The Hungry Tapir, Petaling Street

January 22, 2020

The Hungry Tapir has heart: This beautiful new restaurant could become KL's next natural habitat for vegans and vegetarians, as well as the rest of us who relish the flavours of the earth's harvests, coupled with Sabah-inspired craft rice wine cocktails.

It's no surprise that this venue will be love at first sight for many, since founder Cynthia Rodrigo specialises in interior design. But her roots in food and hospitality are also evident; her parents ran a Kristang restaurant in Damansara Kim decades ago, and despite the pressures of a weekend launch party that endured electrical woes and was flooded with friends, she took time to earnestly welcome and speak with strangers off the street who sought herbivorous sustenance at The Hungry Tapir.

Tapirs can get thirsty too, so our first stop was the bar, which offers rice wine concoctions by Haus of Lihang (lihing is Sabah's pulut-based rice wine). Tapir taps into lihing poured out in cocktails (RM35 each) with influences from both East and West - Triple G blends lihing with ginger and ginseng, while Cinta features hints of apple and cinnamon - and in ready-to-sip bottles infused with fruity flavours like pineapple, for mellow beverages with light fermented notes.

The Hungry Tapir's food menu might be a work in progress for now, but the launch buffet showed plant-powered promise, with everyone enthusiastically eating up fried tofu patties, tempeh coleslaw, gluten-free jackfruit yellow curry, spaghetti with vegan meatballs in house-made tomato sauce, oatmeal bars and more.

The preliminary a la carte selection is now up and running - falafels with fresh mint chutney to mushroom arancini with harissa mayo to nangka tacos with tomato salsa.

The Hungry Tapir

135, First Floor, Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur. Soft launch hours: Tues-Sun, 4pm-10pm (till late Fri-Sat).

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