Since I’m only beginning to pull myself out of the depths of student loan nightmares, I only get to experience fancier (read:more expensive) restaurants as a rare treat. Traveling is definitely no exception. I’ve traveled on such tight budgets before that I practically learned to survive on seaweed-flavored potato chips, chocolate pocky, and $1 pad thai during a three-week stint in Thailand.
(The scent of artificial seaweed still conjures not-so-pleasant memories of a third-class train ride, dropping me at my middle of nowhere destination at 4am)
In Kuala Lumpur, Farrell and I had already tasted a fair sampling of cheap street food when we decided to get dolled up for something a bit more upscale. Using a PDF Lonely Planet chapter (hacked onto F’s kindle) we decided that Bijan, located at 3 Jalan Bukit Ceylon, which was conveniently only a short walk from our hotel on Jalan Bukit Bintang, would suit our needs for quality Malaysian fare.
We had a bit of trouble finding the restaurant initially, as it’s located further up a street that is packed with all kinds of bars and restaurants catering to ex-pats and tourists. It was a lot more quiet and subdued, but the atmosphere suited us well.
I poured over the menu trying to decide how to best take advantage of my opportunity. For appetizers, we snacked on pulut kuning serunding, little discs of sticky rice flavored with turmeric, topped with a mixture of shredded fish, lemongrass, lime and coconut. The lemongrass and coconut were refreshing and I loved the slight curry flavor.
For the main course, I really took a chance and ordered sotong hitam manis. It was squid with chili paste, lemongrass and squid ink.
Typically, I’m not the biggest fan of squid because of the rubbery texture, but I was so intrigued with the squid ink (and, I love what lemongrass adds to any dish). Bijan’s squid was cooked so perfectly, the texture wasn’t the same as I’ve had it in the past. The chili paste was the strongest flavor of the dish, adding warmth but not too much heat. And the ink?
It surprised me, but it didn’t seem to have much of a taste. A bit briny, a bit earthy, but mostly neutral. The color was stricking, and a bit creepy. A deep deep black that made me conscious with every bite not to drip over my beige dress. (I guess that tells you a bit about myself, food over fashion!)
My obsession with well-cooked rice continued when we ordered sides of nasi minyak, coconut rice infused with spices and served along side an asam (sour plum) relish and lightly pickled veggies. The fragrance is indescribable, except to say that it was a refreshing compliment to the more complex squid dish. By the end of the main course, my mouth was buzzing with the onslaught of new flavors.
For dessert, we took advice from the Lonely Planet description and ordered a slice of durian cheesecake. It would be a baby step toward trying durian itself, but still give me a solid impression of what the infamous fruit tastes like.
I’m sure you have all heard that when it comes to durian, people either love it or hate it. Unfortunately, I do not love it. After the first bite, Farrell had a stroke of genius when he figured out that it smells like an Asian grocery store. Too many jokes about sewer breath and we could barely get through half of the slice.
It was sad, and it certainly wasn’t Bijan’s fault. The texture was creamy, with generous portions of durian flesh mixed in. The chocolate biscuit crust was a valiant attempt at appealing to familiar tastes. I couldn’t handle it, but at least I tried.
We also ordered some pandan cendol ice cream, because ice cream always wins as my dessert of choice. It was sweet but not overbearing, just how I like it.
By the end of the night, my beige dress had survived glasses of red wine and bowls of black ink…unfortunately, the pristine white tablecloth did not. The waitresses were kind enough and did not seem to mind though. In fact, the service during the whole meal was excellent.
To continue our little romantic evening, Farrell and I went to take pictures at the Petronas Towers at night. They seriously look like rocket ships when they’re lit up like that. As I rolled around on the ground trying to fit the whole towers into my shots (I had since changed into jeans), I was completely oblivious to what he actually had planned.
He got down on one knee and offered to take a picture of me…
…still completely oblivious to his position, I tried to instruct him how to line up the shot.
When I approached him to look at the pictures, he surprised me with an engagement ring!!!
(First, a test shot of Farrell. I assumed he actually cared about taking my picture, so I wanted to demonstrate good composition to get the towers lined up right, etc. Second picture, moments before the life-changing question. Not the best shot, turns out he had other things on his mind! And third, the first shot of us as fiance and fiancee.)
A night to remember, though I never did get that perfect shot of me in front of the towers ;)