Words: Chris Moore Photos: Monica Tindall
If you have never heard of the Qliq Hotel in Empire Damansara, you are not alone. Empire City, a new shopping, residential and entertainment complex sits directly across the road from it and I am at Empire City every week to play ice hockey. I drive right past Qliq Damansara regularly, and yet it was new to me. But, in not hearing about Qliq, you have also likely not heard of Two Hands – until now that is!
Two Hands is a new restaurant to the KL food scene, opened only for the past five months, and is offering a new perspective on healthy and local dining. Sourcing most of their ingredients locally and from organic producers, Chef Vic at Two Hands is dishing up food under a philosophy that promotes the simplicity in the ingredients, yet the complexity in the flavours and plating. What started as solely a breakfast and lunch establishment, Two Hands has just unveiled a dinner menu that you will want to check out. The quaint and comfortable establishment is the perfect spot for afternoon cocktails and appetizers, or to sit down for dinner on the outdoor patio seating.
Drinks at Two Hands
The cocktail menu at Two Hands is a testament to the creativity and vision of Chef Vic and cofounder, Melinder. Designed from the front seat of a car (literally, inspiration came while driving the streets of KL), each of the drinks is a creation envisioned in their head and transformed into a glorious libation. Take the Jack Jean Paul (RM44) for example. The gorgeous presentation of fresh mint sprigs and heaps of fresh fruit is minor in comparison to the immense flavour of the combination of dry gin, vodka, muddled fresh mint leaves, hazelnut liqueur, and fresh jackfruit puree. This drink is beautifully refreshing and offers just enough of the pungency from fresh jackfruit to make it delicious.
The Cucumber Chloe (RM37) is a perfect example of a drink whose bouquet on the nose doesn’t quite match the flavours on the palate, but holy cow I’m glad I got past that because the drink is delightful. Elderflower liqueur, dry gin, vodka, fresh cucumber juice, cured cucumber, and fresh thyme are shaken together and served with a frothy egg white topping. The egg white foam produces a fairly strong smell, but the flavour is bursting with a fresh fruitiness that makes this drink hard to just sip.
If you wish to take yourself far away from the craziness of an urban landscape and rest yourself on an island somewhere but just can’t get away, the Coconut Coach (RM32) might be the next best thing. The combination of Malibu coconut rum, vodka, freshly pressed pineapple juice and organic coconut oil screams tropical vacation, and it is very easy to see yourself sipping these divinely creamy and fruity cocktails on some beach, somewhere.
Or forget about the beach altogether and finish the night off with a quintessential digestif in the Coffee Chanel (RM31). A delicate mix of Kahlua, Frangelico, vodka, caramel flavouring and freshly brewed espresso rounds out the dinner perfectly.
Two Hands Menu
The passion and vision for Two Hands comes from the imagination and inspiration of Chef Vic. The philosophy behind the food and the restaurant is the perceived union between the chef and the consumer – the hands of one feeding the hands of others. Chef Vic’s take on the culinary arts has been developed over years in Kuala Lumpur but until now he has not had the floor all to his own to outstretch his hands.
The first presentation of the meal is a very localized take on the traditional Apple & Walnut Salad (RM21). What sets this plate apart from any other apple and nut salad you may stumble upon is the high quality local and organic produce being offered. Unwaxed apples are tossed with toasted walnuts, heirloom cherry tomatoes and local spinach, and coated delightfully in a creamy savoury dressing of Greek yoghurt and local acacia honey. The marriage of textures between the crisp spinach and the crunchy walnuts and apples is the perfect, healthy way to start off a meal.
For those looking to share, the Hummus 3 Ways (RM28) is an elegant and delicious take on the traditional Middle Eastern delicacy. Served with homemade wholemeal croissants and fresh rye and whole-wheat bread, the three varieties of hummus are amazing. The chickpeas hummus is creamy and exactly what you expect hummus to be, while the roasted beetroot and roasted pumpkin varieties are on a whole different level. Topped with crumbled feta cheese and a healthy drizzle of olive oil, it’s hard to say which one is the best – because they are all magnificent.
As modest as it may sound, the most inconspicuous but glorious item on the menu may be the Italian Lamb Meatball Sub (RM32). Although served with perfectly cooked sweet potato fries and a side of homemade black mayo, the sandwich in and of itself is amazing. The meatballs are tender, moist and bursting with flavour and the tomato sauce in which they are served has the perfect amount of heat and acidity. An Italian sub is not exactly what you’d expect of an Indian chef in Malaysia, but believe me – Chef Vic absolutely nailed this one.
While the Italian meatball sub may be inconspicuous, the Black Angus Tomahawk Steak (RM370) is anything but. Designed to be the star of the table, this elegant hunk of meat does not disappoint. Big enough to share amongst two to three people, or consumed by one super hungry carnivore, the dry aged mass of bovine is amazing. Cooked to beautiful medium-rare doneness and accompanied by a plethora of sides, including roasted garlic cloves, smoked sea salt, braised vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, whole grain mustard and more of those delicious homemade wholemeal croissants with a trio of butters (orange balsamic, herb, and shaved truffle) – the presentation instils a sense of guilt in ruining the beautiful masterpiece, but you’re going to want to dig right in. The decadent and mouth-watering depth of the flavour is revealed the second the meat enters your mouth, and then again and again with each subsequent bite.
A lighter option, when compared to the tomahawk, is the Grouper Fillet and Lumpfish Roe (RM77). A hearty fillet of pan-seared grouper is served atop a bed of snow peas and asparagus and accompanied with a mixture of beetroot puree and lumpfish roe. The disparity between the textures of the crunchy vegetables and the flaky, buttery fish is brilliant, and the simplicity of the ingredients is not lost on the overall level of taste in the dish.
One of the defining characteristics of the kitchen at Two Hands lies in their willingness to provide options from the vegetarian and gluten-free realm. The Crispy Parmesan Cauliflower (RM22) is the perfect example of this, where local organic cauliflower is tossed in gluten-free flour that has been seasoned with Spanish smoked paprika and Parmigiano-Reggiano and fried until perfectly crisp. Served with a helping of fresh dill sauce, it’s hard to think of this dish as a vegetable. I can tell you this though – had this been offered to me as a kid as a vegetable, I’d have had no problem at all making sure my plate was clean.
Dessert at Two Hands
The last and final offering of the night is not what you would expect in a cheesecake, but that should in no way sway you from trying the Strawberry Jelly Cheesecake (RM14). Created much denser than a traditional cheesecake would be, Chef Vic’s take on the dessert, which is mixed with desiccated coconut and topped with a strawberry chocolate dressing, is equal parts unique and delicious.
Reasons to visit: delicious and healthy food prepared with high-quality local product; the Italian Meatball Sub is amazing; the decadence in the tomahawk steak; the unique and delicious cocktail menu; Chef Vic knows what he’s doing.