Monday, August 2, 2010

Istana Bambu @ Ampang

It was the concept that first sold us on this tough-to-find place, but thankfully, the food turned out to be better than expected.

Here's the hook: set amid a specially designed paddy field, Istana Bambu is built mainly from bamboo and "natural" construction material. It's a spacious venue that welcomes everyone from families and young couples to the occasional celebrity (hi, Siti Nurhaliza!).

Miraculously, no mosquitoes troubled us throughout dinner. Another plus point: even on a rain-free evening, it wasn't warm or humid at all (there were plenty of ceiling fans).

Salted egg yolk squid. Practically flawless. The squid was springy without being chewy, while the egg coating was rich and thick without being cloying. Best eaten hot, since it can become somewhat soggy after 10-15 minutes.

Flower crabs steamed with egg white. Reasonably meaty and juicy crustaceans, considering the species. And as fresh as can be, since this restaurant deals in live crabs.

Siamese-style fried chicken with mango stuffing. A fun recipe; the batter was crisp, the chicken was succulent and the sauce was tangy, but what took everything to the next level were the soft, perfectly ripe slices of mangoes inside.

Dry butter prawns. Pretty satisfying, thanks to tiger prawns that were plump and juicy.

Kerabu tang hoon. Not bad; there were lots of mixed seafood in this healthy-tasting preparation. But it kinda lacked the memorable piquancy often associated with this recipe.

Fried crispy beef, drenched in an addictive sweet and savory dressing.

"Three-taste" siakap. Fortunately, none of the flavors in this mildly spicy, sweet and sour sauce overpowered the fish, which tasted pleasant enough to recommend.

Pandan coconut drinks. One is never enough.

Be prepared to wait about 20-30 minutes for the food though. But that's the kitchen's fault; otherwise, service is friendly and fairly efficient.

Prices are slightly high but still reasonable. This meal cost RM225 and could feed four.

Istana Bambu,
Lot 841, Jalan Hulu Kelang,
Tel: 4251-4717
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  1. Seems to me, most of the dishes are fried..

  2. im sure rm225 for 2 is a steal for you haha.

    looks pretty good the food.

  3. Ooh nice... but given the concept and the somewhat toned down dishes, does this place attract huge tourist buses depositing truckloads of celeb-spotting visitors?

  4. A specially designed paddy field?

    I'm all for nice Malay restaurants, though. As much as I like Italian and Spanish and Japanese, I think we could do with more Malay choices.

  5. michelle: oh, the seafood can all be prepared in various other ways too (steamed, etc)
    joe: a steal because there's no alcohol, heheh. and alas, i don't think we're allowed to bring our own bottles of liquor here...
    min: there was a caucasian family here that evening, but so far, this place hasn't turned into a tourist trap. it's a word-of-mouth hit among ampang's residents, i think :D
    lemongrass: yeah, they converted part of the land into a paddy field while constructing this restaurant. true, it's nice to have local cuisine served in non-warung outlets (as long as the prices aren't exorbitant) =)

  6. the dishes very chinese like hor? i can recommend this place to my Muslim friends

  7. babe_kl: oh yeah, it's halal all the way. i guess that's crucial for their business, since this seems to be a muslim-majority residential area...

  8. Is this where "lil genting" is located? Dishes look really chinese but then somehow still looks malay. Quite fusion i'll say.

    But i love the design though! Nice

  9. the food taste malay style or chinese style??wut about the environment?it is hot??
    between I blog bout seafood which love too! check it out at

  10. Delighted to see you posted the cost! Keep it up!

  11. qwazymonkey: ohh it's nearby, but nope, this is actually on the middle ring road ... i'm hopeless at giving directions though, sorry :D yeah, the decor is definitely the main attraction here, though the food is good enough to make the journey worthwhile...
    cindy: hmmm, it tastes mainly chinese, though there are certainly malay and thai influences. i think it might be warm during lunchtime, but it's quite cool in the evening...
    marc: heheh, probably not! but i'll try from time to time :D

  12. wow the prices is indeed quite steep. Hey the word bambu reminds me of my friend whom always uses this word meaning "to scold"

  13. Eiling: heh, I hope that friend didn't bambu u too often :D

  14. Nice decor and the food looked decent - good to recommend to my muslim friends! Not that many halal seafood restaurants around.

  15. pureglutton: yeah, i guess flower crabs are a sure sign that a restaurant is ok for muslims :D yep, the customers here are at least 80 percent muslim, and so are the staff...

  16. Hi there

    I'm a writer with The Star (Sunday Metro) and would like to include this entry on Istana Bambu for our food blogger column (with pictures), to appear in this Sunday's paper. Thanks.

  17. Pictorialz: yep, feel free to do so. Tnx!

  18. Sayapun sudah menerjah di sini, what i can say is :

    Restoran Istana Bambu|Best Tapi....

  19. tqvm 4 the review... i think the fear factor here is the price. maybe bcoz they 'use' a singer cum minister's son as ambassador kots...ehehehhe

  20. eyriqazz: heheh, there's a tapi at the end, rite :D
    akuzle: oh ya, i guess it's still about 30-40 percent more expensive than other places =)