17 Oct Merah, Northcote
Marcel Nantharath and Aline Viravouth (NL House in Carlton) have opened another Malaysian restaurant in Northcote. Merah means ‘red’ in Malay, and also the colour of sambal – the chilli condiment that’s a staple in Malaysian cuisine. Merah produces their three types of sambal in-house – the traditional sambal comes from a four-generation old recipe.
Merah serves contemporary Malaysian street food. The Pearl Dumplings have chewy, translucent tapioca flour skins and are packed full of turnip, pork shoulder and peanuts. They’re a great starter. The Satay Chicken has a light charred flavour from being cooked over Kogane Ogatan white charcoal brought in from Malaysia.
Kerabu Pipis are cooked with ginger and Kerabu sambal, made from shrimp and kaffir lime leaves. Crispy and super juicy Merah Fried Chicken is eagerly dipped into the sweet and sour kelantan sambal mayo after being drizzled with lemon juice. A perfect order for fried chicken fiends.
Their basic Nasi Lemak includes lightly flavoured coconut rice, crispy anchovies, peanuts, achar, hard boiled egg, and traditional sambal. There’s plenty of spice and texture here. Each element is done quite well, particularly the achar (spicy pickled vegetables) and the traditional sambal, which has a pretty decent kick to it.
We finish with some Cendol for dessert. The rice flour jelly is more translucent than usual, and it all swims in a cooling mixture of coconut, pandan and palm sugar that’s perfect for washing all of that sambal spice hit away.
Merah offers a different kind of Malaysian experience from their minimalist, contemporary venue. I’d be keen to come back to try some of their other dishes; the rendang and Merah Spicy Crab sound particularly good.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Merah as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own, and are based on my experience at the time
238 High St
Northcote, VIC, 3070
(03) 9489 3121