The Palace Steamboat in Soho

At the Palace Steamboat, which opened on December 31, 2019, this was the scene as a group of us sat down for a pre-pre Chinese New Year feast

SeeFoon Gets Steamed Up Again; This Time in Soho

I love SteamBoat or Hotpot. Sitting at the table and watching the slow bubbles making its way o the surface, your pot slowly coming to the boil and everyone is sitting patiently, poised to dunk in their choice of delectables. Then the fun begins.

As ladles, scoops and chopsticks enter the pot with loud hollers of, “who’s got my meatball”, or “my slice of lamb has disappeared”, the steam opening up all the pores on one’s face, (so don’t wear makeup ladies!) and serious eating ensues.

Interior of restaurant

At the Palace Steamboat, which opened on December 31, 2019, this was the scene as a group of us sat down for a pre-pre Chinese New Year feast recently. Situated on top of Lanna Thai and accessible by lift, this bright and spacious restaurant has ample seating with table spaced comfortably apart. Each table comes equipped with its own built-in stove and 3 private rooms seating up to 10 each, provide privacy.

To whet our appetites we ordered two of their casserole rice dishes which arrived piping hot and wafting steam as we raised the lid. Of the two, my preference was for the Chicken Rice, cooked with marinated free-range chicken, dried red jujubes, goji berries and topped with scallions, hints of Chinese wine permeating the whole pot. I couldn’t get enough of this! And I am not much of a rice fan. The Lap Mei Fan is no competition to the intense Chicken Rice.

Meanwhile, all the raw ingredients for the steamboat were being laid out on the table, paper-thin slices of Sakura pork belly which absolutely melt in your mouth (RM10); very tender slices of Australian lamb (RM20) and beef (RM22); homemade fish ball (RM10); homemade tofu (RM5) and crispy tofu rolls (RM14).

Homemade Noodles

I highly recommend their homemade meatballs which were umami and tantalisingly taste worthy, RM16. As is their handmade noodles, long rolls of wheat noodles made broader than most (almost 3cm) and when cooked still had that tooth resilience which is for me, the measure of a great noodle, RM8.

Vegetables range between RM5 and RM6 with a few like the Chinese yam and crystalline ice plant going at (RM8). We had tong hou or chrysanthemum greens, choi sum, lettuce, lotus pod; enoki mushrooms and two very health-giving dried fungi which I was delighted to find on the menu.

We’ll begin with Tricholoma Matsutake, Japan’s answer to truffles. Once available only to the well-heeled, the Pine Mushrooms are highly sought after and in Japan fresh ones can cost up to US1000 per kilo. I was thrilled to find this on the menu here, albeit the dried form and from where else? China of course.

Tricholoma Matsutake

Nevertheless, these mushrooms have a sensory adventure in them, spicy and fruity taste with a hint of sweet cinnamon. And lends the broth an earthy intense aroma, adding yet another layer to the already complex soup base. They are touted to be a natural anti-cancer remedy, that doesn’t have unwanted side effects as well as having antioxidant/free-radical scavenging activity/anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to being chock full of vitamins and minerals, RM28.

The other fungus we had was the Cordyceps flower, a type of parasitic fungus with its medicinal value similar to that of the much more expensive Cordyceps Sinensis It is thought to provide an array of therapeutic benefits such as protecting the lungs, nourish the kidney, increase blood production, anti-depressant, anti-ageing and has anti-bacterial properties. It is also known medicinally to be a strong anticancer and anti-asthmatic agent. Tastes a bit like enoki mushrooms but with more bite, RM28.

Cordyceps Flower

Now that I have introduced the two health-giving fungi, I must go back to the beginning: to the broth. This is the first thing to order as there is a choice to be made. We chose the pork tripe stewed free-range chicken broth (RM58 – S, RM88 – L) which was robust and umami to begin with. After the addition of all the other ingredients described above, the resulting broth was ambrosial, each sip a drop of nectar.

During this over-indulgent festive Chinese New Year season, this will be a healthier option for me. In fact, just order up a small broth, add some fungus, vegetables and some homemade noodles and share that with a couple of friends and voila, good food and good health. What more can one ask for?

PALACE STEAMBOAT
Block E, 2-6, Soho Ipoh 2
Jalan Sultan Idris Shah, 30000 Ipoh.

019 573 3198 or 05 210 9198

Business hours:
Open 24/7
11.30am-3pm; 5.30pm-10pm.

