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Chinta Ria – Mood for Love

December 23, 2011

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love
Satay skewers at Mood for Love

Last month, I was lucky enough to try out Chinta Ria‘s newest restaurant incarnation, Mood for Love – with fellow FAB (fricken amazing blogger) onebitemore, on invitation by head chef and onebitemore’s family friend John Poh (ex Kuali).

It doesn’t feel like we’re in a shopping centre. Which is a huge deal, considering how pervasive the cold stainless steel of Westfield Sydney is. In contrast, Mood for Love‘s room is enticingly dark, warm, cushioned – with rich wooden tables and small cosy corners to sit in.

I’ve always loved the way the original Chinta Ria restaurant on the rooftop of Cockle Bay Wharf is able to create an atmosphere from the moment you step into its temple-like rotunda. But whereas the Cockle Bay Wharf Chinta Ria restaurant creates a sense of communal sharing and celebration, Mood for Love definitely aims for something a little more sultry.

Gone are the garlands of prayer flags, canisters of joss sticks and colourful plastic bowls and cutlery – replaced instead with a cinematic theme. Mood for Love playfully takes its cues from Wong Kar Wai’s beautiful movie, “In The Mood for Love” – going so far as to present the menu in a brown manilla envelope, designed as a beautifully laid out movie script.

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

I absolutely adore the attention to detail – and that’s before you even get to the names of the dishes. John takes us through the menu – taking care to point out the puns and elaborations he finds most cheeky. Under “Scene 3 – Seducing You… Our Mains” we find such delights as Kiss me Chick (Traditional Malay grilled chicken $17) and Hug Me Honey (Pan fried tenderloin beef with honey and pepper chilli sauce $25), and under “Scene 5 – Are you in… Sweet Heart??” we find the traditional Malaysian dessert Ondeh Ondeh renamed to the rather suggestive On Me On Me All Day.

But when you dine at the invitation of a chef, I always find it’s best to place yourselves at their mercy. We asked John to make a selection for us, of dishes he thinks we would most enjoy.

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

First we order some cocktails – some of which I am pretty sure were chosen on the basis of their names alone – Sexy Genie (Vodka, Dry Vermouth, Lemon Juice, Sugar Cane Juice, Basil Leaves – $16); Love Bite (Gin, Vodka, lychee juice, rose syrup – $15); Kiss Kiss (Gin, elderflower, soda water & mandarin) and Come Always (Campari, Angostura bitters, tonic, lemonade) – mine, the Love Bite is dangerously easy to drink!

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

The first dish to come out is Chilli Scallops ($13.50 for 3 pieces) – the scallops are cooked to the perfect amount of doneness, and sauce on these is so good every drop is scraped off the plate. My only complaint is that one each is no where near enough!

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love
Seduction Rolls $12

Onebitemore tells me that the alluringly named “Seduction Rolls” are actually a chicken version of Lor Bak, Malaysian 5-spice pork rolls, wrapped in bean-curd skin and fried. Whatever they are, the chicken is piping hot and tender and the outside crispy delicious!

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

We get a combination of chicken & beef satay  ($12 for 4 skewers) – which goes great with the peanut dipping sauce. I’m no expert on satay, but the meat on both is succulent and lightly smoky from the char. I think I like the chicken best.

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

OK now I am the first to admit that I am a bit of chilli wimp (though I am trying to get better) – but I THINK THIS IS ONE OF THE HOTTEST THINGS I HAVE EVER EATEN. Wow. So tasty, but so burny. O Tak O Tak (Spanish Mackerel mousse – $13) comes in the cutest little bamboo steam baskets, one between two. At first it looks so small and cute, but don’t underestimate it… wow it packs a punch. Even after eating only the smallest spoonful – my mouth is on fire, and J’s face has gone bright red as sweat breaks out from his brow.

It does taste good though!! Which is what keeps you going back even though your mouth is in exquisite pain.

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love
Well they did warn us!

The rest of the mains come out in a torrent:

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

Pearly Butter Prawns ($27) is such a fun dish – the crumbly buttermilk batter is indeed rich and buttery, and the prawns are cooked to a perfect crisp translucence.

