Musings on Food
By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
With the Ipoh Echo office in Greentown, I have had, on many occasions, driven past the Excelsior which in recent months has been undergoing a massive renovation. Curious to see the transformation, my steadfast Foodie friend Ginla Chew, organised a humongous meal for a group of us recently at their newly-opened Palace Restaurant.
Located on the 5th floor of the spanking newly refurbished Excelsior Hotel, the Palace Restaurant is cavernous, able to accommodate up to 500 people at one go. A further 500 can be seated upstairs where they have a pillarless ballroom for all functions, serviced from the same kitchen.
Our group sat down to a 12-course meal that had us totally groaning with surfeit. We began with a dainty dish of crispy batter cups filled with stir fried mixed diced scallops, prawns, water chestnut, carrots, celery and fish. The batter cups lent crunch to the delicate seafood and these were wolfed down with alacrity. RM5 per cup with minimum order of 4 cups.
The Stewed Pork Belly served with flower bun (they probably meant flour!) is one of their signature dishes. The pork was smooth and succulent and braised to perfection with the addition of Chinese wine – RM33. This was followed by the Lamb Rack with marmite sauce, melt-in-mouth chops coated in a sweetish marmite sauce. Unlike a lot of other places, this lamb was good quality and was tender to the bite. RM12 per piece. Minimum 2 pieces.
The wok-fried Hong Kong kailan with preserved vegetable (mui tsoi) was unusual and interesting, preserved vegetable lending piquancy to the kailan’s crunch – RM15. The next vegetarian dish was pricey owing to its ingredients of mixed fresh mushrooms and a generous helping of macadamia nuts paired with sliced lotus root and yacon, a tuber that I was unfamiliar with but have subsequently discovered to be full of health giving benefits – RM30.
Baked cod with honey sauce was next on the menu, juicy pieces of omega rich cod, coated in a smooth sweetish sauce – 100g RM25. This was followed by their stewed stuffed beancurd with seafood. This was a delectable dish of homemade bean curd, stuffed with a seafood melange, velvety smooth as it slides down the gullet and the seafood lending its umami sweetness to the otherwise bland tofu – RM3.80 per piece (minimum order 3 pieces).
Fried prawns with Batong sauce followed, the tangy asam or tamarind base tinged with a hint of chilli offsetting the pungent petai or stinky bean – RM30. I found the stewed chicken with special sauce a bit too sweet for my taste but it appealed to some of my other friends – RM15.
Finally, the braised bean curd with golden sauce was divinely smooth, homemade velvety goodness in a carrot tinged transparent sauce.
Certainly the Palace Restaurant in Excelsior will be taking its place amongst some of the top Chinese restaurants in Ipoh. Chef Kum Kin Mun, who hails from Ipoh, has been honing his culinary skills in Hong Kong and Singapore and is now back to wow diners here. Now if they keep their toilets in the pristine condition that I found it just after its soft opening, and maintain its luxurious decor, it’ll certainly be one of the places I’ll be taking my guests to in future.Palace Restaurant5th Floor, Hotel Excelsior, 43 Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil, Ipoh.Tel: 05 253 6666 Business Hours: 11am-2.30pm; 6-10.30pm