Off Changkat Bukit Bintang, away from the vibrant nightlife, lies a quieter street: Jalan Mesui. Near the end of this street is a place out of time; a place where, when you step in, you’re taken to a life from ‘ago’. Welcome then, to Limablas Restaurant.
Limablas is a small, maybe 25 seat restaurant specializing in Peranakan classics. The seating is spartan but comfy, and the whole restaurant is made to look like a period-piece set; you’ll see old school telephones, a rickety bicycle, old-timey posters and various other retro knick-knacks adorning its walls and shelves. It really does seem like you’re in one of those small, family-run kopitiams in Jonker Street or Penang! But the place is young; only about ten months old.
The terrific Gerang Pedas Pari
The menu is not that extensive, and features all time Peranakan favourites. Experience though, has taught me that restaurants that have smaller menus tend to excel more than ones with hundreds of dishes. My colleagues and I eventually settled on the Pai Tee (RM1.50/piece), Ayam Pongteh (RM15), Gerang Pedas Pari (RM25), Sambal Bendi (RM12), Sambal Petai Udang (RM25), Telur Cincaluk (RM9) and the sambal belachan (RM2). We had this with rice, and for refreshments, Longan and home-made Peranakan Ginger Ale. More »
"Quirky decor and good food!"
Fat Spoon is located in Uptown, Damansara Utama, an oasis of calm in a terrifying nightmare of parking. Its quirkiness is immediately apparent upon sight of the outdoor seating area: mismatched chairs and tables, teal sunshade, and fat spoons (!) for door handles. It gets even better indoors, with its brick walls, giant chalkboard menu and wallpapers made out of pages of old comics.
My lunch buddy and I took a seat by the big glass window and perused their cute little menus made with old Peter & Jane Ladybird books. Friendly chatter buzzed around us as we waited for our food, and we were both quiet, finally relaxing in the coziness of it all (We’re told that service slows down quite a bit during peak lunch hours, plan accordingly!) There’s a rack of clothing off the side full of vintage fun, hinting at Michelle’s passion for clothes.
Drinks arrive first. The freshly squeezed orange juice was served in a mini glass milk bottle. Super tangy - a sign that it wasn’t poured from a carton. The ice blended lychee and mint was extremely refreshing, perfect as my first proper drink of the day. Prawn fritters arrived next. Usually savory fritters like these are lumps of fried dough with minuscule amounts of meat in them. These, however, barely had any batter, only enough to hold together little piles of fresh prawns. We crunched these loudly in our mouths, heads, tails and all. Delicious! More »
"The gravy was incredible!"
The FC designer and I were up in Penang last week to sniff out some good eats. We had, after a couple of days, already run through the regular mill of nasi kandar, assam laksa, ais tingkap, etc. Fish head curry was next on this extensive list. After getting a few lukewarm recommendations from folks around us, we turned to Lord Google, who pointed us in the direction of Paya Terubong. With no GPS in hand, we plowed on anyway - getting stuck in after-office traffic on roads traversing acres of graveyards, the sun slowly sinking.
Finally, in the shadow of a giant Buddha statue, we saw it: Restoran 1288. Breathing a sigh of relief (that we didn’t get horrendously lost), we parked tidily in a spot that happened to be right next to the restaurant. Taking this as a good omen, we waded through the place to get to the fish head curry stall. The place is not your regular Chinese coffee shop, it’s a veritable food court. There are at least 20 stalls in and around Restoran 1288 and all of them look good. But we’re here on a mission: fish head curry. More »
"The fried rice is so good!"
“You have to try the fried rice here, that is one of the reasons I come back time and time again. It’s soooooo good!” my colleague urged as I asked for her recommendations. So fried rice it was. We decided to order two types, the Thai fried rice with petai and the sambal belacan fried rice with beef. To go along with our two rice dishes we also got the spicy fried chicken, otak otak, and spicy long beans.
The ambience at Aunty Nat exudes effortless comfort. The contrast of wooden furniture, marble top tables, and modern photo frames adorning the walls with black and white pictures of seniors and children give the place a certain charm. One that invites you to sit and linger over your meal as the swanky jazz tunes are piped in overhead.
While waiting for the food to arrive I sipped on a cold refreshing kedondong with assam boi. The raw grassiness of the kendondong goes well with the sweet sour of the assam boi, making it a delicious drink to indulge in on a hot day.
The first to arrive was the otak otak, and I immediately see that it is darker than most I’ve had and more firm in texture. I can feel the spiciness touch my tongue upon the first bite. It is very strong in flavour and has prawns within it adding a chewy texture within the smooth custard. More »
"Loaded with lap cheong, seafood, and lard!"
Dining at The Wok is like eating at your nyonya aunty’s place. Marble-topped tables, antiques everywhere, the smell of belacan permeating the air. Everyone I know who has eaten here left the restaurant raving. I know it is a terrible onus to place on a restaurant I have never been to. However one cannot help but have that feeling when you step into The Wok: that you have been given the promise of a great meal. Ordering just a few dishes would be blasphemy.
