Syafiq Zane misses New York, and its many tastes and textures – so he’s recreating some of his favourites, with a local touch, here in Malaysia.
“New York is just filled with people from all over the world, who bring their food culture with them,” said the chef-owner of Fiqs Gastronomy in Subang Jaya, Selangor.
In the industry for 13 years, Syafiq, 28, spent five years in the United States. He was pursuing a degree at the Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, working part-time and training at various restaurants. This included a three-month stint at the three Michelin-starred Jean-Georges at Trump Hotel Central Park in New York City.
When he came back to Malaysia, Syafiq helped some friends to open a café. “But I wanted to express my own thoughts, feelings and taste buds! So Fiqs Gastronomy was born.”
Occupying a corner lot of a quiet row of shops in a sleepy suburb, Fiqs opened its doors in 2013. The ambitious menu and contemporary, welcoming ambience made it an unexpected find in this locale, and it soon became a neighbourhood favourite.
The young kitchen team of 10 works in the completely open kitchen, the first thing on your right as you walk in. The dining area has a comfy, laidback appeal and seats about 80. If you come at night, you can opt for one of the few tables outside, where your companions will be a long wall painted with a mural of New York City, strings of small lamps overhead.
Syafiq is a candid man: it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. “Because of the GST implementation, we changed the menu last year to be more affordable, cutting back on produce, making flavour profiles simpler – and that backfired big-time,” he said. “We changed it again after three months.”
His new menu is reflective of a more settled mindset, oozing confidence and subtle innovation.
“I’d say we have a very open concept. We incorporate world cuisine into our menu, focusing on ingredients and produce from South-East Asia, with some French technique and American culture,” said Syafiq.
The weekend brunch menu remains intact. Firm favourites like the spinach risotto, and Syafiq’s clever spin on fish and chips will remain. This last arrives at the table looking like a whole battered fish, but it’s actually a fresh seabass with head and innards removed, then shaped to look like a whole fish and vacuum-packed to hold its shape before being fried.
But now there is a small Asian-centric section as well, featuring dishes like a lightly perfumed beef noodle soup (RM22), which is redolent of spices but subtle and well-balanced and with a generous helping of shredded beef.
Echoes of Americana dominate the menu, with Syafiq’s take on a plate of chicken and waffles, fish tacos and a selection of rustic, hand-made pizzas.
What remains, new menu notwithstanding, is Fiqs’ dedication to using local produce. Proudly listed on the menu are oyster and shiitake mushrooms from Puan Aini, a family friend of the chef, and raw milk from a producer in Semenyih, and softshell crabs and prawns from a farm in Perak. About 40% of Fiqs’ produce is locally-sourced.
“We churn our own butter from that milk, just because it’s nicer. The brioche, all the sauces and stocks are made from scratch – it gives a sense of belonging to me and everyone on my team. When you pick your own vegetables, or know the people who grow them, it makes you respect and care more about what you are preparing. It’s about appreciating your food, and where it comes from, that’s what I’m trying to implement,” said Syafiq.
The local crustacean stars in a couple of dishes, one of them the crowd favourite of soft shell crab pasta (RM29). I’ve had this on a long-ago previous visit, and found the butter sauce too sweet. The balance has since been adjusted, so that the rich sauce is now sweet and savoury, spiked with chilli and curry leaves, nicely coating the pasta and with a gently-battered soft shell crab perched on top.
Brining for 24 hours results in both the spring chicken (RM35) and the crispy-fried chicken in the chicken and waffles (RM25) being tender and succulently juicy. The former comes on a bed of mash, with a deeply-flavoured brown gravy, while the latter is served with savoury waffles made with Parmigiano-Reggiano and thyme, herbed butter and spiced gula Melaka reduction. It’s a bold, hearty dish which should be eaten fast, as the gula Melaka solidifies a bit as it cools.
The sous vide duck breast arrives with a hint of pink, leading to suspicions of dryness. But in the mouth, it is juicy and moist, and fabulously flavourful.
For those who want leaner cuisine, the oven-roasted seabass (RM32) is a great option. Its freshness is apparent, and it’s topped with thick slices of (local) Portobello, lightly cooked and still juicy, and sits in a pool of carrot puree with the umami edge of miso. A classic potato cake provides the obligatory carbs.
There’s an even more adventurous streak in the dessert menu here. Definitely notable: the edible cup of milk, made from chocolate chip cookie dough and holding cold milk, inspired by Dominique Ansel’s Cookie Shot.
The Baked Alaska (RM15) has a foundation of crisp, toasted house-made brioche, covered with mango ice cream, passion fruit sauce and a shell of soft, torched meringue – for those with an extra sweet tooth.
The banana split (RM15) is a deconstructed version, featuring three scoops of ice cream, caramelised bananas, whipped cream, chocolate ganache, pieces of fried brioche and a lovely peanut butter powder, which melts in the mouth.
The kind of progressive cooking and passion for everything-from-scratch found at Fiqs belies its status as a corner, neighbourhood joint – it’s obviously much more.
34 Jalan SS 19/1D
Tel: 03-5613 0473
Open Mondays to Thursdays, 10.30am-10.30pm; Fridays, 3pm-10.30pm and Saturdays and Sundays, 10am-10.30pm.[/vc_column][vc_column width="2/3"][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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