Hidden just off the bustling main road of Jalan Raja Chulan, Manja is home to modern Asian-fusion cuisine set in a cosy and warm atmosphere. The food has a mainly tapas-like feel to it, and it’s encouraged to order a few of the sharing plates on offer.
(Above) The first floor of this two-storey restaurant: The bar is fully stocked with lots of liquor on offer- from The Botanist Gin to Sarawak Tuak!
(Above) The Menu: As you can see, the menu is extensive, serving small to large plates with few sides. As a group of 4 people, we ordered 4 small plates, 2 medium plates and 1 dessert. The menu features mainly Asian-inspired food, or Western dishes with an Asian twist.
(Above Left) Coconut Tuna: This ceviche-like dish was a pleasant and fresh start to the meal, and I really enjoyed the combination of tangy tuna and sweet coconut. It was served with tapioca chips as a vehicle for the dip which added a nice crunch. (Above Right) Sancho Wings: The wings were well done with just the right amount of spice and full of flavour.
(Above Left and Centre) Bayam and Escargot: Being a real escargot fan, I just couldn’t NOT try this dish! Despite the lack-lustre name, the dish was really tasty and was a good mix of French flavours and Asian ingredients. I would have to say that the portion was a bit small (bare in mind that it was a ‘small plate’ dish). (Above Right) Paneer and Mango: I must say that this was one of the prettier dishes served with bright chunks of mango studded throughout the salad. However, I would say that it was an unfortunately bland dish, and lacked dressing and seasoning. It would’ve benefitted if the paneer was grilled for longer, with a touch more salt.
(Above Left) Taiping Duck and Garlic Rice: Exactly as it says on the menu, we were served a reasonable portion of garlicky fried rice and roasted duck. The duck is supposedly sourced locally from Taiping and was flavoursome, however the fat was not rendered well (as you can clearly see from the photo) and the skin was not at it’s fully crispy potential. (Above Right) Tamarind Salmon and Yellow Fin Tuna: To me, I found this dish pretty disappointing. As you can see, it was also served with some sort of garlic fried rice, with slices of avocado, thin slices of salmon and a few cubes of tuna… On the menu it also mentioned truffle flavours, but the truffle oil couldn’t be tasted and just overall made for a rather blah dish.
(Above Left) Rastali Fritters with Teh Tarik Ice-cream: This dessert was a real life saver after the disappointing mains! The teh tarik ice cream was smooth and rich with a strong tea flavour, and the fritters were sweet and slightly chewy. Some may find the dessert too sweet as there weren’t any contrasting or balancing flavours, but I found it pretty enjoyable. (Above Middle) Spirit of Borneo: Probably the highlight of our visit to Manja, the Tuak, lime, egg-white and elderflower cocktail was just really damn yummy. Apparently the establishment has won a few awards because of this simple yet delightful cocktail and it’s easy to see why. (Above Right) Taman Mezcal: I was the only one who enjoyed this cocktail, perhaps because the smokey Mezcal flavour isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I thought it was well balanced with the berry and ginger flavours.
Overall, the service was very pleasant and efficient, with the waiters being happy to recommend dishes and drinks. The ambience and setting would make it a great place to hold a function, especially with the sharing plate concept. However, I think the main dishes were definitely not as impressive as the small plates, especially considering both of the mains we ordered had very similar carbs (garlic fried rice) with the proteins not being executed well. I have actually just looked at Manja’s website, and it seems that they have cut down their menu items! This was probably a good idea due to the inconsistencies in their food, and hopefully if I were to return again, their food quality would’ve improved. If you’d like to have a peek at their new menu, I’ll put a link to their site here.