As 2012 draws to a close, we begin thinking about and summing up all the different places we've visited over the year. By now, chances are probably low that we'd find another place making it into our top places of 2012. But as the saying goes, it ain't over till the fat lady sings! =D
Just when we thought we'd had enough of pork for the year, in comes Ante Kitchen and Bar, an unassuming restaurant located in the jungle (sorry, we still can't get used to the layout!) that is Publika / Solaris Dutamas.
Recently opened by a group of 6 friends, Ante Kitchen & Bar has so far managed to rise above the crowd with it's better-than-average food, comfortable ambiance and wide range of alcohol and beer available on tap. When we ate here recently, a surprise was in store for me when I found out most of the owners come from my high school! But that's another story. =P
If the food seems familiar, that's because the chef comes from the now-defunct Mayfair English Kitchen & Bar, one of our first few reviews on this blog. We were really sad to see that place go, but at least now we have his cooking at a more convenient location! Fans of Mayfair will find comfort in dishes like the Ante Caesar Salad (RM 18), topped with a sprinkling of minced bacon. Serving as a perfect light start to the meal, we thoroughly enjoyed the fresh romaine leaves and croutons generously swathed in cheese and their special house dressing. We don't think this is a salad for the healthy-eaters, but it is definitely a repeat order on our next visit!
No one can say Ante doesn't have creativity when it comes to names for it's near impossible to guess what the Flying Drunk Squad (RM 12) is all about! Read the fine print though and all is revealed - a bucket of beer-marinated chicken wings!
The wings looked good, the presentation looked good, and it tasted good as well! The skin was perfectly crispy without a hint of fat underneath. The consistent brown hue that is proof of perfect deep frying is made all the more attractive with a sprinkling of pepper. Our only concern is some might find these wings too salty, as it was already bordering on saltiness for us. These wings are also a little on the smallish side.
Calling something as the real deal takes a lot of guts, especially when it implies that there are real ones and fake ones. The Real Bacon Carbonara (RM 26) is certainly a daring name to use, since there so many different versions of carbonara around, and most people would believe cooking is up to individual interpretation.
On the outset, what goes into this carbonara doesn't make it any more "real" than others; generous servings of pasta, pork bacon, juicy mushrooms, and onions are certainly nothing new in a standard carbonara.
But what really sets this carbonara apart from others, and why we think the "Real" name can be justified, is the blending of all the ingredients to create a perfect mix of flavours. Everything is done just right - the sauce is not too watery or thick, creamy with a bold flavour only pork bacon can provide; the onions are perfectly juicy but not too overpowering, nor is the pasta under or overcooked - all of which are common perils faced by the carbonaras in other restaurants. Instead, Ante's version is generous with the ingredients and is an excellent mix of flavours, with the fragrance of pork bacon being gloriously dominant. Wendy has returned to Ante with her family, and each time the carbonara turned out excellent. Honestly, if all this isn't the real deal, we don't know what is. =D
But in the end, the most famous thing at Ante isn't even the carbonara. Instead it's their Up The Ante Pork Burger (RM 35) that really grabs everyone's attention! Upping the ante usually means raising the bar or standard on something, so we were excited to see if Ante really has raised the bar on the widely available pork burger.
At first glance, the Up The Ante Pork Burger certainly seems to be taking the challenge seriously! There's only one patty, but that single patty is a very special patty, well-seasoned and very juicy with just enough meatiness to satisfy. No over-processing of the pork mince here! The only negative point we noted was the egg, which didn't have a runny centre. We certainly hope the chef learns how to perfect the consistency of a sunny side up egg. That would really perfect this burger all around.
But the best thing about the burger isn't the patty or the bacon. Instead, we were both bowled over by the raisin bun that sandwiches the whole burger together. Honestly, I'm not joking when I say it's one of the best innovations we've seen this year as far as burgers are concerned. I'm not a big fan of raisins, but even I have to admit the slightly sweet flavour of the bread is an ingenious addition that gives balance to the savory taste of the burger. Normally, we don't bother finishing the buns, but this was a rare moment where we actually finished the bread. It was a real treat till the last bite. =D
Oh, a special mention must be made or the tea served at Ante too. I did say the place serves alcohol, but their tea is also worth having for a lazy Sunday afternoon. We had Vanilla Sencha (RM 10, pot for two) that afternoon, which is vanilla flavoured green tea with a hint of osmanthus. The price is reasonable, since the staff will gladly refill your pot as many times as you like. We enjoyed it so much that we had to ask for the brand of tea they use (which now I have promptly forgotten). =D
So, Ante has gotten a lot of reviews across the blogosphere by now, with admittedly mixed opinions. But honestly, if you're looking for a new restaurant, somewhere cool and chic to take your friends or impress that date, or if you're just looking for a simple Western meal, Ante will be one of the first names on the tip of our tongue. Give it a try; we promise you won't regret it. =D
*For the full set of tantalizing food pics at Ante, you can visit our Facebook page here!
(one floor down from the escalator near GNC Live Well)
A2-G1-09, Solaris Dutamas
Jalan Dutamas 1, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +6 03 6206 3364
Jalan Dutamas 1, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +6 03 6206 3364
Opening Hours: Daily, 11am-1am