You were the chosen one
Ye-Gon: It’s always nice to see a new place bring something different to the table, and few things could get me as excited as the idea of having a Malaysian joint within minutes of my house. Malaysian food is probably not the most familiar cuisine to most people; there’s Josh Emett’s spot down Sapper Moore-Jones Place, but it’s not exactly the most accessible or affordable affair. Malaysian food is a melting pot of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian culture, and it’s an eclectic and harmonious mix that celebrates a rich tapestry of influences.
The Red Pot Kitchen has been open for about a month by the time my sister and I tried the place out for lunch. The warmers were nearly empty, save for the fried rice and noodles, plus some siew pao and curry puffs. A sign indicated that rendang, curry and all the good stuff will be served from 4pm, which really makes me wonder what the reasoning behind opening from 11am is at all. So, it’ll be two visits to this place to try out their meatier affairs as well.
The mie goreng, this version with thicker noodles, is kind of heavy. Cutting back on the soy and sugar, and putting in a little bit of extra tamarind would go a long way to balance the the whole setup. The nasi goreng is… Well, it’s not really a nasi goreng. It’s indistinguishable from a Chinese takeaway fried rice, and any sense of seasoning or flavouring seems an afterthought. It does have a strange gamey, liver sort of taste that isn’t exactly pleasant. Pass.
The pastry on the siew pao and curry puff has a certain chewy and crumbly way about it that whispers rumours of roti canai. It’s also got a sweetness to it, and I wouldn’t say it compliments either of the fillings, which are rather mushy and underwhelming.
Time for round two: dinner service. I ordered the sweet and spicy pork, and the beef rendang. I was kind of hoping to see the sambal chicken which was on the menu, but they weren’t serving it that night. The pork is definitely sweet, and definitely not spicy; it’s completely Natalia-safe. It’s a little heavier on the soy sauce department compared to the Chinese takeaway-style sweet and sour, and it’s a pretty interesting alternative to the norm.
Then, the rendang. I’ve missed you, my friend. It’s a particularly wet and curry-like rendang, which I don’t mind. A nice bit of lemongrass counteracts the earthy tone of the ginger and turmeric. Other than being a little light on the coconut department, the flavours and spices are almost there. It’s too bad that the beef is rather chalky and dry; I have to believe it was an over-trimmed cut of brisket, because to think it might have been chuck will makes me too sad. It tastes about three hours of intense braising past its optimal state, probably not helped by the fact it’s sitting in the warming tray.
The phrase “Malaysian takeaway” has so much potential in my books, and maybe because of that, I’m overly critical. I also haven’t tried everything on the menu, but what I’ve sampled over the two days paint a picture of what Red Pot Kitchen is all about: a place with potential, that should be congratulated for trying something new. Some of the problems are teething problems, and some others still will require more attention to fix. It’s the sort of place that could easily become my weekly one day, but it isn’t. Not just yet.
Red Pot Kitchen is located at 705 Grey Street, Claudelands. They’re open Mondays from 4pm to 8pm, and Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 8pm.