I like sitting at the counter to the open kitchen, such as the one in Ember Restaurant, where I can see the organisation of the kitchen and food being prepared. There is an austere elegance to the restaurant, from its business-like layout, with tables in rows, to the open kitchen, cement floor and dark walls. It is chic in its simplicity, down to the piped soft modern jazz music.
The theme extends from the food, a Japanese-like abstemiousness, without superfluity or showiness, down to the crockery, with its irregular, rough artisanal feel and finish.
The simple menu borrows easily from various influences, with more than a touch of Japanese, and includes a selection of craft beers.
The Eggplant Salad & Sesame Dressing (RM27) featured thick chunks of cold, fried eggplant in a mild sesame miso dressing, enhanced with pomegranate and deep-fried onion — a likeable and interesting combination.
Somewhere between the appetiser and main course, the Cold Noodles, Duck and Ponzu (RM35) reinforced the Japanese influence. The cold thin noodles, pickled pear slices and duck confit were dressed in a clear, four-citrus ponzu, imparting a light, delicate quality to the dish.
One of the day’s specials, Grilled Fish with Peanut Sauce, Nai Pak and Pickled Mushroom (RM37) promised much, and did not disappoint. The chunky piece of grilled snapper was served in a custard-like sauce with peanuts and thin strips of mushroom on a base of vegetables. The combination of a smoothly nutty, smoky sauce, tart mushroom strips, nai pak vegetable and firm, succulent fish grilled over an open charcoal fire makes for a more harmonious combination than you would expect.
The Kampung Chicken with Yuzu Kosho (RM37) kept up the pace, with pieces of deliciously browned chicken served with ulam raja leaves in a light lemongrass dressing, Japanese mayonnaise and a smidgen of exotic yuzu kosho, which tastes a bit like belacan, but is made from ground chili fermented with salt and yuzu. The dressing offered excitement to the firm, juicy chicken while the ulam raja added a welcome bitterness for balance.
For dessert, the quixotic Elderflower Granita & Bunga Kantan (RM25) combines bunga kantan (torch ginger) cream with elderflower granita (elderflower’s popularity has bloomed since lemon and elderflower cake was served at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding) with sweetened longan and shavings of bunga kantan. The bunga kantan fragrance was too nuanced to make an impression while the elderflower imparted a slight muskiness that complemented the longan.
With Chef Gary Anwar’s creative streak, the modestly priced offerings and modern ambience, Ember rewards diners looking for a dining experience that is a little out of the ordinary, carried out with imagination and confidence.
This article first appeared on Oct 7, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.