Tuesday 8 April 2014

Rils, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur

One of the best things about birthdays these days is the inevitable trip to the 'we can't afford this but it's a special occasion so sod it' restaurant. Last weekend saw my beautiful better half turn the big 3-0 which meant that I could enjoy the fine food whilst not worrying about my own ever-increasing life digits. The sod-it restaurant in question this year was Rils in Bangsar, winner of TimeOut KL's award for best meat; another advantage of it being Erin's birthday was that being host, I got to choose the cuisine....

The decor in Rils is best described as old-fashioned classy, with 1920s clarinet led jazz momentarily evoking prohibition-era New York, before my RM18 half pint of tiger transported me back to 21st century Telawi Street Bangsar.

Upstairs actually had a cool, ruby-velvet coloured cigar lounge but walking up the stairs, saying hi to the bow-tie clad waiters then turning around and going back downstairs was awkward enough without taking a photo in the process - next time!

As usual, we were given some bread to kick things off, the paltry one bun each was balanced out by the four butters on offer.
 From left to right - regular butter, tomato butter, herby butter, and garlic butter.
The bread bun was an onion roll and had been freshly baked.

For starters we ordered tuna tataki to share, RM28 (approx $9). Unfortunately the rather long plate caused a rather rubbish photographer a world of problems.

What you can see on this incredibly long plate is slices of seared tuna with a rich butter and soy reduction in the foreground, ginger chili jam in the middle and candied cinnamon apple with salad in the distance.
These were unmistakably good cuts of tuna with the seared edges bringing back memories of blow-torched maguro in Japan. The chilli jam and cinnamon apple gave the whole thing a subtle fruity kick. It was all quite delicious and whetted the appetite in anticipation for the meat fest to follow.

Overall - A delicately delicious starter - 4 / 5

Rils' specialty is its steak, with its most special steak being the Australian Wagyu Tomahawk Ribeye weighing in at 1.5Kg and coming served on the bone. This was of course my dish of preference, more than anything so I could pick it up like a caveman and then take some photos of it.

I fought a futile battle with the birthday girl, who had no interest in sharing a massive hunk of meat on her special day. A minor victory for me was the promise that on my birthday I would be allowed to order it.

In the end I settled for the not so shabby Australian 400g Ribeye RM 154 (approx $50).

The light in Ril's was causing havoc on my photos, here's another with flash,
This was still a sizeable hunk of meat.

What you get with a ribeye is juiciness and flavour but also quite a lot of marbling with fat. As with many ribeye steaks, unless you can afford to go to Japan and get a Kobe, you're going to have to deal with a bit of fat and gristle.

Fortunately for me, I have a high tolerance for fat and gristle, bordering on a preference; I had some delicious mouthfuls and some chewy mouthfuls but former definitely outnumbered the latter. I thoroughly enjoyed this steak, it's pretty much what I'd expect to get from a pricey establishment like Rils.

Overall - A very good steak but not quite top top quality 3.5 / 5

Erin ordered the sticky beef short rib RM72 (approx $24).
This beef rib was braised in soy and star anise with shitake mushrooms and ginger. It came served on a bed of pak choi and a bowl of creamy mash with gravy.
As any slow cooked beef rib should, this literally fell off the bone. The meat still retained it's juicy texture and the gravy was fantastic. Another plus for me, as I ending up eating half of it, was that it was a massive hunk of beef rib. No complaints at all...

Overall - Tender and interestingly flavoured - 4 / 5

Foolishly, we ordered three huge side dishes to go with our massive main courses. First up, sauteed French beans.
These were firm, and full of flavour, probably due to the fact they had been doused in oil.

We also ordered the crispy leeks, which were a chefs' recommendation - not bad but unspectacular.
Saving the absolute best for last, was the double-cooked truffled potato.

This was a huge potato.
With a thick layer of melted cheese, herbs, truffle and being double-cooked, this thing is not for the faint-hearted. It was however, absolutely delicious and left me with the opinion that all potatoes should be double-cooked and truffled. It gets a special side dish 4.5 / 5

For dessert we had the preposterously-named Eton Mess Royale RM20 (approx$6).

This was a concoction of hibiscus jam, frozen berries, meringue and enough cream to make Nigella Lawson proud...

I'm actually not a big cream-based dessert fan so this really wasn't for me, Erin however is a cream-based dessert fan and seemed satisfied without being overly impressed.

Overall - a solid 3 / 5

So what's the overall verdict on Rils? Good food, good atmosphere, good portions but expensive by KL standards. Back home this would be a reasonably priced and well-liked fine dining establishment, and for that Rils deserves credit. However, with Yeast down the road and Mezze nearby, it hasn't fully justified the near 50% price difference.

Nevertheless, we both thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Rils, it befitted the 30th birthday by providing a real sense of occasion. We will return at some point but will probably go with the standard mains as opposed to going for the uber-pricey steaks, unless Erin lets me order the Tomahawk.

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