My first attempt at eating duck ended up with me hearing the quackings of a thousand ducks in my ears. I never voluntarily went anywhere near duck meat again but one day, in a restaurant in Beijing, it couldn’t be avoided. Crispy bits of exquisite duck skin to snack on, flavourful meat to have in rolls, and minced duck fried rice changed my perception and acceptance of the meat. Still, I have never ordered a duck dish in any restaurant on my own accord.
When I am urged to try the Hong Kong Roast Duck Rice (RM25) at Kenny Hills Bistro, I am not too fluttered about it anymore. In fact, this might just be the ducky that makes me love duck meat.
A daily lunch special, the duck is simply out of this world. With crisp skin, tender and flavourful flesh, the dish bears all the proof that it was handled by someone who knows how to tease the most out of them ducks.
“We have Master Chan in the kitchen,” says owner Au Tai Hon by way of explanation. Chan Siu Fai spent years in the busy kitchens of Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant in London – the very restaurant that the British edition of the Financial Times dubbed to produce “the best roast duck in the world.”
Chan now focuses all his attention on making perfect roast ducks at Kenny Hills Bistro.
“He used to make hundreds of roast ducks back in the day, and initially wasn’t keen to get back into the hectic world of a commercial kitchen. But when he heard that we only roast about eight ducks a day, he was game for it,” says Au. “Like at hawker stalls, we only serve it during lunch and if we’re out of roast duck for the day, then we’re out.”
The ducks are sourced from a farm in the foothills of Janda Baik in Pahang and delivered twice a week to the kitchen. They are marinated for 12 hours in a special blend of herbs and spices, and hung up to dry for another 10 hours before it is roasted. The result is amazing and the same goes for the roast and poached chicken dishes that Chan makes for lunch.
The Hong Kong Roast Duck and Roast Chicken are also served on their own, and prices range from RM25 to RM45 depending on the size of the portion. A whole roasted duck is priced at RM80 and roast chicken is RM70.
“Master Chan is the brains behind our poultry dishes, but I do have to take credit for the Wenchang Organic Hainanese Chicken Rice. I’m Hainanese and the recipe has been in my family for ages,” says Au.
The steamed chicken is fleshy and tender, and the hand-pounded chilli sauce gives it extra oomph.
Although the bistro is less than a month old, it has a steady stream of clients who stop to greet Au, and they converse like they’ve known each other for a long time.
“They’re friends, family, and people from around this neighbourhood who want to see this bistro succeed. They played a huge role in our decision to open this place and have contributed to the creation of the menu. We asked what they wanted, and we try to put them on the menu. They’re already asking for newer dishes though,” he says with a laugh.
I guess some of the customers here are the same ones patronising Au’s other venture in this neck of the woods – actually, just one lot away – the Kenny Hills Baker, opened a year and half ago, that paved the way for this bistro.
The tiny bakery is quite a squeeze and always packed with people – they know this is one of the best bread bakery in the city centre vicinity.
Rows of pastries and cakes entice customers, and a peek into the kitchen shows that the sweet aroma wafting in the air is courtesy of the freshly baked pineapple tarts.
The bakery is part of Britain’s Real Bread campaign, in which supporters make “real breads” without using any processing aids or additives.
We try the hand-tossed Margherita Pizza from the bakery, and its thin crust wins me over immediately. Topped with basil leaves and smoked buffalo mozzarella cheese, the pizza is definitely another must have at Kenny Hills.
Too bad they are only available from Fridays to Sundays, and aren’t sold in slices. (You can order from the Bakery but there isn’t a menu at the bistro as the bakery’s menu is on the wall.)
“We try to incorporate as many things from the bakery in our bistro menu. All the breads served here are handmade at the bakery, including the buns for our burgers. I strongly believe that no matter how good the patty, the burger wouldn’t stand out without good buns,” says Au.
The brioche that sandwiches the thick slice of fried chicken is delicious. Crispy chicken and buttery sweet brioche? Is this the place where dreams come true?
The House Fried Chicken Burger (RM28) comes with a side of fries and fills you up real nice, but I have to stop to make space for the Seafood Aglio Olio (RM35).
A pretty decent dish topped with mussels, prawns, squids and scallop but it is not a standout. The seasoning and spice are right but an extra dash or two of oil perhaps would have turned this dish around for me.
Remembering that I am on a diet – haha, who am I kidding? – I give the Crab Meat and Avocado Salad (RM28) a try. A new fan of avocado, I like how it tastes when mixed with bits of crab meat, and a very sesame-y Japanese dressing. If only all diet food came with lots of walnuts and tasted as delicious as this mix of salad!
While the intentions are there, I don’t exactly say no to Au when he asks if I want to try their popular Yam Cake (RM18).
Four squares of pressed taro cake arrive with a side of Hoisin and chilli sauces. “This is a recipe from my mother-in-law who is a Johorean. We use only yam and there is no flour in the mixture,” he says. Taro lovers will surely love this treat that is packed with flavours.
Au asks me to stay for dinner because that’s when the bistro serves a special menu featuring Angus Beef Brisket Rendang (RM35) and Sup Buntut (RM37).
“Like the changing of guards, we have a changing of chefs every day at the bistro. The kitchen is too small to prepare all the dishes we have on the menu at the same time. So we have the duck and chicken rice for lunch, and a different menu at night. This is the best way we know how to cater to everyone,” says Au.
As much as I want to say yes to Au’s offer, I know my limit. With a heavy heart (and stomach), I bid him goodbye. But not before promising to come back for another round of roast duck rice, of course.
Kenny Hills Bistro
Lot H-1, Taman Tunku
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-6206 4111
Open Tuesday to Sunday; 11.30am to 3pm, 6pm to 10pm[/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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