Those who enjoy freshly prepared food will appreciate The Kitchen where most dishes are cooked to order, writes Tan Bee Hong
TREAT this place like your own kitchen, I am told. But The Kitchen at Melia Kuala Lumpur is nothing like the tiny dapur in my house.
And really, it is the sum of many kitchens in a row running the length of the restaurant, from the drinks counter, Chinese kitchen, Malay kitchen, grill, western kitchen, tapas corner, salad spread, hot dishes and even a wood-fire pizza oven. Yeah, you get the idea. This is a kitchen I’d be lost in.
Located next to the lobby, the months-old restaurant also has live seafood aquariums at the entrance, filled with fish and lobsters. Ruby red napkins make a stark statement against white tables and tall back chairs in black leather.
But, as its name suggests, it’s one big kitchen, so you can expect food to be cooked to order and you can even watch the chefs at work.
START IN THE MIDDLE
Head straight for the middle section where you can create your favourite salad the crisp leaves, beef bacon and all kinds of dressings. Or help yourself to the many starters in petite glasses and spoons. You’ll be going back for second helpings of smoked duck rolls, fennel mousse on apple jelly, capsicum and salmon mousse and caramelised onion on cheddar cheese and tomato. Fruit rojak packs a punch too.
Don’t forget the seafood on ice. Apart from the ubiquitous oysters and prawns, there are lobsters tails and claws. “From the aquarium at the entrance,” executive chef Mohamad Shariff tells me proudly. You can’t get any fresher than that.
Next to this is a range of sushi and sashimi.
FEEL THE HEAT
The glow from the fire-wood oven is distracting but the thought of waiting for pizza to bake loses out to the aroma coming from the grill nearby. Well marinated lamb chops and satay are top choices. While waiting for these to cook, help yourself to the prime ribs and tapas items including cheese potato croquettes, mussels-cheese gratin, squid rings and chicken rolls stuffed with prunes. Need a little dressing? There’s a range of salsa from green capsicum and onion to tomato, orange and my favourite, mango salsa.
Those who refuse to wait for food to cook won’t feel left out. Not with biryani rice, fish in lemon butter sauce, lamb stew, percik chicken and fried chicken redolent with the scent of lemongrass.
Speaking of rice, the chef makes a stunning fried rice and you can choose your favourite ingredients for him to wok with.
Pasta too is prepared on the spot and if you’re not sure what to have, take a peek inside the a la carte menu for ideas. Otherwise, spaghetti alio oglio with salami and a sprinkle of chilli flakes will excite the tastebuds.
I notice that lamb is a feature on the menu. Not surprising since Mohamad Shariff, who honed his culinary skills and won culinary medals in Iraq and Bahrain, has a way with this meat. His lamb stew is delicious and I love the dry lamb curry, with each chunk of meat lovingly coated with aromatic spices.
Near the drinks bar is where you get a taste of dim sum selections and get noodles dished up a la minute, with a choice of soup to go with it. The herbal chicken soup is comforting and fortifying after a hard day’s work.
PICK A PASTRY
Don’t stop at one. You won’t anyway. It’s hard to resist pastry chef Lim Chin Kheng’s creations. Peanut butter cake, triple layer chocolate mousse, fruit tartlets, macarons, red velvet cake... it’s an endless, colourful display. It helps that all pastries are in bite-size portions. If you can find the space, Lim insists on a slice of his favourite Swiss roll or a nugget of semi-hard mango jelly that leaves a delightful tangy zest dancing on the palate.
For something really cool, try the teppanyaki ice-cream.
Where: Melia Kuala Lumpur 16 Jalan Imbi, Kuala Lumpur, Bukit Bintang Tel 03-2785 2828
Opening hours: Noon to 2.30pm and 6.30pm to 10pm.
Getting there: Opposite Berjaya Times Square
What’s cooking: Live kitchen concept
Must try: Prime roast rib, noodles, pasta and Swiss roll
You’ll pay: RM81 — RM150
Atmosphere: Coffee-house chic
The loo: Clean but it is one floor up
Overall verdict: Go give it a try