Seven years ago, Venezuelan teenager Sebastian landed in Malaysia on an art scholarship; now 25, he's made KL his home, opening a restaurant this month that showcases soul food from his homeland. Sebastian's is a real hole in the wall in Ampang, with a laid-back, anything-goes vibe - walk in at 7:30pm on a Wednesday night, & the kitchen might not even be open yet, so you'll be left to your own devices for awhile, admiring the artwork on the walls (painted by Sebastian himself) or chatting with one friendly server while the music blasting from the speakers swings from what sounds like dramatic Portuguese-style fado to Men At Work's unmistakeable Down Under. You'll begin to doubt whether the restaurant takes its fare seriously, but once the food finally starts coming (prepared by Sebastian's brother), it becomes clear that this is cooking worth loosening your belt for.
Start with the Venezuelan national dish, pabellon criollo (RM35; a platter of steamed white rice, stewed black beans, savoury shredded beef & sweetly ripe plantain slices, perfect for patrons who favour the produce of rustic kitchens), & order a very tasty side of arepas (RM20 for two pieces of Sebastian's own-made grilled cornmeal flatbread stuffed with chicken & cheese).
Croquettes are also good, crisp to the bite, plump with pulled chicken, topped with a variation of zesty guasacaca green sauce (RM20 for three). We also like the chorizo (RM20 for six pieces), firm but juicy, robust in flavour. If you're not on a diet, check out the cachapa, a traditional thick corn dough pancake blanketed with butter & cheese, or the tequenos, Venezuela's version of cheese sticks - much of the food tastes like it had been cooked in someone's home or at a street-side stall. The only flop was the bland & rubbery octopus with potatoes, but any disappointment was drowned out by rich & smooth Venezuelan rum.
Sebastian's @ Ampang
32 Persiaran Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. In theory, open daily, 7pm till late (kitchen closes 11pm). A drinking crowd comes in at 10pm, & the music gets loud. Tel: 012-250-2465
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