by See Foon Chan-Koppen
I have been going to Citrus Wine and Dine since they opened in June 2005. Those were the early days when people would complain that they were located too far out of the mainstream dining areas, too quiet and unsafe at night, too…too…too, and as is typical of Ipohites, predicting doom and gloom for the restaurant.
What people hadn’t reckoned with was the hardworking and enterprising husband and wife team behind the restaurant, Chef Simon Lee and his wife Erica. It’s been seven years since Citrus opened and in that time, I have watched this duo go from strength to strength.
I have always had a personal conviction that the most successful restaurants have chefs helming the kitchen. Having the spouse in the front of the house taking care of the service is a bonus and almost a sure recipe for success.
Citrus is a case in point. Their philosophy of “Cook with Heart and Serve with Soul” is embodied by Simon’s culinary skills and Erica’s deft handling of the service. Simon graduated at Shatec Singapore in 1990 and started working as the Commis Cook II at the Pan Pacific Hotel and was promoted to Demi Chef after working for three years. Then, he joined the Four Seasons Hotel as Banquet Sous Chef from 1994 to 2004. He was posted to Regent Auckland in 2005 for a year. He represented the Regent Auckland in a competition and obtained a Gold with Excellent for the Three Course Meal Presented Cold in New Zealand. He also represented Singapore as the National Team for the World Food Competition in Basel in 1998 where the Singapore team was the 1st runner up.
With that kind of culinary background and with his wife Erica by his side, Ipoh is fortunate to have a restaurant where food of a high international standard is offered at prices which will not burn a hole in one’s pocket. A case in point is their set lunch of: soup, choice of either chicken or pasta main course, dessert and drink for a very affordable price of RM19.90++. Some may scoff and complain that certain ala carte items are very pricey, as in the latest promotion of Master Kobe Ribeye at 100g for RM120, 150g for RM170 and 200g for RM210 or their Live Tasmanian Oyster at RM8 per piece, but when I last tasted the Kobe beef, which came in well glazed chunks, grilled to perfection, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Considering that anywhere else in the world, we’d be paying double or triple for the same portions I will venture to say that it was worth every bite.
A recent dinner for the Ipoh branch of the International Wine and Food Society held in their banquet facilities with its two rooms which can cater to upwards of 100 people upstairs, saw us tucking into a lush Tapas appetizer that had the best fusion of Japanese and French nuances. Scallop Tartar with Iwashi Tatami, soba salad with Shimeji mushrooms, Foie Gras Terrine, Feta and Quick seared Tuna and Brie Cheese with dried fruit chutney; bite-sized portions of contrasting and complementary flavours, creating a symphony of tastes and textures. The main course was equally delectable, with a choice of grilled Australian Black Angus Tenderloin served with Wasabi mashed potato, pan seared Atlantic Cod fish with Hokkaido sea scallop, and grilled Espresso marinated Rack of Lamb with onion confit, each dish cooked to perfection and served as ‘eye candy’ with clever plating. The Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream ended the meal with panache.
Don’t be misled into thinking that Citrus only serves fancy fusion dishes. Their regular menu is a potpourri of reliable standard dishes. Their pasta is always al dente, and there is a choice of 10 different sauces to choose from ranging from the Aglio Oglio (olive oil and garlic) at RM15, the classic Spaghetti Bolognese with beef or chicken at RM18 to the Aglio Oglio with seafood at RM28 (my favourite) and with King Prawns at RM30.
Their Wild Mushroom Soup as a starter is always reliable and delectable at RM9.50 and I have always enjoyed their Golden Crab Cake served with mango salsa and garden greens – RM20. Sometimes when I want just a light meal, I would order their Thai Beef Salad which is a generous bowl of garden greens with juicy beef chunks tossed in a yummy Thai salad dressing – RM17.
The pièce de résistance for me at Citrus is their Foie Gras appetizer. This is one dish I would inevitably order everytime I go, high cholesterol notwithstanding and knowing that my doctor is shaking his head in sheer disapproval. Foie Gras or goose liver is a delicacy that is hard to come by and harder to prepare. Over done and it becomes hard and underdone, it is like eating bloody jelly. Here at Citrus, the goose liver is fried to the right degree of doneness, still pink on the inside and slightly charred on the edges, served with caramelized apples and a garden salad, it arrives, plated like a still life painting, tempting to the eye as well as to the palate – RM45.
The menu at Citrus is extensive with a dish to suit most tastes and palates. Christmas will see them offering a 4-course meal on Christmas Eve and Christmas day and night for RM93++. What caught my eye was the interesting Cream of Corn & Smoked Duck Chowder and there is choice of Turkey with all the traditional trimmings of Chestnut Mushroom Stuffing, Cranberry chutney and laced with Giblet sauce; Beef and Fish; ending with the divine Sticky Date Pudding.
Do hurry and make your reservations.
Citrus Wine and Dine
38-42 Laluan Ipoh Perdana
Tel: 05 545 1010 – Erica: 012 527 1210
Closed: Mondays – Pork Free