Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Haven above - By INTAN MAIZURA AHMAD KAMAL

A favourite is the Lamb Shank Biryani

Dining at Haven Restaurant really does make you feel on top of the world, writes INTAN MAIZURA AHMAD KAMAL

THE winding road into what seemed to be nothingness is starting to unsettle me. Not that I minded the lovely scenery of hills and trees on my drive up Bukit Langat, but the absence of visible signage is rather disconcerting. What’s more, Hulu Langat is alien territory to me, and I’m looking forward to getting lost.


Then the sign Pusat Pelancongan Menara Tinjau comes into view and I spot the tip of what looks like a Minangkabau roof, peeking out from between the trees. Stepping on the gas in my excitement to conquer the steep path up, I soon find myself in front of a clearing, and there it is, tucked imposingly in the corner, Haven Restaurant. Framed by beautiful flowers and greenery, with tall, majestic trees surrounding it, and a breathtaking view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline, I’m momentarily struck by the tranquil beauty of my surrounds. It’s easy to forget that I’m only minutes away from the KL city centre. Standing at over 250m above sea level, Haven is located at Look Out Point (Menara Tinjau) and nestled between the two districts of Ampang and Hulu Langat. Opened just under two years ago, business seems brisk, with many expats and those from the Middle East making the restaurant their very own private haven. As I make my way into the folds of the restaurant, making a beeline for the balcony seats for a clean view of the sweeping panorama, I note with pleasure that the ambience here is relaxed and inviting, with a nod to nature in its ample use of wooden furnishing and d├ęcor.


The theme here is Malaysiana — a little rustic with the wicker chairs, a bit of old Malaysia with the kopitiam feel, a dash of kampung with the old batik cloths, and classy Mediterranean with a posy of flowers and candles adorning the tables. Although it’s not easy to tear my eyes away from the mesmerising vista, I did, just long enough to glance at the laminated menu on the wooden table. Scouring the selection, I notice substantial Middle Eastern offerings such as biryani and shawarma, and Western staples such as pizza and pasta. To mark the start of fasting month next week, Haven’s offering a special Ramadan menu comprising local favourites and Middle Eastern fare. Dishes such as Khabsah Lamb or Chicken and Shawarma will vie for your plate space along with Ayam Golek a la Tandoori and Ikan Kembong Masak Lemak Cili Api. Of course, there’s also a range of tantalising appetisers and desserts to look forward to.

Suffice to say, Ramadan isn’t the only time to head over here. There are plenty of other dishes that will please the palate. A huge spread, comprising Hummus and Arab Pitta Bread, Shawarma Chicken and Beef, Lamb Shank Biryani, Flamed Grill Chicken Biryani, Moussaka, a large Seafood Pizza and the interesting Fatayer Combo (an offering akin to pizza bread mixed with herbs and stuffed with different fillings), has me salivating as dish after dish are duly brought out to our already crowded table. The Moussaka, made with penne sans aubergine, is rather pleasant with a rich tomato and cheesy taste. It reminded me of the days of my friendship with a Greek girl during my university years.


Although not a big fan of lamb, I enjoyed the Lamb Shank Biryani. The meat is tender and moist and goes beautifully with the fragrant basmati rice. In fact, the rice is so flavourful that you won’t mind eating it on its own. The Fatayer Combo is a visual delight, but it failed to seize my palate as I thought it would. I love fresh bread, so it passed on that account, but the rather measly filling (choose from a selection of chicken, beef, lamb, spinach and cheese) and the over-powering taste of Middle Eastern spices killed it for me. But I’m told the Arabs love this offering.


After tucking into the hefty spread, all you really want to do is lean back on your wicker chair like a beach whale and doze off, enjoying the caress of the breeze on your face. It’s easy to lose yourself here and forget about time. Haven, I’m told, has a different feel depending on the time of day. It’s bright and fresh in daytime, making you feel energised from the fresh air and the calming view of the garden and trees. Sunset, meanwhile, is simply magical. The view is transformed as the colours in the distance change from its hues of blue to that of orange and magenta. And when dusk sets in, Haven lights up with the twinkling of candle lights on the tables. This is the time for contemplation, for bonding with loved ones, and for marvelling at the glorious beauty of the heavens above.

Haven Restaurant Lot 1a & 1b (Look Out Point) Pusat Pelancongan Menara Tinjau Jalan Ampang-Hulu Langat, Bukit Langat Hulu Langat, Selangor Opening hours: 4pm-2am (Monday-Thursday), 11am-2am (Friday-Sunday) Ramadan special On weekdays (Monday-Thursday), there will be a buffet choice of starters and desserts, and for the mains, choose from the a la carte selection. Price: RM33++ (adult), RM22++ (under 10). On weekends (Friday-Sunday), the buffet comprises a wide range of dishes such as Sup Tulang Rawan, Kerabu Perut, Daging Salai, Ikan Keli Berlada and Pari Assam Pedas. The menu changes daily. Price: RM39++ (adult), RM25++ (under 10). Available from 6pm-9.30pm. For bookings, call 016-232 3999 or 010-290 1702. Go to www.havenrestaurant.com.my for details.

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