SeeFoon discovers great value for money in Pasir Pinji

With the escalating prices of raw produce nowadays, restaurateurs often take advantage of the situation and hike up their menu prices too, resulting in some places pricing themselves out of reach for many average income families. Not so Soon Mun restaurant.

This modest corner coffee shop located on Jalan Prince in Pasir Pinji is almost always chock-a-block with people waiting in line to grab the first available table the moment it’s vacated. Obviously the tenet of “if the restaurant is not bustling, don’t walk in” applies here as I drove past one or two other similar restaurants that were doing desultory business on the same road; and one of these was even air-conditioned.

The reason for Soon Mun’s popularity is not only their reasonable prices but the quality of food is excellent and  some of their specials are worth making return visits for. Thanks to my foodie friend Ginla Chew, we managed to book a table in advance and on one of the hottest days in the year, a group of us sweated our way through an 8-course meal and came away feeling it was worth the perspiration.

As space is limited for this issue, I will only list the dishes which belong to the “die die, must try” variety and leave the rest of the accompanying dishes to you dear readers to round out your meal.


The Steamed Tilapia is a steal at RM25, smothered in taucu (preserved bean paste), garlic and chilli, while their Fish Head Curry (chopped in chunks) is tangy and flavourful RM27.

Their For Yeem Quat (barbecued pork ribs) is a tad on the sweet side (for my taste) but delectably tender and well seasoned – RM20 while their eggplant with minced meat oozes with flavour. Their Pig’s Trotter braised with peanuts was tender with the skin and tendons delectably smooth yet still providing a bite.

What is outstanding at Soon Mun is the way they do chicken in many styles to suit different palates. I had to make two visits to sample three of the ways: smothered in minced ginger, steamed with herbs and salt baked (must order in advance). They use only the ‘white whiskered chicken’ or Wu So Kai whose meat has a better texture and flavour than ordinary chicken and is also understandably more expensive. At RM50 for a whole chicken you can choose to order one chicken done two different ways or for the salt baked chicken, a whole one. All three styles have their own unique embellishments and it’s even hard for me to recommend one particular one given that they are all good in their own way.

One cannot have a meal in Soon Mun without tasting their famous shaved ice. For someone like me who generally dislikes anything sweet with their meal (other than dessert and even then it has to be extra tempting) their specialty had me converted. Order it with all manner of toppings, fruit, jellies, syrups, ice cream, and you have this mountain of sweet deliciousness staring at you and waiting to be devoured. It was a good thing I had plenty of helping mouths on that occasion and despite ordering a mix of different flavours, we made short shrift of them all.

Soon Mun is definitely one restaurant I will return to again and again.

 
Soon Mun Restaurant (no English sign, see pic above)
1511 Jalan Prince, Pasir Pinji.
Tel: 016 518 9336016 518 8797
Business hours: 5pm-11pm. Closed Wednesdays.

SeeFoon Gets Clubby at the Dome

I usually don’t expect good food at a club. A simple bowl of noodles or fried rice is about all I allow myself and with some luck it’s served in an air-conditioned environment.

When it comes to gourmet food, I usually look to the ‘fine dining’ establishments like Citrus or Indulgence. Recently, with a complete revamp of the menu under the expert guidance of Director Christian Bock, the Dome at Meru Golf Resort has undergone a total transformation, offering up some tantalising nosh that can hold its own at any of the gourmet restaurants in Ipoh and maybe even further afield.

For starters, the menu is now looking very posh with a floral bouquet on a lilac hardcover. But naturally the proof of the pudding is in the eating and it’s the menu items that count and of course the taste. And both do not disappoint.

In fact there are even some superlative surprises in store for me as I tasted a variety of the menu items on several visits. The Blossom Tuna Tataki which is Grilled Tuna loin drizzled with wasabi goma dressing served with tossed mesclun baby greens in passion fruit dressing is an offering straight from a gourmet menu. Not only did it look good on the plate but the taste was just right: pink in the centre and slightly charred around the edges encrusted with sesame seeds – RM19.


