Playte, Republik Damansara Heights
August 4, 2019
Playte brings exciting elements to the table: The clear-eyed skills of young Malaysian chefs with something fresh to offer. The imaginative use of regional produce, from belimbing to bamboo shoots, Bario rice to Vadouvan spices, to create recipes of ambition and adventure. The conviction to showcase these progressive efforts in a casual space at accessible prices.
Slated to launch August 6 in Damansara Heights' new Republik F&B enclave, Playte is our introduction to culinary talents Brendon Chen, Kae Huey and Sharina Aidid, who first met while studying in Le Cordon Bleu six years ago. They've collaborated together and apart since then - Brendon, for example, has staged at Taipei's Mume (ranked seventh this year on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants) and honed his craft at KL's own Nadodi (which CNN recently described as potentially being the world's next great Indian restaurant) - but Playte marks the formal union of their capabilities.
Dish after dish, Playte bowled us over with this preview of its dinnertime selection, confidently corralling diverse ingredients into distinctive ensembles with irrepressible flavours.
The Raw selection conveys sheer vibrancy - snapper is lightly cured with soy, lusciously fleshy with an umami undertone, sliced with shredded daikon slid in for juiciness, tempered by a tangy-sweet tamarind and raisin puree, a little earthy with brown butter dressing and a bit briny with wakame powder, yielding an array of elegant notes that add up to a full-bodied symphony (RM28).
Playte's reinterpretation of steak tartare is equally enticing - morsels of Australian grass-fed beef mingle with everything from pickled ginger to preserved radish, plus a preserved tofu dressing, five-spice powder and garlic chips, not merely representing East Asia but more specifically the nuances of a classic congee, seamlessly and surprisingly transplanted from boiled rice to diced meat, broadening the horizons of a contemporary kitchen's creativity (RM37).
Nearly everything we sampled here could be a signature dish - chunky-cut ox tongue is tenderly braised for four hours, then torched for a final touch of caramelisation, resulting in protein that's packed with pure, punchy flavour, deepened with the decadence of Playte's own XO sauce and cured yolk, balanced and buoyed with pickled onions and salsa verde, for a push-and-pull of robust meatiness with zesty tartness, a carnivore's feast with green-fingered flourishes (RM38).
Fans of comfort fare should order the maitake mushrooms, made indulgent with pillowy potato foam and crackly potato chips, herbaceously laced with droplets of rosemary oil, rounded out with a soothing mushroom broth to nurse the broken spirit (RM28) - take a bite, have a sip; before you know it, the bowls will be empty but your heart should feel full.
Playte's offerings are constructed for communal sharing, though degustation menus of between five to seven courses are also being planned.
For the best seats in the house, take a spot at the counter to catch all the action in the open kitchen, as the hard-labouring brigade assembles a steak to sink your teeth into - wagyu rump cap partnered with salt-baked sengkuang for a memorable Peranakan crunch, laksa leaves, fried okra, shiitake mushrooms and watercress puree (RM72) - and poultry to pleasure your palate - a two-textured duet of chicken leg and breast, poached then finished off in the pan, enriched with the butteriness of Shaoxing wine-infused clam beurre blanc, completed with braised daikon, deep-fried kailan and parsley oil, inspired by Shaoxing's own drunken chicken, with modern, internationally informed sensibilities (RM43).
Desserts ring in a resoundingly satisfying conclusion: For a tropical-themed temptation, try the coconut sorbet with passion fruit custard, nectarous mangoes and lime zest, sharpened with jasmine tea sables (RM28), but the ultimate guilty cheat-day pleasure might be the gula Melaka gelato with caramel sauce, mildly bitter with a sprinkling of candlenuts, cushioned with the cocoa of caramelised white chocolate and dark chocolate cookie crumbs (RM25).
There's still much more on the evening menu to explore - raw mackerel with belimbing, pomelo, pickled cucumber, fried broccoli, dill oil and calamansi dressing; prawns with prawn head sauce, charred leeks, house-made noodles and sambal; quail with Bario rice, Vadouvan spices and burnt eggplant puree.
Note that Playte also operates for breakfast and lunch, but with a separate theme - Eggy - a sub-brand that specialises in grab-and-go, egg-adoring offerings. We sampled only one, but it's a sure-fire smash - a sandwich of soulful scrambled eggs made sultry with sriracha mayo, cheddar cheese and caramelised onions, thickly layered in crispy-fluffy, flavoursome brioche, this alone is worth waking up early for or stepping out of the office for a lunchtime pick-me-up. Expect more egg-cellence in fried, poached and other forms from Eggy.
All in all, Playte is one of 2019's most promising new restaurants, bursting with deliciously executed ideas. Many thanks to the team here for this preview.
G 0.1, Ground Floor, Republik, Jalan Medan Setia, Bukit Damansara, Damansara Heights, 50490 Kuala Lumpur.
Daily, 8am-3pm, 6pm-10:30pm.
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