Opened earlier this year, the cheekily named 4Play Seafood occupies a narrow lot with a décor that’s plain to the point of being bare bones, but people don’t come here for the ambience, that’s for sure. The restaurant takes a playful tack on seafood, with sharing tapas platters, soups, salads and pastas. It differentiates itself in the mains, with a choice of seafood type matched with a variety of lush flavours. If this sounds familiar, it’s no coincidence as some of the kitchen crew formerly worked at Two Sons Bistro.
The Seafood Cioppino (RM26) establishes the standard, with a thick, intensely flavoured tomato broth simmering with clams, prawns, squid and mussels, with the abundance of ingredients and strong, rich flavours carried into other dishes as well.
Calamari flavoured with Golden Salted Egg Yolk (RM25) extends the style, with curry leaves, cili padi, chilli flakes and sautéed onions with salted egg yolk — almost too strong without good garlic bread to dilute the flavour. Similarly, Clams with Coconut Cream and Chili (RM30), one of a half-dozen sauces, was thick and rich to the point that the clams were overwhelmed, so more assertive seafood, such as crabs, might have fared better.
The sauces are thick as curries, fragrant with spices and deeply full-flavoured, but there’s the danger of sensory fatigue with such an intense approach. Butter and Garlic Mushrooms (RM21) fared well, without rich spices to eclipse the mushrooms, while the Soft Shell Crab Caesar Salad (RM28) provided a good counterbalance with its mild flavours and crunchy texture.
Service was friendly and efficient, and garlic bread is supplied with the dishes. A few strong dishes should be balanced with some milder, supporting dishes or bread. The curry-rich flavours, intensity and variety on offer are best shared among a few people, making this an ideal setting for a social occasion with a lot of noise and conversation rather than quiet dining for nuanced, subtle food.
The owners of Pampas steakhouse group took a dive into the deep end with Pier 12 Seafood Tavern, occupying the end-lot of Old Malaya. Within, a comfortable but dark colour scheme dominates, with a colourful wall feature to provide contrast, and braided rope lamps and wall decorations as a concession to the maritime theme. There’s an upstairs section and outdoor seating as well, under the towering presence of a lit-up KL Tower.
There are a couple of non-seafood dishes on a menu dominated by fish and prawns in the Appetisers, Mains, Soup and salad sections.
We went with the friendly waiter’s recommendations, and they proved to be good selections, with firm, fresh prawns being the star in the Pier 12 Garlic Prawns (RM28) with a thick cream sauce. Taking things literally, the Pier 12 Creamy Seafood Chowder (RM23) was super rich, but superb otherwise, with generous lashings of crab and minced seafood in a deeply flavourful soup — certainly one to come back for, and substantial on its own, thanks to all that cream.
The Seafood Marinara (RM32), in a foil wrap, displayed flair and poise with a bright, appetising tomato sauce and good chunks of very fresh seafood, but the linguine was on the soft side, and the melted cheese on the heavy side.
Most of the main dishes are done Western-style, with a standout Tandoori Flavoured Halibut Fish Fillet (RM38), with a (curry) leaf borrowed from Indian cuisine, right down to matching Mint Yogurt Cucumber Raita. Halibut is a delicate fish, and tandoori flavouring not exactly subtle, yet the flavour of the pan-fried fish was not overwhelmed by the paste, which imparted its distinctive flavour to the fresh fish, pan-fried to crispiness without overcooking or drying out the fish. The raita was an unusual but well-tested accompaniment, taste-wise, although I preferred the Roast Vegetables Side (RM15) with its mix of well-grilled vegetables.
A goodly drinks list and cocktails at RM10 during happy hours provide lubrication for a straight-up, satisfying, seafood meal with a good selection of fresh seafood, mainly fish, executed with confidence, class and a dash of flair.
4PLAY Seafood Publika, A1-G2-07, Jalan Dutamas 1, KL. 03 6211 9908. Daily, 11am-11pm.
Pier 12 Seafood Tavern, Lot 12 Old Malaya, Jalan Raja Chulan, KL. 03 2078 5548. Sun-Thu, 5pm-2am; Fri-Sat, 5pm-3am.
This article first appeared on Apr 30, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.