If you are accustomed to easy layouts, clear store frontage and signboard visibility, Plaza Damas in the upscale but quirky Sri Hartamas neighbourhood is not for you. Its T-shape and jumble of office blocks, serviced apartments and shopping arcades — not to mention its being divided into two, separated by the main road of Jalan Sri Hartamas — are enough to deter those who like things clear-cut.
Intrepid foodies, however, would enjoy the thrill of chasing down a good meal or exploring something fun and new in this makan maze. Rock Salt Restaurant is one of them.
Steak and Mongolian cuisine. That about sums up the unique selling points of this three-year-old restaurant and demonstrates the staggering variety of Plaza Damas’ F&B establishments. A branch of an award-winning Ulaanbataar establishment (lauded by Forbes Mongolia, no less), Rock Salt Malaysia brings the same winning concept of cooking and presenting fresh meat and seafood on a 500°F hot salt block alongside a small menu of ethnic Mongolian food.
If you look around, one feature wall is made up entirely of the pretty pink-orange-hued slabs that are said to have antimicrobial properties.
Having never fulfilled my childhood dreams of riding a pony across the Altai Mountains, spending a night in a ger or picking wildflowers in Khustain Nuruu National Park, I was nonetheless delighted to be able to tuck into the cuisine of the country: first, in a stew of muttony-goodness known as Khorkhog (RM68; a day’s advance notice is required), cooked with root vegetables, as well as the simple but surprising tastiness of Mongolian-style fried rice (RM25) studded with bits of lamb and brunoise vegetables.
What is extra pleasing is Rock Salt’s decent prices. A chilled grass-fed filet mignon or chateaubriand cooked and served on a hot stone costs just RM85 each while a whole-baked golden pomfret on a Himalayan salt slab is RM57.
We have visited three times and, on each visit, be it a weekday or weekend, we saw the restaurant filled to the brim — families, couples and big groups of friends enjoying a raucous celebration. Reservations are, of course, a must but, if you do not mind waiting for a table to free up, you could always sit at one of the tables on the five-foot way outside and nurse some Mongolian tipples in the meantime.
Rock Salt’s bar offers a full bottle of Chinggis Vodka (RM390), with an artist’s impression of the Great Khan staring fiercely at you from the label. Personally, the cocktails sound less intimidating. Try the Sain Bannu (RM35), a potent medley of Mongolian vodka, orange juice, herbs and soda.
If you simply must be a bore and teetotal, then do it with Sumiya the Brave, a mocktail quite possibly named for judoka world champion Sumiya Dorjsuren, which comprises soda, herbs and sea-buckthorn juice. Those who have visited the country would know its panacea fruit, as the berries are said to be exceedingly rich in Vitamin C. If the taste proves agreeable, chase it with dessert in the form of sea-buckthorn parfait (RM25), which comes with honey jelly cubes, chocolate soil and sea-buckthorn caviar.
Rock Salt Restaurant, P-3C, Hartamas Shopping Centre, 60 Jalan Hartamas 1, KL. 03 6206 3652. Daily, noon-10pm.
This article first appeared on Sept 21, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.