The Maria’s SteakCafe brand has come a long way since first beginning in Greentown, Ipoh, as a quaint pie and pastry cafe with a maximum seating capacity of 100.
Back in 1999, the thought of nationwide expansion was little more than a pipe dream to its proprietors, let alone the idea of becoming a hallmark name in the context of Malaysian eateries known for mouthwatering porterhouses, behemoth bone-in ribeyes, and thick, juicy sirloins.
Yet here we are: With six operational outlets, Maria’s continues to rack up credit as one of the names to consider when desiring a good steak, not to mention seafood done right too.
This was demonstrated to us when we were given the chance to take in a Friday lunch session at its new 1 Powerhouse outlet in Bandar Utama, just a stone’s throw away from the vicinity’s bustling 1 Utama mall.
Sitting 30 stories above ground level, the new outlet is as you’d expect from a modern Western bistro. With a clean interior sporting cosy wood motifs throughout, it all made for a comfortable lunch experience away from the daily grind — considering how it’s so close to several corporate buildings, it’s easy to assume that this particular spot tends to get a sizeable influx of white-collar patrons throughout the week.
Being situated so high up, you’d expect some great views, and par for the course, our group was immediately drawn to the window walls offering breathtaking views of the greater Bandar Utama and Damansara townscapes — the mix of urban and suburban sights aptly reflecting the sort of vibe and image the brand probably aimed for when conceptualizing this particular outlet.
But I digress. We came for food, and thankfully, it was all quite good.
Highbrow surf-and-turf, but on a not-so-pretentious level.
Our lunch menu was marked generously by a selection of quality meat and seafood courses, and while Maria’s SteakCafe is typically known for its steaks (it’s in the name, for crying out loud), I was surprised at how well its 1 Powerhouse outlet fared with ocean-derived proteins.
To start with, we were each given a serving of Japanese Scallops with Tomato Salsa — a very delectable opening that married fresh scallop meat with a tangy-savory tomato-laden dressing.
Any concerns I had regarding the balance of flavor were assuaged after I found myself being able to make out the sweetness of the springy clams through the subtle tartness of the salsa, and I immediately appreciated how no element on the plate had been overpowered or masked out by another.
Two other appetizers followed — a classic Caesar Salad (topped with bacon bits and grated parmesan) which was as good as you can find, and then a luxurious serving of Sturia canned caviar flanked by water crackers and creme fraiche.
These two plates felt like fillers in between a wait for considerably more exciting stuff, nevertheless, I still had fun wolfing down several briny caviar canapes — quite delicious with and without the cream — before the main courses arrived.
Reputations at steak?
It was pretty clear that the chefs at Maria’s 1 Powerhouse branch sought to flex with a double-serve of Lamb Cutlets and Australian Wagyu Tomahawk (cooked to a perfect medium-rare), and fair play to them, it was all quite remarkable.
Both meats were flavorful and juicy with a reasonable amount of fat, and both also coupled nicely enough with the sides of grilled vegetables and potatoes.
However, our hosts were helpful enough to recommend pairing the steak with a small helping of caviar, and I found that this little experiment somewhat elevated the experience of steak-eating on a personal level, with the biggest value-add coming in the form of contrasting textures and mouth feels — imagine the soft beads of caviar intermingling with the buttery chews of the Wagyu ribeye in the most decadent way possible.
For patrons chancing upon a similar sort of menu during future visits to Maria’s SteakCafe, I recommend doing the same, although your mileage may vary depending on how much you enjoy the sea-salty taste of black caviar.
The penultimate dish of the afternoon was a straightforward Seafood Aglio Olio pasta that came with fresh prawns and mussels. While it may have been a tad heavy with the seasoning, it was still very tasty, and quite a filling closer to the savory portion of the meal.
The afternoon ended with a serving of rich prune cake that I enjoyed a lot — warm, soft, and not overly sweet.
For those still with space in their bellies after the main course, this hearty dessert will very probably hit the spot, especially if you’re a fan of cakes that lean towards the fruitier side.
A surprisingly competent watering hole.
Maria’s was also gracious enough to provide us with some of their alcoholic beverages to try out — some of them presented as in-house twists on bar classics.
For example, there’s the Maria’s Michelada which turns the original Michelada into something more accessible with its house tangerine and siciliana mix, and also the Earl Grey Tea-ni with its two unique ingredients: Earl Grey-infused vodka as the spirit, and a milk-clarified Earl Grey tea as its diluting mixer.
I tried out (and rather liked) the Oolong Fashioned, which was a modified version of an Old Fashioned that mainly mixed up bourbon with Oolong tea extracts.
It didn’t stray too far from the flavor profile of the original namesake, although I could appreciate the subtle differences and additions that came with the addition of Oolong. A note to drinkers, however: The cocktail comes garnished with a longan fruit on a pick, which I found was heavily soaked in bourbon. Unless you’re a sucker for concentrated whisky/bourbon flavors, you should avoid biting down on the fruit and leave it in the glass.
I’d loved to have sampled a few more cocktails during the meal, but it was a workday, and cooler heads prevailed.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go ahead and indulge yourself, especially with the current free-flow wine offer that’s applicable with every Wagyu steak order at any Maria’s SteakCafe outlet throughout the Klang Valley, valid until the end of November 2023 only.
All things considered, our afternoon at Maria’s SteakCafe 1 Powerhouse was well worth taking time out for, and I’m not just saying that. For as much as the eatery managed to prove why it deserves its reputation as one of Malaysia’s better places for a good sirloin, its kitchen also proved that it can manage pretty great seafood, too.
If you’re in the area and hankering for a good steak, you probably couldn’t do much better than Maria’s SteakCafe at 1 Powerhouse, Bandar Utama.
L-30 (Skyforest), Zone 4-A, 1 Powerhouse,
No.1, Dataran Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama,
PJU 6, 47800, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
12 p.m. to 11 p.m. (daily)
03-77252313 / 016-9020490
You can find our more about Maria's SteakCafe and its outlets here.
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Cover image sourced from Mashable Southeast Asia.