Monday 10 February 2014

Bijan, Jalan Ceylon, Kuala Lumpur

Bijan, situated just off one end of the Changkat strip, has won the award for Best Malay Restaurant in the TimeOut KL food awards for the past few years' running.

We've had mixed experiences when it comes to Malay food (check out the review of Dancing Fish for a good experience), so I felt a mixture of intrigue and skepticism when we arrived on a busy Sunday night.

One of the first things that you notice upon entering Bijan is the tasteful decor. However, as I was taking visiting family along with me, I forgot all about taking pictures of the place! We had reserved a table for four in the non-smoking area, which is inside but the smoking area is in a nice outside area. We immediately ordered a bunch of starters, first up was the satay RM 18 (approx $6).

The satay consisted of three chicken and three beef, and were fairly modest in terms of size. Both meats were nicely marinated in a honey glaze, were tender enough and gristle-free. However, I've had much better satay elsewhere for a lot less, so while this was enjoyable, it didn't set the pulse racing.

Overall - Standard satay - 2.5 / 5

Next up were the spring rolls RM10 (approx $3)

These veggie-spring rolls were pleasant enough but the chilli sauce was tangy, bright and made everything taste more interesting.

Overall - not really much wrong but nothing special 2.5 / 5

The third starter we ordered were the deep-fried vegetarian fritters RM10 (approx 3).

These consisted of tofu, sweet potato, spring onion and bean sprouts. It wasn't the most visually-appealing of dishes but was tasty enough. Again, the sauce brought some needed brightness to the plate of food.

Overall - Solid starter but uninspiring - 2.5 / 5

The final starter to arrive was the brilliantly named Daging Bungkus Kukus RM12 (approx $4).

This was easily the most interesting of our starters. Inside this leaf was a pancake filled with minced beef cooked in coconut gravy.

There were definitely some well-balanced flavours here, and for me the coconut milk gravy taste rounded things off very well.

Overall - interesting and well-executed 3 / 5

I ordered the slow-cooked beef ribs in a rendang gravy with coconut milk and palm sugar RM68 (approx $22).

The beef meat was very tender and was pulled off the rib bones with ease. The gravy was also thick and full of flavour, with the whole thing nicely-spiced. My only gripe was the it came with nothing on the side, and that after a while it did become slightly boring with nothing else on the plate to break things up.

Overall - probably the best of our mains 3.5 / 5

Next up was a king prawn curry cooked in coconut milk RM 85 (approx $27).

This was another decent but uninspiring dish; the spices and general flavours were nice enough but the prawns themselves didn't taste that fresh and were somewhat lacking in meat.

Overall - Okay..... 3/5

Next up was Ayam Masak Kuzi RM28 (approx $9).

This was chicken chunks with almonds and raisins in a coconut milk curry sauce (a lot of stuff here contained coconut milk...). 

First of all, the curry sauce was really rich and full of flavour, the inclusion of the almonds and raisins was also a welcome one. There was however a big problem with this dish; all the chicken was still on the bone - the tasty curry sauce was hiding thighs, wings and all other parts of the chicken. There is an argument that meat on-the-bone can be more flavoursome, but personally I find it frustrating and difficult to eat, especially with curry.

Overall - could have been really good if it was chicken breast... 3 / 5

We also had a jackfruit salad, which was strange-tasting but interesting nonetheless. 

Finally came the desert - Gula Melaka Cake, which is steamed palm sugar sponge cake served with caramelised palm sugar, and coconut ice cream. RM15 (approx $5).

This was actually really good! The ice cream was homemade and was a fitting partner for the sponge cake and sauce. 

Overall - 3.5 / 5

In the end, we couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed with Bijan. There were a lot of nearly good dishes that just had something wrong with them, and you could also say that it is over-priced for the quality on offer. I'd been told that Bijan is Malaysian food for upmarket tourists - the decor and atmosphere is certainly befitting of this. However, if you live in KL I'm sure you can find more authentic, cheaper and tastier Malay food elsewhere...

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