It is an undisputed fact that many young chefs dream of one day opening their own restaurants. The years spent toiling in someone else’s kitchen provide useful building blocks and learning tools, but equally, these years are spent gaining knowledge and accumulating a wide arsenal of information about setting up on their own.
Like a lot of his peers, chef Vicneswara Thenamirtham, better known as Vic, also had a dream of one day having his own F&B venture. After gaining nearly a decade’s worth of experience in eateries as diverse as TGIF, The Social, Vin’s and Manja and climbing up the ladder at each job, he realised the time was ripe for him to strike out on his own. So six months ago, he opened Two Hands, his first restaurant. While Vic is the creative force behind the restaurant, he also roped in former colleague Melinder Dhaliwal as marketing director.
Two Hands is representative of Vic’s vision of serving the food that he loves to diners, trawled from all sorts of cusines, from Italian to Middle Eastern to Portuguese. But you’ll find no strange twists and tweaks in each dish. Instead, everything is presented just the way it should be.
“Basically, from the beginning, the goal was to open a restaurant where I could portray my own kind of food. My goal was to always present food culture and cuisine as it is. If it is Italian, I present it as Italian. So there’s a blend of cuisines in this menu, but they’re all in their own form,” he says.
Vic and his team do everything from scratch, including making their own breads in a purpose-built oven. Vic also doesn’t believe in pre-mixes, MSG or additives. In fact, you can be sure he doesn’t use any MSG because he is actually allergic to the stuff.
“I have MSG intolerance, I get rashes if I eat anything with additives, which is why I don’t use MSG in my food at all,” he says.
Vic is a staunch believer in going local, so the menu is made up of at least 90% local produce with lots of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options in line with an increasing demand for these selections.
To begin a meal at Two Hands, try the popular hummus 3 ways (RM28), which consists of a traditional chickpea hummus, pumpkin hummus and beetroot hummus. Each hummus offers different, but equally delicious, notes. The pumpkin hummus is rich and buttery, the beetroot hummus offers earthy nuances, and the traditional hummus is tasty and well-rounded. The home-made breads on the side are ideal vehicles for lapping up this delightful trio (and rest assured, you will mop it all up, down to the last particle).
Then there is the crispy parmesan cauliflower (RM22) which Vic devised in homage to his mother’s Indian dish of deep-fried cauliflower. This a gluten-free option, which sees the cauliflowers coated in a mixture of chickpea flour, rice flour and tapioca flour instead of the traditional wheat flour. The cauliflower parcels are delightful, crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. The dipping sauce of Greek yoghurt layered with lemon juice and fresh herbs offers a tangy counterpoint that accentuates the dish further. The only detriment to your enjoyment might be the size of each floret, which is a little large and consequently, difficult to eat delicately (and in one mouthful).
Another sure-fire winner is the salted egg custard prawns (RM28) served with housemade butter croissants. The butter croissant is superlative – buttery, crumbly pastry that yields to a fluffy, doughy interior. It is so good, you could easily polish two in a row and forgo the salted egg custard entirely. But that would be a mistake because the custard is sublime – thick, rich and redolent of salted egg, without overpowering the palate with it.
Next up, have a go at the 4-hours beef short ribs (RM112), which features beef cooked in the oven for four hours, laid atop a bed of mashed potatoes with a gravy made from the juices of the meat. Interestingly, a layer of chicken floss is heaped on top of the beef too.
“Chicken floss is my favourite, it’s something very familiar, everyone knows about it, but not many restaurants get their hands on it. So I really wanted to incorporate it in one of my dishes,” says Vic.
The beef is brimming with flavour, although some pieces seem to be a tad tougher than others. While the chicken floss may seem like an odd sock here, give it a chance, and you’ll find that this salty, fibrous creation elevates the dish to a very innovative dimension.
If you’re after some good, old-fashioned comfort food, try the grilled Portuguese chicken & dirty rice (RM58). The chicken is marinated overnight in an array of spices while the dirty rice is infused with the eatery’s homemade tomato sauce and minced chicken. The gravy at the bottom makes use of chicken liver pate, a traditional requirement in most recipes for dirty rice. The result is a coalescence of indubitably rich flavours – the rice is gorgeous, each grain coated in a tomato-infused base, while the gravy offers sumptuous, rustic flavours. The chicken, meanwhile, is perfectly cooked – juicy, succulent and just divine.
From the dessert options, you might want to try the gluten-free vegan chocolate fudge cake & coconut latte ice cream (RM18). The cake doesn’t have butter, wheat flour, eggs or milk in it and instead incorporates vegan cocoa, multiple gluten-free flours and coconut milk. This is probably one of the best gluten-free cakes I’ve had – the cake is slightly denser than traditional iterations, but the denseness works well with the luscious fudge and ice cream on the side.
Two Hands also has a range of house cocktails on offer, all of which Vic came up with himself on a car ride to the restaurant. “He basically asked me to take a pen and write the recipes down,” says Melinder, giggling at the recollection.
The Jack Jean Paul (RM44) makes use of London dry gin, Russian vodka, fresh mint leaves, hazelnut liqeur and jackfruit puree and represents Vic’s take on the classic mojito. This is a genuinely awe-mazing drink – one that marries flavours beautifully, all while underscoring the sweet-savoury elements of jackfruit.
The coconut coach (RM32) was created in celebration of Vic’s love of Malibu rum (he even has a Malibu bottle tattooed on his arm!). “I already planned this a long time ago – I knew when I opened my own restaurant, it must have a coconut cocktail!” he says. The drink is made with extra virgin coconut oil, coconut cream, coconut water, Malibu, vodka and freshly pressed pineapple juice. It is an intoxicating tropical delight if ever there was one – full of lilting, upbeat coconut flavours designed to incite instant joy.
As you eat, you’ll notice Vic hard at work in the kitchen. He says that intermittently, he pops out to greet guests and asks them how they are enjoying their meal. It is evident that to him, this is one of the joys of owning his own restaurant.
“As a chef-owner, you have the freedom to showcase your food and communicate with guests. That’s the relationship I would like to have with guests – they can come and be themselves and be free to discuss their food with me. And if they want their food a certain way, I have the right to change it, because I am not answerable to anyone else. That gives me the allowance to work better to serve guests,” he says.
Two Hands Restaurant
A-LG-05, Qliq Damansara
Jalan PJU 8/8A
47820 Petaling Jaya
Tel: 012-424 1194
Open daily 7am-midnight