Sunday, July 15, 2018

Joloko @ Chow Kit

KL's new Caribbean queen promises cooking that's beguilingly diverse, a melting pot of West Indies island cuisine with influences that stretch through Africa and Arabia, spanning goat curry to guava-glazed prawn tostadas, jerk chicken to plantain dumpling soup to broccoli with banana vinegar, represented on one thoroughly tempting menu.

The venue's show-runners seem equally eclectic: Dutchman Rick Joore spearheads the bar and is mad about mezcal, American Tim Jay steers the kitchen after stints that took him from the Midwest to the Middle East, and Malaysian Shin Chang boasts the architectural prowess that helped transform this decades-old Chow Kit heritage home into a tropical-themed triumph to match his work at Petaling Street's Chocha Foodstore. Look for the mellow-yellow, tree-obscured facade.

Many of the menu's highlights were not ready for the limelight when we visited (expect grilled goat ribs and house-fermented fruit wines sometime soon), but there's enough for a complete meal of distinctive dishes that stand out in KL's culinary landscape: Start with the ropa de vieja, Joloko's take on one of Cuba's most popular staples, a hearty heap of pulled stewed beef that meat devotees can really go to town with, served with tacos for a mighty munch (RM55). Looking westward, Mexico is spoken for by the barracuda Veracruz, the fish dressed up exuberantly with tomatoes, capers and olives (RM75).

While African fare deserves an entire establishment of its own, it's nice to see a contemporary restaurant that strives to bring a bit of the continent to KL, with chunky bone-in lamb steak in a mild peanut sauce (RM120 for 400 grams) and a rendition of the jollof rice that's rife from Senegal to Sierra Leone (RM20) - Joloko's jollof is rich and flavoursome with tomatoes, though it's more stinging in its spiciness than expected, a nod perhaps to the Bhut jolokia peppers that Joloko is cultivating (the restaurant plans to rely on vegetables - eggplant, snake beans and more - harvested in its co-founder's own local farm).

For snacking, order a side of flatbread with intriguing dips - the goat's curd with cucumber and mint is pretty perky (RM15), while the walnut hummus with pomegranate molasses is both textured and tasty, nutty and nectarous (RM20). A slice of chilli cheesecake (RM20) ensures that customers feel the burn till the luscious end.

While a list of over a dozen tequilas kicks off Joloko's liquor selection, mezcal is the true headliner, with nearly 20 varietals to choose from, making this the ideal venue in KL to deepen your appreciation of agave. And of course, plenty of attention is paid to the cocktails - dip in with the Voodoo Old Fashioned (RM44; dark rum, mezcal, pecan nut liqueur, oloroso sherry, chocolate bitters, spice dust), then dive further with the Margarita-ish (RM38; Tequila Ocho, gin, orange curacao, green chilli liqueur, lime, Himalayan salt), Dark and Stormy (RM34; spiced rum, fermented pineapple and ginger beer, calamansi, blackstrap molasses) and Caffe No Se (RM38; mezcal, Fair Cafe liqueur, burnt orange, espresso).

Bonus trivia: Ask Rick what Joloko means, and he'll explain that they simply liked the sound of the name. So do we.

43, Jalan Kamunting, Chow Kit, 50300 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Currently open for dinner, except Mondays. 

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Bona Book Cafe @ Krakow, Poland

Pop into this beautiful Polish book cafe, teeming with tomes to last a lifetime, and escape Krakow's crowds for awhile with a hot mug of mulled mead in hand, flavoured with lemon, raisins and almonds.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Sunny Queen @ Sunway Pyramid

Murals of polar bears wandering through a forest line this whimsical restaurant, alongside rooms where cute cartoon cats and mice frolic on the walls. As you pull up your chair, you might be charmed by caricatures of reindeer and bunnies on the back of the furniture.

Stepping into Sunny Queen is like strolling into a wonderland where fables and fairy tales spring nearly to life; nestled in Sunway Pyramid, this is the Taiwanese-born brand's first branch in Malaysia, and it's fast becoming a favourite for families and friends who seek a touch of magic in the ambiance to match with their meal.

