For those of us who miss being close to countrysides, Princeps Bistro feels like a release and relief. A patio for alfresco dining is set by the gently sloping greens of The Stories of Taman Tunku, Bukit Tunku's burgeoning culinary and commercial enclave. Upstairs, a balcony with a single table surveys the batai and beringin trees that have dominated this neighbourhood for decades.
It's fitting that Princeps' offerings look like spring and taste like summer, blooming with natural, vibrant colours and sprouting with lively, full-spirited flavours. From sunchoke soup for lunch to fennel salad for dinner, fleshed out with fish and fowl, the restaurant is a reminder of the pleasures of three-hour meals where food and conversations flow, where a freshly cooked pasta straight out of the kitchen has the power to revive memories and restore hope.
While Princeps' setting is a work in progress, the signature flourishes of the POW IDEAS design wizards abound, especially on the upper floor, where people can come together later this year for parties and reunions, clinking glasses over a selection of some 100 wines and sampling cocktails in alcove-inspired corners.
Princeps' soft-launch menu features the assured work of chef Jace Lok and his team, part of the collective whose eateries span the charcoal oven-fuelled carnivore's haven of Stoked to the bread devotee's sanctum of Smith.
A modern European bistro's touch is evident throughout. Start with generous gestures of a garden's graceful gifts - a Cameron Highlands harvest of Japanese cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, that invigorating combination of juicy and crunchy, tossed with avocados and onions in olive oil (RM28; available for lunch), or the roasted cauliflower steak, a chunky feast on its own with kai-lan and rocket, enriched with cream, feta cheese and seaweed powder (RM36).
Poultry at its prime: Our favourite finds at Princeps might be the feathered kind - the quail promises perfectly roasted succulence that had us tearing at every possible bite of meat with our fingers, with light, delicate flavours sweetened by a miso honey glaze, cushioned with a mild-mannered vegetable risotto (RM39; only for dinner), while the duck rillettes are beautifully brined and braised, a lovably luscious pairing with sourdough toast that makes us eager to revisit Smith once its expansion renovations are completed next month (RM30; also for dinner).
While Princeps is some 10,000 kilometres away from the Mediterranean and Norwegian Seas, inspirations from those waters surface successfully here. If bright and wholesome are your watchwords, the beetroot-cured salmon gravlax is your best bet, a piece of art on a plate with red radish, orange zest, mango gelee and coriander seeds (RM39; for dinner); if hearty and heartwarming are what soothe you, some spaghetti loaded with with tender crab claw meat in a comforting cream sauce spiced up with chilli flakes should be your source of solace (RM35; for lunch).
The French chocolate mousse with vanilla ice cream and chocolate soil makes for a predictably pleasing conclusion (RM22). But even if we weren't eating here, Princeps' Slayer-crafted coffee is the most satisfying latte we'd find in Bukit Tunku and beyond, a medium-roast blend with a brilliant balance and body for milky brews.
Princeps Bistro & Restaurant
A1, The Stories of Taman Tunku, Off Jalan Langgak Tunku, Bukit Tunku, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Daily, 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm. Tel: 03-6211-1866