KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — March of this year marked the end of an era: Chinoz on the Park at Suria KLCC served its last meal, bringing the illustrious establishment’s story to a close after more than 24 years.
But where one story ends, another begins.
Founder Teng Wee Jeh and his wife, Sandra, are bringing the good times back at the newly-opened Chinta by Chinoz.
Located along Jalan Kemuja, Chinta can be quite tricky to spot: the front is shrouded mainly from view by a charming collection of potted plants and is lacking a sign that’s easily seen from the road.
Step inside and you’ll find a space furnished with hallmarks of a bygone era — antique flatware, cabinets, mirrors and the family collection of stamps from colonial-era Malaya feature — transporting you to a little oasis of retro in the middle of ultra-modern Bangsar.
While some beloved classics from Chinoz have been retained, the menu here comprises cosy, home-style Malay cooking.
These dishes, and their recipes, are what Sandra grew up with, and certain dishes speak to her own unique set of experiences.
Take Ayam Rose (RM27) for example: To Sandra, this pink, mild and slightly creamy dish is ayam masak merah, a far cry from the fiery, glossy red version that so often graces the tables of KL.
It bears more resemblance to Northern ayam masak ros, reflecting Sandra’s familial roots. Her mother, originally from Perak, traces her lineage back to Medan.
Here, the inclusion of evaporated milk, candlenut and mint combine to provide a truly unique experience: creamy, rich with a hint of spice, it tastes comforting and yet, wholly exciting.
Daging Salai Gulai Lemak (RM39) was a strong contender for the best dish of the night.
The slices of beef were much, much smokier than others I’ve had and pleasantly tender, and while the gulai itself was mellow, it still had the requisite depth of flavour from turmeric leaf, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf.
Heat, or spice, though thankfully not overwhelmingly, featured more in the Ayam Rendang Hijau (RM27), which makes full use of fresh green chillies to impart substantial spiciness and some slightly fruity and sweet undertones.
It may seem out of place, like an abrupt mid-scene intermission, but we also ordered the Mee Rebus Johor (RM19.50) to try.
My father has longed for this ever since he tried it years ago, as it contains beef, something not conventionally seen in KL.
It was a wonderful detour in the meal, with gravy so thick and full of sweet potato it coated every part of the mouth.
Back to the rest of the dishes. Sambal Tumis Udang Petai (RM38) here also carried a hint of heat, though this was largely tempered by the sweetness of the onions.
The petai was firm, with a delightful pop in every bite — though I can’t promise the ensuing flatulence will inspire quite the same joy.
Kerabu Pucuk Paku & Taugeh (RM15) was a welcome respite from the richer, heavier dishes. Bright, tangy and refreshing, the cool and crunchy fern and bean sprouts worked wonders with the toasty notes of desiccated coconut.
It’s hard to imagine ending a meal like this without something sweet, which is why we got ourselves some kuih, or as I like to call them, my raison d'être.
Kuih Gula Hangus (RM9 for four pieces), Kaswi (RM9 for four pieces) and Seri Muka Telang (RM9 for two pieces) rounded out our meal better than any petit fours could: the first, texturally light, yet deeply caramelised and nutty; the second, a splendid, bouncy distillation of palm sugar and the last, a happy marriage of glutinous rice, pandan custard and coconut milk, deserving of the greatest compliment of all: not too sweet.
As we strode out, our bellies undoubtedly filled to the brim, I came to realise I was also leaving with a full heart. It’s the sign of a place that doesn’t just take pride in what they do, but — pardon the cliché — do it with a touch of heart, a touch of love.
Chinta by Chinoz
24, Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Open daily, 10am-9.30pm
Tel: 03-2201 3756
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