New Ala Carte Menu 2016 @ River Grill Casa del Rio Melaka
It is always exciting to be back in Melaka and even more so at Casa Del Rio. Tucked in an idyllic spot near to the mouth of Melaka River, the hotel offers the tranquility of luxurious lodging and hospitality complete with the the convenience of being so near to the heart of all the bustling sights and sounds this beautiful city has to offer. I’m so glad to be back here again, not just to stay and enjoy the comforts of its amenities but more importantly to sample the all new Ala Carte Dinner Menu just recently made available at Case Del Rio’s key restaurant, the River Grill.
Apart from offering a sumptuous Portuguese-themed buffet spread over weekend dinners during this period of time, the ala carte dinner menu available on weekday evenings has recently undertaken an interesting revamp, carefully curated by the hotel’s executive chef, Chef Ghazali and his team in the kitchens. We were very fortunate to have been invited for such a treat recently to sample the new menu at firsthand .
One of the interesting appetisers available on the menu is “Seared Scallops with Pickled Radish, Chicken Crumble and a Sesame Emulsion“. The scallops are plump and succulent despite being so beautifully brown, retaining much of their wonderful juices. What was even more interesting is the spread of minuscule delicatessen that accompanies the scallops. And assortment of pickled vegetables lend a refreshing crunch, not forgetting their slightly tangy flavour profile which helped to bring out the freshness of the scallops. I particularly love the micro red shiso leaves for their slight peppery and astringent taste. The most intriguing component for us must surely be the “chicken crumble” which was essentially chicken skin which had been undergone prolonged dehydration to achieve the desired dryness before being processed into sand-like texture. It tastes of a somewhat familiar yet kind of alien at the same time, playing with one’s senses.
The other appetiser on the new menu is “Crispy Nestum Prawns with Mango Salsa and Sesame Mayo”. This dish is simpler in terms of composition compared to the first but no less delicious. Cereal prawns is a popular favorite amongst many be it adults or kids so this will surely be a crowd pleaser. The prawns were succulent while the cereal coating was deliciously crisp and aromatic. The prawn paired well with the mango salsa, thought I thought it could probably be made more contrasting by using a citrus-themed salsa instead. That would most certainly work well to whet one’s appetites. That said, I feel it is quite good as it is.
The new menu offers a good range of main dishes to suit every diner’s needs and palate. “Braised New Zealand Lamb Shank” would most certainly satisfy anyone up for a hearty meal. It definitely did well for me. I love lamb shanks and would invariably order one whenever I see it available on any restaurant menu and thus have developed certain expectations over the years to what I think good braised lamb shank should taste like. The rendition prepared by the kitchen at Casa Del Rio ranks quite high in my books. The meat was fork tender after being braised for such a long time with the flavours from the braising sauce well worked into the lamb itself. Yet, it retained much of its juices and was still tenderly soft and moist. At the same time, the unique aromas of lamb had also being thoroughly infused into the braising sauce which was copiously drizzled over the dish. The magic of the dish was the roasted garlic polenta which had a wonderful gritty texture that carried an assertive smokey aroma of the roasted garlic amidst the sweetness from the corn. I, one who likes to push the sensations to the extreme would probably have liked more “garlicky flavours” to be worked into the polenta or perhaps even a halved bulb of roasted garlic served on the side as an accentuation. This role was carefully played by the selection of root vegtables, not forgetting the small bouquet of cress, sprouts and chervil and it was the last which lend a slight hint of licorice flavours that went surprisingly well with the lamb.
Hickory Smoked Beef Ribs was served on a spread of roasted vegetables and potato mash. Like the lamb shank, the smoked beef ribs was prepared to perfection, with the meat coming of the bone ever so easily yet so juicy and moist. Chef Ghazali clearly has the preparation and grilling of meat dishes well under his belt. The potato mash was creamy and very well seasoned yes but I would have liked it to be slightly more aerated to make it ever so fluffy and light, to provide good contrast against the wholesomeness of the whole beef ribs. The peppers, zucchini and parsnip were beautifully grilled but the asparagus would probably do better with a little more crunch from a shorter grilling time. Otherwise, this dish is wonderfully executed.