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

Quack! Quack! Kiam Chye ($25) is warm and comforting – the succulent and fatty duck keeps from being too rich thanks to the slightly sour pickled mustard vegetables.

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

Beef Rendang ($19) is a favourite Malaysian dish of mine, and though the flavours are wonderful the beef isn’t quite as fall-apart tender as I’d like.

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

Bella Chan Kang Kong (Kangkung Belacan – $15) is always a tasty dish, with the chilli prawn paste giving the water spinach a bit of a kick. Some of the people at our table find the taste a bit confronting though 😀

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

Teoh Chiew Fish (Steamed fish of the day – $29) – is another warm and comforting dish, but unfortunately gets a bit lost when compared to the strong flavours of the other dishes. John tells us that this is a really healthy dish, with almost no fat in it! (does that add to our disinterest? I don’t know, but perhaps a little ;))

By now we are beyond stuffed. So many dishes and we have barely even dented the menu!

But of course there is dessert, and thankfully it comes as a dessert platter to share ($22) – so we can all nibble and try a bit of everything.

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

I’ve never really eaten Malaysian desserts! To tell the truth, I am so in love with roti, that whenever the stuff is near – I will more than likely stuff myself with it, leaving no room at all for dessert.

But wow! This dessert plate looks so tempting, it’s no struggle at all for us to eat up every crumb.

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

First we eat the Ondeh Ondeh pandan balls – which eaten up in one bite as they are filled with warm palm sugar syrup! The Kueh – rolled pandan crepes – are fresh and sweet, and contrast nicely with the slightly savoury coconut filling.

I have no idea what to make of Cassava Delight (the little rectangles on the right), but I think they end up being my favourite! Sweet and slightly spiced with cinnamon they are not at all what I am expecting. If you didn’t already know (I sure didn’t!) Cassava is the starchy root vegetable that tapioca is made of – and the chewy resistant texture reminds me a bit of it.

Chinta Ria - In the Mood for Love

Pandan Sago is refreshing after eating the starchier desserts – the little balls of tapioca are fun to eat, and I think I could drink up the coconut milk & palm sugar syrup by itself.

Finally the Durian Panna Cotta… This was yum, but I don’t feel like I can judge this one properly having never eaten real durian! But J and Onebitemore are massive fans and proclaim it to be their favourite dessert of the night. According to them, the panna cotta perfectly replicates the creaminess of durian, without the smell. Win!

Phew! What a feast. Mood for Love is definitely not the cheapest Malaysian food around. Had we dined not at John’s generosity but on our own coin, the meal would have come to around $54 each (not including cocktails) – definitely an upper market price, and not surprising when you consider the restaurant’s surroundings.

This isn’t a hawker style restaurant – service is careful and attentive rather than rough and ready. But beyond the lush and elaborate atmosphere, and beyond the playful menu names you can sense the love, care and serious intent of a chef who cares about craftmanship, quality ingredients and authentic flavours.

I think I’m in love!

(crunchytiger and onebitemore dined as guests of Chinta Ria – Mood for Love)

Chinta Ria… Mood for love
Level 6 / Shop 6009
Westfield Sydney
188 Pitt Street NSW 2000

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 23, 2011 11:10 am

    I think I’d be too tired for “love” after a meal like this 🙂 well worth it though lol

  2. December 23, 2011 11:25 am

    I adore the otak otak here at MFL – despite the chilli pain, it’s up there as one of the best things I’ve eaten all year! Yum yum yum!

  3. December 23, 2011 4:16 pm

    Wow, guests of the chef…what fun, you lucky ducks. I love the look of all those desserts, but would have to give the Durian Panna Cotta a wide berth. All of the food looks really great.

  4. December 24, 2011 6:47 pm

    Beautiful photos as always, that duck looks especially good :9

  5. December 27, 2011 6:33 pm

    Your post reconfirmed that I really want to visit the new restaurant. It does look romantic and delicious.

  6. January 4, 2012 9:04 am

    Haha! I’d almost forgotten the reactions to the otak otak. That and the sexy genie dance.

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