SeeFoon explores Chinese New Year options – Classic Dining, Sato Kitchen, Moonlight Treasure

“The whole family is home, the relatives are all here and OMG what am I going to cook for the festivities?” is a typical lament that all my Chinese friends wail as they wring their hands and fret over the coming 15 days of this very auspicious period in the Chinese calendar.

As for me, as I ease myself into the TLC of my dear friend Susie in either Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket, I am not deserting my dear Chinese friends in Ipoh but rather I have done my research in advance and here in today’s Musings column are suggestions to ease your burden, either take the family out or order home.

These are neither your enduring restaurants as detailed in the cover article but all “new kids on the block”. Restaurants that strive to provide some fusion, some home cooking and some special recipes that Mom used to make.

CLASSIC DINING

You cannot miss it if you drive along Fair Park Road especially at night. Living up to its name, the facade is very classically Chinese with eye-catching lanterns hanging from the tile awning making a bold statement for all to see, literally proclaiming, “Welcome, Come in, Check Us Out”. And check them out we did on a few occasions as their menu is so diverse and extensive that it was impossible to taste all their dishes.

The interior looks like a set from a Kung Fu movie, with classical Chinese motifs adorning the walls including a bank of Chinese wine urns and bronze serving and drinking goblets.  Upstairs where one can host small dinners is equally elaborate with more lanterns to transport oneself into that fairytale land of the old-fashioned teahouse.

Classic Dining Ipoh

The menu is equally gargantuan, with everything from Tong Po Yoke (braised fatty pork served with steamed mantou); Wu Tao Kow Yoke, belly pork braised with taro to wonderful tsong or dumplings, to yummilicious Kampong Chicken from Sungkai braised in yellow Chinese wine.

The menu is too extensive to list here but if readers would like to see more, please go online to http://www.ipohecho.com.my/v4/ to view the whole range of their dishes. In fact, if you don’t want to cook at all this coming festive season, just pick up the phone and order up a storm including their pièce de résistance this Chinese New year – their Poon Choy or their ‘all the goodies you wish to eat” as I call it, in one big tureen. This is a dish that will feed 10 (or more) and eaten layer by layer. Beginning from the top, you start with the large ‘Meng’ prawns and the abalone, the velvety black mushrooms, moving downwards till you get to the more saucy bits. This Poon Choy at Classic Dining comes as a set with their excellent glutinous rice tureen and a ‘tong sui’ or sweet soup, the classic Chinese dessert. RM688 for the whole set.

Classic Dining IpohClassic Dining Ipoh

Classic Dining Ipoh
 
CLASSIC DINING
2-15 Jalan Kamaruddin Isa, Fair Park, 31400 Ipoh.
GPS:  4°36’22.2″N 101°05’38.2″E
Tel:  05 543 0153 or 018 273 0188
Business hours:  11.30am-4pm; 6pm-10pm daily.

 

SATO KITCHEN

Sato Kitchen Ipoh

For a change of pace over the festive season and if you’re getting a surfeit of ‘Lo Sang” and Chinese food, check out Sato Kitchen, a modest Japanese restaurant that dishes out unusual fusion dishes.

Like French Foie Gras with Smoked Duck Breast served with mashed potatoes drizzled with truffle oil and salad – RM49.90. Another version is Foie Gras and Tai Kabayaki with an Asian Vinegar sauce – RM38. I found intriguing their Sato Pizza, listed on the menu as a crispy tortilla skin topped with fresh tuna and salmon, cherry tomatoes and a special sauce and made myself a promise to order it the next time – RM28.

Sato Kitchen Ipoh

I love fish head, any kind and when grilled Japanese style, I will always order it. Here we had the grilled Salmon Head Shioyaki with a smidgen of teriyaki topping which I told them to hold as I usually don’t like the sweetness of teriyaki sauce. Well grilled, the salmon head was meaty and fresh tasting.

