The restaurant with the self-descriptive name, 2ND Floor, is actually on the first floor. The restaurant is divided into an outdoor section with cheerful, brightly coloured seating and a small, cosy indoor section with a few tables and a bar to the side. It occupies half the floor, the other half being a dimly lit, partitioned-off Wine Room.
Entrees and drinks outnumber the small selection of modestly priced mains and pastas, with a separate section for pork. The dishes display a culinary depth that is more than casual with a selection curated around premium ingredients and an eye towards tweaking popular dishes.
Thus, the 2ND Floor Salad (RM22) borrows from a Caesar salad with romaine lettuce, bacon bits and a poached egg but has grilled lettuce and a vinaigrette dressing — substantial and different without being unconventional. The Mushroom Soup (RM16) is light and thin, redolent with truffle oil, and has pieces of crab meat for good measure.
The same approach works for the Grilled Iberico (RM55) — 200g of marinated pork that is seared outside and succulent inside. Caramelised apples, potatoes and sharp horseradish are perfect supplements to a mild yet meaty, lip-smacking meal.
The attention to detail extends to the Charred Norwegian Cod (RM38), a crispy-skinned, thick piece of cod on a bed of barley pearls flavoured with charred aubergine, bacon and chicken crackling, yielding a harmonious whole with complementary textures.
The standard is maintained with Molten Lava Cake (RM20), a viscous, rich mix well presented with white vanilla ice cream and cut strawberries.
2ND Floor caters for the discerning diner with its modest pricing (no individual item tops RM100), an unpretentious ambience and a selection of well-thought-out, carefully prepared dishes for a cosy yet intimate dinner. The restaurant extended its opening hours in December to include midday meals.
GRUB, on the other hand, is a partly self-service canteen with an uncharacteristically sophisticated menu. Ahong — the “friendly fat man”, as he calls himself — says his food does not conform to any particular genre. It is Western where French-Italian crashes into Hainanese-Western, totters into Indian and wanders to the East Coast of the US, with incursions into local.
Mismatched cutlery, drinks, napkins, ice — all self-service — and ordering at the counter help keep costs down and perversely add to the rough charm and unvarnished honesty of the place.
Décor? What décor? Plain tables and plastic chairs, uneven lighting, an open kitchen with a storeroom, air-conditioning upstairs and lots of noise. No frills, it’s all about the grub.
There’s a wine list with corkage charged by the person. Service is quick and the portions are generous with a slap-on presentation style. It’s meaty, cheeky and pork-free.
Fried French Quail with Roasted Grapes (RM9.50) is just that, but the bird’s nicely browned, juicy and meaty. Roasted Beetroot, Fresh Fruits and Feta Salad (RM13.50) is a colourful medley for the vegetarian, sweet with honey, smooth with feta cheese and crunchy with jackfruit.
Smoked Brisket (RM30) comprises thick chunks of beautifully just-done, tender meaty sections that come apart easily under the knife, with pickled onions and chilli, potato salad and a coconut curry gravy. But there’s no train wreck, only surprising harmony, rich, full flavours and contrasting textures.
The unconventional Lamb and Clams (RM35) works well with a hot sourdough roll to soak up the broth, which is neither clammy, fishy nor gamey, and unapologetic with instant noodles and vegetables in the mix. It is satisfying and balanced, considering the startling proposition.
Local Seafood Bouillabaisse (RM25) is a stew with lemony (or is that tom yam?) accents on fine pasta with squid, clams and grilled fish. Not quite your usual idea of a bouillabaisse but good in spite of it.
Desserts are also promising with a ginger-infused, creamy Taufu Fa Cheesecake (RM12) and a densely moist, accomplished Carrot Cake (RM10). Inexpensive, irreverent, generous and fun, GRUB is different from anything else — and the grub is good.
2ND Floor Kitchen & Bar, 46A Persiaran Zaaba, TTDI. 019 914 8832. Tue-Sun, 10am-12midnight
GRUB by Ahong and Friends, 608 Jalan 17/10, PJ. 016 923 2983. Tue-Sun, 6-10.45pm; Fri, 12noon-3pm; Sat-Sun, 11.45am-2pm.