Kuala Lumpur City Centre
Antara Restaurant and Abacus Bar is located in Lorong Raja Chulan, beneath the sky-high Kuala Lumpur Tower. The restaurant has two levels with the Abacus Bar on the top floor has a glass ceiling for admiring the KL Tower. There is restaurant seating on both floors, however, the top floor is the more interesting space with one wall devoted to a multitude of artistic pop art representations of former Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.
For appetisers, the belachan and asam chicken wings are favourites, with the asam providing a mellow profile to the often-overpowering aroma and flavour of belachan. The wild fern salad with salmon caviar and crabmeat is unique and lightly spiced so as not to overpower the seafood.
The dried scallop popiah provides an interactive dining experience as diners roll the popiahs at their table. About 10 ingredients including turnip, beans, shallots, tofu and ground peanuts, are presented in heritage tiffin containers. The dried scallop provides a subtle flavour but with an injection of spice from both chilli and hoisin sauces. The staff get involved explaining the history, ingredients and rolling technique especially for novices.
Sarawak laksa is offered with either marron (a freshwater crustacean from Western Australia) or Boston lobster with the distinctive prawn and chicken broth being less voluminous than in most laksas of the variety to provide a semi-dry style where the rice vermicelli dominates.
A delicious and rich dessert best shared by two is the Pakistani mango pavlova with rich whipped and thickened cream plus candied lime rind. This is wickedly delicious with a perfectly cooked meringue pavlova but very rich from the copious amounts of Chantilly cream.
Try the specialty Abacus Cocktail, a Malaysiana drink comprising pandanus, tuak (rice wine from Borneo) and Cointreau. There is a comprehensive beverage list of alcoholic and non-alcoholic delights and a compact wine list of just over 20 wines. Seven wines by the glass are available including sparkling, red and white table wines and a dessert wine from the Hunter Valley. With this small list the range of options are limited however, there are several wines of interest with the German Riesling by Selbach-Oster being an excellent pairing to several of the dishes. Antara receives accolades for offering wines by the glass from just RM18. There is a premium selection from the chef’s personal cellar that will appeal to those prepared to outlay RM10,560 for a 2000 Chåteau Latour from Pauillac.
Phone reservations are taken professionally and staff await guest arrivals and personally greet their guests by name. An experienced service staff is interested in their guests and the guests should find them interesting too as they are prepared to engage in conversation and guide newcomers through the menu. Some of the dishes need explanation and the staff are prepared to do this with intricate detail. They are proud of the dishes offered and the heritage behind each dish.
Antara’s prices are reasonable considering the downtown location, the quality of the ingredients and the stylish surroundings. There are various menu options from à la carte to two dégustation menus – a standard five-course and a deluxe five-course offering. The first tasting menu is priced at RM150 while the deluxe is RM245 with a choice of mains – either tandoori New Zealand lamb or Boston lobster Sarawak laksa. Entrées on the à la carte menu range from RM18 (cold yoghurt soup) to RM55 (foie gras), mains from RM38 (mee Siam with softshell crab) to RM225 (Boston lobster) and desserts RM22 (black apple marble) to RM36 (alcoholic cendol).
Cranswick wines (Australia) are RM18 by the glass while Saint Clair Pinot Noir (NZ) is RM36 by the glass. Wines by the bottle start from RM90 (Cranswick) and go up to RM260 (Nebbiolo d’Alba).