Citrus Wine and Dine held a wine tasting dinner at their premises recently. Featuring wines from the Villa Sandi Winery in Valdobbiandene, north of Venice, Italy, the dinner with wine pairing saw 50 of Ipoh’s food and wine cognoscenti gather to enjoy a 5-course meal with explanations given by wine principal, Mr Francesco, on each wine served. Owner/chef Simon Lee who prepared the delectable menu came out at the end of the meal serving to enjoy a glass with guests while his wife Erica was bustling around taking care of the guests. Judging by the orders taken for the wines, Villa Sandi had a successful evening. And so did Citrus. Well done.
When I first saw the signboard Lama-Lama of this restaurant in Falim (coming from Jalan Menglembu turn into road that leads to the Lumut Highway and from Lumut Highway, vice versa) I thought I was walking into a restaurant catering to Tibetan Buddhists as the name Lama is an honorific given to recognised teachers in that tradition. I soon realised that it had more to do with the Bahasa word for long time and translated from the Chinese expression of forever.
Putting aside my fascination with names, I sat down with friends to enjoy a most delectable feast; as usual recommended by my foodie friend, Ginla Foo who blazes a trail across the length and breadth of Ipoh and its surrounds in search of good eats.
The dishes on offer at this restaurant are extensive. Proprietress Madam Leong makes the recommendations and details all her signature dishes some of which required a second visit for me to do justice to the wide choice.
On my first visit we had dishes which I would classify as more ubiquitous: Asam Sotong, fragrant, tangy not too spicy with generous sized portions of sotong (squid) cooked with ladies fingers RM12; live Tilapia steamed with spicy bean paste, soft flaky flesh that just comes off the bone, RM18; chunky portions of bean curd first deep fried and then lightly braised with Si Gua (a type of vegetable marrow), RM8; French beans sauteed with salted egg, RM8, and an interesting deep-fried pork patty redolent with the fragrance of salt fish which is ideal as an appetizer while having drinks waiting for the rest of the dishes. Their Kon Tseen Kai (dried fried chicken) with a coating of dark soya sauce, was delectable and even the breast meat which is usually dry and hard, was succulent and tender, RM12.
The foregoing dishes were merely the foot soldiers in this battle for gustatory supremacy. The heavy artillery came in the next two dishes which came in heaping big tureens. First the ‘wusou’ chicken (whiskered chicken…a favourite breed amongst the Chinese who prefer its meat) cooked in homemade yellow rice wine and flavoured with a variety of herbs; a post-partum delicacy that has caught on as a regular item on many menus. The one served here was perfect, not too sweet as is often the case, the chicken tender and the wine and herbs fragrant, RM28 for a large tureen.
Similarly for the Pig’s Trotters cooked in black vinegar, yet another post-partum dish (not that any of us at the table were in that condition!) that is cooked to perfection here – according to my taste buds that is – not too sweet and not too tart, the pig’s trotter chunks tender and succulent, informed by the fragrance of ginger and garnished with Mok Yee (wood ear fungus), RM15.
Signature Dishes Worth Second Visit
By this time, I had already made up my mind that I had to return to savour their other signature dishes, a task I performed with alacrity two days later at lunch. Here I will only mention the dishes which impressed me beginning with their Wu Tao Fish Head, a bubbling tureen of well braised viscous taro, permeating the fried fish head chunks with their inimitable fragrance and lending a perfect coating to their otherwise dry surface, RM25.
Another dish of note is their ‘Puppy Duck’ a name made famous by the restaurant Ming Feong, essentially a recipe that consists of braising cut pieces of duck in ginger, dark soya sauce and spices and chillies (which was how they used to cook dog meat in days of yore). This was as good as what I remember of the its eponymous dish in Pusing; in fact the duck pieces were meatier here and more tender here and the saucing perfect. S/M/L RM12/15/20.
Next came the Rendang Chicken, again the Wu Sou Kai smothered in a rich ‘lemak’ sauce redolent of lemon grass, turmeric and all the wonderful spices that make rendang such a delicacy, RM23. We ended the meal with a plate of their Shanghai Noodles, Sang Meen (egg noodles known for their ‘al dente’ quality) fried with small prawns, bean sprouts, eggs and fried dried squid which was absolutely delectable. RM5 for one portion enough for two or three especially after a heavy meal.
Makanan Laut Lama-Lama Restoran
#12,14 Laluan Perusahan Menglembu 1
Taman Falim Indah, 31450 Menglembu, Perak.
Tel: 05 2821031
Open: 11am-2.30pm & 5-10pm
Closed: Not often; usually either Tuesday or Thursday
GPS: N 04 34 736 E 101 03 502
You can’t miss it if you drive along Jalan Pasir Puteh coming from town and towards Station 18. A corner coffee shop directly opposite Shatin Court, with a huge veranda, Kafe Pasir Puteh also sports a giant television where the local denizens gather for their tea or beers and swap stories of the day.
The sole chef, Chan Tuck Chai, presides in the open-air kitchen, dispensing mouth-watering stir fries, steamed freshwater fish and deep-fried goodies to local food cognoscenti.
Chinese Speaking Essential
So it must have taken the Chef and patrons by surprise when a troop of us marched in and sat down to order, a veritable United Nations of nationalities with only four out of the twelve, Malaysians. They had hardly ever seen so many foreigners, let alone one who looked like a foreigner but spoke fluent Cantonese (me). I must warn readers though if you do wish to go, to make sure you have a Chinese speaking friend with you, as ordering is all by recommendation only. And one last word of warning…do make sure you go with an empty bladder as you don’t want to even approach the toilet!
Chef Ah Chai who has been cooking since the age of 12 has, by the now current age of 36, had many years of experience behind him to serve up some pretty masterful dishes; having learnt from Hong Kong chefs at different periods of his life.
