With so many of our favourite restaurants offering vegan options, picking where to eat can be a bit overwhelming. We've shorlisted two restaurants in the city that are easy on the wallet too.
Having been open for almost 1½ years, Sala welcomes a steady stream of customers on any given day — a fair number of regulars, as well as newbies who decide the vegan lifestyle might be worth a shot. The predominantly Tex Mex menu is courtesy of Fauzi Hussein, Sala’s vegan founder who has a penchant for this specific hybrid cuisine. In fact, Sala is Fauzi’s response to an unserved niche in the local dining scene for both Tex Mex food and a fully vegan dining option.
With our party of eight, we managed to cover most of Sala’s simple, easily navigable menu. We started with the burritos, which were packed with rice, bean chili and fresh vegetables, with the protein hit coming from curried jackfruit, mushrooms and tempeh. This was a flavourful enough dish by itself, but for an additional touch of heat, some Habanero sauce gave it a punchy bite.
Also great for anyone with big appetites is the falafel wrap, which puts this Egyptian chickpea patty — at Sala, it can be deep-fried or air-fried — in a warm wrap together with tomatoes, onions, cucumber and generous servings of harissa and tahini. This was a winning combination for its mix of flavours and textures, in addition to being a completely wholesome meal. A major plus point was the falafels themselves, which were the perfect consistency and so well-seasoned that we ordered a second helping as an appetiser to share.
For more delicate appetites, the tacos — with similar fillings as the burrito — and nourish bowls are ideal. You can choose what goes into each dish so you get a balance of flavours that is to your personal preference. Servings are small and sensible, but packed with enough flavour and healthy ingredients for a wholesome meal without making you crave a nap soon after.
There are just two Asian dishes on the menu — curry laksa with mee hoon and nasi lemak. The former was tasty enough, although the broth was a little too mild and not adequately infused in the vermicelli noodles. Going without the usual array of cockles and chicken slices was not so much of an issue but we could have done with a spicier and stronger-tasting soup, and more vegetables too. “It’s not going to convince me to become vegan, but it is tasty lah” was the final verdict of our digital head, whose palate has been trained by years of authentic kopitiam-standard laksa.
The nasi lemak, however, yielded zero complaints — two varieties of spicy sambal, fragrant, coconut-infused rice, a generous helping of tempeh slices, cucumber and crispy peanuts made the sole vegetarian in our party very happy indeed. Fried mushroom bits replaced the tactile crunch of ikan bilis and Sala’s waitstaff is more than happy to top up the sambal if you run out, which I did, very quickly. On some weekends, Sala even does a nasi lemak wrap with mushroom rendang and, on others, a vegan version of Bakso, whose recipe is from an Acheh-born chef who once paid Sala a visit.
We grabbed some coffee and dessert on the way out — a slice of lemon cake, moist and bursting with a citrusy flavour and a peanut butter and chocolate brownie that was chewy, dense and decadent. Sala also serves a variety of smoothies, but we saved that for our next visit. For that nasi lemak alone, a return trip is guaranteed.
Sala Kuala Lumpur Vegan Restaurant, A-G-03A Galeria Hartamas, Jalan 26a/70a, Desa Sri Hartamas, KL. 011 1150 3606. Mon-Wed, 11am-7pm; Thurs-Sat, 11am-9pm; Sun, 11am-5pm.
LN Fortunate Coffee
I have never been a fan of soy milk with coffee, but the kind that LN Fortunate Coffee serves — tasty, satisfyingly sweet and with a supremely silky mouthfeel — won me over. The soy milk significantly heightened the experience of the three coffee drinks we ordered, and for this reason alone, I will be back.
LN Fortunate Coffee also serves up a healthy number of hot dishes, both Western and Asian, so our party of three was spoilt for choice. We finally decided on the nasi lemak, miso soup with soba noodles and Classic Soup Delight, which is a traditional Chinese-style herbal soup reminiscent of bak kut teh. And then, for sharing, a sourdough pizza topped with the unlikely combination of spicy mushrooms and pineapple. Everything, we have to say, was delicious.
Miso soup is not generally very hard to master, and LN’s adequately briny broth was presented together with silky soba noodles and generous servings of corn kernels, mushrooms, greens and seaweed. The Classic Soup Delight was undoubtedly the winner, with its stomach-soothing flavour and ingredients — eryngii, enoki and shitake mushrooms crowded for space in the bowl with some greens and cubes of tofu. The soup is served with a plate of brown rice and sourdough bread for those who need a bit of carbs to mop up the gravy. The nasi lemak was suitably filling with a decadent coconut-infused brown rice, a spicy-sweet sambal and plenty of tempeh and peanuts.
Our dishes and the drinks — coffee and a fruit-and-milk-rich smoothie — had filled us up adequately, but we still had the pizza to tackle. The sensibly sized portion was lathered in vegan cheese, slices of chilli, mushrooms and pineapple, and despite our misgivings, turned out be to be quite delicious. The sourdough base could have been less crunchy, but in terms of flavour, it was incredibly satisfying.
LN has on sale a variety of vegan buns and cakes — which we found a little too dense for our liking — but the winning sweet treat to end our meal was the cashew ice cream, specifically the dark chocolate flavour. There are also waffles with syrup and a few other interesting-looking ideas, which only means we will have to return for more.
LN Fortunate Coffee, 16, Jalan Solaris 4, Solaris Mont Kiara, KL. 03 6206 3349. Daily, 10am-10pm.
This article first appeared on Oct 29, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.