Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rumah Rasa

Rumah Rasa is a new Indonesian restaurant in the just-as-new Bay Hotel, opposite Vivo City. According to its Facebook page, its head chef, Chef Sharifah, aims to deliver authentic and ibu-esque Indonesian flavours by using fresh seasonal produce. Rumah Rasa caught my attention when a bunch of food blogs all suddenly published a review on the restaurant. Being a huge Indonesian food fan, I had to go and try the restaurant out.

Inside the restaurant, the classy, swanky-looking furniture is a dark shade of brown. Although the restaurant is dimly lit, the sunlight that can shine through the big windows brightens things up.

When the sun sets, the interior becomes even darker, and I had to switch to ISO800 with maximum exposure to take the pictures below.

As appetizer, we were served belinjau crackers with sambal chilli. I think this is the first restaurant I have been too that provides sambal as a dip. Very perceptive!

We liked the sambal so much that when a server came to take away the empty bowl, mom asked her not to remove the sambal so that we could eat it with our food. Most servers would just say "oh, ok" and walk away. But our server took an extra step and kindly offered to get another condiment dish of sambal for us. I was impressed.

The first dish that arrived at our table was the Rendang Sumatra. In the menu, it is described as "[b]eef simmered in spicy coconut gravy", and on their Facebook page, it is said that Chef Sharifah makes the rempah paste from scratch. It may look like we were served with a small amount of rendang, but it is the picture that would be deceiving. There was a lot of beef and we had to pack back some because we could not finish it. 

The rendang gravy was creamier than that at Grandma's Restaurant, and had less coconutty aroma - a plus point as too much of that aroma can cause jelak-ness and even nausea. This rendang gravy was beautifully fragrantly creamy, and would be excellent with rice. The beef itself was tender enough (but not pulled pork tender), and each piece tasted as good as the one before. You may remember, in comparison, the rendang sapi at Garuda Padang, which taste became dull and old after the first piece.

Very well done Chef Sharifah! This beef rendang ties with Tambuah Mas' for the top spot.

Next up was the Ikan Bakar Rumah Rasa. It is described as "[c]harcoal grilled sea bass topped with Rumah Rasa's homemade spicy sauce". 

We are tougher judges when it comes to ikan bakar, because the bar had been set from tens of years ago by Malacca's famous ikan bakar, which we have eaten over ten times. What was clearly apparent to us as soon as we took our first bites, was that the fish was not charcoal grilled. There was no smoky charcoal smell. The patches of brown bits on the surface of the fish were mostly likely a dusting of flour to prevent the fish from sticking to something. I must say I was miffed by the misleading misdescription of the dish because our decision to order the ikan bakar was based on the description that the fish was charcoal grilled.

Description aside, the sea bass did taste fresh and succulent, and was a treat with freshly squeezed lime, some of the homemade spicy sauce, and some sambal chilli. 

As we tore off the flesh on the sides and drew close to the centre of the fish, I came across a long meaty chunk of uncooked fish meat along the middle. When we got the attention of a server, she apologised and offered us another ikan bakar.

The replacement arrived in 10 minutes, literally steaming hot, and this time the fish was cooked thoroughly through. It was so steamy that the kitchen must either have steamed it, boiled it or microwaved it before panfrying / grilling it.

Nontheless, we appreciated the replacement with a fish of the same size. Other restaurants might only have cooked the middle portion and returned the half-eaten dish to the table.

We also ordered the Ayam Panggang Berkakak Jakarta, which description reads "[g]rilled chicken served with Rumah Rasa's spicy sauce". The surface of the chicken was glazed with something slightly sweetish. Whatever it was, it tasted more complex than pure sugar, and gave the dish a unique flavour.

The Sayur Lodeh, "[m]ixed vegetable in fragrant coconut gravy", was a bit too mild tasting for my liking. Despite how most sayur lodehs are served in Singapore, i.e. very liquidy and mild, I have a penchant for thicker, spicier, more robust gravies that are almost curry-like.

It is not that clear from the picture above, but the Tahu Telur Surabaya we were served was slightly different from its picture in the menu. In the picture, the tower appears to be encased in wispy fried egg. Our skinny tower's base was cubes of tau hu, golden brown on the surface facing outwards, but stark steaming white once you dig in - disappointingly not at all fried within. On top of the tau hu base was a layer of fried egg, with a crown of julienned vegetables. 

It is still Tambuah Mas' tahu telur that reigns supreme.

For a sweet ending to the meal, we ordered Es Chendol. How this usually works with mom is that we request that the gula melaka be served separately from the chendol, and I drink most of the coconut milk whilst she has the rest of the chendol with gula melaka. At Rumah Rasa, I was surprised at how the chendol was served: instead of crushed ice in coconut milk, we received what seemed to be crushed ice with a bit of coconut milk drizzled on it. There was certainly no coconut milk to drink, but only crushed ice to eat. We also remember being given more red beans and green chendol Tambuah Mas. You can guess who the winner is.

On the whole, we had a good experience at Rumah Rasa, and it was very much helped by the attentive and polite servers. If we return I will want to try their Soto Ayam Madura, Gado Gado, Ayam Korma, Asam Kepala Ikan and Cumi Cumi Goreng.

Rumah Rasa
Bay Hotel Singapore
50 Telok Blangah Road
Singapore 098828
Tel : 6818 6681

P.S. I managed to get pictures of the entire menu for future reference. Please forgive the quality of the images - I did my best in the dimly lit restaurant.

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