Sato Kitchen Ipoh

Next we had the Sapporo Sushi Roll,  filled with white tuna, avocado, spicy crab meat, salmon and tuna with ebiko and crispy bits lending texture. Beginning at RM25 per roll, there is a whole selection with slightly higher prices depending on the filling. Or you can throw caution to the wind for Chinese New Year and order their Sultan Roll consisting of shrimp tempura, avocado and cucumber inside and topped with whole unagi, foie gras and (wait for it) gold flakes! Now doesn’t that sound like a dish befitting royalty? RM88.

Sato Kitchen Ipoh

Sato Kitchen Ipoh

The menu at Sato Kitchen is extensive with the full complement of sushi and sashimi platters ranging in price according to taste and choice. Their mains range from NZ Rib Eye Steaks RM49.90 to Australian baby Lamb Chops RM29.90 to salmon to chicken. We had a lovely roast chicken topped with a creamy salted egg sauce redolent with the fragrance of curry leaves. From RM18.90.

Sato Kitchen Ipoh

Giant tiger prawns and Kuruma prawns as well as seasonal crabs can be ordered in advance. Bento boxes are also available for takeaway. And everything is pork free.

So this Chinese New Year, pick up the phone and order up a storm of the freshest sushi, sashimi and bento boxes and wow your friends and family.

Sato Kitchen Ipoh

SATO KITCHEN
22-22A Jalan Medan Ipoh 4, Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh, Ipoh.
Tel:  05 545 0085
GPS:  4° 37’ 3.4716’’N 101° 7’ 11.2188’’E
Business hours:  12pm-3pm; 6pm-10pm (Mon-Fri), 12-10pm (Sat and Sun). Tue off.

 

Another restaurant to check out over the festive season which I can vouch for and due to space constraints I am unable to write a full review is the following:

MOONLIGHT TREASURE

This restaurant deserves a full review and as its name implies, a real treasure trove of unusual dishes. Check out their homemade bean curd ‘Futput’ deep fried and topped with your choice of meat, squid, prawns or whatever topping suits your fancy. Or the Chef’s homemade special of marinated, pickled kembong fish cooked with DaoSi. Delicious and special.

[Watch this space for full review in the next issue.]

MOONLIGHT TREASURE
105-107 Jalan Chung Ah Ming, 31650 Ipoh.
GPS:  4°34’51.5″N 101°04’57.8″E
Tel:  05 242 2666 or 016 526 1517
Business hours:  11am-2.30pm; 5.30pm-10.30pm daily.

Enduring Restaurants in Ipoh

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
Pics by Vivien Lian & Luqman Hakim

Ipoh is beginning to edge out Penang as the food capital of Malaysia. However, with Cafes and restaurants popping up all over Ipoh, it is difficult to keep track of the comings and goings of what has opened and where. And most importantly, what type and how good is the quality of food.

I arrived in Ipoh 22 years ago, having spent most of my working life in the hotel and F&B industry and dining around the world in some of the best and (worst) places. Food has always been dear to my heart and the first irresistible item I fell in love with, here in Ipoh, were the Udang Galah or Tualang prawns – in those days at least six inches long with a huge head to boot. And the best place to have them was in Mun Choong restaurant in Pasir Puteh.

Which led to me to thinking about Ipoh’s ‘Enduring Restaurants’, those restaurants that have stood the test of time, survived the fickle palates of their clients and continue to produce quality food. In this issue, I shall highlight some of these enduring restaurants, their special signature dishes and explore the reasons for their enduring success.

 

Quality of food above all ranks highest in ongoing success of any restaurant

The Big 3: Food Quality, Service and Perceived Value

While ambiance is a nice-to-have, many a restaurant have opened and closed despite heaps of money spent on decor and conversions.

The fine balance between the Big 3 of food quality, service and perceived value is a subtle one. While some may save up for years for that once in a lifetime taste of a Michelin-star meal, others may splurge occasionally for special occasions and celebrations. And then there is that vast majority who seek out quality meals at reasonable prices, especially in these days of rising food costs.

