With the popular poke bowl widely adapted, it was only a matter of time before a Japanese version appeared — but in a restaurant with baby pink walls, and pink velvet chairs with heart-shaped backs, gold-trimmed furniture, matching gold cutlery and boy-band music? That is Mich’[email protected], offering Japanese-inspired poke bowls, granola bowls, mochi, tamago, coffee and fruit juices — everything a doe-eyed teenager could want — in a doll-house-like setting.
The portions are huge, with ingredients spilling out. The Signature Fuel Bowl (RM19.90) has salmon, brown rice, seaweed, tamago, ebiko, corn, tomato and — what’s this? — crabsticks! Seriously? A mayo lime blend mushes it up and the result is nothing remotely Japanese, despite the ingredients. It is not bad, as poke bowls go, but after the initial bits, it becomes a chore working through the largest poke bowl I have ever encountered, mostly carbs from the rice.
The Nara Soba (RM19.90) was no less generous — warm soba with chukka wakame, edamame, salad, tamago, seaweed, chicken floss and Hokkaido scallops bound by a creamy sauce. It did not quite gel, and was nowhere near Japanese either, but high-metabolism young ’uns will appreciate the portion size.
You can customise your poke bowl as well, washing it down with a customised fruit juice or a ready-made formula such as Mich’sology’s Signature (RM10.90), a pink shake of strawberry, blueberry and beetroot — served in a pink mug, of course.
The target demographic is obvious. If Gen Z and younger are going to lunch/brunch/dine in a saccharine-sweet make-believe pink fantasy, they can at least eat healthily here. Older people can, too, but sunglasses are recommended.
Mich’[email protected], 16, Jalan SS 21/35, Damansara Utama, PJ. Daily, 10am-10pm. Call 016 660 6573 for more info.
Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery
An upswing in conscious eating has seen renewed interest in vegetarian diets, and it is not just the hip joints that are drawing the crowds. Chinese temples traditionally serve vegetarian food, especially during festivals, and there is one, right in the heart of KL, that has been at it for decades.
Hidden behind the Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery, the no-frills restaurant, which is more a food hall, seats hundreds at long tables with plastic chairs beneath ceiling fans. The arrangement is self-service with food displayed in metal trays. You choose whatever you fancy, pick up drinks, fruits and snacks, and pay at the cashier. The selection is massive — I estimated more than three dozen dishes. There were mock meats (fish, duck, roast meats), noodles, tofu and vegetables galore, with different preparation styles — stewed, braised, fried, curried and everything else in between.
Prices are more than modest — a plate of brown rice with six dishes costs RM7, add RM1.50 for a herbal drink. During lunchtime, the place is packed with office workers out for a healthy, inexpensive meal. Tourists and foreigners have also discovered the place, judging by the crowd.
There are stalls selling meals cooked to order, as well as daily specials, buns (red bean, lotus seed) and free soup. After eating, customers are expected to clear their dishes and cutlery and place them in bins placed before the exit.
The good news is that you can fill your plate with colourful, tasty, MSG-free vegetarian food inexpensively in the heart of KL. The bad news is that plenty of other people know about it as well, so go early.
Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery, 161, Jalan Ampang, KL. Mon-Fri, 9am-3pm. Call 03 2164 8055 for more info.
Schooled by influential chef and restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi in London, Chef Ang Ling Chee brings the healthy eating ethos to KL. Displays of exotic salads entice guests into his bright, cheery restaurant, which has the feel of a marketplace, thanks to shelves of fresh fruits and vegetables fronting the open kitchen.
The emphasis on vegetables is evident in the salad selection. We tried several tapas-style dishes — the smokily fragrant, crunchy Grilled Broccoli with chili, garlic and almond flakes (RM11); colourful, bright and sweet Roasted Butternut Squash with basil and pomegranate molasses and rosemary mixed nuts (RM14); full-bodied, delightful Roasted Eggplant with basil, house-made tahini and roasted cherry tomato (RM12); and moody, textured Roasted Shiitake with oyster mushrooms, barley and parmesan cheese (RM12), all of them excellent and worthy of being main meals, surely a delight for vegetarians.
Meat-eaters need not despair. The Grilled Mackerel (RM12) was excellent, firm and fragrant, well suited to a side of Charcoal-grilled Sourdough (RM7) or the fresh Pita (RM3). To round things off, we had the Braised Lamb Shank (RM49), a generous chunk of beautifully tender, marinated meat loosely bound to bone, enhanced by a herby brown sauce rich with spices.
From the dessert table, we tried the Lemon Pie (RM12), which was yellow, tart and refreshing, and the Peach Tart (RM13) — well balanced between sweet fruit and cake.
The restaurant seeks to recreate the feeling of London’s Hyde Park. Certainly, you would come for how good the food is, especially the mouth-watering salads. It is a bonus that the food is also bright, healthy and nutritious.
Parklife, 5, Level Upper Ground, The Sphere, No.1, Avenue 1, Bangsar South City, No.8, Jalan Kerinchi, KL. Daily, 8am-10pm. Call (03) 2242 1193 for more info.
This article first appeared on Jan 6, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.