While Ipoh is generally regarded as one of the better towns for hawker food (perhaps second only to Penang), if you look closer, the town also offers some hidden gems outside of hawker & traditional Chinese food. Case in point – Maiale Japanese style Italian Restaurant.
Maiale Japanese style Italian Restaurant at Ipoh
If the overly long name isn’t clear, the restaurant actually offers Italian cuisine, cook by one Japanese chef, and interestingly, also served by only one local server. If you’re looking for Japanese food here, you won’t find it, but if you want Italian food with a bit of a Japanese influence & ingredients, you’re at the right place.
The restaurant itself is converted from an old colonial style house with very limited seats (perhaps 20 pax max?) and offers an ambiance that is as cozy as it is unique in its staffing. Reservation is a must since space is severely limited.
There’s no real ala carte menu here, instead, you choose from a combination of 3-course menu with 1 selection of appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. Prices range from RM 45 to RM 80 for the set, but sometimes they do have specials, such as Japanese wagyu grade A5 which can fetch quite a pretty penny.
bread & breadstick with olive oil & vinegar, appetizer platter
For our dinner, we chose the appetizer platter, pan fried sakura pork loin, and yuzu sorbet for the first set. For second set, we had the same appetizer platter, slow cooked lamb shoulder, and tiramisu.
Like most “almost fine dine” place, we started off with some warm bread, bread stick, with olive oil & vinegar prior to the arrival of appetizer, nothing out of the ordinary.
When the appetizer came, it turned out to be quite a delight. I didn’t care much about the glass plate, or the plating itself, but here’s what we had on it:
spinach and tomato mousse
Each had a unique taste and tasted rather not any less than some of the more fancy places. I’d be kicking myself if I chose the Caesar salad or mushroom soup in place of this platter for RM 5 less.
scallops, pan fried sakura pork loin with red wine balsamic sauce
Oh, we also ordered a small plate of scallops (3 pieces) as additional appetizer. They were decent, and definitely worth the RM 8 asking price.
For my main, the pan fried sakura pork loin with red wine balsamic sauce turned out to be a a winner. The meat was cooked to the right doneness, retaining natural flavor of pork as well as its tenderness. Furthermore, the sauce, made from reduction of red wine, balsamic, onion, and beef oil was so flavorful it made me question my own method of preparing pork chop at home. I need to replicate this!
slow cooked lamb shoulder, tiramisu, ice cream
For the second set, the slow cooked lamb shoulder was a decent dish in itself, with the sauce (red wine, homemade beef stock, tomato sauce) that tasted a bit richer but perhaps lack the excitement of stronger acidity compared to the sauce from pork loin. It was good, but perhaps not the same level as the pork loin.
The sides were potato, tomato, and broccoli for both dishes, they were adequate.
The 3rd course of tiramisu & yuzu sorbet were pretty good choices as well. Overall I thought this is a place worthy for special occasions (perhaps a romantic one) if you’re in Ipoh, and loves pork. I should check out their beef or pasta dishes next time.
Well, back when going out to eat was an option, we took a trip to Kota Kemuning and had ourselves a couple bowls of Japanese ramen at one of the very few “proper” ramen outlets in Shah Alam at Menya Hanabi. Yes, there are more than one Menya Hanabi in Klang Valley, this is the one closest to me.
Menya Hanabi at Kota Kemuning
Menya Hanabi is located right next to Gamuda Walk within Kota Kemuning, a bustling township within Shah Alam that has perhaps the most “up to date” eateries. Fortunately, parking is still a relatively simple exercise at this area.
The restaurant is of a typical Japanese ramen shop set up, with a long kitchen/bar taking up 30-40% of the floor space, and tables on the other side. I also love the fact that they have pictorial menu that showcases every single dish they offer, though some description would have been helpful as well.
shoyu soup ramen, gyoza, Nagoya mazesoba
For our visit we tried their classic shoyu soup ramen (RM 27), Nagoya mazesoba DX (RM 31), and a portion of gyoza (RM 10).
The soup ramen came in 3 options, shio (salt), shoyu (soya sauce), and Nagoya (spicy with minced meat). The shoyu version I had was on par with most Japanese ramen I’ve tried over the years. The noodle was springy, the soup too packed quite a punch. The chasiu had the awesome 3 layer texture and came with decent thickness, though I’d love to see 3 instead of 2 pieces in there. The egg too was prepared just nice. Overall it was a very competent bowl of ramen, satisfied.
the chasiu was super yummy, so was their gyoza
As for the Nagoya mazesoba DX, well, the ramen itself is of a thicker variety, when stirring it up with the minced meat, egg yolk, and leek, the entire bowl felt almost not exactly unlike a more expensive version of chili pan mee, except one that’s less spicy and carries less “kick”. Once you are done with this “dry” version, they will also give you a scoop of rice to fully utilize those sauce, something that I thought was a bit of a gimmick to be honest. I’d give this dry ramen a “meh”.
Lastly, do order their gyoza, one of the best I’ve tried, and well worth the RM 10 asking price.
Overall, Menya Hanabi is a pretty decent Japanese ramen place, give the dry ramen a try if you must, stick to soupy version if you’re into more of a traditional taste kinda guy.
