Charcoal, The Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur’s unique grill restaurant with a Malaysian twist sets itself apart from the traditional Western-style grill rooms by using the age-old technique of charcoal cooking.
Coupled with local condiments, dips and sauces to give its chargrilled meats and seafood additional flavour and depth, Charcoal updates this traditional alchemy and presents it in a contemporary way for modern diners.
Now Charcoal’s new Chef De Cuisine Alex Chin aims to fire up the imagination and palate with his 18 years of international and local culinary experiences through a new a la carte menu.
While waiting for your choice of prime grilled meats to be cooked, I’d recommend you scoff down some Freshly Shucked Oysters (served on ice). From the five varieties available, the sizeable Pacific Prime Coromandel from New Zealand (RM65 for 3) and meaty Fine De Claire from France (RM65 for 3) are chockful with the clean, salty essence of the sea.
Coming in a close second are Gallagher from Ireland (RM55 for 3 pcs) and Australia’s Tasmanian Prime (RM65 for 3), putting the Creuses from the Netherlands (RM55 for 3) into the shade. A portion of five different varieties is served at RM80 per flight or eat the shellfish to your heart's content at RM118 per person.
Squirmy about downing the mollusks fresh? Then add RM10 to the oysters’ selling price for them to be baked with smoked duck bacon, fresh herb crumbs or aged cheddar cheese. Interestingly, the shellfish remains succulently sweet and toothsome on the palate despite the rich, assertive cheese and spinach topping.
They go superbly well with Saujana Hotels & Resorts Wine Collection (RM31 per glass, RM152 per bottle) especially Frankland Estate 2014 from Margaret River. A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, the wine’s crisp, fruity accents form a match made in heaven with the freshly shucked oysters.
If you eschew the raw stuff, Chef Alex Chin will gladly rustle up the signature dish of Seared Crab Cakes (RM35). Breaded and fried, the deliciously dainty patties come accompanied by chive cream, aioli, watercress and chunky pomelo dressing.
Few diners can resist ordering a dish or two of Charcoal’s grilled offerings. After all, those are the leading show-stoppers at the restaurant. The slab of Short Ribs with Charcoal BBQ Sauce (RM80) is guaranteed to satisfy any meaty cravings. Cut from Mulwarra Black Angus, the 120 day grass-fed and grain-finished beef rib from South-eastern Australia teases the tastebuds with its subtly charred, full-bodied flavour. A grilled tomato and peppery watercress pile on the nuance profiles while mini pots of barbecue, black pepper and mushroom sauces are served on the side.
Asian twists are woven into the chef’s serving of Lobster Bucatini – an indulgent pasta dish flecked with dried chilli and garlic flakes. Soaked up with the lobster’s inherent sweetness, the flat, thick noodles taste irresistibly scrumptious jumbled up with fresh sage, roasted cherry tomatoes and zucchini ribbons.
Meanwhile, buffet buffs will find notable pickings such as young jackfruit masak lemak, Goan fish curry, ikan asam pedas and dry crab curry from the evening spread laid out.
One of the best sweet endings at Charcoal would be Grilled Mango Pavlova (RM30). Frankly, I’m not cracked up over pavlova but Charcoal’s comes up trumps. Piped like a mini hive, the crisp but cloud-light meringue is filled with dices of grilled mango and fresh berries. Crowned with a dollop of cream, the dessert is light yet luscious, just enough for you to leave the restaurant happy ever after.