Words: Craig J Selby Photos: Monica Tindall
Hidden in plain sight adjacent to Damansara Atria is a quirky little local hangout, LI Restaurant. Started and run by three close friends, who all studied together, LI serves porky-LI-cious Malaysian fare, with a very cool twist. Clearly these three friends’ industry experience in Australia contributed to creating an exceptional café-bistro, where the hero is pork, recreating favourite Malaysian flavours, but with an upscaling of the classic kopitiam experience.
Park at Atria, head out the main door by Artisan Coffee, and turn right. Look for a hanging sign, LI, and you’ve found your new favourite spot. Step in; enjoy.
We were enthusiastically greeted by one of the owners. They work here. Brilliant! We were seated. The window seats are great for people watching, and those inner to the restaurant are better for an intimate conversation with friends. Look for the Harry Potter cupboard too – it’s a fun, albeit unusual, addition.
Dragonfruit house-made fizz was a great starter drink. Red dragonfruit, blended with soda water, and the tiniest bit of sugar (we know, dragonfruit on its own lacks a natural sweetness). A refreshing beverage, served chilled, and goes great with a variety of dishes. Monica sampled the Calamansi with Kaffir Lime leaves – I ended up finishing it off. The calamansi reminded me of the Malaysian mamak favourite, limau ais, but far more sophisticated (and tastier), due to the natural fermentation process used to up the ante at LI.
Fresh baked daily are LI’s sourdough loaves. Thick slices of their sourdough are served with chilled butter, and a hint of sea salt added. We opted to enjoy their sous vide kaya (all up, RM 7 ++) – we were well rewarded with a mildly sweet, light, and very creamy, almost runny, kaya. I’m a big fan of local kaya, especially on charcoal grilled toast; LI’s version had me wanting for more. Great news, especially for me, is that they sell not only the sourdough to take away, but the kaya as well. In addition to kaya, they also make a rosella jam, but we didn’t experience that this time around (reason to return).
If you do pop by LI, do not leave without sampling their signature Pork Toast (RM 9.50). I heard rumours about this toast from industry friends, and to be honest, it’s the second time I’d popped by for these morsels. Rumours confirmed, double-confirmed – Spectacular! Toast slices, covered in a generous porky hash, drizzled with ample chili mayo and herbs. Think comfort food, Asian twist. Hearty yet refreshing-LI light at the same time. If you’re in the neighbourhood yet in a rush, pop by for this as your first LI experience, and pop back when you have more time on your hands for the fuller experience.
For our adventure into the main courses, we started by comparing the House Rice Bowl and the House Made Spam (Rice Bowl). The House Rice Bowl was a beautiful dish of chicken, rice, and a hint of chili. Echoing Hainanese chicken rice of days gone by, their cooking technique sees the chicken brined for several hours, then pan seared to ensure an amazing crispy skin. The house made chili mayo mixes well with the rice to give that all-important chili kick, but in a new way. Whilst the kick is there, it’s certainly is not too hot for the novice. Great value at RM 17.90 ++.
Their House Made Spam Rice Bowl (RM 19.90 ++) is comprised of this most delicious herbed rice. Think fresh herbs, stirred into light buttery rice. Delicious-LI different. I wasn’t sure what to expect from ‘spam’, but LI’s version was premium all the way. Tender pork spam, chili sauce, sesame seeds, and a perfectly sous vide egg topped the dish. Mix it all up and enjoy the rich aroma and creaminess.
Many restaurants underthink the importance of vegetarian options. The team at LI, however, put extra effort into ensuring that vegetarian dishes are both available and appealing. The Charred Spiced Cauliflower (RM 17 ++) caught my attention as soon as I saw the menu, so we opted for this. Served with yoghurt and house made dukkah (what do these guys not try and make themselves?), the cauliflower had a great charred aroma, and was tender to the bite. Drizzle over some lemon for a little acidity, or just enjoy with yoghurt or dukkah. I’d order this again and again – it simply transformed the humble cauli into a stunning vegetarian dish. Kudos LI.
Our final main was the Braised Pork Belly. Think tender pork belly, with a hint of bak ku teh spice aroma and saltiness. The thick slice of pork belly is cured and braised for several hours. Served with triple cooked potatoes – first boiled, then deep fried twice to ensure both crusty and tender – also accompanied by torched bak choy with salt. The bak choy was a great addition – not only did the torching add a unique dimension to the vegetable, it complimented the entire dish so well. At only RM 30 ++, this is well worth the splurge.
We sampled both desserts on the menu. The Soy Milk Panna Cotta (RM 10 ++) with pineapple jam and sago gula Melaka was interesting. Silky smooth, with the sweet and tart flavour coming from the jam and the rich dark sugar.
The Lychee Bowl (RM 15 ++) was the winner for me. Thin meringue wafers created both texture and chewiness for this dish, and lovely fresh lychee drizzled with coconut milk ensured a fresh component.
Passion is transferred through food, service and setting at LI Restaurant: an obvious investment in heart with the three owners on the floor and in the kitchen. For those looking for a refreshing and refined take on local flavours, LI Restaurant holds many treasures.
Reasons to visit: innovative Malaysian favourites, don’t miss the Sourdough and Kaya, House Rice Bowl, Charred Spiced Cauliflower, Braised Pork Belly and the Lychee Bowl.
Lunch: 11:30 am – 4 pm (Tues – Friday)
10:30 am – 4 pm (Sat – Sun)
Snacks: 4 – 5pm
Dinner: 6:30 – 9:30 pm