Once every four years, we return to Bangsar’s WTF restaurant to find it has evolved and expanded remarkably. When we first visited in 2012, it occupied a modest cafeteria space in a condominium. By 2016, it had moved to a full-fledged shop-lot on Lorong Maarof. Fast-forward to 2020 and WTF has dramatically doubled its domain, taking over a neighbouring corner with an events hall upstairs.
The menu continues to widen too – while WTF is mainly known for its Indian repertoire, spanning chaats to chutney, its selection sails effortlessly from Malaysia to the Mediterranean. Its core values have never wavered though – its founders have been vegetarian since birth, and their restaurant is one of KL’s most worthwhile destinations for a meat-free meal.
Our latest exploration of WTF coincides with its introduction of new recipes that seem poised to become fast favourites, reaffirming the kitchen’s commitment to creative cuisine with wholesome, cooked-from-scratch philosophies.
A menu as encyclopedic as WTF’s might seem a challenge to navigate, but the starters make for a vibrant introduction.
WTF’s Pani Puri is pure pleasure, with crisp shells packed with potatoes and green moong beans – fill each shell with two different chutneys (one made lively with coriander and mint, splashed with chickpeas, the other tangy with tamarind) and wolf everything down in one mouthful for a delightful contrast of crunchy and soupy textures, flooded with invigoratingly earthy-herbaceous flavours.
It shouldn’t be a shock that the Afghani Paneer Surprise is also a crowd-pleaser, its golden-battered, shallow-fried bite concealing creamy house-made cottage cheese layered with potatoes, more cheese and hung curd for absolutely addictive comfort fare, perfect for the young at heart.
For a vivacious, nutritious snack, munch on the three-bean salad wrap, fresh lettuce leaves to be folded up with corn, capsicum and kidney beans for light, lovely nourishment, making for playful finger food. Prefer something heavier? The Cheese Pav Bhaji fits that description – a melange of mashed vegetables, triumphantly thick, slow-cooked in a secret blend of sultry spices, soothed with a topping of cheese, partnered with WTF’s own-baked preservative-free buns for delightful dunking. Or for something that straddles the middle ground, chomp on sweet potato chaat, a hodgepodge of chickpeas brightened with pomegranates and showered with sweet potato crisps for plenty of full-bodied textures
For hot and hearty soups that satisfy the soul, slurp on WTF’s roasted pumpkin broth, sweetened naturally with carrots, and tom yum soup that’s made tantalising with tofu, corn and various veggies – WTF has been steadily increasing its vegan-friendly, gluten-free offerings, which certainly include these soups.
WTF works best for communal feasts – rustle up your entire family or bosom buddies to share the Mediterranean Platter, traversing the coasts of West Asia that stretch from Alexandria to Beirut. There’s something for everyone to nibble on this dish – corn chips and crispy pita to be dipped into bowls of yogurt or hummus that’s tinged green with chillies, alongside chickpea-laden falafels and a rejuvenating salad tossed with olive oil.
The hottest order on the menu might be the sizzlers – a strikingly unique WTF twist on the cherished classics of nasi lemak and biryani, these smokin’ specialities merit a trip to this restaurant all on their own. The nasi lemak is alluringly aromatic, assuredly vegetarian with sliced mushrooms to substitute for anchovies, buoyed by a robust tofu sambal, while the biryani is fragrant and fulfilling, spiced up with a nutty gravy of cashews and paneer, laid on lettuce for the most distinctive nasi lemak and biryani preparations in all of Bangsar.
Travelling even farther beyond our shores, WTF alights in Italy for an appuntamento with plant-powered pasta and pizza, once more with inventive flourishes – the former might looks like a conventional pesto, but its reliance on Thai basil brings out unmistakably Asian nuances, showered with broccoli and mushrooms for a green-is-great ethos, while the pizza is prepared on an Indian tawa griddle, coming out with a thick, crunchy crust to prop up a blanket of cheese-loaded creaminess.
Ultimately, most meals at WTF circle back to the restaurant’s Indian roots – the essence of South Asian cooking is embodied in rich recipes like cashew gravies, baby corn bharta, vegetarian masala kofta, and spinach sarson ka saag, seasoned and spiced just right without being overbearing, representing a compelling voyage that remains true to tradition while upholding the sense of quality that modern patrons seek in their dining experience.
Couple your curries with WTF’s house-baked flatbread, from mildly leavened vegetable kulcha to lovely, layered lacchha paratha, plus gluten-free, millet-based bajra roti that yields a dense, rustically textured chew, potentially evoking homemade bread from centuries of yore.
WTF’s founders tirelessly labour on new concoctions, which include desserts that should be introduced imminently. What we sampled were works in progress, but look out for irresistible temptations, impeccably plated, such as eggless tarts made nectarous with fillings of ripe apples and pineapple; a tiramisu-inspired treat with notes of coconut, jazzed up with raspberry sorbet on the side; luscious, blueberry-laced panna cotta, smooth and custardy; and chocolate cake revitalised with cream cheese, caramel and crunchy nuts.
Illustrating WTF’s attention to detail, even the chocolate truffles and bars on each plate are made by the restaurant.
Cooling beverages form the ideal antidote against the city’s perpetual summer: Our favourite drink here is whisked with cardamom-scented shrikhand hung curd, crowned with mango sorbet for an unbeatable tropical thirst-quencher. Other beverages feature flavours like saffron-perfumed pineapple, coconut, or potently pungent fresh lime and mint; if you prefer a hot sip, the saffron masala tea should leave a smile on your lips.
WTF’s final thoughtful touch rests in its baking – an assortment of attractive cakes in relatively smaller sharing sizes (perhaps for three to four persons) is available daily, without advance orders required. So if you’re plotting a last-minute intimate celebration, consider WTF for that special occasion.
Many thanks to WTF for having us back.
WTF – What Tasty Food
98, Lorong Maarof, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. Open Mon-Thu, 1130am-10pm; Fri-Sun, 1130am-11pm. Tel: 019-261-7070