On a regular Tuesday afternoon, Khan’s Indian Cuisine is packed to the rafters, table after table filled with diners sharing the same happy glow of contentment indicative of a good meal.
“It is like this every day. In fact, some weekdays for lunch, you can’t even get a table. The response has been more than I expected, ” says Dato Idrus Mohd Satha, the owner of the eatery.
Idrus is a businessman whose office is based in Bangsar South. After realising that there were no good Indian restaurants in the vicinity, he decided to do something about it. Not content to open just any old Indian restaurant, Idrus spent one whole year travelling to different parts of India and trying a multitude of regional food, even going so far as to visit the kitchens of numerous five-star hotels to see how they were run.
“When I decided to open an Indian resturant, I thought ‘If I do this, it must be something different and completely unique to people, because there are thousands of Indian restaurants in KL.
“So I did a lot of research, and travelled all over India to cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Delhi,” he says.
On these trips, Idrus was guided by one of India’s top chefs, Regi Mathews whom he met through a friend, and who helped open doors to the kitchens of some of India’s best restaurants.
Having thoroughly researched his subject matter, Idrus then went to work, devising a modern, cosmopolitan restaurant with a huge 2,000 square foot kitchen. In this kitchen, he employed 11 chefs from India, all of whom specialise in different things.
“What we’re trying to do is have a combination of the best food from both north India and south India, so even though 70% of our cuisine is north Indian, 30% is some of the finest cuisine from the south.
“And also, I wanted to bring authenticity, which I find is lacking here. Because with north Indian cuisine, for example, the spices are expensive so people tend to cut down on them. But we don’t do that, so if the dish requires 15 spices, we use all 15 spices,” says Idrus, who adds that he has now learnt that the cost of a gravy is often more expensive than the cost of the meat included in it!
The kitchen is helmed by head chef Harun Rashid, who hails from Calcutta and has devised a menu that fully reflects the culinary wonders of the Indian sub-continent. Harun and his team make everything in-house, from the fish curry powders to the garam masalas and briyani masalas. “There is nothing here that you can buy outside – all our recipes are secret,” says Harun mischievously.
For starters, try a selection of items from the charcoal tandoor oven, like the chicken tikka zafrani (RM24.90) and paneer tikka (RM29.90). The former is composed of boneless chicken cubes cooked in the tandoor oven. The chicken is incredibly juicy and succulent and the flavours of the spices have really seeped in, imbuing it with flavour and zing. The house-made paneer is equally delicious – large squares of soft cheese packed with spices and grilled to perfection, so the outside has a light char and the inside remains tender.
Then there is the lamb sheekh kebab (RM29.90) a long, cylindrical concoction made up of spiced ground meat that is subsequently grilled in the tandoor oven. The cottony soft end result is redolent of spices and has a light meaty quality that is extremely endearing.
Next up, travel down south and have a sample of the Madras fish curry (RM31.90). According to Idrus, this is a dish popularised by the Muslim community in Madras. It’s easy to see why it has gained traction over the years – the fish itself is tender and flakes apart perfectly while the curry makes for a great partner-in-crime as it is spicy but not killer-hot and is perfectly balanced, with hints of tamarind lurking gloriously in the shadows.
Another south Indian dish worth getting acquainted with is the Malabar chicken roast (RM27.90) which originates from Kerala. Here, fried chicken is tossed in caramelised onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes in what proves to be a seemingly simple but ultimately ingenious pairing of ingredients. The dry masala that coats the chicken is delicious, especially with the addition of the caramelised onions, which gives it a natural sweetness and slight crunch.
Travelling north, have a serving of the butter chicken (RM27.90). Butter chicken is a staple in north Indian restaurants and because it is so popular, it is often used as a barometer of an eatery’s general capabilities. Here, the butter chicken passes this test with flying colours, as the grilled chicken is tender, with a lovely char and floats in a pool of gravy that is creamy, tomatoey and has the requisite buttery undertones so revered in good versions of this dish.
The lamb briyani (RM34.90) is made in the dum style, which means all the flavours are sealed with a flour band. Here, the rice is tinged with almonds, saffron and a spice mix that has given it rich, alluring qualities. The lamb is well-cooked but is perhaps less appealing than the rice as it lacks any discernible flavour.
For a taste of something sweet, indulge in the pistachio kulfi (RM15.90) which is made with fresh milk and pistachios. Kulfi is a traditional Indian ice-cream that tends to be extremely sweet. Here, the sugar quotient is less pronounced while the pistachio part of the dessert has a more prominent role. The kulfi itself is spot-on – pillowy soft and deliciously milky.
Wash down your full Indian meal with a refreshing glass of mango lassi (RM12). This is probably the most sumptuous mango lassi you’re likely to find anywhere, with rich fruity flavours and the thickness of good yoghurt taking centrestage.
Ultimately, Idrus says although the restaurant has been doing well since its inception, he has no grand plans to expand yet.
“I want this restaurant to really reach a level where we offer the finest Indian cuisine in town and it is No 1. So I don’t want to open more outlets and dilute the brand,” he says.
Level 1, The Sphere
No 8, Jalan Kerinchi
59000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-5033 2121
Open Monday to Friday: 11.45am to 3pm; 6.30pm to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday: 10am to 10.30pm