Congratulations are in order: Kuala Lumpur’s Eat and Cook is the first Malaysian restaurant to bag the coveted American Express One To Watch award by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Eat and Cook’s win is part of the pre-announced individual awards publicised ahead of the Asia’s 50 best Restaurants 2022 ceremony, which will take place on March 29 in Bangkok.
A restaurant born out of adversity, Eat and Cook’s foray into the Malaysian fine dining scene was impelled by a fight or flight situation, in which chefs Lee Zhe Xi and Soh Yong Zhi both lost their jobs working in hotel kitchens. With perseverance and fierce determination to do the former, the duo rallied what was needed to open their own space, a diminutive six-seater to test their Malaysian omakase concept.
While the dishes were inspired by traditional family recipes, its preparation, execution and presentation lent a modern and contemporary edge. The stars of the show are ingredients from the homeland, a dizzying array of spectacular produce — including slipper lobsters from Sabah, mountain duck from Ipoh and rainbow prawns from Sekinchan — that have been impressively elevated and transformed to go beyond what was familiar. Eat and Cook advises patrons to leave their expectations at the door and allow space for new experiences and surprises to occur.
Within a few weeks, the restaurant’s popularity skyrocketed — a comforting green light to being on the right path and a testament to their creative cooking — and Lee and Soh sought out a larger space to accommodate the lengthening guest list. Eat and Cook relocated to Bukit Jalil City last March and can now host up to 30 guests — 20 at The Stage (counter-style to witness the action up close) and 10 at The Table (private room for gatherings).
“We are currently in Chapter Three of our menu development,” says Lee in an interview with Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. “I think of our menu evolution like a book, but each chapter does not necessarily lead to the next. Each version is based on the ingredients in that particular season and we will try to keep it the same for three or four months, as long as the produce we want to cook is good enough. We don’t have traditional seasons like autumn and winter in Malaysia, but there are times when one ingredient is at its best and that’s when we want to use it.”
Similarly, Eat and Cook’s evolution may not be linear. From an intimate six-seater to being named the hottest new restaurant in Asia, the world’s eyes are now on Lee and Soh, but they’re only just getting started.