Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ria - When change is good

My favourite place in Perth to get a fix of good Malaysian food is Ria in Leederville. Of course, Malaysian food, just like other great cuisines, is very regional - but Ria doesn't exactly subscribe to any particular region per se. What it does offer up, however, is fantastic curries, stews, salads and rice dishes that are distinctly flavoured, distinctly unique but distinctly Malaysian in its roots.

I particularly love the Hainanese stewed oxtail - melt in your mouth oxtail cooked in a rich and very moreish sauce with a good lashing of kaffir lime leaves. The Portugese styled baked fish is a perfectly moist fish fillet baked with an intense sambal sauce in a banana leaf - great bite to this dish and oh so good. All the curries here are made from fresh rempahs (spice pastes) which definitely makes a huge difference in the way of flavour and aroma (just take a whiff by walking past this restaurant and you'll know what I mean).

Ria is a huge success in Perth and you'll be hard pressed to get a table if you don't book ahead. But business hasn't always been good - you see the owner Richard Serrano, of Italian heritage, and his wife, Deborah Ting, a Malaysian, first started an Italian trattoria at this site. Things didn't run smoothly for their initial venture and so, biting the bullet, they renovated the restaurant and re-opened as a modern Malaysian restaurant, giving Deborah an opportunity to shine in a cuisine she is obviously very comfortable with. And the rest, as they say, is history.

It probably wasn't an easy decision to completely revamp what must have been a labour of love... but Richard and Deborah are now all the better off for it. Change can sometimes be daunting and often driven by circumstance... but in Ria's case, it also just happens to taste darn good.

Ria on Urbanspoon


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