Words by: Heather Onderick Photography by: Monica Tindall
Zooming through the colorful chaos of Little India and crossing over to the other side of the silver giant Menara Shell building, one might wonder what culinary delights they will encounter in central Kuala Lumpur. On a steamy night, with humidity hanging heavily in the air, we wandered into the hustle and bustle of it all. We landed in a nestled restaurant, called Copper, the brainchild of creative and charming chef, Chai Chun Boon, and his clever wife and business partner, Zeehan Zahari.
Warmly greeted by hostess, Marlene, we were seated in an intimate corner, with amber lighting and modern décor. Unaware of what the night would bring us, we ordered some house recommended mocktails to help us settle into the cozy evening that would unfold.
To soothe our eager thirsts, three vibrant drinks were quickly delivered to our table. The house special, the Cucumber Cooler, (RM13) helps one cool down when the heat seems as if it’s drowning you. Adorned with fresh mint, and a lingering kaffir lime leaf essence, all saturated in cucumber juice, it was the first of three very Asian drinks that blended the wealth of local produce readily available. One of chef Chai’s major culinary objectives is to use the abundance of fruits, vegetables, herbs and roots that he has here in Malaysia at his fingertips.
The second drink, known as the Wicked Ginger (RM12), was a stimulating concoction of fresh orange juice, ginger, turmeric, lemon and honey. Guaranteed to battle any potential ailments, this drink was a sweet reviving orange blend. For those who prefer something a little bit more risqué, the Tropical Heat (RM 14) combined fresh orange juice, coconut syrup, kaffir lime leaves and chili padi. This fusion of flavors produced a somewhat creamy, spicy, citric experience that left one’s palette longing for more. Just when we thought we had experienced it all when it came to the world of unique juicing, we were presented with another unique, lighter option, for those who aren’t enamored with full on juices. The Frozen Ocean (RM 14) contains fresh apple juice, sweet and sour mix, blue curacao and 7 up. Looking like a blue, green sunset, it was a simple liquid candy alternative that we sipped down in seconds.
Thirsts were quenched. Starters were ordered. At this point, we had the chance to speak with chef Chai about his breadth of experiences in the culinary world and how Copper came to be. Born in Borneo, Malaysian Chinese chef Chai, has been graced with opportunities to work in China, Spain, the Netherlands and Singapore. His innate love for food, stemming from his Malaysian heritage, combined with his unique European work experiences, inspired him to create Copper, a modern European restaurant. In Chai’s food, you note the freshness of his products. He sources most of what he can from Little India and smokes salmon and cures beef bacon on his own at the restaurant. Not only are his products fresh, but his choices on presentation and artistry are unique. Chai creates charcoal textures with purees and plays with acidity in many of his dishes, all the way from the side of English spinach to the raspberry sorbet. Finally, Chai sprinkles in his takeaways from his previous interactions with molecular gastronomy. You might see him dehydrating soy sauce to be used on a bamboo clam, creating the impression of black truffle dust, but, once again, using local produce to create something equally as good.
Within minutes, our starters had arrived. Malin had suggested the Pira Charcoal Grilled Avocado and Calamari (RM 20). The seafood was exquisite, as if had been brought from the sea around the corner; the saltiness was softened by the creamy avocado and sweetened by the mild onion squid ink puree.
Due to my fondness for all things mushroom, we also ordered the Pira Oven Mushrooms (RM 22). Some may say this dish was inspired by the Spanish dish, huevos revueltos, however, this vegetarian friendly version, included charcoal roasted porcini and assorted mushrooms, truffle oil, roasted cheese, onion puree, cracked egg and toast. The collision of textures in the variety of mushrooms as well as the amalgamation of sweet, salty and pungent, had us aching for more.
Longing for more, more, more, our hearts leapt up at the sight of the medley of main courses. We chose the Charcoal Grilled Lamb (RM 60), short loin grilled and glazed, served with potato confit, cardamom yoghurt, lime, seasonal greens and an almost mocha-ish sauce.
One of our favorite dishes of the dining experience was the well priced and dare, I say, inspiring, Lavender Spiced Duck (RM 40). The duck, marinated in Lavender honey, was cooked a cooked a perfect fig color, accompanied by roasted cauliflower, fermented vanilla apple puree and orange duck jus and sprinkled with citrus pepper.
For those who prefer a lighter but equally satisfying pescatarian option, there is the Wild Caught White Fish (RM 39). The fish served was a sea bass, delicate and lightly dressed with garlic butter, and served with arugula, salmon roe and a lingering agrodolce sauce.
As the night cooled off, so did our desserts. We ordered the playful Red (RM 18), which included raspberry sorbet, marinated berries, red fruits, aged balsamic, and rosewater meringue, presented colorful shapes and sizes. The clash of the red fruits sorbet, balsamic and rosewater meringue satisfied my craving for a good glass of red wine.
If you are looking for something more local, try the Mini Panajars (RM 9) with matcha syrup, caramelized cashews and smoked sea salt. This dessert has a soft, marshmallow-creamish texture and taste with slight nutty accents tagging along.
The final touch of our Copper experience included a little bit of France, the Crème Brulee (RM 15), flavoured with lapsang souchong tea and mallow blossom gel. For those of you who have tried the Malaysian iced tea with milk, otherwise known as Teh Tarik, this dessert definitely descended from it and is satisfying to those with a serious sweet tooth.
Copper is a restaurant where imagination is at the heart of each plate. Chef Chai has used his collective life experiences abroad: studying, cooking and eating, to create unique plates that generate European tastes with predominantly local products.
Reasons to visit: Colorful, creative food with a plethora of textures and hints of Spanish, French and other European cuisines. Especially noteworthy plates include: the Pira Oven Mushrooms, and Lavender Spiced Duck.
Level 5, Menara Shell,
Jalan Tun Sambanthan,
Kuala Lumpur Sentral,
50470 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2856 9522