Thursday, July 3, 2014

2014 Checkback: Ante Kitchen & Bar @ Solaris Dutamas

This restaurant that prides itself on pork is poised to soon celebrate its two-year mark _ a lifetime, literally, for some eateries. Thankfully, Ante Kitchen & Bar isn't ready to retire; energised by an exuberant crowd on a recent Thursday night, this is one outlet that's worth talking about again in 2014, with a constellation of new-&-improved recipes to reward its returning customers.
Earlier entries on Ante: October 2012 & November 2012.

The evolution of Ante hasn't been a smooth one. In 2013, the restaurant lost its chef-&-co-founder to migration; it could have been a mortal blow, causing food standards to collapse, but the all-male band of twentysomethings who started Ante was determined not to end it all. The result: The food is even better now compared to our previous experiences here, with stand-outs like the signature 'Sweet Belly' (RM26+), a caramel-sauce-soaked row that should satisfy folks seeking the inimitable combination of succulent meat layered with luscious fat & crunchy crackling skin that only the best roast pork belly provides.

The kitchen is currently helmed by Jason, another of Ante's pioneering entrepreneurs & one of our hosts for this meal. Despite being recently married, Jason remains extraordinarily faithful to his restaurant, heading here everyday & keeping his crew on their toes to ensure each hot, hearty plate of pork ear confit (RM15+), sliced into slivers & thickly battered, comes out crispy on the outside & gooey-gelatinous within. Paired with garlicky mayo & potentially an acquired taste (but easily & enjoyably so); it makes us wish Ante would put more offal on the menu, but there seems to be little demand for tail stew, braised tongue & pan-fried liver.

 This month, Ante unveils the latest incarnation of its menu; pizzas (never a forte for Ante, frankly) are out, but pastas remain most defiantly in. Still, several surprising changes are afoot: The 'All-Bacon' Carbonara (RM28+), which has long been one of Ante's most popular orders, is here to stay ...

... but it now has stiff competition from a certifiably more alluring upgrade: 'Char siew' carbonara in curry cream (RM32+), crowned with sumptuous slices of sweet-savoury meat, transforming what would otherwise be run-of-the-mill into an only-at-Ante exclusive.

When the epitaph for Ante is someday finally written, the restaurant's char-grilled pork steak (RM46+) could trigger fond, tearful memories. The recipe has been refined this year; it's now a hefty cut closer to the belly, with better marbling than before (dieters, stand back), oozing with flavourful juices, partnered with berry cream sauce that'll complement _ not overpower _ the meat, plus Granny Smith apples, mashed russet potatoes & horseradish sauce.

In 2012, we wrote that Ante's "caveman-worthy pork ribs might rank among KL's most succulent, charcoal-grilled with hickory chips for a lick-your-lips flavour that'll stick to your fingers for hours." That remains the norm here, but the Hogger Ribs (RM85+) _ still fit for the hungriest Neanderthal _ now come soaked in a kitchen-made BBQ sauce that should inspire more lip-licking than ever before.

Even the non-pork recipes fare pretty well: The smoked duck salad with toasted almond flakes & sun-dried tomatoes (RM25+) proves the kitchen's prowess in tackling matters of both taste & texture. It's beautifully dressed, supplying a confident, compelling balance of flavours that extends this salad's allure far beyond KL's leaf-lovers.

Dessert might not be Ante's star attraction, but resisting the bread-&-butter pudding (RM16+) or the apple pie here is more than merely futile _ it's foolish, thanks largely to glutton-approved, swoon-worthy scoops of ice cream.

Now this one's a knock-out: We love affogatos & we order them as often as possible, but Ante's feels like one of KL's best. It's not the coffee that really stands out or even the ice cream, but the sum of the parts, partnered with salted caramel & almond flakes for a flavour-packed, can't-fail combo. RM15+.

Ante has steadily become one of Solaris Dutamas' best-stocked restaurants for wine, offering seven thoughtfully chosen varieties by well-priced glasses (the selection is always evolving, mostly costing RM19+ each). Check with manager CK, one of the newer members of Ante's family, for his recommendations.

 Cocktails here prove potent but perhaps sweeter than some might prefer; the passion fruit caipirinha (RM21+), Ante's version of Brazil's national cocktail, is the best bet for this South-American-obsessed month.

Ante Bar & Kitchen
A2-G1-09, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur
Daily, 11am-1am. Tel: 03-6206-3364

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20 comments:

  1. liked the ice cream dessert ! XD

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    1. Happy walker: perfect for patrons who like hot-cold combos :D

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  2. Mmmmmm....carbonara, pork steak, ribs, what a dream! :)

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    1. Linda: a carnivore's playground, this place is :)

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  3. Quite a crowd there! Oooo...those sexy ribs and belly, so alluring... Ummmm, no char siew on my pasta, please, thank you. Personally not a fan of such mismatches and CONfusion.

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    1. Suituapui: heheh, yeah, there's a good mix of dishes here, definitely something for everyone :)

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  4. Love their Mushroom and Tomasco soups...tried the Sweet Belly a few months back...love it too =)

    'Char siew' carbonara in curry cream and heftier n juicier char-grilled pork steak...who can say 'no' to tat! :3

    As with all fusion food...try with an open mind...who knows it might be a pleasurable discovery =)

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    1. Ulric: yay! nice to hear your positive feedback on Ante too :) yeah, i wouldn't have thought of combining char siew with carbonara, but you're right, it's memorable and very enjoyable, thanks to that luscious char siew :D

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  5. It's really inspiring that the founders of Ante never allowed the sudden loss of the first chef to knock them off, you know. It's necessary to have that persistence in the F&B world, especially when there are loads of fierce competition.

    Whoa, the carbonara looks like something that's really common, but upon closer inspection, we can see the char siew inside. I reckon, it's an Asian and Italian fusion? ^^

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    1. Waverly: yeah, life as a restaurateur can be pretty crazy, and i hope the folks at ante will continue to find it rewarding :) yup, asian-italian fusion is a fine combination... the possibilities seem endless :D

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  6. Everything just look delicious!
    I would love that pasta with an Asian twist ;-)
    ps: I love pork. LOL!

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    1. Melissa: heheh, if you love pork, you'll love Ante ... and that char siew pasta is probably one of my favourite dishes for this past month :D

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  7. Wow, such good remarks, shall note this place down. Thanks for sharing :D

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    1. Ken: hope you manage to check out this place someday, and that you'll enjoy it :D

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  8. I would very rarely go for pork steak... but that looks very very good indeed! Oh and the ribs... finger licking stuff.

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    1. Baby Sumo: yeah, i don't have pork steaks very often too, but i'm glad they let us try it here. we finished the whole steak, and we tried to finish all the ribs, but we were so stuffed in the end, heh :D

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  9. A veritable paradise of pork by the looks of things!

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    1. YouHadYourLunch: yeah, the best bet for people pursuing pork in solaris dutamas :)

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  10. has been 2 years but I have yet pay a visit, because there are mixed reviews about Ante :(

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    1. Choi Yen: dinnertime is probably the better time to head here, since the most experienced staff members are here during that time :)

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