SeeFoon Savours a Whiff of Normandy in Ipoh

Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

When you have your own private Polo ground as a backyard, and the most extensive chain of laboratories and diagnostic clinics in the country, you may be excused for wanting your own private kitchen as well. No not your ordinary private home kitchen. Rather a French Fine Dining kitchen helmed by an authentic French Chef who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and who is keen to introduce his brand of creative cuisine to Ipohites with deep pockets.

I am referring to Dato’ Beh Chun Chuan, the founder and Chairman of the BP Healthcare Group of companies who is a polo champion in multiple international tournaments and whose dream to dream bigger is now leading him to venture into the world of ‘Haute’ cuisine.

The brainchild of his youngest son Garvy who is still in University in the USA, the eponymous restaurant, Garvy’s In The Park, is raising the bar on fine dining in Ipoh with Chef Bruno Delamare’s exquisite compositions. I use the word compositions very deliberately, as each plate delivered to your table is a work of art in itself, pleasing to the eye as well as to the palate. I am almost reluctant to destroy the masterpiece on the plate as I lift fork or spoon to savour the creation in front of me.
The menu changes every three to four days with an average of three items for each course from Appetizers, First Courses, Mains followed by Desserts. Priced at RM128 for 2 courses (can be Starter and Main, or Main plus dessert) RM158 for 3 courses and RM238 for 4 courses, per person, the pricing may appear to be stiff to some but when you compare it to fine dining restaurants internationally, its par for the course.
The menu beckons with drool inducing items, written in plain English so there was no need for a translator to be present. I will only describe here a few of the items which I have had the pleasure to taste on two occasions. Chef Bruno, who has worked in a few Michelin-Star restaurants in Europe, believes in buying organic wherever possible and insists on the freshest of ingredients. When certain items are not available locally, he’ll even have them flown in. A case in point are the Tsakarya oysters which are flown in from Normandy, Chef Bruno’s home territory. This was a first course with an almost raw oyster perched on a poached scallop cocooned by a frothy lime foam and served with an avocado tartare, embellished on the plate with both a red bell pepper and a green herbal couli. Absolutely divine.

Another time I had the Escargots BonBon, escargots (French snails) encased in a ball of potato mash, and complemented by cress and featherlight beetroot foam. Of special note is the extraordinary garnish which was a square of chicken skin, dried in a dehydrator and fried to a crisp. A brilliant and delicious touch from Chef Bruno.

Garvy’s is probably the only restaurant in Ipoh to have a ‘Sous Vide’ machine in its kitchen. This allows a chef to cook something in a bag in a water bath for many hours at a controlled low temperature. The result is meat or fish that turns out perfectly every time while retaining all the umami goodness of its juices in the bag. I had the delightful treat of the Tasmanian Trout cooked sous vide. This was wild-caught trout, freshly flown in from Tasmania and served with chickpea puree flavoured with turmeric, wheatgerm squid black ink pasta and a lemongrass Beurre Blanc (white sauce made with fish stock and cream) with hints of kaffir lime. The trout was velvety smooth, melt-in-mouth tender without being mushy, the pasta perfectly al dente and the Beurre Blanc lending a velvety and umami mouthfeel to the pasta and the fish. I cleaned the plate and wished there was more of the sauce to slurp up with the bread which I had forgotten to mention, is all made on the premises and is delicious.

Not being much of a sweet eater, I wasn’t particularly waiting on tenterhooks for dessert but on both occasions, the desserts I sampled were superb. The warm Raspberry Souffle with marshmallow and raspberry ice cream was a visual treat and I was loathe to break up the perfectly risen souffle with my spoon but was sure glad I did as each mouthful of that smooth featherlight souffle went down my gullet in rapid succession.
Similarly for the second dessert the Valrhona Chocolate Douceur, an irresistible medley of mousse, cake, parfait each with its inimitable flavouring from hazelnut to Grand Marnier; soil (the edible kid that is so much the rage these days) all made from Valrhona Chocolate, a French luxury chocolate coming from Hermitage, a wine-growing district near Lyon in France.
Chef Bruno is a stickler for detail. Not for him any store bought item for the restaurant. Every item on the menu is painstakingly made on the premises from the dehydrated organic flaxseed crackers in the Amuse Bouche, to the homemade marshmallow, to the purees, the coulis, and the foams.
Garvy’s is certainly raising the bar on fine dining in Ipoh. Ipohites should be proud to have this high level of cuisine here. Well done Dato’ Beh.

Garvy’s In the Park French Dining
275 Jalan Permaisuri Bainun, (Kampar Rd) Ipoh 30250.
(Between BP Clinic and Perak Community Specialist Hospital)
Business hours: 12pm-2pm & 6.30pm-10pm.
Closed Mondays.
http://www.garvysmy.com/
Reservations: +(60)5 255 8082

SeeFoon declares Ipoh to be the ‘Tai Chau’ capital of the world!

Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

I am aware that some of my readers out there occasionally mutter about my writing about the same type of food over and over again especially when it comes to dishes from the typical Tai Chau or ‘Big Fry’ restaurants.