And here is where that magic Big 3 balance plays a big role.

Poor Service

The food may be superb but if the service is surly and sloppy, it’s guaranteed to turn customers away, even if the ambiance is magnificent.

And the reception is important. I go often to Crab House for meals when entertaining my out-of-town guests because Fanny the front-of-house proprietor is always accommodating and willing to adapt dishes to my and my guests’ palate. For example, one Singaporean friend wanted to eat ‘kah heong choi’ or country-style home cooking. With two hours notice, she managed to produce a steamed minced pork with salted fish (it’s not on their menu) and a few other dishes. That is service and the reason I will always stay loyal to Crab House.

Perceived Value

However, if ambiance and service is superlative but the food itself is middle of the road and the price is high, then the ‘perceived value’ (it is all in the customer’s perception after all) is not going to be favourable.

A customer who is accustomed to paying RM500-600 for a wild-caught steamed fish will not recoil at RM1000 meals, but for someone who eats at the stalls, RM8 for a plate of fried noodles is high. However, if the quality is superlative, then chances are, even the budget diner will acquiesce.

Food Quality

The most enduring restaurants in my estimation maintain consistently good food quality. The operative word is consistency…..not mood- dependent on market (as in food markets) conditions nor the whims and fancies of the chef!

Customers always look for the same taste they had ‘the last time’ and if this is not forthcoming, as in a change of chef, then they are bound to be disappointed. Unless the new chef has some new recipes up his sleeve and service staff introduce these as ‘something new’.

The biggest obstacle for consistency lies in hiring outside chefs who subsist on a salary and have no vested interest in the success of the restaurant. So they come and go like the weather, occasionally stormy, other times, sunny and breezy and worst of all, like when a hurricane blows and the Chef and all his kitchen helpers quit!! That is when the customer suffers!

Survival Strategies

So what do restaurants do to survive and sustain their popularity? In this article I will be detailing some of the best strategies that restaurants in Ipoh have used to keep customers returning to them, whether to impress clients and visitors or simply for a celebratory meal.

MUN CHOONG

Some restaurants rely on their trusted old favourites as in Mun Choong’s Tualang Prawns (can be done two ways: tails pan-fried and heads steamed) and their smoked chicken with garlic rice, beef soup and Patin fish in claypot. And here is where you can have the famous Soon Hock (marble goby) fish steamed, as well as their soya sauce baked crabs. Mun Choong has gone from being a one-level restaurant to a three-storied edifice where banquets and big celebrations can be handled with a capacity of 900.

I suspect that the reason for Mun Choong’s success is that the owner, Choong Fong Keam is a chef himself and even today, when old buddies host dinner, he will personally cook. Sourcing for supplies is also their strong point as they always have good fish, crabs and prawns. Also the service is impeccable and unless you order all expensive dishes, the price is reasonable. Dodo (her nickname) gives excellent service and do offer her a glass of your favourite tipple if you happen to BYO. She loves it.

MUN CHOONG
511-517 Jalan Pasir Puteh, Taman Camay, 31650 Ipoh.
GPS:  4° 34′ 37.902”N 101° 4′ 51.906”E
Tel:  012 529 5155 or 05 321 2815
Business hours:  11.30am-10pm daily

 


SUN LEE HOW FOOK

Sun Lee How Fook is another enduring restaurant (since 1967) that has been winning loyal clients for the past 51 years purely on the quality of their food.

Their suckling pig has been wowing customers for years and those in the know will always opt for this restaurant when Suckling Pig is on the cards. Also their Fatt Tiew Cheong (Monk Jumped Over the Fence – superior broth with abalone, shark’s fin, black mushroom, fish bladder and sea cucumber) or as is the case nowadays when a lot of folks are opting for not eating shark’s fin, their Fatt Sui Yuen, same soup and broth but minus the shark’s fin, is unbeatable.

Again here the balance of the Big 3 makes this one of the enduring restaurants in Ipoh.

