Brimful of tradition at Bijan

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It’s a trend now to name a restaurant after a spice or an ingredient. It’s simple and catchy and more importantly, it’s easy to remember. As far as local Malay food goes, Bijan (pronounced bee-jahn) which means sesame, is at the forefront of this movement.

Offering the best of two worlds, here you can enjoy authentic Malay cuisine but in a classy, stylish environment. A place where fine china and expensive wine glasses replace plastic plates and cheap cutlery.

You might be thinking, aren’t there other eateries serving traditional Malay food which are, well, cheaper? Yes, but if you’re entertaining guests or clients, the last thing you want is the cooking oil permeating through the air. Bijan is considered a pioneer for serving fine Malay cuisine, with modern presentation yet wholesome in flavour. Imagine the food from the hawker stalls and buffet lines taken out and set against a lush backdrop with Asian accents which are also chic and intimate as well as spacious. It was even voted Best Malay Restaurant in 2004 by Tourism Malaysia.

The décor at Bijan is considered modern by Malaysians but charmingly traditional by expats and tourists. “We wanted a balance of it not being too traditional or too touristy,” says owner Way Cheng. The result is a reflection of modern Malaysia with an edgy KL feel without it being cold or contemporary. Batik-covered cushions line the wooden benches set against the unfinished chocolate-brown walls, while the old school terrazzo floor and coffee shop wooden chairs makes you feel as if you’ve been transported back to the 1960s. The huge glass walls that looks out to the terrace, for those who relish in al-fresco dining, give the restaurant a soothing ambience. The full bar and collection of various wines will satisfy any discerning patron. “We ensure that the wines complement the flavour of Malay food,” says Way Cheng.

Our dinner started off with a delectable serving of the Appetizer Platter, comprising prawn fritters, stuffed bean curd, fried spring rolls and savoury chicken wings accompanied with a mild chilli sauce. This was followed by Otak-Otak with Toast. Otak-otak is made by mixing fish paste with a mixture of spices including chillies, garlic, shallots, turmeric, lemon grass and coconut milk. The main course was succulent Grilled Beef Ribs with Potato Patties together with some sambal belacan (shrimp paste) and spicy soy sauce. The next dish was actually a favourite of many customers – Butter Fish Fillets cooked in a turmeric and coconut milk gravy. The Nasi Lemak and Nasi Minyak were also delicious, served elegantly with pickled fruit, anchovies and garnished with roasted cashew nuts. To tantalise our palates with the most traditional Malay dish, we had a chance to try the Tapioca Shoots and Salted Fish cooked in coconut milk. Fear not of the many dishes which use coconut milk as Chef Zulkifli uses a subtle technique to not overwhelm guests.

After all that wholesome goodness, we were cajoled into trying some local desserts. We were told the Chocolate Durian Cake, a consisting of creamy durian sandwiched with moist chocolate cake coated with chocolate ganache was a big hit, and believe me it was. Coming from someone who doesn’t fancy durians, I couldn’t help myself yearning for more after the first spoonful. The Pandan Chendol Ice Cream is also a must-try.

Bijan is open for lunch and dinner and upon request, a buffet party can be arranged.

Source: The Expat Magazine

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