Agak Agak by Ili Sulaiman, where juvenile delinquents are given a second chance by being trained to be chefs, is Malaysia's answer to Jamie Oliver's 15 in London and Melbourne. The dining space is smallish, at the APW Bangsar, where trendy breakfast go-to spots, PULP and Breakfast Thieves, are also located.
Agak Agak serves plate lunches, based on Malay cuisine but given modern twists in different unexpected ways. What we tried:
1) Mangkuk Tongkol - pan-seared local tuna, pickled vegetables, tempe & eggplant, drizzled with tamarid-chilli-shoyu sauce, served on rice.
2) Ulam & Quinoa - lemongrass quinoa, ulam dirt, seasonal greens and mini-sweet potato begedel, dressed in coconut-palm sugar dressing.
3) Chilli Pate Mee - handmade toasted rye noodles, dry chilli oil, minced chicken, ikan bilis, kicap-braised egg, and a dollop of smooth buttery chicken liver pate.
4) Kacang Pol - Johor's answer to the chilli con carne, topped with sliced green chilli, fresh onions, crispy golden-fried shallots, crumbled feta and a runny "telur mata kerbau" (fried egg, sunny-side up), served with a toasted milk bread.
5) Lauk Harini (Dish of the Day) - Ayam Masak Kicap (soy-braised chicken), served with stir-fried Malaysian vegetables, salted fish, keropok (fish crackers), fried egg sunny-side up, and a dish of sambal belacan.
All the plate lunches stood out because of the superbly fresh ingredients, and a light touch which is a welcome change from the usual rustic, robust Malay cooking style. We were crazy full but were persuaded to try their desserts - which turned out to be the best dishes we had for the day.
6) Bundt cake with limau nipis (local lime).
7) Pulut Hitam (black glutinous rice) Cheese Tart. The tiny, candied knot of pandan leaf atop the cheese tart is edible.
This is a halal Malay-Muslim spot, so alcohol is not served. One gets a choice of several soda-juice blends. What we tried (left to right): Asam with burnt limes; Belimbing & vanilla; Pear & basil; and Orange.
29, Jalan Riong
59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +603-2788 3590
Open: Mon-Sat 10.30am to 6pm