SUN LEE HOW FOOK
96 Jalan Kampar, 30250 Ipoh.
GPS:  4°35’04.9″N 101°05’27.6″E
Tel:  05 253 3268, 241 3268 & 254 3551
Business hours:  11.45am-2.30pm & 5.45pm-10.30pm

 


CRAB HOUSE

Although a new kid on the block (since 2012), Crab House, which has been operating now for six years has joined the ranks of enduring restaurants in Ipoh. Fannie and her partner Chef Ah Seng, has worked in some of the top Chinese restaurants in Ipoh and together have produced an equally enduring restaurant that can hold its own against the ‘big boys’.

Small by comparison, Fannie makes up for size in service and Chef Ah Seng in innovation, producing new dishes regularly to satisfy customers’ fickle palates. Their exclusive rights to the total production of some private farm’s white spinach is a case in point, as well as Fannie’s zealous efforts, travelling regularly to Teluk Intan (where she sources the prawns) and Pantai Remis to source for their fresh seafood. Their crabs, most of which are from Indonesia, are some of the best around and cooked in any style to suit your palate.

CRAB HOUSE
32 Laluan Perajurit 1, Taman Ipoh Timur, Ipoh.
GPS:  4° 37′ 1.7472”N 101° 7′ 30.4428”E
Tel: 05 548 3668 or 012 565 7723 (Fanny Chan)
Business hours:  Open 7 days a week, 11am-2.30pm & 5.30pm-11pm

 

CITRUS WINE & DINE

Chef Simon Lee needs no introduction having steadfastly built Citrus into the reputable western fine dining restaurant that it is today.

Opened 13 years ago, it began as a modest one-level restaurant in Ipoh Garden East when the area was still an ‘outback’ and customers were asking, “Why so far Simon?” Today, customers are beating a path to his door and with wife Erica manning the front of the house, Simon (who is a trained chef having worked for international hotel chains) has cooked and won a place in the hearts of many an Ipohite who loves good western food without having to mortgage their homes to pay for meals!!

Along the way Simon has taught himself Molecular cooking and has awed many including myself with his mastery of the techniques.

Here at Citrus, every dish is a treat and depending on what your budget is, there is a dish to suit all palates and pockets. All delicious.

If splurging is in the cards, order their Wagyu Tomahawk steaklobster pasta and finish off with their mixed dessert.

CITRUS WINE AND DINE
38-42 Laluan Ipoh Perdana, Taman Ipoh Perdana, Ipoh.
GPS:  4° 37′ 14.088”N 101° 8′ 6.5292”E
Tel:  05 545 1010 or 012 527 1210 (Erica)
Business hours:  11.30am-3pm & 6.30pm-11pm; closed Mondays

 


PAKEEZA RESTAURANT

When a restaurant has been around for more than 30 years and still garners a faithful following of diners, then you know that it is a restaurant of note. This is Pakeeza, the one North Indian restaurant that has consistently stayed on top of the list in Ipoh for people hankering for North Indian food.

Their secret to success is vigilance over the recipes which are closely guarded secrets of proprietor Rizal’s mother, bearing her imprint. Beautifully plated and presented, the dishes arrive in quick succession served by very courteous and knowledgeable waiters who can happily describe the food as they portion it out.

The pièce de résistance in Pakeeza has to be the Tandoori Chicken, succulent pieces of chicken marinated in their own secret mix of spices and yoghurt, and cooked in the clay oven which has pride of place in their kitchen.

The menu is extensive, with a large selection of breads coming piping hot from the Tandoor. There is also a choice of different styles of rice to go with the various dishes. From plain steamed rice to their Briyani which come plain or with vegetables, chicken, mutton or beef. Must-tries are the boneless Buttered ChickenMutton Kerahi and Prawn Masala.

