(THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Before I even make it to The Majapahit, I am already in a sour, snarly mood.
Parking at the spanking new Arcoris Mont’Kiara (where The Majapahit is housed) is difficult to navigate and having inadvertently exited the same carpark twice without finding a place to park, I re-entered the carpark a third time only to have the same po-faced security guard shout violently at me (his exact words were “I’m security here, I tell you where to park!”) before directing me to a carpark bay I had gone past a million times because it was marked ‘Reserved’.
Needless to say, I am not a happy camper.
But as soon as I walk into The Majapahit, that wary, unsettling feeling dissipates. The Majapahit is a high-ceilinged beauty with foliage scattered throughout. There are even plants suspended in planter boxes high up near the ceiling! Low rattan-backed chairs complete this laidback yet chic tableau and you’ll find yourself leaning back and easily forgetting all the travails of the day.
The eatery has only been around for a few months but is already gaining traction for its selection of South-East Asian cuisine, gleaned predominantly from Thailand and Indonesia, with a sprinkling of Malaysian and Vietnamese cuisine to round things off.
“Although it’s a South-East Asian restaurant, we mainly serve Thai and Indonesian food. What we realise is that there are a lot of Thai restaurants here but not many people know about Indonesian food. So when people come, they get to enjoy both. But we do have other South-East Asian food from Malaysia and Vietnam as well. Hence the name Majapahit because Majapahit was once a kingdom in South-East Asia, so we’re covering the food served in those areas,” says Nelson How, the restaurant’s marketing manager.
The kitchen is helmed by Indonesian chef Pak Isan Santibi, a seasoned veteran who is well-versed in Indonesian cuisine and also served at Thai restaurant Ginger, where he picked up a litany of Thai recipes. Many things on the menu are ideal for sharing among friends, and you’d do well to start with the Satay of South-East Asia platter (RM52, S$17.50, for a regular portion). The meal features Balinese fish satay, Malaysian chicken satay, Indonesian beef satay and Vietnamese sugarcane prawn with unique housemade dipping sauces.
Of these, the Malaysian chicken satay is a clear winner – tender and succulent, with a sumptuous, sweet peanut sauce. The Balinese fish satay is also delightful – plump and packed with flavour with a light, tangy sauce to complement the assemblage.
Then there is the Curry Galore (RM52), another cleverly designed sharing platter perfect for curry aficionados. With the platter, you’ll find a motley crew in the ilk of Thai red and green curry, Indonesian squid curry and Malaysian prawn curry served with chapati bread and cassava crackers. All the curries are made to order from homemade curry pastes. The curries are delicious – most notably the slightly sweet squid curry swimming with chunks of tender, pliable cephalopod and the Thai green curry, a comforting favourite done to perfection here, with just the right amount of heat. While the cassava crackers are delightfully crunchy and tasty, I’m not sure they’re ideal for mopping up the curries as they tend to get sodden and leaden every time you plunge them into the curry’s watery depths. In lieu of that, I would recommend that you eat the curries on their own or pair them with the much hardier chapatis on offer instead.
For an even more filling sharing platter, definitely, definitely indulge in the The Maha Rice Royale (RM48), which encompasses Thai pineapple fried rice, Thai fried rice, Indonesian fried rice and Malaysian kampung fried rice. It’s difficult to pick a favourite here because the entire platter is delightful – the kampung fried rice is as good a rendition as you’re going to find anywhere – spicy with crunchy shards of ikan bilis thrown in, while the pineapple fried rice features bursts of zesty pineapple, cashewnuts and other bedfellows that serve to elevate the rice. The Indonesian fried rice originates from Bandung and has sly spicy undertones while the Thai fried rice has a herbaceous underbelly and a slight fieriness. Although portions are plentiful, this platter is such a winner that you’re likely to hoard it closely to your person, warding off the trespassing spoons of your friends with vicious “I dare you!” stares.
If you’re looking for stand-alone dishes to sample, definitely order the coconut butter chicken (RM25), a play on creamy butter chicken. Here, the deep-fried chicken is smothered in a sauce made of butter, margarine, cream and coconut milk in what proves to be a delicous, slightly coconut-ey coupling. Be sure to eat this when it’s hot though, as the sauce seizes up once it’s cold and is decidedly less appetising.
On a cold day (or simply a long one) you could opt for a warm pot of Spicy Seafood Tom Yam (RM32). Filled with prawns, squid and fish, the soup is satisfyingly spicy without endeavouring to assasinate your taste buds. You might find though that while the sweet-sour balance here is good, the flavours could be more robust, as they are a little understated at the moment.
End your meal at The Majapahit with the crowd favourite Viet-namese drip coffee (RM12). Stir the tar-black coffee which already has a layer of condensed milk in the base of the cup and you’ll find a soothing, lightly sweet beverage guaranteed to ease frayed nerves and soothe your senses into a state of blissed-out contentment.
How says that while The Majapahit will remain a stand-alone restaurant, there are now plans to forge ahead with a spin-off restaurant called Gajah Mada which will epitomise the same cuisine ideals as The Majapahit.
“The first eatery is planned in MyTown KL – it will be a full restaurant, it’s just that we will price the food lower than The Majapahit,” he says.
Ground Floor, Arcoris Mont’Kiara, Lot No G8, G9 & G10, No 10, Jalan Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur; open Sundays to Thursdays from noon to 12.30am and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 1.30am; tel: 03-6411 7097