SeeFoon experiences an explosion of taste at Volcano

When you win 2 golds, 4 silvers and 13 bronzes at the Battle of the Chefs competition in Penang, that definitely gives you bragging rights and Chef Chai with his team of student chefs certainly did us proud when he threw a dinner party for more than 40 guests at his Volcano restaurant recently to celebrate his win.  

A very modest man and a self-taught chef who searches incessantly around the world for new ideas, new trends and new techniques, Chef Chai also used the occasion to introduce my new book, The Foodie’s Guide to Ipoh’s Best Eats 2, to the diners, who rapidly bought up the whole stock that I brought to the dinner. 

Chef Chai is also one of only three chefs in Malaysia who age their beef; in some cases even up to an unbelievable 300 days! With his own special ageing refrigerator, ageing beef is a process that takes meticulous care. Chai checks his beef every day for signs of mould, or spoilage. Dry ageing does for red meat what cave ageing does for cheese or cellaring for Bordeaux – improves the taste greatly with time. There are myriad chemical reactions that happen while dry ageing, but at the simplest, a lot of the water in the beef evaporates yet the remaining meat still has all of the original flavour, which is then more concentrated in every bite. At the same time, the connective tissues begin to break down, making the beef more tender, but again, without any loss of flavour. 

Meat aged between 30 and 45 days develop more complex cheese-like flavours. Some even like the ultra-funky flavours that develop in 45- to 60-day-old meat and older. It is all a matter of individual taste.  

For me, beef aged 28 days is perfect for my palate and that is precisely what was served at that celebratory dinner.

We began with a delicate Crab Chowder with tortellini, in a robust broth with hints of saffron, dill and mixed herbs. This was followed by a smoked salmon canape topped with Ikura (salmon roe) on a delicious crispy pancake. 

Next on the menu was an interesting juxtaposition of red and white meat with duck and chicken; the duck breast, still pink in the centre, topped with a chocolate wine sauce, next to a ballotine of chicken breast stuffed with a mushroom farce, the contrasting tastes and textures providing a culinary palette for our palates. 

Next was the piece de resistance of the evening the Wagyu Beef double A6 with a marbling of 7-8, Dry Aged for 28 days, served with whisky mustard and anchovy pickles. The reason why this is so expensive (RM550 for Wagyu; Angus Ribeye RM330 – both servings enough for two) is that the wastage factor is so high. Out of a 5kg piece of 28-day aged beef, about 1.5kg is cut off and thrown away! 

The one we had that evening was served medium rare and unlike regular wagyu, had the extra touch of smokiness and mild funkiness, an explosion of flavour like a love fest in the mouth. 

We finished the meal with a Dark Chocolate Mousse on layered sponge, with chocolate tendrils and fruit jelly, just enough sweetness to round off a magnificent meal. 

Chef Siew who is a baker and partner of Chef Chai made all the delectable choice of breads that evening. They plan to open five more bakery shops in Ipoh. 

We shall look forward to tasting more of their breads. 


Volcano Grill Cafe
31 Jalan Ampang Baru 6b,
Kampung Ampang Baru, 31350 Ipoh.
Opens 6pm
Reservations: whatsapp
Phone: 011 3140 4800
GPS: 4°35’05.1”N 101°07’33.0”E 

SeeFoon is Torn between East and West

The dilemma is, very often, if the place serves oriental food and is halal, their western food leaves much to be desired. It is difficult to do both east and west with quality. 

However, help is at hand for I have discovered a restaurant in Meru Raya which satisfies all of the above. Plus the chef has had 15 years of experience in the west. 

Meet Chef Am, head chef and co-founder of Cottage 75. Chef Am who has spent 15 years working in Ireland, is from Selama Perak and together with a partner, opened Cottage 75, in Meru Raya, serving good wholesome dishes both western and oriental at prices that won’t break the bank. 

So for example, if you go with the whole family or a group of six for a meal, they have a special on their menu which is great on taste and satisfaction. For RM120, you get soup, 2 sets fish and chips; 2 sets chicken chop; 2 sets lamb chop and 1 steak set. Included also are onion rings, potato wedges, garlic bread, side salad, a jug of soft drink and dessert of the day. Now if that isn’t value for money, I don’t know what is. Certainly beats KFC and McDonald’s hands down. And this is not fast food. You are served at your table with proper cutlery and napkins. And the dishes come artistically plated too. 

We had their Warm Duck Breast Salad, RM15, and went on to sample a variety of their mains. The one issue I had with all their pasta dishes was that the pasta was too soft and not al dente (springy to the bite) as I and all Italians like it. I have often found this to be so in a lot of the cafes and restaurants I have patronised here in Ipoh. When asked if I could have my pasta al dente, I usually get the answer of “sorry but pasta is cooked ahead of time”.  

But it is how most Ipohites like their pasta. Some places where they serve pasta al dente, there are often complaints that the pasta is not cooked properly! So I reckon it’s a question of pleasing the majority and when someone with a picky palate like me comes along, that’s too bad.  

So back to the pasta which is aplenty on the menu. Other than the pasta being too soft, the taste of the various sauces was good. The salmon on pasta was well done, the salmon still slightly pink on the inside. The Butter Prawn Cream Spaghetti was smooth and velvety and a very filling dish indeed; RM19; while the Seafood Aglio Olio was chock full of green NZ mussels, large prawns and squid rings, again a very generous portion; RM17.50. 

Moving onto the oriental dishes, there is a wide variety of rice and noodle dishes. The Cottage Special Fried Rice was interestingly spiced, served with an omelette, Ayam Goreng Kunyit (fried turmeric chicken), keropok (prawn crackers), sambal and served with a spicy soup; RM18. And if this is too pricey, then the Nasi Goreng Kampungku fried with ikan bilis, vegetables, a fried egg on top and served with sambal belacan gives more value at RM7. 

The Lamb Shoulder Chops Atok Kambing Bakar came with a Soup Kambing, redolent of herbs and spices. ‘Atok’ which stands for grandfather implies that is an old traditional recipe; RM25. 

Finally the Chef Special Mee Rebus Tulang, a meal in itself, had a creamy soup base made from sweet potato and prawns, spicy, with chunks of lamb leg bone-in and served with boiled egg, potato cubes topped with chillies on a bed of yellow noodles was yummilicious; RM10. 


Cottage 75 (Halal)
76 Jalan Meru Impian A1
Pusat Perniagaan Meru Impian, 30020 Ipoh.
Chef Am: 011 2635 8305
Business hours: 5.30pm-12am; 5pm on weekends
Closed: Monday