As you step in from the cold sterility of the corridor outside, Birch is immediately warmly inviting, with earthy tones, plants tumbling from the walls and overhead, wood accents and the separation of space into irregular areas for dining, smoking and drinking by the bar. Selective lighting adds lustre and punch to the overall vibe, with contemporary music in the background. It is easy to feel relaxed and at ease.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with different menus, the restaurant’s night menu emphasises grilling, baking and roasting in sharing plates for starters and mains, capitalising on the versatility of the Josper, a charcoal-fired oven-grill found in some commercial kitchens.
The restaurant offers pork-free Western contemporary food, with a wide range of choices, the emphasis being on meat for the mains rather than the popular pasta-pizza-carbohydrate route, with an eclectic mix of the small plates that draw inspiration from a variety of culinary influences.
Sweet beetroot, crunchy deep-fried peas, smooth feta and an assortment of ingredients with mixed flavours — bitter rocket, tangy orange, sweet honey and minty notes — contributed to the slick and colourfully refreshing Beetroot Salad (RM25), followed by the Mango Guacamole (RM35), a generous blend of creamy avocado, tangy mango and tomato bits to be sampled with crunchy house-made mixed crisps.
The Corn Bread (RM16) took a while to prepare, but the result is lauded for its dense but not stodgy flavourful texture, the hint of sweetness complemented by a lick of luxurious honey truffle butter. It was an ideal base for the intense flavour of the Tripe Chili Con Carne (RM32), served smoking hot in a small cast-iron cocotte. Meaty and spicy, a small spoonful on bread, with a wee bit of sour cream was enough to satisfy. And all this was just to kick things off.
Chicken is the least distinctive and blandest of meats, but the treatment of the Spatchcock (RM55) rendered it a favourite. Semi-charred outside, with a light smokiness, it was enticing and beautifully succulent, even the breast portion, while the grilled accompanying vegetables further enhanced the serving.
The Josper proved to be as adept at vegetables as it is with meat. For the vegetarian, the Cauliflower Steak (RM27) proved to be a hit — substantial, lightly charred and crunchy without being over or under-cooked, and marinated in a savoury mix.
For seafood, the Spanish Octopus (RM98) promised much and, indeed, had a delightful texture and flavour — not chewy and bland as octopus can be — highlighted by a simple dressing, with accompanying rocket. But the exorbitantly priced portion is unlikely to satisfy a diner, especially as a main.
The Black Angus Ribeye (RM120, 250g), showed off the Josper at its best. It was a succulent slab of medium done meat, moist and browned with grill marks, and juicy-pink and tender when cut, and oozing with meaty flavour at each bite. The chimichurri sauce on the side added a tinge of zest.
To end, we had the much vaunted Huckleberry Burnt Cheese Cake (RM18), a thick wedge with a smooth even appearance and contrasting burnt crust. It was very good, sweet and smooth with a good mouth feel, yet it fell short of the lofty standard of the cheesecake of the Tokyo Restaurant on the 4th floor of Lot 10, Isetan.
How could we not try the Valrhona Chocolate Mud Cake (RM22) with its gold leaf trim, vanilla ice cream, cookie crumble and chocolate sauce? It looked demure, but was moist and luxuriously rich without being too sweet — the thick chocolate sauce added the sweetness, the crumble added texture, the ice cream added sweet, cold luxury.
Birch has the same flair and stylish atmosphere of sister establishment Huckleberry: delightfully warm and Instagram-worthy, the food selection and presentation is planned with attention to care and detail. The food is very good, with exotic marinades, fresh ingredients and good cuts of meat. With a good selection of cocktails and drinks to lubricate proceedings, Birch is an ideal setting for a convivial evening out.
Birch, Lot G10/11. Ground floor, Damansara City Mall, Jalan Damalela, Damansara KL. 03 2011 5966. Mon-Thu, 9am-1am; Sat, 9am-2am; Sun, 9am-11pm.
This article first appeared on June 11, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.