This is restaurant review in as few words as I can manage.
I went to Ria recently with my fellow bloggers from Perth Norg, for a bit of a get together and to see what we could see. I had previously heard some quasi Malaysian friend of a friend bagging it out for not being ‘authentic’, which made me wonder if it was any good or not. What I’ve since realised after going there is that the only thing that probably wasn’t authentic enough was the price, and the fact that some actual care has gone into the food rather than just throwing it onto a plate and grunting in your general direction (ala many of the Malaysian restaurants I’ve been too).
Now I’m not going to put myself up to be some kind of expert on Malaysian food, or curry, or really anything to do with original authenticity of ethnic dishes… personally the ‘authentic’ debate doesn’t interest me. It’s tired and is constantly pulled out as a reason to dislike a style of food or restaurant for unjustified reasons. Just because someone makes a style of curry in a different way than your great great great grandmother who originated from the very village where it was FIRST CREATED EVER… it doesn’t mean it is a bad meal. It just means it different. Funny little word that, but a very significant one. If uniformity in food was a good thing, then we’d all be eating at McDonalds and Han’s (and that’s a world I don’t want to have to imagine).
The nature of food in Australia is such that it is inherently a conglomeration (avoiding the word ‘fusion’) of many different types of food. You’ve got ye olde English roasts, your Irish stews, the huge Mediterranean influence of Italian, Greek, and French food, all manner of styles of Asian cooking, and most recently the middle eastern and African migrants bringing lots of lovely spices and styles for us to absorb into the ever growing organism that is the Australian diet.
So onto the restaurant. It’s kinda funky and relaxed, up market but not overly wanky. It is Leederville after all… If it was in Subiaco it would probably have turned out like Buddha Bar, which would not be a good thing. The restaurant is run by chef Deborah Ting and her husband Richard Serrano, who apparently got bored of cooking Italian food, closed up the shop, and reopened as Ria. She is Malaysian Chinese, and the food takes into account a lot of family recipes that she has given her own particular style. It’s quite hard to describe the food, but hearty currys and piquant flavours flow through the whole menu. Look up the style of cooking that is Nonya, and you’ll get a good idea of what some of the food is like.
Her signature dish is a braised caramelised duck called ‘Mum’s lok ak’, and its superb.
Other things we tried were the Chinese Shredded Beef and a Beef Rendang, along with some bok choy and tofu as a side. All very tasty and surprisingly moreish. So much so that I went back the next night to try a few more dishes.
Knowing Sharon would be keen to try this place out too, we headed back again on a Thursday night, after having just eaten there the night before. This time we ordered a chicken and chickpea curry, a lamb curry with star anise, the Nonya Acar Fish (absolute stand out), rice, more bok choy and a bottle of wine. Which was in fact more than we’d ordered the night before when we had 4 people.
Second time around it didn’t disappoint either. We also managed to do some star spotting with ‘HG Nelson‘ apparently in town, and stopping by for a casual dinner with his lady friend.
My only complaint about the place was that our waiter looked like had never carried more than one plate before in his life, and I was expecting to wear half of the dishes he brought over as he shakily fumbled them onto the table. That an the fact that he decided to finish his shift before asking if we wanted any desserts didn’t help either. But I’m not going to write off a place for a couple of oversights.
All in all the food was excellent, the vibe relaxed and happy, and the price just right to not break the bank while probably sending the majority of people who bemoan ‘newfangled’ upmarket restaurants that make traditionally based foods, back to food court land to get their fill of cheap eats with plastic forks. Most dishes are around $18 or so, and substantial enough so that you don’t feel ripped off.
So yeh…that’s all. Go try it, authentic or not, it’s intensely tasty… and keep your eyes out for some Nonya inspired meals coming to an Abstract Gourmet near you soon.
Ria Authentic Malaysian Food
160 Oxford St
Leederville 6007 WA
Phone: (08) 9328 2998