Possibly one of the best foodie secrets you’ll learn this year sits innocuously on the upstairs level of a row of shops in Taman Tun Dr Ismail – 2ND Floor Kitchen & Bar is at the right angle of an L-shaped sandwich; hidden bar The Pawn Room is right above and Private Room, the also-hidden wine bar, is adjacent.
The restaurant is under the same management as the cocktail and wine bars, a natural extension, from the world of inspired cocktails and carefully-curated wines to excitingly contemporary cuisine. And wine pairings can come from next door, if you so wish, while a list of classic cocktails from upstairs is available at the restaurant (for the more unusual creations, just head up, post-dinner).
There have been quite a few changes since it opened in June, when German chef and industry veteran Gerhard Albrecht set the kitchen direction.
The outer dining area has been brought to vibrant life, a full wall mural with a distinctly modern tropical flavour on one side, complementing the deep peacock blue walls and monochrome fascinatingly-hexagonal tiles. The tan-hued inner dining area may be awaiting its own transformation too – right now, there’s a bit of a design disconnect between the two.
And the menu has taken a few steps further away from traditional European, showcasing a lighter, more contemporary slant with more usage of local flavours and a distinct focus on pork.
The kitchen team is a young one, now headed by Kelvin Wong, who has clocked time in the kitchens of Melbourne’s Rockpool and Lucy Liu before heading back to homeland shores. He’s a bit of a collector – of skills. Learning about breakfast and pasta at Acland Street’s Rococo, Asian fusion at Lucy Liu and refined modern dining at Rockpool.
The 2NDFLR Salad (RM22) opens proceedings by setting the bar pretty high; the deceptively simple salad is elevated by little touches and attention to detail, and really just put together very well.
Rows of gently-charred romaine have smoky nuances from Worcestershire sauce, but retain a juicy crunch. These are topped with generously-portioned bacon chunks, shaved egg yolks cured in-house, large, crunchy croutons and a wobbly-centred egg. The dressing is Caesar-inspired, but more subtle and garlicky, and less anchovy-driven. That charring of the romaine really makes all the difference!
The crab beignets (RM28) make a notable starter too, but don’t expect the classic dough fritters. These have very plump, fresh-tasting crabmeat completely encased in strands of crisp kataifi, with chilli jam for dipping. The crabmeat is subtly spiked with kaffir lime leaf and lemon zest, and just gorgeous even on its own.
But my heart really belongs to the perfect sear and fresh juiciness of the Canadian scallops (RM27), paired with wonderfully-roasted cauliflower – again, char and crunch prove a winning combination – and the white wine veloute, spicy prawn oil, shredded bunga kantan and pangratatto (crisp, herb-seasoned breadcrumbs) that round out the dish. It’s a moreish, addictive dish with a great interplay of flavour and texture, and comes together wonderfully.
Either Serrano or Iberico pork from Spain is available at 2ND Floor. We tried the Iberico (RM55), simply grilled and served with caramelised apple and potatoes, and some creamy, fresh horseradish. The accompaniments were nice, but the pork was the focus – juicy, flavourful, and with a judicious ratio of fat to meat, which didn’t tip the scales of enjoyment over into the realm of too-fullness.
The seared duck breast (RM36) was also masterclass in just-right cooking, with a juicy, pink interior and nicely-crisped skin. It’s cooked confit to retain its juices and flavour, then seared for crispness and served on pea puree and duck jus, with a mini potato roesti and tangy cherries cooked in balsamic.
If you’d like a non-meat option, the pangratatto makes another welcome appearance on the smoked salmon and eryngii mushroom linguini (RM32), Again, an attention to detail sets the dish apart – the large mushroom slices are grilled and topped with the crisp breadcrumbs, and a quenelle of lumpfish caviar crowns the dish. The buttery, white wine sauce is luscious but subtle, providing the perfect bridge for the thick slices of smoked salmon to meld with the briny caviar.
The Chocolate & Coffee (RM22) is a dessert that should appeal to lovers of either, with chocolate cremeux and coffee ganache whipped into lightness; I liked the Passionfruit & Coconut (RM22) even more though, with its passionfruit mousse and marshmallow – one celebrating the tanginess of the fruit, the other, its sweetness – along with coconut anglaise and chocolate twigs.
2ND Floor plans to serve brunch on weekends, which should feature lots of superfoods and some vegan-friendly dishes, and also branch out into tea-time offerings.
For food that shines with subtle refinement, attention to detail and clever ideas – plus, the added gilt of great value – 2ND Floor already has a good reputation among foodies, and looks poised to make an even bigger splash as it extends its menu.