Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Las Vacas - excellent steak!

Las Vacas KLCC
July 12th 2015 - Phoo. Lot of eating and drinking this week. Actually, lot of eating and drinking every week… Getting fat and lazy. Got to get back on the walking track! 

Texas had suggested an evening at Las Vacas, a steakhouse style eatery with outlets around KL. Did some quick research and the reviews looked positive so yes we said. 

Las Vacas is essentially a butcher's shop cum restaurant with various cuts of beef and lamb for sale, and an option of having your purchases cooked for you and dining in at the restaurant area. Those who remember the legendary Dish further up the Tun Razak Road will remember this facility. We miss the Dish tremendously - for a brief wonderful time it used to be our favourite place for steak in the city. Choose your meat, open your bottle of not unreasonably priced red and slip into a wonderful world. Perfectly seared rib eye and their duck fat fried potatoes were sublime. Then the old story - new management comes in, staff leave, prices go up, quantity and quality go down, service gets grim and we stopped going. Prime took over as our steak destination for a while, but there was seemingly nothing to replace the quality that was the Dish. Until now. [NB Marble 8 we know of but we have been reluctant to visit given the scary prices of meat and corkage. Beast we have been threatening but don't seem to get there. We also like the steak at Osteria Realblue in Publika but their prices have crept up of late. Anyone got any steak recommendations?]

Behind the counter and kitchen
The website says Las Vacas was started in 2007 in Kelana Jaya by presumably local boys Yusof Dayan and Freddy Azman and now have additional outlets in Mont Kiara and Jalan Yap Kwan Seng (though another is due to open soon in Sunway Putra Mall). The tagline is "From the Blade to the Flame to the Plate, we believe in serving you the freshest meat." The meat is certified Halal Australian beef and New Zealand lamb, and Las Vacas provides all primary cuts (Rib Eye, Sirloin, Striploin, Tenderloin, Rump) as well as beef roasts, pies, sausages, burgers. There is also Grade 8 and 10 Wagyu Beef and Black Angus available. Cooking charge at the Yap Kwan Seng outlet is RM30 with salad and fries or RM50 with extra side (NB this is the price for cooking meat under 1kg - is RM100 flat to cook meat over 1kg).

Las Vacas interior
We were going to the Yap Kwan Seng outlet, located in a shophouse block that fronts the roadside just on the left after you take the turnoff from Jalan Tun Razak. For those who remember the old Eurodeli, it is the shophouse block in front of where it used to be. 

We arrived at 7.15pm to get told that we could only start drinking at 8pm once those who were observing Ramadhan had broken fast at sundown. First time I had come across this, but it kind of made sense - alcohol is forbidden by the faith and if a short refraining helps to balance sensitivities then so be it. Om.

Where's the beef? Here! Hallo...
We also got told that the meat on the menu was not available and we could only eat beef bought from the cold shelf. Hmmm. I do get a bit irritated when told that menu items are not available, and to have a whole swathe of options removed at a stroke seems odd - makes downloading the menu from the website a bit of a waste of time, eh? 

Is it Eight O'Clock yet?
It was a long thirty minutes. But time passes in its own, er, time and we duly clinked glasses and broke thirst on the 8pm dot. Except for friend Kelvin. We learned that he uses Puasa to refrain from the booze, bit like the Christyones do during lent. Says it gives the system a rest and makes one appreciate more at the end of the thirsting period. Twenty eight days without a drink - maybe one day. Not sure my system could take such abstinence...

The thirty minutes also gave us time to enjoy the Las Vacas ambience. Lots of brown panelled wood and shelves, nice meaty smoky smell on entrance, large dining area with high ceilings (which would usually predict that the place would be a bit warm but the temperature through the evening was very comfortable). The oak floorboards did give off an earthy South American vibe which clearly dovetailed with the name. Tables were spread comfortably across the dining area, lots of space between dining groups. A butcher's display with all the meats available dominated and the meat did look superb. Lenglui chose a chunk of ribeye and we were sorted. 

