Kuala Lumpur - Hoity-Toity Malay at Flavours
Finally got round to try Chef Riz's Flavours restaurant this evening. Chef Riz (Full name: Nadzri Redzuawan) was one of the judges in Masterchef Malaysia last season. But he's actually better known as the son of Chef Wan (Full name: Redzuawan Ismail), the best-known TV-celebrity chef in Malaysian history! Anyone & everyone in Malaysia (and Singapore) *knows* Chef Wan.
But back to Chef Riz's newest venture: Flavours offers an intriguing spread of Malay, casual Western and Malay-influenced bistro fare, like pastas spiked with explosive "cili padi", Malaysia's version of habanero chili.
What I tried today was its signature dish: the "Nasi Malaya" (or Malayan Rice), which consisted of steamed white rice, accompanied by
- Beef Lemak Cili Padi - Tender, stewed beef in a rich coconut-turmeric sauce, with some strong heat coming from the "cili padi")
- Sambal tumis Petai - Ttwo unshelled shrimps and "petai" or stink-beans, cooked with pounded red chillis. The shrimps were the frozen sort, not as fresh as I expected. Two measly "petai" beans were way too miserly for me. Pity.
- Kerabu Apple - green apple salad, with a lot of chopped, ultra-spicy chilis & finely-sliced kaffir lime leaves thrown in, but nothing much else. A small whole salted fish mounted on the salad was not groundbreaking. Maybe I had overly high expectations.
- Ayam Kampung Goreng, which is deep-fried "village"chicken. It's tasty.
Like many upmarket ethnic Malay restaurants in KL (e.g. Bijan, Enak, Bunga Emas, Songket), the challenge is to sell Malay food to Malays at vastly inflated prices, to account for more comfy, jazzy ambience. Malay cuisine does not possess that dichotomy between "home-cooking" and "restaurant-cooking", or between "casual" versus "fine-dining" which one finds in most other types of cuisines.
Hence, one gets served, say, "beef rendang", "ikan panggang" or "ayam goreng", whether one dines in a street-side eatery or a deluxe fine-dining restaurant - except that one can expect to pay 3-10 times as much for the same dishes, depending on where one is eating.
At Flavours, the RM28++ charged for the "Nasi Malaya" is reasonable, considering the upmarket neighborhood, and comparable to prices charged in other restaurants in the same precinct. But it'll be a challenge to convince local diners, especially ethnic-Malays who would be Flavours' target market, to part with that amount of money for what they can get at home, or at a street-side food stall.
My drink of iced rose syrup with a squeeze of calamansi lime, at RM8++, is also perhaps 4 times what one would pay for the same stuff in a casual Malay eatery.
Maybe Chef Wan should make more appearances at the restaurant - his star presence would probably boost the clientele, more than any good cooking at inflated prices.
51 Jalan Telawi 3
59100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2201 4484
As I was reading your introduction in this report I couldn't help thinking of that chap in Malaysian politics who changed his name (or styled himself?) to Tengku Razaleigh (Hamzah). I still remember when he *used* to be Tengku Razali. :-)
Yes, I also remember your past comments about Malay cuisine not really having a "high-end" aspect, with which my personal past experiences would be in agreement with.
Back for more eats from Flavours:
- Chicken Rendang - very good!
- Ikan kerapu masak assam pedas - excellent!
- Udang & petai sambal tumis - nice, but the petai beans were slightly undercooked.
- Beef & asparagus - excellent.
Spicy, mind-blowingly explosive Malay cuisine at its robust best. It's expensive & the food took a while to be prepared, but it's *definitely* worth waiting for. Simply superb.
Still not quite worth the money - but the visit was "less painful" the second time around for two reasons: firstly, I already had an inkling on how much the meals' gonna cost (during my first visit, it was like "What?! RM50 for a fish curry?!!), and secondly, it was a GREAT pleasure to be served freshly-cooked, piping-hot Malay dishes for a change here.
Malay food outside in the food stalls or Nasi Padang/Nasi Campur restaurants tend to be served cold or at room temperature, having been pre-cooked hours beforehand. The Malays, like Indonesians and also Filipinos, tend to eat their food cold, traditionally :-(
Still remembered my worst encounter with cold food ... including soup, in Indonesia: