9’s Grill & Cafe: SeeFoon Beefs Up on Matsuzaka

Every gourmet knows Wagyu (which literally means “Japanese cow”), the famous Japanese beef that fetches prices three times higher than prime cuts from other countries. Often referred to as the “foie gras of beef,” Wagyu is exquisitely tender and has a divine luxurious taste.

It is often called “the most expensive beef in the world,” with brands such as Matsusaka beef being praised as cultivating the “art of meat”.

Many restaurants – outside of Japan – use the word ‘Wagyu’ and ‘Kobe’ interchangeably, which is inherently wrong. While every Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe. And while Kobe Beef is arguably the most famous Wagyu beef amongst foreigners, discerning diners and Japanese natives will know that Matsuzaka Beef is actually cremè de la cremè. The ultra-delicate meat instantly melts in your mouth, leaves a sweet aftertaste and sends you into paroxysms of rapture. Needless to say, it is the most expensive beef out of all types of beef in Japan.

Matsuzaka is raised in Mie Prefecture in Japan and is considered one of three “Kings” of beef, the other two being Kobe and Ohmi. Four criteria determine how high the quality grade is: marbling, meat colour and brightness, firmness and texture of meat, and colour, luster, and quality of fat.

As such, A5 is the highest grade that wagyu can get and, also, the most expensive.

Most chefs recommend Wagyu steaks be cooked a little longer than those from Western countries – medium-rare or even medium. Otherwise, “they can be like eating a stick of butter”.

Health-conscious eaters may be wary of the web of fat (called “shimofuri”) woven through slabs of Wagyu. However, pure Wagyu contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids (aka “the good fats”) rich in omega-3. One study from the Japan Livestock Industry Association says Wagyu has up to 30% more unsaturated fat than Angus cattle.

I recently had the pleasure to have a total immersion in Wagyu Beef as well as Single Malt whiskeys at 9’s the newly opened restaurant in Ipoh Garden East. It was two separate evenings of total indulgence and extravagance as a small group of us gathered at 9’s to sample their delectable fare.

Dato’ Foo Chee Kean and his glamorous sister Dato’ Yen Foo were most affable hosts as they explained the specials on the menu while introducing their exclusive collection of wines and single malts.

Top selection on the menu is naturally the Matsuzaka beef, which in this case is a Grade A5 with a marbling factor between 10-12. We tried two different cuts on the two separate occasions.The first was a sirloin weighing around 300g, which was cut into thick strips and grilled at the table. Served medium rare to medium, the meat was unbelievably well marbled and could literally be cut with a fork. It also meant that one strip (see pic on top right) was more than enough for me. Served with crispy potato wedges, it could have been a whole meal but other dishes were waiting!

The second occasion, we had the tenderloin which for some of my friends were preferable especially for those averse to fat! Although I did try to explain that Matsuzaka beef fat was high in omega-3 and therefore heart healthy! The tenderloin was equally tender though. Matsuzaka Sirloin RM300; Tenderloin RM330 per 100g.

We started with a Mushroom Soup with black truffles, the special mushroom (truffle) lifting the ordinary mushrooms into a deliciousness all its own; RM28. Next came an authentic fusion dish: oriental ‘har cheong’ or Chinese prawn paste which imparts its own inimitable taste and aroma (anathema for some westerners as in durian) chicken wings, grilled to perfection, the prawn paste permeating into the skin and meat right down to the bone; RM23.

We were then wooed with the Iberico Pork Collar, oozy drippy chunks of pork neck and collar which is known to be one of the best parts to eat. This was well marinated and roasted to perfection; RM55.

All the while tasting the culinary offerings, we were being plied with drinks of the highest quality although all the regular pours are available.

9‘s prides itself on carrying a stock of the finest vertical range in Ipoh of Macallan (Sherry and Fine Oak 12-18 years) from RM320-RM1100 per bottleDalmore (12,15,18, 21, 25 years) from RM350-RM4500 per bottle; and Glenfarclas (25 years: RM1000, 30 years: RM2500 and 40 years: RM5000 years) single malts, not to mention their cellar of Chateau Lafittes, Latours Margaux’s and other venerable French wines which as every connoisseur of wines knows, the sky is the limit in price depending on vintage.

While the price for Matsuzaka beef may strike some as high, there is a silver lining for those who like their single malts and their beef. From June onwards for 2 months, 9‘s is running a promotion where you may purchase one bottle of their single malts and get 50% off one of their mains. Plus they will mark your intake level on the bottle, put your name on it and seal and keep it for you till your next visit. Talk about the ideal opportunity to get your fill of Matsuzaka beef! But of course you will have to like single malts. Or bring someone who does!

9’s may be plush, posh and ritzy but you can actually go in and have a good meal for two and come away paying less than $100 per head. Not all menu items are that hard on the pocket. There are soups, salads and other items among which the Fettucine Carbonara at RM23Pizzas from RM20-26 all guarantee a hearty meal. And not forgetting their Signature Tiramisu which goes for RM22.

So go on, poke your nose in, have a soup and salad and if splurging is the order of the day or night, then splurge right ahead. You won’t regret it.

9’s Grill & Cafe
28 & 30, Jalan Medan Ipoh 4, Bandar Baru Medan, 31400 Ipoh.
Tel.: 05 547 3868
Opens from 5pm-12am. Closed Tuesdays.
GPS: 4°37’ 03.6”N  101° 07’ 12.2” E

SeeFoon eats her way around India

What does the average non Indian person conjure up when thinking of Indian food? Curry and more curry eaten with Roti Canai or Chapati with some biryani rice thrown in for good measure.

The truth is there is as much diversity and variety in Indian cuisine as in any of the other great cuisines of the world like the French and Chinese. And like these two, often you need to be in that locality to taste the regional specialities. Similarly with Indian cuisine.

You’d have to traverse the whole of the sub continent from North to South, East to West to get a real feel for the subtleties of the different styles of cooking and the spices and ingredients used.

In Ipoh, we are fortunate to have one Indian restaurant where one sits in one spot and take a culinary tour of India and that is at the Maharaj Restaurant at the Shooting Club on Gopeng Road. All the while surrounded by Moghul splendor in the decor.

I had raved about the food at this restaurant in the August 1, 2014 issue of the Ipoh Echo when it was a new kid on the block. A meal here at Maharaj can be likened to a gourmet feast around India as they’re proud to be presenting dishes from the different states such as Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, the West Coast and Northern India. Now they have even added Sri Lanka to their geographical repertoire with a dish called Ceylon Mutton, marinated morsels of mutton deep fried with masala paste and topped with yoghurt; RM25.

Naturally for me, a visit to Maharaj is not complete unless I have their Tandoori Chicken, a whole chicken leg (as in almost a quarter chicken) marinated in yoghurt and delicate spices, dripped with lime or lemon and served with their coriander, mint chutney. Every mouthful is worth savouring, having in my mind, the most juicy, delectably tender texture and taste of any chicken tandoori I’ve had anywhere else including India itself; RM21 per leg.

The Fish Guntur Pomfret Masala from Andhra Pradesh had my friend Datin Grace Lee hankering for more and ordering a portion to take home. The pomfret was first deep fried and served smothered  in a thick chilli paste gravy; RM35/40 (depending on market price of the fish).

Chettinad Nandu Masala is their specialty crab curry, local mud crabs cooked in the Chettinad style from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu state in South India, perhaps the most renowned fare in the Tamil Nadu repertoire. It uses a variety of spices and the dishes are made with fresh ground masalas; seasonal price.

Prawn Kadai Jinghha, cooked in a pounded dry masala, with typical Punjabi flavours, is certainly not for the weak-hearted. It provides a perfect blend of spices and prawns in a tangy yet spicy gravy with added capsicum, in an onion, garlic, cashew nut base; RM26.

Paneer Tikka Tandoori served in a masala sauce made with a cashew nut and onion base, had a pleasant smoky taste from the Paneer (homemade Indian cottage cheese) having been cooked in the Tandoor oven and overlaid with the sauce. Very rich and satisfying and definitely for sharing with a larger group; RM38.

With all the yummilicious dishes as described above, naturally we couldn’t have downed all these sauces and gravies without some carbs to mop them up. And carbs we got by the bushel.

Keema Naan, flatbread cooked in the tandoor and stuffed with a very tasty spiced minced mutton was delicious on its own and certainly accentuated with any of the foregoing gravies; RM9.90, as did the Mushroom Parata, a fluffier version of the Naan filled with mushrooms; RM9.

And then there was the rice, from a plain Vegetable biryani to the Garlic Rice at RM8 each. A total surfeit of carbs!

In conclusion, if a culinary trip around India is your fancy, call Murugan, the manager  at Maharaj: MMM! And order yourself up a storm. He’ll be happy to adjust the heat for you according to your taste buds.

Also please remember that they serve high tea from 3pm offering some delectable street food of India not usually found in restaurants and rarely in Ipoh, which changes regularly. Go to our website: ipohecho.com.my and look up “High Tea at Maharaj” in the August 1, 2017 issue.

Maharaj Restaurant (Pork Free)Perak Shooting Association
36, Jalan Raja Dr Nazrin Shah (Gopeng Road), Ipoh.
GPS:  N 4° 35.285’  E 101° 5.84’Tel: 05 243 2515
Business hours: 11am-3pm (breakfast); 3pm-6pm (Indian high tea); 6pm-10.30pm (dinner).
Open 24/7