Musings on Food Seefoon Packs Away Her Chopsticks
I have been roundly chastised for being biased in my reviews, opting for all things porky and eschewing the delights of other ethnic cuisines. While this may be somewhat unjustified, considering that I have reviewed Tasik Rabin, Salim, Samy, and made comparisons on many Halal hawker foods, I had to admit to my critic that yes, he is correct, I am slanted towards Chinese ‘Tai Chau’ restaurants. For only one reason: the breadth and depth of their menus.
I know there are many delectable culinary treasures out there, but most of them are one-dish stalls and no matter how out-of-this-world the food may be, and how verbose this columnist tries to be, it is difficult to fill a column. Until Simpang Tiga.
This newly opened restaurant with a motto of quality, cleanliness and satisfaction is already garnering a following, judging by the almost-packed volume of diners on a recent lunch visit. With a seating capacity of 500 (300 inside with air-conditioning and 200 outside) this is a very large restaurant indeed. A joint venture between Bandaraya Ipoh and Bandaraya Medan, Indonesia and some local entrepreneurs, Simpang Tiga in Greentown is the first restaurant outside of Indonesia where they have five, to be opened by this chain.
Serving modern Padang food or more popularly known as Nasi Padang, Simpang Tiga has a staggeringly wide choice of items (more than 60) on their menu. The easiest thing to do is to go to their counter where all the dishes of the day are displayed behind glass. There is also an ala carte menu of their specials. In fact I have been to this restaurant five times since its opening in the latter part of last year and I still haven’t exhausted my explorations of the plethora of dishes offered here. So today I shall attempt to put into words some of these taste treats which make Simpang Tiga stand out.
Nasi Padang is distinctive in that, unlike other specialties in the Indonesian culinary tradition, most of the dishes don’t have that cloying sweet kicap manis or sweet dark soya sauce that most of the rest use. And most of the dishes are not sweet. Growing up in Singapore as I did, I have always been a devotee of that renowned Nasi Padang restaurant Rendezvous when it was just a dingy old coffee shop on Selegie Road and would go and pay homage every time I went back. Since its metamorphosis and move into a fancy boutique hotel complete with pseudo Peranakan decor, taste has gone downhill and prices up. I have been on the hunt for that indescribable taste ever since, that je nais se quois (literally means ‘I don’t know what’ to denote that indefinable or attractive quality) perhaps lingering more in the cobwebs of my mind than in my tastebuds.
But found it I did in Simpang Tiga, that ‘Eureka’ moment when my teeth sank into the ‘Gulai Sotong’ or squid curry (RM8) and tasted the green and red sambal. What joy and delight as I, like a child lost in ToysRUs, went about pointing out and ordering all the dishes. I can’t begin to list all the delectable offerings this restaurant carries but to suffice to say that the beef rendang is tender, dry and rich, RM10; all the Gulai (anything with a gravy) sauces are very lemak (rich with coconut milk) and have varying combinations of spices and herbs; the sambals, four kinds, red, green, killer (as in hot) and the black which contains the aforementioned Kicap making it sweet, are wonderful accompaniments to the dishes.RM1 each
Their signature dishes are their Kampung chickens. These free range chickens are smaller than their battery-raised counterparts and are served in a variety of ways. The Gulai and Rendang versions are very tasty and the Ayam Goreng Pop comes piping hot and deliciously tender. An enthusiastic waiter raved about the Ayam Bumbu Kampung which he claimed was THE signature dish but alas, while the ‘bumbu’ (machine shredded combination of herbs like lemon grass, galangal and turmeric) was delicious, the chicken itself was too over fried and dry to be of much interest. All chicken RM5.50 per piece.
Worthy of special mention are the following dishes: the Gulai Nangka young jackfruit cooked with its seeds intact – RM3.80; Babat Usus (beef tripe) – RM8;Sambal Terung (‘brinjal’) – RM3.80; Kerabu Pucuk Paku (salad of fiddlehead fern) – RM3.80; Urap – pucuk ubi kerabu, a mixed concoction of sweet potato leaves with bean sprouts, string beans and coconut, RM3.80; Daun Ubi Tumbuk (minced Sayur Manis) – 3.80; Gulai Isi Ikan( Fish Curry ) – RM8 ; and last but not least the Mutton Curry which comes closest in taste to the Indian, although this one has more coconut milk – RM12; Gulai Kikil which are beef trotter’s tendons is deliciously tender and for people like myself with a penchant for the organ meats, a rare find.
The staff numbering about 40 of whom about 70% are Indonesian, are very friendly although English is barely understood so one needs to be patient in finding one who does speak a smattering. The 10 chefs are all from Medan as are some of the ingredients including some freshwater fish from Lake Toba which is flown in regularly. The drinks menu is extensive with fresh squeezed juices being the main attraction. A must try is the
Jus Pelangi (rainbow juice) avocado, papaya, orange and soursop arranged in four colourful layers. Other fresh fruit juices included mango, apple, corn, star fruit, watermelon, orange, tomato, guava, cucumber, umbra and lemon.
Restoran SIMPANG TIGA
D-G, Greentown Square
Jalan Dato Seri Ahmad Said
Tel: 05-2551220 / 1180 Fax: 05-2551180
Open: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Fridays: 2.30-10 p.m.