The last time I met husband-and-wife team Wen Huey and Jon, they were running a restaurant in Puchong (Options review of Porcupine Place, Dec 12, 2015). They have since expanded to trendy Bangsar with a new venture called Skive, and they have brought much of what impressed back then, and then some.
The restaurant, which occupies a corner lot with outside corridor seating, is narrow but cheerful and friendly within with a blue-and-white paint scheme and a drinks, cakes and ice-cream counter occupying one side. The front is given over to various house-made breads, jars of house-made curd, nut butters, cookies, takeaway sandwiches and salads, and bottled drinks while seating takes up the rest of the restaurant.
The Long Chan sodas — non-fizzy glass-bottled drinks with labelling from yesteryear — are a retro blast from the past because they are: old-fashioned flavours made by a factory in Alor Gajah, which have perversely survived the assault of modern living, unchanged from when many of us were not even born.
The menu sheet doubles as the placemat and is exuberantly diverse, culling influences from the couple’s travels abroad — Mexican, German, Indonesian, Thai, Japanese — and has strong Malaysian and Western representation, ranging from all-day breakfasts to dinners.
The Big Mexican Breakfast (RM28) tasted as amazing as it looked: an enormous, gorgeous, messy shakshuka of three poached eggs in a tomato-bean-mushroom stew with potatoes, a generous chicken chorizo sausage and a big, fresh and spectacularly good croissant. Satisfyingly robust and full-bodied with a spicy tang, it was easy to over-indulge in this tasty, nourishing meal, big enough for two.
The informal style lends itself well to experiments, thus two Sourdough Tacos with a choice of fillings, of which BBQ Chicken Thai (RM22) featured honey grilled crispy chicken pieces in a tangy, nutty slaw with a garlic aioli, identifiably Thai yet refreshingly different with thin, substantial taco shells, while the Balinese Fish (RM24) filling brought home milder Indonesian flavours with fried fragrantly spiced marinated fish pieces, coconut and lemongrass with an unlikely match of shredded cabbage and lemon cream, and yet it was comfortingly familiar.
The huge Kung Fu Salad (RM25) was healthy and refreshing with avocado, pomegranate, quinoa and plenty of greens, cucumber, nuts and seeds, yet not raw to the taste, thanks to crumbled feta cheese, while Gado-Gado (RM24) was an original of shredded carrot, beet, bean sprouts, tofu, egg and crackled Vietnamese rice paper brought to vibrant life by a sweet, spicy, nutty sauce.
From the mains, Whole Spring Chicken Ayam Berempah (RM38) won two thumbs up for the thin, crispy-skinned spring chicken, beautifully moist and tender, and deeply infused with flavour. Nothing but praise goes to the meticulous preparation with three thick, authentic sauces — anchovy sambal, sos kicap and ikan masin — as well as fluffy, fragrant subtly flavoured pandan rice (thankfully not bright green), although the chicken was tasty enough to not need the assistance of the sauces.
Attention to detail also characterised the Lamb Soldiers (RM28), fiercely aromatic with spices — cinnamon, cloves, cumin, ginger — in a curry-like tomato-based sauce with potato and egg. The lamb slices were a little chewy, however, while the accompanying toasted brioche could have passed off as coarse white bread, although it did an excellent job of soaking up the thick, meaty sauce.
Both the desserts we tried — White Choco Lemon Lava Cake and Banana Bread and Butter Pudding (RM18 each) — were standouts, the former oozing thick, lemony curd with a dollop of home-made vanilla ice cream while the latter was attractively sweet-salty and not at all dull or doughy, with croissant filling baked with banana and chocolate, chocolate fudge and ice cream.
The owners have a real passion for cooking, and it shows in the food. With a versatile spread of offerings, from baked foods, ice cream and cookies to cakes and main meals, and generous servings — all freshly made with natural ingredients, meticulous attention to detail and original ideas, this is food cooked with heart.
Skive Bangsar, Shop 1, ground floor, Telawi Square, 41 Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru, KL. 03 2202 0313. Mon-Fri, 9am-10pm; Sat & Sun, 7am-10pm. All Options food reviews are done incognito. This article first appeared on Aug 13, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.