KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 — Mondays can be a terrifying prospect if you’re staying in Taman Bukit Desa. The entire row of familiar neighbourhood eateries seems to have chosen this one day to take a break every week.
Have a craving for noodles? Sanuki Udon and Lao Jiu Lou (the latter my favourite spot for dandanmen ramen) are closed for the day. Fancy a flat white and an almond croissant? Encore Pâtisserie reopens on Tuesday. Need a bubbly fix? The Soda Factory is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Fret not though for the newest foodie haunt in the taman remains open on Mondays, hurrah! Red Kettle aims to serve comfort food in a casual ambience, doubling as both a bakery and a restaurant. Look past the red shutters and you will spot their bakers making fresh loaves of bread and crusty baguettes.
The inspiration for the eatery seems to be comfort food with a fusion twist. Pay close attention to the menu and you will spot Japanese, Vietnamese, Italian and Mexican flavours dancing with more traditional and local notes.
The mix-and-match premise means diners can enjoy a hot mug of Milo after a burger or some pasta, or perk up with some Vietnamese drip coffee after some Malaysian-flavoured pork chops. Anything goes here so long as it tastes good.
Red Kettle’s Signature Pork Chop turns out to be of the Hainanese variety, albeit given an upgrade. For one thing, the pork loin used is marinated for 12 hours before being pan-fried and served with sumptuous sides — buttered green peas, hand-cut seared potato wedges, and some rather moreish gravy. This isn’t the type of Hainanese pork chop my grandfather had (though I’m sure he would have approved heartily).
The half-a-day marinating technique continues in their aptly-named Porkie Rice Bowl. Rice lovers can look forward to their grains being paired with char-grilled marinated pork shoulder and topped with an onsen egg that spurts luscious yolk better than any ordinary poached egg. Sautéed mushrooms, buttered sweet peas, sesame seeds and spring onion add some savoury sweetness.
Two thumbs up go to their Angel Hair in Broth, another dish that screams “comfort food” with pride and pleasure. Angel hair pasta rests in a buttery broth with lightly oven-dried tomatoes, roasted pork shoulder and a Japanese-style seasoned egg as toppings. A scattering of aromatic sesame seeds and herbs complete the picture. Lovingly arranged the way ramen chefs would dress their noodles in Tokyo, this bowl is a feast for the eyes too.
Other soon-to-be favourites include their Old School Chicken Chop (imagine Chicken Maryland done right), Sausage Pasta (bucatini pasta served with homemade pork sausages in tomato-based sauce and tossed with herbs), and the simply-named Pork Burger (featuring pork patties made by hand and bacon cured and smoked in-house).
It’s quite possible the Red Kettle team makes everything from scratch (or at least, make a good attempt at doing so). The resulting dishes taste as though your mother or grandmother made them at home — assuming they have a penchant for mixing East and West influences in their cooking.
End your meal with a cup of Vietnamese drip coffee (a nice change from the usual teh tarik or Americano). Brewed using Vietnamese-grown beans over the iconic cà phê phin (a simple metal French drip filter that fits over the cup), half the fun is watching the coffee dripping onto a layer of sweetened condensed milk. The dark roast coffee is coarsely ground and its bold flavour is balanced by the sweetened condensed milk. Expect quite a kick.
In a couple of weeks, Red Kettle will be adding new items such as crispy pork banh mi, chargrilled pork chop with man tou (Chinese steamed bun) , and even tom yum kung to its menu! Clearly pork will continue to be a main feature in the future, as will the Asian fusion motif.
One wonders what the next eatery to open in my neighbourhood might be: a Kelantanese kopitiam would be nice or perhaps a Malaccan-style Peranakan diner. Surely not yet another Thai boat noodles joint? (Stay open on Mondays, and my fellow residents and I may well say goodbye to our Monday blues.)
Forget the shopping malls: the best places to eat are right in our own backyard. Here’s to the next makan di taman (dining in your neighbourhood) adventure!
37, Jalan Bukit Desa 5, Taman Bukit Desa, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-7988 0801
Open Mon-Sat 12pm-10pm; Sun closed