August 9th, 2022
The Prep Room: 2018 Menu
This review is brought to you in part by The Prep Room.
The last time we visited The Prep Room this year, we chatted with the cafe’s founding couple, Kuan Ling and Zaki, about the triumphs and trials of running a restaurant. It was a conversation with no shortage of insights; we then realised it’s also time to check out their current menu, the summation of more than two years of constant improvements. If you’re looking for a restaurant that makes an effort to offer customers something special, without fuss or fanfare, this is it.
Kuan Ling is the kitchen mastermind, brainstorming interesting new recipes wherever she can, even while driving through KL’s traffic. Her husband Zaki is the on-ground general, taking charge of the restaurant during its operating hours. Together, they ensure that every dish is prepared with genuine care and extra attention to detail – even the salads, which might be an afterthought at some other venues. The Prep Room has a couple of Asian-inflected salads that bring a punch to fresh vegetables – the Tok Wan Salad is irresistible with lots of tasty belacan chicken skin that contrasts nicely with the carrots and cucumbers, while the Thai Larb Kai comes with chicken breast meat that’s minced on order in the kitchen, ensuring the flavour remains fresh, with a little uplift from some lemongrass. For RM10 each, these are both excellent starters, with plenty of nuanced dynamics.
All things pasta
Much of the menu comprises canny minglings of Western and Eastern inspirations, based on Kuan Ling and Zaki’s own personal experiences. The Rajdamri Pasta (RM 19.50) is named after the residence where they stayed while working in Bangkok earlier this decade, and it does taste like the best sort of Asian pasta – linguine with prawns and Aussie beef, balanced harmoniously by caramelised nutmeg, lime leaves and ginger. The Spicy Thai Spaghetti (RM 18.50) is the seafood pasta best-seller, based on the Thai phad khi mao (literally ‘drunken noodles’). While it has no alcohol content to speak of, it does have an edginess, thanks to green peppers and basil imported from Thailand, ramping up the spices and heat.
If you do enjoy alcohol-infused pasta, the top temptation is the Shaolin Pasta (RM 22.50), linguine slow-cooked in a Chinese wine blend that’s prepped by Kuan Ling herself to extract maximum sweetness, completed with more seafood and a 63-degree egg. The type of soul-warming fare for a cold evening, as you listen to the rain trickle outside. In a landscape that’s flooded with carbonaras and bologneses in two out of every three cafes, it’s really nice to have a place like The Prep Room where true thought is poured into creating distinctive, delicious pastas.
Even at first glance, it’s clear that even The Prep Room’s All Day Brekkie (RM 22.50) is not your conventional Big Breakfast. Instead of a simple sausage, there’s a choice of chicken or beef lor bak (Kuan Ling’s family is originally from Penang). For the egg, there’s a Thai-style omelette spiked with cha om (acacia leaves). The quartet of temptations is rounded out by stuffed bell pepper and baked beans blanketing The Prep Room’s wholemeal bread through an 18-hour-long fermentation process that also informs the cafe’s sandwich selection. The next time you’re looking for brunch, try this one, which successfully infuses a Southeast Asian touch to the modern cafe’s morning meal. A pleasant surprise also awaits customers who order the Honey Mustard Chicken (RM 17.50), coated with Nestum cereal before being deep-fried, for a crisp, gentle sweetness that complements the meat.
The Prep Room is as meticulously imaginative when it comes to dessert. The Yeasted Waffles (RM 15) yield a mini-tower of five-hour fermented waffles, crispier than the norm, with a steadfast bite that won’t turn soggy easily, even when smothered with dark chocolate sauce with mildly bitter notes. The Nut-coholic (RM 17) is made sensational with a base of raisins that are soaked for more than three months in Bacardi rum; turned plump, they’re layered with house-made peanut butter, double-whipped cream, cream cheese, chocolate shavings and wafers. Each mouthful bears rich, clear complexities – it’s a dessert to devour.
Wash down your meal with the Orange Summer (RM 8) or the Dark Couverture Chocolate (RM 14 for cold), made with 75 percent dark chocolate. All in all, it’s easy to see why The Prep Room has cultivated regulars who really respect its efforts; this is a cafe with charm and character. Even the artwork on its walls and ceiling are hand-drawn by Zaki; if he’s not too busy, he’ll happily chat with you if you’re up for a few minutes of warm conversation. Many thanks to The Prep Room for having us.
Location & Details
Address: 5, Jalan Sri Hartamas 7, Taman Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Hours: Weekdays, 1130am-930pm; weekends, 830am-930pm.
Find: View directory for The Prep Room here.