Warung at Nada,
Lama Jamu Spa & Bar,
Tanah Lot 3197,
Jalan Penchala Indah,[mappress mapid=”356″]
Bukit Lanjan,Damansara New Village.
Tel: 016-308 0356/017-616 4924
Business hours: Wednesdays-Mondays,11.00am-11.00pm
In a kampung hideaway, a little warung serves healthy, organic meals.
IN contrast to the few who are born and bred in this city, those who grew up in small towns or villages will always have a slice of kampung-ness embedded in their hearts.
Perhaps, that is why my friend, the Bollywood Diva who never has a strand of hair out of place or a chipped unvarnished nail, managed to find this slice of Malaysiana.
Just last weekend, right in the midst of the bustling behemoth that is Kuala Lumpur, we discovered an authentic Malay kampung, less than five minutes off the Penchala Link. The Bolly Diva (known her uncanny resemblance to Bollywood actresses) whisked me off the highway not 10 minutes from my home for a girls’ overnight spa break.
In this bid to escape husbands (including the Lord Restrain), children (of whom I have none) and pets (mine’s a cat called Beau), we discovered the still-preserved Kampung Penchala. Wooden chalets on stilts with treetops for views, blissful hours-long traditional massages and a delectable array of healthy Indonesian/Malay/Thai food added to the wonder. The Diva, who insists on five-star accommodation even at home, errr … enjoyed watching the chickens run around.
In the late afternoon of the day we arrived, just before our three-hour scrub and massages, we decided to order dinner. At the Nada Lama Organic Spa & Bar, we rather greedily picked our way through the menu, ordering far more than we could eat.
The guy who cooks at the eatery must have thought that we were gluttons, too, for he had only prepared two out of the five dishes we had ordered. But we insisted on the rest, so he went back to the kitchen facing our low table with its scatter cushions and cats – and cooked us more.
We started with Gado Gado Salad (RM10), an Indonesian staple I’ve recently begun to appreciate, especially for its enlivening freshness. It proved more than enough for two to share, filled with chopped cucumbers, carrots, lightly fried tofu, along with boiled potatoes, bean sprouts and long beans.
The garden-fresh vegetables (perfect on their own, too) when dipped into the plentiful peanut sauce made a fitting appetiser. The nutty sauce, being neither too thick nor too spicy, mixed easily with the vegetables when it was poured over them. The tofu was especially moist inside, while crisply cooked on the outside. The long beans, though, were overcooked and fell flat in this otherwise excellent salad.
While we were eating and sipping the chilled Chardonnay we had brought with us, our chef was frying our Nasi Goreng Indonesia (RM8). As the aroma escaped his tiny kitchen to tempt us, the Bolly Diva and I discussed the last time we had been away like this.
“Ten years ago, a few months after 9/11, in New York on assignment together,” the Diva reminded me. How did the time fly?
“Very spicy and delicious,” she announced, taking a spoonful of the warung’s most popular dish. It was one of the best, with chillies adding heat to the palate, tiny chicken chunks, vegetables and fried shallots adding bite. The rice, too, was beautifully cooked, not lumpy or sticky.
“This sambal is the best!” Just as the Diva declared, it was full-bodied and robust. A little like us, really. Compact with ikan bilis and lots and lots of chillies, it was sweetish but not overly so. Just the sauce we needed for every other dish that followed. We did try to wheedle the secret out of the two men serving us. Despite our combined badgering, they laughingly only revealed that a fresh batch was made every day.
Next, our re-ordered Soto Noodle Soup (RM6), another Indonesian favourite, arrived. It looked like a lost laksa. Although the bowl was filled with meehoon, taugeh and shredded chicken, we were a tad disappointed. More used to the clear, turmeric-enhanced and delicately flavoured mee soto, we thought the light coconut gravy tasted like a mix of curry laksa and mee soto. It was still good, but we craved the original.
We also really wanted the Coconut Tempeh but they had run out of it, so instead we ordered the Ayam Penyet (RM10). It came with plain white rice, a raw vegetable salad, crispy thick keropok and that sambal.
What a revelation – neither of us had eaten anything like it before. The Diva claimed the chicken as her favourite meal of the evening. Tender inside, with a crisp, crunchy outer layer, the chicken flavours and meat melted in our mouths. We found out that the piece of chicken is first steamed and marinated in spices like turmeric, ginger and curry powder for a day and then deep-fried. While the meat is still hot, it is smashed and flattened to further release the herbs and spices to infuse into the chicken. If we weren’t so full of food, we would have ordered another piece.
Another superb dish was the starter which we had at the end of the meal! The Lucky Fresh Spring Roll (RM10) was the freshest spring roll ever. The crisp Chinese bean sprouts, meehoon and cabbage were lightly flavoured with salt, pepper and the merest hint of fish paste. There was none of the usual bean and nut paste that can be so overpowering. I did wish, though, that they had served it at the beginning with the salad, as we couldn’t do it justice.
Only one dessert was on offer that night, and they were out of it. But as soon as they made the Mango Yoghurt Cake the next day, we promptly shared a slice (RM10) with our Detox Juices (RM10 each). With a crumbly base, the cake’s texture was smooth and creamy and not sweet at all. However, I did wish they had added more mango. The joyful juice, consisting of apple, pineapple and watermelon, was so refreshing that we thought we’d floated away into the treetops in a second. Don’t think they added anything else to it!
This little warung epitomises the spirit of kampung-ness in the most natural way. Which is why we are already planning our next escape, as the Bolly Diva revealed that she adores Malay food. Do I really know this friend?