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, February 18, 2016

Memphis Bistro - fantastic!

Memphis Bistro
February 6th 2016

This was recommended by a new friend at a recent Amante CNY feast somewhere in Taman Desa. We had expressed a liking for good steak and he started raving about this place called Memphis. So enthusiastic, he even whatsapped the contact details. We immediately decided it was a must try. And it would indeed prove to be a fantastic find.

Though trying to get there on the Friday evening directly before the Chinese New Year holiday was in hindsight hugely stupid. Initially looking good, the Federal Highway traffic ground to a, er, grinding halt in the drizzling rain just before the PJ Hilton. Waze started screeching for us to turn off on Jalan 222 which we figured would be better than the nerve frazzling crawl and took us through the back roads of Petaling Jaya to the LDP. Here, a quick U turn got us into the backwaters of Kelana Jaya and then surprisingly quickly to the restaurant. Took about forty minutes from the Jalan 222 turn off. 

Interior - kitchen and Chef and Lenglui and me reaching for a glass - as usual...
In fairness, without the Waze we would never have found the place. It was in a back corner of what looked like a recently constructed and even more recently abandoned shoplot village going by the name of Dana 1 Commercial Centre (or Pusat Perdagangan Dana 1 as the maps will name it). Seemingly very few tenants with lots of "To Let" signs. But the Waze was brilliant, taking us right to the front door of the place (though not initially so good getting back - it couldn't find the road out). There were many admonitions en route to the restaurant to park in the downstairs parking or risk a clamping but there was so much space everywhere in front of closed and vacant shoplots I decided to take a risk and park directly outside the place. I figured I could keep an eye on Willy through the large windows and move it if any of the Complex goons started hovering around (Willy is our nickname for the grey Honda Accord - when we first got it, it felt huge and like driving a grey whale, hence the name).

Specials of the House
The interior was warm and welcoming, with a long bar on one side and tables arranged in four and eight seaters. Figured a maximum of fifty could be catered to. Lots of wood and as said large windows facing on to the street. Very homely. At the far end of the room was a perspex board on which were written all the specials of the house. Wow. Lots of fresh seafood and steak. There was also an a la carte menu on which everything also looked excellent. Also had a Christmas Tree festooned with the usual baubles to which some Ang Pow packets had been added to give a Chinese New Year feel. Quite cute, yes? There was a large window through which we could see the kitchen and a homage poster of Elvis on the side. The King. Of course. Also a poster of the code of the Native North American peoples gave a sense of soul and spirit to the place. A reminder that we are all temporal beings connected to the Great Spirit. Who hunt and eat the buffalo. Om.

Squid Nuggets
We were about thirty minutes ahead of time so we sat down and got an ice bucket for the Oyster Bay SB. It needed about ten minutes to chill so I took a quick walk around outside to get a sense of the place whilst Lenglui sat whatsapping the incoming Texas (who would be joining us with his squeeze the FBQ). It did feel like a ghost town, though there were a few restaurants and outlets looking to try and make it. I couldn't see what would attract people to come here. The light drizzle just added to a sense of desolation about the place. Location wise, on a good day it would be easy to get to - U turn back on the Subang airport road, past the Citta Mall, hang a left and you are here. My guess is that Citta Mall takes much of the traffic. It also has lots of named food outlets which is always a good draw in Malaysia. Ten minutes wandering in the darkling rainy gloom of this concrete maze was enough so it was back into the warm glow of the Memphis.

The wine was nicely chilled and the thirst worked up by the stroll was excellently slaked (slaken? slakened?) by the lean acidic crunch and throat tickling crispy fruit of this lovely wine. For some reason the 2014 had crashed in price and we had been picking it up for RM80 (normally RM130 in the supermarkets). Drinking nicely and better than some younger NZ offerings, it has maintained its lean firmness and was delightful both on its own and brilliant with the Squid Nugget starters we had ordered. Salty peppery crunchy bites that accentuated the crisp zip of the wine. Darn tasty, and a great start to the evening.

Mr and Mrs Texas arrived (they had done the Uber which whacked them for premium rate due to the time of day) and we got down to the serious business of ordering. With FBQ, is quite simple - order everything so we all can taste everything. We usually reign in such enthusiasm with the logic that we can't finish so much food (which surprisingly worked tonight) so we settled on four starters and two mains with a side salad. 

Wagyu M5 - double yum!
It would prove enough. We had another plate of the delightful Squid Nuggets and went with the Portobello Mushroom, the Crab Cake and the Escargots. It was all very good, though the Crab Cake felt a bit mushy for my taste. I like it a shade drier and crisper in the potato stakes. Big sizes, good tastes and fair prices - could not argue with anything here. The Escargots were done nicely in garlic butter (with a possible hit of truffle?). Perhaps lacking refinement in delicate textures but hey, we're in a Bistro here. You come for Soul Food not deconstruction or reconstruction or abstraction distraction nonsense. Yes.

And we had indeed come for the steak and they were darling pieces of meat done perfectly.We had ordered one piece of (presumably Australian) Wagyu M5 and one Sirloin with Goose Liver Butter just to compare. I carved them up and everyone got a chunk of each. The Wagyu was the clear winner, but not by much. Both were excellent. The Wagyu took it on texture and mouthfeel but in taste and quality terms both pieces were darn good. The Goose Liver butter was a cute surprise and soaked the sirloin with a cream fatty softness that helped it slip across the cheeks so sweetly. And it all came with a plate of roast potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and (gasp!) Brussels Sprouts which were done perfectly. I have a total weakness for these softly bitter green little chaps. Everyone else vehemently asserted that they hated them so I was able to drizzle them with the gravy and totally glutton out. Happy as a dog in the mud. We had also ordered a salad which went pretty much untouched - there was more than enough food for four without it. 

Sirloin with Foie Gras Butter - yum
We had the meat with a magnificent Australian Shiraz that Texas had brought whose name escapes me - might have been an Executioner or Judge or one of these Wine Poetry jobboes. Whatever, it was an excellent match - light pepper silk with a velvet caress on the meat. Top, top end. (note - Texas read this and texted the name - Two Hands Gnarly Dudes)

We finished off with a delightful chocolate souffle kind of lavabomb with a dollop of ice cream on the side that erupted with cocoa goo and milky cold in the mouth and made for a well pleasant sweetener. 

Corkage at RM20 a bottle for ice buckets and decent glassware felt extremely reasonable compared to what one gets elsewhere for far more outlay (eg Osteria Realblue). Food was pretty fast out of the kitchen. Solid service, no real complaints. Definitely one to go back to, and quite often if time permits. One of those default places you feel can confidently go and get great food at fair price. Foodie friends said they had been going there for quite some time. Easy to see why. Total bill of RM400 inclusive of three bottles corkage for four people felt most friendly. 

Chef KJ Tan
The affable Chef KJ Tan came over to say hello and we shared a glass of wine with him. Clearly he has a passion for the kitchen and the meat and wine, and is one of those old rock and roll souls given his selection of decorative album covers adorning the walls of Memphis. Not sure what is the story behind Memphis and the web is remarkably silent on the point. Have to sit down with Chef next time and split a bottle to find out. And eat more of his wonderful wagyu. Come and join us! But make a reservation - it might be full. Cheers!

Memphis Bistro
D6-70G, BLK 7,
Pusat Perdagangan Dana 1
Jalan PJU 1A/46,
47301 Petaling Jaya
Selangor DE

Tel +603 7843 6818
HP +6012 3068717

Photos by kind permission of FBQ Jan Shaw

Code of the Native Americans

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