The signature Hainanese Chicken Rice (poached and roasted)...
Special Thai Fish
Coconut Butter King Prawns (with shell)
Coconut Butter King Prawns (without shell)
Sizzling Egg Tofu with Mince
Yam Ring with Curry Pork
Sambal "3 in 1"
(i.e. long beans, okra and eggplant)
Sago Melaka"Is the chicken silky?", I asked.
"Yeah, very silky..."
My friends, Grace and Ian, recently told me about Kotaraya when we spent the weekend with a group of friends at Mornington. They mentioned that this place does the best Hainanese Chicken Rice (HCR) in Melbourne.
Hold the phone. That's a pretty big call.
Suspicion creeps my mind as annoying as this may sound, I've been so spoilt with incredible HCR growing up that my standards for them are nothing short of being through the roof (even when I'm back in Malaysia). Exactly why I have not found a single place that comes close to meeting my annoying expectations. It's all about the right breed of chicken, how it's cooked, the sauce, the chilli condiment, and the rice...
Suspicious soon turned into curiosity, then excitement when we all decided to head over to Kotaraya on our way back from Mornington on Sunday. What a great decision that was.
First, let me start off by saying I was completely impressed by the look of the HCR as soon as it hit the table... WOW. Just from the looks of it I could tell it was going to be good. And good, it was. Was my friend right when he said it was silky? YES, HE WAS. The poached chicken had that silky, smooth gelatinous skin with a slightly firm and chewy texture to the meat and the delectable sauce at the bottom to go with it.
The roasted chicken tends to always be on the overcooked side but not this one. Plus, the skin was super thin and crisp too. Seriously delicious. I was very, very happy with the HCR here. Although, I must say that I was not too impressed with the rice. A bit rough and dry. I love when the rice has got nice, sharp grains, perfectly separated yet slightly coated in oil/fats and just bursting with flavour and fragrance. Not too much to ask for, I don't think. That said, still a REALLY delicious dish to eat.
NOTE: You will need to call ahead in advance to pre-order the HCR and I think it is only available on weekends.
That aside, every other dish we had was simply superb. Nothing I could fault. Would definitely recommend the signature coconut butter king prawns too. Personally, I love it with the shell on and I eat the entire thing (shells, head, tails, et al) and leave no remnants of prawns whatsoever on my plate. Simply delicious. The yam ring was something that wasn't actually on the menu but I thought I'd try my luck and asked the waiter if they could make it or not anyway! Thankfully, they did! Although, I wasn't sure about the waiter's recommendation to have it with curry pork, still prefer mine with kongpao chicken or prawns. Still nostalgic and tasty to eat, though.
Finally, I would also recommend the sambal "3 in 1". The name really made me laugh as it's a trio of eggplant, long beans and okra -- all great veggies to fry with sambal. Very Malaysian. I was quite impressed by the depth of flavour from the sambal with a nicely roasted belachan (fermented shrimp paste) without being too overpowering. Suffice to say all 11 of us were incredibly happy with our meal here that afternoon.
It's no wonder that this is my friends' favourite place to eat, and their families' as well whenever they're in town. And I can totally see why. Even though I've only been once, but I thought the food was really authentic, had high standards and downright tasty. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find myself here soon with other people and adding it to my list of favourite places to eat around Melbourne.
My thoughts on finally finding a great HCR in Melbourne? Let's just say I am so impressed, satisfied, thankful and equally relieved at the same time. Definitely one place to check out if you haven't been/heard of it. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.