Chinese-style roast chicken and duck are what customers keep coming back for at Roast Kitchen, writes Tan Bee Hong
THE row of duck and chicken hanging behind the glass window never fails to make me stop in my tracks and pause to admire the glistening golden skin.
Located near the modern market in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, the year-old Roast Kitchen looks like any other chicken rice shop but with a difference — it sells only halal meats.
“The duck comes from a farm in Taiping and the meat is certified halal. So is the chicken which comes from Ayamas, which supplies halal dressed chickens,” says its manager, Mark Ng.
We sip on drinks prepared by Mak Cik Sumira as we peruse the menu. The restaurant’s main focus is on its Chinese-style roast duck and chicken. “It wasn’t easy. It took the chef months to get the taste just right as there were ingredients in the original recipe that we could not use, such as rice wine,” he says.
There are two types of roast duck: Herbal roast duck and crispy roast duck (or pipa duck). The former is roasted whole while the pipa duck is butterflied before roasting to give it the crispiness. I am out of luck. There is only one pipa duck left on the rack and a regular customer has booked it. But the herbal roast duck is juicy and meaty, with just mild hints of herbs and spices. Not too much fat under the skin either.
Wait, something is missing. Hmm... I’m not getting that strong gameiness that I enjoy so much in duck. The flavour leans on the mild side. “Most customers don’t like duck to be too gamey,” Mark points out. I have to admit he’s right. I’m one of the few who loves that ducky smell.
“Older ducks taste gamey but we use only 60-day ducks which are not and are more tender in texture. Some customers, especially Malays, are not used to eating duck but when they try our roast ducks, they are surprised at how delicious it is. And they come back for more,” he says, his face lighting up with a huge smile.
What does one eat with roast duck? Well, there’s a choice of fragrant rice or wantan noodles. I love the noodles. It’s really not easy to find good wantan noodles. Most are soft and greasy but Roast Kitchen’s is springy and finer than the regular version. You can have the noodles tossed with the chef’s special soya sauce or with soup.
I find the rice a healthier version than that greasy serving most chicken rice stalls dish up. “We use a sprinkle of herbs and chicken stock without the fat.”
At Roast Kitchen, the roast chicken is really roasted in an oven, (at chicken rice stalls, what’s sold as roast chicken is actually deep fried whole chicken).
Oh yes, there’s char xiu, albeit a chicken version. I’m no fan of porcine version which tends to be dry and unpalatable but this one is juicy and full of flavour.
Like char xiu, the marinade includes honey, so there is a pleasing sweet flavour, especially at the edges where the sugar has caramelised.
By the way, you won’t find the ubiquitous vinegar chilli dip at Roast Kitchen. Instead, you get the chef’s special chilli oil, a name that hardly does justice to this XO (which, incidentally, stands for extra-ordinary) concoction of chilli with shallots, dried prawn and more.
“It’s painstaking work. We need a whole day to cook this as we have to make sure all moisture is evaporated. Otherwise it won’t keep for a few days,” says Mark.
You can even take away bottles of this chilli oil (RM12). It’s great with sandwiches, noodles and rice.
If you like beef, there’s honey roasted bbq beef and stewed beef brisket — both served with rice or noodles.
Roast Kitchen opens throughout the day, so you can walk in for a snack and a drink at teatime. While the management is still working on adding more items to the snack menu, what’s totally recommended right now are crispy mantou (bun) with roast duck (RM6.80 for three pieces) or bbq beef (RM7.80) and char kueh with wasabi sauce (RM5.80).
I can put away a whole plate of the latter and not notice it. The yiu tiau or crueller is sliced thickly and deep fried to a crisp before it is tossed in a wasabi sauce.
As for the mantou, it’s like a sandwich with sliced and deboned roast duck, lettuce and cilantro leaves. It comes with a small saucer of sweet sauce as a dip. You can also spread some chilli oil on it for an extra zing. Makes a satisfying lunch for a small eater.
To cater to those who come in a group but do not want roast meats, there is a choice of individual dishes such as anchovies and salted fish fried rice, sweet and sour chicken with rice and black pepper udon (with chicken or vegetarian) and a vegetarian bihun.
The vegetarian black pepper udon is aromatic from freshly crushed pepper and to the chef’s credit, he has added just the right amount to make the noodles fragrant but not numbingly hot.
23 Jalan Wan Kadir 2, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel 03-7732 0006
11am to 11pm
Near the TTDI wet market
Halal Chinese-style barbecue meats
Roast duck with rice or noodles and the chilli sambal
From RM10-15 per person
Clean, modern eatery