This crowded brunch spot has become a peaceful and private cafe amidst Coronavirus fears, so visit before the queues show up again.
So the pandemic did come with one advantage when it comes to eating out: one can now get a seat at trendy brunch hotspots! In the before times, The Red Beanbag in Solaris Dutamas was constantly rammed with brunch enthusiasts. There would be a queue hanging out on the already cramped patio, with servers flying around that were too busy to even let you look at a menu. If you did possess the patience to wait for a seat, you’d be sitting at tables about 15cm apart from your neighbour, usually a yuppie family or a gorgeous Instagram girl with her dutiful boyfriend/photographer. The devastation of COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that… for the short-term at least.
Ambience & Amenities
Before you’re able to eat here, you’ll have to go through a couple of steps to ensure safety and accountability in the wake of COVID-19. On the patio, there will be a table with a staff member where you’ll have to fill out a contact tracing form which will ask for your name, IC or passport number and phone number. This can be completed on your smartphone via a QR code, or an old-fashioned paper form. You’ll get your temperature taken and you’ll be instructed to use the hand sanitizer on the table before you can sit down. Every person at your table will have to do this.
Thanks to social distancing and general paranoia, the cafe was blissfully quiet this past weekend when we dropped by. Servers welcomed and beckoned us inside, whereas before they couldn’t be bothered and honestly didn’t need to beg anyone to eat here. The best part was seeing their patio: spacious with only two big picnic tables set up and generously spaced from each other. Inside was a much airier space than usual, now that the restaurant has removed many of their tables to comply with social distancing rules. All diners now have a nice roomy table and privacy with no one sitting directly next to you. In these days of the MCO, every seat at The Red Beanbag has become the best seat in the house.
If you walk past the kitchen service window to the very back and turn right twice, you’ll find the washroom. There are two stalls separated by gender, which are both western-style toilets with paper. There’s a big communal sink with soap and a dryer.
The menu at The Red beanbag is now pushed by a QR code to reduce contact. Every table will have a little stand with the code that you can scan. If you just want to peek at the menu before committing to eating here, the staff will show you the QR code first instead of offering their physical menu. Physical menus still exist, but you will have to specifically ask for them.
All of the brunch standbys are here: pancakes, french toast, and food with avocado in it. Heavier “lunch” options like burgers and pasta are available too. Although the food is Halal with the use of beef bacon and chicken sausage, there’s also booze on the menu so you can still eat clean while guzzling sangria. Filtered water is free, but it comes in a tiny glass that the server has to refill.
I was drawn in by the tantalising ingredient list of the Teh Peng Special (RM13). Drinking salted cream cheese? Yes, please. Enticing caption aside, in the end, this was just a milk tea. The cream cheese, after stirring, becomes a chunky froth that hovers on top of the tea. When you drink, you’ll get little blobs of cream cheese that melt in your mouth. It’s definitely a richer version of your standard milk tea, but since the cream cheese is lightly salted, the tea doesn’t have the overwhelming sweetness that you get at some cheap kopitams.
Don’t be seduced by the sexy description of the Smokey Robinson (RM27). We ordered this because it was the most interesting sounding menu item and because I wanted to find out what the hell a “terrarium of treats” looked like! The presentation is certainly dazzling with the ingredients stored in a pop-lock mason jar, which releases steam once opened.
As nice as this looks, this is just an inconvenient “some assembly required” meal. You have to dig through this small jar to scoop up the peas and salmon, while carefully avoiding the egg which, presumably, you’d put on the bread last. The most unwieldy part is trying to extract the delicate poached egg without breaking it before it can release its golden yolk onto your bread. There’s only one egg for two giant pieces of sourdough too, so one of your slices will be markedly less tasty.
Even if you get a bite with all the elements present, this is really meh tasting. The majority of this is peas, and blending them with panna cotta into a paste doesn’t do anything to elevate the already boring flavour of peas. The bread is much too dry to rely only on egg yolk to make it moist. This could’ve benefited with a sauce of some sort, but since there was none, we had to add salt and pepper to make this palatable. The only nice thing about this is that the green pea paste is incredibly smooth with no lumps whatsoever.
The Sunny Salmon (RM30) plate is a mess, but the flavour combination is leagues better. Greasy deep-fried rosti and salmon cake is balanced by the freshness of mushrooms and pomegranate seeds. The carrot rosti is very well prepared – a perfect crunchy disc on the outside that reveals thinly shredded carrots that are as fine as spaghetti squash on the inside. The salmon cake, practically hidden under the poached egg, has a bit of a mushy texture but still tastes good. You’re in for a medley of flavours if you can get a bite with everything: savoury, fishy, rich, earthy, and tart.
I would never put up with the crowds and queue at The Red Beanbag when it’s business as usual, especially when there are so many other decent places to eat at Publika. These are strange times, so now the worst things about this place are no longer an issue. I am fully aware that immediately getting a table at the height of lunchtime is a rare, temporary state for this restaurant. This stroke of luck will never happen again as more people become aware this place is open for business and fear of the outbreak dissipates. For now, this hectic brunch spot is now a peaceful cafe.
Price for 2 Pax: RM81.20
Smokey Robinson: RM27.00
Sunny Salmon: RM30.00
Teh Peng Special: RM13.00
10% Service: RM7.00
6% SST: RM4.20
The Red Beanbag
Lot A4-1-8 (east end of Publika, second floor above Two Sons Bistro), Publika Shopping Gallery, Solaris Dutamas, Jalan Dutamas 1, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Monday to Thursday: 10am – 6pm
Friday to Sunday: 9:30am – 10pm
Alcohol Served: Yes