Mouth-watering steaks at Marble 8

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MARBLE 8
163 Jalan Binjai, Persiaran KLCC,
Kuala Lumpur.
Opening hours are Mon–Sun, 7pm–11pm (dinner),
Sun–Fri, noon–2:30pm (lunch).
Reservations required, dress code policy applies.
Call 03-2386 6030 or visit marble-8.com for details.

With its big-name backing and fantastic food, a visit to Marble 8 is certainly one worth bragging about.

Admit it: Although Kuala Lumpur is awash in steakhouses, a sublime hunk of fillet is as difficult to come by as the lost city of Atlantis. So imagine the arched eyebrows when Marble 8, another meat joint, materialised on a piece of prime KL real estate in May, boldly proclaiming itself “the finest of its kind in the country”.

On the outset, this modern steakhouse seemed to live up to that promise. Marble 8 is the brainchild of Modesto Marini, a charismatic Italian chef-turned-restaurateur renowned for breathing life into familiar genres. Wherever Marini goes, glamazons and business honchos follow, eager to be seen on the stage sets that are his restaurants.

Throughout the years, Marini says, “The biggest lesson I’ve learned about being in business for so long is to stay true to yourself.” Now, 20 years after arriving in KL, he’s confident enough to put his mantra into practice.

Chef-turned-restaurateur, Modesto Marini.
Chef-turned-restaurateur, Modesto Marini.

From the glossy, dark interior, vaulted ceiling and gentleman’s-club-meets-ocean-liner furnishings to the wines, Marble 8 echoes his meat-and-motorsport loving personality more than his other two restaurants. It’s also an ambitious attempt to replicate a carnivore’s temple and the rapturous sighs heard in them.

But for a moment, ignore the man behind Marble 8. For a steakhouse to be great, you need more than the star power of its owner – you need quality meat, and Marini takes his steaks seriously.

By partnering with a third-generation Italian-Australian who runs a cattle station in Brisbane, he receives whole slabs of bovine including special cuts that aren’t available elsewhere in Malaysia – straight from the source and regularly.

The first clues as to how good your Wagyu or Angus will be is visible the moment you walk in. To your left, behind glass walls, is the steakhouse’s centrepiece. In there, the air is chilled and the walls are lined with 1,000kg worth of hand-cut Himalayan rock salt bricks. And then there’s the red meat: raw and ageing, they hang from hooks and rest on shelves, with bones intact and pink loins showing.

This state-of-the-art storage space, known as the dry-ageing room, is like a cellar for wines or a cave for cheeses. It’s where the carcasses wind up after their flight from Australia, so they can undergo an ageing process that will strip them off their moisture and connective tissues. After 21 days, they will emerge from their hallowed spots renewed and reborn, tasting so flavourful and tender that it beggars belief.

The star of the steak line-up is the tenderloin on the bone. The beef equivalent of foie gras, it arrives greaseless and flame-licked to perfection. When your fork slides through the buttery wedge, you feel sorry for the poor sods who have yet to discover this restaurant. And – OMG – it tastes so wonderful you’re still fantasising about it days afterwards.

Thick and juicy beef tenderloin.
Thick and juicy beef tenderloin.

Another solid bet is the dry-aged boneless rib-eye. Glorious char, luscious rare-red meat, it comes in a not-too-close second. Meanwhile, sides like the baked portobello mushrooms and roasted rainbow baby carrots and cumin dressing sparkle on their own. The fries with truffle mayonnaise is clearly a crowd favourite: supremely crispy, their crusts give way to the soft and creamy flesh within.

For those so hungry they could eat a cow, Marble 8 lets you do it almost literally. Weighing in at a whopping 1.6kg, the colossal Tomahawk is a hunk of meat so bad-ass that it appeared on Lewis Hamilton’s Instagram (yes, he ate here, too).

The restaurant also has a selection of wet-aged beef, vacuum-sealed in a bag under refrigerated conditions and left to tenderise gradually, which may be less complex in flavour but still thick and juicy and generously marbled with fat. Embrace the prime rib on the bone – it’s grilled enough to be flavourful without tasting like carbon.

That’s the beauty of Marble 8. The menu, while small, has enough options to leave the meat-obsessed dazed and drooling. You can discuss and dither all you want, but you’ll realise that any choice is a good one, especially when your steak du jourarrives stark naked on minimalist tableware to flaunt its handsome form. Servers flit by bearing tiny jars of gourmet salts because that’s all you need. Once in a while, someone requests for sauce – Tabasco, Chimichurri or, heaven forbid, ketchup – and this will be inevitably met with a wince and a nod.

Attired in black suits, the servers are discreet, polite and purposeful. They move through the room, first bearing a trio of freshly baked bread – polenta buns, poppy seed pretzels, olive-basil scrolls – and then an amuse bouche – smoked quail eggs accompanied by Chardonnay salt for dipping. And then the cauliflower vichyssoise topped with sevruga caviar arrives, looking impossibly sophisticated for a cream-based soup.

smoked quail eggs with Chardonnay salt for dipping.
Smoked quail eggs with Chardonnay salt for dipping.

Marble 8’s strength rests on its versatility. If you’ve fulfilled your meat quota for the week, there are seafood and vegetarian dishes worth trying. The perfectly al dentehouse-made spaghetti is rendered even more enchanting with Madagascar freshwater prawns, garlic, chilli and olive oil.

Then end your meal on a sugar high, with the restaurant’s signature dessert: lemon tart brûlée. Its golden-brown crust is obscenely crisp and yummy, surrounded by fresh cream and seasonal berries.

The decadent lemon tart brûlée.
The decadent lemon tart brûlée.

The restaurant’s wine list isn’t shabby, either. Tucked away in their second-floor cellar are bottles from France, Italy and Australia, all selected by Marini himself. Where else would you find Jarno, the full-bodied red wine developed by former Italian F1 driver Jarno Trulli?

Finally, you sit back and savour the surroundings of one of the finest steakhouses in the city. All that apprehension you had initially? Completely unnecessary.

This article was originally published in Life Inspired, out every second and fourth Sunday of the month, and distributed exclusively with The Sunday Star to selected areas in the Klang Valley.


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