July 13, 2018
KL's best restaurant for the recipes of Sarawak, Long Napir Kitchen is as authentic as it gets beyond Borneo, conceived by a family whose members hail from the Lun Bawang and Kelabit communities, promising a taste of the food they were raised on in Limbang, Miri, Sibu and their other hometowns. The founders are admirable ambassadors for Sarawak's cuisine, taking both pride and pleasure in their cooking, warmly and patiently sharing the stories behind these dishes with their customers.
There's A LOT to eat here; most customers might require multiple visits to explore the menu to their satisfaction. Start with the manuk pansuh, a soulful serving with mellow subtleties, showcasing tender grilled chicken meat poured out of a bamboo stalk, soupy with Sarawakian seasonings and aromatic bungkang leaves (RM24.90), the sort of traditional, time-honoured delicacy that should never go out of style.
For a basic introduction to Long Napir Kitchen, the Kelabit rice is pretty fulfilling, centred on the luba laya, the creamy-soft, richly smooth rice cooked in leaves, a highlight even on its own, partnered with a choice of fish or chicken and two vegetables (RM16.90), substantially portioned in a terrific alternative to the typical peninsular mixed-rice staples.
Of course, there's Sarawak laksa, and we're happy to report it's a beauty, with fresh, well-balanced nuances, not overpowering in flavour but not bland either, conveying the essence of a homemade version (RM16.90).
Other options include a Sarawakian fried rice that hits the mark, complemented by ikan terubuk (RM14.90), a solid bet for lunch while you soak in the sape instrumental music at Long Napir Kitchen (named for a cluster of settlements in Limbang) and take a look at the Kelabit costumes and Sarawak rural photographs that decorate this space.
Now we come to the fun stuff, the acquired-taste offerings that might not be everyone's cup of tea. When we visited, jellyfish umai (RM22.90; a cured recipe that could range from fish to prawns) was available, and it was interesting, with a sweetness and less chewy texture than might be expected from jellyfish. That was a special of the week, but fleshy fish-based umai (RM22.90) is available all the time, as are other fish creations like a powerfully pungent fermented sultan fish salad (RM14.90) and savoury smoked tahai fish soup with sour brinjal in a clear, mild soup (RM20.90).
If you're here with a few friends, order a bunch of small plates to share, such as the bone marrow soup (RM18.90), as well as vegetables like fermented wild bitter mustard leaves (caution: this is very salty, so let the kitchen know if you'd prefer it less so) and lovely cassava leaves (Sarawakian midin is also seasonally available). Wash down with Borneo-roasted coffee and house-made soy milk sweetened with gula apong palm sugar. Look for the hornbill at the restaurant's entrance and come right in.
Long Napir Kitchen
31G, Plaza Crystalville, 1, Jalan 22a/70a, Desa Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Currently open daily, 10am-10pm. Tel: 603-6211-1323
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