Fea­ture - It’s a Steak Out

The en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity of steak­houses in Kuala Lumpur

T.Dining Malaysia Tatler Best Restaurants - - Contents - BY ALICE YONG

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.

In­de­pen­dent Play­ers

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

Let’s Meat

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

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