Thursday, 18 September 2014

Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights, western
 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights

Sitka Restaurant, Local Ingredients with International Flair

Words by Monica Clear
Photos by The Yum List (Monica Tindall)

I tend to judge restaurants on what I will call the “Goldilocks and Three Bears Effect.” As I am pushing back my chair to stand up and walk out, am I satiated without being too full? Do I notice myself dying to get outside to escape the blasting air conditioner? Am I happy to leave music that is too loud and enter the silence of the night? Do I need a cup of coffee to wake up my carbohydrate-loaded brain and belly? Do I feel too much, too little, or just right?

After a meal at Sitka, I was one happy Goldilocks. It had been a clean and delicious pleasure to sample their food.  And here’s why:

 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights, western
 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights
Before opening in April 2014, Sitka spent six months setting up their behind-the-scenes food delivery systems. They found a trusted fish guy, a humane chicken and meat guy, and a proliferate vegetable farm; all vetted on quality; many independent suppliers; all local.

While open everyday from 9am – 6pm, serving delicious coffee, fresh pastries, cakes and breakfast selections (until 11am) and a full lunch menu, they have limited their dinner hours to Friday and Saturday nights, and go by the name of Test Kitchen on those evenings. As the name implies, this allows them extra time to plan, prepare, and experiment with dinner cuisine – a luxury most restaurants don’t enjoy. 

As head chef Christian Recomio, (of Moonfish Café in Aberdeen, Scotland fame), talked us through Sitka and Test Kitchens’ philosphy on food, it became clear that the restaurant isn’t about following a market trend like “farm to table” or the locavore movement; it is simply about doing food right. To prepare good food, it must be fresh; to get fresh, it must be local. Walking that talk, Christian described to us with a twinkle in his eye and a sly smile, his recent delight in foraging edible wood sorrel greens from outside the restaurant along the historical Jalan Batai, and his innovative use of the lemon-flavored clover on the dessert menu.

It doesn’t get more fresh or local than wood sorrel outside your door.

We started with a refreshing lemon and ginger ice tea and flavorful cappuccino. The art of the coffee is well-refined at Sitka, as they use the same beans and preparation methods as Feeka, one of their sister restaurants located in Bukit Bintang.

 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights, western
Latte, Iced Tea, Fresh Orange Juice
Since we were sampling food off the lunch menu, we followed drinks with a sizeable portion of the Roast Beetroot with Citrus Salad, mixing flavors of orange, cilantro, hummus and whole chickpeas. As promised, ingredients tasted fresh and flavorful, with just the right blend of the beetroot and orange sweetness, and the more tangy and bitter herbs, greens, and chickpeas.  

 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights, western
Roast Beetroot with Citrus (RM20)
Next came a sampling of two soft taco options – beef and lamb. With such different and distinct combinations and flavors, it’s not an easy task to choose between the two for lunch. The beef taco was a delightfully flavored gochujang braised brisket, with the tang of green onion, crunch of thin radish slices, and saltiness of feta cheese. The lamb taco was full of aroma and taste, and included crushed peas and fresh mint. Both dishes were enveloped in a fresh and chewy homemade tortilla (which met with big thumbs-up from the Latin American contingent of our review team) and side salad with fresh kale and other unique herbs and greens.

 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights, western
Lamb Taco (RM27)
 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights, western
Beef Taco (RM25)
We then moved onto the fried chicken entrée – half a buttermilk-fried spring chicken with honey and thyme. In the USA, we eat fried chicken with our hands. Thus the barometer of a good fried chicken (for me) is how much grease is leftover on your fingers. Is it finger’lickin’good or finger-lickin gross? Do you need one napkin to clean-up your hands and face or eight?

Although I did use a fork to eat this dish (we were sharing), it was easy to see that Sitka’s chicken passed the grease test with flying colors. The outside was a delicious crispy coating of honey-sweetened batter without an oily sensation, and the inside, a moist, juicy, flavorful, and perfectly-done meat. The secret of success appeared to lie partially in the preparation, as the chef described that the chicken is bought fresh, brined for 24 hours, blanched, and then deep-fried. This dish was also served with a lovely side salad with dill flowers. With a sensory sensation of flavors and textures done right, this is a dish meant to be chewed and savored slowly, and so the portion size was just right.

 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights, western
Fried Chicken (RM23)
Lastly, we sampled the Steamed Bao platter of softshell crab, korean brisket, and fried chicken. With a creative use of the traditional steamed bao (bun) dough to sandwich delicious combinations of meat and vegetables, this platter was a hit as well, as you can sample three very different flavors. The softshell crab incorporated pickled cucumber and tamarind sauce for a subtle seafood flavor. The Korean brisket used the sourness of kimchi and zing of green onion as a contrast to the sweeter meat, and the fried chicken bao was crunchy and moist with an added spicy sriracha aioli and crispy iceberg lettuce as a texture and taste complement.

 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights, western
Bao Platter (RM30) - Soft Shell Crab, Fried Chicken, Korean Brisket
The dessert we sampled was off the dinner menu, and once it was placed on our table I couldn’t stop oogling it:  white chocolate panna cotta with a drizzle of thai basil dressing and a skirt of tiny clover-sized leaves of the cleverly foraged wood sorrel. Beautiful in appearance and creamy and sweet in taste, this panna cotta - with the interesting mix of basil syrup and citrus-flavored greens - was delicate in form, yet bold in concept.

 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights, western
White Chocolate with Thai Basil and Wood Sorrel (RM30)
The lunch menu and dinner menu change frequently, as 90% of their food is sourced locally. Current dinner entrees (not sampled by us) include duck with purple cabbage and fermented black beans; seabass with dill, buttermilk, and brassicas; a smoked potato with duck egg and burnt leek; and beef cheeks with tamarind, barley and cauliflower.

 Sitka Restaurant, Damansara Heights, western
House Wine - (RM25) Down Under Semillion Sauvigon Blanc

Go fresh.  Go local.  Go Sitka.

Reasons to visit: low carbs, fresh local ingredients, reasonably priced wine, Roast Beetroot with Citrus, Beef Taco, White Chocolate with Thai Basil and Wood Sorrel.

Sitka Restaurant
8-5 Jalan Batai
Damansara Heights
50490 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
+60 32011 1117

7 comments:

  1. I really like this place and the dishes look inviting. I love salads and chicken!

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  2. Fusion, eh? Oooo...ginger tea. Haven't had that for a while now, must remember to order the next time I pop by our Indian restaurant in town.

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  3. I'm going to love their salad!
    Looks so colourful and zesty. :)

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  4. This looks sooooooo inviting. The salad is lovely and crisp. There are only a few places that have wonderful fried chicken,so I'm taking your word on this one.

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  5. It all looks so fresh! How wonderful... And I love the decent sized side salad with the tacos - finally an end to a few sad pieces of rocket!

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  6. Great colors on the plates. Like it.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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  7. my vegetarian friend raves about it! she sings songs of praises to me, so i got to visit when i see that you post some meat photos. :)

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