From Solaris Dutamas' Coffee Societe to Bandar Sunway's Garage 51, brothers Kar Wai & Kar Heng have consistently been near the forefront of the Klang Valley's cafe fraternity for nearly three years, working hard to push the envelope a bit further with each of their outlets. Their latest labour of love - Underground Societe - opens this week, a short stroll from Garage 51, representing a natural evolution of their brand & a forward-thinking peek at what the future might hold for Malaysian cafe fans.
In terms of aesthetics, Underground Societe is a triumph - tangibly tasteful & commandingly comfortable. But what's more important are its ideas about the maturing requirements of its customers: What happens after you've walked into & out of a hundred cafes, many of them slowly but steadily becoming a hyper-caffeinated blur through the years? Where do you go once you've devoured dozens of Big Breakfasts & had your fill of fried eggs with sausages, mushrooms & hash browns?
With that in mind, Underground Societe's key attraction is a menu that's heavily & hearteningly weighted toward new recipes. Our favourites here are the tasting platters (more of them, please), built for sharing & sampling, each between RM20 & RM26.
Avocado admirers will likely adore these ravishingly ripe, creamy-soft slices, crowned with toppings like Jamaican-inspired pineapple salsa, mashed egg, feta cheese, as well as prawns, couscous & fish roe, every one a distinctive, delicate delight.
For a photogenic pleasure, order the yellowfin tuna tartare, mixed with avocados again, along with highland tomatoes, bedecked with escargot shells that have been emptied out & stuffed with scrambled eggs & salmon roe.
Scoring strongly with savoury-sweet, meaty-grainy nuances, the oft-abused smoked duck breast finally finds a fulfilling partnership with hillocks of couscous, kitchen-made orange marmalade, roasted beetroot, pumpkin, broccoli & raisins.
It's also pretty easy to recommend Underground Societe's soups - roasted highland pumpkin with cream & pimento toast ...
... & a convincingly textured, Egyptian-inspired green pea broth (RM16) that reflects a thoughtful kind of love for real food.
Brunch fare (available 11am-6pm daily) enjoys a makeover - Underground Societe's interpretation of Eggs Benedict comes with slipper lobster & roasted pumpkin. One thing we'd change about this might be the generically doughy muffins; some customers might also hesitate at the sight of the RM28 price tag, especially since the serving isn't huge.
Still, we appreciate Underground Societe's enjoyable attempts at complexity & creativity for these dishes, best illustrated by the juicily grilled Atlantic salmon with German-style spaetzle, thyme-boiled quail eggs, asparagus & hollandaise sauce (RM26).
Ultimately, Underground Societe isn't perfect (no place is, after all), but its flaws make it no less fascinating. We might not completely love this pizza, topped with Cajun-spiced chicken, poached egg, Caesar salad & mozzarella cheese, mainly because the crust is too thick, but we like the potential & promise of this place. It's a step in the right direction, encouragingly influenced by its friendly founders' passion for Melbourne's cafes.
The healthiest option on the brunch selection: Soaked oat groats with julienne applies, strawberries, apple compote & honey (RM18). Note that Underground Societe serves a different menu during dinnertime - mint-crusted NZ lamb rack, pastas & more.
The cafe's signature dessert is the Underground Grenade (RM26), essentially a boozy Bombe Alaska, best shared by two.
Flambeed meringue, indulgently rich, blanketing mint chocolate chip ice cream, for a nice finish to this meal.
A fair number of KL cafes - more than two dozen - do offer imaginative recipes these days, but few are able to serve alcohol. Underground Societe bucks that terrible trend, catering to the vino-loving crowd - wine really does make everything better, & it helps to super-charge the energy at a eatery. Chilean Merlot & Sauvignon Blanc start at RM18 per glass here; for exuberantly special occasions, a bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial clocks in at RM480.
Still, most of Underground Societe's customers might stick to coffee - order the best-of-two-worlds Black & White (RM15) - cleanse your palate with sparkling water, sip the espresso, then have the water once more before savouring the piccolo latte.
Nitro cold-brew coffee on tap (RM15) might taste a bit like beer, but it's totally OK for teetotalers ...
... though the Underground Coffee cocktail (RM26) isn't, laced with vodka & Bailey's. All in all, the ambition showcased at Underground Societe earns a measure of respect - with plenty of positive vibes & a sparkling service team, it's worth visiting, & it makes us look forward to whatever Kar Wai & Kar Heng might come up with next.
68 Jalan PJS 11/7, Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. An interesting neighbourhood to place a restaurant like this.
Open daily, 11am-2am (love the late & convenient hours). Tel: 03-5613-3851
A customer at the Shear Madness Hair & Beauty Salon in PJ's Happy Garden has murdered Isabel Fernandez, Malaysia's most famous pianist! But who?!? You and the audience have been watching them come and go, getting their hair washed and cut on-stage at this one-of-a-kind show that will play at the PJ Live Arts in Jaya One, Nov. 26-Dec 7.
"It's basically a live version of Law & Order or CSI," says the show's director, Richard Harding Gardner. "When I first saw Shear Madness at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, I was amazed at just how observant the audience was! Stuff that I had missed, someone, somewhere in the audience pounced on it!"
So it's like Cluedo, plus it's very, very funny. Come and see if you can work out who-dun-it! It's not even the same person every night, so take YOUR turn to play armchair detective, question the cast and catch the culprit.
Tickets can be purchased at www.tix.my or by calling 017-2289-849
For the November 26 premiere, Gardner & Wife Theatre is offering a "Buy Two Tickets for the Price of One" exclusive bargain for customers who type the coupon code EDKL when purchasing your ticket online.
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