Dancer-painter-chef, Adu Amran Hassan’s Adu Sugar, which opened in May 2019 here at Lucky Gardens, served up quite an eclectic menu of traditional Johor-Malay and Modern-Malaysian cuisine. Much of his fusion-Malay dishes came from Champor-champor, his foray into London’s dining scene which he fondly reminisced about (he ran the restaurant for 12 years before selling it to its current Thai owner).
The former Masterchef Malaysia judge (2011-2015) named his current brainchild “Adu Sugar” to pay homage to his Johore-born father, who gained the nickname “Ah Tan Gula” (“Gula” is ‘sugar’ in Malay language) when he was scalded by a pot of boiling sugar syrup as a child. But here at Adu Sugar, it was life that was sweet. Chef Adu’s restaurant is filled with his own paintings, plus sculptures and artwork which he collects.
There were 4 of us at lunch today - I think my friend who did the ordering for us (she’s quite a regular) went a bit overboard, but it was all good. Every dish we had was really tasty.
Pasembur - an amazing amalgamation of flavours and textures from Chef Adu’s creative mix of Chinese chive pakora fritters, watermelon, hard tofu, Indonesian tempe and bitter melinjo crackers, with a thick, crunchy spiced peanut sauce to bind them all together.
Laksa Johor - Johore state’s laksa differentiates itself from other Malaysian regional variations by its use of Italian pasta (spaghetti) in place of rice noodles - it was a legacy from the Johore Sultan Abu Bakar who fell in love with Italian pasta during his travels to Italy in the 1860s, and had preferred the use of spaghetti for laksa ever since.
Chef Adu’s sauce was a thick, delicious, spicy gravy replete with minced wolf herring, threadfin and shrimp-meat. He garnished it with finely-slivered onions, long beans, Vietnamese coriander and chilis. It was the best rendition of the Laksa Johor I’d ever tasted! Don’t miss this dish if you do come here.
Mee Bandung - a favourite among my three other dining companions: yellow wheat noodles in a mellow beef-dried shrimp gravy, thickened with sweet potatoes and crushed peanuts. A coddled egg nestled inside, to be broken so the molten egg-yolk could further enrich the sauce. The dish was stopped with poached squid rings, shrimp and slivers of boiled beef. I personally preferred the Laksa Johor over this dish.
Asian Herb Pesto Rice (left) and Nasi Minyak (right) - both were lightly-flavoured rice dishes which complemented the assertive mains.
Puyuh Penyet, with Sambal Terasi and Ulam - this is deep-fried quail and tempe, Javanese-style, served with a spicy chili-fermented shrimp paste dip, with raw cabbage and long beans on the side. It’s probably very nice on its own but, as we over-ordered, I found this dish a bit incongruous on our lunch spread.
Chicken Asam Pedas - this is a Johore classic of spicy (lotsa chilis) and sour (lotsa tamarind), and the use of fresh aromatics like turmeric root, lemongrass and Vietnamese mint.
Grilled Duck Breast with Dried Longan Red Curry Sauce - I loved this dish: perfectly-seared duck breast, served in a subtly-flavoured red curry sauce. I didn’t really “see” the dried longan, and surmised that it’s blended into the sauce, which is slightly on the sweetish side.
Duck Rendang - any meat will taste good when slow-cooked into a rendang curry. The duck version here was as good as any.
Pumpkin Masak Lemak Cili Api - this is a Malay classic: very simple stew of coconut milk and fresh turmeric, given a chili spike using “cili api”, the Malay answer to habaneros.
Pajeri Terung - slow-cooked aubergines, with a spice mix that included cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise, given a unique taste profile with the addition of slow-toasted grated coconut (Malay: “kerisik”).
11) Pulut Hitam - a very traditional Malay dessert porridge of black glutinous rice, cooked with coconut milk and palm sugar, scented using pandan leaves. It’s executed flawlessly here.
Lempeng Dadar with Caramelised Young Coconut and Jackfruit - a very unusual variant of the usual crepe filled with grated coconut-palm sugar. The one here incorporated jackfruit into the filling , giving it a fragrant, fruity lift.
Pisang Salai Brownie - again, another interesting variant where carefully-smoked bananas were added to brownies, giving the cake more depth of flavours.
Personally, it was one of the most enjoyable meals I’d had in Kuala Lumpur for quite a while. Chef Adu’s clever reinterpretation of his native Johore-Malay flavours, injected with whatever he felt were appropriate flavours culled from other food cultures, resulted in some of the best-tasting Malay dishes I’d ever had.
Adu Sugar Restaurant
10A (1/F), Lorong Ara Kiri 2, Lucky Garden
Bangsar, 59100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2201 1441
Operating hours: 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10.30pm Tue-Sat. Closed on Sundays & Mondays