Positioned incongruously amid a slew of casual fast-food joints and predominantly Western-inspired eateries is Chuck Two Sons, a welcome local addition to MidValley Megamall’s line-up of F&B outlets.
The brainchild of good-looking brothers Nicholas John Lee, 30 (a former banker) and Ryan Matthew Lee, 21, (a film production student) the restaurant pays homage to the family’s Penang Peranakan roots with a veritable treasure trove of heirloom recipes.
In many ways, the two young men don’t necessarily seem like the sort of people who would be flag-bearers for heritage Per-anakan food. Both are young, well-spoken and obviously well-educated. Many young F&B entrepreneurs with similar backgrounds often opt to go the opposite route, helming more contemporary restaurants imbibed from experiences in Australia or Europe.
But the brothers’ decision to pay tribute to their lineage is perhaps not so surprising after all when you realise that their parents used to run the popular Sri Melaka restaurants, famed for local fare like chicken kapitan, mutton rendang and assam fish.
“Our family, specifically our parents, have been in the F&B industry for a long time. So since we were kids, we’ve also been exposed to the business. During school breaks, we were waiters, cashiers – we basically did everything. So when it came to the point of starting something new, obviously we gravitated towards F&B, because it’s the area we’re most comfortable with,” says Nicholas.
Before opening the restaurant, the brothers worked hard to collect traditional Peranakan recipes from senior family members in Penang, who were only too happy to share.
“We have obviously been exposed to their culinary skills since we were young, so we took the recipes that we like. Some of the relatives are in their 70s, some are in their 80s, and there was one who was bedridden. But when we spoke to them, they were more than happy to pass down their recipes, because if they don’t share it, it dies with them and that would be a loss,” says Nicholas.
The final menu now comprises about 30 family recipes gleaned from the original Sri Melaka restaurants (those recipes are from the brothers’ Peranakan mother Eleanor Ong), and a compilation of 13 new recipes from elderly family members in Penang.
Most of the spices in the restaurant, like cinnamon and star anise are brought in from Penang as well and Nicholas has two aunts who monitor the spice pastes and sauces made from scratch in the central kitchen to ensure quality and consistency.
There’s plenty to salivate over at Chuck Two Sons, so I would heartily recommend that you skip a meal or two to accommodate as much food as possible when you dine here (trust me, you will be besieged with regret if you don’t).
To begin with, start with something light like the Nyonya rojak (RM17), which is made up of fruits like pineapple and rose apple tossed in a house-made shrimp paste, toasted sesame seeds and roasted peanuts. There’s a science to a perfectly-made dish, an alchemy of flavour-balancing that requires deft hands and enhanced palates and the rojak here is a wonderful example of this, achieving a rich sweetness with an underbelly of savoury nuances from the shrimp paste, all underscored by the freshness and crunch of the fruits.
The Nyonya lobak (RM11.30 for two pieces) is another labour of love that sees its roots in Penang-sourced beancurd skin and Chinese five-spice. While the beancurd skin here is beautiful – so crisp, it crackles at the slightest inclination, the five-spice element is a little subdued and as a result, you might not be able to detect it at all in this configuration.
But fret not, as carefully calibrated flavours form the heart and soul of the next dish: tau yew bak (RM33.50 for a small portion) which is composed of melt-in-the-mouth tender pork belly slow-cooked for close to four hours in a sauce that has lovely spice-laden overlays, derived from the star anise and cinnamon in it. This is one of those meals which has “comfort food” stamped all over it.
Another pork offering that is sure to find adoring fans is the pork kapitan (RM31.60 for a small portion) which features pork slices swimming in a rich gravy laced with coconut milk. This is one of those hedonistic delights that is so wonderfully addictive, you’ll be hard-pressed to stop your spoon making that inevitable plunge into this creamy delight time and time again (despite repeated attempts to restrain yourself).
The mutton rendang (RM25.50) is a spicy vixen that suffers from one major downfall: the mutton is chewy and consequently, you might have to exercise your jaw muscles a little to ensure safe passage down your throat.
If you’re after something light and energising, try the kerabu mango (RM23.60 for a small portion), an invigorating salad filled with young mango, onions, chillies and spring onions that straddles the sour-spicy divide with aplomb.
Then there is the inche kabin (RM26.40), which is essentially a Nyonya-style fried chicken where the chicken is marinated in an array of spices. The resultant chicken is sensationally good – fried and seasoned to perfection, with meat that is juicy, tender and malleable inside.
The Nyonya eggplant (RM23.60 for a small portion) is a delicious vegetable option that features velvety soft eggplant interspersed with dried prawns, onions and chilli in what proves to be an incredible marriage of flavours and textures.
Chuck Two Sons also has a litany of house-made noodle and rice dishes. Of these, try the crab laksa (RM21.70 a la carte), the bedrock of which is a spice paste made from 21 different spices, derived from one of Nicholas’ aunties. “It looks simple but it’s really tedious to prepare,” says Nicholas.
But all that labour is oh-so worth it, because one spoonful of this laksa and you’re likely to form a lethal obsession. The laksa is ridiculously good – creamy and rich, yet fragrant and light, infused with tufts of crab meat, mint leaves and plump noodles that soak in all the goodness of the broth.
Chuck Two Sons has already been open for a year, a point at which most entrepreneurs would inevitably be leaning towards expansion.
“It’s only been a year, I think experience-wise, I’m still not there yet. There is still room for me personally to improve. We definitely intend on expanding in the near future, but for the time being, we are just really focused on getting things right in this first one, because we know how quickly the quality can deteriorate when you expand so quickly.
“And Nyonya food is not something you can just shoot off the production line, like a conveyor belt. Everything is quite carefully done in terms of the preparation,” he says.
CHUCK TWO SONS
G- E020, Ground Floor
Mid Valley Mall
75 Lingkaran Syed Putra
59200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2282 8668
Open daily: 10am to 10pm