SeeFoon Checks Out Possible Den of Iniquity

A restaurant with a name like Opëam, is bound to raise eyebrows, or it will have people queueing to check it out. Especially if it’s also housed in a bungalow behind a discreetly lit sign posted above the entrance. I had to turn my car around as I passed it without noticing the sign. Instructions from Foodie Kaki Ginla Chew was “bungalow opposite DeGarden” and sure enough there it was, a bungalow, on the corner of Lebuh Hock Lee facing the Korean Restaurant Daorae.

Of course as we all know, opium is illegal but eating and drinking is not (thank God) and that is what Opëam is all about. Good wholesome eating and drinking in a conducive ambiance. Calling itself a Restrobar, Opëam is the brainchild of young chef/entrepreneur Nicole Gan, from Seremban, who after obtaining a degree in mass communications from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman took off for the bright lights of Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia for 10 months.

Opëam

There in the US, she developed a passion for all the exciting baked items she was exposed to and with her inherent love of baking and cooking, she returned to Ipoh where she started Patisserie Boutique in Old Town along Jalan Sultan Yusuff, a cafe which quickly garnered a faithful following, especially for its delectable pastries, cakes, and simple fare.

That was four years ago and now with the opening of Opëam, this enterprising young lady has moved into the food and beverage industry big time. It is hard work for her, dividing her time between mornings at Patisserie Boutique and evenings at Opëam, baking, cooking and offering a small menu with an emphasis on quality of produce and a ‘less-is-more’ style of preparation.

Opëam

Despite not having had any formal Chef’s training, Nicole succeeds in dishing out beautifully prepared and plated items, coming from her love of baking, cooking and most importantly, a discerning palate which helped her pick up menu ideas during her sojourn in the US. Hence the cuisine is reflective of the Californian style where menu items are light with minimal oil and with little aid from sauces, reliant purely on the light touch and seasonings by Chef Nicole.

Specialties of the house here aside from the food items are their cocktails. Moscow Mule, a concoction using lime, ginger beer and vodka was refreshing, while the Rum and Orange tended to the sweet side – RM28 each. My favourite was the Pineapple Daiquiri which came frozen and served with a spoon – RM32.

OpëamOpëam

As a group of five, we ordered a selection of two pizzas for starters. Listed as Skinny Pizzas on the menu, the first to arrive was the Truffle and Cheese, ultra thin crust oozing with melted cheese, fresh mushrooms and paper thin slices of black truffles, it’s fragrance wafting in wild abandon. Topped with fresh rocket leaves this was a unanimous favourite with our group – RM28. This was followed by the Kimchi Pizza (how’s that for a mix of east and west?) which generally did not find favour around the table – RM26. All their pizzas are topped with Gouda and Marta mozzarella cheese.

Opëam

Opëam

The Penne with scallops and prawns with homemade Pesto sauce, fresh dill and pine nuts was absolutely delicious. The penne was cooked al dente and the generous portions of large sea-fresh prawns and scallops was a treat. I haven’t had a better pasta since Italy – RM55.

Opëam

The New Zealand Lamb Rack served as two chops per order was tender, juicy and flavourful, paired with a homemade mint sauce, charred Brussels sprouts and grilled cherry tomatoes – RM65. This was followed by air-flown Salmon Steak served with salmon roe (Ikura), which was cooked to perfection, the centre still pink and the skin crisped and crackling dotted with mixed nuts and topped with salmon roe which lent its umami saltiness as each egg bursts open in the mouth – RM45.

Opëam

The pièce de résistance which came next was the Wagyu Steak Marble 6, a generously sized portion of well marbled beef, tender and fragrant and grilled perfectly, topped with a dab of herb butter and served on a bed of mange tout or pea pods. Accompanying garnitures were grilled cherry tomatoes and a whole baked garlic. The searing was expertly done and the steak was well seasoned. RM160 for Marble 6 and RM210 for the Marble 9. The steak is served with a truffle butter sauce on the side.

Opëam

Before dessert we decided to sample the cheese platter which came attractively plated on a wooden flat spatula offering a choice of imported Gouda, Emmental and Fontal cheese accompanied by strawberry preserves, mixed nuts, mixed fresh berries, olives, raisins,  crackers and sliced Chorizo sausages. This can be a meal in itself – RM38.

Opëam

Then came the highlight of the evening. A dessert which caught my eye was the Salted Egg Yolk Croissant with Vanilla Gelato. This was a true fusion effort, appeasing the Malaysian penchant for salted egg which they use for everything! And combined inside the croissant served with the velvety smooth gelato was heaven in a mouthful – RM16.

The menu items vary from week to week so do ask for the daily specials.

Opëam Restrobar
28 Lebuh Hock Lee
Tel: 05 541 2421
Business hours: 4pm-11pm. Closed Wednesdays.
(Ample parking next door)

SeeFoon Remembers Kampung Malay Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
Pics by Tan Mei Kuan

Dome Restaurant in Meru Valley ResortIt has been years since I had a bang-up, GENUINE Kampung Malay meal with all the classic dishes and condiments that today, appear to have gone the way of the Dodo bird (as in extinct!) Most roadside eating places have Tom Yam emblazoned all over their signboards and (hello?) Tom Yam is a Thai dish and the ones I’ve tasted come nowhere near the real McCoy I’ve had in Thailand. Plus they are usually laden with MSG, which as readers of my column may have noticed, I am on a strong campaign to eradicate from all kitchens!!

