A restaurant called Pampas will conjure up one thing: images of beef, steak, an open grill and cowboys. That image – minus the cowboys – is exactly what the people behind the Pampas chain of restaurants want you to think.
The first Pampas is on Changkat Bukit Bintang and the word going around is that the steaks are pretty good here. Indeed, in the early days, they were serving Argentinian beef – in itself a good enough reason to drop by – but that has since been outlawed in this country and pretty much all the beef and lamb we get served around here comes from Down Under. Which is not a bad thing but Argentinian beef is different, due to the vast pampas and the grass the cattle feed on.
So when the chance came along to dine at Pampas Reserve, the newest outlet a little up the road at the Suasana Bukit Ceylon service apartments, we don our best leather jackets and pampeano hats and saddle up.
Unlike its busier, bustling sister restaurant Pampas Grill & Bar on Changkat Bukit Bintang, Pampas Reserve is quiet and serene, and makes for a great setting for an intimate lunch or dinner.
We start with the Smoked Salmon Carpaccio (RM32) served with rocket salad, chimichurri dressing and capers. The Norwegian salmon is sliced Gaucho-style so the slices aren’t exactly thin but that just means there is more of the fish to savour. I love the slightly salty and sour taste that the pickled capers give to the dish.
Pampas Reserve head chef Roni has been with the restaurant group for eight years. Originally from Natore, Bangladesh, Roni got his licence to grill during his two-year tenure at several hotels in Kuala Lumpur.
One of his signature dishes is Spaghetti Ala Moyna (RM32), created using “masala sauce”. But hold it, it’s not the masala you think. In the Italian context, it is marsala, a fortified sweet wine similar to Port. Roni mixes marsala with martini – because he likes the alliteration of the words – to create a sweet concoction to add to the tomato sauce and cream. The spaghetti is well-cooked and is slightly on the sweet side – to be expected when cooking with a sweet wine. Sweet pasta may not be everyone’s plate of noodles so do take note.
(And oh, curious about this Moyna, I consult Google when I get home but find nothing. Maybe it is Moena, a region in northern Italy. But heck, I’m getting a bit confused and jet-lagged as I am supposed to be in Argentina, South America.)
Another Pampas Reserve special is the Chicken Roulade (RM38). Stuffed with spinach and bell peppers, the grilled chicken breast is tender and succulent. You’ll be glad to receive the extra capsicum sauce because it is the bomb.
Sweet and slightly smokey, the sauce adds oomph to the well-seasoned cuts of chicken breast. The star of the plate, however, is the Lyonnaise potatoes. This French dish of sliced pan-fried potatoes and thinly sliced onions is so soft, flavourful and yummy.
Wait. Italian pasta, French potatoes. Hold your horses, the steaks are coming up.
“We associate ourselves with Argentina in concept,” says Pampas Grill & Bar Group general manager Jarrod Ang.
“Argentina is famous for great steaks and we also serve a handpicked selection of Argentinian wines that pair perfectly with our steaks.
“We serve our steaks ‘gaucho-style’ – that is, flame-grilled meat. We also feature homemade chimichurri sauce, native to Argentina, made from fresh parsley, garlic, herbs and olive oil.”
I get my first steak of the night, a medium to medium-well Black Angus Beef Sirloin, and pair it with a glass of Argentinian red wine Argento Malbec (RM24).
The steak looks and smells good, and at RM88 for the 250g slab of meat, that’s a pretty sweet deal. The steaks are served at either 250g or 350g (at different prices), depending on your choice. The dish comes with so much sauteed asparagus that it overqualifies as a side dish. It also comes with a baked jacket potato and brown sauce. The meat cuts well and is tender.
Then, the Pampas Surf and Turf (RM98) arrives, and in front of me is a platter of 200g grilled beef tenderloin, baby lobster baked with scallop cream and sides of jacket potato, rocket salad and green peppercorn sauce.
The execution of the meat is as per my request, the baby lobsters are juicy and fresh, and the portions are really generous for the price you pay.
Then comes more steak, the grassfed Grilled Beef Tenderloin priced at RM68 for 250g. At this point, I can’t comment any more as I’ve had one too many steaks. But you get the idea: they do steaks here.
And they do a decent job, even if the chef is a little heavy-handed with the salt during our visit. The takeaway here is, steak at prices that are pocket-friendly. And you get bragging rights to say that you have dined in the Pampas.
G01, Suasana Bukit Ceylon
No 2, Persiaran Raja Chulan
50200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2070 5548
Open: Monday to Friday (noon-3pm and 5-11pm); Saturday and public holiday (5pm-midnight). Bar is open all day. Closed on Sundays.
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