There’s been a lot of buzz around the penthouse of the WOLO hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur. A certain Mr Chew has been delighting the city with some rather formidable kitchen and bar antics in the name of ‘Chino Latino’ fusion.
Wondering around the beautifully decorated duplex, re-energised by the team behind Troika and Brasserie Fritz, one could certainly be forgiven for thinking they were visiting a chic Manhattan apartment, albeit an apartment decked out with its very own Kirin bar, a champagne bathtub and a rain shower smoking area.
Taking their offerings to the next level, the restaurant is adamant in bringing back a decent brunch culture back to KL, outside of hotel teahouses. It may have a formidable chance of succeeding.
The drinks menu is extensive and offered some unapologetically heavy handed cocktails to get your brunch started off with a punch. The ‘Kissed by a Dragon’ shone a radioactive purple from the dragonfruit and soursop and included a hair raising concoction of umeshu, baijiu and champagne. The similarly strong ‘Mr Chew’s Take-away G&T’ is creatively served in an old fashioned Chinese take-away container that featured a beautiful colonial map print.
The food started off strong. Mr Chew’s played to its forte and kicked off with their well known tapas favorites. The most memorable was the Tempura prawn nori taco with mentaiko, which had a satisfying crunch followed by a meaty body of prawns and pleasantly piquant aftertaste. Chili mayonnaise has become a rather exhausting feature of many new restaurants to maybe mask the blandness of a dish but Mr Chew’s take is surprisingly agreeable and not too overwhelming.
The bean sprout kimchi and grilled coconut chicken was a playful dish both physically, having to wrap it up like a betel nut, as well as on the palate. It had a fresh minty hint akin to Vietnamese spring rolls yet effectively balanced with the boldness of char and coconut. The steamed bun with gochujang chicken and sesame seeds, packed plenty of flavour and had the most interesting of mouth feels, sweet, sticky and spiced impeccably.
The biggest surprise though was the rather large plate of prawn crackers with an orange and plum sauce dip. The extremely moreish platter was cooked to a perfect crisp and paired with a light and tantalising sauce. Hence the entire dish was demolished by all those present with violent enthusiasm. It goes to show that with all the flair flanking it, us Malaysians are still most easily impressed by a serving of well cooked keropok.
The full range of light bites would have achieved a perfect score had it not been for the oysters. Oysters and bloody mary (unfortunately not available) are bastions of any Sunday brunch. Unfortunately it missed the mark for it was an odd avatar of an oyster omelette. The omelette that sat atop an oyster warmed it slightly and toned down any of breezy seaside notes that an ice cold, fresh oyster would provide.
Having had such a strong start interrupted, the mains needed to be showstopping courses that got us back on track. Two triumphed. The braised chicken on rice was a delightful homage to Taiwanese mince on rice, full of flavour, simple and perfect in its traditional profile.
Similarly, the Barramundi in sauce lodeh was a refreshing and and grounding dish. With a heavy ‘kampung’ influence of ‘masak lemak’ the fish was flawlessly executed with a crisp skin hugging a juicy and fleshy meat, soaking up all those local flavours deliciously. It hit the mark so well, maybe even the green beans would have been best substituted with petai.
With such strong players on the field, it is unfortunate that one of these dishes didn’t live up to its potential. Having spoken about how strong the main features were, the peking duck pancakes, a dish of stentorian identity, misfired.
The taste of the duck was barely noticeable and the delicious crispy skins that peking duck is so loved for was missing. The pancakes were not of made of the traditional flour and instead came a little too glutinous and fell apart easily. They also lacked the plum sauce and in place a sweet chili variant, further impressed upon with the inclusion of whole sliced apples. The dish which seemed either confused or fell short of not being bold enough.
The desert was thankfully exemplary. Self-served from the open kitchen countertop, each morsel delighted. From the rich and creamy steamed ling yong bun, to the doubly sinful chocolate sandwich with chocolate ice cream and of course the ice blood orange ice kacang, a stimulating and daring take on a classic which delivers, dessert was a very fine note to end on.