A restaurant specialising in pizza and wine – what could be simpler, right? Indeed. And not.
Because the pizza at Proof is as far from fast food as imaginably possible.
It’s constructed from a hand-stretched, sourdough base proofed for at least 24 hours (or more), full of flavour and with a texture that combines crunch and chewy appeal.
The quality of a pizza is built on its base, says Proof’s owner Wong Yin How – so there’s only the one base here, a final recipe arrived at by way of much tinkering by head chef Meg Lee, who divides her time and attention between Proof and sister restaurant Flint in Persiaran Ampang.
This is topped with – in most cases – a slow-cooked, deeply-flavoured tomato sauce, plus a melange of high quality ingredients, from briny, juicy crabmeat (claw meat only!) to guest stars from Italy, like piquant chorizo, nduja and Parma ham.
“For me, that balance of savour and sweetness that you find in pork lends itself really well to pizza – which is why we have a lot of pork pizzas,” said Wong.
Lee’s signature flourish of deep, complex flavours and a pronounced interplay of textures is particularly clear in the topping combinations, where every bite results in a mouthful to be savoured – but also considered, and really appreciated.
Each august assemblage then has its full potential realised in one of the two wood-fired ovens, born in Italy and fed on local acacia wood (sustainable, because of its fast-growing nature).
Because each oven can cook only four pizzas at once, you’re looking at a wait time of between five minutes when it’s not too busy, and 45 minutes if the place is packed. The wood-fired ovens allow the chefs to get those coveted "leopard spots" that lovers of such artisanal pizzas look for.
Facing diners on the cosy first floor of the restaurant, the blazing fires provide a backdrop of warm light, underscoring the simple lines and homely appeal of the small restaurant that seats just 50 upstairs and downstairs, with a few tables outside for al fresco dining.
“Proof is really an extension of my obsession with wood-fire cooking, as seen in Flint and Stoked (in Medan Damansara),” said Wong.
There are two dinner seatings, at 6.30pm and 8pm.
“Lunch is usually fine for walk-ins, but dinner seating from about 8pm is usually fully-booked,” said Wong – even on weekdays, so make a reservation to be safe.
To accompany the pizzas, there is a very respectable wine list with about 70 labels, drawn from the stables of Vintry, which Wong also helms. There’s a slight Italian bias. They’re mostly “pizza-friendly” wines – according to Wong, these are on the fruitier side, with freshness and acidity.
“I really like a Lambrusco with pizza – it’s a very fresh sparkling red from northern Italy,” said Wong. “Although a lot of people aren’t yet used to the idea of a sparkling red.”
If you don’t want a whole bottle, select from a list of wines available by the carafe – which will also allow you to try more wines, if you’re in a sampling mood. These selections rotate every six to eight weeks.
The menu is small and focused. To start with, there are just two salads … and the pear and mesclun salad (RM25) is a real winner. It’s scattered with pomegranate jewels and feta crumbles, and just lightly doused with a tangy honey, lemon and lavender dressing. It smells divine and tastes even better – a prelude to give you an inkling of the thought and prep that goes into every dish here.
Pizzas are divided into classics, Ciccio Pizzas (which have no cheese, except for sprinkles of feta on one) and Gourmet Pizzas, which showcase more innovative topping combos. They’re either eight-inch or 12-inch in diameter, and all tend to be generously-topped.
The classic Margherita (RM22/RM34) was a revelation of flavour. Lee decided that she wanted the flavour of fresh basil to be more evenly distributed in the pizza, and so blends the fresh herbs with the tomato sauce. It’s finished with a generous amount of torn mozzarella.
If you want something really robust and zingy, the Diavola is a great bet – and the flavours really do soar when you choose it from the Ciccio list, sans cheese. The addition of cheese tends to mellow and round out flavours more.
At RM28 for the eight-inch and RM41 for a 12-inch, this one is bursting with juicy, intense chorizo, red onions which lend sweetness and crunch, and chilli flakes for a little added fire.
Wong says one of the biggest draws has been the Umbrian black truffle pizza (RM39/RM58) – and there’s no mystery here. It announces its presence before it even gets to the table, the seductively earthy scent of black truffle paste wafting towards diners as it makes its short journey. But the precious fungi is not the only reason to order this – creamy taleggio lends its mild, rich and slightly fruity tang, while forest mushrooms are left chunky, for some bite. It’s a marvellous concoction, even more so if you opt for the extra shaving of black summer truffles (RM21/RM32).
The Spicy Calabrian Pizza (RM31/RM47) and Luganega Pork Sausage Pizza (RM35/RM53) are both highly-recommended as well. The former has a generous portion of nduja, the spreadable, incredibly savoury pork salumi from Italy, which is currently a terribly trendy ingredient on stylish global tables – plus pumpkin, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella.
The Luganega is riddled with bites of cauliflower for crunch, with the meaty pork sausage, a slick of tangy yoghurt and feta, plus the last minute addition of quickly-mixed egg, just set.
The only seafood pizza on the menu is the Pizza Polpa di Granchio (RM37/RM56), and it shines as much as the meaty, or truffle-laden, offerings. Juicy, just-cooked crab meat is laced with mozzarella and pecorino romano, with a fresh green pesto and lemon zest adding a sparkling freshness.
And then there’s the Foccacia de Recco (RM39), 10-inch discs of pizza dough sandwiching Parma ham, arugula and a four-cheese spectacular: ricotta, mascarpone, pecorino romano and mozzarella. Lovely flavourful mouthfuls, but probably best eaten before the saucier, more flavourful pizzas.
When you’re ready for dessert, pizza’s not quite done with you yet – well, unless you opt for a scoop of Proof’s artisanal ice cream. But the Green Apple Rocky Road Pizza (RM21) is such a lovely offering that you should definitely save some space for just one more pizza!
Made with the same sourdough crust, but thinner and crispier, it’s topped with thin slices of apple, chocolate sauce, almond flakes and melting marshmallows. A sweet ending, but like everything else here, very well-balanced.
Proof is the place to go if you’re serious about your pizza, and if you appreciate real craftsmanship in your food. Lee and Wong’s insistence on quality and care every step of the way is very apparent in every single serving.
Proof Pizza + Wine
29, Jalan Riong, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2788 3613
Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 12.15pm to 3pm, 6pm to 10.30pm. Closed on Mondays.