Bait hooks you from the first bite, reeling you in with dishes which prove a true celebration of seafood, but which also showcase a contemporary, creative bent – so that every plate provides something to intrigue. That’s very apparent at the restaurant’s second incarnation at KL’s upscale The Intermark, opened five years after its first in Bangsar.
Group executive chef Logan Terence Lopez joined Bait in 2014. He’s just 31, but chat with him for a few minutes and you’ll understand the confident, progressive outlook that guides the kitchen here.
The Bangsar outlet is on a street of good eats; Lopez and the chefs that helm his neighbours there have a fraternal understanding that helps them plan their menus with as little overlap as possible.
“Basically, we all have our own specialities, and we don’t want to offer the same thing, so we just try not to replicate any of our dishes – one reason we serve jambalaya at the Bangsar outlet, while we serve paella at Bait at The Intermark, because no one else is serving it here,” says Lopez.
It’s an approach that allows each restaurant to remain distinct and keep options fresh and interesting for diners – and an anecdote that provides insight into an expansive, open mindset.
Lopez also has a sure hand in the kitchen, with his dishes showcasing great balance and clever combinations. If your dining group (or appetite) is large enough to order a few dishes – because the portions here are on the large side – you might notice some elements in common.
A plethora of different chilli peppers and onions, saffron, the comparatively milder Vietnamese cinnamon – these are some of the vibrant colours on Lopez’s kitchen palette, and they show up in quite a few dishes. But while you may find things like the sweet, clean-tasting red peppers in quite a few of the dishes, Lopez wields his ingredients with such skill that there is no monotony in your meal, and it’s always about bringing out the best in the main ingredients.
And while he finds that cooking with wine and liquors brings out greater depths in his sauces, he has no problem leaving them out for those who request that he do so.
From January, the larger dinner menu will turn into the all-day dining menu, giving diners a wider array of choices. Every month sees specials as well – look out for dishes featuring delectable fungi in January, from porcini to truffles. Various incarnations of fish and chips will take centre stage in February.
The seafood used here is mostly chilled, not frozen, and much of it is local. Across the board, the dishes that we tried featured seafood that was wonderfully fresh, and cooked right on the mark; there is also a smaller selection of meat options.
There’s a notable selection of oysters on ice, freshly shucked at the oyster bar – they range from Irish Tragheanna Bay (RM10 each) and Gallagher (RM20 each) to French Fine de Claire No. 3 (RM14 each) and Dutch Creuse (RM14 each). Generally, I prefer mine slurped with just brine and a hint of lemon juice, but the piquant pickled onions here do add a whole other dimension to the briny shellfish.
From the small plates section came plump sauteed shrimp (RM25), cooked with a distinct Mediterranean character – laced with garlic and chillies, green olives and pickled peppers. It’s a classic dish, and a likeable one. Have bread on hand, for all that flavoursome oil.
Also a small plate dish, the baby squid (RM28) was cooked to a tender springiness, stuffed with paella and Spanish Manchego cheese, in a richly-flavoured sauce of paprika, sweet red peppers and more diced squid which added an appealing bite.
The seafood minestrone soup (RM28) is highly recommended. Expect more seafood than the silky, sweet, deeply-flavoured and basil-nuanced broth that holds it – large tiger prawns, squid, clams and mussels, all perfectly cooked. Plus, a generous amount of chunky vegetables for homespun, wholesome appeal. The seafood-broth ratio will find favour with most, but I was so enamoured of the soup itself that I wished for more!
Two types of the classic Spanish rice dish are available here – the Mixta (RM69), which features chicken and seafood, and the Negra (RM75). We opted for the squid ink-laced latter (see main image), which came with a generous portion of squid and shrimp, plus Lopez’s signature of aioli made with Carotino, red palm oil.
“That’s another thing I love cooking with, because I like good local products and red palm oil lends a lot of texture to the dishes, without affecting their flavour,” he said. The Bomba rice was cooked just beyond al dente, and studded with French beans and red peppers as well as the seafood.
We also tried the grilled perch souvlaki (RM48) and the house-made tagliatelle with Alaskan king crab (RM69). The skewered sweet peppers and perch, boasting smoky overtones from the grill, come with a buttery saffron and white wine sauce, and a herby dipping oil of roasted garlic, coriander and chilli.
Satisfyingly creamy without being cloying, the delicate tagliatelle’s white wine sauce is given even more richness by mixing in the wobbly onsen egg yolk in the centre; the briny-sweet, meltingly fresh crab meat more than holds its own in this dish. It’s a generous portion too, about 120g of the premium crab flesh in each dish.
For dessert, the soft-centred hot chocolate fondant with white chocolate gelato (RM26) is a popular choice. Lopez adds interest with a crunchy chocolate biscuit “soil” and fresh fruits.
While the Bangsar outlet has a list of more classic cocktails on offer, expect more contemporary drinks selections from Bait at The Intermark come mid-January. For now though, the white Sangria is a stellar choice as a companion for seafood – it’s a combination of Sauvignon Blanc and dark rum, with a fresh, citrusy bite from the addition of lemon peel.
Bait is one of those restaurants that combines an exciting, carefully-planned menu with that coveted sense of reliability that makes it a great dining bet – for seafood-obsessed diners and not, alike.
Bait at The Intermark
Lot G-19, Ground Floor
The Intermark Mall
348 Jalan Tun Razak
Tel: 03-2181 1268
Open 11am till late (kitchen closes at 11pm)