What most people overlook is that aside from the famous dishes like our Nga Choy Kai, our Curry Mee, our Salted Chicken, our famous biscuits for which people from near and far come in droves to sample and buy home, Ipoh has a plethora of small and large Tai Chau restaurants dotted all over our sprawling city and its suburbs. These are the real hidden gems of Ipoh.
However, every food establishment have their signature dishes, each one vying for recognition with different nuances in ingredients, taste and creativity. Some dishes make the grade and some miss by a mile. This column is about the dishes that make it and to keep in mind when ordering.

This week’s column is to present two of these in the same area of Seri Botani, about a mile or so away from one another. The first one, Ho Ki was recommended by Ginla Chew my reliable foodie sidekick, which apparently is a favourite haunt of Dato’ Dr Rama and his wife Mala. They were with us that evening together with a group of my other foodie friends.

Ho Ki

Situated on a corner, set back from the main road leading off Jalan Bandar Seri Botani, just after Shen Jai School on the left, Restaurant Ho Ki is a large airy restaurant open 24/7 with a friendly proprietress Amy Ong who came and made the recommendations.

As usual we had an overload of dishes and I shall list here not all of the 11 items that we had but the ones that stood out for me. The deep fried pork belly slices or Tsau Fa Lam was delicious, crisp and well coated in a mildly sweet and sour sauce – RM15. Sautéed Cabbage with bacon bits and topped with almond slivers lending texture was unusual and tasty – RM12.
The fish was a live Tilapia cooked in a claypot with their homemade yellow rice wine, a departure from the norm, the fish fresh and without a hint of muddiness, the wine lending hints of sweetness to the dish – RM30. The homemade Tofu in a pumpkin sauce was smooth and mild – perfect for those who prefer a bland taste – RM10.

What they call Penang 3 types arrived on a hotplate, prawns, squid, scallops and ladies fingers sizzling away in an Asam Pedas sauce – tangy, spicy and guaranteed to wake up the taste buds with just the right amount of seasoning – RM25. The Yee Meen or fried dried noodles came in a soupy sauce, with mixed seafood pieces and greens, the noodles still slightly chewy (the Chinese version of al dente) and the sauce an umami complement –  RM4.50 per portion.

A specialty of the house here is their Poon Choy or the one dish meal. I did not have the opportunity to try this but have promised myself a return visit. At RM288 combination of 13 items for 10 people and an additional RM100 with abalone added, this is a dish that needs to be ordered in advance.

Restoran Ho Ki
12 Jalan Lapangan Siber 5Bandar Cyber.
GPS: N 04° 32.739’  E 101° 06.702’
Tel: 05 313 1636 or Amy Ong 012 515 0710

Restoran LML

In the same area, using Shen Jai School as the landmark, take the first right turn just after the school, continue about one kilometre past a row of shophouses and just before the housing estate on the corner on the left is LML. The night we were there it was fortunately very cool and we sat outside on the street, with Datin Lynette Tan playing hostess.

Lynette was singing the  praises for this Tai Chau restaurant saying that her mother-in-law who can be quite picky in her food preferences, absolutely adores this place and promptly ordered all her favourites which I am about to share with you my dear readers.

The first dish on the table was the Fried Bitter Gourd with Salted Egg. This dish literally flew off the plate, as we tucked in, marvelling at the lightness and crispiness of the batter. Now most of us there that evening including Puan Sri Datuk Sandra Lee have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world and we all unanimously agreed that this was better than any tempura batter that we have ever tasted, ANYWHERE. When questioned, the proprietress May who was a very helpful and friendly soul, confessed that the recipe was a closely guarded secret and that she can only buy it from a former chef of hers who is taking the recipe to the grave. So I plan to go and eat more of this as soon as possible – RM13. To borrow a phrase from a food writer in Singapore, this is one dish I would say “Die, Die, Must Try”.
The Fried Pig’s Trotter was tender, juicy and almost too big a portion for the six of us – RM46.

Steamed Clams were big, steamed in white rice wine topped with scallions and coriander – RM16. A claypot of Kangkong (convolvulus) arrived and while it looked bland and boring in the pot, on tasting it, my tastebuds were aroused, well-blended flavours mildly spicy and surprise surprise, had generous chunks of fried pork lardons (Chu Yau Tsa) in it. This small touch lifted it from the ordinary to the sublime – RM11.

More goodies were yet to come. The Nyonya Steamed Fish Head that evening was a Garupa head, cut in chunks and cooked in a mildly spiced sauce, redolent of the typical Nyonya herbs – RM60. The 3-cup chicken or Sam Pui Kai which is chicken pieces braised in 3 cups of dao pan tseong or fermented bean paste, Chinese rice wine and a mixture of Thai basil leaves and bay leaves was flavourful, the basil flavour coming through quite strongly, the rice wine lending its sweetness to the dish – RM18.

As we were only six people we couldn’t do justice to the tempting possibilities that this restaurant has on offer. I promised myself that I would go back to sample more of the dishes from this restaurant as apparently anything they produce is delectable.

Restoran LML
58 Laluan Lapangan Siber 1,Panorama Lapangan Perdana.
GPS: N 04° 33.1’  E 101° 6.425’
Tel: 05 311 0958 or May 016 262 9996
Business Hours: noon-11pm.
Open 24/7.