Sitka Eatinghouse & Wine Bar is sassy and we love it. A collection of wines boastfully greet you as you step inside, taking in the glowing golden lights, foliage to break the monotony of black and white ceramic tiles, and executives in sleek suits pouring in after hours. It’s urbane ambiance also has the Jalan Batai address where cafes like Yellow Brick Road and upscale Ben’s Independent Grocer make it, well, cool. Think of Sitka as the polished but chaotic, classy yet unpretentious character with a growing following of fans. So you, executive-in-sleek-suite or not, dining fashionably here? That’s cooler than cool.
The restaurant has been around since 2014 when it began making the lists of our city’s best food haunts. Chef Christian Recomio and co-owner Jenifer Kuah are behind it all, especially passionate about Sitka’s fresh ingredients philosophy. What’s new this time around (along with a little sprucing up of the decor) is a menu carefully thought out to showcase their new appointed head chef, Karlyn Teo. She’s been with the restaurant for three years as sous chef and famously bakes the addictive sourdough bread served at Sitka, Sitka Studio upstairs, and Alta, another feather in the team’s cap.
This new menu is in a word, punchy. Tangy flavours are brought front and centre by ingredients sustainably sourced locally and regionally, such as indigenous herbs, artisanal soy cans and line-caught fish from the South China Sea. The dishes are inspired by sharing plates at wine bars from the owners’ and chefs’ favourites cities around the world. We thought it to be unusual, but delightfully so. Ingredients meet each other in the unlikeliest of elements. Imagine whipping up everything a drunk snack with what little you have in your kitchen, except it turns out you’re an amateur Masterchef.
So it begins with a selection of appetisers: first, the Foie Dumpling Confit Duck with stone fruit. What is stone fruit, you ask? Plum, apricot or peach in the form of minuscule rocks for that added crunch. The dumplings are chock full of tender duck meat, and bathed in a butter reduction with a strong introduction to the vinegar and tanginess that follows throughout the meal. The Meat Bun is another delight with man-tao like bread cushioning a patty of soy braised lamb, elevated in taste with smoky yogurt. Our favourite of the appetisers had to be the Unagi Cracker where crispy nori slices sandwich a slice of torched eel.
The next trio of dishes are also charming in bite sizes and perfect for sharing (if you want to, that is). The Tuna Tataki is topped with slices of pickled plum and dipped generously in citrus-based ponzu sauce. A dish to look forward to even more is the Wagyu Carpaccio marinated with pickled togarashi (a Japanese spice blend); seaweed and lemon squeeze. The beef slices as Wagyu should, melts like butter with every bite. While we’re on the fence with tomatoes in general, Momotaro tomatoes could just sway us for the better. Locally grown, these Japanese hybrid tomatoes are bigger, juicy and meatier than regular plain ol’ tomatoes. In this dish they’re cooked with ginger and served with whipped tofu puree blended with milk.
Enter the mains, starting with the Truffle Fried Rice. Although not a dish to particularly shout about, it does pack a ton of flavour with truffle, pickled shimeiji mushrooms, yeast flakes, fried garlic and juicy bites of ikura. The final main is the Green Miso Salmon; served on an overpowering bed of onion slivers and coriander with a squeeze of lime. While the salmon is slightly sweet and perfectly cooked, the salad might be a bit much for anyone with onion/coriander aversions (or on a date, if you catch our drift).
The meal picks up again at the dessert course; Coconut Sorbet. With pandan syrup and cocoa crumble, it’s the little things that count, which in this instance is the sea salt to give the sweetness a subtle contrast. If you need a glass (or nine) to go with your meal, Sitka has the biggest collection of natural, organic and biodynamic wines right here in the country. And with this multi-course dinner priced at just MYR120++, a couple of glasses are practically celebratory.