Justlife Cafe @ The Gardens, Mid Valley
August 2, 2017
Justlife has been a trusted retailer for organic & eco-friendly products since the late 1990s, with founders & team members who've remained steadfastly passionate about supporting local farming communities & understanding how natural food is best cultivated & consumed. That ethos extends to its flagship cafe, an oasis of vegan-friendly nourishment at The Gardens, where compellingly thoughtful recipes are conceived & executed with care & respect. This is one of the mall's best restaurants.
Plenty of behind-the-scenes effort is poured into the soulful, hearty offerings here: Start with the signature nasi lemak, which relies on brown rice from Sarawak's Bario highlands - Justlife even has a team member stationed in Bario to help ensure that the hill rice continues to be organically grown, just as it has been for generations by the Kelabit tribe, planted only once a year, with the soil & buffaloes rested after each harvest in the lush, pollution-free land. It's a beautiful base for this meat-free interpretation of Malaysia's national dish, made wholesome & wholly guilt-free, still fragrant & flavoursome nonetheless, infused with virgin coconut oil, with the bonus kick of house-made sambal, acar, tofu rendang & long beans in turmeric sauce (RM19).
Wild fermentation is a cornerstone of Justlife, spread across its diverse menu. You'll see jars here of fermented ingredients that range from kimchi to sauerkraut, with the kitchen also enthusiastic about everything from sourdough bread to tempeh & miso. The components come together delectably in the probiotic-rich Buddha Bowl, commanding in its use of plant protein, made nutritionally complex with quinoa, seasonal sprouts, fermented veggies, & an avocado tahini dressing - the sort of salad we'd be ecstatic to eat, simply because each bite tastes so good, with an abundance of fulfilling textures (RM25; the quinoa & chickpeas are activated by being soaked in water before cooking, eliminating acidity & enhancing nutrient absorption). For fans who'd like to learn more about wild fermentation, Justlife also holds workshops from time to time at its outposts here in The Gardens & at Tropicana Avenue, inspiring customers to cultivate their own wild fermentation creations.
We're impressed by how the small team here genuinely handcrafts each creation from scratch - there's nearly something for each personal preference here: If you want an Asian comfort-food warmer, the Bario rice & quinoa porridge has the feel of time-honoured tradition (RM21). If you're looking Westward, the sourdough pizza is surprisingly satisfying, offered in a choice of tong ho (RM28; edible chrysanthemum leaves turned into a sauce) or tom yum (RM32), on a tasty foundation with a fresh, supple crunch that complements the aromatically herb-imbued toppings. You can almost eat the entire pizza on your own (though it's ideally shared by two or three) & return to the office after lunch without feeling bloated.
The selection is kept interesting throughout the week with daily specials too: For example, Mondays pay tribute to the Nyonya heritage, offering kerabu bee hoon, with brown rice vermicelli bolstered by house-made otak-otak, sambal & acar, buoyant with plenty of local spices (RM28). Tuesdays go Korean, as the restaurant offers its rendition of bibimbap, featuring Bario rice tinged with fermented beetroot juice, served with seasonal veggies, tofu, kimchi, miso chilli paste & sesame oil dressing - mix everything together for a medley of revitalising flavours (RM28). Other days are all about Indian, Indonesian, Thai & even Japanese inspirations (Justlife recently added a Japanese chef to its team; he'll helm the kitchen at the brand's next eatery in Tropicana Avenue).
Desserts & drinks are well worth discovering too at Justlife; bite on bliss balls, built with cashew nuts, activated seeds & dried fruits (RM9 for three), or nibble on house speciality 'unbaked' cakes, with other options like chia puddings & cookies to also choose from. The beverage list is extensive too - wild-fermented kvass, kefir & kombucha take the spotlight (RM8-RM10), but we're also admirers of the smoothies (try the spicy banana one) & the hot masala chai, a lovely way to end a meal here, nuanced with Sonnentor tea & spices, Green Acre nutmeg mace & Cheng Shi ginger powder (RM14). We also enjoyed browsing through the vegetables, fruits & other produce; Justlife has also started the production of a ready-to-eat range of wild fermented veggies for sale at its six retail outlets. Many thanks to Justlife's wonderful team for having us here.
LG 208 The Gardens, Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2284-9332
Daily, 10am-9pm (last orders at 8pm; customers are encouraged to have dinner before 8pm to promote healthier guts & a more physically fit lifestyle).
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