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Monday, 5 January 2009

Harking Back To Old School Malaysian Steakhouse

We were in Kajang Prima during the weekend to pay our bills and since it was around lunch time, we wondered where we could get a decent meal. What do you know while driving away from the bank, we saw a branch of the Windmill steakhouse chain further down the block, and since it has been ages since we ate at a 'contemporary' homegrown Malaysian steakhouse in the ilk of The Ship, Victoria Station and Jake's and their generation of steakhouses before the advent of the current crop of mostly foreign origin steakhouse, this gave us a chance to relive old memories of eating what basically is the local Hainanese chef's take on a western meal. The verdict is simple, they may not compare in terms of authenticity with their western origin, but their recipes do cater to the local palate and may make it easier for novices to get accustomed to western dining.

Anyway let's get on to the meal where we started with the complimentary soft bread and butter that I think is the vestiges of English dining that is still maintained by these sort establishments. I had wanted to order the baked scallops for starters for the kid's consumption but then I noticed the menu is now quite comprehensive with even a local Chinese meals section, and thus in the seafood section they also had fried scallops as an entree. Thus I went with this for the younger while the elder had the Windmill's version of spaghetti bolognaise or as they call it the spaghetti with meat sauce. For starters instead we ordered two types of soup, the mushroom cream soup from the three types offered and the French onion soup with melted cheese on top. My wife then had the T-bone steak with additional order of black pepper sauce while I had the spare ribs.

The meal started with a surprise complimentary vegetable salad for the meat orders that is as old school Malaysian style as it gets as you are served with a piece of pineapple and a piece of sengkuang under the vegetable cuttings that is topped with thousand island sauce. This may not win any stars for the chef but in its own way is quite comforting in its homeliness, the only complaint would be that the pineapple slice is not matured enough to be eaten while the sengkuang was quite scrumptiously fresh. The mushroom soup made an appearance that while the kids initially complained that the soup seems to be from a can, after a taste I did not agree as it had actually a substantial amount of chopped button mushrooms with a milk-based creamy consistency and the kids actually devoured it later to the last drop. We were then surprised with the delivery of the black pepper sauce that I initially mistook as the onion soup, until I noticed it was too thick to be a soup. Anyway it was strange that the sauce came before the steak, but the taste itself was not so bad. Then the onion soup finally came and it tasted a tad too sweet, probably not solely from the beef broth and the onions itself was only found at the bottom of the bowl. Nonetheless since it has been a while since I could order a French onion soup, it was still polished off despite its failings.

The entrĂ©es started to arrive complete with the their quaint toothpick flags with the fried scallops, breaded and looking like nuggets if you did not know otherwise. Nonetheless looks can be deceiving and the scallops were delicious as they were fried just right, not overdone with the still soft centre juicy with the sweetness of the scallop flesh. It goes without saying that this dish was consumed without nary a complaint from the kids, a rare occurrence indeed. This shows that the chef has a deft hand with seafood and this would be our choice the next time we dine here. The reason being is that if it was the same chef, he was a bit heavy handed with the meat courses as evidenced with the beef dishes, with the elder unable to finish the large portion of spaghetti served as it tasted too beefy to her without sufficient tomato sweetness to even out the meaty taste, leaving a fair portion of the noodles behind. As for the T-bone steak, my wife said that although the chef tried to show the cut’s tastiness by serving it naked, it would have been heavy going without the black pepper sauce especially since the medium-ness still had some red bloody portion. In the meantime, the spare ribs was strangely served with the meat cut off from the bone, I do not know if this was because I asked it to be prepared medium also or this is the regular way it is served. This makes it inconvenient to cut at the char-grilled tendons as I did not have any meat to cut into, and since this is my most favourite part it was a waste to leave it behind as I could not even gnaw at it. The sauce is a typical Hainanese chef take on barbecue sauce, though the underlying taste mimics a Tex-Mex recipe there was still a cloying sweetness that betrays its origins. Nonetheless the overall meal was quite belly-filling though just satisfactory, and at a price of almost 200 ringgit for four was a bit steep for a step back to the past. This would mean that it will be a while before it is time for a re-visit.

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