Charcoal, Saujana Hotel
Words by Brooke Keel
Photos by The Yum List (Monica Tindall)
Using classic Malaysian styled grill techniques with a contemporary flair, Charcoal offers up a delicious array of meats and seafoods paired with signature marinades and condiments (developed by Nyonya chef Auntie Belle specifically for Charcoal). The restaurant itself is a wonderful experience, bathed in all shades of cool grey and warm woods - a bit like a modernistic cabin in the woods. Chef Robert Johnston and his team can be seen cooking out in the open, surrounded by a buffet of tasty options, grilling up wonderfully fragrant and steaming fare.
|Meat on the Grill|
We experienced an environmental immersion into all things earthy and rustic, from the cooly polished surroundings set against a palette of woods, down to the enchanting delivery of table water that comes in the form of a large piece of Japanese detoxifying charcoal immersed in a glass decanter - the scene is strikingly stylish. If you choose to take a bit of the ambiance home with you at the end of the night, a selection of condiments and the charcoal for water purification can be purchased and enjoyed at home.
The various ‘bars’ of food choices (the Nyonya bar, the Chinese bar, the grilled seafood or meat bar, a fantastic noodle soup bar, the dessert bar) are all separated from each other and spaced around the rectangular area that surrounds the open kitchen. This is done so that the aromas from each distinct type of food do not cross over and alter another.
|Chef at Work|
During our visit, we tried many of the various grilled items and traditional Peranakan dishes. Bread accompanied the meal, including unique charcoal buns with herbal tincture that had a surprising and satisfying pizza-like taste. We particularly enjoyed the starter menu’s Satay of Lamb, Chicken and Beef in a turmeric marinade (30RM), amusingly served on a mini grill at the table (don’t forget to turn the satays from time to time!) and accompanied by rice cakes and spicy peanut sauce. The meats are steeped in the marinade for 24 hours, and are sliced perfectly thin in order for the delicious concoction to penetrate to the center. The chef’s favorite satay option is the beef, which we agreed was incredibly flavorful, slightly sweet and caramelized on the exterior.
|Charcoal Bread and Mini Baguette|
The Ayam Percik (38RM), a grilled chicken dish with coconut gravy was lovely. The chicken was nice and tender, with lime and fresh coriander flavors as perfect enhancements. The Charcoal Roast Chicken Rice (39RM) was a homey option, moist and colorful. The Woodfired Lamb Koftas (50RM) were delightful, as were the Mashed Potatoes (fork-mashed in light cream, included as a side to the grilled meats or 15RM if ordered separately), the Terung Sumbat Bakar (an eggplant in banana leaf filled with seafood mousse, 26RM), the Grilled Tiger Prawns (with kaffir lime and lemongrass marinade or plain-grilled, 79RM) and the fantastic South Australian Grain Fed Beef Tenderloin (100% Black Angus 220g, 95RM).
|Grilled Tiger Prawns|
|Terung Sumbat Bakar|
|Fork Mashed and Baked Potatoes|
The highlight for our table, in the end, was the famous Tomahawk Steak (300RM, for 2 pax), a giant, unbelievable piece of specially cut ribeye steak. This steak was so juicy and very tender, a definite favorite. While the menu says for two people, we thought it could feed an entire family. Be warned!
For dessert, we tried the Grilled Exotic Fruits with spiced kalamansi, caramel sauce and pineapple sorbet (very unique and sweet, 20RM), the Bingka Ubi Kayu, a coconut infused tapioca with sweet sticky rice and grilled mango (20RM). Finally, we had our hand at the Ice Kacang (20RM), a traditional shaved ice concoction available with a multitude of our personally selected condiments and complements.
|Grilled Exotic Fruits|
|Bingka Ubi Kayu|
Charcoal also offers a decidedly extensive selection of wines, housed in a stylish wine cellar off of the dining area. The menu provides suggested wine pairings for many of the offerings. At the end of the evening, there was a consensus: Charcoal is a must-experience dining adventure at the Saujana Hotel and Resort.
Reasons to Visit: Unique and striking setting, Chef Robert Johnston’s wonderfully prepared grilled items (including a mini-grill for use at the dining table), sauces and charcoal for water purification also available for purchase.
Jalan Lapangan Terbang SAAS
40150 Shah Alam
Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
+6 03 7843 1234 ext 6122
Hours: 6.00am to 11.00pm daily