Located in the Old Malaya colonial heritage building, Manja is a gem for foodies and people who appreciate special dinners.
A great dinner always starts with great drinks. And this time, they were special indeed: The Spirit of Borneo cocktail which is made with chili infused tuak, elderflower syrup, lime and a shaken egg white for a smooth, creamy finish, plus a Shiraz wine opened appetite and prepared us for the surprises to come. Later in the evening, it was a Vodka mint teaser, which is a refreshing cocktail of vodka, mint and a dash of fizzy lemon soda. The final cocktail for the night was the Dawn of the Dragon, a very pretty cocktail made with gin, hibiscus, Manja made syrup and garnished with edible flowers and a slice of dehydrated dragonfruit.
For the amuse bouche, we had two little spoons of corn with tomatoes and garlic, soaked in olive oil, perfect for opening up the senses as a palate cleanser. The taste was very light, with a bit of balsamic vinegar reduction, just to give you a kick and get you prepared for your meal.
The appetiser was Caribbean style guacamole: wild tiger prawn from Sabah dressed in a Creole dressing, layered atop fresh guacamole, served inside a fresh half coconut. This dish made a dramatic entrance on a bowl of smoking pebbles that hid the dry ice keeping this dish cool and fresh. The guacamole was enforced with some cumin and other Middle Eastern spices. The marinated prawns were very soft and juicy and the mantou bun, the Chinese traditional bun, brought a soft warm texture to the entire dish. Soft and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, these buns are a perfect accompaniment to the dish.
One of the mains was Ketam Bunga Cake, which is a crispy fritter of local flower crab meat, served with cod liver mousse on the side, caviar and a super smooth garlic sauce. Everything inside this dish is creamy, spiked with a bit of heat and balanced with a sweet freshness that comes from the tomato comfit it is served with.
After that we had tamarind glazed smoked salmon with boiled egg and Japanese rice, avocado and fresh line caught tuna from Sabah. A bit of coconut oil, mushrooms deep fried in a wok with truffle oil to give an earthy taste that went well with the fish. The dish is amazing in its simplicity. It breaks apart the standardised sushi dish in all of the ingredients and it gives you the option to combine them in any way you want, just by adding them in the spoon one by one. On the top it’s recommended to put a few drops of soy sauce and the result is an explosion of tastes, a bouquet of dishes in one spoon. Beautiful!
This was for sure one of our favourite dishes because it allows you to play with food in a way that is usually unacceptable for a fine dining restaurant and cool at the same time giving you the option to experiment with the food and your tastes.
The next dish was lamb rack marinated in three types of mustard with potatoes and rocket, cucumbers and tomato salad. Homemade mayo with chilli aioli, potatoes fried in duck fat and flavoured with curry leaves.. Black sesame seed hummus makes the dish unique. The lamb was very soft and the hummus is so good that it makes you forget about the sauce.
For dessert, we had the Kaya & Cheesecake. The divine cheesecake is entirely made in the Manja kitchen, including the biscuit base. The highlight of the dessert is the homemade ‘kaya’ that is spread on top. ‘Kaya’ is a traditional coconut jam that is very popular. The richness of this beautiful cheesecake is offset with pops of freshness introduced by fresh mangoes and grapes.
Navin draws his inspiration from his travels across the region, family recipes that have been handed down through the generations and his own favourite food memories. While working on the menu Manja, he also paid especial attention to every aspect of Manja, from design, décor and ambience.
That sounds impressive and after tasting the food I can definitely say that each dish has a background and a concept behind it, nothing was left to change in designing the menu, just like the entire atmosphere of the restaurant.
Manja is a medley of local and international cuisine. A lot of inspirationis drawn from Chinese, Indian, Japanese, European and Indonesian cuisines.
Manja is a Malaysia word and it means PAMPER. And yes, we pampered us with the amazing food they prepared. Manja is all about the element of surprise. And for sure, you will be surprised.
Warm feeling, slow background music and relaxed customers, it’s a very welcoming place with a unique design.
Appearance of the Establishment: 10/10
The terrace in front of the venue reminds you of an old Italian small village, the inside is modern decorated with western and eastern influences.
The waiters are very friendly and polite; they explain to you very clearly what the dishes are about and, if there is any need, they recommend you how it’s best to enjoy the dish. It seems that they brought the food a bit too fast, we would have loved to have some breaks between the dishes to enjoy the taste more.
The food was a surprise, almost all the time. This unique and highly flavourful menu is the brainchild of the owner Mr. Navin Karu, who spent over year conceptualising, creating and tasting over 120 dishes before arriving at this culinary offering. That sounds impressive and after tasting the food I can definitely say that each dish has a background and a concept behind it, nothing was left to change in designing the menu, just like the entire concept of the restaurant.
The price is on the high side but for the quality that you get, it’s perfect.