Firstly, apologies for probably just putting Peter Allen in your head but I’ve spent today (edit: back when I originally started writing this overdue post, anyway) with two equally catchy and random songs competing for space in my brain – Rock Me Dr Zaius and Werewolf Bar Mitzvah – so things could be worse for you. Although, I’ve probably just put these in your head too. Sorry. Hopefully the photos of my recent meal at Ria in Leederville will distract you. If not, then just imagine Hugh Jackman as Peter Allen and perhaps he can do a better job of distracting you, if that’s your thing.
My friend J and I had been planning to catch up over a meal at Malaysian restaurant Ria in Leederville for a long time but my travels and our combined lack of piles o’ cash meant that it was a long time coming. Finally however, we managed to get ourselves organised and met our other friends L and K at Ria for a nice dinner to end the working week.
Wine and alcoholic ginger beer (on tap) were ordered soon after arrival and we started to peruse the menu. Following suggestion from our waitress we decided to share two entrees between the four of us, choosing the “grilled squid skewers with acar (pickle) and chilli jam $17.00″ and then finding ourselves unable to go past the “Ria pork rib nibbles in caramelised chilli sauce $15.50″. I mean, nibbles? They were asking for it.
For our mains we knew for sure that we would order the “Mum’s loh ak (braised caramelised duck) $23.00″. We also followed J’s suggestion and chose the “Portuguese baked fish on a banana leaf spiced predominantly with chilli and dried shrimps $19.00″ and then thought we’d try the special which I can’t recall the full name of, but was a chicken rendang. We really wanted the “kangkong with sambal $14.50″ as well, but as warned in the menu this is seasonal and we were out of luck on this night. We instead chose the “eggplant salad with tomatoes, fresh herbs and steamed vegetables $14.50″, steamed rice ($2 per serve) and four serves of roti ($2.50 each).
The grilled skewers were tender, tasty and well complemented by the acar and chilli jam, although the jam could have been hotter. I thought this was a nice way to serve squid, getting around the danger of trying to bite a massive ring in half, finding it to be too rubbery to do so, then having to shove the entire thing in your mouth while carrying on the conversation. Although, having said that, I guess it would be as difficult to talk with one of these pieces jammed in your mouth.
The rib nibbles were a table-wide hit. Very moreish and far too easy to eat with the meat coming straight off the bone. Again the chilli sauce was not very hot, but was delicious nonetheless, and our plates were soon baring the clean bone evidence of many an enjoyed nibble.
The loh ak is as smokily flavourful as it looks. It is cooked with bone in and skin on, which makes it a little fiddly to eat if you’re a fatphobe like me but no doubt does wonders for the overall flavour. Not every piece was fall-off-the-bone tender, but none of it could be called tough so perhaps I’m just nitpicking. Overall it was a great dish and enjoyed by us all.
The chicken rendang special was disappointing. If it were called a chicken curry or something then perhaps we would have had more praise for it, but we thought it to be too sweet and wet for our expectations of a rendang. It did not help that K is a rendang aficionado, and we were left wishing we were eating one of his creations instead. For what it was though, it had a good flavour and a generous amount of very tender chicken, and we ended up mostly finishing it all.
The Portugese baked fish dish was delicious. Tender, flaky fish generously coated in a thick, aromatic sauce. We all agreed that it was not deserving of the three stars it was given in the menu, denoting it to be HOT, but this didn’t stop us from happily eating it all. There needs to be some sort of standardisation of the heat symbol in menus. Most of the time you find yourself disappointed by the level of heat, and so I tend towards the hot dishes when after something with a kick, but then occasionally this bites you in the arse (almost literally) when a restaurant is actually accurate in their heat level symbol usage.
The eggplant salad really tasted just how it looks. A nice accompaniment to the meat based dishes, with a good selection of vegetable types, but not terribly exciting and somewhat lacking in seasoning. Hopefully kangkong is available next time.
What’s not to like about fresh roti? Crispy on the outside, soft layers on the inside. Perfect to scoop up little mouthfuls of food or to make sure you don’t leave too much tasty sauce on your plate. I would have liked these to be bigger, but I’m a pig so this is unsurprising.
To sum up the food experience, it was great. Deborah Ting, co-owner with husband Richard Serrano, is Malaysian and seemingly knows how to pack flavour into her dishes. I am too ignorant to say whether or not the menu is authentically Malaysian, and have heard some people criticise the food here for not being so, but I am not too troubled by this if the food tastes good and is presented well. While some of the dishes could have been improved as mentioned, everything was more than enjoyable and we happily almost cleaned the plates, poking it in until we were heaving and completely unable to bear the thought of dessert.
The service at Ria is bound to entertain, for better or worse. L and K arrived before J and I, and apparently were received in a quite disparaging manner by the male owner, which I hear is no great surprise. We were then served by three different female servers over the course of the night, and they were all lovely but our main server was most memorable with her boisterously friendly chattiness, strong German accent, seemingly dozens of pens jammed into her pocket, and almost flustered yet somehow also effective serving and clearing style that would have been off-putting if not for her infectious enthusiasm.
Not so endearing was the table of cacklers sitting next to us. Why must some people laugh so deafeningly? They also seem to be the people who have no quality control with their humour appreciation and laugh at everything.
If you want to be annoying everyone else at Ria with your irritating laugh, I would very strongly recommend you book in advance. I have tried a number of times to eat there at short notice, and have never had success in securing a table.
Our meal, not including drinks, ended up being around $30/head for entrées and mains.
Phone: 08 9328 2998
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30pm – 10pm
Service: Dine in or takeaway, reservations highly recommended
We paid: ~$30/head for entrées and mains