For those of you who, like me, are always waiting for Christmas to arrive, I think I may just have a remedy for our impatience. It comes not in the form of gifts or mulled wine or mince pies, but in the rather brilliantly named Restoran Santa in Kuala Lumpur. The name, incidentally, is that of the owner’s father. But the festive parallel rings true, as Restoran Santa has been delivering a bellyful of joy for around about a quart of a century now. In layman’s terms, that equates to 25 marvellous years.
The key ingredient to Restoran Santa’s success is its single-minded focus on doing one thing right. That one thing is chapati, the unleavened flatbread that is a humble staple to many in this world. It has none of the puffed-up pomposity of naan or the slick oiliness of prata, just disc upon disc of whole wheat goodness. And Restoran Santa knows exactly how to flaunt its crowd-puller (and pleaser), as stacks of chaps’ adorn the front of the counter, greeting everyone that has the good sense to walk in. Inside it’s busy and functional and a little bit dirty, which is exactly how it should be.
During my visit to Restoran Santa, I devoured two chapatis, channa masala, a mixed vegetable curry, and some dhal (MYR 4.00). It would appear that having just two chapatis is rather restrained, as orders are often 4-6 per mouth (the largest, apparently, was MYR 500.00 worth of the round stuff…!). The chapatis themselves were the largest and thickest that I have ever eaten and, as expected, managed to get the smokey-sweet balance just about right. I say “about” as one or two bites were borderline floury; a matter of size trumping taste, perhaps? Let’s not go there.
Size was, in all seriousness, a recurrent theme. Both the chickpeas used for the channa masala and the lentils used for the dhal were bloated (and rather impressive) in size. Yet whilst this translated into a deliciously rich savoury flavour for the dhal (which was well-supported by a strong tomato and turmeric base), the channa turned out to be a little insipid. The pride of the plate was, however, the mixed vegetable curry, which provided a culinary aria of nicely balanced flavours. In particular, the natural starchiness of the potato offset the spiciness of the chilli beautifully. Hats off to Santa’s son – or the cooks that work for him – for this most sophisticated of curries.
All in all, Restoran Santa is one of those places that deserves an award for keeping the Malaysian appetite for chapati sated for so long. Its food is plentiful, and bursts with good and honest value. That said, anywhere that turns the charms of the chapati into a popular and longstanding business is worth a second visit in my book.
11 Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, Bukit Ceylon, Kuala Lumpur
+60 19 269 9771
Open 06:30-18:30 Monday-Friday; 06:30-15:00 Saturday; CLOSED Sunday