Eat Drink KL: September 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ril's Steakhouse

A restaurant with real character _ the food is executed with flair, while the service team is confident & cheery, but what people might love the most about Ril's @ The Warehouse is its evocative, hidden-secret setting: a Chinatown shop-house molded into a soaring space that marries old-world elegance with industrial edginess. This is one of 2011's best new outlets.

Brilliant bread rolls _ fresh, fragrant & filled with caramelized onions, we believe. Accompanied by soft, smooth butter that's super-simple to spread. Our only fear: these are so dense & heavy, customers could end up stuffed before the main gastronomic event.

Gemas Gold bone-in rib steak _ much heftier than it looks in this photo. There's no mention of Wagyu, Kobe or 1824 on Ril's menu, though on the bright side, that eases the pressure on our wallets. The chef's recommendation on this recent evening was Gemas beef, which comes from cattle sourced from Australia but reared in Negri Sembilan.

A 750-gram behemoth for two. Ril's menu describes it well: "cooked at the most intense heat to create a seared black crust with melting, medium-rare meat within." We'll add that it oozes with bold, concentrated flavor. No sauces required, though garlic jus is the house specialty.

Apple crumble _ one fine, hot mess, matched with The Last Polka's gula melaka ice cream & a luxurious hibiscus jam. Creativity is crucial to Ril's recipes: the menu might seem littered with familiar fare (tuna tartare, chicken casserole, sticky toffee pudding), but what elevates everything is impeccable preparation & the use of wild-card accompaniments.

Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec, Mendoza, 2007.
For earlier entry on Ril's crazysexycool cocktails: September 29.

Ril's only opens in the evening, unlike The Warehouse's cafe downstairs, but it boasts a bar with happy hours starting at 5 p.m. Two-for-one cocktails & free steak sandwiches before 7 p.m.

Still a calm refuge for now, since Ril's only began operations this week, but that could change.

Finally, who is Ril? That would be Khairil Ibrahim. And what about the rest of the food here? Well, another entry awaits, without a doubt.

Ril's Steakhouse.
The Warehouse Gallery & Cafe,
Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2022-0528.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Warehouse @ Chinatown

Nestled in a nearly century-old building in the heart of Chinatown, The Warehouse is home to three sections: an art gallery, a steakhouse & an atmospheric cafe.

Here's a glimpse of the ground floor cafe, which offers simple fare like sandwiches & coffee. But be warned that it closes at 6pm.

When night falls, head upstairs to Ril's, the stylish steakhouse that opened this week, serving beefed-up meat & sultry cocktails.

Exotically bizarre: Thai Bloody Mary (with fish sauce!!! combined with vodka, chili, tomato, cucumber & coriander) & Arab Spring (brandy, cardamom, dried apricot, vanilla).

Champagne cocktails, with herbal & floral twists: Rosemary Kiss (aperol, lime, rosemary) & Hibiscus Fizz (roselle syrup, hibiscus flower).

Turkish Delight (vodka, creme de cacao, rose syrup, honey, pistachios) & Sweet & Sour (cachaca, hibiscus jam, apricot brandy, egg white).

Potent alcoholic tea for two: hot apple cider with spiced rum, ginger wine, cinnamon & cloves.

There's also plain ol' coffee at the cafe, whipped up by a Seattle-born barrista who fills her Vibiemme Domobar Super espresso machine with fresh Illy coffee beans.

What about the food? All in good time, since we'll all be reading & hearing plenty about this venue in the months ahead.

Cafe Art & Ril's Steakhouse,
The Warehouse Gallery & Cafe,
198, Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2022-0528

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Tranquerah

Tranquerah refers to a road that most Malaccans know, but KL's food fans should soon be familiar with the word too, since it's now the name of a nice restaurant that offers Malaccan fare.

Complimentary crackers with a tomato-chili dip, wonderful for whetting the appetite.

Ayam buah keluak. Following in the footsteps of Simply Mel's, here's another outlet in the Klang Valley where customers can savor this dish all year round, with no fewer than six big Indonesian black nuts in one hearty, tangy serving. We love it!

Udang masak lemak nenas & kerabu mangga. Celebrity chef Florence Tan, author of the book "Secrets of Nyonya Cooking," is responsible for The Tranquerah's menu, ensuring its food lives up to the standards of her three-decade culinary career.

