KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Lucky Peaches - if you're into foodie reading, the name of this new eating hub in Desa ParkCity should spark recognition. Its moniker is an homage to the brilliant, irreverent and wholly delicious food journal founded by Momofuku emperor David Chang… which ceased publication last year.
"I was heartbroken when they decided to stop publishing it - I'm a long-time collector of Lucky Peach," says Lucky Peaches owner Ling Ang. "It was such a brilliant publication because it wasn't just about food - it was about the whole industry, and always filled with ideas."
Within its pages, she found inspiration not just from personalities like Chang, but also in its spirit of connectivity and camaraderie. She has woven this into Lucky Peaches' own ethos and hopes to grow it - reaching out to urban farmers to stock her pantry and planning for workshops on urban permaculture or charismatic local food personalities in the upstairs event space.
A veteran of the food and beverage scene, Ang is the former group manager of the Huckleberry Group (and Lucky Peaches maintains close ties, especially in the baked goods department, with 90 per cent of its pastries, cakes and breads sourced from Huckleberry).
Drawing on her own foodie memories of growing up in Penang - "where we were all about pickles, kerabus, ulams!" - and interest in the flavours of the wider Asian region, she has come up with a pork-free menu that combines beloved local flavours, contemporary technique and the kind of bold, distinctive Asian-American, casual-comfort dining take that Momofuku is known for.
Lucky Peaches isn't about re-creating "authentic" Asian dishes - it's about taking kitchen inspiration, running with it and mixing it up.
Combining that calming, familiar feeling of comfort food with the appeal of the unusual, the Ch'cken Guling Rice Bowl (RM16.90) is a must-try - it is one of two rice bowls available at lunchtime, the other being spicy salmon.
Imagine tender, shredded chicken swathed in a creamy Asian-spirited pesto alive with the whispers of kaffir lime and lemongrass; paper-thin slices of chicken skin crackling; the bitter, fragrant crunch of Indonesian belinjo nut crackers; and the starchy bite of calrose rice. It all adds up to a wonderfully balanced, well-integrated dish with a creamy, buttery finish - one that I would keep coming back for.
Some dishes, like the pastas, straddle both the lunch and dinner menus. Creamy Miso Carbonara (RM28.90) is an updated version of the cream-based Malaysian variant of an Italian classic - with a dish of miso and splash of sake spiking the cream for a lovely umami presence, finished off with streaky beef bacon and a sprinkling of the fragrant heat of togarashi spice. It's Ang's most asked-for dish. "Some customers also add a soft-boiled free range egg (RM2.90), which makes it even richer," she said.
The Spicy Olio Smoked Duck (RM26.90) is a lighter pasta dish, with juicy slices of smoked duck and pasta tossed in a savoury-sweet, house-made chilli oil.
The Sriracha Chopped Cheese Burger (RM24.90) has proved such a crowd-pleaser that people have been asking for it for dinner as well, and Ang has been happy to comply. "It's got a New York street-eat type of vibe, this one," she says.
As its name implies, the patty is composed of a generous amount of chunky ground beef, riddled with hunks of cheese, and the distinctive spicy tang of sriracha. This is then sandwiched with sweet caramelised onions, lettuce and more cheese in a soft, buttery brioche bun for a very satisfying burger with bold character and meaty appeal. Even the baby potatoes on the side are lavished with attention by the kitchen team - lightly smashed, marinated with garlic, then fried and liberally sprinkled with togarashi.
From the after-dark menu, the Wow Bao Baskets are popular; available fillings for the plump, pillowy baos are buttermilk fried chicken (RM9.90) with roasted peanuts and an achar that began life in Ang's childhood memories and was then tweaked by the kitchen team, and a crisp, light, non-oily softshell crab (RM10.90) with sriracha mayo and a piquant Thai mango salad.
If shellfish is your thing, the Taiwanese Wok Japanese Asari Vongole or Black Chilean Mussels (RM33.90) comes highly recommended too.
Fresh, lightly cooked shellfish come in a sake-spiked fish broth with tomatoes and Thai basil - it was so delicately, deliciously addictive that I neglected the slices of toasted sourdough and just slurped spoonfuls of the stuff.
"It's fashioned after a dish that's very popular in Taiwanese beer houses and our version also uses both Chinese rice wine and regular white wine," says Ang.
For meatier platefuls, look to the juicy Smoked Duck Breast (RM39.90), a generous portion of savoury-sweet duck with creamy mashed potatoes, sauteed veggies and a rich, slowly simmered red wine reduction, or the wonderfully marbled, tender Grass-fed Rib-eye (RM79.90).
The rib-eye comes with the Lucky Peaches version of chimichurri - just as bright and piquant as the Argentinean condiment, but spiked with local herbs like kaffir lime, coriander and lemongrass.
Its bold, confident culinary strides seem to have hit the sweet spot for Lucky Peaches - an intelligently crafted, creative menu with great execution and wide appeal make this a place for repeat visits.
Eating Hall + Bar
B-G-8 Plaza Arkadia
3 Jalan Intisari Perdana
Tel: 03-2712 0705
Open: Tuesdays to Fridays, noon to 10pm (kitchen closed from 3 to 5pm); weekends, from 8.30am for coffee and pastries; kitchen opens noon till 3pm, then 5pm to late; closed on Mondays