Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Li @ Damansara Jaya


Bridging the gap between kopitiam classics & modern comfort fare, Li puts a millennial-pleasing spin on 20th-century staples like roti babi, kaya toast & bubur ikan bilis, fuelling a Malaysian soul-food revitalisation by a committed new generation of kitchen talents. If the people behind Li & their philosophies foreshadow the fate of local cooking, the future might be bright.



Li is founded by two Lims & a Lee - chef Heng Kit (formerly of The Kitchen Table), barista Yee Rui (previously at VCR), & front-of-house stalwart Ziyan - all of whom first met at Melbourne's William Angliss hospitality & culinary arts institute. Their training supplies a solid foundation for skilful baking, curing, roasting, pickling & saucing - start with Li's house-made sourdough bread, turned into crunchy-fried, irresistibly greasy-bottomed open sandwiches layered with tender minced pork, sesame seeds, sriracha mayo & cilantro (RM9.50; not our granddaddy's Yut Kee roti babi, but distinctively memorable & enjoyable enough to be a Li signature) & textured toasts coupled with can't-fail soft eggs (RM7.50) or kaya butter (RM5.50).


Our favourite order here is the rice bowl with succulent-smooth chicken thigh, the runniest egg, ginger scallion sauce, sriracha mayo & cucumber (RM16.90) - it might most closely resemble Japanese donburi, but mix everything up & after a few bites, this hearty creation begins to evoke a broad range of the dynamics & dimensions of traditional Chinese chicken rice, a pleasantly strange surprise & - alongside the reinterpreted roti babi - possibly an honourable homage to Heng Kit's Hainanese heritage.


The tagliatelle with slow-cooked pulled pork, sesame oil, scallions, grated cured egg yolk & pickled green chillies (RM16.90) also upends expectations - the soft-textured pasta with its accompaniments end up tasting somewhat similar to Hakka Mee, apparently intentional. In this case though, it's unclear whether folks will prefer the original inspiration or the innovative tribute.



The anchovy congee with egg, fish sauce caramel & scallion sauce (RM9.50) is thick, warming & feels wholly nourishing, with earthy-green nuances, but if ikan bilis isn't your thing, it won't be the chief lure. The roast chicken leg with potatoes & pickles (RM21) is juicy & capably whipped up, though it targets customers who're seeking the safest, most inoffensive choice possible.


Two salads spring up on the soft-launch menu - romaine lettuce with grated cured egg yolk (a fun substitute for the typical parmesan), pickled onions, wolfberries & fish sauce vinaigrette (RM15) & sweet potatoes with mixed greens, apples, mint, pumpkin seeds & citrus vinaigrette (RM20.90) - both have clear merits, balancing a myriad of flavours, though the former could benefit from more heft while the latter makes for tricky manoeuvring if you like to consume every component in each forkful.




For dessert, lychees with meringue, lime granita & coconut milk (RM15.50) work best as a chilled refreshment if you relish lychees. Blondies sourced from Jaslyn Cakes are also available. Iced beverages shine a spotlight on lemon, lemongrass & kumquats; coffee is offered, & while wine is not, bottles won't be banished for corkage-payers. Service is cheery & obliging.

Li Restaurant Damansara Jaya
47 Jalan SS 22/23, Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Kitchen opens Tuesday-Sunday for lunch & dinner.


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16 comments:

  1. This brings back awesome memories of swinging by the morning kopitiam on the weekends after my exercise. I never quite understood the concept of having soft-boiled egg with soy sauce yet I loved it. ^^

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    1. Ciana: we share somewhat similar kopitiam memories ... mine were back in my high school years, when exercise wasn't so daunting, heh ;)

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  2. Well... Old style dishes with a twist :) love it!

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    1. Leo: yeah, it's an interesting concept vs the other cafes/restaurants we've been seeing ;)

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  3. I love those old school chairs. Prices a little on the high side but this, obviously, is not our regular kopitiam, very much nicer.

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    1. Suituapui: yeah, at first glance, some of the prices were a bit steeper than expected, but their house-baked bread is pretty delicious ;)

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  4. The salads seem fresh, love the extra touch of coriander :)

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    1. Ken: yep, that's one herb that i don't mind seeing :D

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  5. There's quite a bit of breakfast fare here...but surprised to find that they aren't open for breakfast?

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    1. Contact.ewew: i think they're still in the process of hiring staff (most places open on limited hours during their soft launch), and maybe they'll open earlier on weekends eventually once they're fully staffed :)

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  6. Food looks interesting! It's on my list! haha

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    1. Ciki: yay! hopefully you'll enjoy the visit to li :D

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  7. The roti babi looks good, I want to try that!

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    1. CK: it was the first thing i wanted to order, and it turned out quite tasty ... different from the regular roti babi, but delicious in its own way ;)

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  8. The food inspired me of my next recipe creation, thanks Sean and please stay tune!

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    1. Choi Yen: yay! Looking forward to seeing your recipe! :D

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