En masse dining gets a flashy makeover with this new food hall restaurant hybrid.
AT Eight Gourmets Gala, diners are handed not just one, but several, menus. That’s because this newly-opened food hall is huge – so huge, in fact, that it can accommodate seven eateries, one bar (complete with its own cellar) and 450 guests under one roof.
Carved out from the ground floor of The Pinnacle Annexe at Bandar Sunway, this suits-baiting nosh zone is started by Chris, June and Clarence Chang and their two friends. It’s a fitting enterprise, considering how the fivesome’s love for food both Asian and otherwise has led them on eating expeditions across the world.
Though he looks more like a strait-laced accountant than a gourmet visionary, Chris, 33, the eldest of the three Chang siblings, is the brains behind this culinary initiative.
Four years as a student-cum-barrista in Melbourne, Australia, has given him the inspiration he needed to conceptualise a string of eateries. This includes hipsterish restaurant café (Caffeinees) to grown up restaurants (Niu Taste and Black Market) and now this – Eight Gourmets Gala, also known as EGG, that aim to satisfy a broad range of palates.
“Malaysians can be quite demanding; sometimes, they don’t want to eat in a typical Chinese restaurant and yet they request for fried rice,” said June, when met at her restaurant recently.
Diners won’t face such a dilemma at EGG. They can have their fried rice, and if that doesn’t satisfy them, their Guinness mantis prawns, their pizzas, and even their sushi all in one seating, thanks to its interesting mishmash of restaurants, which are slated to open in phases. The polished split-level interior is an added bonus: think cobblestone-tiled floors, gigantic glass windows, and mood lighting, all reimagined to resemble Melbourne’s beguiling back alleys.
The siblings love of seafood is evident the moment you enter. There are two restaurants devoted to deep-sea delights here and they’re placed near the entrance.
Food-hall starlets Hakka Crab and Hook & Cook serve up a variety of catches but in different ways. The former is a premium tai chow-style restaurant while the latter is a more westernised version, with grilled and poached dishes on offer. Swerve to the right and you’ll find the Chiyo Sushi, a diminutive Japanese eatery specializing in an omakase, or chef’s choice. Across from Chiyo is Nibbles, a delightful sandwich bar that puts a fresh spin on lunchtime staples likes soups and subs.
Yi, a highbrow restaurant specialising in finely-crafted vegetarian dishes – imitation bacon not included - is wedged elegantly in the middle with its own dedicated sit-down space. It’s an ambitious attempt to usher in a new era of vegetarianism. Diners can feast on a seasonally-driven menu of white asparagus, air-flown truffles and yellow carrots (or as Chris calls it, “the Wagyu beef equivalent of vegetables”), but only with prior reservation.
Of course, the Changs’ first ever culinary endeavour, Chateau De Caffeinees, gets its own outpost in the sprawling space, while pretty-looking pastries and sweets jostle for attention in Confessions of Lady Laura.
Finally, to wash it all down, choose from more than 500 labels of wines by Chilean winemakers Montes – the label’s 2006 Purple Angel was served to President Obama and the First Lady during their visit to the Presidential Palace in Chile – and an equally impressive number of brown spirits at Malt Berry Apes, a wine-cellar-cum-whiskey-bar primed for off-hours boozing.
Indeed, it’s not quite lunchtime yet but the place is already humming with smartphone-toting yuppies. For many working around the corner, EGG offers them the opportunity to cobble together a decent enough meal in a fun, comfy environment. Table service is swift too.
For all its strengths, however, EGG suffers from the same problem that plagues restaurants of a similar genre: not one dish here is riveting. Sure, the shrimps and clams from both the live shrimps sang mee and clams in superior soup from Hakka Crab were fresh, while Chateau De Caffeinees’ signature fried chicken wings have the perfect balance of salt and crunch. But as tasty and as respectable as these dishes were, they weren’t exactly thrilling or full of flair. They were something your neighbourhood tai chow eatery could churn out – minus the cleverly sourced ingredients of course.
The salad bar from Nibbles offered the most surprise, especially the salad dressings, all concocted by Chris. Some inventions like the assam laksa dressing are warped, but almost all turned out to be highly addictive and delish. But the Caribbean Chicken Pizza, a thin-crust dough drizzled with grilled chicken, onion and tomatoes, fell flat, both aesthetically-speaking and taste-wise.
Despite these minor blips, the Changs have come a mighty long way since the opening of Caffeinees in 2006. Although the long-term success of EGG remains to be seen, one thing is crystal clear: it’s about to give Klang Valley’s older, grottier food halls a run for their money.Eight Gourmets Gala
Ground Floor, Pinnacle Annexe,
Subang Jaya, Selangor
Tel: 017-948 8684
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