Sometimes you find a place that stirs your soul and forms a connection so deep, it’s nay impossible to let go. At least that’s what Chryseis Tan felt when she first chanced upon the popular dining institution Greyhound Café in Bangkok, when she was 13.
“Basically, I’ve been going to Greyhound for many years since I was probably 13 or 14. And I realised the first place people in KL go to when they’re in Bangkok, is Greyhound Café. And it’s the kind of food Malaysian people will like – it’s Thai and it has spices and I was like ‘Okay, this is what I want to do and I want to bring this to Malaysia,’” she said.
Tan’s dream wasn’t unwarranted. Greyhound was first established in 1997 in Bangkok’s Emporium Shopping Complex as an extension of an existing fashion brand and has since developed a stellar reputation over the years, branching out from the womb of its Thailand home into Hong Kong and China and attracting regular celebrity clientele like Nicholas Tse, Charlene Choi and Jaycee Chan.
But Tan quickly discovered that having a nascent dream and transporting it from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur wasn’t that simple. For one thing, Greyhound had already been introduced in Malaysia a couple of years ago and flailed terribly.
Tan, then a fledgling graduate, found herself having to use her powers of persuasion to full effect to convince Greyhound’s powers-that-be that this time would be different.
“It took about two years, from actually talking to them because they weren’t very confident with the Malaysian market as they had failed once before. So I had to assure them,” said Tan, now the executive director of Greyhound Malaysia.
The eatery is housed along the Jalan Bukit Bintang stretch in the brand new Ansa Kuala Lumpur (formerly Piccolo Hotel), which is now managed by Berjaya Hotels & Resorts, owned by Tan’s father Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Vincent Tan.
Although the eatery isn’t hard to find, parking in the building is a bit of a challenge, so it’s best to park in Fahrenheit 88 or Starhill Gallery and walk there instead.
The Greyhound Bangkok owners had a lot of control over how the place looks, dictating everything from the artwork and furniture right down to the tableware, to ensure as authentic an experience as possible. The results speak for themselves.
The restaurant exudes chic sophistication in monochromatic shades of black, white, grey and brown, with fresh flowers on each table brightening up the space.
Black-and-white alphabet tablets are embedded into the area surrounding the open bar in the middle of the restaurant, spelling out the words Greyhound Cafe over and over again.
The KL Greyhound is also the first to be pork-free, surrendering porky delights in favour of a more homogenous local appeal. “I feel like we should substitute pork with chicken, so everyone can enjoy this place,” said Tan.
In other ways, the restaurant has retained its original parts, as all the sauces in the eatery – from the soy sauce to the fish sauce – are imported in bulk from Thailand.
Although Greyhound outlets in Bangkok have lots more menu options, the KL version isn’t too shabby, with at least 90 items on offer, a curated selection composed of the most popular dishes in the Bangkok outlet, famed for its fusion of Thai, Asian and Italian dishes.
Like the Greyhound Famous Fried Chicken Wings (RM18), which sounds deceptively simple – I mean, deepfried chicken is deepfried chicken, right?
Well, yeah, but it’s definitely worth giving this particular iteration a shot. Marinated in a secret recipe (even Tan doesn’t know what’s in it), this addictive little treat is very, very crispy and so easy to wolf down, you could easily eat an entire plateful in a matter of minutes. Try and keep that addiction in check though, because there’s lots more on offer.
Like the Complicated Noodle (RM26) for instance. Dubbed “complicated” because there is a rather roundabout way of eating it; the dish is made up of thin noodle sheets, fresh lettuce leaves, minced chicken, fresh coriander leaves and a piquant, spicy chilli sauce. Basically, you’re meant to wrap everything together in the lettuce leaves to get the total flavour package.
Although it’s a little bit of a messy endeavour and you might find sauce dribbling down your chin, it’s totally worth it, because that fiery chilli sauce is a game-changer – in fact, drizzle more of it into your lettuce cup and you’ll find yourself enjoying it a whole lot more.
The pasta dishes at Greyhound are very interesting – a juxtaposition of East meets West designed to suit the Asian palate while experimenting with Western base ingredients. Like the Spaghetti with Dried Salted Fish (RM26), which is stir-fried with basil leaves and chilli. The salted fish in the dish is an intriguing, unusual addition which sounds odd but fits in like an adopted family member.
The textural crunch of the crisp bits of salted fish add dimension and a pleasurable tinge of saltiness to the pasta. Even after you’ve polished off your plate, you’ll find yourself aching for an encore.
The Spaghetti with Corned Beef & Fresh Chillies (RM29) is one of Tan’s favourites and is an instant home run. The salty corned beef has been fried to a crisp and melds spectacularly well with the hot chillies in the pasta. It’s a relatively uncomplicated dish that ticks all the right boxes for instant launch into the Guilty Pleasure Hall of Fame.
The only dish that probably got a bit lost in translation is the Minced Chicken with Sweet Basil and Hot Chillies (RM27). Served with a fried egg, rice and a clear soup, the minced chicken is a bit underwhelming and in this instance, the more robust-flavoured porcine equivalent (which is predominant on most Thai menus) is sorely missed.
On the bright side, the clear soup served on the side is bursting with flavour and pairs well with the rice.
For dessert – and boy oh boy, does Greyhound have a mind-boggling array of them! – test the waters with the Tub Tim Krob Greyhound Style (RM16). Greyhound’s version does away with the jackfruit strips, which is a pity but there’s still lots to enjoy in the water chestnut with coconut granita and coconut meat, topped with coconut milk. It’s a soothing cold dessert perfect for a blistering hot day.
The Fresh Coconut Crepe Cake (RM22) is a dainty beauty layered with fresh cream and fresh coconut meat from Thailand. The fairy-dust lightness of the cake is a delight, and the coconut slivers are perceptible throughout, giving off a sensation of biting down on a textural combination of silk and velvet – soft, smooth and intensely satisfying.
If you’re thirsting after something to drink, don’t leave Greyhound without sampling the Passion Fashion (RM16). Made up of passionfruit, pineapple, lime juice and mint syrup, the drink arrives in a glass that has a slash of sparkling blue on top, giving it a distinctly pretty aquamarine hue that is as refreshing to look at as it is to slurp – a mix of sweet and sour that hits all the right notes.
There’s plenty to enjoy at Greyhound Cafe and Tan is confident that it will be as successful as its other counterparts. In fact, she is already planning a second Greyhound outlet in the Klang Valley. According to her, the Greyhound brand has a winning formula and the proof is in the pudding.
“They always focus on quality and it’s been good everywhere, so that’s how they maintain their popularity in Bangkok, Hong Kong and China. I mean, Hong Kong is a very competitive place, there are so many restaurants and they do very well there. So that’s an example of a good concept that will work anywhere,” she said.
Ansa Kuala Lumpur
101, Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 2148 1188
Open Monday to Thursday, 11am to 11pm; Friday to Saturday, 11am to midnight; Sunday, 11am to 11pm
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