It has been almost four years since I was in Star hill Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. I still remember how fascinated I was with the concept of fine dining there when it used to be pretty crowded. This time around The Feast Floor at the luxurious Star hill Gallery, which is like a kind of fine dining food court, was not very crowded even though there were many anchor restaurants there. I did not see much locals there either. Most of the patrons were tourists, including me.
I dined at Enak, a Malay restaurant. This five-year old restaurant prides itself to be the first to serve Malay food in a fine dining setting. I had the privilege to dine with the owner, Sherena Razaly. Forty-one year old Sherena, an architect turned restauranteur, said that almost all the dishes served at the restaurant are her mother’s recipes. Her mother, a great home-cook also trained many of the staff to cook food the way it is cooked at home. Sherena grew up in a huge extended family and has been always surrounded by delicious food prepared by her grandmother and mother. Home-style cooking also means wholesome food without too much oil or additives like MSG. Sherena said that only fresh herbs and spices are used for cooking. Her mother turns up at the restaurant unexpectedly occasionally to taste the food – to ensure quality control.
The restaurant reminds me of the warmth and cosiness of a Malay home and yet it has a fine-dining ambience. The spacious dining area is in a theme of red and beige and in one corner I even spied a bean bag seating and a low wooden table. There are one or two “private” areas concealed by string curtains. In the far end is an open kitchen, I could see and hear the chefs pounding and cooking the day’s dishes.
I started off with Kerabu Jantong Pisang – a banana blossom salad dressed in coconut milk, chilli and lime juice. The banana blossom was tender and there was a generous portion. I would have preferred the dressing to be slightly tangy and spicier. When the Ayam Percik was served, I was surprised beyond words! The very nicely marinated moist chicken was prepared roulade-style and then char grilled. It was served drizzled with an aromatic and flavorful coconut sauce. Grilling Ayam Percik, roulade style, made it easier to eat and visually appealing compared to the traditional way of marinating bone-in chicken pieces and grilling them.
What is Malay cuisine without Ikan Assam Pedas? I cannot remember eating Ikan Assam Pedas in a fine dining restaurant! Before I tucked in, I was wondering if it is worth for anyone to order this dish in a restaurant. I must tell you that it is definitely a must to order this dish. At Enak, only good quality soft butterfish is used and the portion is generous. The spicy hot but sweet and sour gravy is addictive. I just wanted to slurp from the spoon instead of mixing it with rice.
I have always been confused as to where rendang originated. A quick research shows that this dish originated from Minangkabau, Indonesia. Of course, the taste and cooking methods of rendang vary from region to region, even in Malaysia. I had a good tasting of beef rendang at Enak. The meat was fork tender because of the slow cooking process and it was aromatic as it had absorbed all the flavours and aroma of the number of herbs that were used.
Can I have a meal without vegetables? No! There were a number of vegetable dishes in the menu and Sherena suggested that I try the Pucuk Paku Cendawan – wild forest Fiddlehead ferns with mushrooms. I enjoyed every bit of this dish. The ferns were stir fried with garlic and bits of julienned chilli and it was not oily. Not many restaurants or stalls sell stir fried ferns as it is time consuming to pick and clean them. The pucuk paku has woody stems that are long and are not eaten. Therefore, it will be certainly a pain to slowly go through a bunch to pick only the young and old fronds and the top part of the stem which is usually tender.I am glad that Enak has included this traditional dish.
I was not particularly excited about the dessert. Don’t get me wrong! There were many interesting desserts but I was already very full. Nevertheless, I did have a tasting of two desserts. The Manisan Kelapa Muda Enak is a warm, refreshing coconut dessert with a light meringue on top. Though it tasted nice, I would prefer it without the meringue which so reminded me of Western desserts. On the other hand, I enjoyed the Pisang Caramel – peeled bananas sautéed in butter and served with vanilla ice cream and cardamom-infused caramel sauce. I could not smell the cardamom though.
The staff of Enak were charming. I thought the service was slow, but on second thought, since I was with Sherena, the staff may have spaced out the food. Enak is a good icon for Malay cuisine and I will certainly go back there to try some other dishes. Food is not expensive and I was told that there are many set lunches, wedding packages and outdoor catering.
In case you don’t know, Enak clinched the award for being one of the Best Halal Malay Restaurants 2007/2008 and was the first Malay restaurant invited to participate in Malaysia International Gourmet Festival 2007. Enak also received the Merit Award Best Restaurant 2005/2006 (under Malay restaurant category) from Malaysia Tourism.
LG2 Feast Floor Starhill Gallery
181 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Phone: 03-2141 8973