Monch! @Hungry Tapir

Fellow foodies, word has it that there is a unique vegetarian and vegan restaurant with a full-service bar, nestled in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. In its natural habitat, The Hungry Tapir lounges discreetly on the first floor of a vibrant building in the bustling area of Jalan Petaling. Its impressive social media following attracts the right crowd, and foodies with a curious gaze can easily discern this hidden gem from the kaleidoscopic urban scenery. 

A black-and-white staircase, evocative of the tapir’s coat, leads up to the restaurant. Once you open the door, prepare for an immersive experience in the tapir’s lair. Sunrays stream through a rooflight to brighten an otherwise obscure setting, and lush green foliage dangle gracefully from the ceiling. There are flower-shaped amber lights angled above the imposing bar to illuminate marble countertops. Rattan-style chairs with intricate wickerwork and wooden tables of different heights are scattered across the place. A cozy sofa awaits those who want to be more comfortable. 

The Hungry Tapir welcomes you in its hideaway. Light music is playing in the background, drowning out the noise of happy eaters. Electric pink neon signs and bold artworks are speckled across washed-out orange brick walls, a beautiful contrast to the rustic ceiling lined with wooden beams. The details embellish the place even more: lampshades with thick tassels, small potted plants on the tables, house specialties scribbled on aesthetic chalkboards, and huge mirrors for post-worthy group selfies. The decor, in two words: eclectic and instagrammable. If you prefer well-lit spaces, there is a partitioned area with big windows, inviting you to bask in the daylight as you enjoy your meal. For people who want to eat al fresco, there is also a gorgeous pink terrace at the back. 

When my colleague and I arrive there on a busy Saturday, there is some initial confusion about our reservations, but this is quickly sorted out. The place opens at 12 p.m and within minutes, it is teeming with hungry tapirs. Lots of families and friends can be seen relishing their meals, so it is a rather convivial spot. 

The menu offers a wide variety of vegan, vegetarian, keto-friendly and gluten-free options. You can find various Asian-inspired dishes like Burmese Banh Mi, Nasi Lemak, Jungle Laksa and Big Fat Miso Ramen. If you’re in the mood for something a little different, be sure to check out their all-day breakfast section that has some interesting dishes, such as roti canai, nangka pancakes, and hutan smoothie bowl. 

For appetizers, we are tempted by Mama’s Satay (RM20): marinated hedgehog mushroom skewers, peanut sauce, cucumber and rice cakes. The highlight of this dish is the mouth-watering peanut dip: a delectable blend of nutty, spicy and sweet goodness which pairs well with the crispy yet fleshy mushrooms. The rice cakes, while flavorless on their own, are great for dipping in the rich sauce. 

Amongst the main dishes, the Pink Bombshell Burger (RM32) really stands out. It is usually served on a wooden tray, with a spicy green salad in an artisanal coconut bowl, a copious serving of crispy sweet potato fries and vegan mayo. A soft crunch, then silky sweetness… the sweet potato fries, dipped in light tangy mayo, are some of the best I have tasted so far. The centerpiece of this colorful composition is a stack of pink buns, lettuce, juicy tomato, caramelized onions and beetroot patty, with a generous drizzle of home-made BBQ and vegan cheese sauces… a treat for the eyes and for the stomach. Although the sweet-savory flavor combination is downright foodgasmic, I feel that the beetroot patty may disappoint a carnivorous palate texture-wise, since it is slightly dense. However, this dish is a definite must-try for vegans: the Pink Bombshell Burger is among PETA’s 2021 Best Veggie Burgers in Malaysia, aptly termed a “culinary delight”. 

If you are a truffle aficionado, but also a broke Monashian, look no further… The creamy Truf le Baked Mac No Cheese (RM 26) with tempeh, mushroom, vegan parmesan and truffle oil might just be the umami fix you need. My advice would be to eat as soon as it is served so you can really taste the complex flavors unraveling in your mouth. The delicately balanced spices and herbs, as well as the warm earthiness from truffle oil and mushrooms, add a lot of depth to the dish. 

What if you are not ready to take the vegan leap? Well, Team Tapir has you covered with sharing platters, which are value-for-money and serve up to 4 people. Prepare for a slow immersion in the delicious world of vegetarian and vegan cuisines. The Soul-food Platter (RM80) allows us to taste: four mini pink bombshell burger sliders, truffle-baked mac no cheese, fried cheeken, roasted cauliflower pumpkin salad, and homemade crisps to share. Fried cheeken are buttermilk-battered oyster mushrooms, unbelievably crispy on the outside, but with a tender and chewy texture reminiscent of real chicken. The fresh salad is exquisite – packed with an assortment of nuts to complement the sweet roasted vegetables. The homemade crisps are well-seasoned, crunchy snacks ideal for sharing in groups. 

The full-service bar has a drinks list with various cocktails, wines and beers… Fear not, if you are a teetotaller, you can still quench your thirst with mocktails, shakes, smoothies, coffees, teas and kombucha juices. I find that the Tapir’s Ice Tea (RM18) is a refreshing non-alcoholic delight for your tastebuds – tea brewed with gula melaka, tart passion fruit puree and fragrant mint. If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss out on the Pink Colada (RM18), their alcohol-free twist on traditional Piña Colada. It is a fruity blend of pineapple, coconut cream and cherry syrup. 

You will be happy to hear that The Hungry Tapir offers a selection of vegan and vegetarian cakes. Although the Vegan Red Velvet (RM18) with cream cheese substitute is sweet and rich, it is a bit dense for my liking. However, their warm Choco Oat Cinnamon Brownie (RM18) is a definite winner in my book – imagine decadent, velvety smoothness with an intense chocolate flavor and just a hint of cinnamon… a chocoholic’s dream. Okay! Enough drooling for now. Here’s the verdict: it comes as no surprise that The Hungry Tapir is worth a visit for an authentic vegan or vegetarian experience in a unique, fun setting. Though some dishes are on the pricier side, there are definitely worthwhile options for students. Service can be a bit slow if the place is full, but Team Tapir is friendly and welcoming. So if you’re on the lookout for your next foodie adventure, and you want to splurge on some meat-free indulgence, be sure to check out The Hungry Tapir in KL.

Written by Rae M.

Pictures by Youshau

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s