From the genius mastermind of Kitsch and Foam and in the same neighbourhood, is a little Malaysian restaurant known as Ria.
For those who haven’t noticed this treasure it’s easy to see why. Situated next to an alley and with a carpark in front, it’s entrance is covered in plastic tarp walls to shelter from the wind and any potential other weather issues. I have to admit, it isn’t much to look at from the outside.
Inside is a completely different story. Think plush seating that you sink into; clean lines and a neat, ordered set up of tables. This place works and it’s no wonder that at 6pm on a Wednesday night as Jeremy and I walk in, we manage to secure the last available table since the rest are all booked out. It’s just that good.
I’ve been here a few times before with the girls, but this is Jeremy’s first time dining in (he’s devoured a take away curry I bought him from here once). It’s a great suggestion for a mid-week meal that I know we’ll both enjoy.
The cuisine here is ‘authentic’ Malaysian – though I would probably think of it more as a fusion of Western and Malaysian food. The menu is extensive and diverse enough to get anyone’s mouth salivating and stomach rumbling. Think curries, baked fish and intensely flavoursome meats.
As we peruse the menu, our waiter presents us with two icy cold glasses of water and a bottle to accompany our meal automatically. It’s such a small gesture but a sign of great service when you don’t need to ask for water – it should be a given, and here it is.
We decide to share an entree between the two of us, opting for the Traditional Satay ($15.50) which is six sticks of lamb, beef or chicken (we chose beef) with cucumber, onion, rice cakes and a thick peanut sauce.
I’ve had these before and they’re just as good over a year later. The meat is tender; slightly chewy and full of flavour. The satay sauce is chunky and just slightly oily like it should be. I especially love the whole peanuts floating amongst the sauce. It’s delicious, slightly smokey and has a underlying current of chilli in its flavour profile.
We snack on the complimentary chilli salted peanuts in between our entree and mains; chomping away happily and devouring the bowl whole. I love peanuts and this is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me even though I know my skin’s probably going to show the greed in days to come. But they taste good so who cares!
We decide to share our mains, with each of us choosing a curry so we get to try more things. Really we probably could have done with one because the serving sizes are actually quite large here – another thing to appreciate!
Jeremy chooses the Malaccan Lamb Semur ($25) which is a curry of Portugese and Chinese influence, spiced with star anise and cinnamon. It tastes strangely familiar – like the kind of Chinese stews my mum makes at home every so often. Since I’m not a particular fan of stews, this isn’t my sort of dish but I can say that the flavours are nice. There’s less balance of sweet and salty here, but rather just an overall savoury element to compliment the tender chunks of lamb.
For my curry choice, I opt for the Nyonya Chicken Curry ($23). I’m drawn in by the two little chillies next to the name on the menu, indicating there’ll be some heat to this dish, which is a chicken curry spiced with coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, chilli and coconut milk.
It’s not as hot as I expected, but it’s definitely the star of the evening! The coconut flavour is strong without being over demanding; the sauce chunky but somehow smooth at the same time. It’s thick, intense and just basic Malaysian curry heaven if I’m being honest. That sauce… yes I could rave about that for years. Big thumbs up here!
We each order a serving of Roti ($3 each) to enjoy with our mains. If you haven’t had roti bread, it’s basically a grilled flat bread ideal for dipping into sauces and curries. Except here at Ria, it’s not basic at all. The roti is flaky and pulls away disjoining layers as you tear it apart with your hands. It’s thin like it should be, but thick enough to retain some of the curry as you plunge it into the bowl to soak up that wonderful sauce. It’s oily, moorish and completely addictive.
Jeremy and I eat alot of roti bread at home and you can tell the difference between our store bought freezer versions and this. This is home made. It’s seasoned to a tee, and it just has so much more soul. It’s what roti should be.
We also decide to share a bowl of white rice to ladle our curry over on our plates. It works out at $2.50 per person and is a generous serving of fluffy jasmin rice.
Like all good meals out, ours finishes on a sweet note. Homemade pandan ice cream with spiced pineapple ($8.50).
It reminds me of those beautifully soft pandan chiffon cakes that my mum would feed me as a child. It actually transports me back to those times as my spoon cuts into the creamy ice cream. It’s the kind of dessert that makes you feel giddy and excited at its diversity and impressive qualities. It seems so simple and yet it punches you in the face with the taste.
Ria might be more fusion Malaysian cooking than authentic, but that’s the only comment I can really make about this place except yum. Every time, over and over again, yum.