The latest Kuala Lumpur restaurant to transport diners 40 stories upwards is Element Kuala Lumpur’s Trace, its all-day dining hub with a view of KL’s fabled skyline.
Its name is a nod to the restaurant’s philosophy – transparency in terms of provenance and plating. At the same time, in keeping with Element’s own eco-friendly approach, the restaurant seeks to cut down on food wastage by focusing on an ala carte menu – small, focused buffet is available only for breakfast.
The ala carte menu features local produce where possible, in a bid to diminish the restaurant’s carbon footprint; hopefully, as it grows, it will have even more significant locavore leanings.
Interpretations of local favourites and western dishes with a Malaysian touch feature on the menu, in a sort of cultural exchange programme – a little of yours, a little of mine. Most were formulated with wellness rather than calorie-counting in mind – so imagine lots of vegetables, and nasi lemak where the rice is steamed with coconut oil rather than coconut cream, for lightness.
Breakfast items are geared towards wholesomeness, and the house-made granola (RM20) doesn’t disappoint, having just the right balance of sweetness, with tangy yoghurt, fruit compote and berries to add variety. The sharp crunch of chia seeds and toastiness of hazelnuts elevates it too.
The simplicity, comforting texture and rich flavours of the Beans & Toast Supreme (RM22) made it easy to like. Essentially kacang pool – itself derived from the Middle Eastern foul medames – it’s a richly-spiced concoction of tender, stewed beans and minced beef, with green chillies and coriander leaves, and a runny fried egg languishing in the middle. Thick slices of wholewheat toast for dipping complete the offering.
Nasi Lemak Kelapa Dara (RM38) sees the fluffy rice steamed with extra virgin coconut oil, then served with crispy ikan bilis and peanuts, omelette and Japanese cucumber. Somewhat lush accompaniments of sambal-doused tiger prawns and a lean chicken roulade rendang are great ideas, and pleasing flavour-wise, but they need to be cooked for a shorter time.
The Smoked Loch Fyne Salmon (RM42) had the advantage of novelty – served in a smoke-filled jar, so that it looked like a genie being released at the table – but the smoke was a tad too intense. Served with a stylised buckwheat blini topped with shredded prawns, balsamic pearls, sour cream and chives, as well as a light, crisp red radish slaw and a sweet, nutty mango hazelnut dressing, it nonetheless proved a pleasing mouthful.
Crusted with semi-dried tomatoes and olives, the Alaskan black cod (RM105) was another winner. A mini Caprese salad on the side adds freshness, as does a green chilli and coriander sauce and basil oil, with the carrot puree lending a sweetness that plays well against the rich, flaky fish.
Another main, the sous vide baby chicken (RM54) rolled with Boursin and basil pesto, is a promising dish in terms of flavour combination, but unfortunately the version we tried was also overcooked. A lighter hand and shorter cooking time, and it’d work well, since it’s a technically put-together dish with hasselback potato gratin, asparagus and an umami chasseur sauce.
For dessert, we tried a different, and very enjoyable spin on the lava cake (RM26). Forget the chocolate oozing out, that’s been done to death – this is a tangy, fruity soft centre, uplifted even more by a shell of springy, fluffy, not-too-sweet carrot cake.
If your tooth is on the sweeter side, then you might want to try the Earl Grey Chocolate Sphere (RM28), a chocolate shell with warm lemon cream poured over, revealing a sweet, fragrant Earl Grey cremeux centre.
The service at Trace is friendly to a fault, with wait staff taking an informal, cordial approach which sets you at your ease.
Trace has sky-high dreams of fuelling responsible consumption and healthy eating in the city, and it will be an interesting journey to see it making those come true. It’s certainly a timely and relevant push.
Element Kuala Lumpur
8 Jalan Binjai
Tel: 03-2771 3351
Open daily from 6.30am to 11pm