Feature - It’s a Steak Out
The enduring popularity of steakhouses in Kuala Lumpur
Food trends may come and go, but if there is one thing that has stood the test of time, it’s a good piece of meat. And while the players may change, the steakhouse has long had a special place in the heart for the city’s gourmets. As a popular rendezvous for British miners, plantation owners and civil servants during its halcyon days more than eight decades ago, the Coliseum Café & Grill Room could well be the first steakhouse in the Klang Valley. Established in 1921, this venerable institution was famous for its sizzling steaks that were dished up by Hainanese cooks who ruled its kitchen.
Another old name in the steak game is The Ship, which sailed onto the restaurant scene in Jalan Sultan Ismail some three decades ago, laying claim to “the best steak in town” title. Its closest rival then in the steak business was the Copper Grill, another reputable Western cuisine restaurant atop the old Weld Supermarket building. In the 1970s, they were the go-to places to see and be seen.
Fast-forward to the new era and only two names have remained in the meat business: Coliseum and The Ship. While the former is currently enjoying a fresh lease of life thanks to new owners who have invested heavily into the restaurant name and expanded the business, The Ship has fallen below the radar in the face of newer swankier competition.
Admirably, Jake’s Charbroil Steaks has also held its own in the face of stiff competition. Never mind that its interior is now considered kitschy, many true-blue steak-loving Malaysians’ earliest encounter with a classic T-bone, carpet bag or porterhouse steak was probably at Jake's.
In the early days, steakhouses obtained their beef and lamb supplies from different countries, ranging from the United States, Australia and even Argentina. Today, Malaysia’s prime beef comes mainly from Australia while for lamb, New Zealand is the preferred source. Tenderloin is by far the most popular cut in the local market although these days, consumers are learning to appreciate different steak cuts as well as the cattle species, how the animals are raised, whether the meat is chilled or frozen and most recently, meat-aging methods.
Raising the Stakes
Prime at Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur was the first steak-centric hotel restaurant to raise the bar on refining the art of serving steaks and bringing a gourmet selection of prime steaks and aged beef from around the world. The posh restaurant's signature Blackmore Wagyu Beef—an award-winning 100 per cent full-blooded Japanese Wagyu that boasts Australia's highest marbling score of 9+—has such fine marbling that it literally melts at room temperature. Other top grade choices at Prime include Black Angus 200-day grain-fed beef, Australian 120- and 80-day aged steaks, organic pasturefed Australian beef and premium Wagyu and US Master Kobe steaks that are grilled using imported charcoal or lava stone.
Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur then upped the ante with its ultra-modern, elegant and chic Mandarin Grill, which quickly became a favoured stomping ground for the rich and famous. The extensive steak menu offers prime cuts of both grass-fed and grain-fed Australian BlackBla Angus or full-blood Blackmore Wagyu that are air-flown chilled. Its best-selling steak item is BlackmoreBl tenderloin; well-matured, cut-to-order andan charcoal-grilled on the Josper grill at 500 to 600°C60 to give the meat that distinctive barbecued flavourflav at the desired doneness.
a grilled steak must be rested well before it’s prepared and served, to ensure optimum
juiciness and tenderness
Impiana KLCC also flexed its muscle with Cedar on 15, winning over local steak lovers with sought-after cuts imported from Australia: Black Angus sirloin, Wagyu ribeye steak and Tomahawk prime rib. The restaurant’s steaks are so good that it was named Malaysia Tatler’s Best Steakhouse in 2013 and the Best Steakhouse of the 2013 “Australian Flavour Challenge”. Cedar on 15 attributes the secret of its steak success to experienced chef Helmut Lamberger, who insists that a grilled steak must be rested well before it’s prepared and served, to ensure optimum juiciness and tenderness.
The newest debutante on the block is Marble 8, a premium steakhouse that’s part of the Marini Group. Its main aim is to raise the steakhouse dining stake with its own Marble 8 cuts and boost greater appreciation of dry-aged beef. Here, the finest Australian Wagyu and Angus beef selected by its chefs are dry-aged in a state-of-the-art meat-aging cellar for minimally 21 days to allow the flavour of the meat to intensify.
On the independent restaurant front, several well-travelled, highly educated and business
M savvy young entrepreneurs have also joined the fray to change the once staid and kitschy face of steak restaurants in the city. Taking the proverbial bull by the horns, they lured
Y ardent steak lovers away from the tried-and-tested steakhouses of old with their bold and
CM distinctly different concepts.
Having gone through the grind from raising cattle to cooking steaks in Australia, passionate meat lovers Yusof Dayan Iskandar and Freddy Azman Safahan of Las Vacas spotted a growing demand amongst Malaysians for good quality beef and prime cuts. Yusof, who is an Australia-trained butcher, then decided to open Las Vacas, a modest meat retail shop cum modern butchery in Kelana Jaya. The aim? To offer steak lovers and home cooks a wider and better range of imported halal Australian beef and prime cuts.
Tunku Khairil Ibrahim is another new mover and shaker who shot into the top steak league when his maiden Ril's Steakhouse opened in the unlikeliest of places—a refurnished pre-war shophouse in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, tucked away atop The Warehouse art gallery. When Ril’s was voted “Best Steakhouse” by a popular lifestyle and entertainment magazine, meat lovers clamoured for its premium Australian Angus and Wagyu steaks, leading to the opening of its current restaurant in Bangsar. The pride and joy of Ril’s is the Australian Wagyu steaks that are available from 1 kg to 1.6 kg. Designed for sharing and seared to smoky charred perfection, the juicy and moist steaks are best savoured without any condiments.
Tenderloin is by far the most popular cut in the local market although these days, consumers are
learning to appreciate different cuts
Most meat lovers now know exactly what’s at stake. Some connoisseurs can even expound on the merits of wet- and dry-aging—wet-aged beef is beef that has been kept in a vacuum-sealed bag for five days or more to retain moisture and mature in its own juices while dry-aged beef refers to prime cuts hung up in a dry, controlled environment to mature for optimally 30 days to intensify the flavour slowly as the meat tenderises and shrinks from moisture-loss (hence making it a more expensive cut of meat). Then there are the latest cooking methods such as sous-vide (food sealed in airtighta plastic bags and cooked at low temperaturestemperature in a controlled water bath to ensure the meat achieves the desirable doneness withoutwithou under- or over-cooking it) and open-hearthopengrilling (browning of the steak bringbrings out the meaty flavour and gives it a light smoky "crust").
Admittedly,Ad decent cuts of beef can nowno be bought from most reputable supermarketssup and gourmet meat shops but for premium quality wet- and dryaged Black Angus or Wagyu steaks that are grilled or sous vide, discerning steak lovers still havehav to turn to established steakhouses. At the enden of the day, there’s no rivalling a complete stesteakhouse experience.
At the end of the day, there’s no rivalling a
complete steakhouse experience