Sunny Queen has intriguing origins; its name is a reference to its founder, a Taiwanese restaurateur who initially specialised in steamboat recipes. But true to the modern nature of globalised gastronomy, she also adored Italian and Western fare, so Sunny Queen is her tribute to the fare that has spread from Rome, Florence and Milan to the rest of the world.

Start with the Truffle Parmesan Cheese Risotto, layered with beef bacon and shiitake, oyster and eryngii mushrooms, enhanced with Parmesan cheese and truffle cream sauce, blending together into a lovely recipe that might well reignite your romance with risotto (RM 34.80).

For customers who relish rice but prefer a relatively Asian interpretation, order the Baked Cheese Seafood Rice, a rich and savoury offering, blanketed in hot, creamy baked cheese that conceals a treasure chest of the ocean's bounty, including plenty of prawns, clams, calamari, sole, scallops and mussels (RM 30.80)

Naturally, pastas are a highlight of the menu too; Sunny Queen's kitchen does justice to this culinary heritage, deftly balancing the demands of Italian traditions with local palates. 

For seafood satisfaction, sample the Squid Ink and Seafood Pasta, a familiar crowd-pleaser of midnight-hued magnificence, drawing out the ocean's fresh, unmistakable flavours with prawns, clam, calamari, sole, scallops, mussels and oysters (RM 34.80), or the more luxurious-textured Creamy Shrimp and Roe Pasta, combining crustacean with ebiko on one plate, balanced out with capsicum and snow peas for crunch (RM 31.80).

The pride of Sunny Queen is the Dancing Queen (RM 56.80), a vertical-roasted chicken that's gone through a marination process of over 24 hours, resulting in a golden-brown beauty that's so immaculately tender, you're recommended to rip it apart with your hands, with gloves provided by the restaurant. 

The whole chicken, fleshy and flavoursome, is served strikingly in a bird cage that'll have everyone snapping photos instantly; thankfully, it tastes as appealing as it looks, completed with roasted seasonal vegetables and a spicy chilli sauce and sweet lemon sauce, for a full meal that two or three customers can share.

Do note there are limited servings per day for the Dancing Queen, and that it's cooked to order, with wait times of about 35 minutes; however, customers are encouraged to pre-order this signature dish one day in advance to avoid the long wait time or disappointment.

Customers can enjoy 50 percent off the featured price of Sunny Queen's Dancing Queen whole chicken this month. Discount offer is valid on WEEKDAYS only, from 16 to 31 July 2018. Dine in only, not allowed for take-away. Find out more on

The menu is comprehensive - beyond the main courses highlighted above, customers can start with an appetite-rousing Mixed Fruit Salad of fresh greens, brined watermelon, brined honeydew, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, toasted nuts, dried cranberries and orange dressing (RM 14.80) ...

... and finish with the Walnut and Chocolate Banana Pizza, a thin-crusted creation sweetly topped with toasted walnuts, bananas and raisins (RM 19.80). Fans of savoury pizzas can always opt instead for the likes of the Margherita or Smoked Duck Pizzas.

By the time you read this, Sunny Queen should also be ready to launch its latest offering, a take on the East Asian honey toast that'll be available for brunch, Sunny Toast, crisp and hearty, sprinkled with fruits and marshmallows galore, moistened with a side of creme anglaise sauce and some blueberry cream at the base.

The passion for presentation extends to the drinks as well, including the I Am Watermelon, a whole fruit filled with fresh, natural-tasting watermelon juice (RM 33.80), and the Black Tea in a Jug (RM 12.80) ...

... as well as the Sunny Fruit Tea, which brings a splash of theatrics to your table, brewing together tea with a medley of apples, oranges, strawberries and passion fruit in front of you, for a beverage that's simultaneously robust and soothing in every sip (RM 22.80).

Customers searching for weekday meals can also check out Sunny Queen's Value Lunch Sets, available Monday through Friday, from 11am to 5pm, with main course combos that also come with a soup, drink and fruit, starting at RM 19.80. You could also nip by later for a High Tea set comprising a dessert and a drink, daily from 3pm to 6pm.

Many thanks to Sunny Queen for having us.

Sunny Queen
OB3.LG1.7-8A, Oasis Boulevard, Lower Ground One, Sunway Pyramid, Bandar Sunway, 47500 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. 

Daily, 10am-10pm. Tel: 03-5612-8927

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