Li @ Damansara Jaya

February 24, 2016

Bridging the gap between kopitiam classics & modern comfort fare, Li puts a millennial-pleasing spin on 20th-century staples like roti babi, kaya toast & bubur ikan bilis, fuelling a Malaysian soul-food revitalisation by a committed new generation of kitchen talents. If the people behind Li & their philosophies foreshadow the fate of local cooking, the future might be bright.

Li is founded by two Lims & a Lee - chef Heng Kit (formerly of The Kitchen Table), barista Yee Rui (previously at VCR), & front-of-house stalwart Ziyan - all of whom first met at Melbourne's William Angliss hospitality & culinary arts institute. Their training supplies a solid foundation for skilful baking, curing, roasting, pickling & saucing - start with Li's house-made sourdough bread, turned into crunchy-fried, irresistibly greasy-bottomed open sandwiches layered with tender minced pork, sesame seeds, sriracha mayo & cilantro (RM9.50; not our granddaddy's Yut Kee roti babi, but distinctively memorable & enjoyable enough to be a Li signature) & textured toasts coupled with can't-fail soft eggs (RM7.50) or kaya butter (RM5.50).

Our favourite order here is the rice bowl with succulent-smooth chicken thigh, the runniest egg, ginger scallion sauce, sriracha mayo & cucumber (RM16.90) - it might most closely resemble Japanese donburi, but mix everything up & after a few bites, this hearty creation begins to evoke a broad range of the dynamics & dimensions of traditional Chinese chicken rice, a pleasantly strange surprise & - alongside the reinterpreted roti babi - possibly an honourable homage to Heng Kit's Hainanese heritage.

The tagliatelle with slow-cooked pulled pork, sesame oil, scallions, grated cured egg yolk & pickled green chillies (RM16.90) also upends expectations - the soft-textured pasta with its accompaniments end up tasting somewhat similar to Hakka Mee, apparently intentional. In this case though, it's unclear whether folks will prefer the original inspiration or the innovative tribute.

The anchovy congee with egg, fish sauce caramel & scallion sauce (RM9.50) is thick, warming & feels wholly nourishing, with earthy-green nuances, but if ikan bilis isn't your thing, it won't be the chief lure. The roast chicken leg with potatoes & pickles (RM21) is juicy & capably whipped up, though it targets customers who're seeking the safest, most inoffensive choice possible.

Two salads spring up on the soft-launch menu - romaine lettuce with grated cured egg yolk (a fun substitute for the typical parmesan), pickled onions, wolfberries & fish sauce vinaigrette (RM15) & sweet potatoes with mixed greens, apples, mint, pumpkin seeds & citrus vinaigrette (RM20.90) - both have clear merits, balancing a myriad of flavours, though the former could benefit from more heft while the latter makes for tricky manoeuvring if you like to consume every component in each forkful.

For dessert, lychees with meringue, lime granita & coconut milk (RM15.50) work best as a chilled refreshment if you relish lychees. Blondies sourced from Jaslyn Cakes are also available. Iced beverages shine a spotlight on lemon, lemongrass & kumquats; coffee is offered, & while wine is not, bottles won't be banished for corkage-payers. Service is cheery & obliging.

Li Restaurant Damansara Jaya
47 Jalan SS 22/23, Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Kitchen opens Tuesday-Sunday for lunch & dinner.

The Eat Drink KL mobile app is now available, connecting restaurants & customers to promote a positive spirit of community.
Every restaurant on this app rewards users with a 6 percent discount, instantly & conveniently, everyday, all day long. 
In return, users share photos of their experiences at these eateries, creating a new community of restaurant lovers.
For every transaction, at least RM0.10 will be channelled to a charity of the month.

Stay up to date: The Eat Drink KL newsletter is sent by email to subscribers every Monday; it's the Klang Valley's foremost weekly round-up of new restaurant openings, F&B promotions & other tasty tidbits.
Subscribe to Eat Drink KL Weekly for free via this following link: 
Note to subscribers on Gmail: The newsletter will be in the Promotions folder of your inbox.

Check out the latest edition of Eat Drink KL: 100 Favourites, with 100 recommended restaurants for Jan-Mar 2016. This eBook is available to read or download at this link: http://issuu.com/eatdrinkkl/docs/ebook

Buckle your seatbelts: Eat Drink KL is partnering with Uber to take restaurant lovers on new adventures across KL & Selangor!
If you haven't used Uber yet, it's time to begin! For new users, just follow the steps below to redeem free rides:
1. Download the Uber app from the App Store, Play Store or Windows Store - and register your Uber account.
2. Apply the code EATDRINKKL as your first promotional code & you'll receive 2 Free Rides worth RM30 each.
3. Request a ride through the app and ride for free to any destination (with two ride values of up to RM30 each).