Updated: May 15
A quiet rooftop restaurant bar. A rainy evening. Such were the conditions during my first visit to Shhhbuuuleee. No, you read that right. I didn’t mistype the extra letters by mistake. That’s actually the name of the restaurant.
Shhhbuuulee comes to you by the same folks behind Chocha Foodstore. By speaking with head chef Mui, I discover that the restobar wants to champion the notion that there’s plenty of room for creativity when pairing food and drink. Hence the East Asian focus on flavours found here.
The food menu is neither expansive nor lacking when it comes to variety. Upon reflection, I personally feel that it’s focused with a tight, well-thought flow to it. The drinks menu, however, is more substantial with choices ranging from classic Suntory Kakubin highballs and Roku gin and tonics to finer sake and wine bottles. At Shhhbuuuleee, food should be enjoyed with a drink.
Highballs and G&Ts are classic sundowners, a refreshingly cool and light way to beat the warm KL heat. Shhhbuuuleee’s take on a G&T (RM38) sees a very Japanese approach, using Roku gin as the base and playing with shiso’s green aromas.
Cockles. Despite numerous attempts to enjoy this clam, it seems that I am unable to become a fan of its iron-rich taste. But I can admire Shhhbuuuleee’s take on this humble seafood; with an overall positive sentiment towards this particular dish, I think it primarily boils down to two elements – the use of rice wine and taucu. The cockle itself was meaty with a very noticeable chew. It was, as you guessed it, strong in that blood-like taste. Fortunately, the boldness of Chinese rice wine and taucu (fermented soybean), with some help from the mustard seed oil, balances out that iron taste. I’d say that this is worth a try, even for non-fans of cockles like myself.
Because this drunken cockle dish (RM38) was rather heavy in flavour, pairing this with the G&T was an absolute no brainer. The shiso’s light, herbaceous aroma helped me to keep my palate fresh and ready for more.
This was something special, as it isn’t every day you spot grouper head terrine on the menu. Mui uses chayote, Szechuan peppercorn and chilli vinaigrette to complement the fish. There’s crunch from the chayote, a nice gentle heat from the Szechuan peppercorn oil, and a slight tang from the vinaigrette to elevate this into something unique. The terrine itself resembles otak-otak with a smooth meat texture.
To pair, get Shhhbuuuleee’s house pour sake – Shuho Awesome Karakuchi Edition (RM35). It’s a junmai daiginjo from Yamagata prefecture with a crisp and light bite that works to complement the flavours of the terrine.
Next up, a popular choice here, I’m told. Wagyu tartare served with pickled radish and seaweed crackers (RM52). I did not get into the nitty-gritty and find out what seasoning, cut, or kind of wagyu the restobar used, but it looked, tasted and felt like a good tartare. With a few pros and cons.
Pro: the beef itself was sufficiently meaty and decently sized, which made for a great mouthfeel.
Con: the wagyu had a slightly gamey aftertaste that particularly stood out, and not in a good way.
Pro: the seaweed crackers are delicious and accentuate the tartare.
Con: I wished there were more seaweed crackers.
Pro: the tartare pairs well with the dry sake with the combination creating pleasant umami notes.
My absolute favourite thing on the menu. Grilled peppers served with sesame and peanut butter (RM26) – simple, punchy and delicious. It’s great that Mui chooses to serve two types of peppers here, wonderfully smoky shishito peppers and baby bell peppers. Both, even without the sauce, are delicious. Perfectly flavourful and attractively smoky. But it doesn’t stop there, add in that sesame and peanut butter combo and it introduces nutty and savoury elements into the mix, ultimately enhancing the peppers.
I rather liked this dish too. The awesome use of the sakura shrimp added a briny sweetness to the dish, while the earthy rice supports this land and sea duality. The ginjo, a quality clean and crisp sake, helped amplify the glutinous rice taste and extended it, creating a long, satisfying finish.
Lastly, there was the smoked beef tongue skewers with jicama, shrimp paste and peanut (RM28). The smoky aroma was particularly heady and the actual skewer itself was at least two to four bites worth despite appearances. The shrimp paste and peanut definitely gave the dish a heartier mouthfeel, adding a bold umami element to one of my favourite cuts, ox tongue.
The heavier flavours of the gyutan skewers called for a more substantial drink, like shochu. When pairing, order mugi (barley) shochu on the rocks, like the light and clean Ougaku (RM35). You won’t regret it.