The kitchen was well prepared for the breaking and the food came out swiftly for our Muslim compadres to eat. The kitchen staff then had a little time to rest up and start preparing our orders. First time I ever saw Chefs checking their handphones in the kitchen.  Ten of us were sat at a long table, orders got taken and the drink kept getting poured. Texas had brought his Oyster Bay and I had brought one of his Australian Chardonnays from a previous dinner. The wines stayed pretty much at their ends of the table, though I did take some of our CdP to share with friend Reto at the other end of the table. Mostly to sample his South American looking contribution. Self interest? Me?

Notwithstanding his abstinence, fair play to Kelvin who had brought a Penfolds St Henri Shiraz (which he has brought to previous evenings of wine and food). It ultimately went undrunk on the night, though we exacted a promise for him to bring to a future dinner. We swiftly polished off the white along with a tasty Montes Alpha Carmenere brought by friend Herman and a 2009 CdP I'd bought previously from Cave and Cellar. The white was most pleasant, with crisp honey apples on nose and throat and excellent chewy acidity. The Carmenere had good medium body and balance, though the fruit felt a bit thin on occasion. Good length on the finish, and easy on the palate. This CdP was a bit mean - fruit a bit reedy and balance not quite in kilter. But it was reasonably drinkable and went reasonably well with that magnificent chunk of ribeye Lenglui had reserved and which came out in medium rare perfection. The meat quality was stellar - lean, some slight marble, but perfect red pink inside. And excellently cooked with minimal salt and pepper - perfect. There's an old saying that you can't cook a good steak badly - I disagree, but you can do a fantastic job with a good steak and Las Vacas was well on point here. Side dishes of Cauliflower cheese and roast potatoes made for good pairings with the food and in total a very pleasant dining experience. 

The 500g Lamb Burger. Yes.
Others on the table went for various choices. Las Vacas reviews had put the Lamb Burger near the top of the eating tree and Kelvin went for the big one - a half kilo of meat between a bread bun and topped with a fried egg. It looked massive - a tower of three patties and cheese rising a good ten inches into the air. And he finished it - not a crumb left on the plate. He said it was good. Clearly…  

All our food came out pretty much at the same time, and staff left us alone for the rest of the noisy evening. In this sense, service was good. Sometimes the best service is staying out of the way. Kudos to Las Vacas for this.

It was a wonderfully noisy evening of food and wine. Lots of talk about where next to eat - Uncle Lim's Korean BBQ got suggested along with the Marco Polo special going on at the time. Here, prices on certain items would be set at what they used to be 35 years ago. A couple of quick phone calls and a table got booked and people signed up. I expressed a hope that whilst the prices might be 35 years old, the food would not be similarly aged. This was in light of a story that had surfaced in China whereby food that had been frozen for 70 years was getting unearthed and unfrozen and served. Naturally it would prove not to be so. Of course not! Marco Polo is a National Food Treasure which we love dearly. Long may it live!

Black Angus Steak. Yum.
We will definitely return to Las Vacas when the urge to splurge on good steak resurfaces. Parking is easy and free (if you get lucky you can get one in front of the restaurant, otherwise lots of space around the back of the shophouse building). Prices are not unfair, and corkage is RM30 a bottle (the wine list there is a bit thin). Jan Shaw took the photos for this report, though I will look to take some next time - Lenglui has a new iPhone and has promised I can get some shots with it. Now just have to learn how to get them out of the sucker. Took us two weeks to figure out how to put the thing in silent mode. Smart phones can make you feel really stupid sometimes...

Operating Hours
Monday to Sunday
(7days a week) = 12pm – 11pm 

No.33, Lot 5, Ground Floor, 
Wisma Winbond, 
Jalan Yap Kwan Seng,
50450, Kuala Lumpur 

Tel: +603-2181-5586 



Subsequent visit proved not so good. Meat felt somehow overpriced and a bit mean in the mouth. Perhaps an expectations thing, but the second time was certainly not as magic as the first. Bit ordinary. Odd. 

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