Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Humble Chef & Chef Diary

Will too many Chefs spoil this block? We headed to Plaza Damansara to find out, seeking snacks at The Humble Chef & a full-blown dinner at Chef Diary.

Most might know The Humble Chef from its van that parks at night in Pusat Bandar Damansara & dishes out RM5 pasta. This year, it opened a cafe in Bukit Damansara, where customers can eat in a partially air-conditioned setting adorned with local artwork.

Lamb-stuffed omelet. Hot & fresh, with an eggy-cheesy texture that's both fluffy & milky. Sure, the lamb's a little too gamy, evocative of mutton, but for RM2.50, we can't complain.

Lamb-filled pita bread (RM4.50). Why try this even if you're ordering the omelet? One reason: The Humble Chef's own zingy mustard sauce, which really complements the minced meat.

Spaghetti is sold in a myriad of preparations: pesto, aglio olio, carbonara & bolognese, with choices of chicken, beef, lamb & meatballs. The chicken pesto is flavorful in a blended herb sauce; could nitpick that the meat comes in sparse slivers, but it's still only RM5.

The crowds head here fast & furious, causing some items run out before the night is over. The Humble Chef opens for lunch & dinner starting 7:30pm, but by the time we arrived at 9pm, it was out of beef & noodles (Mee Kondo & Fried Laksa). Thankfully, service is speedy & smiley.

Next up, revisiting Chef Diary, which has maintained high standards & survived 30 months now.
Earlier entry on Chef Diary: September 23, 2009.

Tapas are a treat here; arranged to look like butterflies, this duck pate with black truffles & smoked paprika is worth admiring. The pate might have hailed from a can, but for RM18++, it's far from a rip-off.

Air-dried beef, drizzled with truffle oil & stuffed with piquillo peppers & Manchego cheese. A delicious combo with complicated flavors & textures _ meaty, savory, oily, earthy, peppery, chewy-crumbly & nutty. Something to savor slowly & silently.

More truffles, in piping-hot potato croquettes, crisp on the outside & creamy-soft within.

Air-dried tuna with avocado, mascarpone & pomegranate dressing. Another textural triumph, reminiscent of recipes that Millesime's Max Chin might whip up.

Boquerones with vine-ripened tomatoes in brown butter & white balsamic sauce. Can't say the unusual mix of crisp anchovies with such tangy accompaniments was an unadulterated success, but it was an intriguing interplay of ingredients.

Oxtail braised in Madeira wine. You can taste the liquor _ reason enough to recommend this.

For main courses, Chef Diary's should-try is the Spanish Carbonara, featuring fettuccine with duck pancetta (similar to Chinese siew yoke in both appearance & flavor), Manchego cheese & egg yolk. Forget those salmonella poisoning fears & dig deep into this richly sumptuous dish.

We can't thoroughly endorse the beef paella though; while it came with muscularly hearty chunks of meat to justify its RM70 price tag, the rice lacked any scent of saffron.

Complimentary dessert: flourless chocolate cake, warm & moist, accompanied by whole figs.

Sangria is available, a refreshing, thirst-quenching version with lots of chopped fruits.

Marques de Caceros Crianza, a Spanish red that's perfect for partnering with the food. And as we finished the wine, we reached our happy conclusion: as far as Plaza Damansara is concerned, two Chefs are better than one!

The Humble Chef & Chef Diary,
Plaza Damansara, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.
Check out EAT DRINK, a new F&B website jointly run by The Expat Group (TEG) & Eat Drink KL. This website features all of our up-to-date reviews, plus exclusive weekly articles & a searchable database on restaurants in KL & Selangor: EatDrink.my

37 comments:

  1. It's hard to believe that they're still serving food at such low prices. Can pay rental meh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Baby sumo: ya, especially since rental in this neighborhood can't be too cheap. Maybe they'll survive on sheer quantity of customers; there was barely an empty table even on a weeknight! :D

      Delete
  2. Humble chef prices seem so reasonable!
    The air-dried beef, drizzled with truffle oil & stuffed with piquillo peppers & Manchego cheese is on my to order list. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The yum list: oh yeah, wallet-friendly prices for evenings when we might be trying to spend less than RM10 per person :D chef diary is a solid restaurant too. but it's been flying under the radar and keeping a low profile all this time =)

