Vegetarian fine dining looks West for inspiration at Barat

Some of the mouthwatering dishes served at the Barat Lifestyle Vegetarian Restaurant.

KUALA LUMPUR: Nestled in the heart of Bangsar’s hidden foodie enclave Lorong Kurau, is the Barat Lifestyle Vegetarian Restaurant, a fine dining restaurant-cum-bar that caters to those looking for western vegetarian meals.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Barat has been around for three years and is available on food delivery apps like GrabFood and FoodPanda. Barat is also the sister shop of the famous Ganga Cafe right next door.

Indian-Malaysian couple Prabodh Sheth, 56, and Meeta, 50, own and run both. Speaking to FMT, the couple reminisced about how Barat came about.

Prabodh and Meeta are co-owners of Barat, a restaurant serving western and fusion vegetarian food in Bangsar.

“Ganga was our first adventure and Barat was the ‘vegetarian gone west’ experiment,” Prabodh explained, saying both were aimed at promoting healthy vegetarian eating, with Barat focusing on western and fusion food.

Barat is taken from the Malay word for “west”, true to Barat’s western-style menu.

The idea to start-up Barat came about two years after Ganga was already in operation. The restaurant Prabodh had literally bought as a surprise gift for his wife was booming business-wise, but Meeta had begun to grow restless.

A strict vegetarian, she wanted to create dishes that were not solely “Indian-based” and felt stifled because Ganga served strictly Indian food to a loyal customer base.

However, by a stroke of luck, the space next door became available for rent. The couple pounced on the opportunity to rent it, only to discover that another party was bidding for it too.

Until an old Chinese woman showed up in Ganga and changed everything.

For three consecutive days, this woman showed up well before Ganga opened its doors at 8am. She placed her orders with Meeta, who would happily oblige as she prepared other dishes for the day.

The two struck up a friendship, and Meeta eventually confided in her about her plans for the future. Over thosai, idlis and chappatis, Meeta spoke of her dream for a bigger kitchen and to start a new business in the available lot next door.

Little did Meeta know this old woman was the owner of the lot. But thanks to the delicious food she cooked her every morning, the old lady gave Meeta the contract to rent.

Occupying two floors of a small lot, Barat is a modest fine-dining restaurant that is happily unpretentious.

Anyone who walks in for a bite at Barat can see for themselves the love Meeta and Prabodh have for cooking. This is apparent in their desire to serve purely healthy, clean, wholesome vegetarian food.

The menu is flexible though and offers vegan, gluten-free, Jain or minimal oil variations as well. Want a drink? Head upstairs to the bar where alcoholic beverages are sold. Want something Indian? Walk next door to Ganga.

These dapper boys make sure the food served here lives up to the reputation Barat has created among its loyal customers.

Barat also uses all-natural products in their dishes and shies away from “mock meat”, a popular alternative to meat that some vegetarians prefer. Also a no-no is MSG, colouring or preservatives. And Barat’s dining experience is worth every penny.

The a la carte menu has meals ranging from RM13.90 and upwards. Mains meant for sharing go for RM33.90 and above, with Barat’s trademark “degustation” menu – a sumptuous eight-course meal – priced at RM100 per person.

Mango spring rolls.
Vegan omelette.

On the menu is creamy roasted pumpkin soup, avocado in gluten-free wraps, basil pesto pasta with grilled zucchini, and cheesy mushroom risotto – all under RM25.90 – and Barat’s homemade ice-creams and cakes that are to die for.

Also take a chance on Barat’s mango spring rolls, a blend of Japanese mushrooms, tofu and mango slices priced at RM12.90 or Jalapeno poppers (RM18.90), quesadilla (RM18.90), and vegan “omelette” (RM10.90).

Some of the dishes here are bite-sized, others come in generous portions to be shared by two or three. It’s the couple’s wish that all diners eat to their heart’s content but not overeat.

Roasted pumpkin soup.
Manchurian cauliflower.

“It’s a formula that works,” Prabodh explained, saying most restaurants or fine dining establishments tend to serve anything and everything without a thought as to how every dish complements the other.

The couple hope Barat will change how people perceive vegetarian food – that it’s not only a religious obligation but a chance to eat healthy, tasty food.

So popular has Barat become among locals as well as foreigners, that finding a parking space is tough. But fret not, Barat has valet service as well.

So the next time you find yourself in Bangsar, pop into Barat and experience for yourself the warmth, hospitality and good vegetarian food from Prabodh’s and Meeta’s kitchen.

Look out for a food review of Barat’s tempting vegetarian and vegan dishes tomorrow.