On another occasion I had a hankering for a small snack to go with my beer and the Crispy Anchovies with Cuttlefish and Mermaid, which is stir-fried anchovies, cuttlefish & mermaid (a curly type of anchovy) with cucumber in savoury Thai chilli absolutely sated my craving for something savoury, tangy and sour. This was heaven on a plate – RM16.

Soup Kambing Berempah, a local traditional Malay soup made with herbs, spices with potatoes, carrots and Dorper Lamb chunks was delectably fragrant, umami and cooked to perfection…..none of the watered down, overly curried versions that are prevalent in other places – RM13.50.


I have always loved the Chicken Wings at the Dome finding myself forever ordering a six-piece portion in addition to whatever else I may be having – RM17 for six pieces and RM28 for 12 pieces, but I have now found a yummilicious alternative to this ‘side’ dish in the Chicken Strips, deep fried battered chicken strips, served with coleslaw, French fries and lemon wedge served very attractively on a wooden board with the chips in a stainless steel basket, accompanied by a traditional barbecue sauce and another the chef’s special secret sauce – RM18. All these can be found on the menu under snacks.

There are two burgers worthy of rave at the Dome. These are firstly the Gourmet Wagyu Burger, a home-made Wagyu Beef patty seasoned with spices and herbs, accompanied with turkey bacon, vegetables and topped with a slice of cheddar cheese. Served with truffle fries and a side of coleslaw – RM31.

The second, the Meru Dorper Lamb Burger is a home-made Dorper Lamb patty seasoned with spices & herbs, accompanied with turkey bacon, baby gherkins and vegetables, topped with a slice of cheddar cheese and served with truffle fries and a side of coleslaw – RM28.

Ask for either of these medium rare and you will have a juicy mouthful of one of the best hamburgers you’ve ever tasted.

Under Western cuisines, I had the pleasure of tasting their Oriental Cod Fish, pan-fried ocean fresh Pacific Cod in a soya reduction, accompanied by delicate baby French beans, baby pak choi, and seasonal Shimeji mushroom. Crispy on the outside, the soya reduction accentuating the umami taste and feel of the cod – RM41.

Their  Mediterranean Wagyu Oxtail Stew served with roasted potatoes and toasted cheesy gourmet bread was tender and sauced robustly. – RM35. And for a simple bite, their Fish & Chips, battered fish deep fried to a golden brown, accompanied with tartar sauce, coleslaw, French fries and a wedge of lemon at RM17 is a mouthful of crispy delight.

The menu at the Dome is extensive with dishes to suit all palates and pockets from the luxurious Wagyu Steak at RM118 for 180g to the simple Meru’s signature Prawn Mee with Meng prawn, fish cake, sliced chicken, beansprouts, kangkung and half a slice of hard boiled egg at RM10.50 and the Wat Tan Hor, wok-fried kway teow with sliced chicken, fish cake, prawns and vegetables in thick egg gravy – RM8.50.

There is now an interesting offer for families where a Set Menu A RM55 (for 4 to 5 pax) is on offer comprising Seafood Tom Yum Soup,  Sweet & Sour Fish, Chicken Curry, Egg Foo Yong,  Steamed Rice and a Set B RM45 (for 4 pax) consisting of Meru Fried Kway Teow, Singapore Fried Bihun, Fried Chicken Wing (4 pieces) and Samosas.

Now that the new menu is in place, I will certainly be dining more at the Dome than ever before. Weekend barbecues are another favourite where one can choose from a plethora of items and have Chef Desmond grill them for you to perfection. Chef Desmond who has been instrumental in creating the new menu with Director Chris has been working overtime to bring this new menu to fruition and deserves a pat on the back for a job well done.


Non members are welcome to the Dome as can be witnessed by the numbers of office workers from around the Meru/Jelapang area who now frequent the Dome at lunchtime, particularly on the 25th of each month as Meru is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and a set menu is available for RM25 on that day from now until the end of the year.

