Matahari Bar and Grill-Review
I want to start by thanking the chowhounders that have recommended this place, particularly Vorpal. I had been meaning to try it for some time and had that opportunity yesterday evening.
I am by no means an expert in South East Asian cuisine, but the wonderful freshness of it's flavours have always excited me. I was quite anxious to try this place having some knowledge of the ethnic combination of Malaysian cuisine; it's Thai, Indian, Chinese and Peranakan (Nyonya) influences.
The atmosphere and decor is quite lovely and minimalist. There are large green comfortable banquets with soft, warm lighting (not "yellowed" like in so many restaurants in this city-ughh!). I felt immediately comfortable walking in. The one negative aspect was that there was no host at the door, but we led ourselves to a table where our dining companion was already seated.
We started with a juicy chicken satay and a wonderful peanut sauce, the shrimp wontons and some veggie spring rolls. The peanut sauce was perfect in texture-not too reduced, not too peanuty, with a nice kick at the end. The wontons were perfectly cooked and not overly greasy. I would have appreciated better quality shrimp (rather than the popcorn version) but the price point was appropriate for what it was. I did not try the spring rolls but my dining companion said they were lovely.
For mains, we had the Matahari grilled vegetables, the Tofu Goreng and the Sayur Lodeh. All mains were extremely fresh, the vegetables perfectly grilled, with wonderful subtle aromas and flavours. The curry sauce with the Sayur Lodeh was complex without being overbearing or too greasy. We also had some sides of rice and nicely grilled roti.
For dessert, I had the Pandan crepe, which I was not a fan of. It's not that it was bad-I did not like the texture of the sugar/coconut filling. Just my personal taste. My companion had the mango sorbet, which was amazing-rich and deliciously fresh.
The wine list was predictable, and safe, but extremely reasonably priced with no obvious rip-offs. My friend and I shared a half liter of Delheim Gewurztraminer (Stellenbosch, South Africa) which accompanied the meal perfectly.
In all, the total (before tip) was $133.
In terms of the service, as others have reported, it was generally slow. Somehow, this didn't bother me, as it was so genuine. No artifice or pretence whatsover, which is rare in this city. So, if you are in a rush, this is not the place for you.
Overall, an excellent experience, I feel that it's quite the hidden gem, perhaps no longer. I will definitely return.
I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed it! If you return, might I suggest that you try the char kway teow? Smoky soy flavoured sauteed rice noodles with just a slight kick of spice, served with large shrimp (cooked very nicely, I think - I typically don't like shrimp but I love them in this dish). Also, the Matahari chicken curry is phenomenal, as are the red chili chicken and the beef rendang.
As for desserts, if you don't like the crepe, the bananas are also spectacular.
Now you've got me craving a visit! I may have to go this weekend.
I get cravings on a regular basis for their laksa. It's the first place I've tried this dish and the other versions I've had since have not met the overall impression of Matahari's. I don't mind the way the fried tofu balls hold the curry soup but I imagine a semi-soft tofu would be good in it .
I agree that the room is dressy in a modest way. Unfortunately, last time we went there was a date going on a couple of tables down and I could not believe how loud the woman was. To add insult to injury she was boring too.
We love Matahari as well...
Other Great Dishes:
Sambal Udang - Grilled tamarind prawns... Awesome
Mango Chicken - Addictive
Nasi Lemak - For the more adventurous... very tasty Malaysian street fare... coconut rice with grilled tamarind prawns, ikanbilis sambal (dried anchovies), achar-achar and fried egg
Sago Sago - Tapioca pearls served chilled with palm syrup and coconut cream - Can't be beat
The owner, Zen, and staff are kind, warm, and genuine...
If you haven't been... you are missing out.
39 Baldwin Street, Toronto, ON M5T 1L1, CA