First things first; if you key “Jibby East” into Waze to find your way there, the voice in your phone would go “You have reached your destination” while you’re still on a busy highway. So to avoid any confusion and until the matter is resolved, key in “KL East” instead and you’ll have no problems finding the latest gastronomical endeavour by Najib Hamid.
Perhaps you know him better as Jibby, the man whose nickname is associated with many of the popular eateries in the Klang Valley – Jibby & Co, Jibby Chow, Naj & Belle, and also the Serai Group.
Jibby East is by far, Najib’s biggest and most ambitious restaurant to date.
Long tables line the centre of the room and the high ceiling gives it a very airy and spacious feel. Natural light bursts through the glass windows, already promising to be every Instagram-lover’s dream venue.
The view is a mixture of new city skyscrapers and remnants of the old Kuala Lumpur, and from the elevated standing, it’s a view worth taking in on a clear sunny day.
“Look at these plates that are custom-made for Jibby East. I want the presentation to be as important as the taste of the food,” says Najib, picking up a serving plate made from natural stone. The design is simple with “Jibby East” printed on its side, but holding a plate with his restaurant’s name brings a huge smile to his face.
“I’m going to go into this next: tableware,” he says.
The other time I see unbounded excitement in Najib is when he mentions his new baby, a daughter with wife and business partner Qistina Taff.
“My wife has taken a back seat in the business now. The baby comes first,” he explains.
While Qistina is at home minding their new bundle of joy, Najib is busy with four-month-old Jibby East. Like his other eateries, this too has its own unique menu that isn’t tied to a particular cuisine.
“Apart from Serai that’s a franchise, all my restaurants have different menus and feel because I want our clients to experience different food and atmosphere at each location. Here we have a pan-Asian menu and we’re big on breakfast. Actually, all my restaurants are big on breakfast.”
Jibby East, he says, offers a fine dining experience without putting a dent in one’s wallet. The space seats up to 80 people, and two private rooms that accommodate 12 and 14 patrons each. “We already have clients who do their wedding receptions and private parties here,” he says.
Najib has always been hands on in the kitchen and it is no different here. He disappears for a bit to whip up the first dish of the day, the Wagyu Burger (RM49). What arrives is a beautifully browned thick patty on brioche buns, topped with maple-glazed beef bacon, American cheese, caramalised onions and lettuce. It comes with a special ancho chile and capsicum jam.
“People are used to mayonnaise in all their food. It’s time to introduce them to other sauces to have with burgers and fries,” he says.
Note that the burger is a combination of Wagyu and grass-fed beef. The patty is juicy and holds a secret in the centre – Provolone cheese – and the homemade buns are sweet and soft.
After the very American start to the meal, Najib surprises us with a very Asian dish – Deep Fried Whole Barramundi (RM49). Fried to perfection, the fish is topped with spicy Thai-style chilli sauce and stir-fried pak choy. It comes with a serving of Ginger Rice. The fish meat is pre-cut into bite sizes before frying and reassembling to look whole. “Fish can be a messy dish to eat, and we help to eliminate that by pre-cutting the meat,” says Najib.
Paired with the fragrant rice, this dish is an absolute winner. The sweet, sour and spicy sauce complements the fish that has crispy skin on the outside, but is soft and flaky on the inside. If you love fish head, then call dibs because it will disappear from the platter in no time.
The Squid Ink Spaghetti (RM35) is a dish you won’t want to share with others. First, because it is so delicious that you’d want to keep it all for yourself and second, the portion doesn’t encourage sharing if that’s the only main you’re having. It comes with calamari rings, local sundried tomato and topped with Ikura roe.
“We get the tomatoes from Cameron Highlands and dry them ourselves. We try to use as many local ingredients as we can in our restaurant,” says Najib.
The next main is worth getting your fingers dirty – Sticky BBQ Beef Ribs (RM69) with a side of Buttermilk Crispy Onion Rings and Pickled Slaw. The quarter rack of sticky, gooey, glazed goodness takes three hours to prepare. The meat falls off the bone and is really tender and juicy.
The short ribs are smoked and grilled over charcoal fire for about 20 minutes before being braised for three hours. The glaze is a special sticky onion jam made from sauteed onions, tomatoes, brown sugar and chillies. It tastes slightly salty and Najib assures me that it isn’t always the case. “I have to remind my chefs to go easy on the sea salt. They love to play too much with it,” he admits.
For dessert, Najib serves Mama’s Panna Cotta (RM21), made with vanilla beans, and comes with passion fruit gelee, passion fruit puree and bits of lychee. Decorated with edible flowers, the dessert is beautiful just as it is delicious. The panna cotta is soft and jiggly, but not too delicate that you cannot hold a piece of it in your spoon.
Jibby East offers a variety of cakes, and patrons can enjoy the desserts at the dedicated coffee bar run in partnership with Degayo coffee company. One of their highlights is Nitro Coffee – an infusion of nitrogen and cold brew. How does it taste? Fizzy and frothy, and a new obsession among his customers, he says.
Now that I have gotten my yummy food, pretty dessert and fizzy coffee down, it’s time to head back. This time, Waze is an absolute darling. One straight 16km stretch later, I reach home, unfazed.
KL East Gallery
Off Middle Ring Road 2
Tel: 03–4162 8050
Open daily from 10am to midnight