 
Meru Valley Resort Berhad
DOME RESTAURANT
Jalan Bukit Meru, 30020 Jelapang.
Reservations:  05 529 3358
Business Hours:  Monday 11am-9pm
                                Tuesday-Friday 11am-10pm
Weekends & public holidays: 7am-11pm

SeeFoon gets lucky with Laksa

When a former industrialist decides to set up a food stall, it is certainly not with the intention to put food on the table for his family like the way most Mama and Papa stalls begin their journey but rather in the case of Dato’ David Tan, a realisation of his passion for cooking and for superlative food.

David’s culinary skills were only developed when he was studying in the UK and yearning for the dishes from his childhood, he began experimenting. Over the years, he became passionate about cooking and today David is a fine chef, excelling in producing dishes, some from his Hokkien origins, whose recipes are mostly forgotten.

Growing up in Singapore he developed a fondness for Katong Laksa, a hawker specialty that every Singaporean raves over and every Laksa stall there claims to be the ‘original’ one. David’s Katong Laksa can certainly be vouched for as being even better than the original as I too, grew up in Singapore and this used to be one of my favourite treats.

I used to have  to wait for invitations to David’s home in Ipoh to have my favourite childhood dish or placate my cravings by eating Ipoh’s famous Curry Mee but today, I no longer have to salivate at the thought of not fulfilling my culinary yearnings for Katong Laksa, I can have it every day, any day, thanks to David’s perfectionist pursuit of his passions.

His stall Little Katong @ Little Genting is garnering fans to Restoran Impressive, a corner coffee shop on Jalan Ali Pitchay opposite Ibis Hotel. Beginning from 8am till it runs out by around 2pm or till the chickens have all gone, the stall serves only three menu items: Katong Laksa, Asam Laksa and Kai See Hor Fun.

                     

All three are superlative, thanks to David’s attention to detail and his meticulous research into what makes a particular dish special and why people flock to one stall and not to others. For example, his Kai See Hor fun has a secret ingredient which gives it that special ‘je nais se quoi’, French for ‘don’t know what’ not to be found at other stalls. Apparently without letting out his secrets, David told me it was the oil which is put into every bowl just before serving that permeates the soup. The flat white noodles were smooth, sliding down my throat in a wave of velvety goodness, juxtaposed against the occasional crunch of a bean sprout and chive here and there. The prawns were ocean fresh and chicken chunks tender and flavourful while the broth delectably umami.

When asked for the secret of the broth, David shared his secret which was the fact that he has a central preparation kitchen where all his broths (for both the Laksas and the chicken noodles) are prepared, taking many hours every day, before they are delivered to the stall. The preparation kitchen is set up with meticulous hygiene standards, akin to top hotels, a move which David hopes will see the beginning to a wider network of stalls serving these three specials and maybe more.

Certainly as far as this Foodie (me) goes, David’s Kai See Hor Fun is second to none. The same compliment goes for his Katong Laksa, the spiced coconut broth quite mild but heat can be added with the dark sambal paste (which I did with gusto) a thick, hearty paste with hints of dried prawns. The portion comes with generous helpings of sliced fish cake, prawns, cockles, chicken and topped with chopped Daun Kesum imparting their inimitable aroma which distinguishes this Laksa from others.

Finally we come to the Asam Laksa, with David’s version giving the ubiquitous Penang version a run for their money. Now I need no longer wait for the occasional visit to Penang with this right on my doorstep, thanks to David. Here at Little Katong the broth is seasoned just right, a perfect balance of sour, umami and sweet, with pineapple in the broth lending a  pleasing lift to plain old tamarind. Adequate chunks of Kembong fish add substance to the ‘lai fun’ (thick white rice noodles) while mint leaves add to to the plethora of fresh cut vegetables which is a signature feature of this dish.

All items RM5 per portion.

Keep opening stalls David. Let’s have more old favourites elevated by your passion.

Little Katong @ Little Genting (Siew Wan Dang)
Restoran Impressive, (opposite Hotel Ibis)
2 Jalan Ali Pitchay, Ipoh.
Opening times: 8am-2.30pm
Closed 2 days in a month.