Atelier on Telawi
Upon stepping in, Atelier on Telawi projects a club-like ambience — dim, with red backlighting, cushioned walls, dark décor with gold highlights, and heliconia flowers in big vases. Soulful music, black and gold cutlery and serving plates project a sense of style.
There is a drinks list with wines from far-flung corners of the world, as well as single malt whiskies, champagne and cocktails — and a separate wine room, in case you miss the point. The drinks list outdoes the small single-page menu, with a mix of meat, pasta and starters, mainly traditional Western fare but with some interesting touches.
Food is not a tacked-on afterthought. At the helm in the kitchen is Chef Silvester Marcus, whose experience in Malaysia and abroad stretches back decades.
Warm, fresh, home-made rolls with green olives in oil and fresh tomato paste tickle the appetite. The chef delivers with the light, witty Salad of Pickled Beetroot (RM32), with mixed colours, composition and complementary flavours — poached pear, caramelised pumpkin, zucchini, spinach, beetroot and salted croutons.
The De Cecco Capellini Pasta (RM46) gives top billing to the pasta brand, but it is done just right aglio olio style, with smooth individual angel hair strands, paired with fresh, juicy prawns, and grated bottarga roe imparting a deep, rich flavor to the delivery.
There is a narrow but decent choice of beef, fish, fowl and vegetarian for the mains. The Goulash Lamb Shank (RM75) reinforces the impression of excellence and polish, with a well-executed chunk of meat on the bone. It’s moist, meaty and tender, without a hint of gaminess or dryness, well-cooked without being over or underdone, matched with polenta chive mash and smoked paprika sauce.
The dessert section features just two items, but the chocolate lava chocolate is impeccable — a small round cake containing molten chocolate, moderated by ice cream and fruit compote.
The well-appointed, discreet décor of the restaurant gives it the air of a small, exclusive club that favours privacy, with a slight hint of naughtiness. It attracts the drinking crowd, most of whom like to keep late hours, but the excellent food and live music on Friday and Saturday nights, is good enough reason to visit, even if you don’t drink.
Modern Society hangs out in a dimmed, high-ceilinged space with coloured neon tubes casting a glow on marble-clad surfaces spotlighted from above. A staircase connects The Loft, an upstairs lounge, which looks down onto the Gallery, the dining area below.
An extensive drinks menu and the opening hours attest to the target market. Whisky, bitters, orange and lemon fuel the heady Vitamin C You at My Place Tonight while Pimm’s No 1, soda and lemon juice invoke 500 Sips of Summer, (RM16 each, from 3pm to 8pm), the types of cocktail that lubricate snacks, or whole meals from a large, contemporary Western style menu.
Grilled Octopus (RM20.90), crisp and bouncy, took on a soft edge with kaffir lime, lemongrass and a salsa base, while Caesar Salad (RM22.90) did a competent job of the day’s intake of greens with Romaine lettuce in a zesty, if heavy dressing, croutons and cheese.
There is a good selection of mains if you’re hungry. The Chicken Ramen Burger (RM29.90) was a nonstarter, with dense and soggy compressed ramen patties, a mild chipotle mayo smothering the main offering and indifferent chips — hard and dry. And the presentation was sloppy as well.
Tacos Trio (RM36.90) fared better, but only just, with assemble-it-yourself Tacos with crisp shells, chopped greens, salsa, mayo, with a choice of grilled baby octopi, deep-fried chicken pieces and marinated beef tripe as filling, and pickled purple cabbage adding zest. On their own, the fillings were uninspiring, but as tacos, the combination provided texture, colour and substance, with tangy, creamy overtones.
More watering hole than restaurant, Modern Society has a stylish atmosphere with a large variety of drinks, snacks and food, with interesting turns in the food department, but different is not always better, and the food we sampled had the overhang of bar food, not quite the dedicated dining experience I expected.
Atelier on Telawi, 9 Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar Baru. 010 213 0030. Tue-Thu, Sun, 4pm-1am. Fri-Sat, 4pm-2am.
Modern Society, L1-10, DC Mall, Pusat Bandar Damansara, KL. 03 2771 9710. Mon-Sat, 11am-1am.
This article first appeared on Mar 19, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.