By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
When three siblings with different interests share a common goal to open a restaurant, the likes of which Ipoh has never experienced, the end result could have been disastrous with each sibling grappling for the lion’s share of focus but as it turns out, Olijasca is destined for success.
I thought it was a Spanish name when I first spied the name opposite the Impiana Hotel driving down Gopeng Road (Jalan Raja Dr Nazrin Shah). It turns out to be an acronym derived from the three siblings’ names of Olivia, Jasper and Rebecca Yow.
Olivia is seriously into health and all things healthy. The fact that there is an acre of land right behind the restaurant where they grow all their own organic vegetables is a bonus and is Olivia’s playground where she supervises her team of gardeners, producing an abundance of long beans, ladies fingers, eggplant, cucumbers, pumpkin, passion fruit and herbs. Olivia’s favourites are her micro greens: succulent tender shoots of mixed vegetables, plucked at a height of no more than two or three inches and used generously as garniture with many of the dishes on the menu. These greens, over which she waxes lyrical, are according to her, bursting with nutritional goodness and they literally come straight from the garden onto your plate. I can certainly vouch for their freshness and sweet taste.
Jasper her brother is in charge of the taste department, a very time-consuming process on which the siblings have spent endless hours together with the chef, experimenting, cooking, fine tuning, and tweaking the menu items to get every dish just right. In fact, this process, which began 4-5 months prior to opening, continues today, five months after the restaurant opened. At my last visit one month ago, their R&D (research and development) efforts have centred around their ice creams, which are velvety smooth, creamy, not overly sweet (made with brown sugar), all made without dairy, eggs, using coconut santan and with no preservatives. Yummilicious.
Rebecca the third sibling is into convenience as in packaged foods, an area which they are still doing their R&D on. When fully operational, we can all look forward to pre-packaged fresh food, ready to eat and ready to go. Mind you, when your family owns the premises and the land, the pressure to start generating profit is not there and R&D can take its time.
This is precisely what makes Olijasca special: they are totally focused on serving dishes that are the best in quality and not just on packing in customers. So on to the food.
I can honestly say that there was not a single item on the menu that I could find fault with. I went three times, the first time, was a threesome and I only managed to taste the Quinoa Salad, a melange of button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, mesclun, roasted walnuts dressed with a homemade citrus dressing – light, tangy, delicate and a perfect bed for the fluffy quinoa grains – RM15; followed by the Lamb Steak, tender pan seared boneless lamb with crispy potato chips served with an orange yogurt sauce – RM35.
Next time around I had the Spanakopita & Portobello, a Greek inspired dish of baked flaky spinach pie with a duo of cheeses, Portobello mushroom and Ratatouille; a mild flavoured pie with its light spinach filling complemented by the more robust ratatouille. Following this I had to sample their ice cream, a sublime concoction which as I mentioned earlier is non dairy and comes now after months of R&D efforts in flavours like chocolate, coffee, pineapple and mango. More flavours such as dragon fruit and earl gray (interesting!!) will be out within the next two weeks.
As all the menu items looked so inviting, I just had to taste more and showed up a week later with a troupe of my visiting family. I reckoned that with the five of us, we could order up a storm and share; which we did.
We began with the trio of dips consisting of Hummus (chick pea), Sweet Pumpkin and Babaganoush (roasted eggplant) served with homemade toasted herb bread. These were so tasty and were devoured in minutes with my ravenous gang craving for more – RM12.
Other starters came in rapid succession like the Mini Chicken Patty, pan fried on a char-grilled tomato topped with a gently spiced, orange yoghurt sauce and home grown organic micro greens – RM12; followed by the Beetroot Salad, ginger pickled beetroot (made in-house) mesclun, roasted cashews, soft boiled free-range egg with homemade apple cider mustard dressing, a perfect melange of ingredients that complemented one another – RM12.
The Stuffed Mushroom, baked button mushrooms with a duo of cheeses on a bed of spinach was worth waiting 20 minutes for – RM15; as was the Sliced Beef Bruschetta, sliced ribeye, carrots with chipotle (a type of mild Mexican chilli with its own inimitable aroma and flavour that is now becoming popular) mayo and again topped with their own homegrown organic micro greens – RM12.
The Lamb and Egg Wrap, lamb shoulder marinated with rosemary, rolled in a tortilla with fluffy scrambled free range egg, mesclun, cucumber, tomato, caramelized onions and homemade chipotle mayo was divine and the eggplant chips served with it was the ‘icing’ on the cake – RM15.
Of the pastas on offer, we managed to sample two, the Microgreen Chicken Carbonara, char-grilled chicken, onion, red chili, white wine, free-range egg and again that ubiquitous micro greens which really lends a fresh crisp to any dish it is paired with, RM20; and the Creamy Seafood Alfredo of squid, prawns, Norwegian wild salmon sauteed in capsicum, thyme, white wine and cream sauce – RM25. Both al dente and delicate and has my full endorsement.
The last item on the menu which I can rave about is their Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie, usually not one of my favourites as it can be stodgy but at Olijasca, this was elevated to gourmet standards with the lamb in chunks giving the dish texture and the sweet potato lending its mild sweetness to the whole dish. The topping of the micro greens again added a textural dimension and mouthfeel to every bite – RM20.
They also have a set lunch of a drink and a main course for RM20+. And did I forget to mention their extensive menu of fresh cold pressed juices with no water, sugar, flavouring or colouring added and their wide range of organic teas or their nut milks priced at RM12 each?
All in all, I can recommend Olijasca highly if the standard is maintained. As a gourmet holistic restaurant, I foresee great potential now that Ipohites are discovering the merits of healthy eating. The fact that they grow their own organic vegetables is certainly a plus in their favour. Hopefully they’ll be in for the long haul as Ipoh needs another quality western style restaurant to give Citrus and Indulgence a run for their money. And in terms of taste, freshness and quality, Olijasca can certainly rub shoulders with them. Long may it flourish.Olijasca (Pork Free)17 Jalan Raja Dr Nazrin ShahTel: 05 241 2708Email: [email protected]Business hours: 12pm-10pm. Closed Mondays.