Review: 5 dishes to try at Bōl KL helmed by a Noma alumnus

·7-min read
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior

Instead of joining the ranks of hip cafes on Jalan Sin Chew Kee, Bōl makes a bold move by marking its spot as a modern Peranakan restaurant.

Take a little stroll on the ever-popular Jalan Galloway / Jalan Sin Chew Kee area on any day of the week and you’ll find the establishments there filled with avid cafe-goers. After all, the vicinity is home to names like the staple VCR as well as relatively newcomers such as Three Years Old, Wu Di, and Breakfast Spot. In the evenings, there’s also Pahit.

For Bōl — officially opened in May 2022 — and the team behind the restaurant, the location is a no brainer. “Having a restaurant that’s available at night in this area means you can actually spend a full day here”, says Kian Liew, one of three owners at Bōl. Kian, overseeing Bōl’s communications and creative culinary direction, is part of a dream team that also comprises Patrick Hong and Joel Kirk. Patrick, an accountant by trade, manages the restaurant’s financial and legal matters, whereas Noma alumnus (yes, the Noma) Joel, leads the kitchen.

Restaurants that offer modern takes on modern Malaysian cuisine aren’t new — and the restaurateurs behind Bōl aren’t exactly oblivious of that fact. Instead, they have decided to take up the challenge of gastronomical proportions to present their own refreshing interpretations on classical Peranakan cuisine; with a farm-to-table menu heavily influenced by Nyonya and Straits Chinese flavours. Why Peranakan cuisine? “We really do love Peranakan food,” Kian opens.

Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior


Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior


Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior


Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior


Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior


Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior

Like us, you’re probably wondering about the meaning behind the name, Bōl. We found out that the restaurant is named after Catherine, Kian’s friend who is operating a bistro with the same name in Paris. Fun fact: ‘Bōl’ also means bowl in French. #Bowleh. Step right into the restaurant and you’re immediately treated to an eccentric feast for the eyes. The 82-seater establishment is adorned with a bright wallpaper print (almost like a labyrinth) paying homage to Peranakan floral motifs, sleek rattan furniture, a beautiful outdoor courtyard, and a glasshouse on its highest floor that’s apt for intimate gatherings.

Bukit Bintang is no stranger to amazing eateries and Bōl aims to join the ranks while carving out a special spot for itself. The menu here, while not extensive, is filled with familiar flavours infused with innovative touches. Think elevated and contemporary versions of your favourite home-cooked dishes. What do you have in mind?

“Itek Tim”

Bol-Review-Itek-Tim
Bol-Review-Itek-Tim

In the culinary repertoire of Peranakan cuisine, there might only be a handful of recipes with duck — but Itek Tim is considered to be among the most popular. Although traditionally prepared as a soup dish with duck meat and salted vegetables, Bōl’s presentation is anything but conventional.

Here at Bōl, the classic Peranakan dish is reimagined in the form of pulled duck tortellini and duck consommé. The clarified “Itek Tim’ broth — hearty, concentrated, and packed full of flavours — felt like a warm familial embrace on every treasured sip. The duck consommé tastes like a comforting companion, bringing to the table a balanced mix of briny and sour elements.

The star of the show in this contemporary take on Kiam Chye Ark, the duck, is presented in an all-encompassing dumpling form for that extra Asian-inspired push. Tortellinis filled to the brim with rich and savoury pulled duck are prepared with adequate zest. Remember to have the duck consommé and the pulled duck tortellini at the same time for a full throttle experience. Your participation with “Itek Tim” would clearly differ depending on your familiarity with Peranakan or Nyonya offerings but for a virgin voyage, it’s an immaculate introduction. Now, can we have more of that delicious broth, please?

Rojak Tart

Bol Review Rojak Tart
Bol Review Rojak Tart

Rojak is a dish that can be found anywhere throughout Malaysia. You can find it on food trucks at the side of the road, in all kinds of restaurants and cafes, and even in golf course cafeterias (like the ones I had growing up). It’s something every Malaysian has come to be familiar with. So, how does on enhance or heighten the Rojak-eating experience?

For Bōl, the approach is to recreate the easily recognisable Rojak and exhibit the dish in bite-sized tart form — almost like a canapé. Imagine having all the jumbled yet delicious flavours of the fruit salad all in one otherworldly pop. Served with pineapple gel, jicama, kyuri, the special addition of jelly fish, and of course, Rojak sauce, Bōl’s twist on the classic Malaysian dish is nothing short of enticing.

