[Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia] Modern-Malaysian cuisine at Dewakan

Dewakan came to the notice of foodies here with its inventive take on local Malaysian herbs and fruits/vegetables, weaving them into its dishes which uses more formal (French-influenced) techniques, with some molecular gastronomy touches. Chef Darren Teoh is a lecturer-cum-chef at the culinary school where this restaurant is located.

Dewakan has also just become Malaysia’s first-ever entry in the 2019 Asia’s Best Restaurants List, now into its seventh edition. So, a visit was definitely on the cards - we’d been delaying it for years because of the rather isolated location of the restaurant, incongruously perched at the bottom of a monolithic academic building within a college campus situated 23km from Kuala Lumpur city centre, and with an unavoidable 1.5 to 2-hour car journey thru KL’s energy-sapping traffic crawl in the evenings. But we decided to brave it this time.

The cream-coloured dining room was pretty spartan, with well-spaced tables (which did nothing to alleviate the noise coming from a loud table of guffawing diners next to ours), serviced by a slick, efficient team of wait-staff.

What sets Dewakan apart from other fine dining restaurants in Kuala Lumpur is its brave inclusion of some very Malaysian ingredients in its repertoire, for example, strong-smelling condiments like Terengganu “budu” (fermented fish sauce), assertive herbs like “temu kunci” (fingerroot or lesser galangal) and “ulam raja” (a leafy edible fern) - common items on dining tables in Malay villages, but usually never found in a fine dining restaurant. This place is like a “Noma-in-the-tropics”.

We opted for the 16-course Menu Kayangan (MYR370/US$88 nett per head):

"Choy Sum" Nori - Edible wispy crisps made from “choy sum” leaves served between twigs, with a “budu”-flavoured aioli dip.

Mushroom Tartlet - these strong, earthy-flavoured tartlets are made from “cendawan Kukur” (wild mushroom), mushroom purée and brown cheese, topped with shaved candlenut for added nutty richness.

Baby Corn - These are grilled baby corn (reminiscent of those served by Michelin-starred Cheek by Jowl in Singapore and GAA in Bangkok), corn emulsion, crab cracker and garam marsala.

Mango Curry - a mild, creamy soup which was supposedly reminsicent of a curry made by a Malayalee friend of Chef Darren’s grandmother.

Yoghurt & Roselle - little pastels of frozen yoghurt with roselle “leather”-wrap, cuttlefish bits, cumin and lime.

Prawns warmed in Starfruit Juice & Herbs - Various native Malaysian herbs like “ulam raja” and cashew leaves are served with Ming prawns, salted limes, starfruit juice, drizzled with kaffir lime leaf oil.

Savoury Cakes - deep-fried little globes - the batter was folded with a “serunding” (spiced, cooked mince) of mackerel, then filled with smoked roe emulsion and mulberry jam.

Banana hearts with Kerdas - dainty, impossibly pretty little boats carved out of banana hearts, brushed with “taucheo” (fermented beanpaste), topped with “kerdas” chips (the usually obnoxious-smelling pods from native Malaysian tree), fiddlehead ferns, pickled rose and smoked daikon.

Goat Tartare - Smoked goat leg meat with pickles, “Kulim” (a forest fruit with a garlic-like scent) oil and raw pumpkin.

Roasted Eggplant with Buah Keluak & Candlenut Oil - oven-roasted eggplant brushed with buah keluak paste, with a green "stem"consisting of delicately-arranged tiny petai belalang pods. The “eggplant” is served with an earthy foam made from button mushroom stock and candlenut oil.

Slow-cooked Red Snapper with Broth made from Temu - this light fish broth was flavoured with “Temu Pauh”, a native root from the same family as ginger and galangal, but with a green mango flavour.

Black Banana Porridge with Duck Sausage - A porridge of brown rice with blackened banana, cured duck egg yolk and salted mustard greens, served with a duck-meat sausage.

Kid Goat from Boden Farm, with Petai-So - grilled goat-meat (from a farm in the negihbouring state of Negeri Sembilan), brushed with a miso-“petai” paste, served alongside minced goat-meat with Chinese chives and lime juice.

Tapai with Pickled Rose - “tapai” is usually a fermented rice wine, but we’re made to understand that the sourish-tasting version here is non-alcoholic to cater to Muslims.

Sweet Leaf Sorbet & Nam Nam - cubes of poached nam nam is served with sweet leaf sorbet and topped with a wafer made from dehydrated milk and dusted with roselle powder.

Temuan Chocolate with Jaggery Ice-cream - the chocolate is named after the Temuan aboriginal tribespeople who tended the cocoa trees which yielded the beans this chocolate is made from, served with a banana ganache and bee pupa.

Popsicles - these are Chef Darren Teoh’s take on Malaysian “ais krim potong”, but with more elaborate flavours here - one with “ciku” & salted lime flavour, and one with banana & “ulam raja” flavour.

Overall, a rather rewarding “adventure” dining experience. The dining room is pretty open, so be prepared for noisy fellow diners, if any.

Address
Dewakan
KDU University - Utropolis
Seksyen U1, Jalan Kontraktor U1/14, Glenmarie
40150 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: +603-5565 0767
Opening hours: 6.30pm to 10pm, Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.

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I can’t tell if you enjoyed the meal

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I couldn’t decide - the food seemed inventive, and it delivered on taste more than the one we had at 1-Michelin-star GAA in Bangkok. But the noise coming from a table of 8-10 people next to ours was pretty distracting. I didn’t enjoy my dining experience there one bit - mainly from the din, even with Dewakan’s efficient wait-service and its kitchen which delivered the dishes like clockwork. I do wish Dewakan has private dining rooms to put big groups in.

It was also quite exhaustive to endure a 2-hour ride from KL city centre to Dewakan’s isolated campus setting outside the city.

Would I go back - maybe, only if Dewakan moves elsewhere.

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Yeah Shah Alam is wayyyy out in the sticks. Does not pop up when I think of food. I have friends who live there and always insist we meet somewhere closer to civilization.

The room looks very sterile. My first reaction, looks like some gussied up hospitality course dining room. They’re definitely utilizing some serious OG kampung ingredients.

Trying to direct some locals to Dewakan for additional opinions. :wink:

I just re-read the ingredients, seems like there’s a lot going on the plate and resulting in potentially incongruous flavors. Curious if they’ve got it to work or it’s just a bloody mess for the sake of being Noma’esque.

For example:
I think this will have a nutty, earthy flavor punctuated by the slightly bitter pungent petai.
buah keluak + petai + foam made from button mushroom stock + candlenut oil.

This one OTH seems like it might be a mess:
taucheo+ kerdas+ fiddlehead ferns + pickled rose + smoked daikon.

My thoughts, too. :joy::joy::joy:

The flavours were actually very much toned down - I think they go for “exotic” ingredients but made sure only small amounts of strong-smelling or -tasting ones were used.

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I am so tired of this kind of cooking. It’s been played out since 2017. It’s amazing how long SEA has taken to realize how people don’t really want 4 hr meals with foam and cheap theatrics anymore–one course at a time. It feels so dated.

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I feel the same way, too. We had the same at GAA in Bangkok earlier this year, and also the now-defunct Restaurant André in Singapore. One bite-sized courses and a meal that went on far longer than one would like.

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