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  • Victoria Brown

Manja Old Malaya: the gastronomic experience

I have not been this impressed with a new restaurant in awhile. Walking into Manja Old Malaya, we all shared the sentiment. We were under the (mis)impression that it would end up as just another high-end eatery that serves upscale Malaysian food, but it is anything but.

Manja, which means 'to pamper' in English, is an apt name for the restaurant. From start to end, we very much pampered! The restaurant is a treat to the eyes as well as the belly!

We were cordially introduced to the head chef, a jovial man by the name of Vic. He enthusiastically greets us and gives us a brief introduction to the place.

He emphasises that only the freshest, local, quality ingredients are used in Manja. And with that important element in place, he pairs them in interesting and unique ways.

“We want our customers to feel pampered, and we treat the food the same way,” he said.

The best way I can sum up the menu at Manja is modern Malaysian-fusion, as the chefs use familiar local ingredients and transform them into something really special.

We started our gastronomic dining experience with the Paneer and Mango (RM36) that showcases the popular Indian ingredient paneer cheese and mango.

The dish is paired with radicchio, arugula, peppermint, turmeric, grilled spiced corn and delicious roasted cashew nuts.

And then dressed with extra virgin coconut oil and chestnut honey. It is a well balanced dish where all the components come together in perfect harmony.

The Borneo Coconut Tuna (RM48) was a more refreshing dish, and is Chef Vic’s take on a dry ceviche. The sashimi grade tuna is flown in from Borneo and was diced up in small piece and dressed lightly in coconut oil and lime juice.

The fish is combined with a delicious coconut and cashew blend that gave the dish an interesting texture component. The dish was also served with tapioca chips that added some salt and crunch.

The Blue Claw Lobster Slider (RM46) was the standout of the night. The river lobster is flown in fresh from Tawau, Sabah, and was cooked to absolute perfection! Chef Vic bastes the lobster in lobster butter, to pump as much flavour into the flesh.

It is served with coriander, peppermint, roasted chilli flakes, homemade mayo, on top of a homemade brioche bun. This dish is packed full of flavour, I wouldn’t change a thing! Don’t leave Manja without trying this!

The Snapper and Halia Cream sauce (RM56) was another favourite. The snapper from Kuala Selangor was marinated perfectly and was pan fried and finished off in the oven.

The cream sauce is made out of coconut milk and infused with lemongrass, spring onion and ginger, the sauce is packed full of flavour and is given another punch of flavour from the mouthwatering fish drippings.

With the perfectly cooked fish, flavourful sauce, and yummy local vegetables – I couldn’t ask for more.

Pommery Lamb and Hummus (RM88) was an interesting take on a lamb rack dish. The lamb is imported from New Zealand, it was tender and was cooked and seasoned well.

The hummus, that is made in-house, was incredible smooth and well balanced. I felt that the hummus was an unusual side to a dish that is usually paired with mashed potatoes, but it was delicious and it worked for me.

However, I felt that the grapes were an unnecessary addition to the dish, it didn’t do anything for me. But the sake infused cucumber was a delightful fresh addition to the dish.

Pita Udang Harimau (RM88) was like a fusion pizza on pita bread. It is quite large, and is a good dish for sharing.

It featured Sabah wild prawns cut up into bite-size pieces, avocado, marinated onion, feta, Kalamata olives, tomato confit, harissa, cucumber sauce and arugula. It is definitely a unique creation, and all the flavours work well together.

But you have to be a bit careful with the harissa, as it’s quite spicy and was not spread out evenly.

Desserts were just as delicious as the mains – I loved every single one of them! The Kaya and Cheese (RM33) is Manja’s take on a cheesecake.

The cheese is rich and dense, and went perfectly with Manja’s delicious homemade kaya. The dish was served with a crunchy cookie crumb, fresh mango, grapes, mango puree and raspberry coulis.

I also loved the pop of flavour by the basil flower garnish! Everything was simply delicious!

When I tried the Summer Truffle Cocoa Mousse (RM31), I was in chocolate heaven! The dessert was soft, incredibly rich and melts in your mouth.

You can also really taste the truffle that was incorporated into the mousse, that brings out the richness of the chocolate.

The Kopi Peng and Kahlua ice cream (RM29) was equally delicious. If you love coffee, you have to try this! The coffee ice cream is smooth with an intense coffee flavour.

It is served with Kahlua, cane sugar and pistachio that goes perfectly with the aromatic coffee ice cream.

We also had Cempedak ice cream, that is their seasonal ice cream (RM32), that provided a punch of flavour with every spoonful. It is so full of flavour, and to be honest, I would eat this ice cream over the fruit any day!

Manja definitely took a bold step by featuring very unique flavour combinations. It is not traditional Malaysian cuisine, but it does showcase the beautiful and fresh ingredients and flavours this country has to offer.

Chef Vic excels at blending flavours to achieve a unique dish, he balances the ingredients well and incorporates several different techniques in a single dish.

“I love to play around with a lot of ingredients. There are no rules,” he said.

A lot of research and design went into the planning of the menu.

It took the team one year to conceptualise the menu and narrow the number of dishes from 112 to just 33.

“We all put a lot of thought into these 33 dishes. I love every single one of these dishes,” said Chef Vic.

All in all, it was a fun and inspirational eating experience, and you could see and taste the love and care they put into creating these unique dishes.

On top of the sensational food, Manja also has an extensive alcoholic drinks menu. You can check out our cocktail review here.

I would not hesitate to recommend this restaurant, and it is safe to say that I will be back!

Manja Old Malaya

Address: 6, Lorong Raja Chulan, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Phone: +60 12-373 7063

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 11.30am-2am

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