Address: Menya Hanabi 2-37-1, Jalan Anggerik Vanilla, Seksyen 31, Kota Kemuning, 40460 Shah Alam, Selangor GPS: 3.000433, 101.532942 Tel: +603 5131 9308 Hours: daily 11 am to 10 pm
Some of the most famous dishes in Ipoh revolves around chicken, isn’t it? There’s many chicken rice places such as Pak Kong, kai si hor fun which features chicken at Thean Chun, honey chicken wings at Menglembu, and salt baked chicken at Aun Kheng Lim.
Well, to add to this list, today we’re going to talk about one of local’s favorite bean sprout chicken hor fun place at Ipoh – Restaurant Cowan Street.
Cowan Street Chicken & Horfun, Ipoh
Restoran Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau is the full name of the place, and despite the name, is located at Jalan Raja Ekram in Ipoh New Town, a stone’s throw away from other popular eateries such as Ming Court dimsum.
The restaurant has a reputation of having erratic opening hours, and has 3 rest days per week. They’re serve dinner for quite a limiting hours of 6-9:30pm, do call ahead and check if they’re opened to avoid disappointment.
dinner for two – chicken, bean sprouts, chicken feet, offal
We ordered chicken for two, a plate of bean sprouts (always a must!), chicken feet, and added a plate of chicken offal to go with two bowls of hor fun, there’s no rice served at Cowan Street.
Ordering was very quick, and service was even quicker, it took only a couple minutes before everything was served, I was quite impressed.
The review of the food is simple.. everything here was absolutely on point!
The chicken was cooked just right, smooth, flavorful, and absolutely delicious. The bean sprouts did not disappoint, and even the chicken feet and chicken offal were all just spot on.
I absolutely love the texture of everything here, those meat, fats, and innards’ soft and tender texture in contrast with those crunchy bean sprouts, perfect. If one would to nitpick, you could perhaps say that the dishes are just very slightly to the salty side, but they do balance out with the hor fun.
when in Ipoh, one must always order bean sprouts
Dinner came to be RM 45 including two drinks, perhaps a little pricey according to some, but I’m more than happy to pay for the quality and will certainly be back here again when I have another chance.
Chicken rice is perhaps one of the most popular lunch options for Malaysian, a plate of rice, with a portion of the nation’s favorite meat on top and maybe a few slices of cucumber will satisfy most people as a quick refuel option during the day.
Wan Shoon kopitiam, Damansara Kim
When it comes to chicken rice, we’re usually familiar with those offering roast chicken or steamed chicken, but the less popular third option exists – and that’s our topic for today – Fatt Kee’s soy sauce chicken rice.
Fatt Kee is located within Restoran Wan Shoon in Damansara Kim, a small township nested right next to TTDI, on the border of KL & PJ.
Like many other chicken rice stalls, other than chicken, they do offer roast pork (siu yok) as well as bbq pork (chasiu). While I’ve yet to try their chasiu, their siu yok is uninspiringly average and something that I would definitely skip the next round.
The star here is their soy sauce chicken, a version I can only describe as the cross between steamed and roast chicken that managed to have the best of both worlds. It’s flavorful, tender, and succulent all at the same time. The soy sauce blend here is addictively delicious, and I also felt that they put a bit of effort into the accompanying soup as well.
soy sauce chicken rice with roast pork, Fatt Kee
Prices here is a little higher than “usual”, the portion above for two pax came up to RM 18, but well, sometimes it’s worth paying a little more for good food. On my next visit I’m going to only have the chicken and forgo the pork, a position I don’t usually stand for.
Following the blog post on Abanico at Kota Kemuning, I was reminded that actually there was another iberico experience a few months ago back when we were in this “Recovery MCO” period when case number of Covid-19 was in the teens daily.. remember that feeling of hope before it all came crashing down again? Seemed like a long time ago isn’t it?
Anyway, the restaurant I want to talk about is Habanna Charbroiled Steakhouse at Taman Paramount, PJ.
Habanna at Taman Paramount, PJ
The unassuming restaurant is just a stone’s throw away from Loong Foong (great roast duck) and Shokudo Japanese curry. It’s been around for a while and for whatever reason, took me this long to finally paid a visit, and I’m glad I did finally give it a try.
The minimally decorated restaurant has an ambiance that matches its asking price. The menu has a healthy selection of burger, pork, chicken, beef, lamb, pasta, and even a few seafood entrees priced from just below RM 20 to around RM 30-50 range (see menu below).
Since porky “steakhouse” are hard to come by, we decided to check out their pork belly, and there’re two to choose from at Habanna if you’re into this fatty cut of pork. Unsurprisingly, we chose both.
Iberico Black Mama “IBM”
The two different pork belly entrees are Iberico Black Mama “IBM” (RM 33.90), and the cheaper Charbroiled Apple Belly “CAB” (RM 20.90). Both are essentially the same dish with a side of salad, some potato wedges, and apple dipping sauce, however, IBM uses the famed Iberico pork, while CAB is made from local pork belly.
As it turned out, both dishes were rather good to eat, the meat were grilled perfectly and had very good texture, they were also seasoned just right. Also as expected, the Iberico pork does carry a better texture due to it’s superior marbling (fat layers between meat) as compared to local pork.
Charbroiled Apple Belly “CAB”
The verdict is predictable, but when factor in prices, makes for slightly tougher decision. Iberico is some 60% more expensive but arguably maybe 30-40% tastier? A bit of a diminishing returns. That being said, the value offers at Habanna is an excellent one, and I should be back to try their other offerings.