Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Casa del Rio Melaka Tiffin Lunch 2017

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It feels great to be back in Melaka again, especially when we will be putting up at the beautiful Casa del Rio Melaka. I always look forward to staying here with their impeccable service, maximum comfort and of course convenience as it lies within the very heart of the Melaka city. The journey up north with Luxury Coach from Concorde Hotel was a breeze, hardly any traffic along the way, smooth sailing through customs on both sides and before we know it, we are already at the doorsteps of our “Home by the River”.

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All of us were presented with a cold towel and their homemade sorbet, truly refreshing especially when the ride has made me kinda drowsy actually. A quick check-in to our various rooms and we are down for lunch at the River Grill Cafe. The hotel has kindly arranged for us to sample their signature Peranakan Tiffin Lunch. The last time I had it was 2 years back which was prepared under careful instruction by Chef William Koh then. Chef William has since retired and after quite a bit of scouting around, the hotel has managed to recruit the services of a young Peranakan cuisine chef, Chef Ronny Koh. Big shoes Chef Ronny has to fill because Casa del Rio’s Tiffin lunch sets are part of the hotel’s signatures and thus immensely popular. I am really heartened to see that not only has Chef Ronny been able to maintain the standards of the lunch sets, he has in fact up the stakes and raised the standards of dishes by quite a bit. Very pleasantly surprised!
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Itek Tim, the classic duck with salted mustard greens soup which helped worked up and whet our appetite after the 3 hour long coach ride…
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For hor d’oeuvres, we had kueh pie tee which provided a hands on component to our dining experience. The Peranakans traditionally ate with their hands, a custom they adopted from the Malays which purportedly makes the dishes more sedap!
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The pie tee aka top hat shells were very fresh and crisp which brought good contrast to the flavourful yam bean aka bangkwang filling. Sliced cucumber for crunch and bawang merah aka fried shallots for aroma, not forgetting cili cukka for a hint of spicy kick. So so yummy I easily popped down 4 of these babies throughout the entire course I think…
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And these were the 8 dishes which we sampled, carefully selected from a total of 16 which makes up 4 different tiffin set menus presented by Casa del Rio’s River Grill Cafe rotated on a daily basis. We had from left to right, lor bak aka ngoh hiang, telor dadar chinchalok, otak otak, chap chye nyonya, rendang kambeng, ikan siakap asam pedas, ayam masak buah keluak and sambal udang petai. 

I love the fluffy and moist interior of the telor cinchalok while the outside was crisp and nicely brown. The telor dadar was made thicker than what is usually seen in other Peranakan restaurants so that the textural contrast was more apparent. The otak otak was more of Penang style with daon kadok added, but the creamy textures and generous chunks of fish was what that made it a joy to eat. One could tell that very little flour was added as the custardy texture was held up by mostly santan and eggs, coaxed through the rempah blended within. The aroma from the wild peppercorn leaves was assertive but not overwhelming unlike some other versions I’d tried before. Could do with a bit more daon lemo purot (kaffir lime leaves) though.

The chap chye was wonderful as well with the sweetness and aroma of the soya beans in the taucheo coming through really well and the vegetables very well stewed. The bok jee (black fungus) and kim chiam (lily buds) have been cooked down perfectly, together with the kobis aka chinese cabbage, especially the black fungus which had taken on an almost gelatinous texture.

One of highlights of the spread for me was the pulled lamb rendang. Not classicially a Peranakan dish but super yummy nonetheless as the lamb was marinated and roasted before being shredded and braised again in kuah rendang.  I’m sure any discerning baba or nyonya would have approved the inclusion of this dish! The slivers of lamb absorbed all the piquant flavours from the rempah and are so so flavourful yet very tender. Shredding the roasted and then braised lamb was a brilliant idea I thought as it really opened up the meat and maximised the surface areas for the richness of the kuah rendang to permeate through. Yes there is still some tweak work to be done, i.e. the ayam masak buah keluak and sambal udang petai which can be better in many ways but overall the lunch was thoroughly enjoyable.
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As usual, this is what I like to do, i.e. arranging all the dishes in my plate before digging in. Just the looks of it makes one’s ”
ayer liou meleleh” duncha think? 🙂
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Apart from the tiffin lunch set, one can also opt for individual portions of laksa lemak. Interesting choice to serve it in a western soup bowl instead of a traditionally deeper mangkok. It turned out because the cafe ran out of traditional bowls to serve them in that day but I thought the western soup bowl would work too! The ingredients can be flanked out in full view which makes it all the more appetizing. The kuah was very well balanced in both spiciness and richness from the rempah and santan with the taupok aka fried beancurd puffs soaking up all that goodness from the gravy. Love the inclusion of the taukee aka fried beancurd skin for good textural contrast. Missing the finely sliced daon kesom as a topping which I have highlighted to the hotel. I am glad to see that one doesn’t have to look far to taste good laksa lemak next time in Melaka.
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To end off on a resoundingly sweet note, we had chendol. One must not leave Melaka without trying their local chendol and I’m glad to see that Casa del Rio’s version is getting better and better each time, and it is literally only at our doorstep! No longer do we have to travel all the way to the “famous one” at Bukit Rambai which opens for a bare 2-3 hours on weekends, sometimes only to be disappointed after having driven so far only to realise that they are not open for the day. The silly things we Singaporeans do sometimes…

On the whole, the Tiffin lunch was really well executed and I would strongly recommend those visiting Melaka to drop by the hotel’s River Grill Cafe to try.

Casa del Rio, Melaka
88, Jalan Kota Laksamana
75200 Melaka

Tel: +60 6 289 6888
Fax: +60 6 289 6999
Email: dining@casadelrio-melaka.com

A big thank you to Casa Del Rio Melaka for the invitation, as well as Michael and Agnes for hosting!

Note: Baba patois, the common spoken tongue of the Malaccan and Singapore Peranakans was used in the description of the dishes instead of standard Bahasa Melayu.

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