Ayam Sioh. Tender stewed chicken, marinated in tamarind pulp. Celebrity hunters, take note: actor Alan Yun has a stake in The Tranquerah, so he seems to hang out here often, happy to oblige customers who want to pose for photos with him.

Itik tim, a flavor-packed duck soup with Chinese mustard veggies, sour plum & tomatoes. Even more delicious than some versions served at Malacca's numerous Nyonya establishments.

Pai tee (top hat) with Nyonya fried chicken, available in tasting platters containing small servings of The Tranquerah's specialties. A cool concept for this sort of outlet.

Ikan masak kuah lada. Mackerel in a curry crammed with assam jawa, turmeric, candlenuts & peppercorn. Food portions here seem reasonable, with no lack of fresh, fragrant & flavorsome ingredients. Expect to pay RM50 per person.

Tamarind prawn & ayam pongteh. The Tranquerah is intricately furnished _ a sight for sore eyes, with an abundance of attention to detail. Reminiscent in some ways of a traditional Baba-Nyonya home near Malacca's Jonker Street.

Cincaluk-stuffed omelet. Beware: the fermented shrimp makes this super-salty.

Bubur cha cha. Thick and creamy; a true delight, ideal for wrapping up a meal here.

Hungarian wine! A semi-sweet vintage, offered only by the bottle.

The Tranquerah,
Red Carpet Avenue, Encorp Strand,
Jalan PJU5/22, Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya.
Tel: 03-6142-4106

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sticky Fingers

Give your taste buds a thorough workout at this Thai outlet, which features both fusion fare & familiar favorites to tempt Pavilion's shoppers.

As a bonus, whoever is handling Sticky Fingers' playlist has brilliant taste in music. Customers might hear everything from T'Pau's 1987 heartbreaker "China In Your Hand" to The Wallflowers' 1997 rock gem "One Headlight" on a typical evening here.

Chiang Mai stuffed bell peppers. Stuffed with what? The menu made it a mystery, but here's the scoop: macaroni, cheese & a hint of Thai spices. Purists might shudder, but this turned out to be scrumptious, filled with a hot mess of gooey goodness that kids should enjoy (though they'll likely lap up the macaroni & ignore the peppers).

Green curry chicken pizza. The topping tasted authentically Thai, with all the fragrant flavors associated with a rich, powerful curry. But the crust was more like a doughy biscuit than the thin, crispy version that many of KL's Italian outlets have mastered.

Mieng kam. Sticky Fingers is part of the Rotol Food Chain, which also runs KLCC's Imperial Chakri Palace, Sunway Pyramid's Rainforest Bistro & other Asian restaurants. Service standards are high, while prices seem fair _ a filling meal can be had for below RM50.

Linguine with tom yum paste & freshwater prawn. Nice, firm noodles, swathed in an aromatic, pleasantly sourish sauce that wasn't too spicy. Alas, the prawn could have been fresher.

Crab shell stuffed with minced chicken, crab meat & salted egg yolk. Not as outstanding as Simply Mel's version, since this tasted more like mass-produced paste. But the inclusion of the salted yolk was a nice touch.

Crispy roast duck with coffee sauce. The best order, thanks to juicy, deliciously addictive meat _ a far cry from the bony fowl that plagues other outlets.

Fried sliced beef with "ma nau" sauce, a lime-garlic chili condiment that would have gone well with Hainanese chicken rice too.

Durian & mango with sticky rice. Too bad the fruits seemed thawed instead of fresh.

Thab tim krob, served in a coconut. A sweet finish, in every sense of the phrase.

Terrific Thai-inspired cocktails & shooters: Blowjob in Bangkok (vodka, blue curacao, creme) & Phuket Colada (rum, malibu, coconut milk, pineapple).

Muay Thai Warrior (rum, vodka, root beer) & Bangkok Mojito.

Let's call it a Thai: Thai Chick's (vodka, passion fruit, sweet & sour) & Thai Safari (cointreau, midori, orange, grenadine).

But nope, this Sticky Fingers is completely unrelated to the Sticky Fingers cafe that used to inhabit Jalan Mesui, near Palate Palette & No Black Tie.

Sticky Fingers Bangkok Bistro,
Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2163-0163