 

Lodge 163 Cafe

SeeFoon drops in on Lodge 163. The facade jumps out at you as you drive down Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah or Hugh Low St. as locals still call it.

SeeFoon drops in on Lodge 163

Lodge 163 Cafe

The facade jumps out at you as you drive down Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah or Hugh Low St. as locals still call it. The signboard is hand-painted in a whimsical retro style, with a tinge of shabby chic and the big number 163 jumps out at you in a mauve red.

163 is as its signboard says, both a lodge and a cafe. The lodge upstairs has 10 rooms with one accommodating up to four and another five persons in one room. Very reasonably priced from RM80 for double, a group of friends or family can easily split the costs which works out to an average of RM40 per pax. All rooms have their own attached bathroom and are air-conditioned. This makes it perfect for backpackers and students and travellers looking for good clean, comfortable accommodation and it’s right in the heart of Ipoh town.

A 5-person room

The cafe downstairs is pleasantly decorated again with whimsical touches and booths and open tables make up the seating area. The cafe opens at 8am where the lodgers can have breakfast and throughout the day the cafe serves very interesting dishes all home prepared by proprietor Mdm Shirley Chong.

Whimsical wall adornment

This is not your usual “Tai Chau” restaurant but a very comfortable cafe serving individual portions of various noodles and dishes, mostly meant for one. But as is the usual habit with me, I was there with my troupe and we ordered up a storm and tried many items on their menu.

Lodge and Cafe163 is a whole family effort with father Stanley Tham (a Feng Shui Master) presiding, mother Shirley Chong in the kitchen curating the dishes aided by a chef de cuisine; brother Tham Kuen Wei who is also a Feng Shui Master and two sisters Elizabeth and Evaynne Tham. Together and with mum Shirley as the creative chef behind the dishes, the team serves up an impressive array of dishes, with one of the largest selection of vegetarian and vegan selections I have seen, mixed in with meat dishes. So it’s a haven for groups with different dietary habits to enjoy a meal together, without one group having to accommodate the other.

The best thing on the menu is the promise of NO MSG and add clean toilets and air-conditioned comfort to boot and Lodge 163 cafe has a fan in me.

I am not much of a veggie fan but I enjoyed their vegetarian Bibimbap, the famous Korean Rice speciality which you mix yourself at the table, RM8.50; and their Malat Spicy Noodles, a borrowing from Sichuan cuisine using the Sichuan pepper sauce which is mixed into the noodles to give a slightly tongue-numbing peppery impact, RM9.50. An interesting veggie snack dish is their crispy sweet potato rolls, RM8.

Malat Spicy Noodles @ Lodge 163 Cafe
Malat Spicy Noodles
Black Vinegar Pig’s Trotters

Naturally, the carnivore that I am immediately gravitated to the meat dishes, the excellent Black Vinegar Pig’s Trotters or Tsu Geok Tsou which was seasoned perfectly with the right blend of vinegar to soya to sugar ratio, the trotters braised to a tender but chewy texture and the sauce, a touch of ambrosia, RM12.

 

Crispy Pork Lard Rice

Crispy Pork Lard Rice with fried ikan bilis was heavenly given that I love crispy pork lard done any which way, RM8.50; as was the Rice with Curry Mutton and fried crispy bean curd, RM13.50.

 

We also tried the Giant Curry Noodles and Beehoon (you can have both or singly), a heaping bowl with roast pork, fried and boiled fish balls, pork balls, fried wonton, char siew, fried bean curd and pigskin complete with yummy curry sauce and vegetables. Unless you have a humongous appetite, this one dish which I will recommend that you share amongst four if you have a normal appetite, RM25.

Tom Yam Noodles

Finally (there are many many more items on the menu), which I cannot possibly write about given my space limitations, I can recommend the Tom Yam Noodles which come with fish paste, tao fu pok, fu pei, roast pork, egg and large prawns: tangy and mildly spicy but can be made more so with the addition of the thick chilli paste which they give you, RM13.50.

Lodge 163 Cafe is a great place to pop in for a snack, meal or even just a drink, with my favourite being the blue-pea-flower tea which you can have with lime and sugar. And did I mention that they have a high tea which is served all day? The traditional fancy three-tier high tea tray chock full of a mixture of sweet and savouries and served with your choice of English tea on fine China.

Hi-Tea Set

LODGE 163 CAFE

No. 163, Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah, 30000 Ipoh.

Tel: 05 253 1888 (Lodging) (Food & Cafe Ordering) 016 5434 262/016 5477 510

Open daily except Wednesdays (8am to 4pm)