A Foodie Scene 20 Years In The Making

Taste the food of the world – almost – at Persiaran Ampang.

The busy Jalan Ampang is famous for many things – luxury condos abound, Malaysia’s first shopping mall (RIP), and embassies from around the world. Lucky for us, the culinary offerings along the road is just as global too, from western classics to exotic Middle Eastern fare. This celebration of food continues even to the far end of the road, at the border of the old neighbourhood of Ampang, where a little-known enclave called Persiaran Ampang is located.

Sapore Persiaran Ampang Chef Fabio Ruggiero

Home to wonderful first-class eateries formed under the tutelage of experienced chefs, Persiaran Ampang is a gastronomic hub perfect for any time of any day in any week.  Don’t be fooled by the brevity of the stretch into thinking it’s a waste of a trip if you’re a first-time visitor; there are enough restaurants there to tantalise your taste buds for days.

Anyone familiar with Klang Valley could easily attest to the seniority of the Ampang region in the city’s geography. So it should not come as a surprise that Persiaran Ampang is a neighbourhood of restaurants that have been in the works for more than the past 20 years.

It all started with La Risata in 1996, when Persiaran Ampang was still an empty row of shops. The Italian-inspired restaurant opened its doors discreetly but quickly amassed a large loyal following who would venture into the quiet street just to dig into a bowl of pasta or cut into the juiciest of steaks.

Not long after, the Mexican restaurant Las Carretas said “Hola” to Persiaran Ampang, swiftly gaining its own fans that come from far and wide for its classic offerings such as fajitas and quesadillas as well as modern dishes like the prawn spaghetti.

“For a while it was just us (La Risata and Las Carretas) here. There was also a French restaurant but unfortunately they closed own after a while,” says Selena Mak, the Senior Marketing Manager of the Good Food Trio, the company which owns La Risata, The Daily Grind and Bijan Restaurant.

Nonetheless, it has been up and up for the street post-2010, with the opening of new standalone cafes and restaurants you can’t find anywhere else, such as 28 Fireplace, Sapore and Casa Latina & Cacao Lab – the latest addition to the block.

In fact, business has been significantly booming, leading La Risata to move to a newer and bigger location along the same stretch. This gave way to the opening of burger and brunch joint The Daily Grind in the spot where the Italian restaurant stood before.

There is also a Venezuelan gastrobar – Sebastian’s Gastro Bar – for good measure, as well as Restoran Teochew dan Hakka for Chinese food and Restoran Namasthe for Indian along Persiaran Ampang, making the street truly international.

“We started 28 Fireplace because we wanted Malaysians to enjoy Australian breakfasts as we found them to be lacking here upon our return,” says Ivan, one of the co-founders of the cosy café.

This sentiment of sharing culinary treasures from around the world with locals and expats alike is also shared by Tamara Rodriguez, a renowned Chef from Venezuela who helms Casa Latina, an aptly-named restaurant which serves dishes from all over Latin America.

“When I opened this restaurant I knew I wanted a chocolate workshop where we would make chocolate confections by hand and patrons could purchase them and know they are buying the real thing,” shares Chef Tamara. The Cacao Lab is situated right by the entrance of the eatery and closed off only by a glass wall, allowing guests to take a look at the work that goes into making chocolate.

Although one might think this emergence of a variety of restaurants might cause competition between the different proprietors, the opposite seems to be the case.

“The truth is we’re all friends here,” says Chef Fabio Ruggiero of Italian and Spanish-Mediterranean restaurant, Sapore.”Sometimes I get my chocolate from Tamara and sometimes she makes some snacks to be sold at the gastrobar. I live close by so I do buy from the other restaurants here as well. We help each other out in any way we can and that’s really great,” he adds. The truth is, I think so too.

At the moment all the restaurants are on the left side of the row of shops, with the expat-friendly Ampang Grocers flanking the far right. Parking already proves to be difficult on weekends, caused by both the brunch and dinner crowds. With the construction of more condominium around the area and the expected completion of the International School of Kuala Lumpur in August this year, the restaurateurs are looking forward to the impending new customers, although the parking problems loom in the background.

“With the opening of established new restaurants around us, of course there will be more competition, but it also makes the place a whole lot livelier,” says Selena. “It is actually a very exciting time, we hope visitors who initially come to Persiaran Ampang for just one restaurant would come back to try another,” she confides.

Well, I sure did and I hope you do too!

p/s: There is also Restoran Hari Hari Datang, an amazing Chinese food court a mere stone’s throw away from Persiaran Ampang which has a wide variety of stalls serving amazing food all day long!

Vimal Palasekaran

Vimal Palasekaran

Loud laugher. TV buff. Hispanophone.
Vimal Palasekaran

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