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Find crab cakes, shrimp and grits and the city’s best cornbread in Plaza Damas 3's Bistro Eatz

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — Earlier this week, I wrote about kau yuk mee hoon, which I missed dearly while I was at university abroad — but that’s not to say I spent all my time in the US pining for food from home.

On the contrary, I was quite taken with the food there, especially in the southern part of the US where I spent my last few years happily gorging on pulled pork sandwiches, mac and cheese and plenty of fried okra.

It was also there that I first tried cornbread and fell madly in love with it, in all its dense and skillet-baked glory. So when a little "birdie" told me that I could find it in Plaza Damas 3, I had to go see for myself.

A self-styled "American fusion” restaurant, Bistro Eatz sits on the street level of Plaza Damas 3, though the white backlit sign can be hard to spot from the main road during the day.

The dining room at Bistro Eatz.
The dining room at Bistro Eatz.

The dining room at Bistro Eatz.

Look for the white sign on the inside for Bistro Eatz.
Look for the white sign on the inside for Bistro Eatz.

Look for the white sign on the inside for Bistro Eatz.

Chowder, crab cakes and a spin on shrimp and grits all feature on the menu — reflecting the chef and founder’s previous work experience along the eastern seaboard of the US, spanning Rhode Island in the north to the Carolinas in the south.

The Cornbread (RM20) takes 20 minutes to prepare, so we opted for the Seafood Chowder (RM15) and Crab Cake (RM60) to start.

Visually, the former resembled everything you’d look for in a thick, creamy New England clam chowder. Unfortunately, the similarities end there.

Still-hard cubes of potatoes dogged the chowder, which was decidedly bland despite the sizable amount of seafood inside.

The stellar Crab Cakes at Bistro Eatz.
The stellar Crab Cakes at Bistro Eatz.

The stellar Crab Cakes at Bistro Eatz.

It should be noted that everything else on the night was well worth ordering, and one dish did not make or break my impression of the meal.

However, the role of critique is to separate the superb from the subpar, especially when every other dish points to an otherwise exemplary kitchen.

To this end, the pair of Crab Cakes that followed were excellent.

Evenly browned and crispy on both sides, each ‘cake’ is packed with so much sweet-tasting crab meat that it can barely hold itself up under its weight.

The meal only got better when the Cornbread arrived, drizzled with a bit of honey over the top.

For the uninitiated, cornbread, especially in the South, is more of a cake: cornmeal batter is poured into a cast iron skillet and baked, resulting in a product that’s moist with a significant crust.

The bottom of the Cornbread is beautifully caramelised, never veering into burnt territory.
The bottom of the Cornbread is beautifully caramelised, never veering into burnt territory.

The bottom of the Cornbread is beautifully caramelised, never veering into burnt territory.

Here, they’ve only gone and achieved that beautiful golden brown crust, especially around the edges, while the interior is light, fluffy and still moist.

The bottom sports a dark — close to dark brown — coat that suggests it was indeed baked in a pan or skillet, and the touch of sweetness from the honey works wonders.

I’m used to eating this as a side dish in a meal, but all eight slices were gobbled up in the blink of an eye, all on its own.

Lamb on Rendang Rice (RM48) is a strong contender for the "dish with the most unassuming name” award.

What arrived was a plate of risotto that was a brilliant shade of yellow, topped with tender chunks of lamb and carrot in a reddish, slightly sweet sauce.

Lamb Rendang on Rice is really a risotto, and it is a brilliant, brilliant dish.
Lamb Rendang on Rice is really a risotto, and it is a brilliant, brilliant dish.

Lamb Rendang on Rice is really a risotto, and it is a brilliant, brilliant dish.

Creamy and perfectly al dente, the risotto smelled and tasted strongly of lemongrass and turmeric, really evoking the flavours of rendang in a wholly unexpected but impressive way.

This dish wow-ed from start to finish, and is a shining display of fine technique with a nod to our local flavours.

A riff on a Lowcountry (region encompassing the coastal Carolinas and Georgia) classic, the Shrimp and Grits (RM80) featured a pair of massive king prawns on a very shallow bed of grits.

King prawns take the spotlight in the Shrimp and Grits, but I think the grits are the best part of the dish.
King prawns take the spotlight in the Shrimp and Grits, but I think the grits are the best part of the dish.

King prawns take the spotlight in the Shrimp and Grits, but I think the grits are the best part of the dish.

Sprinkled around the dish were some irresistible potato chips, made in-house.

Every bit of flesh from the prawns was succulent and sweet, but the real star of the dish lay in the grits.

Silky smooth, creamy and seasoned to perfection, I would have been happy eating a bowl of these grits and nothing else. It’s a shame there’s so little of it in the actual dish.

Bistro Eatz

B2-05, Plaza Damas 3, Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, Kuala Lumpur

Open Monday to Saturday, 12-5pm, 6-9pm.

Tel: 012-908 8108

Facebook: @bistroeatz

Instagram: @bistro_eatz

*This is an independent review where the writer paid for the meal.

*Follow us on Instagram @eatdrinkmm for more food gems.