      Delete
  3. Though Humble Cef's food is cheap, I still won't revisit after trying it one time.
    It's really low grade stuffs -_-
    The Chef diary certainly looks promising! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thenomadgourmand: ooh, or maybe try the humble chef's actual cafe someday and see if it's somehow any better compared to your memories of the truck's food. they've expanded the menu slightly for the cafe =) but ya, if given a choice between humble chef and chef diary, I'd go for the latter too, since there are more satisfying dishes at chef diary and booze too, heh :D

      Delete
  4. That might well be the cheapest pasta in town! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, can't believe the price is so cheap!
      I think I would like to try both. :D

      Delete
    2. Kenny: the most wallet-friendly pasta might be what's made in one's own kitchen! (forgot to rummage through your home cabinets to see what kind of pasta you might have stored) :D
      CK: you can try both of these outlets! they're less than 200 meters from each other. but no coffee served here though :D

      Delete
    3. No lor... there's no economy of scale for the other ingredients that one adds to the pasta when cooking at home. Buying the basic ingredients - olive oil, pasta, tomatoes, garlic, etc. could easily be >RM5 lah. :P

      Delete
    4. Kenny: ooh, buy the pasta, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, etc in bulk! Then you can cook up a big feast for your friends! Did I hear someone say 'housewarming party.' heheh...

      Delete
  5. Really amazed at those prices... where was the Humble Chef when I was still in uni and on a shoestring budget? Lol. The carbonara (with that egg!) looks to die for :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dropsofcontentment: oh yeah, love the prices! the cost of the whole meal at the humble chef was less than the price of the carbonara at chef diary (though you're right, the carbonara with egg was amazing!) :D

      Delete
  6. Hi Sean, I've really been meaning to ask you this for the longest time - how do you manage to be so updated as to the new restaurants or eateries in KL/PJ? It feels like you're always in the restaurant on opening night/week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elle: ah, i just keep my eyes & ears open wherever i go, and i do keep track of outlets that i know will be opening soon. and it helps when my friends inform me whenever something opens in their work place or neighborhood :D

      Delete
  7. Its funny how ppl always complain when they pay RM5 for a plate of wantan mee, but they don't mind paying RM5 for a plate of pasta. Somehow western dishes command a better premium than local cuisine. =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Smitten By Food: it could be in relative terms, since RM4 plates of satisfying wantan mee are everywhere, but it can be difficult to find a good plate of pasta that costs below RM20 :D

      Delete
  8. The truffles in piping-hot potato croquettes looks good...but the pasta with d runny yolk looks even better...summore with duck n cheese...woot =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ulric: yups, chef diary's croquettes were a treat for any fans of potatoes! and their fettuccine was probably one of the tastier pastas i've had so far this year! :D

      Delete
  9. STop! you had me at Lamb-stuffed omelet!!! but, yeah, 2 chefs are indeed better than one, esp since the food offerings are so varied:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ciki: i wonder if it's possible that there'll someday be THREE Chefs on this row! heheh :D

      Delete
  10. d shop decoration is really simple and nice...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Simple Person: oh yeah, very pleasant to look at =)

      Delete
  11. I should really visit chef's diary. :) Food looks so good!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michelle: it's worth at least one visit, yeah! :D

      Delete
  12. I like the ambiance of this place. There are also lots of never before seen foods that I want to try.


    www.vankaizer.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Henry: hope you get the chance to check it out someday =)

      Delete
  13. I used to love eating at Humble Chef, but I feel quality has dropped since they first started. Portions aren't as generous too. :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bangsar-babe: ooh, i wonder if it's because of escalating prices. i haven't tried eating at the truck, but i felt the portions & quality of food at this physical cafe were OK for the prices. could be better, could be worse, heh :D

      Delete
  14. The Spanish Carbonara could be a good carbo loading meal (reward) for me now that I back running on alternate days. Hehehe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Missyblurkit: it'll supply both lots of carb & lots of high-quality protein! :D

      Delete
  15. Ok Chef Diary looks more like the restaurant I'm most likely to visit. But Plaza Damansara is quite a secluded area which I seldom go. Sigh...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eiling: it's not too far away, actually! once you've reached bangsar, it's less than 10 minutes away to plaza damansara :D

      Delete
  16. I been to humble ever since they open the truck. yes the price is surely cheap but to be honest the service is slow and the quality food has gone down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Treats N Treats: yikes, sorry to hear that. i haven't managed to check out the truck yet. but i do hope the owners recognize complaints from their loyal customers and take action to repair their weaknesses =)

      Delete
  17. what day they close the 1 that at bukit damansara.. juz worried by the time reach there they closed

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ashraf: oops, sorry, i'm not sure which day they close. but if it's open, it'll open till past 10pm, i think =)

      Delete