Drift Dining @ 38 Bidara, Jalan Bedara

December 28, 2014

A slice of Sydney surfaces in KL: Four Australians with wide experience in the restaurant business have combined forces to spearhead Drift, where modern Aussie cooking shines in a relaxed & inviting setting. It's poised to be a place to watch in 2015.

Drift Dining & Bar opens this week at 38 Bidara Condominium off Jalan Nagasari, pretty near Changkat Bukit Bintang. It's a familiar spot for KL's long-time foodies - this was formerly Chiaroscuro, once one of the city's most reliable Italian restaurants.

For now, the restaurant opens only in the evening, but there are also plans for an adjoining space - nicknamed 'Ebb & Flow' - that'll host a providore where customers can grab sandwiches, smoked meat, cheese & wine during the daytime. There's also a speakeasy-style lounge hidden behind the bar, where mural portraits inspired by Chaplin & Hepburn stare out from the walls.

Sydney-born chef Angus Harrison helms the kitchen here, the latest move in a career that has taken him from Tetsuya's in Sydney to Luke Mangan's Salt tapas in Seminyak, Bali. The menu is still being fine-tuned, but expect a focus on local produce with influences from across the globe. Asian flavours take centre stage for these Manila clams (RM35++), briny & nourishingly juicy, steamed with soy sauce, garlic & ginger & served piping-hot for rainy-night comfort.

Guests are encouraged to drift from course to course, sharing wine & conversation while grazing on platters of baby back pork ribs (RM35++), ravishingly marinated to full flavour & slow-braised to supreme succulence, soaked in savoury yakiniku sauce, then crowned with a crisp fennel-&-apple salad. Easily our favourite Drift dish so far.

The char-grilled pork chop (RM35++) is a little less memorable, suffering from comparisons to the ultimate sticky-sweet Chinese char siu found elsewhere in the city. This may appeal to folks who prefer their meat lean & mean. It showcases Thai touches, with pickled baby mango, cucumber & nam prik sauce that's too mild & not fiery enough for Malaysian taste buds.

Moroccan-spiced crunchy cauliflower, made creamy with saffron yoghurt & supplied with a sweet spark from rum-soaked raisins (RM25++). Drift's founders are hands-on with their new outlet - you'll find most of them here each evening, with restaurant CEO Robert Gilliland & manager Ric Patterson chatting with customers to ensure everyone has a satisfactory time.

There's only one dessert on the menu, but it's a triumph - cinnamon-spiced Spanish doughnuts, a.k.a. churros, nicely straddling the line between dense & fluffy, served with dulce de leche & kitchen-made strawberry jam, both thick & tasty without being cloying. At RM19++, it illustrates how prices at Drift are mercifully not too intimidating.

We haven't forgotten the fourth member of Drift's Australian collaboration, the fairest of them all, sommelier Donna Freeman, who directs Drift's diversely international wine list. Expect thoughtfully curated vintages by both the bottle & the glass, with Australian, French, Californian, Spanish, Italian & Argentinian varieties ranging between RM19++ & RM36++ for the latter.

Lots of fun cocktails too, from the Blueberry Muffin Martini with cake crumbs lining the rim (RM32++; Absolut, blueberry jam, creme de cassis, lime) to the Espresso Martini (RM32++; vodka, kahlua, double espresso, maple syrup). Expect to hear much more about Drift in the months to come.

Drift Dining & Bar
38 Bidara, Jalan Bedara, Off Jalan Nagasari, Kuala Lumpur. Behind Istana Hotel.
Open 5pm till late, Monday-Saturday (kitchen opens 6:30pm). Website: www.driftdining.com

This restaurant is available for bookings under TABLEAPP, which enables customers to make instant reservations at Malaysia's top restaurants, while saving time and money in the process. Reserve your table at this restaurant by clicking here.

Check out the latest edition of Eat Drink KL: 100 Favourites, featuring 100 recommended restaurants for October-December 2014, including more than 30 new entries for this quarter. 
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