Labu Sayong: SeeFoon Discovers Quintessential Malay Cuisine

I have often lamented the dearth of good Malay restaurants especially in Ipoh and with a very few exceptions, most of the Malay food I have sampled here in restaurants have been middling to downright poor. The few good ones will certainly be in my upcoming book, the second edition of the Foodie’s Guide to Best Eats in Ipoh.

During Ramadan, the food scene changes when many housewives come out to sell their home-cooked specialities at the Ramadan bazaars and this is when the rest of us can go on discovery saunters through the various bazaars picking out various delectables that are otherwise not available commercially.

But fear not intrepid foodies, for, top-notch Malay food has arrived on our doorstep in Ipoh in the Traditional Malay House Rumah Kutai where restaurant LABU SAYONG has been serving superlative Malay cuisine since its opening in August last year.

Here 60% of the menu items are traditional recipes from Perak state and the rest from other parts of Malaysia. These classical dishes have been languishing in the backwaters, having been eclipsed by the more readily available and less appealing ones that are ubiquitous everywhere.

A smart move by the Perak State Development Corporation in building this traditional Malay house and setting up an exquisite restaurant with the menu in the capable hands of Corporate Chef, Hospitality and Tourism, Nazrie Bin Shaaban.We sat down to a spectacular meal hosted by Ahmad Bin Mohamed Salleh, Operations manager and Mahathir Mohammed, Marketing Manager. And all prepared by Chef Amran who interprets all the recipes with his skilled touch.

From the decor, ambiance and the service coupled with the menu items, I can certainly predict that Labu Sayong will become the GO TO place for any visitor to Perak wishing to sample superlative Malay food.

Labu Sayong, named for the famous water calabash from Kuala Kangsar whose burnt-black colour and unique gourd-shape give it the ability to cool its contents quickly and some believe that water stored in such a manner is palliative against many illnesses and disorders; seats 68 people.

The downstairs area is fan cooled with ample seating and on the night we went, a magnificent spread was beckoning from the buffet table set up for buka puasa and by sheer serendipity some of my non-Muslim friends were also there, with one of them saying that this was his sixth time at the restaurant and will continue to come back! Upstairs was air conditioned and elegantly furnished serving as the perfect backdrop for fine dining.

Our first dish was the Ayam Kaduk Kerabu Limau Bali, steamed minced chicken rolled up and stuffed with dessicated coconut, cumin, turmeric, and served on bed of pomelo salad with bunga kantan or ginger flower, pegaga leaves, blue butterfly pea petals, the fragrance of the various herbs and spices blending into a heady aroma; RM13.

Next we had Tenggiri Kepai Pandan Udang Kertas, a fish mousse accompanied by crispy deep fried prawns and topped with a black seafood sauce; RM15. Then followed one of their signature dishes, the Ikan Purba Kuala Sayong, a 700g sea bass stuffed with 27 local ingredients and deep fried, accompanied with chili ginger sauce; RM60.

Rusuk Kambing or lamb rib braised with Tongkat Ali (alleged to have aphrodisiac properties) was tender with a smooth blending of spices; RM22, followed by the Beef Curry Gulai Kawah which is beef curry with banana stem, a local favourite popular at weddings. This was mild and the spices well merged with the banana stem lending a special exotic touch to the dish. Alas this was from the buffet table and not on the à la carte menu.

We then had the Rendang Daging Sayong, a beautifully tender beef rendang that was more creamy than the usual Perakean Rendang Tok and far less sweet, which suited my palate perfectly; RM25. Next came the Kari Ayam Limau Purut Sungkai, using limau purut (kaffir lime) juice and leaf to marinate with all the rest of the ingredients which were freshly ground and then cooked with red chillies; RM20.

The Ikan Perkasam Coli Bawang, a special salted fish deep fried with onions and chillies and served as a side dish, went marvellously well with the curried dishes; RM13.

For dessert we had the Wadai Kiping Gula Kabung, flour dumplings with palm sugar served with coconut milk RM10 and Sira Pisang Berangan Buah Kabung, chilled bananas with attap seeds (from the Nipah palm); RM10.

Labu Sayong Signature Restaurant
5 Jalan Meru Bestari A14, 31200 Ipoh.
Tel: 05 237 5237
Set lunch: 11.30am-2.30pm; Malay afternoon tea: 2.30pm-6pm; Dinner: 6pm-10pm.
Open 24/7; closed only 5 days a year.
Ask for their barbecued tenderloin too.
They also have a Cafe at Silveritage.

SeeFoon gets starry eyed at Star Mansion

There are so many old mansions dotted around Ipoh that would really make lovely restaurants (case in point is Indulgence, Secret Garden and STG) and the latest addition to the restaurant scene in Ipoh is no different.