The jelly fish brought depth to the Rojak Tart and you get a tangy sweetness from the pineapple gel. Think of the dish as an amalgamation of profiles with flavours that don’t stray too far from the essence of classic Malaysian Rojak: crunchy, saccharine, sweet, acidic, and soft at the same time. One kiss tart is all it takes, but one clearly wouldn’t suffice. You’ll find yourself reaching out for more.

Rendang Wagyu

Bol Review Rendang Wagyu
Bol Review Rendang Wagyu

Beefcake alert! No, it’s not an actual cake that’s topped with beef. What’s next is something truly special from Bōl’s menu. Displayed in a form reminiscent of a cake is Rendang Wagyu — luscious wagyu beed served on top of fragrant herb rice. Considered one of the heavier dishes on the current selection at the restaurant, Rendang Wagyu can be described in just one word: delightful alluring. Sorry, I meant two words.

Leave it to the team at Bōl to add pizzazz to a time-honoured dish. Visually appealing, the gustatory combination of rich housemade rendang, immensely tender wagyu beef, and aromatic herb rice will keep you going in for seconds (or thirds, no one’s judging). Perfect for sharing but you might just find yourself devouring the entire plate.

Buah Keluak Lamb Shank

Bol Review Keluak Lamb Shank
Bol Review Keluak Lamb Shank

Another highlight on the menu is Buah Keluak Lamb Shank — also known as another dish you won’t want to put your spoons down for. Bōl presents the highly sought-after buah keluak, that’s seen as a mainstay in Peranakan cuisine, in the form of rempah. For this dish, Bōl utilises buah keluak imported all the way across the causeway from Singapore.

It’s apparent on first sight that there’s something really special about this dish. First of all, the combination of lamb shank and buah keluak is unique because red meat isn’t traditionally known to be widely used in Peranakan culture. Next, it’s the fluffy and sweet yet intensely rich coconut mash. Without a doubt, it’s about to be a full body experience.

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Start your journey with a spoon of coconut mash and then try the Buah Keluak rempah before going back to the coconut mash. It might seem like there’s a boxing match happening in your mouth. However, these two ingredients with very different flavour profiles somehow work — like a well-balanced and toothsome marriage of ingredients. Think mild spiciness and soft sweetness.

The lamb shank, cooked to delicate perfection, is a juggernaut in its own right. Go for a small bite of the meat, feel how the lamb harmonises with the coconut mash and buah keluak rempah, then go in again for a larger piece of the charred lamb shank. It’s gamey goodness mashed with profound Peranakan characters.

“Hawthorn Melaka”

Bol Review Hawthorn Melaka
Bol Review Hawthorn Melaka

#FinalDestination. Did you leave some space for dessert? Here’s one that’s bound to remind you of your childhood. Getting Haw Flakes just by looking at the dish (or the name)? Kudos to you! For this dessert, Bōl is featuring nostalgic flavours in the form of Gula Melaka chiffon and Hawthorn sorbet.

“Hawthorn Melaka” is plated like a mini galaxy full of edible planets. You get the tantalising tart bites from the Hawthorn sorbet and caramelised smokiness from Gula Melaka chiffon. For a more multi-dimensional mouthfeel, taste a little of everything at one go, including the Chantilly cream. Sounds like a real sweet ending to a memorable meal.

Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior


Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior


Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior


Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior
Bol KL Peranakan Restaurant Interior

Bōl’s menu, concocted out of the three owner’s love for Peranakan cuisine, is both eclectic and familiar. This is especially true with dishes like those featured earlier or other options such as Prawn and Crab Cakes as well as Sea Bass “Kapitan”. It’s a Bol-d move reimagining and giving contemporary twists to classic Malaysian flavours — but one thing’s for sure, the team behind the restaurant knows how to intrigue and arouse curiousity.

Bōl is located on Jalan Sin Chew Kee; opening from 6pm to 10pm on Tuesday to Friday as well as Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to 11pm. For more information, visit Bōl’s Instagram or check out the menu.

(All images of Bōl’s interior by David Yeow and Bōl)

The post Review: 5 dishes to try at Bōl KL helmed by a Noma alumnus appeared first on Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur.