We’re calling it: Previously a hidden gem in the crown of Damansara Heights, Plaza Batai is now a yuccie enclave. The two rows of two-storey shophouses built in the ’70s have had, in recent times, a revival of sorts involving closures and new openings, new tenants and relocations. Its charm now comes with commercial corridors; its streets lined with inventive modern eateries and shops. The development has brought more foot traffic to the neighbourhood, and for better or for worse, Jalan Batai has fallen to the forces of gentrification – but there are still traces of residential calm, and you can still get your kopi peng from a classy kopitiam. Here are the must-go places at Plaza Batai.
The second Ben’s Independent Grocer has all but taken over the block facing the main road at Plaza Batai; Benjamin Yong’s second supermarket outpost is also affectionately known as ‘Little Big’. To learn more, see our list of the top things to check out at BIG Plaza Batai.
A yakitori joint kitted out like an upscale gentlemen’s club – this combination is unique enough to warrant a visit, surely. Sleek leather sofas, wooden flooring and an impressive walk-in whisky ‘closet’ up the dining experience, which usually revolves around grilled skewered meat. Chicken, duck, lamb and wagyu beef, although immaculately prepared, look common next to the restaurant’s bizarre offering: air-dried sting ray.
The beauty bar is primed to style you into a state of relaxation and repair with its wash and blow dry, as well as massages and mani-pedis – and the best part is that it’s open as early as 7.30am on weekdays, so you can (sort of) say ‘I woke up like this’. No cuts, no colour. A wash and blow dry clocks in at RM38; a ten-minute scalp massage will set you back RM10; and for a basic manicure, prices start at RM35.
The corner coffee shop Restoran Shangri-La still stands – and if you didn’t know, it’s now home to the famous Mui Chea pork noodles stall formerly of Restoran Seng Lee down the road, which shut its doors about two years ago. Shangri-La also sports a sleeker look thanks to renovations done last year: Think kopitiam food (and prices!) set against a café backdrop, with its brick walls and black wooden tables and chairs. A must-try is the char kuey teow, previously of Seng Lee – the stall isn’t always open, but it’s your lucky day when it is. The fish head noodles is also a crowd favourite, as is the curry mee, pan mee and wan tan mee. If you want to have your kopi peng with pisang goreng, the famous pisang goreng van manned by Lim still operates outside the coffee shop – the nian gao is also noteworthy.
Three bowls to try:
Curry mee: Noodles steeped in a big bowl of curry broth and topped with taugeh, fu chuk and chicken. RM7
Pork noodles: Sweet savoury soup with mee, mihun or kuey teow with pork bits and slices, and an optional egg. RM8
Wan tan mee (with duck): Springy thin noodles, duck meat and simple greens all bound by a sweet dark sauce, with a side of dumplings. RM8
This neighbourhood restaurant prides itself on using local and fresh produce, and we’re thrilled they’re setting up a proper test kitchen soon upstairs. The farm-to-table trend is riding high but it takes a visionary, like Christian Recomio of Scotland’s Moonfish Café, to elevate fresh ingredients into exciting, modern cuisine. The food has the ease of a café menu but the flair of a restaurant: The salt-baked beet with citrus salad and the buttermilk fried chicken brioche are all stellar.
There’s always a queue outside Yellow Brick Road, and we know why: hearty brunches with punny names (think ‘I Wanna Be Kaya’) and good coffee prepared by an award-winning barista. One of the first few shops to make its home at Plaza Batai, the café also owns a sweet venture upstairs – get your pancake fix (warning: chocolate batter with pistachios, caramelised beef bacon strips, fresh berries and Guinness Nutella sauce ahead) at the kid-friendly Wicked Pancake Parlour.
Tucked away in the corner of lifestyle boutique store Merchant & Sisters is The Burrow, a barbershop co-owned by Subang-based OTHRS Barbers and resident barber Al Siew, a former law graduate who traded textbooks for clippers after apprenticing with OTHRS Barbers. Unlike other modern barbershops of its kind, The Burrow is hidden away from public view, making it an ideal place to get some peace and quiet while you get an hour-long haircut.
Co-owner Sunitha Petrus describes Merchant & Sisters as a modern take on the old general store, where people can feel relaxed, meet other people and be a part of a community. Aside from its selection of casual outfits, denim wear, accessories and bags, the store also houses a small café, a branch of The Tattoo Parlor, and The Burrow barbershop – all within a cosy upstairs shoplot on the corner of Jalan Batai.
A sister outlet of popular saké bar Nomi Tomo and sharing a similar concept, Tabe Tomo is a casual bar and restaurant that specialises in yakitori, sake and other Japanese-style drinks. We recommend you try out their signature dish, the rosuto bifu – roast beef with mashed potato topped with softboiled egg yolk. The highballs here are also worth exploring – you could go for the oolong high, the Calpis high, the Yuzu high, the Chu high and the Suntory high. We recommend the Suntory high, which has a nice carbonated flavour that’s very well balanced with the whisky.