Best Fish Balls
The first dish we had was the homemade Saito Fish Balls, one of their signature dishes. These were some of the best fish balls I’ve tasted in Ipoh, springy, succulent with just the right degree of firmness, just blanched and served with an excellent sambal belacan sauce – 50 pieces for RM35.
Next on the menu was Bitter Gourd sautéed with roast pork, with a hint of garlic and black beans. This had good ‘wok hei’ or the flavour of the wok, as the Chinese like to judge their stir-fried dishes – RM20.
Wild Caught River Fish
Following this was a steamed Lampang Fish, a wild caught river fish that has to be eaten carefully as it has many bones. This was steamed with yellow bean paste and grated ginger. The fish that arrived was big enough for the twelve of us and the meat was tender and sweet. Their fresh fish changes daily and one has to ask for the recommendation of the day. Do ask for the price first as some fresh river fish can cost an arm and a leg. This one weighed in at 1.8 kg for RM86.
We then had the steamed Kampung Chicken, tender chunks of chicken served with ginger and scallions – RM20 for half a chicken; followed by a delicious Petai (stinky beans ) and Sayur Paku (wild jungle fern) fried with fresh and dried prawns in a sambal sauce. This dish hit all the right notes for my taste buds: spicy, crunchy and no cloying taste of sweetness which is often found in sambal dishes from other restaurants. Similarly their sambal belacan sauce too is devoid of sugar which is just the way I prefer it – RM27.
Rice and Noodles
Their Tofu fried with garlic and dried prawns came next, crispy chunks of melt-in-mouth tofu crisped on the outside and juicy custard soft inside with the garlic and dried prawns lending extra crispiness in the mouth – RM6/8/12. Next to come was a simple sautéed green vegetable to be followed by a Fried Noodles done ‘Mee Goreng” style: yellow noodles with bean sprouts and chicken but with a curried flavour and slightly spicy – RM20. The Fried Rice that came after this was almost too much for most but as it was so delectable we all found ourselves tucking in. Fried with long beans and carrots, the long beans diced fine and still crunchy, the carrots lending their mild sweetness with each grain of rice separable and no enveloping oily film, the rice was a lovely culmination to a most enjoyable meal – RM10.
I talked to Chef Ah Chai afterwards and asked for other signature dishes which we didn’t have an opportunity to try. He recommended the famous ‘Tualang’ prawns or Udang Galah which he serves two ways, head steamed and tails fried, RM80 per kg and do pre-order; the wild caught Frog’s Legs which are available year round, RM40 per kg and pre-order.
On receiving the bill and leaving totally satiated from the table I made a private resolution to return and try other undiscovered specialties from Chef Ah Chai in the future. Our total bill for 12 came to RM218
Kafe Pasir Puteh #4 Lot 73266 Jalan Pasir Puteh
Tel: 012-5095970/016-5630817 Open 12.30 -11.00 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays every fortnight.
41 Lintasan Perajurit 6, Taman Perak, Ipoh. Tel: 05-5469916
Valentine’s Day Dinner on Sunday, 14 Feb.
Citrus Wine & Dine
38-46 Laluan Ipoh Perdana, Ipoh. Tel: 05-5451010
Chinese New Year a la carte Specials. From 16 Feb.
Valentine’s Day 4-Course Set Dinner. 14 Feb – RM80++ per person. Call for reservations.
B-G-1, Greentown Square, Jalan Dato Seri Ahmad Said, Ipoh. Tel: 05-2425733 (Reservations: 019-5575733)
Chinese New Year & Valentine’s Dinner Specials. Main Course: Set 1 – Grilled shrimp; Set 2 – Pan-fried Cod fish; Set 3 – BBQ Rib; Set 4 – Rack of Lamb. All sets include: appetizer, soup, sides, drinks & dessert.
Jalan Raja DiHilir, Ipoh. Tel: 05-242 8888 ext 2
Chinese New Year Set Menus RM888 nett per table (complimentary 1 30ml bottle Brandy) & RM688 nett per table. CNY Yee Sang Promotion – raw fish/jelly fish/salmon/abalone – RM168 per portion & RM88 ½ portion.
Valentine’s Day 5-Course Western Set Dinner (Polo Café, Level 2). 12-14 Feb, 7-10.30 p.m. – RM138 per couple with complimentary glass of sparkling juice & rose for ladies).
18 Jalan Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, Ipoh. Tel: 05-255 5555 (Reservations: ext 8009)
“Fatt Choy” Hi-Tea.13-16 Feb, 12-4.30 p.m. – RM45 nett per person; RM28 nett per child below 12 years. Properity Buffet Dinner. 13-16 Feb, 6.30-10.30 p.m. – RM68 nett per person; RM45 nett per child below 12 years. Family Reunion 8-Course Chinese Set Dinner. 13 Feb, 6.30-10.30 p.m. Imperial Set – RM888 nett per table of 10 persons; Diamond Set – RM688 nett per table of 10 persons.
Valentine’s Day 5-Course Candlelight Dinner (The Bistro). 14 Feb, 7-10.30 p.m. – RM188 nett per couple consists of: appetizer, soup, granita, main course & dessert and a complimentary glass of wine.
6-8 Jalan Dato’ Seri Ahmad Shah, Greentown, Ipoh. Tel: 208 6888 (Reservations: ext 6148)
Chinese New Year Dinner (Grand Ballroom, Level 1) Set Menus at RM688, RM788 & RM888 nett per table with complimentary 2 bottles house red wine and door gifts.
Valentine’s Day 5-Course Dinner (Cinnamon Hall, Level 6). 14 Feb. 7-11 p.m. – RM170 nett per couple with complimentary pint of red wine.