Damansara City, Damansara Heights
Technically this is not a ‘Travel Anecdote’ but rather more of a local anecdote. I am proud to say that my neck of the woods has made it to Lonely Planet’s World’s Top 10 Neighbourhoods (though we share the same list with Tooting of South London so am not sure how glamorous this list really is). We’ve made a base here since 2015, and I categorically became a local this year. I love that it is quiet and ‘village-ey’ but at the same time close to all the necessary facilities. The new kid on the block is the Damansara City complex which is a development comprising of office towers, an F&B ‘mall’ and a 5 Star Hotel (Sofitel).
Since taking on a work from home project this year, I’ve been hanging around some of the restaurants in this complex as a way to work close to home but also still feel somehow connected to society (and not just the walls of my home ‘office’). This year, the following 3 dining spots have kept me cozy while I hammered on the laptop and chewed on their offerings.
From the guys that brought you the super-trendy Huckleberry Cafe in Bukit Damansara, Birch is yet another notch up in the category of instgrammable hip-luxury eateries. It describes itself as ‘inspired by the laid-back cool and bustling eating houses and bars in West Hollywood’ with an Asian-Western fusion menu to dazzle its patrons. My to go for dish is the Japanese Miso Porridge – it’s a combination of all my favourite comfort food lumped in one bowl – porridge check, miso soup check, seafood check. They don’t scrimp on the seafood by the way, and the salmon chunks always feel so meaty and satisfying. If I start my working day at 10 am, I have this as my brunch on the side, followed by their watermelon and basil fizzy drink. Since opening its doors to the public, Birch has been super-crowded by the high end crowd and I’ve never actually been able to get a seat in the morning without a reservation. So it would be wise to do an online booking before dropping in.
I come here a lot and also order loads of home deliveries. I actually find that it’s one of those health conscious restaurants that really knows how to make tasty dishes while using substitute ingredients. For instance, the Nasi Lemak (Traditionally a Malay dish made of coconut rice, anchovies, eggs and a gorgeous meat based sambal) uses oatmeal as a substitute to rice. The vegetables include Shimuji mushrooms which are caramelised so well. It’s supposed to be about 400+ calories which is pretty wonderful given that an ordinary Nasi Lemak racks up more than 1000 calories.
They also have this Naked Bowl Salmon Paprika which is absolutely delightful. Cauliflower rice, succulent salmon, beetroot and sweetcorn – you can actually mix and match the vegetables and salad dressing to your preference but this is my usual choice. If I come to the cafe about 10 in the morning and have a Nasi Lemak breakfast, I will then order some desert (all honey and not sugar based) and work till lunch time. The ambiance is practical and not super comfy (basic chair and table ensemble) but it works for me in terms of delicious healthy food and not too cozy I lose my concentration.
I’d been eyeing I Love Pho for awhile before I finally decided to give it a go. I feel you need the right mood for this kind of dish. Soupy, veggie, Asian-ie. It’s comfort food again but a super light one. I would say that it ‘did it’s job’ which was to fill my tummy. It was neither too heavy nor too light, and didn’t go wrong taste-wise. I wouldn’t however say it rocked my world in any measure. Not being too familiar with pho in general, I can’t quite determine whether it’s 3 star rating from me is owing to this lack of familiarity or because the pho here is decidedly mediocre.
Ambiance wise, it’s located in the Ground Floor (beneath Birch) and inside Ben’s Independent Grocer (my favourite grocery store in town, though only frequent it when I’m feeling a bit heftier wallet-wise – I’m addicted to the Moroccan sausages in their deli). The ‘food canteen’ of B.I.G comprises of a few different cafes and you pretty much order from one of the kitchens and dine within the B.I.G space. From time to time I also set up my laptop and try to unleash some creativity here. It’s sort of hidden, you feel you can blend into the walls, people usually come for grocery shopping and the only time it’s crowded is during the working lunch hours. Definitely not a showy place (a convenient rendezvous particularly if you just want a quick gossip with a friend and not a major meal show).
Damansara City Mall pitched itself as a Food and Beverage outfit to cater for all the office employees surrounding the area. It is more on the upmarket side – local fare are in a restaurant setting and there are also a collection of high end fine dining offerings such as Nero Nero (Italian), Erawan (Thai) and Royal Canton (Chinese). The ambiance of the place gets a cool factor on Friday nights and Saturday brunches and nights but for the rest of the week it’s mainly the office crowd. For me it’s a neighbourhood mall but for those not in this territorial radius, I would recommend Birch for the novelty menu and ambiance, and Ours Recipe for it’s delicious but healthy options as restaurants worth traveling to the area for.