Review: Eat and Cook reimagines nostalgic Malaysian flavours
A rediscovery of flavours
Since opening its doors in 2021, Eat and Cook has quickly made a name for itself for its unique and immersive omakase dining experience offering modern Malaysian cuisine. Founded by Lee Zhe Xi and Soh Yong Zhi, the two chefs have a firm vision of showcasing Malaysia’s diverse culinary landscape with their ingredients-led and contemporary approach, bringing new and exciting interpretations to familiar local flavours.
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Their passion for savouring Malaysia’s gastronomic offerings is clear and inspired: Eat and Cook placed 79 on Asia’s 100 Best Restaurants 2023 and was Michelin Selected at the 2023 and 2024 Michelin Guide Kuala Lumpur. With a strong focus on using the best of fresh local ingredients, the restaurant does not have a fixed menu and instead, reinvents itself every season with what their homeland has to offer.
Titled, Monsoon, Rain, Gathering, Festive, the restaurant’s latest journey is inspired by familiar and nostalgic flavour profiles that are enjoyed during these periods. Ahead, find out what I thought about my maiden experience and what you can expect from the four-course menu.
For starters, I was first interestingly placed at a separate area adjacent to the infamous central island kitchen known as “The Stage” to start my journey. According to Chef Lee, this is a new concept the restaurant is introducing to provide guests with more comfort and movement before they move on to the main sit-down portion of the menu.
Then, I was presented with four morsels of seafood—each inspired by the monsoon period of wind and rain and accompanied with a glass of citrusy endu tuak from Sarawak. The first is the fish and fig, consisting of sea-caught Covia fish that is lightly smoked, grilled and wrapped in dehydrated figs sourced from Shah Alam; followed by fermented fish and coconut, a total umami bomb thanks to its cracker made out of budu (fermented anchovies) topped with tufts of homemade coconut ricotta that was fermented with white wine and vinegar.
The next is corn and milk, which is a reimagining of the popular Malaysian snack of steaming corn and butter in a cup. Placed on whole corn cobs, I enjoyed the different textures of corn, from the slices of smoked baby corn to the explosion of creamy corn custard that is deep-fried to perfection. Rounding out the appetisers is squid and kang kung, a wonderfully smoky dish that echoes the traditional roadside grilled dried squid.
Now making my way to “The Stage”, the next set of seafood-led plates increased in the intensity of flavours. Called The Swimming Crab, the dish is served in two parts: the first is a “crab brulee” consisting of silky-smooth steamed egg boiled in a hearty crab bisque, and the second is a homemade popiah filled with crab meat and accompanied by a sauce of blended crab shell and roe.
While the crab was impressive, my standout dish is the Penang green-lipped mussels. Once again served in two parts, the first (which Chef Lee likes to call “Mussels Satay”) is a seafood interpretation of the classic skewered street food. Chargrilled over open fire, the mussels were succulent and smoky, thanks to the glaze of chicken fat, fermented hay and fermented mussel soy sauce. For the second part, I enjoyed how the seafood was served in a pool of potato, leek (the monsoon period amplified their sweetness) and mussel broth, hor fun noodles and fried hor fun crackers.
The next course spotlights fish in three stunning ways. As a Chinese, I’ve had my fair share of whole steamed fish but Eat and Cook manages to elevate this familiar dish to even newer heights. Firstly, the engkapang flower butter from Sarawak that is grated on top of the grouper head gives it a deeper and more fragrant flavour profile. Of course, you can’t miss out on the soy sauce and the first draw soy sauce by Mu Artisan completes the entire dish.
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This is followed by a Malaysian-styled grilled Mackarel which uses the belly fillet. It is smoked with banana leaf, reminiscent of the classic Ikan Bakar. The dish is complemented by a punchy side of tamarind paste, galanga, fermented fish paste and fish stock.
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Finally, we reach the tail portion of the fish which is deep-fried using tapai, a light and airy batter made of glutinous rice wine that was fermented for more than six months, water, flour and soda. Echoing the look and taste of British fish and chips, the dish is served with a vinegar tartare sauce.
After a course of warm and steaming hotpot consisting of jellyfish, Covia fish from Terengganu, sea grapes, fish maw and sea coral sourced from Sabah, we ended the seafood portion of the menu with a sweet Sabah slipper lobster served in a pool of sambal bournaise, solok lada chili from Kelantan and lobster oil. While I enjoyed the flavours here, a more balanced sauce ratio would have made this a perfect dish.
IPOH MOUNTAIN DUCK
Inspired by the extravagant spread of roast duck one would typically get at Chinese restaurants for family gatherings, Eat and Cook’s version takes this classic dish up several notches. While each of them were delicious, my favourites were the roasted aged duck breast which were beautifully pink and tender; crispy puffed rice in a delicious pepper soup; and the century egg with its creamy yet light yolk.
If you think the national fruit of Malaysia is durian, think again! To round up the journey, Eat and Cook turned to the juicy papayas sourced straight from Chef Lee’s hometown in Teluk Intan. As someone averse to the fruit, my anticipation was not through the roof; however, this dish changed my mind.
To remove its slimy texture and pungent odour, the culinary team compressed the papaya, vacuum sealed it and kept it frozen. The result was a striking watermelon-red colour that was crunchy to the bite. Served with a milk panna cotta and coconut sorbet, it served as a refreshing palette cleanser.
Last but certainly not least was my standout dish of the night (and one of Eat and Cook’s signature dishes), apam balik with butter corn ice cream. The deconstructed dessert was pure mouthfuls of serotonin. As this was the third iteration of the sweet dish, each component on the plate was masterfully prepared and balanced with quick confidence. Having a spoonful of the homemade apam topped with the restaurant’s famous century egg kaya and planta ice cream, this is one dish I would gladly return to for more.
Eat and Cook
Address: H-6-1,Pusat Perdagangan Bandar, Persiaran Jalil 1, Bukit Jalil, 57000 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 12pm to 1pm, 6pm to 8:30pm daily for The Stage and 6:30 to 8pm for The Private Lab daily (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
Contact: 03 9765 6898
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