Sometimes you walk into a place and just feel warmth from the get-go. Skive is one of those places. The eatery is visually appealing and exudes a friendly, relaxed vibe. At various intervals, bubbly co-owner Lau Wen Huey might pop by to ask if you need anything or just to say “Hello”.
It’s the sort of place that has soul in spades, and if you’ve been to enough restaurants, you’ll realise this is a rare commodity.
The eatery is run by Lau, a former surgeon (yes, surgeon) trained in Britain and her Swiss-trained chef husband Jonathan Han-Chet Ng. Lau and Ng met when she was working as a commis chef at a French restaurant in KL, having given up her medical career to join the mad, bad world of F&B. The two eventually started their own restaurant in Puchong, and a catering gig led to corporate entity Deli Artisan Food Operators offering them the opportunity to join their group.
This led to the birth of Skive, which celebrates the range of flavours Lau and Ng are used to tasting and working with – from hometown favourites in Alor Setar (where Ng grew up) to his experiences with Mexican and German chefs as well as the pair’s travels around the world.
“If you divide our menu into two, one comes from our roots. And I think that’s important because as Malaysians we kind of gravitate to something that is familiar and comforting. And the other side of the menu is the flavours we picked up from our travels and experiences, like the bold Mexican flavours that we both now love,” says Lau.
In the restaurant, Ng is in charge of the hot kitchen, while Lau is responsible for the many freshly-made cakes, breads and ice-creams that the eatery churns out. Nearly everything at Skive is made from scratch – from the curds to the nut butters, sauces, chocolate fudge, cured salmon and bread.
“I can’t think of anything that isn’t made from scratch,” says Lau, laughing.
There is a lot to tempt and titillate the palate at Skive, but you’d do well to begin with the big Mexican breakfast (RM28).
Essentially a shakshouka, the concoction is made up of eggs in a stew of tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes. A giant chicken chorizo sausage straddles the thick mass while a freshly-baked croissant rests languidly by the side, ready to spring into action when its services are required to mop up the stew. The stew is delicious – rich, heady and filled with the intoxicating aromas and flavours of spices like cumin, coriander and paprika. As an opening act, this breakfast makes for a great start to the day.
Then there is the jerk cured salmon (RM19.90), which features salmon over dark rye sourdough, avocado puree and mango salsa. The house-cured salmon is delicious – velvety soft with spicy undertones that are offset by the sweetness of the mangoes and creaminess of the avocados, with the bread adding a rustic textural quality.
If you’re after a classic pasta, try the spicy prawn aglio olio (RM27) which features all the usual suspects – pasta with garlic, olive oil and chilli flakes – tossed in with more unexpected characters – tiger prawns and crispy portobello mushrooms. This is a solid rendition of an oft-repeated dish, where the pasta is bouncy and springy to the touch and the garlic-chilli balance is just right.
For a sample of local flavours, have a go at the whole spring ayam berempah (RM38) which is served with pandan rice, grilled sweetcorn and house-made anchovy sambal, kicap and salted fish sauce. The chicken is marinated in an array of spices for eight hours, and boasts crackly, crispy skin, juicy meat inside and flavours that have really seeped into the marrow of the poultry. For a whole new taste-scape, dollop all three sauces on the meat and enjoy the spicy corner of heaven your palate will inhabit.
For something even more wholesome and heartwarming, try Grandma’s Thai laksa (RM25) which is akin to assam laksa, except with the addition of coconut milk. The dish is creamy and delicately nuanced, with an undercurrent of fishy flavours. Thick rice noodles, mint, cucumber, shallots, bean sprouts and egg round out this offering that will certainly find fans in laksa lovers.
Although the savoury items at Skive are executed with skill, it is the pastries, cakes and ice creams that really shine here. The vadai soda bread (RM6) for example, is an allusion to Lau’s love of making Irish soda bread. In this iteration, the bread is a little like a scone, hard and crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy inside, with a smear of butter slicked through the middle. It’s like eating a whole new species of vadai – one that captures all the deliciousness of the curry-leaf studded original in a different topography.
Then there is the white chocolate lemon lava cake (RM18) which Lau came up with in a two-pronged attempt to deviate from the usual chocolate lava cake and also to showcase her homemade lemon curd.
“It was difficult because of the acidity of the lemon, which reacts with the flour and makes the cake dense. So to get the balance to make it a lemon lava was the trickiest part,” says Lau.
But she’s nailed it, because the cake is light and spongy and once speared through the middle, a thick pool of lemon curd oozes out, drenching the plate with deliciously zesty, tart flavours.
Don’t stop now though because there’s more to come. Keep space in your belly (no matter how much it protests) for the raspberry red velvet (RM16), which is essentially red velvet interspersed with raspberry in what proves to be a light, fruity affair that settles pleasurably in the mouth and cascades down the stomach like a floating fairy.
The whisky mud cake (RM16) also lives up to its namesake, boasting both whisky and a mud-like consistency. This boozy, rich temptress is very thick though, so don’t eat it by yourself or you’ll quickly feel sick.
Next up, try the dark Belgian chocolate mousse cake (RM15) which is a sinfully good sweet treat that like the devil, will keep seducing you with its moist, chocolatey goodness.
The restaurant also offers a series of house-made ice creams, and the chart-topper here is the D24 durian avocado ice cream (RM11) which boasts the creaminess of avocado against the hedonistic lusciousness of pure durian fruit, in what proves to be a union of soulmates.
And it’s not over yet, because the perfect nightcap is just one Scotsman (RM20) away. Made with espresso powder, house-made chocolate fudge, whisky, brown sugar and whipped cream, this intoxicating (quite literally, in this case) cocktail is classy, sophisticated and completely bewitching. Rest assured, once you’re under the spell of the Scotsman, no other “man” will ever be good enough.
If you happen to see Lau and Ng together in the restaurant, you will instantly be struck by how in love they seem with each other – the smiles are aplenty and so are the inside jokes. Although they live and work together, Lau says they have made it a point to separate their personal lives from their work lives.
“We’ve been working for four or five years now and thankfully, we haven’t had any flying knives in the kitchen! And the great thing about both of us is we have trust. So we come up with the menu and recipes and it’s like ‘Right, you do your part and I do my part.’ We divide and conquer and deliver,” she says, smiling.
Ground Floor, Telawi Square
41, Jalan Telawi 3
59100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2202 0313
Open Monday to Friday: 9am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday: 8am to 10pm
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