KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Time travel isn’t possible. Yet Opium KL is a themed dim sum and modern Asian dining concept that approximates the illusion of stepping back in time very well, and the result is a stunning visual feast.
Every corner at the Opium is an effort to transport the diner to a time of heady Shanghai nights and Prohibition-style speakeasies. Think circa 1920.
Heritage Chinese has always been a popular but difficult interior theme to execute and many restaurants have fallen flat in the attempt to be tasteful.
At Opium KL, the period Chinese aesthetic borders on kitsch but there is enough devotion to detail in the restaurant’s design to pass it off as less Suzy Wong and more Wong Kar Wai. What results is a sexy and vibrant dining concept that offers a refreshing departure from the run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurants that dot every other city in the world.
Even before the food lands on the table, the diner is invited to drink in a visual cocktail of seductively parted curtains, the clutter of Asian urns and a curious collection of oriental artifacts – both original and faux.
The mood is set but the theatre doesn’t end with the decor. Wait staff are courteous, attentive and attired in cheongsam or mandarin-collared shirts.
A glorious lantern-lit bar runs the length of one side of the dining floor. Expect your tipple to be served with a dose of drama because surprising tidbits and unusual garnishes are the Opium standard. Each drink order always arrives cheekily in some unlikely but captivating bottle, jar or urn.
One cocktail – The Fifty Shades of Grey – arrives on a tray with rose petals and a side of metal handcuffs for loan during your stay at the Opium.
The significant thing to note about the Opium is that the food isn’t typically Chinese or even Asian, for that matter. The cuisine is officially Asian Fusion and the menu is mostly a medley of regional Asian dishes jazzed up with a measure of fusion funk.
Opium KL probably does its best business after the sun sets and when its Changkat Bukit Bintang address comes alive with tourists and food seekers but by then you’d be missing out on what is one of the best value lunch offers in Kuala Lumpur.
During lunch, a selection of more than 20 varieties of the Opium KL’s dim sum and noodles is available at beck and call for the one flat rate of RM28 per head.
The All-You-Can-Eat Dim Sum & Noodles Buffet is a weekday promotion and offers a sampling of the Opium menu proper. Without doubt, it is surely the best way to experience the restaurant’s charms for a song.
The usual suspects feature in this line up of dim sum– siew mai, prawn dumpling (har gau), plus a variety of dumplings and rolls that are either steamed or fried.
Outside of this Dim Sum Happy Hour, all portions of these dumplings will easily set you back at around RM15 a dish so dig in but take note, any leftovers are charged at a penalty of RM2 a piece.
Taste-wise, the more interesting options of this menu are the excellent Salted Egg Cream Buns, fragrant Sesame Prawn Rolls and crunchy Cheese Bread Dumplings.
The Opium KL’s dim sum is pork-free, modern and great value at the promotional package but while these are decent, dim sum is not the main draw here.
What does shine at Opium KL are the establishment’s noodle dishes and it is in these that you should invest your belly room.
The Opium Wanton Noodle, for example, is a stellar and creative take on a popular Malaysian hawker staple.
Bursting with flavour and texture, the Opium Wanton Noodle features airy crisp fried spinach scattered generously over a bed of bouncy soy-seasoned wanton-type noodles, minced chicken and lightly battered oyster mushrooms. This dish warrants a return visit.
The opportunity to sample a good array of the Opium’s noodle dishes under the lunch deal is too good to miss given that the restaurant’s usual a la carte prices for this fare is much higher so make a beeline for it.
The Opium serves the All-You-Can-Eat Dim Sum & Noodles menu from 12:00 to 2:30pm (Weekdays) accompanied by a free flow of lemon tea that is available hot or iced.
This tea is pulled at the bar and what results is a frothy, light and soothing brew. It’s very good and, as addictive as opium.
- The RM28 per person All-You-Can-Eat Dim Sum & Noodles Weekday Lunch Promotion
- The phenomenally creative noodle dishes (for lunch or dinner)
- The divine Salted Egg Cream Buns – which should be eaten hot while the salted yolk center is still a flow of eggy goodness
- The uber-sexy cocktails
- The Siew Mai and Prawn Dumplings (Har Gau) have improved in texture and taste and are good but not KL’s best
50 Changkat Bukit Bintang,
50200 Kuala Lumpur,
Telephone: +6 03 2142 5670
Monday to Thursday 12:00 Noon – 1:00am
Friday to Saturday 12:00 Noon -2:00am
Sundays 4:00pm – 1:00am