It was therefore such a real pleasure to be invited to a preview tasting of the Citarasa Nusantara spread at the Dome Restaurant in Meru Valley Resort recently in anticipation of Ramadan and all the feasting that goes with breaking fast.

I am familiar with the Western, Chinese  and local dishes at the Dome as I eat there quite regularly and I can vouch for the quality of most of the dishes served here. But the Kampung Malay food prepared by Chef Din is a treat and usually only available by special order for functions and events. Other than the Chicken Berempah which is on the regular menu, everything else that is being presented on the Ramadan Buffet for this limited time only is by special order.

So in great anticipation I sat down to taste the various dishes that will be served on their buffet spread in the Malay section with Director Chris Bock, Leong Mei Yee and Executive Chef Desmond who kept doing the ‘now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t’ act as he dashed back and forth to the kitchen.

And I was not disappointed.

Dome Restaurant in Meru Valley Resort

Everyone living in Malaysia knows about rendang with almost every state having their own unique variation. Rendang Tok, however is a special rendang recipe for which Perak is renowned. With “Tok” to mean royalty, Perak’s rendang tok is literally food befitting the kings!

The Rendang Tok at the Dome goes one better. Instead of the usual beef chunks it is a large lamb shank, with the spiced gravy being greatly reduced from prolonged simmering until all that’s left is a thick layer that not only coats the meat but permeates every fibre of it, tender, luscious, moist mouthfuls that fall off the bone and sent me into paroxysms of foodie delight. This is a ‘die, die, must try’ dish.

Dome Restaurant in Meru Valley Resort

The Nasi Kerabu Kelantanese comes with Budu, a fermented fish sauce popular in Kelantan and the E. Coast of Malaysia, shredded raw vegetables, salted egg, keropok ikan or fish crackers, a chilli pickle and fish floss. Mixed by yourself or have them mix it for you and every mouthful is a burst of flavours and textures.

Ikan Perkasam Gelama was a fried fish with sourish tangy notes provided by asam keping and topped with roughly ground fried dry rice that gave the dish a delectable crunch.

The Ulam-ulaman (assorted raw greens like wing beans, cucumber, blanched ladies fingers and various leaves) arrived with two tantalising sambals, one a homemade sambal belacan (shrimp paste) and another the cincalok (preserved tiny shrimps seasoned with chopped shallots, chillies and limau kasturi – a local lime). Both the dips were very well rounded in their composition being neither too fiery nor too acidic, complementing the greens to perfection. Eaten with the Nasi Kerabu, the ulam and the dips tempered any oiliness coming from the rendang and the fried fish.

Dome Restaurant in Meru Valley ResortDome Restaurant in Meru Valley Resort

We then had the Kerabu Jantung Pisang, a salad made from banana flowers, a rare delight hardly to be found elsewhere nowadays. Mixed with an assortment of herbs and condiments, this salad was refreshing and a treat for the taste buds.

Many more Malay Kampung delights were still in store as we tucked into Pucuk Ubi Masak Lemak Telur Itik or in plain English, duck eggs cooked in a coconut sauce with Cassava leaves. This is another divine dish which I adore, the duck eggs poached to just the right consistency with the egg yolk still oozy and combined with the turmeric laced creamy coconut sauce, was heaven in a mouthful.

Dome Restaurant in Meru Valley ResortDome Restaurant in Meru Valley Resort

The Gulai Patin Masak Tempoyak was the least of my favourites. A local catfish, the Patin was cooked in a coconut sauce mixed with tempoyak, a fermented durian paste that requires an acquired taste to appreciate. Like durians for foreigners who either have a love/hate relationship with this king of fruits, tempoyak requires a further enculturation process in order to enjoy its smell and taste and although I am an avid fan of durian, I find tempoyak much harder to appreciate. But I have friends who swear by its virtues. And for those who love tempoyak, here is your opportunity to eat to your heart’s content in a conducive environment too, if you break fast at the Dome.

For dessert, don’t forget their Tapai Pulut, fermented rice pudding served with ice cream.

Dome Restaurant in Meru Valley Resort

What I have reviewed here for my dear readers are just some of the Malay Kampung temptations on the buffet spread at the Dome. There will be three rotating menus with a set carving station featuring roasted Australian beef, chicken and Dorper lamb leg and Chicken Satay every night as well as a Cold Japanese station featuring Salmon and Tuna Sashimi, mussels on the half shell, Tiger prawns and assorted Sushi and Maki. The Noodle Stall will be alternating their offerings between Asam Laksa, Mee Rebus and Prawn Mee and the Dessert spread will have a revolving series of delectable delights to tempt your taste buds.

 
Citarasa Nusantara will be available at the Dome Restaurant from June 5 to 22.
Call 05 529 3358 for reservations.
Non members are welcome.
Pork Free.