Sandwiched in the middle of a slew of restaurants and watering holes along Changkat Bukit Bintang’s Jalan Mesui in Kuala Lumpur is the brand new Lucky Tora. The eatery has a lovely cosmopolitan feel but also exudes a relaxed, chilled-out vibe that instantly puts diners at ease.
The brainchild of serial restaurateur Alex Anthony (who also helms Food Foundry, Butter + Beans and Feeka) and chef-owner Edwin Yau (formerly with Daikanyama), the restaurant is a breath of fresh air in an area saturated with tourist traps.
“I feel there is a shift in the type of consumers that come here. It tends to be a bit more expats or tourists on that main strip and that affects this street as well, because when locals think about coming to Changkat, they’re like ‘Oh, it’s Changkat – maybe not’. And I think it’s also the type of experiences you get here – it’s skewed towards tourists, so we wanted to try something different that gets the locals to come back,” says Anthony.
So Anthony and Yau – who have known each other for 18 years – decided to collaborate on Lucky Tora, aiming to inject something new into the area.
“In South-East Asia, Japanese food is very popular but we also have a lot of great local ingredients, so at Lucky Tora, we want to present Japanese and Asian food. So basically this is food that people know; we just play around with new flavours and ingredients,” says Yau.
To begin your culinary odyssey at Lucky Tora, try the sashimi ceviche (RM22) which is essentially a selection of raw seafood accentuated with a house-made salsa. Dollop the fresh seafood on the crispy wonton crackers provided on the side and sit back and savour the explosion of aquatic flavours and citrusy undertones that underscore this well-calibrated meal.
Next up, have a go at the Szechuan-style gyoza (RM24), which features deep-fried prawn gyoza with a Chinese dipping sauce. The gyoza is competently put together but it is the sauce that elevates the dish, with sour, slightly spicy underpinnings reminiscent of the sauce served alongside xiao long bao.
The salmon madness (RM26) features crab meat, cucumber, tanoki and torched salmon with truffle oil and fried lotus root chips completing this pleasant tableau. The little parcels are packed with flavour and the salmon offers both freshness and a velvety texture. Perhaps the only let-down is that the truffle oil is hard to detect in this composition and try as you might, you may not be able to find it at all.
If you’re after something more filling, try the wagyu beef katsu don (RM32) which features katsu-style beef with rice, vegetables and a fried egg. It’s a simple meal that has been executed well. The beef is cooked perfectly and the entire bowl serves up comfort and nourishment, one of life’s simplest gastronomic pursuits.
Lucky Tora will also be rolling out a new expanded menu, to be unveiled after Chinese New Year. Some intriguing additions from the enhanced menu include the foie gras cheong fun (RM28), a play on the classic chee cheong fun, which features ingredients like foie gras and okra stuffed into chee cheong fun-style rice noodle rolls and served with a homemade teriyaki sauce.
Rather surprisingly, it is the okra that really is the breakout star here.
The notoriously slimy vegetable is tender and fits in delightfully, outshinining the premium foie gras, which can’t really be discerned here.
Perhaps the best thing to come out of Lucky Tora is another new menu addition, the aptly named salmon soft shell crab bomb (RM28) which packs a phenomenal flavour wallop. The crispy crab mingles amiably with salmon and sweet mango in what proves to be a memorable intermingling of flavours and textures.
On the cocktail front, there is also lots to enjoy, courtesy of seasoned bartender and restaurant manager Haniff Yon, who has put together cocktails that imbibe the spirit (pun intended) of Malaysian flavours, with ingredients like pandan juice and lemongrass juice featuring prominently in some of his creations.
“When I was working in the United States, there were so many flavours over there, but it was very American-style. So when I came back, I thought of the many Asian flavours we have that we can bring to the drinks as well,” he says.
Get the liquid portion of your meal off to a good start with the whiskey sour (RM40) which features two blended whiskeys, honey, egg white, lemon juice and bitters. This is a drink that is unapologetically friendly, with fruity hints that prove extremely endearing.
The astro boi (RM38) is another fun offering, that includes tequila, Campari, vermouth and asam boi. The asam boi has a surprisingly strong presence in this intoxicant and happily, it is a very welcome one.
Ultimately, Anthony and Yau say they hope the local additions will inspire more Malaysians to visit a stretch of town normally relegated to tourists and expats.
“I think Malaysians are willing try a lot of different food, because we mix with so many different cultures.
“So for Lucky Tora, it is easier to make new food than to keep making traditional food because once you do traditional food, people will compare you with everyone else. But when it comes to new food, we have unlimited ideas, so it’s an advantage,” says Yau.
25, Jalan Mesui
50200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 012-282 2671
Open Monday to Friday: 12pm to 3pm; 5pm to 1am; Saturday to Sunday: 12pm to 1am