Discerning KL-ites will have dined at (or at least, heard of) Bijan, the grand dame of refined Malay cuisine in Kuala Lumpur. Tucked in the quiet, affluent neighbourhood of Bukit Ceylon, the cosy establishment is surrounded by lush greenery, with lots of wood and traditional elements like batik in a contemporary setting.
Now, the team has come up with an original venture: SPG by Bijan. A playful take on the colloquial term ‘Sarong Party Girl’ (Asian girl who prefers dating white men), the tapas bar and grill is housed in a bungalow, and is accessible from Bijan through an adjoining doorway.
Where Bijan is elegant and refined, SPG is fun, chic and stylish. Floral motifs abound, as is the lush greenery of its sister eatery, alongside hand-printed tiles, batik motifs and mural walls that lend it a nostalgic feel.
The menu is Malay / Asian with a twist, and the Asian-inspired cocktails offer something for both adventurous palates and lovers of classics. If you’re feeling brave, try their signature Stinkini (martini + dry vermouth + savoury notes of pickled petai) – we could literally smell it as soon as it came to the table. Other signatures include the cheekily named Yellow Fever (gin, turmeric, honey and tonic water), and Cocojito (lime, white rum, coconut water, mint leaves). There’s something for the teetotalers too, like Bluepea Tonic (honey, lemon, bluepea flower).
It’s all about sharing with SPG’s range of ‘Malaysian tapas’. To start things off, a basket of fries celup – crispy thin cut fries served with anchovy mayo and salted egg yolk dip. They were extremely addictive, especially with the creamy, salty anchovy mayo.
Keropok-kerepek: assortment of crackers with sambal dip
One of the restaurant’s signature tapas is the Ah-Ran-Sini (after the Italian arancini). These deep fried golden balls of rice are stuffed with the flavours of nasi lemak, with a hearty sambal and anchovy centre.
The Pais Barramundi – grilled parcel of barramundi with banana leather, turmeric, spices and coconut – was a clever and modern interpretation of traditional flavours. I especially liked the banana leather, which had a beautiful texture, packed with the natural sweetness of banana. It went well with the light saltiness of the grilled barramundi.
Presentation for the Ayam Limau Purut & Roti Jala Tiffin was exquisite, brought to the table in adorable tiffin carriers. The chicken curry was perfectly spiced – not too spicy but with just enough kick, and the fluffy roti jala (literally net bread – hence the shape) was great for soaking up the delicious curry.
Jackfruit Rendang Bao is a perfect substitute for meat. The stringy texture of jackfruit is very similar to meat, and when cooked rendang-style, tastes almost like beef – all wrapped in pillowy-soft mantou buns.
Lidah & Sambal – braised, tender ox tongue; pan-seared and served with sambal hitam. It was my first time having ox tongue. The texture was somewhat grainy and dense, but not unpleasant, and there was no offal-like taste.
We were feeling pretty stuffed at this point, but there were still several dishes to go. The grilled calamari, served with sambal belacan, was simple but tasty, with a slight char. There was also flame-grilled duck and chicken skewers.
Pan-seared black pomfret with coconut and galangal sauce. I like how the fish was completely deboned for easy eating, so every bite was just fresh, juicy fish. The coconut and galangal sauce was like the Thai tom ka gai dish; creamy but not cloying.
Grilled Lamb Loin
And for dessert, Bananas Over Bananas – Homemade banana ice cream with smokey caramelised banana and dehydrated banana cone.
We were spoiled by the crew at SPG, so by the time we rolled (yes, rolled) out of the restaurant everyone was well and truly full and satisfied. The food, ambience and service were excellent, and the innovative approach to Malay cuisine is great.
SPG by BIJAN
3A, Jalan Ceylon, Bukit Ceylon, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 12pm – 12am (daily)
Reservations: 03-2022 3575
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