be a great counterbalance to the pork. I'm guessing the dressing was pretty light though.

            As best I can, I will try to try to re-create that dish just by sight.

            Btw, klyeoh, you always provide such great photos. Very much appreciated.

            1. re: p0lst3r

              Oh, and in the salad, was the watermelon fresh or pickled?

              Probably fresh but thinking it might be good if lightly pickled.

              1. re: p0lst3r

                Fresh watermelon, p0lst3r, slightly chilled but not pickled nor sweetened.

              2. re: p0lst3r

                Thanks, p0lst3r - like they say - a picture is worth a thousand words.

                The watermelon salad wasn't as good as I expected. I actually had a simpler but tastier watermelon salad here in KL at WIP, Bangsar SC: the fruit was paired with feta cheese, then drizzled with balsamic vinegar, with some crushed nuts thrown in for good measure: