China ReimaginedChad Merchant
August 1, 2018
Having lived in Kuala Lumpur for quite a number of years now, I thought I knew all the best places for various cuisines. One amazing restaurant that had until recently flown under my radar, though, is the eponymous Chynna, located in the swanky Hilton Kuala Lumpur in KL Sentral.
We visited for a meal midweek and found the place completely packed. It’s a well-designed and intimate space, so it doesn’t take a huge throng of people to fill it up. Indeed, every table was occupied. And why wouldn’t it be? As we found on our culinary journey of Cantonese cuisine, Chynna rightly takes its place as one of the city’s premier Chinese eateries, bringing a classic menu together with modern preparation techniques.
Before the meal officially commenced, we were served Chynna’s signature welcome tea in dramatic style – best to experience this for yourself rather than to rely on our written account – and settled in for the 11-course Signature Set Menu.
It goes without saying that a full exposition on each of the procession of dishes is beyond the scope of this review, but we’ll hit the highlights, which hit their first peak with the third course. The first two dishes were each excellent, but the third really went beyond our expectations. It looked very unassuming – the first soup of the meal – so we almost didn’t even photograph it. But then we tasted it: a braised lobster soup with Shanghai crab meat, scallions, and ‘vegetarian fin,’ a very welcome substitute for the (happily) increasingly uncommon shark fin. Kudos to Hilton for this, and we can report that the soup didn’t suffer at all for the substitution… it was absolutely delicious.
The next course was really next level: a perfectly deep-fried butter milk prawn with egg flakes and scented curry leaves – this gorgeous and beautifully prepared prawn just knocked our socks off. Another stunning course came later, a wok-seared Hokkaido scallop with tender asparagus, and a marvellous XO Cognac sauce. We were scarcely coming off cloud nine with this dish when the next arrived: tender beef tenderloin cubes with jade kale, curry leaf, cashew nuts, and vegetables. This was served in a very understated black pepper sauce, which surprised us with its delicately nuanced flavour, quite unlike the pepper bomb you might expect from the typical sauce served in Malaysian restaurants.
Still, the courses kept coming, many of the dishes festooned with outrageously detailed ‘plate art’ from the talented chefs in Chynna’s kitchen. Sometimes, elaborate and beautiful presentations serve to obscure an inferior product, but that was definitely not the case here. Every dish we had was top-notch, and not a single one disappointed. The last two courses saw a Japanese somen noodle soup – replete with preserved bean silk and miso broth – followed by a dessert of stunning beauty and elegance, featuring a black sesame custard ball complemented by a blended avocado milk treat.
The Signature Set menu is served with a generous glass of house pouring wine of your choice and a free flow of Chinese tea. The set, which must be ordered a couple of days in advance, is RM338 nett per person, and numerous other set menus and à la carte choices are available. Chynna is not a budget dining option, clearly, but it is nevertheless highly recommended.
Location & Details
Address: Hilton Kuala Lumpur, Level 5, 3 Jalan Stesen Sentral, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hours: Lunch: Weekdays 12pm – 2.30pm; Weekends 11am – 2.30pm, Dinner: 6.30pm – 10.30pm
Tel: +603 2264 2596
Find: View directory for Chynna here