March 30, 2018
By Aiman Azri
When Dancing Fish first opened in November 2010, it was an instant thrill for tired taste buds, bringing the nuances of West Java's recipes to Bangsar Shopping Centre for the first time, with a splash of influences from Bali and Malaysia as well.
Fast-forward more than seven years later, and the restaurant remains faithful to its culinary inspirations from Indonesia and beyond, still going strong with its winning streak of traditional cooking methods, fresh ingredients, sauces made tirelessly from scratch, and a friendly team that includes many staff members who've been here since Day One.
Marking its seventh-year milestone recently, Dancing Fish has spruced up its menu by introducing new temptations and updating some old ones. Regulars can expect approximately 30 percent of the latest selection to be different in one manner or another.
With such a riot of colours and lively flavours, where should we begin? The Appetiser Platter is probably the ideal introduction (RM 49.80), a smorgasbord of charcoal-grilled chicken satay with peanut sauce, seafood sate lilit (with prawn, fish and squid paste on lemongrass stalks), cumi-cumi tahu bakar (calamari with tofu pouches), and a spicy green apple salad with salted fish.
Representing a spectrum of classic staples, there's something for everyone in these seductive bites, beautifully and elaborately assembled. Each patron will assuredly have a favourite, with distinctive dynamics in each tidbit.
A feast here easily scores strong points for robust heartiness. The Indonesian Beef Ribs (RM 79.90) are superbly satisfying, showcasing extraordinarily marinated braised beef ribs, laced with garlic oil and chilli flakes in a herb-packed broth that's a fair bit thicker than the typical beef rib soup, resembling the rawon of East Java.
The Udang Masak Lemak Chili Padi Nenas (seasonal price), on the other hand, takes on a Malaccan Nyonya bent for a thick tiger prawn curry, slow-cooked with turmeric, pineapple and other spices that result in a deep, fulfilling richness. And to complete this triumvirate of triumphs (best lapped up with steamed rice), the Soft-Shell Crab with Chilli Sambal and Rice Crackers (RM 58) promises a creamy-eggy take on soft-shell crabs - comfort food at its most indulgent.
Naturally, the restaurant's namesake Dancing Fish remains on its repertoire - deep-fried nila fish that's thoroughly crunchy to its edible bones, striking in prenow also offered with Gulai Tempoyak, a house-made blend of fermented durian flesh with chillies and spices for an intriguing twist on the beloved speciality (RM 62.30). Other serving styles for this are also still available, with condiments like Sundanese sambal terasi and kicap.
The list of hits is extensive - Dancing Fish's Bebek Panggang with Sambal Matah is an essential order, marinated for 24 hours before being barbecued on a wood and charcoal grill (RM 49.90), while the Wok-fried Pucuk Paku with Sambal Belacan (RM 19.60) offers a pleasantly firm fix of fibre, with prawns tossed in for extra protein.
Wrap up your meal on a lovely note with the supremely photogenic sweet potato with scraped coconut, palm sugar and vanilla ice cream; it might look like a completely contemporary treat, but it's in fact inspired by bubur cha cha, modernised into a chilled dessert that reflects Dancing Fish's sense of imaginative playfulness.
Here's to the first seven years, and the next seven. Many thanks to Dancing Fish for having us.
Dancing FishLot T120, 121 & 122 285, 3rd Floor, Bangsar Shopping Centre, Jalan Maarof, Bukit Bandaraya, Bangsar, 59000 Kuala Lumpur. Open 11.30am-10pm. Tel: 03-2095 6663
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