As the old guard is replaced by shiny armour with soulless sleeves, the memory of past is washed under fervid instagram posts. Entire neighborhoods succumb to the invasion of the hipster. Old barber shops have to compete against "Retro Barbers" with their 12 week old beards soaked in vegan oil, all the right old school tattoo's, heavy denim and moustaches that defy gravity. The little mom and pop dumpling shop pulls its shutters down as "Beijing Bao Babe" floods the sidewalk in balking neon and subpar food for an image conscious flock. People discover "bubble tea" because a K-pop star raved about it. Little by little the spirit of an entire block becomes limp and desireless.
It may sound like the venture is a disaster, and most of the time, it is. However, sometimes, a few intrepid developers find an empty building, replete with it's faded signs, and decide to revive the inside, but respect the neighborhoods visual form. If you take an old run down building, turn the inside into a tranquil oasis and have food to match, then more power to you. Chocha Foodstore does exactly this.
Located opposite Hawker Chan, one hundred meters from the entrance to Petaling Street Market, this stunningly un-snobby restaurant belts out super food with service to match. Lucky for you and I, the prices are not astronomical.
It was late afternoon when I walked in, fanning myself mentally from the intense heat outside. I immediately ordered their cold brewed darjeeling tea which packed a delightfully clear, complex zing.
The mains arrived after (i'll be honest, a good 30 minutes), but as i've often said before if its made fresh i'll wait for it. I opted for the Duck confit rice bowl, garnished with fresh herbs and local pickles, a soft boiled egg and duck fat barley rice. It was a marriage of flavours that cut a tender relief from the months of local cuisine i'd been foraging for.
My server was attentive but stayed at eye-length, dealing with the few stragglers who came in at this odd hour. Everything flowed like a well oiled machine, something you could tell has been drilled into the staff from the outset.
My favourite kind of restaurants are ones with a clear, consise menu, that makes it almost impossible to choose because everything sounds great. Chocha is like that. I struggled weighing up whether the duck confit bowl would be as good as the Crispy Chilli Squid or Kampung Chicken. The vegetarian dishes sounded amazing: Eggplant Belado, vegetarian bhaji's or the Jackfruit Ulam Salad? Oh the agony of choice.
Next time i'm in KL, i'll force some friends to come so that I can order a bunch of items and share. That's the one negative about eating alone, you feel wasteful ordering more than you can manage just to try mutiple things.
If it's true that chefs are the new rockstars, then these are the kind of record-shops I'm happy to hang out in.
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.