DR.Inc needs no introduction, although we may need a lesson or two on its pronunciation — Is it “drink”? Or the more medical moniker, Doctor Inc?
The restaurant and cafe has managed to carve out the kind of niche and visual branding that other establishments try in vain to create, but essentially stop short of realizing: Colorful prints adorn its walls and corners, and everything seems worn to perfection.
Like the latest French it-girl, seemingly insouciant with her smudged eyeliner and half-tucked shirt — there’s a lot of thought that goes into this kind of “look.” Here at DR.Inc, it’s Lisette Scheers, the cafe’s owner, founder of Nala Designs, and the woman behind Nala’s Kampung House — a weekend family affair of local music, food, crafts and activities — who creates that aesthetic.
Nala prints are identifiable from 100 meters away: Bright, fresh, beautifully cacophonous, and eye-wateringly expensive. Dr.Inc manages to translate that same spirit on to their plates, and their twice-weekly lunch buffet is the best place to experience it.
Every Tuesday and Friday, incredibly well-priced at RM30 (US$7.50) for all-you can eat vegetables (plus some chicken dishes on Fridays), desserts (including cake!) and a TO DIE FOR AND LIVE AGAIN mango kulfi (Indian-style ice cream).
Yes, vegetables. And it’s damn good.
This is where you’ll find the kind of food that reminds you how good spinach can taste; the kind of food that makes you feel good even after eating two full plates; most importantly, the kind that surprises you by pairing cauliflower with kaffir lime leaves (um, delicious).
“Otto Lenghi is in KL and he’s on my plate,” declared my lunch date, who we’ll call “Curls.” She reads a lot of cookbooks, and knows these things.
Curls is referring to the famed British-Israeli chef, whose eponymous 2008 cookbook certainly seems to be the central inspiration for the spread — vegetable-centric, fresh, Mediterranean, with a few nods to India’s spices, dishes and techniques to round out the canon.
Derivative? Yes, sure, but who cares? It only needs to be good to make us happy, and this buffet is GREAT.
While the dishes vary depending on when you visit, here is a quick breakdown of what was on offer today (Friday):
We’ve long felt that couscous is the tasteless misery sand of the grain world: Millimeter-long spaghetti nubbins, terrorizing “healthy lunches” since the 90s. We’ll eat our words, for now — this salad was great. Flavorful, respecting the integrity of each grain, while not so dry that it clings to your plate and throat. A win.
Mr. Bean Soup:
This was delicious, well seasoned, albeit served at room-temperature, which is decidedly not our vibe. A piping-hot soup is the only soup we want to have.
Hunter-style chicken, rich with veg. Again, really good, while both respecting the flavors of the poultry and the vegetables. We might dare to say that in general, the food is on the under-salted side of things, but not in a bad way.
Aubergine with yogurt:
Ok, We liked this, but we love aubergine in its many iterations, so it’s hard to do us wrong when it’s a featured player. However, a few points of critique: While the flavors themselves were on point, the aubergine felt a little soggy, verging on viscous. The rounds might benefit from salting to draw out some of the moisture before cooking, so that they have a bit more of a structural integrity.
Oh, the quiche. Look, we call it as we see it, and name it like we taste it — this base was not properly cooked. A soggy bottom is an unfortunate side-effect of pie baking: This base was straight up raw.
Curls brought this up with the chef, and they told us that our mouths, eyes, and taste buds were wrong, which is largely a terrible way to deal with constructive criticism. It was raw. Blind bake this sh*t, or take it off the menu, please.
Roast mushroom and bread salad:
We have a deep distrust of salad that feature bits of bread: Croutons are the devil’s salad chips, given a second lease on life in restaurants the world over after they died the first time being ignored in your bread basket. In this case, they’re there to soak up wily veg juices, and add texture. If that’s your thing, go for it. We scooped around the bread, unconvinced. Change our mind, world. ‘Til then, we’re not playing into your old-bread trap, Lucifer.
Oh dear, this is a terribly blurry photo.
Did we get too excited? (Yes.) This was great and we came back for seconds. The lentils were wonderfully nutty and cooked to perfection: Toothsome without being under-cooked; soft without being mushy. We still want more.
Potatoes and mushrooms:
Nice roasted veg salad. The potatoes were a delight with some great caramelization. Some added herbs would be welcome: Maybe rosemary? Just a suggestion.
Ok, look. Call us purists, but if you’re going to call something a ratatouille, it should be comprised primarily of aubergine, peppers, onions and courgette. This version was 90% potato, and while it was tasty, it’s a potato stew. A good potato stew, but in no way anything near the ratatouille of our childhood in France.
In all of our lives, eating everything we’ve seen all around the world, we’ve never encountered anything like this: A smokey aubergine puree, dotted with jewels of veg, bursting with texture and flavor. Was the aubergine a dressing to the veg? Was the veg a supporting player to the aubergine? We can’t tell, and we’re Ok living with the mystery as long as this is a regular item on the menu.
Always welcome, and this one was done extremely deftly, balancing the clean crunch of the aubergine with the more pungent flavors of garlic and ginger. We could eat tubs of this.
Paneer masala and jeera rice:
Uuuu. Baby. Yes. While it felt a bit of a detour from the spread’s main fair, we’re willing to take the scenic route. Make sure you get a little bowl of the cumin-perfumed rice, drenched with butter masala and tiny cubes of cheese.
Impossibly simple, hard to do wrong. We loved this, and if you’re open to suggestions, DR.Inc, we think the dish would benefit from a fresh grating of nutmeg to add a bit of depth. If you’re into that kind of thing.
Another revelation, and we’re here to tell you why: Tumeric warmed cauliflower, with pickled onions is great, but would you know it that adding kaffir lime leaves takes it to another level? We would have never thought of it. Thank you for opening our minds with a salad.
Spinach pancakes and coriander chutney:
Hello! Perhaps the only item we tried that was aggressively flavored was this chutney (not pictured — use your imagination). Dare we say that it was slightly over-salted for our taste, but we quickly forgave the oversight when the spice hit us. We love food that has a little kick, and this chutney was a smack upside the head: Try it.
Lemon cheese pie:
Confession. After a two-rounds-at-the-buffet lunch, we had the mango kulfi and were too full to try anything else. There was a date cake. This pie. A coconut cake. So much more to try, but an excuse to go back.
Note: We went over the span of two weeks. On our first visit a couple of weeks ago, a respectable number of customers sauntered in. During this time, we each got ample face-time with family-style platters teeming with brightly colored, fresh foods, admiring the beautiful mess before we spooned a bit of each onto our plates. More recently, however, we barely had time to say hello to the cauliflower — there were at least six people behind us, and any kind of prolonged hovering is just rude and inconsiderate to everyone at lunch hour, so on we moved. Looks like word is getting around quick.
DR.Inc Cafe’s lunch buffet is on every Tuesday (vegetarian) and Friday (non-vegetarian), at RM30/person.
8 Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 9am to 10pm Tues-Sun, 9am to 7pm on Mondays