KL's burgeoning café scene has brought in some remarkable food. Our critics pick the ten best café dishes that will feed you from daybreak to dinnertime.
Soft-shell crab burger on brioche, RM32
Soft-shell crab is an all-pervading feature in KL – whether fried and topped on salads, or stirred into creamy pasta, you’re bound to encounter soft shell crab upon the mere flip of a café menu. At Jibby & Co, soft-shell crab is battered and fried (all legs and body) before sandwiched between two fluffy brioche buns. It’s a deeply delicious ensemble, enhanced by globs of creamy coleslaw and spicy mayo. The hand-cut sweet potato fries on the side are textbook perfect – crisp and firm on the outside, and bursting with sweetness on the inside.
Roast beetroot with citrus, RM20
In a city where restaurants don’t always give salads the proper attention, Sitka dishes up a beetroot salad that’s tasty – addictive even. Their secret? Tossing a pile of greens (sliced celery, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and parsley) with a hummus so delicious it can easily make a few fluffy pitas disappear. Forget about finesse: Chickpeas and locally sourced beetroots are strewn across the bowl to add bite, while a few orange chunks are mixed in to lend a bit of acidity. Here’s a hearty bowl that’s dressed to impress.
Salt beef hash, RM16
Not often does a café in KL take the time to salt their own beef, making Bangsar Village’s Nutmeg an exception. The beef is cured, chopped into cubes and sautéed with peppers, onions and potatoes before topped with a fried egg. The zing from the peppers counters the tender, flavourful beef, all gently complemented by cubes of potato. The dressing on the side salad rotates by season, but if you land on the peach or strawberry variety, count yourself lucky.
Rotkraut pastrami panini, RM19
There are sandwiches, and then there is Pickle & Fig’s rotkraut pastrami panini, a fresh and hearty wholemeal bread upgrade that is hot-pressed to perfection. The star here is the rotkraut, an Austrian delicacy of red cabbage cooked in vinegar and apples that adds a tantalising sweetness and tang to the piquant Russian dressing-slathered beef pastrami. An accompanying side of chunky hand-cut potato wedges, triple-cooked to a golden crisp, and the bestselling Goji Me (RM12), a strawberry, apple, wolfberry, pineapple and yoghurt smoothie, provide the icing on the cake.
Brunch pasta with seven-minute egg, RM16.80
The brunch pasta reflects owner KK’s policy of offering only healthy dishes using natural ingredients. The carbonara sauce is creamy but light, flavoured with sautéed mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, thin bacon pieces and rocket. The main feature though, is the soft-boiled egg nestled in the centre. Tip the shell and watch as the runny egg glides smoothly onto the pasta. Stir it in and slurp away.
S.Wine French toast with grilled bananas, RM22
At S.Wine, French toast isn’t just bread soaked in beaten eggs and browned on a skillet. It is a reinvention of the dish. Atop two fried slices of thick, fluffy Danish loaf baked in house sits a scoop of peanut butter bolstered between mildly seared bananas. The decadent heap is topped off with applewood smoked pork bacon strips and a drizzling of maple syrup.
Bread Platter, RM16.90
You won’t look out of place walking in to just order a plateful of bread here. But these aren’t ordinary breads we’re talking about. Completely organic with no additives, the dough is handshaped in small batches, while the longer fermentation time intensifies the resulting breads’ taste and texture. The best way to sample these goodies is by ordering the Bread Platter, which comes with six different types of bread (focaccia, ciabatta, batard, sourdough, whole wheat and seven-grain), a salad and a hearty tomato soup. For a bigger meal, the pasta carbonara and cottage pie will not disappoint.
Quinoa Salad, RM18
It’s a salad made up of miniscule ingredients that taste big. The clincher is the quinoa – a small, highly nutritious and protein-packed superfood that only needs a simple supporting cast to bulk up its flavour. Toasted walnuts, cubed pears, pomegranate seeds and fluffy, organic quinoa are tossed with macadamia nut oil and then served on a bed of rocket salad for a peppery bite. The finishing touch – a generous sprinkle of chopped spring onions – perfumes the salad with a feisty zing. Banish the vegetarian blahs with this dish and no one will be wondering why the meat is missing.
Quiche Lorraine, RM22
Under the le chaud (hot) section of Yeast’s lunch menu, you will come upon a familiar name – quiche Lorraine. The bistro’s version of the savoury open-faced pie has a traditional smooth pastry crust rather than taking on the more modern feature of crimped edges. Its Gruyère cheese filling is a rich melt-away custard generously peppered with small cubes of smoked duck. Freshly tossed greens and French fries are served on the side.
Strawberry, pomelo and rocket salad, RM21
This salad is everything a good salad should be: light, crisp and refreshing. Despite its simple ingredients, it manages to be both flavourful and textural – in fact, it’s so simple that it’s brilliant. The tart sweetness from the strawberries and the citrusy pomelo pair well with the nutty rocket leaves, and the bits of goat cheese provide a slight pungency to round off the flavours. Served with red radish and citrus balsamic vinaigrette, this is summer on a plate.