Food Review: TRACE Restaurant and Bar @ Element KL, Jalan Binjai

There’s such a glut of hotels in KL that it’s hard to differentiate one from the other – if you’ve been to one high end hotel, you’ve been to them all.

The latest addition, Element KL, is a bit different though. For one, their newly opened restaurant, TRACE, is located on the 40th floor of the Ilham Towers, and the restaurant’s glass windows offer a beautiful view of the surrounding city skyline – including the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. For another, their food is actually really good. While the resto carries standard Western, fusion and local fare, they’ve made it unique by incorporating local produce as much as possible. The result? Fresh, well balanced meals that are wholesome and delicious. The prices are also very competitive (averaging about RM30-50 for lunch – which is affordable considering the setting).

The spacious interior, with lots of glass windows for guests to enjoy the surrounding views. There’s a bar area in the front, an open kitchen to watch the chef’s in action, and a buffet line.

Stunning views.

Spacious and comfy, casual-business : great for lunch meetings or just for a catch-up.

One side of the resto faces the Petronas Twin Towers. There were some complaints about the upcoming Four Seasons Place building they are erecting next to it – apparently some people were concerned that it would ‘block’ the view of the towers. 

We were there to try out their new ala-carte menu, and will you believe that we had dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner in ONE seating? Even with the reduced portions and sharing, it was hard to finish. Started off with some warm bread with olive oil and tangy tomato chutney dip; perfect for whetting the appetite.

Since my own photos were too fugly, I’m sharing the beautiful shots by the hotel’s team here.

BREAKFAST  : The most important meal of the day. You know you’re off to a good start when the very first dish they serve is amazing, right off the bat. Beans and Toast is a classic bfast dish, but the version here adds a local twist that works out perfectly for Asian palates. Inspired by a popular Johorean dish called Kacang Pool (spiced fava/broad beans cooked with minced beef, onions and kasturi lime – often used as a dip), the B&T here is warm, hearty and well flavoured, topped with a beautifully poached egg on top. The dip has a texture and flavour that is similar to an American sloppy joe, and goes really well with the toasted bread. I can literally eat this all day but I had to pace myself for the next dishes…

Of course no Malaysian breakfast would be complete without the customary nasi lemak, our national dish. The dish here, called Nasi Lemak Kelapa Dara, uses extra virgin coconut oil in the steamed rice, rather than regular coconut oil, so it’s less fatty but still retains that awesome creaminess. It was served with all the classic sides, including crispy anchovies, onions, peanuts and an egg omelette. The sambal tiger prawns were juicy and sizable, while the chicken roulade rendang combined a French technique with traditional ingredients.

Time to have a sweet one before moving on to our ‘lunch’ meals! The Homemade Granola of fruit compote, yoghurt, chia seed with hazelnut and berries granola was creamy without being cloying, and not too sweet so it doesn’t leave you feeling completely stuffed. They also add a smattering of chocolate chips into the bowl. We had a small portion, but if you’re getting the original size it’s good for a breakfast on its own.

LUNCH: The Live Well Salad was surprisingly light and refreshing, with a good mix of fruitiness from the orange segment, tomato, berries and peach, as well as a hint of savoury from the pickled beet and edamame beans. The candied walnut and croutons added a crunchy texture, while mango emulsion bound the whole dish together beautifully.

Hand picked Wild Mushroom soup came with hefty chunks of balsamic-glazed Portobello and crushed walnut, served with a side of grilled cheese petit croque monsieur. This wasn’t my favourite as I found the texture odd and the Portobello was too sweet.

DINNER – Next was Sous vide Baby Chicken. Sous vide is a common technique used in restaurants because the meat is vacuum-packed before being cooked in a water bath or steam, so the results are always consistent and the flavours are all sealed in. The inside of the baby chicken galantine boasted cheesy garlic boursin and basil pesto, and for sides, turkey ham hasselback potato gratin, asparagus spear and chassuer sauce. Healthy and delicious.

Loved the presentation of the Smoked Loch Fyne Salmon. Prawns with sour cream and chives sat on a bed of buckwheat blinis, beautiful garnished with fennel, red radish slaw and balsamic pearl, surrounded by dots of mango hazelnut dressing. In the glass jar, which looked like an edible terrarium, was the salmon – and when we opened it the smoke wafted out in drifts.

Another great one – the Alaskan Black Cod (look at that beautiful sear!), crusted with sundried tomatoes and olives, carrot puree, capreses salad, cilantro green-chilli sauce and basil oil. The fish was tender, flaky and juicy, and the fresh seafoody flavour was brought out even more by the accompanying condiments and sauces.

Last but definitely not least, Nasi Kukus Ayam Rempah – steamed fragrant white rice served with spiced rubbed honey-glazed fried chicken, stir fried asparagus belacan, curry gravy, pickled vegetables acar and spicy egg omelette. My favourite was the chicken, which was crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. The curry gravy was also insanely addictive and great with rice.

We were stuffed to the brim by the end of our courses, but like they say, there’s always room for dessert! The Exotic Fruit Lava Carrot Cake, a freshly baked homemade exotic lava carrot cake beautifully decorated with fresh berries, was warm and oozy, with just the right balance of sweet and sour. For those who prefer a lighter dessert, I suggest to go with this because the other is super decadent…

Behold, the Earl Grey Chocolate Sphere – an earl grey cremeux served with warm lemon cream. The appearance itself was already quite dramatic (I’m reminded of dishes contestants had to prepare on MasterChef), but wait til the waiter comes over and pours the warm lemon cream over it: we watched as the thick liquid bathed the sphere in a wonderful golden glow, eventually melting the top to create a crater. Spooning into it, I was rewarded with a fluffy chocolate mousse on the inside and a crisp and delicate outer chocolate shell.

Element KL’s resident chef and his team!

Aside from the ala carte menu, they also do buffet breakfasts/lunch and dinners.

*Photos not watermarked are courtesy of Element KL

40th floor @Element by Westin, Ilham Tower, 8 Jalan Binjai, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2771-3345

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