Chef Isadora Chai's second restaurant isn't what some might expect. Five years after first bringing modern French flair to PJ with Bistro a Table, Isadora has stretched out into the city centre, taking up two floors of a nearly century-old restored building on Raja Chulan. Antara Restaurant is an exquisite space with profoundly personal touches - its terrace & walkway remind Isadora of her late father's home in Teluk Anson, & her selection of furnishing & a batik-print menu was carefully considered, culminating in a one-of-a-kind centrepiece upstairs of 50 portraits of Tunku Abdul Rahman that reward close contemplation. But while Antara's charm & character seem decidedly steeped in nostalgia, with Saloma & Sheila Majid echoing through the halls, it nonetheless stirs to life as a fresh, vital venue, turning the past into prelude for a restaurant that speaks to the present.
Expect a culinary tapestry of traditional Malaysian, woven with whiffs of French, mirroring the fare that Isadora makes at home for family & friends. Commence with a communal feast of plump popiah that you'll roll yourself at the table, evoking the spirit of preparing & eating food in your grandparents' kitchen. This popiah party (RM48) features a top-flight wrapping skin, fillings & condiments, from French beans with dried scallops to the juiciest jicama & the crunchiest croutons - elaborately fun & fulfilling.
Many recipes in Antara's oeuvre reflect a respect for time-honoured local flavours, artfully balancing the generations-old heritage of Malaysian cuisine with modern gastronomy's ever-expanding palette. Sarawak laksa is crowned with marron for a princely flourish (RM78), while retaining the robust dynamics & dimensions of a Kuching-proud rendition, bolstered by belacan brought into KL from Sarawak. That same belacan packs a punch in some other Antara offerings, including assam chicken wings (RM25) & a deluxe Mee Siam with supremely substantial chunks of delectable, crispy-tender soft-shell crab (RM36).
For customers craving the unconventional chow that has become Isadora's hallmark, it's all here too - delicate pie tee with shaved foie gras & anago (RM27), mantao with luscious foie gras & mango chutney (RM55), toasted chapati with goat's curd & an addictive curried mussel cream (RM22), alongside desserts like hazelnut roti jala with dulce de leche anglaise (RM25) & a 'terribly alcoholic' creme de menthe cendol with kahlua sago pearls that harks back to one of Bistro a Table's degustation dinners three years ago (RM36). This is a risk-taking menu, free of MSG & easy shortcuts, executed with no-nonsense craftsmanship by sterling teams that toil effectively both by the table & behind the scenes to deliver a memorable experience.
Old Malaya, Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur.
Currently open for dinner, Mon-Sat. Will open for lunch & dinner daily eventually. Tel: 03-2078-8881
This restaurant is available for bookings under TABLEAPP, which enables customers to make instant reservations at Malaysia's top restaurants, while saving time and money in the process. Reserve your table at this restaurant by clicking here.
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