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Posts Tagged ‘Singaporean

Old Town Kopitiam Mamak

with 5 comments

Old Town Kopitiam Mamak
Level 2, Shop 11, QV Square,
QV, Melbourne, 3000

Old Town Kopitiam Mamak on Urbanspoon

I would like to note first of all that I have been to this restaurant on numerous occasions and have therefore had the ability to sample several of the dishes. I will thus give you a breakdown of all of them.

Old Town Kopitiam Mamak is a recently opened extension of the already established and fairly popular Old Town Kopitiam on Little Bourke Street (as far as I know, no connection to the chain in Malaysia by the way, I find it bizarre how people tend to assume that just because a place has the same name… a name that you can clearly see is a fairly ubiquitous concept based on traditional concepts… means that they are the same place). For the uninitiated, the ‘mamak’ concept comes form the Malaysian name for Indian Tamil Muslims that settled in the country (the term is considered to be pejorative as far as I know) and opened restaurants of a particular type selling a particular variety of food. For more detailed information check out the fairly comprehensive wiki article on Mamak stalls but the general gist is that these restaurants are often open 24 hours a day, are very cheap, sell very tasty (but very unhealthy) food and are hubs for everyone, old and young, to come, hang out, chat and order an array of artery-clogging awesomeness.

Now Old Town Kopitiam’s version is not cheap, but it is also not expensive, you pay roughly the same amount for a meal here as you would in most other ethnic eateries. The decor is inspired partly by the mamak stalls themselves (stools, tables outside, uncles/ah peks/old men) with their leg up smoking, etc.) and partly by the old Ipoh white coffee-style coffee shops with the marble, tiles and the old wood (somewhat similar to Hong Kong-style bing sutt but somewhat different also).

The fare is definitely mamak-inspired, and the test here is definitely for authenticity. The menu has a selection of rotis, both sweet and savoury, Malaysian breakfasts (such as half-boiled eggs and kaya toast), Nasi Kandar and mamak-style noodles (mee goreng, etc.)

Of the dishes I have tried here let’s start with the nasi kandar, of which there is a selection of either biryani rice or plain jasmine rice and either two or three dishes from the nasi kandar menu.. I selected the nasi biryani (spiced rice) with ayam goreng (fried chicken) and sambal egg ($9). Of the dishes I sampled, I found this one to be one of the best and most authentic. The rice was spiced well, the sambal could’ve been spicier (as usual) but was good overall, the ayam goreng wasn’t the best in Melbourne but was definitely passable, all together it was a worthwhile dish for 9 bucks.

The second dish I tried here was the savoury roti telur (roti with egg, $4.50) which was, in marked difference to the nasi kandar, a spectacular fail. The roti itself tasted bland, and was served chopped into pieces for some reason (bizarre), there was far from enough egg but the worst part was the curry. It was served with a sambar (a vegetable type curry) and some sort of fishy curry. The sambar was basically brown and water and tasted like nothing, the other curry was basically oil with sugar in it. Horrible.

I’ve also tried the sweet roti bom (roti $5) buttered and served with condensed milk and sugar on the side, ) on two occasions and both times I was satisfied. For starters, the roti was served whole as it damn well should be, the butter gave it the requisite flavour (though nothing like in Malaysia of course) and though there was not enough condensed milk and far too much sugar, the staff were helpful and provided additional condensed milk free of charge upon request.

However, by far my favourite roti at Old Town Kopitiam Mamak would have to be the roti john (minced meat, mayonnaise, sweet chili and egg served in a long toasted bun, $7). This is another legendary dish in Malaysia & Singapore, legends abound as to how it came about. I’ve heard that there was a white customer at some mamak stall named John who requested western bread instead of the roti, the dish stuck and was named after him. Take that with a grain of salt though. Roti John recipes vary in Malaysia & Singapore, some are served with a cold cut, some with minced beef and some with sardines. This particular roti john is one of my favourites and, due to being heavy on the mayonnaise, can feel like a light snack or a meal depending on your stomach.

In addition to the food, Old Town Kopitiam Mamak also serves Malaysian drinks such as the teh tarik (sweet milk tea that has been pulled through the air for aeration) and a great set of ‘specials’ which are incredibly sweet, fruit-based (such as lychee, mango, etc.) and are served in a big jar-type glass mug with fruit chunks and flavouring. For anyone who has been to the mamak stall in Malaysia’s Petaling Jaya SS2 called Murni will be very familiar with these. I haven’t seen them anywhere else apart from Murni and Old Town Kopitiam Mamak.

Alex’s Ratings:

Taste: 7/10. I suppose three out of four ain’t bad, discounting the savoury roti fails.

Authenticity: 7/10. Almost but not quite, again the savoury roti really lets them down.

Value: 7/10. The food is still cheap, but not uniquely so, definitely not by ‘mamak’ standards and while some dishes are excellent value (such as the nasi kandar) other dishes seem excessively expensive (such as the roti john).

Service: 7/10. Mixed bag, I’ve had some friendly and attentive service here as well as slack-jawed waiters staring into space while I wave my arms around trying to get their attention. Given the price and standards set by other Asian restaurants in the same market category, definitely above average here.

Ambience: 8/10. They have definitely done well here, combining Malaysian mamak ambience that makes us all long to be back in KL with Australian hygiene standards and cleanliness. There are also some unique visual elements that I appreciate, such as the picture at the top of the stacked cans. Could do with less stools and more chairs though.

Overall: 7/10. Just scrapes through, they’re lucky I’m in a good mood.


