Serving a contemporary take on Malaysian classics, JALAN is the latest opening from Meraki Group.
District: Central, Hong Kong
How much: Small plates priced between $70 and $140; larger plates between $95 and $195 ($410 for USDA beef short rib); sides between $15 and $35; desserts between $70 and $85
Must order: Beef rendang samosas; coconut roasted prawn curry
The best for: Small group dinners or a casual date night
Sassy tip: Although the restaurant is best for smaller groups, it has a “disco room” which can be booked for tables of eight to 10 people
Newly opened on Peel Street, JALAN is the latest venture from Meraki Group. Known in the city for its popular restaurants, Uma Nota and BEDU, JALAN is the group’s first venture into Malaysian cuisine. Having already brought lively Japanese-Brazilian flavours and modern Middle-Eastern fare, the new opening follows the group’s rule-breaking model; offering its own contemporary spin on authentic flavours and dishes.
Found just up the road from Uma Nota on Peel Street (where 121BC used to be), JALAN is sure to catch the eye of passers-by with its striking green exterior. The cosy restaurant features a long communal table for groups, with further bar seating that’s better suited for couples. As with all Meraki Group restaurants, service at JALAN is top notch, with the attentive and well-informed servers always on hand to offer assistance.
At the time of our visit, the restaurant was still in its soft opening, so the full bar menu was not yet available. Though a range of cocktails, wines and mocktails are on offer. In keeping with the 70s-inspired décor, JALAN’s cocktails are contemporary riffs on retro classics. Drinks include the Big Yellow Tiki ($105), a lemongrass-infused pina colada; and the Heart of Pisco ($95), the restaurant’s take on a caipirinha, but we opted for the Masala Mule ($85). With notes of turmeric, honey, lemon, homemade pepper bitters, plus the obligatory ginger beer, it was an up-to-date take on a classic mule.
Suitably hydrated, we were ready to tackle the food menu. Split into “Smaller” and “Larger”, the food at JALAN is inspired by the hawker halls and mamak stalls of Malaysia. Guests can expect to find the atypical melting pot cuisine of this varied country. It features influences from Indian, Chinese and Malay cuisines, with the new opening giving tried and tested classics a fresh new look. A prime example of this is the stand out beef rendang samosas ($90). The traditional-style samosas are crisp and fully loaded with the tender and flavoursome meat curry, ticking all the boxes for the traditional flavours of coconut and spices. The accompanying tamarind dip only helped to take the dish to the next level.
For a slightly lighter starter, we also loved the charred hamachi ($140). Accompanied by green sambal and a citrusy kokum dressing, the fish had been slightly torched to give some charred flavour, yet still retained its sweetness, letting the fish shine.
Another must-try at JALAN is the laksa fried chicken ($135). Light, crisp and fresh with the flavours of lime and coriander, the LFC differed to many greasier and heavier fried chicken offerings. We loved the tender and full of flavour thigh meat, and couldn’t get enough of the laksa dip, though this could have been slightly thicker so it stuck to the chicken a bit more and give a bigger flavour hit.
Though all dishes we sampled on our visit to JALAN impressed, the highlight for us was the coconut roasted prawn curry ($195), served with coconut rice ($35). Presented in a whole coconut, the curry was full of juicy prawns and flavours of curry leaf, turmeric and coconut, which was only complemented further by the fragrant rice. Although we missed them on this occasion, a side of roti canai ($30) would have been the perfect accompaniment to mop up every last drop of the rich and creamy curry sauce. A dish not to miss on any visit to JALAN.
We didn’t sample them on our first visit, but JALAN does offer a variety of veggie-friendly plates. Small plates include pickled mushroom and green bean salad ($70), along with a green sambal-grilled cauliflower ($120). When it comes to mains, the fiery black pepper roasted eggplant ($125) and flat rice noodles JALAN style ($95) are sure to be a hit.
Our meal was wrapped up with a dessert of banana fritters with coconut and pandan ice cream. On the lighter side, the dessert was just indulgent enough with the creamy ice-cream topping off the crisp fried fritters beautifully. Also offered on the sweets menu are pandan-filled doughnuts, which we’ll be going back to try soon (along with another helping of coconut roasted prawn curry!).
Our verdict: Much like BEDU and Uma Nota, JALAN paves its own path. Both the food and the vibe are lively and fun, making it a great option for a relaxed night out. And although the menu is more contemporary than authentic, it allows diners to try dishes from a cuisine that is rare on the Hong Kong dining scene. Plus, the Chef’s menu ($340 per person), features a selection of favourites and is a great way to sample a little bit of everything the restaurant has to offer.
JALAN is open now for dinner service from 6pm; walk-ins only.
JALAN, 42 Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong, www.jalanhk.com
All images courtesy of JALAN.