Sunday, June 19, 2016

Antara Restaurant @ Raja Chulan

Chef Isadora Chai's second restaurant isn't what some might expect. Five years after first bringing modern French flair to PJ with Bistro a Table, Isadora has stretched out into the city centre, taking up two floors of a nearly century-old restored building on Raja Chulan. Antara Restaurant is an exquisite space with profoundly personal touches - its terrace & walkway remind Isadora of her late father's home in Teluk Anson, & her selection of furnishing & a batik-print menu was carefully considered, culminating in a one-of-a-kind centrepiece upstairs of 50 portraits of Tunku Abdul Rahman that reward close contemplation. But while Antara's charm & character seem decidedly steeped in nostalgia, with Saloma & Sheila Majid echoing through the halls, it nonetheless stirs to life as a fresh, vital venue, turning the past into prelude for a restaurant that speaks to the present.

Expect a culinary tapestry of traditional Malaysian, woven with whiffs of French, mirroring the fare that Isadora makes at home for family & friends. Commence with a communal feast of plump popiah that you'll roll yourself at the table, evoking the spirit of preparing & eating food in your grandparents' kitchen. This popiah party (RM48) features a top-flight wrapping skin, fillings & condiments, from French beans with dried scallops to the juiciest jicama & the crunchiest croutons - elaborately fun & fulfilling.

Many recipes in Antara's oeuvre reflect a respect for time-honoured local flavours, artfully balancing the generations-old heritage of Malaysian cuisine with modern gastronomy's ever-expanding palette. Sarawak laksa is crowned with marron for a princely flourish (RM78), while retaining the robust dynamics & dimensions of a Kuching-proud rendition, bolstered by belacan brought into KL from Sarawak. That same belacan packs a punch in some other Antara offerings, including assam chicken wings (RM25) & a deluxe Mee Siam with supremely substantial chunks of delectable, crispy-tender soft-shell crab (RM36).

For customers craving the unconventional chow that has become Isadora's hallmark, it's all here too - delicate pie tee with shaved foie gras & anago (RM27), mantao with luscious foie gras & mango chutney (RM55), toasted chapati with goat's curd & an addictive curried mussel cream (RM22), alongside desserts like hazelnut roti jala with dulce de leche anglaise (RM25) & a 'terribly alcoholic' creme de menthe cendol with kahlua sago pearls that harks back to one of Bistro a Table's degustation dinners three years ago (RM36). This is a risk-taking menu, free of MSG & easy shortcuts, executed with no-nonsense craftsmanship by sterling teams that toil effectively both by the table & behind the scenes to deliver a memorable experience.

Antara Restaurant
Old Malaya, Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur. 
Currently open for dinner, Mon-Sat. Will open for lunch & dinner daily eventually. Tel: 03-2078-8881

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15 comments:

  1. Antara apa? Anyir dan Jakarta, Sheila Majid? LOL!!! Those activists wouldn't be too happy with this place...and me, being old and old fashioned - I think I'd rather stick to my nyonya style pai tee. The case looks really good, I must say, very well made - thin, must be really crispy.

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    1. ...and I'd stick to my own nyonya-style popiah too. :P

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    2. Suituapui: heh, the name more of describes the cuisine - in between malaysian & french, but leaning heavily more toward malaysian :) the pie tee shell does feel like it has that traditional light airy crisp, you're right! :D

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    3. Suituapui: it's been a long time since i wrapped my own popiah, so this was fun! :)

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  2. So it's basically high end local food with some western twist.. I do hope that the taste justifies the price charged, as I'd seen that it's quite premium.. Sarawak laksa for RM78? Wow

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    1. Leo: i think the ingredients and other factors necessitate the prices ... that's a whole crayfish in that sarawak laksa, for example, and four very large chunks of really good-quality soft-shell crab in that mee siam :)

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  3. Wah, what a decadent bowl of Sarawak laksa....with a crayfish thrown in...and foie gras in pie tee....woohoo! ;)

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    1. Contact.ewew: it definitely is decadent ... and it'll be interesting to see what other dishes they'll create in the months to come! :)

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  4. I like the idea of wrapping up the popiah myself!

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    1. Phong Hong: yeah, you can choose your own proportions for the ingredients! ;)

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  5. That is some pretty interesting concept, foie gras certainly makes everything better. :D

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    1. KY: ya - and foie gras plus unagi makes it doubly better :D

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  6. What a gorgeous space~

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    1. Choi Yen: glad you like it! :)

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  7. What a waste of an evening with some very close friends...found the food preparation to be so passé and pretentious...corkage of rm50 p bottle and only to be served with poor stemware!! Left in a hurry,adjourned to somewhere else...what I found more unpleasant than the food,was to be told by the waiting staff was that the restaurant is owned by a celebrity chef...even after dining at many rated places(including El Buli,twice),never have I ever experienced anything like it..Enough!

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