07 Jul Masak Ku, Camberwell
Masak Ku opened just last year, close to Camberwell station. Simon and Mary Lee have presented to us a more upmarket restaurant experience for Malaysian cuisine, rather than sticking to the more common casual, hawker style of eatery. Taking over from a Chinese restaurant that previously occupied the site, shades were removed from the chandeliers, brightening up the room and providing a warm and inviting dining space. The restaurant is available also for functions of up to nearly 60 people.
Masak Ku is Malay for ‘my cooking’, and the menu features both hawker dishes and home-style food. Coming from a Malaysian background, I love the vast variety of food featured in Malaysian cuisine, with its influences from many communities including Malay, Chinese and Indian. I haven’t found too many Malaysian restaurants that I really like in Melbourne, so I was interested to see how Masak Ku stacked up.
In an attempt to try a variety of things, we started with some entrees:
The Butter Prawns had been fried with butter, curry leaves, chilli and garlic, then tossed with desiccated coconut and eggs. Available as either shelled or shell-on, we asked for them to be shelled because we were feeling a bit lazy that day. Though the flavours were not particularly rich, the prawns were still tasty. Cassava crackers were also given on the side and provided a nice textural component to the dish.
Chilli and Szechuan Pepper Squid made for a mouth-watering and slightly addictive appetiser. The tender pieces of lightly-floured squid were drizzled with chilli oil and also came with a pleasing kick of szechuan pepper on the surface.
This was my favourite of the smaller dishes. I loved the juicy prawns encased with the spiraling, crispy strands of potato. A very pleasurable tasty, textural experience.
It wasn’t until after we’d ordered that I realised we had so many prawn dishes. Even so, it provided us an opportunity to see what different prawn dishes Masak Ku had to offer. Laid on top of a small mound of achar, a side-dish of spicy, pickled vegetables, these prawns were coated in a very crispy, coconutty coating. Like the potato prawns, the meat was juicy inside and the chilli mayo was great for dipping them in.
We then moved on to the mains. Our vegetable dish for today was the gado gado – lightly blanched vegetables, fried tofu, soft-boiled egg and house-made satay sauce. It also arrived with a few pieces of lightly-flavoured, packed rice, like ketupat. A little different to what we’re used to, the gado gado sauce tasted strongly of cumin, which may not be to everyone’s tastes.
The double-cooked pork belly had first been braised in master stock, then fried and dressed with a reduction. The meat was tender, and surprisingly lean. The greens found underneath the layers of pork were a good partner for the delectable meat.
A generous serve of Teochew braised duck was accompanied by tofu and boiled eggs. The smooth tofu and wonderfully succulent duck, slathered with flavourful master stock sauce made this the favourite main plate for the night.
I was a little sad when I realised I wouldn’t have the opportunity to have some good roti canai while we were Malaysia last month, so I was incredibly delighted when we were treated to some roti here. One bite, and mum and I exchanged a look. So. Good. The texture of the roti was wonderfully crispy and flakey with the a bit of elasticity on the inside that was perfect for soaking up the curry sauce. So far it’s the closest I’ve come to good roti outside of Malaysia. Craving satisfied.
We ended our meal with some sweets. There were a number of ice cream flavours to pick from, including a tempting chocolate-chilli one, but we settled on durian and pandan. Mum declared it to be the best durian ice cream she’s ever eaten. Made by Mary herself, it tasted intensely of durian, and even had real fruit pieces folded through. I also enjoyed pandan ice cream, which had been drizzled with coconut cream and a touch of palm sugar. The toasted almonds helped offset a bit of the sweetness from the other toppings.
Our final dessert was one of the specials of the day – kaya puffs. To put these together, Simon used traditional spiral pastry and the green-coloured style of kaya (coconut jam). I love a good kaya toast, so I was interested to see what kaya was like when contained within pastry. I thought there was a good ratio of pastry to filling, and thankfully the kaya was also not too sweet.
I was impressed by what the Lees have set out to achieve. Fresh, good quality ingredients have been hunted out to create the dishes on the menu, and so much of what they serve is made in-house – even the ice cream, pastry and the kaya inside them. Masak Ku is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at Masak Ku as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.
732 Burke Road
Camberwell, VIC, 3204
(03) 9882 3812