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Published July 3rd 2015
Better put this on your list of great foodie experiences
Famous beef rendang curry. Source Facebook Masak Ku
Masak Ku is a Malaysian restaurant nestled up on Burke Road near Camberwell Station. It only opened last year, so if you are a dedicated foodie and haven't discovered it yet, you could almost be forgiven.
But not after reading this review. If you want to complete your repertoire of Melbourne's great and authentic eateries, then you must stumble upon Masak Ku for yourself.
Look at these bulbous pillows of buttery roti photo Facebook Masak Ku
There is a hint of this when you walk into this charming restaurant with it exposed brick walls and chandeliers. Featured on the walls are huge canvases showing luscious red Asian fruits such as fecundate pomegranates oozing their luscious ripeness, rambutan, glossy wax apples and vibrant dragon fruit.
These are more than mere decoration but a statement that you are about to be eating fresh and authentic Asian cuisine.
We chose not to order off the menu but to sample a number of traditional dishes that Simon, who is a second generation Malaysian restauranteur, enjoys presenting to his diners.
We feasted on array of delights. So if some of the dishes look small in the photographs, that is not normally the case. It is simply that we were road-testing so many that we had smaller portions.
Our meal began with a selection of entrees. Sorry to make you drool but there was butter soft shell crab, cooked with butter, curry leaves, a smattering of chillies, garlic and coconut.
Mixed entrees to delight: Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
There were also house-made beef curry puffs with perfect pastry and tender chicken satay sticks with homemade satay sauce with fresh cucumbers slithers and chunks of pineapple.
The accompaniments also fascinated me with their novelty factor. There were little perfectly formed cubes of pressed rice (resembling but obviously tasting like lumps of sugar), an enticing shredded raw vegetable salad with the freshest of herbs and large flat rectangles of a cassova style crips that were crunchy, delicately spiced and totally moreish.
Our first shared main was sambal rainbow trout. This was deboned, layered with sambal and then wrapped in a banana leaf before being chargrilled. This surprise parcel was then opened up and served to us on a long plate. As you can imagine, given all the careful preparation, the trout was infused with flavour, delicately pink and succulent on the inside but with a crispy outer skin.
We then shared a couple of curries. It is very much a Malaysian tradition to share dishes. The first was a Nyonya chicken curry with small cubes of potato and spiced with lemongrass, turmeric, galangal, star anise and cloves. Then a totally fabulous beef rendang. This is probably the dish I will most be rushing back for and Mary mentioned it was probably their most requested item.
Often beef rendang can be tough and drowned in sauce. This was slow cooked sprinkled with roasted coconut shreds and kaffir lime leaves and the consistency and flavour was perfect. Our curries were served with cloud-like pillows of puffed up buttery roti bread.
Somewhere amidst all this was a bowl of achar, lightly pickled with crushed peanuts and sesame seeds. This was a means of cleansing our palate between courses. All the vegetables were fresh and crunchy. The beans in particular snapped with freshness. Those early morning visits to the market have certainly paid off.
Vegetables in between the mains to cleanse our palates. Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
Our last main, of fried duck, was another house specialty. The simple name does not quite do it justice. Like the fish, it was completely deboned and then simmered in a home made stock before being lighty dusted with flour and then flash-fried. The resultant creation was soft and sensuous in the middle with a crispy flavoursome crust. It was served with a side-dish of a perfect accompanying sauce.
Fried duck the name not a patch on what this tastes like. Source Facebook Masak Ku
All sauces at Masak Ku are house made and free of anything artificial. If Simon can make something from scratch, he will, and that is another reason the food here is so good.
When we thought we could eat no more the desserts arrived and we mustered up strength to taste the tempting array. There was a mango, sago and pomelo pudding. What a combination. Pomelo is a little like grapefruit where each segment is in turn made up of small beads that burst with a surprising sweet/tart flavour. They have many health benefits as well as being delicious.
Traditional mango, sago and pomelo pudding: Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
Then came a trio of homemade ice-creams (shared I would like to add just in case you are getting the wrong impression about my capacity to eat) all based on Malaysian ingredients such as lychee (with whole lychees melded into the mix), Malaysian kopi (coffee) ice cream and pandon with coconut cream and palm sugar.
We weren't served the homemade durian ice-cream, as apparently it is an acquired taste, but we did ask to try some just to complete our evening of authentic experiences. Personally I loved it but agree it is probably not for everyone. Simon explained how the secret is in choosing durians with luscious creamy centres to blend into the ice cream.
Lastly we had kopah tarik (Malaysian white) coffee. This is normally made from quite a bit of condensed milk but as I don't take sugar in my coffee Mary toned it down for me. Just a drop was enough to make this coffee deliciously creamy and only slightly sweet. One can also have teh tarik a classic Malaysian sweetened tea.
Masak Ku definitely warrants a return visit. It was the authenticity of the food, the bright and lovely people serving (Mary was a real gem) and Simon is definitely one of those kitchen gods blessed with culinary skill, expert knowledge and food finesse. He has more than mastered the art of fine cooking he's conquered it.
Nonya Curry Vegetables - look at those super fresh vegetables. Source Masak Ku Facebook