It is a rainy day in central Kuala Lumpur, but as is often the case, the gentle thrumming of raindrops soon begins to stop. Although the sky is overcast, the sun is visible in the distance, a glowing amber orb that melts into the horizon.
From where I sit at Cielo, a rooftop restaurant perched on the 23rd floor of Vida Bukit Ceylon, the views are nothing short of breathtaking. The Petronas Twin Towers are a clear feature, and as night descends, the city lights begin coming alive, twinkling and sparkling everywhere the eyes alight. Overhead, the retractable roof has been displaced, allowing an untrammelled view of the inky black sky, dappled with stars.
Cielo is the latest progeny of Werner Kuhn, the owner of restaurants like El Cerdo, Dining in the Dark and Opium, all centrally situated along the main Changkat Bukit Bintang stretch.
“The owner of the building asked me three or four years ago whether I would be interested in opening an outlet here. And our managing director had wanted to have a seafood restaurant for a couple of years already. But for me, seafood is a tricky thing because it has to be as fresh as possible. But finally, I said, ‘Okay, let’s do it,’” says Kuhn.
The restaurant is a beauty, with the aforementioned views taking centre stage as well as soft, demure lighting (although it can be a little difficult to see the menu), an open kitchen and a casual, relaxed ambience. In the kitchen, a Spanish-sourced Mibrasa charcoal oven takes centre stage. The oven creates wonderfully crafted barbecued food but weighs a tonne. This particular model weighs 600kg and required 20 men to push and pull it into place!
The menu swims the world’s waterways, making pitstops in the choicest areas and regions. To begin your meal here, have a sample of the pan-seared scallop (RM52) with green lentils, tomato confit, celeriac mousse, tobiko and tahini dressing. The scallop is beautifully seared and has a slight crust on the outside that yields to a quivering, silken interior. The lentils meld perfectly into this amalgamation and the tobiko adds pops of umami.
Then there is the Akami tuna tartare, with avocado-kyuri salsa, mango salsa, wasabi tobiko and tomato vinaigrette. This is a delightfully light, zesty offering that highlights the freshness of the fish. If you opt for the restaurant’s degustation menu (RM298 for four courses), you will have the chance to sample three appetisers in one go, including the duck foie gras pate on toasted brioche with moscato jelly. The pate is silken smooth and has rich, earthy flavours and the jelly and brioche add texture and dimension to the dish.
Next up, try the smoked romaine Caesar salad (RM46) with a Brittany sardine tempura in a parmesan basket.
The sauce is smoked using the Mibrasa oven, and this has given the entire meal a rustic, smoky quality that undulates throughout the dish. The sardine tempura is an inspired addition that imbues the meal with a nice crunch while the parmesan basket offers cheesy goodness – it’s a meal that takes the classic Caesar salad to whole new heights.
The abalone consomme (RM70) with salmon roe is a light, fairly unremarkable affair that tastes a lot like a Chinese herbal soup, albeit without the added depth.
Then there is the marinated king salmon (RM115) which is essentially a plump chunk of salmon with bario risotto. The fish is tender to the core and really, really fresh, which makes all the difference. But the real show-stopper here is the risotto, which offers creamy little morsels of decadence. The main meals are served with an option of sauces like tarragon lemon butter, lobster cream, morel mushroom, Sarawak black pepper and rich red wine. In this instance, the salmon pairs remarkably well with the aquatic undertones of the lobster cream.
Although seafood is the highlight at Cielo, there are plenty of carnivorous offerings for those who prefer something with a little more bite. Of these, the Iberico lamb loin (RM150) is a sure-fire winner. Again, the Mibrasa has been put to good use here and lends a nice char to the outer edges of the lamb. The meat itself is supple and velvety soft and pairs remarkably well with the robustness of the red wine sauce.
Desserts are also a highlight at Cielo, and you’d do well to indulge in the salted caramel cheesecake with almond brittle, pralinosa and salted caramel sauce (RM36). The cake is rich and luscious with cheesy underpinnings and a sweetness emanating from the salted caramel sauce (if you don’t like your desserts very sweet, you might find this a tad much though).
Because Cielo is such a beautiful restaurant, you won’t want your meal to come to an end, so halt the inevitable and order a nightcap, in the form of the birdie (RM50) to round out your night. The cardamom and blackberry-infused gin, with basil and cava is a sweet temptation that will leave you feeling suitably euphoric.
According to Kuhn, this is exactly what a night out at Cielo should feel like. “ I just want to give very good food and make sure it’s the freshest and highest standard, so whoever comes here will be happy,” says Kuhn.
23rd floor, Vida Bukit Ceylon
50200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2022 1798
Open Tuesday to Thursday: 6pm to 1am; Friday to Saturday: 6pm to 2am; Sunday: 6pm to 1am