Pictures by Gisele Soo
The Happy 8 Cafe and Restaurant
SeeFoon is feeling Happy and Healthy at Happy 8
When you are a Food Scientist and a lecturer on Food Science at UTAR you have an ingrained fascination with food in all its aspects, health, taste, appearance, and in the case of Chung Kok Heung, actually being in the kitchen to do the cooking. Many lecturers preach but not practise, but Kok Heung loves doing both. Additionally he wears another hat as a consultant to entrepreneurs setting up or running restaurants.
Currently helming the kitchen at the Cafe at the Happy 8 Hotel, that beautifully quaint and whimsical boutique hotel on Market Street and brainchild of owner Tan Kai Lek, Kok Heung gives vent to his creative culinary skills and produces small gems of daily specials that not only look good and taste good but are healthy as well.
I went to the Happy 8 Cafe when they first opened where for the first time I tasted and fell in love with their ice-drip coffee, introduced by the lovely Jessica, Kai Lek’s wife who sources all the coffee beans from Taiwan (still does). Their coffee menu is extensive and all the concoctions are robust and fragrant.
We began with their Signature Steam Grilled Salmon, served with pasta and umeiji mushrooms, and interesting garnitures of mixed salad, homemade kimchi and pickled pumpkin, RM36.
The garnitures are the same for all the main courses and worthy of mention. The homemade kimchi was not as tart as the store-bought variety and the pickled pumpkin slices were a yummy novelty. I thought they were pickled papaya at first which is quite commonly available but pickled pumpkin was a new taste treat, crunchy, slightly sweet and sour and went well with the salmon sitting on a bed of grilled young sweet corn. As did the very refreshing salad with sesame dressing.
Another plate with Curry / Infused Kampung Chicken came with 3 types of rice, self hulled brown rice, purple mixed with black rice and regular white rice (all natural colouring), topped with cashew, sultana, black beans and pistachio and black sesame seeds. All in a colourful palette of colours and taste sensations. The Kampung Chicken was tender, mildly spiced and flavorful, RM22.
The Dancing Kampung Chicken was a soya braised, topped with bonito flakes and served with the same set of accompaniments, RM24.
The last dish was the Beautifying Mushrooms with Cherry Tomatoes: yellow and red cherry tomatoes, with umeji, shimeji and button mushroom. Deliciously umami and healthy to boot with all the healthy colours of the rainbow on one plate, RM18.
A complimentary soup of the day is served with every main course order.
Kok Heung was keen to share that he uses only Himalayan pink salt for his dishes as it contains minerals accumulated from millions of years in salt caves versus the usual store bought table salt. Also no MSG is ever used in his cooking and all dishes can be appreciated for their natural umami mouth feel.
Drinks are aplenty in the Happy 8 Cafe and the choices are all on display on the blackboard.
The Rich chocolate (RM16) and Avocado special (RM18) were particularly yummy; the Aloe Sparkling extra refreshing (RM18) and I had their Vietnamese Coffee which was divine (RM17).
For dessert we had their Earl Grey Burnt Cheesecake which was smooth, caramelly and satisfying, RM17/slice.
Finally some nutrition advice from our Food Scientist Kok Heung. “For a balanced diet, try to eat foods from all colours of the rainbow and reduce consumption of red meats and fats especially if you have diabetes or hypertension. Follow a plant based diet instead.”
So if you are in Old Town and want to eat healthy, visit the Happy 8 Cafe. You won’t be disappointed.
The Happy 8 Cafe is pork-free.
46, Jalan Market, 30000 Ipoh, Negeri Perak
Entrance is located at Third Concubine Lane (Lorong Pasar)
11-10pm, Closed on Mondays
Last orders for takeaways are 30 minutes before closing
Check out The Foodie’s Guide to Ipoh’s Best Eats 2 for more Ipoh eats recommended by SeeFoon, available for purchase at a special discounted price now! Message us on Facebook for inquiries and orders!