July 7, 2018
Slabs of Sanchoku wagyu strip loins and Margaret River tomahawk steaks beckon seductively from the butchers' chiller, lustrous and luscious in their mouthwatering marbling. Black cod and trout fillets glisten nearby, swept in with the ocean's opulence of Brittany blue lobsters and Irish Gallagher oysters. A few feet away, the earth's crops look ready for harvest, with shelves of vegetables that span Cameron Highlands cabbage and zucchini to Australian broccoli and Dutch white asparagus.
For fans of fresh produce, Atlas Gourmet Market knows the map to their hearts, offering the complete shopping experience for the components of many fine feasts (with Venchi chocolate and Kusmi tea to round out your meal). For restaurant enthusiasts, this could be a haven to bookmark too, with its collective of kitchens that rely on the marketplace's own stock - everything from cold cuts and olive oils to coffee beans - to craft a crowd-pleasing menu in a bright setting that shines with the love for food. The result is a thoughtfully conducive environment to help customers uncover a world's worth of well-cultivated nourishment.
Atlas Gourmet Market's eating corners comprise multiple concepts, but for this introduction, we focused on the two main sections, Atlas Bistro and Atlas Pizzeria, helmed by veteran Malaysian head chef David Wong, whose decades of experience in KL and London have instilled in him a deep appreciation of classic cooking staples, skillfully prepared to let honest flavours and expressive textures speak persuasively for themselves. For his kitchen, he hand-picks his meat and seafood, vegetables and fruits, herbs and spices from Atlas' racks, brining his chicken for 24 hours and making sauces from scratch.
That's Atlas Bistro's forte, curating recipes that seek to use ingredients to their full potential; to start, Wong recommends the rare-cooked filet mignon, with substantial slices of Angus beef forming a fleshy foundation for walnuts, figs and olives (RM78), and the duck prosciutto intertwined with char-grilled asparagus and a poached egg in honey whole-grain mustard dressing (RM42). Both ensembles do justice to delicious meats of different characters, the first quick-seared and the latter dry-cured, brought together in lively synergy with the farmland's bounty.
While prawn cocktails often seem like a culinary relic from a bygone century, Atlas proves that timeless bistro-style favourites never truly go out of style, encouraging customers to indulge in the pure pleasure of poached large prawns with iceberg and romaine lettuce and creme fraiche cocktail dressing (RM39). That crustacean creation would be the perfect prelude to more seafood, a main course of white fish, specifically pan-seared New Zealand hoki, pan-seared to moist, flaky tenderness, beautifully complemented by beurre blanc, a satisfyingly balanced meal with roast potatoes and chilli strawberries (RM58).
Our top choice is the steak - the counters display a diverse selection, with Australia's respected Darling Downs wagyu sitting beside Japan's Kyushu-sourced cuts of A5 tenderloin, rib-loin, rump and much, much more (lamb lovers can check out the Aussie Outback-raised Bultarra saltbush lamb). You can order the beef straight off the menu, or better still, take a short stroll to the butchery for an up-close-and-personal look before determining your decision, true to the Atlas dining hall's ethos of giving customers a more intimate glimpse into their food even before the cooking process. The butchery team will be happy to tell you the stories behind the meat, their origins and grades, how the cattle were fed, and everything else to satisfy your curiosity.
Our Miyazaki MB12 sirloin (RM129 per 100 grams) was everything we needed it to be for a grade of the ultimate threshold - convincingly medium-rare, compellingly juicy, commandingly robust-tasting, a steak that succeeds on every count. Order it with crisp hand-cut fries (RM18), double-fried into one of the city centre's most addictive portions of potatoes.
One final note for the steaks: Dry-aged options will very soon be available too, another reason to keep an eye on Atlas, either for dining here or purchasing raw steaks to recreate your own succulent masterworks at home.
We only had tummy space for one pizza, though Atlas Pizzeria boasts no fewer than 15 savoury, globe-trotting possibilities, ranging from the beef devotee's New Yorker 2.0 (with seared rib-eye steak, beef pastrami, salted beef and air-dried beef) to the mushroom acolyte's Super Mario (with chanterelles, portobello, shimeiji and truffle bechamel), plus Asian-inflected varieties with toppings like serunding, bunga kantan, laksa sauce or kicap manis, offered on a hand-tossed, thin-crust sourdough base. In the end, we went for one of the pizzeria's bestsellers, Killing Me Softly (RM46), a crunchy-creamy medley of soft-shell crab and buttermilk sauce, piled further with five (!) types of tomatoes, coriander, mozzarella and pecorino cheese.
Speaking of cheeses, that's one of the targets of our next visit to Atlas, which also comprises what's billed as KL's biggest cheese room, nicknamed Wholly Cheese. And while Atlas Bistro and Atlas Pizzeria do not serve pork, there's a separate section, Jamon Iberico by The Sinful Grillers, where iberico ham and house-made sausages seize the spotlight, alongside cooked iberico spare ribs and collar steaks that would be ideal for enjoying at Atlas' cosy wine bar enclave.
All in all, we respect how much passion has been poured into Atlas Gourmet Market, partnered with a sense of meticulous expertise, an emphasis on the provenance of food, and a philosophy of striving to share what makes ingredients great - a labour of love that goes beyond a typical grocer or restaurant. Many thanks to Atlas Gourmet Market for having us here.
Note: AGM will be staging a 'silent auction' throughout 13-22 July - fill up a provided form and place your bid at the cashier's counter for choices such as a curated Atlas basket, seafood dinner for six persons, pizza demonstration with chef Wong, customised cheese platter, iberico platter, bottles of wine, and much more, each starting at a minimal value. Proceeds go to charity.
Atlas Gourmet Market
Basement 1, Shoppes at Four Seasons Place, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Daily, 10am-10pm.