Chef’s Specials – The Chow Kit Kitchen & Bar
Words: Kitty Noble
Photos: Rich Callahan
Walking into The Chow Kit Kitchen & Bar is a perfect example of an unassuming brick frontage giving way to a beautiful, well thought out restaurant and lounge. Punctuated with rich golds and reds, and ancient pottery pieces in the recessed cabinets, there is much for the eye to take in.
Old newspaper pages and photographs adorn the walls, telling the stories of Malaya’s history (as it was then), with art-deco style Chinese lanterns, hanging from the high ceilings. The moss greens and marble table-tops, remind me of London Edwardian hotel restaurants, with soulful music playing in the background. The kitchen pass is open-fronted so you can get a sneaky peek into the inner sanctum. The restaurant is part of the hotel, previously reviewed by The Yum List here.
The menu, just last week was completely revamped to align better with the very local concept in the heart of Chow Kit, with traditional Malaysian recipes being the stalwart of the menu. The idea is to showcase the taste of quality meats and seafood you will for sure find elsewhere. The key, however, is how the flavours are brought out by marinations and the accompanying house-made sauces.
We started off with a cocktail – the best way to start any meal. The Chow Kit (RM 35), their signature, is a bright orange drink. It is citrus fruit-forward owing to the Aperol and lemon juice with a lingering herbaceous taste of the lemongrass liquor and sweetness of the maple, balancing the profile.
The Chow Kit Chef’s Specials
The Chow Kit Signature Chilli Crab and Pasta (RM 290) is suggested to serve three to four pax (don’t forget one-day advance booking required). It is served with six pieces of deep-fried mantou buns.
Two freshly caught mud crabs are stir-fried in their signature sweet and spicy gravy. The flavours pack a punch when paired with al-dente pasta to soak up the savoury sauce. We are recommended to eat the pre-cracked crab with our hands alongside the doughnutty mantou buns. The buns are crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and go beautifully with the sauce. The crabmeat is plump and sweet and beautifully cooked. The left-over sauce, which sports a slight kick with its local flavours is then mixed with the pasta to mop it all up. Thoughtfully, individual finger bowls are provided to rinse off the inevitably messy fingers. We certainly didn’t need any more than this for four people.
We paired the crab with a rather moreish 2016 Clarendelle Blanc (RM 290). Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle are blended to make this white Bordeaux. The nose is scented with apricots, honey, vanilla and grassy notes that you would expect from an old-world sauvignon blanc, all following through on to the palate with a pleasing length. An inspired choice to pair with the crab and even stands up to the curry flavours. This also scores a very solid 87 points.
Chef’s Specials – Platters
The Chow Kit Platters are designed for three to four pax to share. In my humble opinion, there is definitely PLENTY for four of us. With options of Land, Sea or Best of Both, we plumped for the Land Platter at RM 210 to complement The Chow Kit Crab & Pasta.
All platters are served with two portions of nasi ulam, which as a sidedish, provides a light relief to all the flesh and is filled with Malaysian herbs and spices. Their house-made signature sambal (thankfully sans belacan) hijau (red) and sambal merah (green) add a flavourful and hearty kick.
The cornucopia of two and four-legged friends (chicken, beef and lamb), includes a whole Ayam Kampunt Emas, marinated in percik sauce made with coconut milk, galangal, turmeric and lemongrass. The bird is perfectly cooked with the leg and breast meat, being equally well roasted. The savoury flavours are lifted by the tasty duos of sambal. Monica preferring the green, the red suiting my spicy palate.
Chicken and beef satay are coated in a blend of coriander seed, cumin powder, turmeric and sugar to create the meat ‘starter’. The satay sauce is made by braising the peanuts over low heat for a long time to release the flavours and oils. In over three years of being in Malaysia, I have noticed a real sense of pride in the in-house peanut sauce and the often-times yard-stick that restaurants use as a measure of their attention to detail. The description we are given of its provenance suggests this holds true of The Chow Kit too.
The spare-ribs are braised for six hours in lemongrass and turmeric until meltingly tender, then marinated with shallot, ginger, onion and curry powder and rather than being separated, pleasingly arrives as a single rack. The softness is apparent when cutting into it, where frankly a blunt spoon could do the job. They are nicely charred on the outside, with a soft, bouncy texture in the middle.
The highlight for all four of us dining was the grilled lamb chops. Marinated in a spicy mix, they are beautifully cooked with a tasty crust. My only complaint here was the fact that there was only one piece each! I think the green sambal went particularly well with them, as you wouldn’t want to overpower the fabulous flavours.
The land platter is certainly a meat-lovers paradise, with close attention to detail being paid to each of its component parts. A nice little touch to the service, is the tableside carving of the meats, with a cheery greeting of “selamat, menjamu selera!” (bon appetit). It comes as no surprise that The Chow Kit was voted by CNN as one of the top 20 best new Asia-Pacific restaurants to try in 2020.
As ‘dessert’ we rounded off with Tanqueray Ten Gin & Tonic (RM 32). The perfect combo is served with a slice of grapefruit and homemade chamomile syrup. The baseline gin is really pepped up with the additional flavours. As the sun begins to set, lights are dimmed and the music changes to more sultry, French ballads, I treat myself to an extra glass (who wants to share a G & T?!) whilst writing.
Reasons to try the Chef’s Specials at The Chow Kit Kitchen & Bar: Traditional Malay fair; their special hous-made sauces; nice cocktail list; awesome sharing platters; lovely ambience.
The Chow Kit Kitchen & Bar
The Chow Kit Hotel
1012 Jalan Sultan Ismail
Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Serving Hours of the Chef’s Specials
Weekdays 6:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Weekends: 11 am – 10:30 pm