Small Shifting Space: Poultry, Pastries, Pinot

October 20, 2020

Strange, stealthy serendipity: Small Shifting Space is a place that nearly never existed. When 2020 started, its founder was running a bubble tea store on Petaling Street, while its current chef had spent several months working in a freshly launched restaurant in Shenzhen.

Both men have made the best of this year's shifting terrains. Lee swapped boba for Bobar, turning his store into a two-storey destination for a chef-driven kitchen, natural wines and community events, reflective of venues that he respects in Singapore and Melbourne. Chin has moved from China to Chinatown, living here this past month to absorb a sense of KL's food culture.

October's unsolicited surprises have forced Small Shifting Space to shelve its opening till next month. But customers can still savour a fraction of its team's capabilities, courtesy of care packs of savoury and sweet temptations for takeout and delivery.

Selling five pieces of fried chicken with sides for RM110 sounds shifty, but take a peek inside this package and you'll see that life is sometimes like a box of fried chicken - you might not get what you expect, but hopefully you get more than you deserve.

Chin's chicken with all the fixin's is subversive, an Asian take on a Southern U.S. fried chicken feast. The light, Japanese-style tempura batter for the chicken, tinged green with nori, might rouse a Confederate yee-naw, but this is poultry at its prime, from the meat to the marinade, smoothly succulent and potently pure-tasting. Add RM40 for a lumpfish caviar top-up, bringing a brininess that enriches not only the batter's seaweed but its fleshy contents, a convincing coupling of would-be-fish and fowl.

As for the accompaniments, the Skinny Rice is as much a misnomer as Stable Trump, with glutinous rice gloriously simmered in chicken fat and showered with deep-fried chicken skin for the epitome of a guilty indulgence. And while we'd love to see collard greens with hot sauce in this mix, the Braised Kailan is beautifully tender and full-bodied in flavour. A mustardy egg salad with skin-on potatoes, plus thick-sliced cornbread, round out this meal that two people would struggle to finish. To wash everything down: Cold-brewed Chinese tea, fittingly in lieu of southern sweet tea.

This is, however, not representative of the tasting menus that Chin (a Singaporean-born Malaysian, billed as the restaurant's chef-in-residence for an indefinite period) plans to serve next month. Chinatown EP01 is currently slated to feature courses like chicken with elements of jasmine tea and rice vinegar, fish with fiddlehead ferns and sour plum, and beef with brassicas.

The 'Glutton 4 Gluten' box showcases SSS's baking skills, a prerequisite since the team is poised to set up a baker's corner for laminated pastries in REXKL, completing a croissant-fuelled conquest of Chinatown's two current hotspots of Kwai Chai Hong and the cinema-turned-cultural/culinary complex.

If you love tarts, these two might leave you breathlessss: SSS' pistachio-raspberry and chocolate tarts are decadently luscious on top, densely crisp at its base, brilliantly buoyant and balanced in their dynamics and dimensions, everything that cloyingly one-note, artificial-tasting varieties aren't. Proving that terrific things come in twos, the box's other delectable dessert duos comprise bombolone-style donuts (red dates and tonka beans), eclairs (elegantly irresistible in raspberry and lemon bergamot) and loaves (a triumphantly textured apple crumble that might make Martha proud, a lively lemon that Julia would have reveled in). Cold brew coffee with nifty nutty nuances complements this ensemble (RM120).

Natural wines are already available for sale - a South Australian Lucy M. Chardonnay is an adventure on its own, fermented in ceramic eggs, aged on lees in bottle, for one wild wine (RM260).

Small Shifting Space's care packs will likely be available for a week or so, before the restaurant readies to welcome dine-in guests. Contact 0174405591 to order at least a day in advance.

Small Shifting Space (SSSKL), 141, Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur.

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