PAKEEZA RESTAURANT (Halal)
15-17 Jalan Dato Seri Ahmad Said, Ipoh.
GPS:  4° 35.996’N, 101° 5.228’E
Tel:  05 241 4243 & 05 253 0407
Business hours:  11am-3pm & 6pm-10.30pm

 


 

INDULGENCE

Indulgence first opened in a two shop-lot unit opposite the Canning market 22 years ago and moved into its grand heritage premises some years later. As the doyenne of cuisine and fine dining, Julie Song has been instrumental in putting Ipoh on the culinary map with customers beating a path to her door, all the way from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and further afield.

Julie creates fantasy on a plate, sometimes Japanese, occasionally Korean, add Chinese finesse, local ingredients and always, always with a Cordon Bleu touch.

Now a new Bakery Table for lunch has been launched for takeaway as well as for dine in. Tuck into mouth-watering Charcoal Brioche with black sesame, or Beetroot Milk Buns with red bean mochi, and Salted Egg Yolk Cheese Tarts and a host of other mouth-watering temptations.

Together with lunchtime surprise platters, Indulgence is attempting to remove the perception of it being overpriced and hence not giving value. Which will see Indulgence offering all the Big 3 of food quality, service and perceived value.

INDULGENCE RESTAURANT AND LIVING
14 Jalan Raja DiHilir, 30350 Ipoh.
GPS:  4° 35′ 36.636”N 101° 5′ 38.6556”E
Tel:  05 255 7051
Business hours:  10am-10.30pm; Monday & Tuesday closed

Valentine’s Day – SeeFoon Gets in the Mood for Candlelight, Flowers and Romance!

The meaning or significance of Valentine’s day is lost in the mists of history. Today the day is associated with love and romance having lost its Christian origins when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St Valentine’s Day at the end of the 5th century. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance. And romance it is, with flowers, candles, soft lights and music being the focus of the day.

And what more conducive to romance than gourmet dining amidst soft lights with a good bottle of wine and whether you’re proposing or toasting or just fueling the romantic fires, here is a list of the top places to celebrate your evening with the one that you love.

The four venues I am recommending will not only provide the perfect setting and ambiance for your night of love but the food quality will launch you to the moon and the stars.

So on Valentine’s day, for that one night in the year, throw caution to the wind, blow the monthly budget, spend an unforgettable evening whispering sweet nothings, propose, or reaffirm your vows to each other. Here is my choice of venues:

 

Shayo de Vin

Shayo de VinAs a wine bar, Shayo is an unusual place for a romantic dinner for two. Proprietor Alex Ng is a serious chef as I discovered recently, honing his skills operating a restaurant in the UK which he still does flying back and forth. His wife, Mei Ching, manages Chayo together with Nicholas Woo who is the ‘go-to’ person for everything whether it’s to order a case of their select wines or just to book a table for two as on Valentine’s night.

On Valentine’s night I suggest a serious bottle or two of their choice of wines (currently running a promotion of two bottles for the price of one) and a selection from their à la carte menu which includes beautifully marbled (grade 5, 6, 7 or higher) Wagyu steak, lamb chops, grilled Australian Perch fillets grown on their farm without antibiotics or additives; pasta and other items.

Shayo de Vin

For Valentine’s night, give your beloved a real treat by ordering Alex’s abalone, the dried variety, lovingly rehydrated (takes a week!) and together with the dried sea cucumber (special Kwantung Hoisum) which is given the same treatment, braised till tender with an assortment of aromatic ingredients in superior broth and served on a bed of tender pea shoots. This is a surprising Chinese delicacy hardly expected in a Wine Bar but matched with a good red, was delightfully compatible. Do order way in advance for abalone.

Shayo de Vin

Shayo is known for being quite the maverick. It is also the only place that sells Romanee Conti, touted as 10 of the world’s most expensive bottles of wine by UK’s Daily Telegraph.

