Salads often get a raw deal from the meat-preferring public - 'rabbit food,' some folks scoff - but a fresh set of salad bars is sprouting to change that. Our favourite in the Klang Valley so far: Chai Bar, planting itself this week in Oasis Ara Damansara.
Chai Bar is helmed by friendly young entrepreneurs Dennis & Edward, who aim to serve meals that can be simultaneously satisfying & wholesome. Customers looking to turn over a new leaf currently have a selection of 75 ingredients & 15 types of dressings to mix & match for seemingly infinite combinations.
One of the challenges for salad bars is ensuring that each offering tastes like a cohesive recipe - not simply random leaves & toppings slapped together - but Chai Bar has a solution, offering 10 tried-&-tested recommended combinations. Our favourite: 'Superfoods' (RM16) - rocket leaves & spring greens with sweet potatoes, beets, avocado, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, quinoa & peanut dressing. Add RM6 for smoked salmon.
Each salad we bought was absolutely worth the price, packed with irreproachably fresh ingredients. Our sole regret: We probably should have eaten at the outlet instead of ordering take-out, since these salads might have looked much better composed properly & photographed in bowls.
Another thoughtful twist: Many of Chai Bar's recipes are playful interpretations of classic Asian favourites - we're fans of 'Chicken Rice' (RM14), a minimal-guilt creation that showcases the outlet's own-poached chicken breast with crunchy red rice, bean sprouts, onions, cucumber, baby spinach & a soy sauce dressing.
Korea receives its due with 'Bibimbap' (RM18) - thick, hearty slices of slow-grilled lean beef with hard-boiled eggs, carrots, mushrooms, kimchi, Korean anchovies & gochujang sauce - an illustration of how a nutritionally complete lunch or dinner can be enjoyed here. Plus, Chai Bar makes its own dressings daily - no Thousand Island, thankfully.
Stick a fork in it: A Japanese influence is woven through 'California Girls' (RM23), which pairs kaori-hako sticks with the likes of butterhead lettuce, red coral leaves, pickled seaweed, cherry tomatoes, capelin roe, roasted seaweed & creamy wasabi mayo.
Think Thai: The lightly piquant, mercifully-not-too-spicy 'Porntip' (RM19) mixes glass noodles with springy boiled prawns, young papaya, roasted peanuts, dried shrimp, som tam sauce & more. Could go well with the kaffir lemonade, 'berrynana' smoothie & other juices & teas that Chai Bar expects to serve eventually.
Amid all the Asian sensations, this Tex-Mex 'Sombrero' (RM20) might seem out of place, but it still manages to hold it own with a three-bean mix, peppers, grilled chicken, tortilla chips, corn, tomatoes, onions, cheddar cheese, avocado dressing & salsa.
Seek out Chai Bar beside Pacific Coffee on your left after you drive into Oasis Ara Damansara.
G13, Oasis Village, Oasis Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya
Currently Mon-Fri: 11am-9pm, Sat-Sun: 11am-3pm See https://www.facebook.com/
chaibarmy for the latest operating hours
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