Eat & Cook located in Kuala Lumpur has recently received the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant 2022’s American Express One To Watch Award, making it historically the first Malaysian restaurant to do so. Serving progressive Malaysian cuisine, we speak to Lee Zhe Xi, one of the chef patrons of Eat & Cook.
Eat & Cook: Progressive Malaysian Restaurant
Eat & Cook is located in Bukit Jalil, lightly outside Kuala Lumpur, a location not usually known for fine dining restaurants. The restaurant is headed by chef patrons Lee Zhe Xi and Soh Yong Zhi, with Steve Lee as Marketing Manager and Harry Lee as Restaurant Director. The restaurant only served a degustation menu, which can come with a wine pairing by Restaurant Sommelier and Manager Agnel Sathiananthan.
Tell us a bit about Eat & Cook.
Every chef has the dream to open a restaurant and the same goes for me. I’ve always wanted to have a restaurant that represent my roots as a Malaysian.
My partner Soh Yong Zhi and I lost our jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. We did not want to wait around so we decided that we would open a restaurant together as quickly as possible. Our first site was in a mall outside the city, where there were no other restaurants. The space was just 300 square foot and we could only hold six diners. As the rent was not very much – just 450 ringgit [$80] per week – we were able to test our ideas to see if they would work. Fortunately, we became popular very quickly. We were able to move to a permanent, bigger, more central site in 2021 where we can now host 30 guests.
The name of our restaurant sums up what we’re about. When you want to EAT, then we are here to COOK for you. So, we are EAT AND COOK. We want our guests to leave their expectations at the door and let themselves be surprised. We believe food presents us with a special opportunity to bond, interact and create memories in a significant way. We want to take you on a deliciously enjoyable journey to places you haven’t been, creating a shared experience with loved ones. We use our best local produce to create our foods and present our guests with a menu consisting of our MALAYSIAN cultures, flavours and memories. This is why we called ourselves an OMAKASE for the local tongue.
What inspired you to open Eat & Cook?
The inspiration came from the uniqueness of Malaysian culture and ingredients. Every chef has the dream to open a restaurant and the same goes for me. I’ve always wanted to have a restaurant that represent my roots as a Malaysian. My partner Soh Yong Zhi and I lost our jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. We did not want to wait around so we decided that we would open a restaurant together as quickly as possible.
Can you share with us your approach and philosophy to your cuisine?
My philosophy is simple, make good food and think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to be creative, as long as there’s good food at the end. Always tell the story behind the creation of a dish to let guests better understand and appreciate the experience they have.
How would you describe progressive Malaysian cuisine?
I would describe progressive Malaysian cuisine as the evolution of cooking methods whilst still representing our traditional Malaysian dishes. It means that the dish will still have the same flavours but we cook it and present it in a more progressive way. Malaysia is very unique. We have multiple cultures and many different traditional cooking cultures so it’s quite a challenge for us to incorporate all of these cultures into one menu.
What is your most known dish and what inspired it?
Chapter 1: The mushroom, a dish that uses local mushrooms cooked with different techniques to create different textures.
Chapter 1: Sambal (a braised herb chilli) béarnaise sauce with grilled sea tiger prawns and prawn head barley risotto.
Chapter 2: Pucuk paku salad (wild ferns salad), with budu cucuk udang (fermented prawn cracker) served with a herb and coconut cloud.
Chapter 2: Crab and tomato, tomato and crab bisque panna cotta, served with a crab meat spring roll, and high land planted sakura tomatoes.
Chapter 2: Cempedak cream cheese ball with Tarik ice cream.
Chapter 3: Asam (tamarind) prawn with flavoured oil and tamarind dressing topped with prawn head coral jus.
Chapter 3: Aged mountain duck, herb braised cold cut duck leg, charred and salted veg puree, duck liver chocolate with peanuts.
Chapter 3: Ciku pie with clotted cream.
Tell us something about Malaysian cuisine that many might not know.
Malaysian cuisine is not only about curries and spices. Malaysian cuisine reflects Malaysia’s multiculturalism. It is a cuisine for Malaysians and is built upon the flavours we grew up with. For me, Malaysian cuisine shows the diverse nature of the country and the many races who identify as Malaysian. We also have access to some of the best produce in the world – the slipper lobsters from Sabah are absolutely delicious.
Tell us something about Eat and Cook that people might not be aware of.
Something people might not be aware of is our emphasis on sourcing the best local produce and the challenges we face when it comes to sourcing. We work so hard to get the ingredients from all around Malaysia so we can turn a spotlight on fresh seasonal ingredients. We developed relationships with market traders and fishermen so that we could be sure we were getting the best-available Malaysian produce. Now I go to the market every night after service so I know I can buy the best products for the restaurant.
The Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant 2022 will be televised live on the 50 Best Facebook Page on 29th March 2020.
For all 50 Best related content, see 50 Best.
Eat & Cook
H-6-1,Pusat Perdagangan Bandar,
Persiaran Jalil 1,
57000 Kuala Lumpur
+603 9765 6898
Tuesdays to Sundays, 5.30 pm to 11.00 pm
Closes on Mondays