Apart from Chef Ghazali’s signature dishes from western cuisine, there is also a selection of dishes should one be in the mood for a more Asian and thus closer to home “makanan“. “Ikan Bakar Melaka” is baked red snapper fillet in local Portuguese paste, a spicy and sourish concoction which reminds of the Ikan Bakar one would probably enjoy at the Portuguese Settlement, except that this is within the comforts of a restaurant setting. Together with the sambal belacan, it went really well together with the rice that was served alongside with fried tempeh, acar, sambal bendi and keropok ikan (fish crackers).
Honey Peanut Prawns is yet another Asian themed dish available now. I was absolutely delighted to see this on the menu as I’d tasted it before in the media lunch at Casa Del Rio during the previous trip, except that it is even better now, with jumbo prawns being used. The prawns are still wonderfully crisp from the deep frying which allows us to eat almost the entire prawn as it is. The sweet and aromatic honey peanut glaze is what that made this dish so distinctively different from other versions I’d tried before and thus so memorable. It is also served alongside hot steamed rice and an assortment of condiments like the Ikan Bakar Melaka.
For a lighter dinner, one can also opt for Jumbo Grilled Prawns served with fresh fettuccine and a garlic butter sauce. Just like all the other prawn dishes I’d tried at Casa Del Rio Melaka so far, the prawns are uber fresh and thus actually only require a simple grill to bring out the true flavours of the sea. The gigantic prawns are paired with freshly made fettucine which always work better for me than the dried ones, with a bouquet of fresh greens to refresh one’s palate.
The star of the evening for me was the gigantic Tomahawk Steak. That was one huge hunk of meat, essentially a ribeye steak on the bone which was so thick when it was presented on the table we were thinking how many folks it would take to finish that! The Tomahawk is recommended for a small group of 2 to 3 to share. I was initially skeptical on whether such a thick slab of meat would be uniformly cooked. Turned out my worries were totally unfound as the interior was beautifully moist and red, to a perfect medium slightly leaning towards raw but the exterior was wonderfully browned and smokey. We were all thoroughly impressed! Such a thick slab would have been very difficult to get right but I think the chefs at River Grill nailed it really well. Served with grilled vegetables on the side like the Hickory Smoked Beef Ribs, I think the combo was just right to make a satiable meal without the extra burden from carbs. The dish most definitely rounded up the meal as being really satisfying for all of us at the table.
We were presented with two of the desserts which are on the new menu and the first was a Mocha Tiramisu. Served in a cappuccino cup, as a twist to the “tiramisu in a flower pot” craze which has been going on for sometime now, yet not without the indispensible “chocolate soil” and fresh mint leaves. Truth be told, I was never a coffee person but this dessert was pleasant enough for me to go for multiple spoonfuls. I guess it helps with a rich hint of chocolatey goodness that went into it and on top of that, the little trick of crushing the mint leaves and savouring them along side the tiramisu that made all the wonders work! It was like after dinner mints… the perfect palate cleanser.
The second dessert we tried was a Chocolate Dome. This dessert was also quite enjoyable, not too heavy and rich as what some would expect from a chocolate-themed dessert but what I think was rather apt since it would be preceded by a rather wholesome meal from the delectable spread now on River Grill’s new menu before that. What I thoroughly enjoyed was the condiments on the side that accompanied the chocolate piece, slices of fresh orange, raspberries and a passionfruit coulis that went with a pistachio crumble moss. It was the lovely contrast provided by these auxiliary components that made this dessert really yummy.
On the whole, I think the dishes on new ala carte dinner menu at the River Grill Casa Del Rio Melaka were rather well thought through. I loved all the grill themed dishes from the tomahawk, hickory beef ribs, down the spicy ikan bakar. I think they are the epitomes of what River Grill does best and is most known for. That said, some of the other dishes were excellent as well, like the seared scallops and braised lamb shank which I would definitely love to taste again on my next visit to The River Grill at Casa Del Rio Melaka.
Casa del Rio, Melaka
88, Jalan Kota Laksamana
A big thank you to Casa Del Rio for the kind invitation, as well as Agnes and Jena for hosting!