Don’t be fooled by what looks like a reasonable price.
The lot was nothing but a blindingly white, empty space for so long that when something finally moved in, it was kind of a big deal. The Spanish tinged Cafe Deli by El Meson has no trouble getting noticed. They have a prime location within Mont Kiara’s 163 Retail Park and they’re also a non-halal restaurant, which always gets tongues wagging. Pigs are brazenly flashed all over their sandwich boards, along with words like “SANGRIA,” “REAL BACON” and, most curiously, “PORKY ASIANS!!”
Ambience & Amenities
Cafe Deli by El Meson has to have the best patio in the entire mall. They are positioned right at the main entrance of 163 Retail Park so everyone sitting on the patio can watch the comings and goings during their meal. The tables closer to the entrance are screened by a wall of potted plants so that diners are not similarly on display, but tables that are deeper inside the mall will be more exposed. The open-air concept of 163 Retail Park means patio guests at El Meson will get lots of fresh air but still be under a roof in case of rain.
The inside dining room has more of a parlour feel. Dark beadboard wainscoting and warm lamps surround simple wooden tables and chairs. On the wall next to the windows, there are tables with pew-style bench seating with cosy cushions where you can watch the people-watchers on the patio.
The focal point of the cafe is a central fridge where you can buy various cheeses, tins of smoked mackerel, and all of your pork favourites: sausages, salami, ham and other deli meat. Nothing in here is unique to the cafe, and you can find all of these items in an upscale grocer. On the counters surrounding the fridge are pastries and cakes by the slice that will not be listed on the menu.
There is no toilet or handwashing station in the restaurant. To get to the nearest mall washroom, exit the restaurant and walk toward the Tonkatsu by Ma Maison on the opposite side. To the left of this restaurant are escalators and then a hall leading to the elevators. Go here and turn right to get to the public mall washrooms.
During the day, guests will have access to both the brunch menu and the regular menu at El Meson. We came here in the evening so we were only provided with the regular menu. Both menus will have food on one side and drinks on the other. While the food is vastly different on each menu, there is a lot of overlap in the drinks. The only difference between the brunch menu drinks and regular menu drinks is the addition of alcohol on the regular drink menu. Water is free, but it’s a small glass that will have to be constantly refilled.
Be warned that the “From The Josper” section can be misleading if you’re scanning the menu quickly. All four items from this section have a minimum order requirement, and the price of that minimum is not the number you see listed. The prices shown here are for 100g. Let’s take the example of the Iberico Ribs. Though there is an attractive “RM18” next to their name, you will end up spending at least RM108 on them because there is a 600g minimum. The Spanish Filet of Beef has a 200g minimum (RM90 total). The Wagyu Ribeye doesn’t have a minimum listed, but I asked a server to clarify. After checking with the kitchen, he informed me that it’s roughly a 250g minimum, so be prepared to pay well over RM100 for a tiny wagyu steak. As for the Bone-In Prime Rib, the server quoted me a whopping RM450 when I specifically asked him about it. If you’re wondering like we were what the hell a josper is and if it’s worth that much money to eat food from it, a josper is an indoor barbeque that uses charcoal.
On the tables, there is a rotating menu holder that advertises additional items. There is an afternoon coffee promotion for two and El Meson’s afternoon tea set.
The Ultimate Pork Burger (RM19) is strangely soothing to look at with its perfectly round bun and tantalising pork. The patty looks so immaculate that Mark thought it was a deep-fried pork steak or something. I don’t know about you, but whenever we’ve tried to make ground pork, it always comes out greyish, crumbly and wet-looking, not a compact golden cutlet like this. The grill marks on the underside of the bun are so straight and clean that they look drawn on. The ostentatious sandwich board out front claims that this burger is topped with mature cheese, but cheese is an additional RM6 according to their menu. We ordered the basic burger that came with zero extras, so the only topping was some lettuce. Filling up the platter was a decently sized basket of fries, a pathetic looking “salad” and a small ramekin of smoked paprika sauce intended for the burger.
The smoked paprika sauce brings an interesting edge and there is just the right amount of juiciness inside the patty. Only a couple drops of meat juices dripped from the burger during the meal. The brioche bun holds up under your fingers, but it’s a bit small for this amount of pork. You’ll be getting a worse bun-to-meat ratio as you eat this. The salad, which consists of one tiny gherkin sliced in half, one cherry tomato sliced in half, and about two rocket leaves, is not worth the time. I just stuffed it into my burger as extra toppings. There are a lot of fries in what looks like a small basket, and they are fat, crispy and well-cooked.
The Lamb Shank (RM56) is a huge hunk of meat on top of a considerable amount of potato mash and swimming in gravy. The only element that was skimped on was the broccoli, where there were only two florets. The gravy was notable – rich, just the right consistency and not watered down. The lamb shank is a dichotomy of textures with tender, pull apart muscle meat and succulent fatty pieces. If you love chewing on fat like I do, you’ll get a respectable helping of it on this shank. The mouthfeel of this dish is superb, but the actual taste of the lamb is lacking. We had sprinkled quite a bit of cracked black pepper on the dish, but we still felt that the lamb could have used more seasoning. It might have tasted better even with just a dash of simple salt.
Whenever it can, this cafe draws your eye to the cheap prices of their dishes, but in small text, you’ll notice that the ingredients that usually come standard cost extra at El Meson. RM19 for a burger is a good price, but not for a burger that only has lettuce on it. Make two small additions of cheese and bacon and now it costs RM33, which is a completely arrogant price for what is still a relatively basic burger. A handful of items on the menu are like this: boring and only worth ordering if you can afford the extras.
It seriously annoys me that Cafe Deli by El Meson also feels the need to use ambiguous wording to trick people into spending hundreds on a steak. Just tell me the total cost of the meat, for fuck’s sake. This pricing strategy is vastly different from a proper steakhouse like The Steakhouse in Bukit Bintang, where their menu clearly tells me that it’s going to cost RM139 for 300g of rib eye. What the hell? A five-star steakhouse is cheaper than El Meson?
I don’t know what Cafe Deli by El Meson is trying to be. They have super casual pork noodles on their menu right next to RM450 steaks, but this place is way too trashy to justify that steak price. Nobody is going to order a steak that expensive in a mall restaurant where you’re sitting on plebeian rattan furniture next to an escalator. A couple of weeks after our visit, I brought up this place to Mark and he had completely forgotten that we had eaten here. The food was okay in the moment, but obviously unmemorable. We don’t intend to ever return to this scammy, self-important restaurant.
Price for 2 Pax: RM87.00
Lamb Shank: RM56.00
Ultimate Pork Burger: RM19.00
10% Service: RM7.50
6% SST: RM4.50
Cafe Deli by El Mesón
GF-16 (Ground Floor, across from the Chili’s), 163 Retail Park, No. 8, Jalan Kiara, Mont Kiara 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours: Daily, 9am – 10pm
Alcohol Served: Yes