Penang Affair

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Penang Affair

325 Brunswick St.
Fitzroy VIC 3065
(T) (03) 9419 7594

Penang Affair on Urbanspoon

Much like with my last review of Roundhouse Roti, this place is also a Malaysian restaurant that’s also not really on the map for Malaysians locally. However, I did read two positive reviews of the place here and here and there was also the high rating on urbanspoon so off I traipsed, with a friend on that day in Melbourne last week where it bucketed down with rain.

Firstly, I must commend Penang Affair’s slightly verbose and very over-the-top owner, he seems to have garnered quite a legion of fans! Many of the things I heard about this restaurant (including the comments on urbanspoon) all seem to recommend him as somehow the main dish… or at least a source of entertainment that alone makes the trip worth it.

Onto the food. The dish I’d heard most about was the spicy tempura eggplant ($16.90) so that was a must-try. My companion is a vegetarian so we also ordered the vegetarian mee goreng ($10.90) and I indulged in the chilli & garlic quail that was on the specials board as a random entree.Straight away upon entering the restaurant I had the feeling that it would be catered towards the Western palate, based on the uncluttered atmosphere with minimal decoration (apart from some large paintings, one of the owner (!)) and I was mostly right. The flavours in the food overall didn’t at all feel “Malaysian”.

Starting with the quail, while the bird was cooked to perfection (and kudos to them for that) and the meat delicious, the sauce it was swimming in was too strong and way too salty. I love quail as a meat and beyond basic seasoning and spices, I don’t think the bird needs to be smothered in sauce.

The mee goreng was by far the worst dish there, pretty much all I could taste in it was tomato sauce. I have no idea if they actually use tomato sauce in it but it reminded me a lot of bad mee gorengs I’ve had in the past (China Bar, I’m looking at you). Definitely no authenticity there. The highly billed spicy tempura eggplant was probably the best dish on the night but still wasn’t anything amazing. The seasoning was nice but there was something wrong with the tempura batter. Tempura is supposed to be fluffy and crisp, this was neither.

All in all, nice try Penang Affair, and I can see you have your group of loyal (probably mostly not Malaysian, sorry) followers over there in Fitzroy but we probably won’t be coming back.

Alex’s Ratings:

Taste: 4/10

Authenticity: 4/10. The kind of ‘innovation’ that we’ve seen at restaurants peddling Westernised food time and time again. Not the good kind.

Ambiance: 5/10. Extra points for the cool paintings, nothing else stood out.

Service: 7/10. A little slow but that was due to the owner being caught by various customers trying to talk his ear off. He explained that his staff member had called in sick so he was being a one man show. He was friendly, talkative and helpful.

Value: 4/10. Poor, you can get much better quality Malaysian food for much better prices, but to be fair the ‘hawker dish’ section on the menu at least doesn’t try to overprice things like mee goreng.

Overall: 4/10

Written by alexlobov

February 16, 2010 at 3:29 am

Roundhouse Roti

with 3 comments

I’m a big Malaysian food aficionado. Having been to Malaysia and Singapore almost a dozen times I feel I’ve honed my palate fairly well when it comes to judging quality and authenticity in amongst the decent-sized set of Malaysian food offerings in Melbourne. A quintessential part of any Malaysian food experience is the Malaysian-style roti, normally fried with lots of oil and ghee and butter (and sweat, which probably makes it taste better… really).
Roundhouse Roti has never been massively famous on the Malaysian food circuit (not popular among the horde of Malaysian and Singaporean international students in Melbourne which are normally my weathervane for Malaysian food openings and the like) but has a decent reputation and buzz among Fitzroy hipsters.

Roundhouse Roti
220 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.
Opening Hours: Tues to Sat 12pm – 8pm
(T)  (03) 9417 4285
The general premise behind Roundhouse Roti seems to be an adaptation of the amazingly delicious Roti dishes of Malaysia into something more healthy and more appealing to the Western (Fitzroy hipster) palate (ie. Oil!? *freak out*). The place is decked out nicely and is a pleasant place to sit (except for my pet peeve – stools, why don’t people know the value of back support!) The extractor fan is seriously rad, as the Age called it “the world’s most ornate extractor fan clad in what looks like charcoal-painted pressed-metal ceiling panelling.”
We had the Roti Telur (Roti with egg inside), one with the lentil Dahl ($9.00) and the other with Beef Rendang ($10.00). Immediately, the lack of oil was glaring, and to a seasoned roti eater it felt like a glaring omission until you remembered the the restaurant’s owner Lee Chong wanted it this way. The roti itself, while cooked on a grill and not a tandoor, almost felt like it was tandoori roti but without that tandoori charcoaly awesomeness. It tasted dry and quite bland. Similarly, the rendang and the dahl were watery affairs with minimal flavour punch (to Lee’s credit, the beef was tender and very tasty). Again, it’s important to remember that this is not a screwup, this is the idea behind the cuisine.

Roti Telur with Beef Rendang

I can’t say that the food experience was something I would go back for, unless I’m seriously detoxing and want something that tastes better than muesli & salad. The food reminds you why oil and ghee are so awesome, they make things taste delicious. However, for the rest of you health freaks that want some decent ethnic food then check out Roundhouse Roti, you’ll probably be more satisfied than we were.
Alex’s Ratings:
Taste: 5/10.
Authenticity: 7/10. Given that this was never supposed to be real roti and is the healthy version (arguably, what the hell is healthy roti?) the score is adjusted to reflect the execution of the healthiness while still maintaining taste.
Ambiance: 7/10. Cool place and all, but tiny, cramped and stools. Stools dammit! I hate stools.
Service: 9/10. Friendly, relaxed, attentive, no problems with minor adjustments to menu items and all this given they were closing in 20 minutes.
Overall: 6/10. Good idea, but at the end of the day, I like food that tastes real good, and the food just didnt taste that good.

Roundhouse Roti on Urbanspoon

Written by alexlobov

February 14, 2010 at 2:05 pm