Does a ‘dating anniversary’ still count after you get married? Does the wedding anniversary supersede the dating anniversary? If it does, then K and I certainly didn’t get the memo – our dating anniversary of September 14 is still just as special as our wedding anniversary of November 22, and we were determined to go out for a ‘fine dining’ experience in Kuala Lumpur on the occasion of our dating anniversary.
The only problem was that we didn’t want to have a European-style fine dining experience – we were after all, going to be spending the next eight months travelling around Europe and visiting great restaurants in places like Paris and Copenhagen…could a French restaurant in Kuala Lumpur really measure up to L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Saint-Germain? We wanted to find a fine dining restaurant serving up Malay food which turned out to be harder than expected with only two restaurants coming up on our search – Bijan and Enak. Both had mixed reviews online, but we ended up opting to go for Enak.
Our experience started out positively – Enak is located in the basement level of the fancy Starhill Gallery complex, so we were put in the mood for decadence and extravagance as we strolled past shops selling watches for $100k RM and dresses in the thousands. We were greeted pleasantly at the door, but as we went in and took our table, we realised that on that particular Tuesday night, the only other tables were full of corporate groups of ten or more people. We steeled ourselves for an evening of loud laughter and chatter from our fellow diners, rather than the hushed romantic atmosphere that we were hoping for our dating anniversary dinner.
Looking around the restaurant as we sat down, we also came to the realisation that the decor of Enak was more akin to a standard suburban Asian restaurant than it was to the fine dining that we’re accustomed to in Australia. Everything seemed to have been done on the cheap with mass market Ikea-style chairs and tables, coarse red tablecloths, generic white crockery and less than premium silverware and glassware. It certainly wasn’t like a multi-hatted restaurant like Sepia, and it didn’t even come close to being a semi-fancy restaurant like Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay.
The service, much like the service in many Malaysian establishments, left a lot to be desired. Service is not delivered with a smile and is quite brusque and pushy – ordering a $17 RM bottle of Evian was looked down upon as though we should have ordered the $30 RM bottle of fancy sparkling water instead.
Many of the items of the menu are also not available – K’s first two drink choices were not available, and he ended up having to settle for a Passionate Mango mocktail, while I ordered the Smashing Three mocktail. Both mocktails were well done with fresh fruits, but I feel like mine was a particular standout – not too sweet, very fresh and more-ish.
We faced the same issue with ordering from the a la carte menu when some of our initial choices weren’t available. We managed to push on with a few other options, and our shared appetiser was delivered to our table. We chose the Appetiser Tasting Menu of three highlights – deep-fried squid, grilled prawns, and minced beef and potato patties. The patties were a bit disappointing (bit too heavy on the potato, and the promised nutmeg spice really didn’t show), but the prawns and the squid were delicious. While the batter on the squid was a bit bland, it really lifted its game when paired with the accompanying dipping sauce.
We also ordered one serve of rice each to go with the main dishes we ordered. I was pleasantly surprised to find a small serve of pickles on the side of our rice – I’m a pickle fanatic, and these Malaysian-style pickles were dangerously more-ish.
K was missing the taste of red meat as we’d been eating a lot of chicken in Malaysia (chicken rice…chicken soup…ayam goreng…) so he ordered the Rendang Padang with New Zealand topside to satisfy his red meat cravings. The rendang had fantastic depth of flavour, with a rich red spiced sauce full of creamy coconut goodness. The meat was cooked well, practically falling apart once you touched it with your fork.
We also ordered the Vegetable Tasting Menu to ensure we got our daily allocation of greens. I liked the Bayam Goreng Kampung, the fried spinach with garlic and baby corn as it was nice and plain, a real palate cleanser. The Terong Balado was also fantastic, but in a different way – the spiced and stewed eggplant was firm but had managed to soak in all the rich spiced tomato flavour. I was less impressed with the Kerabu Jantung Pisang, of banana blossoms as I felt there was a bit of an overload of onion in the mix.
Our last main dish of the Udang Lemak Merah was my personal highlight of the whole meal – thick and juicy prawns were served in a rich and creamy lemongrass and chilli sauce. I ended up spooning lots of this creamy sauce over my rice, as it made the perfect flavour booster – subtle at first, but slowly intensifying.
The dessert was another matter. Again, we decided to order a tasting menu as we figured it would give us the best opportunity to try different things. The Dessert Tasting Menu started off on the wrong foot though, when the waitress told us that they were out of the Kuih Lapis, and would we mind if they substituted something else for it? We were disappointed as we were looking forward to the Kuih, but decided to go ahead anyway as we assumed that they would simply substitute another dessert like Sago Melaka.
Instead, they replaced it with a single tiny scoop of vanilla ice-cream drizzled with store-bought chocolate sauce and a tiny strawberry. With the three tiny slices of Pisang Caramel (caramel banana with flaked almonds) and a single thin slice of Durian Gulung (rolled durian cake), this whole dessert plate was beyond disappointing and not worth the $36 RM they charged. It was a real shame to end the dinner on such a (metaphorically) sour note.
Overall…well, you can probably tell that I was disappointed by our experience at Enak. It was far from the romantic fine dining restaurant that we had been hoping for, and is much better suited to larger corporate groups. While the food was satisfying on the whole, other challenges really soured the whole experience – sub-optimal service, and the absurd decision to replace a third of our dessert tasting menu with a single tiny scoop of vanilla ice-cream being key.
We’ll never be back to Enak, and I honestly can’t recommend it to others. It does make me wonder if we should have gone with the other Malay fine-dining option in Kuala Lumpur (Bijan), but at this point, I’m too scared to even attempt it on our next visit.
Enak KL is located at Starhill Gallery on 181. Jalan, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.