RATHER than follow the trend of creating East-meets-West fusion dishes, Li Restaurant recreates Malaysian favourites with a unique mix of ingredients and modern cooking techniques.
Open since early March, the restaurant is founded by the trio of Lim Heng Kit, Lee Ziyan and Lim Yee Rui, who studied hospitality together in Melbourne, Australia.
According to Yee Rui who is the barista, the restaurant and cafe’s concept is centred around embracing local food and culture, and this is reflected in its quaint “modern kopitiam” interior, complete with enamel plates, antique furniture and other ornaments.
Located opposite Atria Shopping Gallery in Petaling Jaya, the storefront is quite inconspicuous and can be easily missed if visitors do not see the chalkboard sign out front.
True to its modern kopitiam image, their take on the traditional bread with kaya is a staple to the menu and can be ordered at any time of day.
Instead of plain white bread, Li Restaurant makes its own sourdough toast to go with butter (RM3.90) and their special smooth and sweet house-made kaya (additional RM2), made using a sous-vide machine, which regulates and keeps the cooking temperature consistent.
The top seller on the toast menu is the appetising and slightly spicy Pork Toast (RM9.50), inspired by the famous Yut Kee pork bread in Kuala Lumpur.
The Pork Toast is an original open sandwich version of the Kuala Lumpur favourite made with a layer of minced pork on a slice of sourdough bread, topped with their special homemade sriracha chilli mayo sauce and garnished with cilantro.
The same chilli mayo sauce is used in the House Rice Bowl (RM16.90), which is a bowl of rice with brined and pan-seared chicken thigh, half-a-hard-boiled egg, homemade pickled cucumber and fragrant ginger scallions.
Diners are recommended to mix everything together before eating and the colourful variety of flavours combined with the tender chicken makes this a personal favourite for me.
An interesting use of pasta in the Tagliatelle With Slow-Braised Pork (RM16.90) pays homage to another Malaysian favourite – pan mee.
The savoury goodness of pork shoulder that has been braised for four hours and topped off with pickled green chilli and shredded cured egg yolk makes for an excellent main dish.
The Ikan Bilis Congee (RM9.90) is a little more close to home for Lee, who heads the kitchen, as the dish is derived from something his grandmother used to cook.
The congee is sweetened with fish sauce caramel and topped with a generous serving of anchovies, half-a-hard-boiled egg, and dehydrated kailan.
This savoury dish is a good choice for those who prefer to eat light, but diners can add pork to the dish for an additional RM3.
Meat-lovers will love the Pan-Seared Boneless Chicken Thigh (RM20.50), which pays tribute to the Hainanese chicken chop.
The tender and juicy chicken, marinated in a combination of savoury sauces, is served with sour pickled vegetables and potato chunks that have a crisp, deep-fried skin, but are soft and smooth on the inside.
Li Restaurant does not disappoint with its desserts either. I got to try the Lychee Bowl (RM15.50), which is lychee with coconut milk, lime granita and meringue.
It is hard to resist deconstructing its elements as the sour lime mixes with the sweeter ingredients in perfect harmony.
With only a handful of dishes on the menu so far, Li Restaurant is constantly creating new experimental dishes that customers can try by enquiring about the off-menu item of the day.
To sweeten the deal for customers throughout the day, the place offers special lunch sets between noon and 2.30pm on weekdays, as well as a tea time promotion with a free coffee or tea to go with a toast item between 3pm and 5pm, daily.
LI RESTAURANT, 47, Jalan SS22/23, Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. (Tel: 03-7733 7692). Business hours: 11.30am to 9.30pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 10.30am to 9.30pm (Saturdays), 10.30am to 4.30pm (Sundays). Closed on Mondays. Non-halal.
This is the writer’s personal observation and is not an endorsement by StarMetro.