Shayo De Vin
58 Persiaran Greentown 1, Pusat Perdagangan Greentown, 30450 Ipoh.
Executive Nicholas Woo:  012 588 3248, 016 521 3248
Business hours: 3pm-1am  24/7

 

 

Jeff’s Cellar

Jeff’s Cellar, The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Jeff’s Cellar, The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

If astounding your beloved is in the cards for you on Valentine’s Day then dinner at Jeff’s Cellar at Banjaran Hotsprings Resort is on the menu. Set in a million-year-old cave, the ambiance is magical and spellbinding and if weaving a spell of romance is setting the right mood for you on Valentine’s Day, then make a booking right now for Jeff’s Cellar.

Beginning with an Amuse Bouche (a tiny appetiser to “tempt the mouth”), followed by an appetiser of Osetra Caviar, Pan Seared Scallop, Carrot, Cumin Sand, Crispy Duck Chips and Cress. We then move into the Foie Gras with French Brioche, Caramelized Onions Puree, Grape Juice Reduction and served with homemade Apricot Jam Roll.

A Lobster Bisque with poached Lobster, Pistachio Spheres, Corn Kernels and Lobster Dust follows after which you clean your palate with a Signature Pop Sorbet.

Jeff’s Cellar, The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Jeff’s Cellar, The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Now you’re ready to tuck into either the Cod Fish, stewed in Tomato Consommé served with Saffron Risotto, Scallops, Mussels and Prawns, or Japanese A5 Wagyu Beef Striploin Truffle Mash, Burnt Onion Porcini Mushrooms, Charred Spring Onion and drizzled with Beef Jus.

The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat
No. 1 Persiaran Lagun Sunway 3, Sunway City Ipoh.
Tel: 05 210 7777

 

Garvy’s In The Park

Garvy’s In The Park

  • Garvy’s 5-course Degustation Menu from Chef Yann Raimbaolt who fuses molecular with traditional methods as he creates his dishes.
  • Lobster Roll
  • Bone Marrow and Foie Gras Terrine
  • Choice of Chicken or Fish Panne with Ratatouille Garden
  • Homemade Chocolate marshmallow roasted at your table.
  • White chocolate and Vanilla Mousse with dark chocolate glaze and tangerine sorbet
  • plus one glass Rose wine RM208++
 
Garvy’s In The ParkGarvy’s In The Park
 
Garvy’s In The Park
 
Garvy’s In the Park French Dining
275 Jalan Permaisuri Bainun;
Reservations: 05 255 8082

 

 

Citrus Wine and Dine

The funniest and most amusing item on the menu for Valentine’s Day comes from our stalwart in culinary excellence, Citrus Wine and Dine and the brainchild of Chef Simon Lee.

Citrus Wine and Dine

“Oops! Honey I dropped the Apple Pie”

This is a dessert to reflect the give and take in relationship. Often partners tend to focus on the other’s fault instead of the problem itself. To Chef Simon, he believes that even when your partner makes a mistake, “both should cooperate, communicate and help each other,” says Chef Simon Lee.

And what a beautiful statement for Valentine’s Day, as couples celebrate their love for one another. It’s not only candlelight and roses and romance but the give and take in relationships that will sustain.

For this evening. Chef Simon has created a 4-course menu which is highly affordable.

The menu begins with an appetizer of Smoked Duck with Passion Fruit Vinaigrette Mesculin Mix, Pine Nuts and Radish followed by a Seafood Bisque with sauteed Jumbo Crab meat served with house bread.

Main Course is a choice of 2 Way Lamb, a combination of Grilled Australia Lamb Chop & Lamb Croquette on Leek Ragout or  Grouper Roulade (Fish) served on Bell Pepper Coulis, Crispy Silver Fish and Sauteed Vegetables.

Dessert is the wonderful conversation starter, the “Oops! Honey I dropped the Apple Pie” which Chef Simon hopes will encourage couples to communicate and accept one another’s shortcomings and all – RM129++.

Citrus Wine and Dine
38-42 Laluan Ipoh Perdana, Taman Ipoh Perdana, Ipoh.
Tel: 05 545 1010 or 012 527 1210 (Erica)
Business hours: 11.30am-3pm; 6.30pm-11pm
Closed Mondays

Wishing all my dear readers a Happy Valentine’s Day!