De.Wan to rule them all

Chef Wan’s De.Wan 1958 sets the bar for Malay fine dining in KL

by HAZATUL SYIMA HARON / pic by De.Wan 1958 Facebook & HAZATUL SYIMA HARON

I DON’T remember how I ended up eating at De.Wan 1958 by Chef Wan at The LINC KL that first time.

I think I was looking for ikan bakar in the heart of Kuala Lumpur (KL), but somewhere a bit upmarket to treat my parents to a nice lunch, and somehow ended up reading something about Chef Wan online and decided to chance it.

We waited almost 30 minutes to get a table. The cheerful yet exquisite restaurant had literally just opened a few days earlier in April, and there we were waiting among the stylish who’s who in high society and influential business leaders.

I remembered asking Chef Wan to put more chairs for those waiting as my mom was feeling the wait due to her arthritis and him bluntly asking a young lady to give up the only seat outside for my mom.

We were finally seated at the long table, sitting in the middle and sharing with two groups of four. Both groups ordered like at least 10 dishes, but dad told me not to go overboard.

I asked for Gulai Lemak Udang Nenas Nyonya Style, one of my favourite dish, my mom ordered her perennial favourite Sup Ekor and dad settled for his usual Ikan Siakap Bakar with our picks of Chef Wan’s specially made dipping sauces — Sos Air Asam, Sambal Hijau and Sambal Kicap Pedas.

We also ordered Tahu Goreng Istimewa as an appetiser. Unfortunately, they were out of our favourite Cucur Udang.

When the Basmathi rice came, we got to choose from three options: Fluffy white rice, Nasi Telur Terengganu or Nasi Kunyit. Mine and dad’s favourite: The super appetising Nasi Telur Terengganu.

Though everything was delicious, the best dish that day to us was the Gulai Lemak Udang.

It was so creamy, yet spicy with fresh prawns, that my mom ditched her Sup Ekor and was battling me for every single spoonful. (Of course, I let her win!)

Then, there was the fresh Ikan Siakap Bakar that was grilled to perfection. It was moist still, almost flaky and melting in the mouth. Dad, with his partial denture, certainly enjoyed that.

Now, the Sup Ekor, despite being abandoned by mom, was actually juicy and tender, bursting with flavours. Dad ended up finishing it as mom was obsessed with the prawns.

The parents were happy and said: “Put this on the list of restaurants to frequent again.”

The writer’s mom and dad say waiting for lunch at De.Wan 1958 was worth it

Berbuka Buffet

Fast forward a few weeks to the month of Ramadhan and my best friend from high school asked me out for breaking fast and told me to choose the venue.

I was by then a devoted follower of Chef Wan’s Instagram — entertained by his frank, self-deprecating wit of looking at things — and saw De.Wan 1958 offering buffet Berbuka Puasa.

So, we went one night, sharing a big table with five others (the restaurant was filled to the brim every night apparently) and looking forward to the good food. We were not disappointed.

My friend, a connoisseur when it comes to Malay fine dining, was more than pleased. In fact, both of us stayed till it was almost time to close.

Now, the buffet was not cheap, like any other posh buffet Berbuka Puasa in KL. But it was certainly worth every sen spent.

I’m not a fan of desserts, especially sweet things. But, my dear friend made me try a teaspoonful of Chef Wan’s famous Bubur Som Som in a shot glass. Let me tell you, if you ever visit the restaurant, please have this if you can.

It was deliciously soft and silky, not too sweet and just perfect. I probably had like three shots of this, yes me, Miss I Don’t Take Sugar Much.

The buffet had a few choices of rice. I immediately went for my favourite Nasi Telur Terengganu, but couldn’t resist a few spoonfuls of the Nasi Kerabu. While the former is still a favourite, but that Nasi Kerabu was the best I’ve ever had in KL. It had generous amounts of herbs and salted egg, that it was delectable eaten on its own.

There were so many dishes that were oh, so good at the buffet. I would say 10% of the dishes were so-so, 50% of them were good and the remaining 40% were spectacular.

(No, Chef Wan didn’t pay me to write this. And yes, I’ve influenced my small circle of close friends and family to experience De.Wan 1958 and they have nothing but good things to say about Chef Wan’s labour of love.)

Among the dishes forever in my heart: Grilled Prawns, so fresh, the waiting line was long; Cik Aini’s Mee Rebus, the gravy so scrumptilicious that I would have licked the bowl if I wasn’t in such a fancy place; the juicy Ikan Jenahak Bakar, so fresh and tasty it seemed like the fish just jumped out of the sea; and the Laksa Johor, oh my, if only I had brought my Tupperware.

Next year, I’ll be saving my sen and ringgit to Berbuka Puasa at De.Wan 1958 again. This time, hopefully, I’ll bring my parents. I’ll maintain my status as favourite child for sure 😉

The writer’s mom’s favourite Gulai Lemak Udang

Tea Time

Two weeks ago, another bestie of mine called and said “Hey, let’s go for tea somewhere”. My niece, who was back from college, tagged along as she knows her Maksu equals good food.

So, we met up at De.Wan 1958 (yes here again, maybe they should introduce a loyalty card) for tea that Friday. The menu was limited, but the enjoyment was immense.

I had the deliciously thick and fragrant Cik Aini’s Mee Rebus and my friend had the Bubur Som Som. The revelation here is the Nyonya Curry Laksa Bibik Neo ordered by my niece.

Now, my niece is a petite, slim girl who usually won’t be able to finish her food, especially if it’s a big portion. That day, she practically hogged the Nyonya Curry Laksa to herself and left just the last few spoonfuls for me to try. I’m a huge fan of curry laksa and will usually order this at most restaurants that have it on the menu. But the one we had at De.Wan, I wouldn’t share it too, so luscious and creamy yet spicy enough that you’ll keep eating it till the last drop.

Oh, and my niece complained that my bestie also failed to share the exquisite Bubur Som Som. Mind you, it was a small portion. I would have inhaled it in a few seconds. Oh, I finally had the Cucur Udang. We shared and took some home because we were too full.

It was crunchy and tasty, but slightly greasy in my opinion.

The lady who waited on us during Tea Time said De.Wan 1958 would be changing its menu next week.

Who shall I ask to join me for lunch? Let me see…