Bijan - a name synonymous with refined Malay dining in Kuala Lumpur, has been established since 2003. They can be considered as the pioneer in this cuisine segment. Not to be mistaken for “fine dining”, at Bijan, their service philosophy lies in marrying traditional recipes with modern ingredients to create a total dining experience for the modern Malaysian.
Newly renovated and expanded, Bijan now boasts a more spacious dining area, a whole new bar and reception area. A warm rustic theme runs throughout the restaurant, from the dark wooden beams, verandah blinds, furniture, batik hangings – all these give it an intimate feel of being in a traditional malay dwelling… cosy and romantically charming.
Did I say “romantically charming”? Yes, why not? One can have an absolutely romantic meal here and it’s about time people stop associating “romantic dining” with mostly western restaurants. The warm cosy ambience in Bijan certainly promotes a dining experience which is not only romantic, but “cool” and “sexy” too.
With the renovation, new items have been formulated on the menu. From the Appetizers section, there are the Acar Tofu… a vegetarian dish of deep-fried marinated tofu topped with a spicy and tangy pickled vegetables sauce. I like how the pieces of tofu were served skewered – it made for easy handling and eating!
The Cucur Bijan did not disappoint – crispily fried vegetable fritters of tofu, sweet potato and tempe matchsticks with bean sprouts and spring onions and served with Bijan’s homemade chilli sauce. Vegetarians would welcome this!
The Opor Rusuk is clearly my favourite. It’s a to-die-for plate of prime beef ribs slow-cooked in a thick gravy of aromatic spices, toasted coconut, palm sugar and coconut milk. The beef’s mouthwateringly tender and due to the slow-cooking, every nuance and flavour of the spices, coconut and palm sugar had been infused into the meat. I could have polished off the entire plate – it’s so addictive, if not for the other dishes that were piling onto our table.
Ayam Masak Kuzi … a touch of Middle-Eastern influence – tender chicken pieces with spices, fresh tomatoes, raisins cooked in coconut milk, further enriched with crushed almonds in the gravy and toasted slices sprinkled on top.
I love the Rendang Itik Bijan…
This has long been a signature dish at Bijan… but this time round, their chef has given it a new twist, I was told. A new and improved version certainly. A whole golden thigh of duck stood proudly on the plate, anchored firmly in the thick tasty rendang sauce. Biting through the crispy skin, the duck thigh’s amazingly tender and flavourful, having been marinated with herbs and spices.
From the Seafood section, we tried the Ikan Bawal Serkam. Serkam, elaborated Chef Zulkifli, happens to be a place in Melaka famous for its seafood, hence the chosen name. Baked in banana leaves, the medium-sized black pomfret was fresh and the aromas of the spices enhanced by the banana leaves wafted up to our nostrils even before we took a bite. This would go so well with rice… lots of it!
Accompanying the mains, we also had Kerabu Nangka which is a roasted young jackfruit salad with a spicy and tangy coconut milk and herbs dressing. Crisp slices of bombay onions were also tossed in with hints of lemongrass and pounded dried shrimps. All these had kinda overwhelmed the natural distinctive aroma of the jackfruit as I could hardly discern any of that in this salad.
Rice is Nice – and Bijan totally rocks this with their Nasi Ulam (white rice tossed with dried shrimps, salted fish, anchovies, belacan, herbs and spices) and Nasi Goreng Kunyit (fried rice with chicken, prawns, sambal tumis and turmeric leaves, served with fish crackers and fried chicken). I couldn’t decide which was better – both were awesomely good and can be eaten on their own. Imagine, we had all those other delicious mains and appetizers on the table, yet we couldn’t stop eating these 2 rice dishes! You rice lovers there – rejoice and order these!
The above are just some of Bijan’s signature dishes and Bijan’s philosophy has always been to marry the modern with the traditional and they have done this beautifully. It is about using techniques and ingredients that are not traditionally associated with Malay food – good examples are the Opor Rusuk and Rendang Itik. The flavours are old and familiar, yet they are new and exciting, from they way they taste to the plating and presentation.
Now, when it comes to desserts, Bijan does take a deeper plunge in the creativity department. Bijan’s owner, Lissa Yeoh, is responsible for all of Bijan’s signature desserts – pandan pudding, durian cheesecake, homemade icecream in local flavours and chocolate durian cake, just to name a few. Their Corn Creme Brulee is given a local twist … a classic French dessert with fresh corn!
Then, there’s the latest cake, created by Lissa – quirkily named “Beach Holiday Cake“, inspired by a family vacation in Redang. It’s a delicious cake of soft pandan sponge layers, spread with butter cream, mango compote and decorated with toasted coconut. Mango, pandan and coconut combination – yes, those certainly evoke images of some beach frolicking escapades!
My favourite is their classic Chocolate Durian Cake … it is really to-die-for! OMG, even now, looking at that photo, makes me want to reach out and indulge in this absolutely divine piece of chocholatey durianey dessert. Only top grade durians are used and the piece that I had, I could taste the premium bittersweet creamy pulp of D24 cocooned inside soft velvety dark chocolate layers – bliss!
Besides the owners’ very hands-on contribution in creating Bijan’s menu and new dishes, the chef helming the kitchen is none other than Chef Zulkifli Razali, whose skills were first learned from his grandmother and perfecting his techniques by constantly experimenting and improvising.
I can’t wait to return to Bijan… not only to satisfy my cravings for their divine Durian Chocolate Cake and Opor Rusuk and Nasi Ulam… but also to try their other dishes on the menu. With such accolades and awards (Best Malay Restaurant 2004) and being found in Malaysia Tatler’s Top 100 Restaurants, The Lonely Planet Guide to Malaysia and the Miele Guide, just to name a few, you can be sure that the team there has ensured that every dish is given great attention and care to preserve the traditional tastes and flavours of Malay cuisine, yet can be enjoyed in a modern and cosy setting.
Bijan Bar & Restaurant
3 Jalan Ceylon
50200 Kuala Lumpur