Although they are both of Italian origin, Andrea Rossi and Filippo Tomelleri actually met in Kuala Lumpur. The two were managers in a restaurant who became fast friends. Soon, fledgling dreams of opening their own restaurant began to bloom. Over a year ago, the friends opened Ra-ft (the restaurant is an abbreviation of their initials) in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. And just a few months ago, they opened their second Ra-ft outlet in the spanking new Arcoris Mont’Kiara.
“When we first started planning Ra-ft, we had three areas in mind: Ampang, Mont’Kiara and DesaPark City. All three have a common target audience: expats and travelled locals familiar with this kind of concept. So two down, one to go,” says Rossi, laughing.
In creating Ra-ft, the down-to-earth friends were looking to imbibe the spirit of an Italian-style cafe, without confining themselves to simply being an Italian restaurant.
“What we wanted to recreate is an Italian-style cafe or bar as it is called in Italy – a space where people spend a lot of their time and can meet up with friends, have meetings or just go by themselves.
But we didn’t want be an Italian restaurant, because we like to experiment with different dishes and types of food, and being an Italian restaurant, we would have been very restricted in what we could do,” says Rossi.
There is an emphasis on homemade, quality food at Ra-ft and this means you will find house-made ciabatta, multi-grain bread, burger patties and salmon gravlax as well as house-roasted coffee. The coffee is integral to Ra-ft’s structure as the eatery opens at the ungodly hour of 7.30am every morning, specifically to cater to people hankering after their morning cuppas before work.
To create the Ra-ft house-blend coffee, Tomelleri (who says he’s the funny one of the two) worked for six months tasting and testing various single origins to get the perfect blend that married his Italian roots with Malaysian predilections. He also invested in an Italian electric roasting machine, the first-of-its-kind in Malaysia, which allows for small batches of coffee to be roasted in the restaurant as it is soundless.
“We came out with the Ra-ft coffee blend which is suitable for coffee with and without milk. I wanted to mix what you have in Italy, where people drink black coffee, with what is here in Asia, where people have coffee with milk. We wanted to integrate the traditional and the trendy and come up with this medium roasting profile suitable for both. I think we managed to have a very good blend,” says Tomelleri.
So you would probably do well to start your Ra-ft experience with the house-made mochachino (RM9) a pairing of coffee and chocolate that is so immensely good, you’re likely to feel as though you’ve found the stairway to heaven.
Ra-ft’s food menu is also a delight, serving a wide assortment of breakfast and brunch concoctions, alongside pasta, burgers and desserts.
Of these, try the Ra-ft dome (RM24) which as promised, is a dome-shaped creation that features home-cured salmon encasing a poached egg, sour cream, avocado spread and house-made bread. At first glance, the dome is as mysterious as a geisha, its beguiling shape betraying nothing of what lies underneath. But as soon as your knife spears through the layers, you’ll discover a delightful flavour odyssey that will take you through creamy avocado, doughy bread, salty salmon and velvety poached egg.
If you’re after another egg-laced option, try the eggs gourmet (RM30) which is essentially an English muffin, crispy parma ham, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. The poached eggs at Ra-ft are perfection – perfectly still orbs that ooze yolky lava as soon as provoked (or in this case, a knife is poked through). The English muffin is a good choice in this assemblage, which is rounded off by the inspired addition of parma ham.
A more traditional staple can be found in the form of the French toast with bacon and maple syrup (RM25). The soft planks of thick French brioche bread readily yield to the decadent glory of crispy bacon and sweet maple syrup. This is one of those triumphant offerings that makes you want to shout out – amidst mouthfuls of bread – “Isn’t life great?”
Ra-ft also has vegetarian and gluten-free options, of which you could try The Botanist (RM25) which features a towering pile of broccoli, kale and pea sprouts, with a poached egg and mushy peas smeared on gluten-free bread. This leafy offering isn’t for everyone, as it has little to detract from the fact that you’re essentially chewing (trust me, there will be a lot of chewing involved) on lots of leaves and greens, with few additional flavours to jazz things up.
If you’re after something out of the breakfast option staples, try the carbonara (RM26.50) which is made the original Italian way with egg yolks in lieu of cream. As a result, you’ll find a rich end result with crispy bacon pieces interspersed in each mouthful but without the cloying nature often typical of carbonara made with cream.
End your meal at Ra-ft with the tiramisu (RM15) which is light and spongy with the perfect calibration of coffee and alcohol designed to extract maximum pleasure.
Although Tomelleri and Rossi have already achieved great success with Ra-ft, they are determined to branch out and do more, with plans for a roastery, Italian concept restaurant and wine bar already underway.
As Rossi says determinedly, “This was always the plan when we created our company. The idea was that Ra-ft was going to be the first concept under the umbrella, with other projects coming up in the near future. It’s very exciting.”
And his partner in crime couldn’t be more enthused. “This is only the beginning,” agrees Tomelleri, grinning.
Lot G16 & G17, Arcoris Mont’Kiara
10 Jalan Kiara
Tel: 03-6412 2127
Open daily: 7.30am to 10pm