Publika's Deuce KL is all about sophisticated comfort food at accessible prices

  • Eating Out
  • Tuesday, 28 Nov 2017

The octopus was always a signature at Coquo, and looks set to be no less at Deuce, with a beetroot marination lending earthy interest. - Deuce KL

Exciting and progressive, while maintaining an air of accessibility – Deuce KL is all about noir, sophisticated comfort food with wide appeal.

Once Coquo, Deuce was reborn and reimagined when co-owner and head chef Toni Valero – an alumnus of Spain’s Mugaritz and El Celler de Can Roca – moved to La Ventana in Singapore.

Co-owner Tricia Kandiah then conceptualised a whole new pork-free menu with new head chef Ng Hung Yan, who came back from Singapore’s Tippling Club to helm Deuce’s open kitchen.

“Coquo was synonymous with Toni, so when he left, we decided to take the restaurant in a whole new direction,” said Kandiah, who opened Deuce’s doors this month.

Kandiah's love of contemporary gastronomy lead her to entering the F&B industry.
Understated and rife with casual charm, Deuce is an easy place to get comfortable in.

Regulars will notice that the dining bar flanking two sides of the open kitchen remains intact; the front of the restaurant has been opened up though, with tables spilling out onto the front verandah – and light, in turn, spilling in.

“Deuce KL is a lot more casual than Coquo was, so we also wanted the space to be more open,” said Kandiah. “The menu is more casual too, while still remaining contemporary and unique.”

This relaxed, friendly approach is also reflected in menu prices, which are very affordable.

Deuce collapses culinary borders, with menu offerings gleaning global inspiration from Hong Kong’s typhoon shelters, once home to bustling communities – and from which emerged the famous crab dish of the same name, rich with morsels of crisp garlic – to the traditional Provencal stew, bouillabaisse, to flavour stalwarts of local eating tradition, like pandan, coconut and glutinous rice.

The menu is divided into small plates for sharing, bigger plates which can also be (large-ish) mains, and desserts. It’s produce-centric, featuring local duck from Semenyih and seafood from Pulau Ketam, but also, every dish showcases the chef’s inclinations towards creating plates with a myriad pronounced flavour and texture contrasts.

A sophisticated dish with all the appeal of comfort food, this plate of mushrooms with a slow-cooked egg and crisp sourdough crumbs is definitely recommended.
Tortellini filled with lemon-spiked ricotta, served with crisp, spiced pumpkin.

We worked our way through a few from the first section. A plate of fried pumpkin and ricotta tortellini (RM25) had the rich sweetness of the root vegetable tempered with curry spices.

The tortellini is filled with creamy ricotta spiked with lemon and thyme, a fresh, fragrant combination that lifts the whole dish. The fried pumpkin seeds and crisp sage add nice textural bite and flavour too.

A dish simply titled “mushrooms” (RM28) shows the same fondness for flavour and textural interplay, by combining forest mushrooms with a poached egg, truffle mousse, sourdough crumbs and hazelnut. The egg is distinctly creamy yet semi-solid, slow-cooked at 67°C to get that lovely texture.

Octopus was always a mainstay at Coquo – grilled pulpo is a firmly-entrenched Spanish favourite – and Deuce continues the tradition, but with a twist.

The octopus was always a signature at Coquo, and looks set to be no less at Deuce, with a beetroot marination lending earthy interest.
A signature of head chef Ng since his Tippling Club days, this pan-seared snapper with bouillabaise is homage to his former stomping ground. - Deuce KL

The meaty tentacles of the grilled octopus (RM58) have a comparatively pronounced, deep pink hue - because they’ve been marinated with beetroot, lending an earthy, sweet complexity to the briny octopus. Served with confit potatoes, pickled beetroot and a smooth saffron-scented aioli, this is a gentle twist on a favourite, which works very well.

The pan-seared snapper (RM35) was the last of the small plates we tried, and another winner in terms of taste and combination. Perfectly-cooked snapper, with a lovely smoky edge, is perched on a bed of tender zucchini ribbons and crunchy shaved fennel, with a scoop of tobiko and a beautifully-complex bouillabaisse broth (finished with a dollop of rouille, of course) poured over at the table. It’s a dish of wonderfully briny, oceanic contrasts.

From the larger plates, the Typhoon Shelter Crab Spaghetti (RM37) comes highly recommended. The pasta languished in a pool of crab butter, generously topped with freshly-picked crab meat – almost a whole crab’s worth, says Kandiah – as well as a shower of crisp garlic-chilli crumbs, the hallmark of “typhoon shelter” dishes.

For dessert, the Avocado (RM18) is exciting from both an aesthetic and taste point of view – but it may appeal to a more mature, sophisticated palate which appreciates a bit of bitter with the sweet.

Your eyes may deceive you when it comes to dessert - what looks like a ripe avocado is actually avocado and pandan ice cream atop creamy glutinous rice.
The Typhoon Shelter Crab Spaghetti is Ng's Euro-centric rendition of the popular Hong Kong dish.

It looks like a perfectly-formed, split fruit, but the shell holds avocado and pandan ice cream on a layer of creamy glutinous rice cooked with coconut cream. On the side, a mound of light, melt-in-the-mouth kerisik powder is flecked with bits of gula Melaka. It’s a clever dish of familiar flavours.

The menu is complemented with a wine list that echoes the restaurant’s previous incarnation. It’s small and focused, featuring both Old and New World labels – many of which are slanted in the fresh direction, with an undertow of acidity to make them great food partners.

There is also a list of cocktails on offer.

It’s been just almost a month since Deuce KL revealed its fresh new face on the dining scene, and it definitely looks like one to watch – particularly if you want plates loaded with fresh ideas and moreish flavours, in a place casual enough to eat at on a regular basis. There are also plans for brunch service, so keep an eye out.

Deuce KL

D1-G4-6, Mont Kiara 6, Jalan Solaris 3 Solaris Dutamas, KL

Tel: 03-6211 2822

Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 6pm to 12am

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