MENTION Bangsar to any Klang Valley resident and the Telawi area immediately springs to mind, if not the iconic BSC (formerly Bangsar Shopping Centre) sitting atop of Bukit Bandaraya.
Both these offer a myriad of gastronomic choices for the slightly better-heeled, if not for the more homely offerings in Lucky Garden. However, a little haven exists in Jalan Bangkung for those who take the time to locate it.
Nestled in the middle of Bukit Bandaraya’s established and homey residential area, “Bangkung Row” (as it is starting to be popularly known) is home to Opus Bistro, Leonardo’s, D’Ceilo and Cava among others.
Right smack in the centre of these is Four Seas, a contemporary Chinese cuisine offering from the same group behind Opus, Cava, and Leonardo’s.
Compared to the rest, Four Seas is a bit of an enigma. Not only is it the farthest departure from the rest of its western culinary brothers, it also started out its life two years ago as a seafood grill without a hint of its current Chinese heritage.
According to Peter Yew, “Chief Eating Officer” of the group, management felt that the change was necessary to fill in a gap left by the others in the chain. And as such, Four Seas was reborn with Chef Ong at the helm.
A glance at their menu will hint at Ong’s expertise. His training include all major regional types of Chinese cuisine including Cantonese, Sichuan, and Shandong, and a poster on the outside boasts that Ong can customise or even create dishes upon request or special order.
It was with this build-up of anticipation and expectation that we sat down to a menu of six courses including dessert that had been personally selected by the chef as a tour de force of his culinary skills.
The first item that had us smacking our lips at the very sight was the Aromatic Smoked Duck Breast with Black Pepper Coulis Served with Fruit Salad. And the first bite did not disappoint – smoky savoury flavours were in abundance with a slight but shrill mustard tanginess.
The meat was so tender it almost seemed it was about to melt in our mouths. In the brilliance of the main dish, the black pepper coulis and fruit salad were purely incidental, and there was no doubt that Ong’s additional work on their stock from French smokehouses made all the difference.
Next, we had a go at something vegetarian with the Salt and Pepper Eggplant and Enoki Mushrooms, which were akin to what you would find among Japanese tempura dishes.
In fact, it came across as almost the same, save for the very judicious use of salt and pepper in balanced proportions. There was a sprinkling of fine garlic flakes as in the previous dish, but it did not quite seem to justify its price which was surprisingly a couple of Ringgit more than the duck breast.
Our third course was the Wuxi-style Braised Spare Ribs – Ong’s signature dish. Ong selects excellent cuts of the meat which has equal proportions of lean meat and fat for flavour, and the result of the masterful stewing and slight pineapple flavours is a dish that once again, melts in your mouth.
We were told that the pork was locally-sourced to ensure its absolute freshness, and indeed we did not detect any pungency which is sometimes common to imported (but days-old) pork. It was simply divine with the fried mantou that comes de rigueur with a dish like this.
It is perhaps worth mentioning that the Wuxi-style Braised Spare Ribs were selected as one of the main dishes in a Chef’s Table-styled corporate gathering recently which brought specialties from four different chefs together. We heartily second the choice.
Straight on the heels of the pork dish were the Wasabi Mayonnaise Crispy Deep Fried Prawns. Non-fans of either wasabi or mayonnaise can rejoice: we somehow failed to detect any of each. This left us very puzzled after the first bite, but it was the same for each portion, where garlic seemed to be the more prominent flavour.
This was the most ordinary dish on the menu that we had so far, and although the prawns were undoubtedly very fresh and sizeable, maybe a renaming would be closer to the truth.
We were also eagerly looking forward to the next dish – the Four Seas Sang Har Noodles. As a classic dish which is easy to serve but difficult to do well, it came presented in an appetising portion charged per freshwater prawn, which is sourced from Indonesia. This experience was also a mixed bag.
The prawn was huge and no doubt succulent, but the grilling of it left it more on the dry and tough side rather than being juicy and flavourful. It was no easy feat to enjoy it with only a fork and knife.
On the other hand, the wonderful flavours from the prawn heads had created one of the best-tasting yee mee preparations I ever had. Of the noodles, I had a second helping.
Throughout the whole course we enjoyed a glass of New Zealand Pinot Noir which was meant to accompany the smoked duck but also did wonderfully with the Wuxi-style Braised Ribs and the Sang Har Noodles.
End the experience with a delightfully Thai-styled Chilled Lemongrass Mixed Jelly (our final course and dessert), and you will have covered the spectrum of Oriental flavours in less than an hour.
With prices that range from RM28 for the entrée-style smoked duck breast to RM42 for the fried prawns, expect most dishes to average in between unless something special from the seafood department is involved.
Lunch specials are also available for the corporate types who want to treat themselves to something special beyond Bangsar’s beaten track.
The Good: The smoked duck breast and Wuxi-style braised spare ribs are to die for. No doubt similar meat dishes will receive the same treatment.
The Bad: Even while touted as a seafood place, the seafood dishes fall slightly short of expectations.
The Sound Advice: We know it has live fish tanks and stuff, but try the non-seafood dishes, which are pretty spectacular. Where possible, pair everything with their recommended wines.