SAJ Bistronomy by Leen’s, Taman Tun Dr Ismail

December 17, 2023


For lovers of Leen's, SAJ Bistronomy marks a fresh reason to rediscover the talents of Syrian-born chef Ameer Alzalek and his team.

Launched this week a few doors down from Leen's, SAJ showcases a subtle evolution of Ameer's modern interpretations of Middle Eastern cuisine, championing bold, robust flavours that hit the spot for soulful heartiness.

Just like its food, SAJ's setting in TTDI carves its own separate identity from Leen's while retaining familiar touches like the chef's counter.

The menu spotlights the pure simplicity of prime produce, prepared in skilled styles.

Upstairs at Leen's, everyone orders the smoked hummus. But in a brave move, that dish isn't available at SAJ - instead, Ameer revives a recipe he first introduced at pop-ups two years ago: The Charred Chilli Hummus, not smoked but spiced up with greens galore, with charred chillies that pack a tolerably mellow heat and mixed herbs for a lively, leafy taste and texture to uplift the hummus' natural earthiness.

Pide is also missing on SAJ's menu: In its place, SAJ offers intriguing creations to harness its namesake speciality of saj, a griddle-baked flatbread, soft and fluffy with a gentle crispness.

Try the saj topped with Levantine shanklish cheese, labneh strained yogurt, juicy tomatoes and a runny egg yolk to spread over - evoking the most gut-friendly pizza ever, it's a burst of vibrant, tangy-savoury flavours that opens up the palate for the heavier courses to come.

At Leen's, the Crispy Syrian Rice and the Samak fish are must-orders. At SAJ, rice and fish come together in the Sayadieh, pairing Spanish mackerel, flaky and fleshy, on tarator tahini-based sauce with pilaf rice, firm-grained with a fragrantly sauteed browning.

If you like lamb, you'll likely relish the Kebab Banjan, a Syrian staple of smooth, thick and tender kebabs layered with eggplant on creamy harissa sauce, and the Grilled Lamb Ribs, lusciously fatty with a mild, clean-tasting char.

There's still more to sample here, from cuts of wagyu oyster blade with freekeh, duck confit dumplings with duck fat yogurt, and A.F.C., Ameer's fried chicken of crunchy kampung fowl with toum sauce.

Desserts also prove distinctive - a charmingly multidimensional pumpkin fromage that harbours spiced sponge cake with sumptuous cheese, pumpkin puree, orange and apricots; kurma date-flavoured caneles; and beautifully plated, tuile-topped olive oil ice cream, delicate-tasting with a tossing of crushed hazelnuts and apricots.

SAJ Bistronomy by Leen's
130, Jalan Burhanuddin Helmi, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur.

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