Monday, August 23, 2010

Food With A View - By TAN BEE HONG

Oriental chicken salad

Mee mamak with all the trimmings

Lamb pizza with chopped capsicum and black olives

Haven combo special

Deepfried whole spring chicken

It really is a Haven of sorts. The newest restaurant at Look Out Point in Ampang offers more than just good food and great ambience, writes TAN BEE HONG.

HONESTLY, I seldom wander into this part of Ampang in Kuala Lumpur. Thankfully, the map provided is quite clear. I am to turn off Jalan Ampang at the Carrefour junction traffic lights and after 2kms, I turn left and drive on an uphill road that seem to lead to wilderness.

I am just beginning to wonder if I'm terribly lost when I see it -- the gateway that reads Pusat Pelancongan Menara Tinjau -- 3.4kms from the main road. Entrance fee is RM2 for each car and you can stop here or drive on a short distance uphill to where more restaurants are located.

My destination is Haven, which opened barely a year ago. Parking space, shared by all the restaurants, is rather limited, so do come early if you're planning to dine here. We arrive at 6.20pm and though there's enough light to still see the city spread out before us against the setting sun, a light haze hampered the view somewhat.

Haven is open daily from 11am to 2am, so you can come at anytime and hopefully, grab a balcony seat for a better view. Haven has two levels, so you can skip down a short staircase for more balcony seats.

We sip an orange fizz (RM4), a fruit cocktail (RM9) and a chocolate-strawberry blended (RM8) while perusing the menu and enjoying the cool breeze. By the time we decide what to order, dusk has settled and the city begins to light up like a thousand flickering fireflies.

For a few silent minutes, we're all bonding on a highly-charged emo level.

"There's so much energy all around," says Anantharaj Appanan, one of the partners. Manager Thelis Appanan nods in agreement. "Yes, that was one of the things that moved us to open Haven. We simply love it here."

Another partner, Yohani Yusof, feels it's a great place for friends to meet up and be close to Nature. "We've had about 10 marriage proposals we helped to arrange. This place is that inspiring."

Unfortunately, even if the girl says "yes" you cannot celebrate with champagne, wine or a martini. Anything alcoholic is strictly forbidden at all the restaurants here and you're not even allowed to bring a can of beer. Pity as there's nothing I'd love more than to share a bottle of wine with good friends, while enjoying the view.

Though the view is what customers come for, the food is what brings them back again and again. Offering western food, local cuisine and Middle-Eastern fare, Haven proves very affordable. We start with an Oriental Salad (RM10) -- with chunks of tender, spicy chicken, a peanut dressing and the tantalising aroma of ginger flower (bunga kantan). We're also sharing a Haven Combo Special (RM26), with breaded and fried fish, squid and prawns as well as chicken fillet rolls stuffed with melted cheese.

These prove so good we decide we'd share everything else. The Mamak Mee Special (RM11) is a treat. Fried exactly how I like it, the noodles come with chicken, big shrimps and squid, with the right touch of spiciness. Fighting for equal attention is a tangy Tom Yam Fried Rice With Shrimp (RM12). It's got chunks of chicken and vegetables, a fried egg, pickled salad and keropok on the side.

There are lots of other Asian choices too, from char kway teow and Cantonese fried noodles to nasi lemak and special menus for vegetarians and kids.

If you like Western cuisine, pasta and pizza head the list though you may want to consider the Spring Chicken (RM20) with fries. The deepfried whole chicken is well marinated, with a scent of basil, and served with a spicy and creamy mushroom sauce. You can ask for peri-peri sauce too but the mushroom sauce is highly recommended. There's lamb chop and shank, chicken chop, burger, sandwiches, grilled fish and steak too.

Pasta is a firm favourite with sauces ranging from bolognaise to creamy alfredo and pesto. We're having Fettucine Seafood Marinara (RM15), with mussels, squid, prawns and vegetables like capsicum and broccoli. The sauce has just the right tangy zing bursting with tomato taste.

Pizza is the thin-crust variety, with various toppings available. I prefer the Haven Lamb Pizza (RM30) to the Hawaiian Chicken (RM28). The lamb comes in little pieces and there's mushroom, chopped capsicum and sliced black olives with lots and lots of cheese. Yummy!

"We get Middle-Eastern tourists, so we do offer Middle-Eastern fare like biryani and shawarma," says Thelis. The biryani is offered with lamb shank, mutton gravy, salad and a spicy tomato sauce.

Not only that but you can also enjoy a quiet smoke of the shisha pipe (from RM15) while soaking in the natural ambience. Now if only I can open a bottle of bubbly...

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