I have noticed that people in Ipoh particularly the young and trendy choose restaurants more for their ambience and unusual food and drinks menus than oldies like myself who dine out strictly for the food with ambience playing a secondary role.

Star Mansion IpohStar Mansion has certainly got what it takes to satisfy those looking for glitz while still appeasing picky taste buds like mine.

Tucked in a quiet corner of Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil directly opposite the Chinese temple and next to Sculpt Fitness, Star Mansion certainly lives up to its name with lit stars in all colours of the rainbow adorning every nook and cranny of this very spacious mansion. It is also the ideal venue for celebrations with multi-hued flowers, balloons adorning the space and if you book the whole restaurant, your imagination is all that’s required to create the function of your dreams.

Star Mansion Ipoh

Located in Greentown, Ipoh, Star Mansion Cafe Restaurant doubles as a restaurant and an event space. The multi-cuisine restaurant tantalises taste buds with a spread of Western, local, Thai, and dim sum dishes. Patrons in need of private dining spaces can opt to feast at any one of the private rooms, or even book the entire mansion for celebratory events and corporate functions.

Star Mansion Ipoh

Star Mansion takes pride in their teas, some simple like the Lanhua Xiang RM8 which promises no additives, or the Oolong Tie Guan Yin RM6 which has slimming properties, to the spectacular Fancy Corbeil Blooming Flower tea (see pic above right) which starts as a dried up leaf ball, suddenly blossoming into this magnificent art in a glass after a few minutes. The bonus to this flower is the fact that it still tastes good to the 10th re-steeping!! Although who would drink that much tea in one sitting is beyond me! RM12.80 per bloom/pot.

And the tea list goes on and on, not to mention the shakes, juices, mocktails, and cocktails.

Now to the food. The choice of various platters is dizzying. From the Japanese Star Platter (8 items) RM88, the Western Star platter of pizza, jumbo sausage, chicken wings and nuggets (7 items) RM68; to the Star of the Stars, the Lobster Star platter consisting of a whole lobster, squid, prawns, sausage accompanied by french fries, meehoon, mixed vegetables and topped with sunny-side eggs. At RM230 nett, it is pricey but considering it’s a whole lobster and the platter will serve from 4 to 6 people, it’s a dish to impress your family or your guests. Aside from the aforementioned three platters, Star Mansion also offers a chicken platter and a French Crab Platter. In fact all the platters on offer will serve 4-6 people.

Lunch menus offer a choice of main course ranging from lamb and beef steaks, chicken chop, a selection of pastas like salmon and lamb pasta, all coming with a free drink. Price ranges from RM16.90 for chicken to RM29.90 for beef steaks and RM26.90 for lamb steaks.

Signature dishes which I sampled included a Pan Seared Foie Gras topped with bonito flakes, served with mashed potatoes and red cabbage. This was an interesting fusion of Japanese touches to what is essentially a French dish, the bonito flakes lending its umami nuance to the fragrant foie gras; RM88.80.

5 Star Seafood Premium Nasi Lemak is a deluxe version of our most beloved national dish with five types of rice: kunyit (turmeric), blue butterfly pea,coconut, pandan and tomato served with a sweet prawn sambal, fried anchovies and peanuts for crunch and two sticks tender chicken satays; RM24.90.

Star Mansion Ipoh

Their chicken satay is a wonderful starter, five sticks of very tender and still juicy well marinated chicken breasts and served with a well-blended satay sauce that had just the right balance of spiciness, sweetness, and thickness; RM12.90.

By the time the Unagi rice arrived in a claypot, we were all satiated, or more accurately, stuffed to the gills. At RM49.90, the Unagi rice is more than sufficient for two if not three persons.

For dessert, again there is a wide choice and as I only could taste a few, I recommend the excellent carrot cake, banana smoothie and tiramisu. And their homemade chocolates fascinating with different flavours including Matcha.

Star Mansion Ipoh

Star Mansion Ipoh

I spoke to the proprietor Ms Cristy Tan Lai Yee, on her choice of the name for the restaurant; she said, “Stars symbolise hope, joy and fun. I wish to make Star Mansion a fun joyous mansion for all my customers.” And stars there are galore.

So here is wishing all my readers a wonderful stargazing time for Ramadan and the coming Aidilfitri. The restaurant is pork free and great for buka puasa.

Star Mansion Ipoh

Star Mansion Cafe Restaurant (Pork Free)
161 Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil, Greentown, 30450 Ipoh.
4°35’56.8”N 101°06’01.4”E
Tel:  018 358 1168
Opening hours: 11.30am-10.30pm (every day)