Time Out says
At a rough guess I would say I walked past Hakka Republic around 650 times before I bothered to try it out. If it were a person, it could very easily have held a grudge. But I was easily forgiven; the near-empty dining room on a Saturday evening (albeit during Ramadan) suggests that I’m not the only person to have been confused by the obviously Mao-ist Chinese stylings. In fact, that styling brings only a sense of cool to the décor, passing on barely any Chinese flavour to its progressive western menu.
Our visits (the first may have been some time coming but having had our eyes open to the quality of the food, our second trip was within a fortnight) began with a journey down their degustation menu. A solid foie gras chawanmushi was made into the spectacular by a wine pairing that literally sent my eyes rolling back in my head.
Here lies the great secret of Hakka Republic. They really, really know what they’re doing when it comes to wine. Malt whisky, too, it should be said. But wine is there genuine area of expertise. The list is huge, a veritable tome that you could quite happily leaf through for hours while the birds bounce around the attractive gardens by your window. There are a dozen wines by the glass, several bottles for under RM100, an obscene amount in the mid-hundreds and enough to sate the genuine enthusiast with an array over RM1,000 and some approaching five figures. France, Italy, the New World, there doesn’t seem to be a weakness and the menu helpfully tips the nod to three wines per main course in order for would-be wine buffs to get the most out of their meal. Superb.
Sidebar over and back to the food, we went onto a shrimp bisque shooter that didn’t grab me, but the marinated tuna tartar that followed was magnificent, melting on the tongue and complemented with cold green tea soba and citrus. Fish seems to be a strength at Hakka Republic, which is unsurprising given their chef worked for many years in Japan. Hence his miso marinated black cod with braised baby kalian and sesame dressing was spectacular. It was a toss up between this and the near-orgasmic wagyu tenderloin from the US for highlight. A crispy cheese parfait rounded off an excellent degustation, which I would highly recommend for first-timers.
Our second visit suffered a slightly disappointing start when three of the items on the menu (two chicken and one lamb) were not available. Minus points for the ordering department but it was a very quiet time and it would be harsh to negatively judge them on this one – possibly unavoidable slip. And besides, there was still a wealth of items on the menu that we fancied.
I am delighted to report that going a la carte did not fade in comparison to the degustation, my wife’s oxtail and angel hair ‘brilliant’ and my whopping black angus burger, served with hand-cut chips as all proper burgers should be, utterly scrumptious. The patty was 150g and topped with Swiss cheese. But it was the accompanying pickles and especially the Asian tomato salsa that sprung a sweet surprise and brought all the flavours together. More proof of a chef who really understands his art and the value of sourcing the very best ingredients.
This is an eatery that would thrive in much more challenging and competitive culinary climes such as Hong Kong or even Sydney. The KL public, especially workers in Menara Hap Seng, are slowly realising their good fortune in having this calibre of restaurant – and an impeccable wine list - on their doorstep, although from the quiet dining space on our recent visit, they could do with a chivvy along. Matthew Bellotti
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Hakka Republic was voted Best Continental Restaurant of the Time Out KL Food Awards 2011. The restaurant was shortlisted in the same category in 2010. Chef Adi Radzi was shortlisted Outstanding Chef of the Year in 2011. Our food awards are 100% voted for by the people of KL. This way, we guarantee that popularity and consistent performance is rewarded.
L2.05, Level 2 Menara Hap Seng, Jalan P. Ramlee, 50540 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 2078 9908
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 11am-3pm, 5pm-12midnight
Child friendly: Yes
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