Hubert Burda Media

Making The Cut

The new Mandarin Grill finds its true calling by trading in its former highbrow image for a classic steakhouse with a sophisticated flair.

Mandarin Grill has long established itself as the exclusive culinary playground for those worthy of their steaks, a secluded haven where deals are signed and sealed among industry players or lavish dinner dates are executed to impress beyond measure. Social etiquette also comes into play, carried out through an unspoken rule, dictating conversations reduced to low whispers and a limited selection of classical melodies on repeat all night long.

It’s all very fitting for the reputable fine dining establishment positioned as a leading grill restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Still reeling from their recent success after hosting Aziamendi 88, a 3-Michelin-star pop-up restaurant, Mandarin Grill has re-emerged on the dining scene with a brand-new image, focusing on delivering an unpretentious experience through their food and service. Gone are the social etiquettes and classical music, what you’ll experience now is a more casual setting to put diners at ease. If there’s one thing the restaurant has learned from the Aziamendi 88 takeover, it’s that discerning diners are yearning for a comfortable refined space to revel in a hearty menu focusing on prime cuts and steaks.

That isn’t all they adapted from the Aziamendi 88 experience. Contemporary artworks curated by Wei-Ling Gallery still adorn the walls of the new Mandarin Grill, setting the informal mood to complement the entire dining experience. We paid a visit to the new establishment on a Monday evening, in time to catch a dusking sky casting a warm glow streaming into the restaurant, evoking an intimate and sophisticated vibe that will set the mood for the rest of the evening.

At the helm of Mandarin Grill’s kitchen is Benjamin Halat, Chef de Cuisine, who brings along more than a decade of culinary experience. The German national has been serving at the restaurant since 2014 and was tasked with the daunting task of scaling down the former drawn-out menu to a compact single page, comprising an impressive selection of starters and mains with a focus on the steaks. A few of Halat’s accolades include serving at 1 and 2 Michelin-starred restaurants, a priceless experience which he translates into the food he skilfully creates at Mandarin Grill today. Joining the ranks is Peter Teng, restaurant manager and head sommelier, who will be able to provide a suitable recommendation out of Mandarin Grill’s extensive wine list and largest selection of single malt whiskies in the city to pair with your meal.

The starters are essentially familiar items you’ll instantly recognise across any reputable restaurant in the city and in this case, the familiarity provides a sense of comfort. Beef tartare done the traditional way, made with the finest fresh Australian beef, balanced with a creamy egg yolk confit and pickled cucumbers for an extra zing. The twist lies in the farm bread which accompanies the meat, providing an unconventional bold smoky, charred flavour. The stark healthier option falls under Mandarin Grill salad, an intriguing medley of crunchy greens dressed with mango caviar and lemon dressing, layered under a base of quinoa to provide the ideal textured starter to whet the appetite.

Like any modern steakhouse, Mandarin Grill sources only the most revered beef from a familyowned business in Australia, providing the option of grass-fed or grain-fed meat. Ardent devotees of highly marbled meat with luscious fat should opt for the wagyu sirloin, while the Tasmanian tenderloin and Black Angus rib-eye will satiate others. If you’re in luck, request for the colossal tomahawk bone-in rib steak, a sight to behold on its own that is guaranteed to impress your guests.

Halat’s magic touch is prevalent throughout each piece of steak charcoal-grilled to the ideal medium-rare doneness, a row of carefully trimmed meat with a tinge of pink in the centre, covered in smoky notes and oozing its natural juices while retaining its tenderness. Although each of the steaks is accompanied by a generous serving of a side and sauce, the key to the meal lies in a treasure box, concealing a myriad of intriguing condiments from truffle-infused salts, raisin mustard to Sichuan peppers to boost up your flavour profile. The Grilled Boston Lobster Thermidor provides an alternative to appeal to the non-beef consumers, with its juicy flesh enhanced with a splash of cognac and the charred aroma from the grill.

Desserts are a visual feast on its own, as Mandarin Grill sends out their best interpretation of the baked Alaska, a white shell of soft Italian  meringue set alight with whisky for an extra smoky flavour. Although desserts are usually associated with a feminine affair, Mandarin Grill’s smoked dark chocolate cigar is designed especially for the gentlemen, an intriguing display of rolled dark chocolate served with ‘ashes’ made from chocolate tortilla and smoked with real tobacco. Wash it down with a glass of single malt whisky on the rocks to elevate the experience further.

As a classic steakhouse, Mandarin Grill hits all the right notes, but its unsurpassed attention to detail with an unexpected twist calls for a clear line that separates the restaurant from the rest of the steakhouses in the city.