Opium is incredibly photogenic. From its colourful exterior to its opulent interior right down to the food and drinks, everything dances in glee for my camera. I’m talking about Opium, the latest dining and fun place in Changkat Bukit Bintang opened by Werner Kuhn and his team. Yeah, the same Werner Kuhn who set up El Cerdo, Dining in the Dark, The Steakhouse, The Whisky Bar and Black Forest.
With such a catchy name, Opium is attracting the happy party people like ants to honey. Even from the sidewalk, looking at those incredibly paired cyan and fuchsia pink chairs, one can only guess how much more fascinating the interior would be.
True to its name, the dim interior is decked out in billowy flirtatious red drapes cascading down wooden panels and luxuriant wooden chairs and furniture are the order of the day. The walls are plastered in rich wallpapers depicting the opulence of the opium era.
There are numerous paintings on the walls, mostly showing figures reminiscent of the decadent times when opium flourished as a recreational tool. One in particular, catches everyone’s attention: that of a sexy woman draped seductively over an ornate wooden divan with white smokes above her, purportedly from smoking opium.
Various designs of opium pipes
It is under such premise that we sat down for the evening, preparing ourselves for a sumptuous meal in Opium.
But first, we were distracted and amused by the ingeniously-named beverages. Check out their signature cocktails and twisted classics (prices from RM28-RM38) – they have captivating names like Concubine’s Batida, Peking Man, The 50 Year Storm, 5 Fragrance Mojito and Asean Daiquiri. We love how these drinks were served in little ceramic goblets and earthenware bowls together with titbits like fried peanuts!
Asean Daiquiri – spiced rum, calamansi, kaffir lime leaves, assam boi
Concubine’s Batida – cachaca, limejuice, fresh pineapples
Red Lantern Margarita
Peking Man – vodka, pu’er tea, longan, limejuice, eggwhite, orange bitters
5 Fragrance Mojito – rum, lime, mint, 5 spices, soda
For non-alcoholic drinks, we like their Opium Specials (prices RM12-RM15) like Mango Assam Boi and Calamansi Apple Ginger – truly refreshing. Wines, spirits, beers (bottled & draft) are of course all available.
Opium’s “1930s food menu” starts off with snacks and all-day-dining items. Our favourites from this category are the Lamb Patties (RM18), Grilled Chicken Wings (RM15), Satay (beef/chicken RM18), Salt & Chilli Squids (RM15) and Ikan Bilis Fritters (RM12). The Szechuan pepper in the squids gave it that extra zing.
Lamb Patties topped with stringy cheese shavings
Ikan bilis fritters may seem so “kampung” but they were absolutely addictive. Oh, the Lemongrass Sticks (RM12) rock too – deep-fried chicken & squids marinated in spices and wrapped around lemongrass sticks.
Ikan Bilis Fritters – so addictive!
Salt & Chilli Squids
We moved on to some tummy warmers and none could do a better job than the Peppery Lamb Soup (RM18), very similar to the soup kambing in the local mamak restaurants. We paired this with the piquant Fern Leaf Salad (RM24), a delightful toss of fern leaves (pucuk paku), sambal, ginger flower, coconut and lime juice. The salad is flanked by two good-looking succulent giant grilled prawns.
Peppery Lamb Soup
Fern Leaf Salad
Crispy Duck Noodles, Curry Spaghettini and Opium Wanton Noodles (all @ RM28) were all executed and presented quite differently from the norm. The curry spaghettini was creamy and richly spiced with generous toppings of long beans, brinjals, tofu puffs and prawns. Crispy yee mee soaked in a soya sauce-laced gravy with sliced duck breast made up the crispy duck noodles.
Crispy Duck Noodles
The Opium Wanton Noodles were nothing like any regular wantan noodles I’ve ever tasted. What was placed on our table was this bowl filled with crispy deep-fried battered spinach and mushrooms sprinkled with fried shallots. We didn’t quite know what it was until we dug underneath that mountain of crispies and lo and behold, we found stringy wantan noodles tossed with minced chicken. The extreme textures somehow worked well together – slightly chewy noodles and crunchy vegetables! Try it. That’s really a whole new take on wantan noodles.
Opium Wanton Noodles
Currently there are 6 items listed under Main Dishes. They are served in cast-iron pots with sides of mixed vegetables salad and either poppy seed rice or lotus leaf buns. The Wagyu Beef Rendang and Cod Fish in Curry Sauce (both at RM38) were steeped in rich spicy flavours enhanced with coconut milk.
Wagyu Beef Rendang
For something with less heat but no less flavoursome, have the Beef Brisket & Tendon Stew, Braised 5-Spice Duck and Stewed Chin Baung Chicken (all at RM35). Look out for surprise ingredients in the dishes – for example the braised duck has white radish and cranberry juice making the dish edgier than usual.
Beef Brisket & Tendon Stew – love the roasted eringyi mushrooms too
Braised 5-Spice Duck
Chin Baung Chicken
The Chin Baung Chicken is a Burmese speciality and the flavours are unique thanks to the use of kenaf leaves. Slightly bitter and sourish, the kenaf leaves gave the chicken dish a pleasant herbal slant.
Creamy Butter Prawns
Creamy Butter Prawns (RM42) with its heady aroma of spices, coconut milk, butter and curry leaves calls for loads of white rice or better still, soft fluffy buns to mop up every drop of that divine sauce. Yes, a definite order, especially for prawn lovers.
Desserts presently on the menu are Cheesy Banana Fritters (RM18), Sago Gula Melaka (RM15), Melon Ice (RM15) and Opium Ice Glass (RM18). Our favourites are the decadent crispily-fried bananas doused with vanilla ice cream and cheese shavings. Opium Ice Glass is similar to ice kacang but richly enhanced with coconut ice cream, gula melaka and coconut milk.
So there it is… Opium on Changkat, its bright pink and cyan chairs beckoning merrily along that busy street like a provocative courtesan waving her bright handkerchief flirtatiously. It’s a refreshing change, for sure.
Sundays to Thursdays: 4pm – 1am
Fridays to Saturdays: 4pm – 2am