Getting to Blackbyrd KL can be a bit of a Sisphyean task, given the serpentine traffic and endless road diversions leading up to Platinum Park in Kuala Lumpur’s KLCC area, which houses the restaurant.
But once you’ve glided up to the 50th floor of the building where the restaurant is comfortably perched, that chaos seems to fade away and you’ll feel tense muscles slackening as you relax into a comfortable seat and stare at the glorious view of the cityscape beyond.
Only three months old, Blackbyrd marks the maiden venture of Indonesia’s famed Ismaya Group, which has over 20 restaurant brands under its auspices. With Blackbyrd, the group has partnered with first-time restaurateurs Bloom FSA 360 Sdn Bhd.
“Blackbyrd is the brainchild of both Ismaya and my partners here in KL. So to make a long story short, we’ve known the guys behind Ismaya for something like 10 years and when my partners and I said we wanted to embark on F&B, we forged a partnership with them,” says Jeremy Lim, the managing director of Bloom.
The idea behind Blackbyrd has its roots in the word “comfort”. Comfort intimates familiarity and warmth and this was a feeling Lim and his team wanted to infuse in every facet of their eatery – from the food to the servers to the ambience.
“When you go to a restaurant in Jakarta that’s owned by Ismaya, you will feel instantly that it’s very comfortable. So for Blackbyrd, we started with comfort. We wanted the vibe and environment to be comfortable, we wanted a nice, curated playlist, we wanted comfort food that should not be alien or require four hours of service. It started with comfort and evolved from there,” says Lim
There has also been a conscious effort to imbibe as much local culture into the place as possible, so you’ll discover rattan fixtures, hand-shaved wood partitions and retro-style terracotta tiled flooring (apparently there are only three people in Malaysia who make these tiles).
The menu meanwhile is made up of the entire Ismaya Group’s greatest hits, sort of a compilation of the best of the best from the group’s culinary oeuvre, gleaned from Lim and his team’s travels to all these restaurants. The original longlist was composed of over 200 dishes but only 36 made it to the current menu.
To begin a meal at Blackbyrd, definitely look at indulging in the Crispy Nori Crunch (RM28). As its name implies, the seaweed is fried, tempura-style and topped with spicy salmon sashimi, salmon roe and Parmesan shavings.
In a single mouthful, you’ll discover a rollercoaster of textures and flavours – the crispiness of the seaweed (which curiously has an almost familial resemblance in taste and texture to deep-fried fish skin), the velvety plumpness of the salmon, the briny bursts from the roe and the delicate salty overtures from the cheese, all coalescing to form wonderment and joy.
The Wagyu Beef Satay (RM48) is a dish that has been gaining a lot of traction on Instagram and it’s not hard to see why. The local classic has been given a bit of a premium makeover courtesy of soy-enhanced wagyu brisket, which has been cooked to a melt-in-the-mouth pliancy (although some pieces are less malleable than others) and complemented with an ably executed peanut sauce.
Most of the pastas and noodles at Blackbyrd are made in-house, so you’d do well to tuck into a plate or two. First try the Escargot Cavatelli with Porcini (RM38). Escargot (snails) in their shells can seem a little daunting for neophytes, which is why this version is more beginner-friendly as the slugs have been chopped into bite-sized morsels alongside porcini mushrooms, burrata cheese and pea puree in what proves to be a hedonistically good pasta that will have you so thoroughly bewitched, you’ll swear allegiance for the rest of your life.
Or will you? Because just when you think you’ve met your pasta soulmate, serendipity might pivot you towards the tantalising-sounding Truffle Tagliolini (RM59). And here you’ll discover a sensational pasta laced with fresh black truffle and house-made truffle butter whose opulence is so pronounced that it feels almost strange to be but a mere mortal indulging in this decadent meal fit for kings.
For a taste of something from the East, have a sample of the Mie Goreng Sambal Matah (RM36). The house-made noodles are tossed with sambal matah (a spicy Balinese sambal), seabass fillets and an umami-rich paste made of eels and tobiko. It’s an incredibly clever meal that offers a fresh, flavour-packed, slightly herbaceous version of mee goreng that you’ll be hard-pressed to forget once you’ve discovered it.
Perhaps the most popular thing on the menu at the moment is the Iqa Bakar Sambal Idjo (RM98) or black angus short rib MB2 with green chilli, vegetables and savoury rice.
“It has become one of our hottest selling dishes – at one point every table was ordering it and we were going through 400kg of meat a week,” says Lim.
This is another meal that delivers a hit of euphoria in the form of tenderly yielding meat accentuated by a spicy green chilli paste that endeavours to elevate the dish without stealing the meat’s thunder (or killing your tastebuds) in the progress. Suffice it to say, satisfaction is virtually guaranteed with this one.
To end your meal, sweeten your palate with the Cendol Waffle (RM18). The huge, fluffy pandan-flavoured waffle is dotted with jackfruit, coconut gelato, grass jelly and pandan-flavoured rice flour noodles. It’s an interesting re-enaction of a classic Malaysian dessert but like the Disney live-action remakes popping up on screens everywhere – whether you enjoy it or not is largely a matter of preference.
If you’re a purist, a (much cheaper) bowl of cendol will do just as nicely. But if you’re looking for an inventive touch, you’ll adore this decidedly delicious new-fangled dessert for what it is, rather than what it reminds you of.
Given Blackbyrd’s enthusiastic reception in KL (it is so packed on weekends that dinner guests have to select one of two seating options), Lim is looking forward to opening more outlets – once he perfects everything at Blackbyrd.
“Yes, that’s the idea. There’s definitely opportunity for us to introduce more Ismaya brands into KL and (the rest of) Malaysia, but this being our first outlet – I think it will take a bit of time for us to stabilise and find the right formula. And I think we are slowly but surely finding our footing,” he affirms.
50th floor, Platinum Park
50088 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 012-689 8576
Open daily: 12pm to 10.30pm