The dishes start arriving. Pretty soon there is barely any space for our plates of rice. I peer around the table and reach for the most familiar dish first, the gulai tumis stingray. Full of stingray chunks and ladyfingers, the gravy is thick and earthy in its spiciness. It reminds me of my own grandmother’s asam pedas – a high compliment in my books. If I were at home, I would be dunking toast into the gravy so as to not waste the precious liquid. Kangkung belacan is next. As grago season is here, little pieces of krill was sprinkled on top the stir-fried kangkung. This delights my dinner party to no end as we pretend we are whales feasting on krill.
Next up: the cincaluk omelette. It is a revolutionary concept to me, and upon tasting it, I immediately think “why haven’t I done this before?” The saltiness of the cincaluk matches the sharp onions and creaminess of the eggs perfectly; by far the most balanced dish on the table. The garlic pork is not as garlicky as I would like (and a touch too oily) but the crunchiness of the lard makes up for it. The lor bak is crunchy too, and the juicy pork filling goes well with the black sweet sauce. More »
"Fresh fish and chillies, this dish has oomph!"
The mere scent of sambal belacan brings back fond memories of my grandmother rhythmically pounding away spices in the backyard while my aunt foraged for fresh herbs from the garden to throw into the pot. Coming from the Northern region, I am embarrassed to admit that I am rather unfamiliar to my southern counterpart’s cuisine aside from the usual Pongteh and cencaluk. Yes, we all may come from the Straits Settlement states but the fare differs in terms of name, taste and ingredients. Hence, an invitation to join a foodie group to a specially cooked lunch at a Malaccan home was quickly accepted without hesitation.
So one weekend, I found myself at Baba Ee. No, you can’t pop by when you feel like it because like all Peranakans, the chef requires ample time to prepare for the meal with the strictest requirements. Dishes served will be based on availability of the freshest ingredients procured. For example, gragao shrimps to make cencaluk are only available during certain periods of the year. Moreover, the chef’s mother (who is still hale and hearty at over 90 years old) constantly checks on the quality of what comes out of the kitchen. God forbids if she finds a dish that falls short of her exacting standards!
Stepping into this humble home of 4 generations, I can see Baba Ee’s passion for cooking. He loves feeding people and provides his 2 cents on the intricacies of his dishes. Everything is cooked from scratch without MSG, as what we eat is what he would serve his own family. Neither has he any desire to expand his labour of love beyond his home.
A simple round table is set outside in the garden as dish after dish is laid out until the table heaves from the weight. Counting 7 dishes in total, we cautioned our tummies for the onslaught ahead.
First up is the itik tim which is salted vege duck soup, also known as kiam chye ark to northern Peranakans. The broth is boiled overnight and the soup bursts with flavor. Great to warm up the appetite and cleanse the palate. Next is the ayam pongteh which is chicken stewed in tau cheow sauce, shallots and gula Melaka. Baba Ee also noted that pork belly can be sinfully added to this dish. There are potatoes to soak up the sweet sauce which goes great with rice. The Sey Ark is superb, which duck slowly stewed in herbs and spices and slathered with thick homemade chilli sauce. The meat is deliciously tender without any typical gamey taste. The chilli sauce is a perfect accompaniment to spice up the meat. Fresh cucumbers provide a cooling respite if you’re not used to the spiciness.
"Don't burn your tongue on the hot thighs"
Where could you find really great Nasi Bojari and Assam Fish Head in a modern looking 'kopitiam like restaurant' with air conditioning and really nice decor? We've found one in Bangsar. It's called Madam Kwan's and by half past eight every night it's jam packed with patrons.
Madam Kwan's has going from strength to strength with the immensely popular KLCC branch and another branch in Mid Valley. The formula has always been to keep local favourites good like nasi lemak, nasi bojari and assam prawns. They have the typical local favourites and over the years, Madam Kwan has personally refined her recipes to appeal not only to local palates but international ones as well. And yes! there is a Madam Kwan. Quite a nice madam too. One of the reason why the food is consistently good is that she personally mixes the spicy paste before passing it to her assistants to cook. Word around town is that she's such a good cook that if a dish is missing a particular ingredient, she does not say that "there's something missing, lah!". She will identify what is the missing ingredient and repair the dish by adding the right amount of it! That's what I call experience.
Nasi Bojari is a type of Indonesian coloured rice that comes with assam prawns, beef rendang and deep fried chicken drumsticks. It's quite good and may have been known to get addicted to this. The nasi has a nice aromatic taste that goes especially well with the deep fried chicken. It's also worth mentioning that Madam Kwan has perfected a very good frying technique for their chicken thighs. Its crispy on the outside but on the inside.... mmmmmm ... still has the nice clear juice flowing out from it when the thigh is cut open. You need a very special equipment to fry chicken this good and I think they've got it. More »