Whenever I get a hankering for western food, I find myself wishing that there were more restaurants here in Ipoh where the food quality was of a consistently high standard and where I won’t have to mortgage my house to entertain guests. Aside from one or two that meets the foregoing criteria, the choice here is pretty limited.
Now diners who appreciate fine food have yet another venue to choose from. The de Exclusive Venue recently opened with little fanfare and has been quietly serving quality western food for discerning diners for more than two months now. A very well furnished restaurant, the restaurant has a lounge for drinks and snacks upstairs and there is even a Cigar and smoking room in the back.
Situated directly opposite St Patrick’s Pub on Cowan Street, this little gem of a place has two young creative chefs in the kitchen who have come home to roost to share their culinary skills with Ipohites. Kevin Chong and his partner Tang Chee Weng, both originally from Ipoh, have been honing their culinary skills together in Singapore for the past 10 years. Their international expertise shows in the delicate touches which they bring to the dishes on the menu which is compact yet able to please most palates.
Every dish I had on a few occasions were excellent and well worth recommending. We decided to order many appetizers and mains and split up the portions for a taste of each. Here is a sampling: Grilled Prawn Satay and Mango Salad had three skewers of big prawns redolent with lemongrass and turmeric on a bed of lettuce leaves dotted with pomelo, cucumber and surprise of surprises, slices of a local mango called bacang or ‘kuini’ lending its unique pungency to the salad; dressed with a ginger flower dressing. Fusion flavours, delicate and exotic at the same time – RM22.
Tasmanian Black Mussels served in white wine and sweet basil broth with garlic toast was delectable. Unlike New Zealand green mussels which can be chewy, these smaller cousins were tender and juicy and the broth umami and flavourful – RM18. More appetizers followed which were all worth trying. The Tataki Tuna Belly on a bed of avocado, cherry tomatoes and balsamic sesame vinaigrette sauce hit just the right notes – RM22, while the Crisp Black Pepper Soft Shell Crab provided the crunch enhanced by the wasabi aioli sauce lending a touch of Japanese drama to the dish.
I must make mention of their pasta dishes. This is one of the few places in Ipoh where you can get your pasta cooked a’la minute and have it served al dente (how the Italians eat their pasta which is still chewy on the bite). One particularly delectable one is the Hokkaido scallops and Prawn Linguini, served with cherry tomatoes, asparagus, basil leaf and a light cream sauce made from lobster and prawn shells reminiscent of a lobster bisque – RM38.
My favourite main courses were the Roasted Rack of Lamb, two chunky Dorper Lamb chops marinated with Javanese spices, tender, juicy and still pink on the inside, served with potato cutlets and seasonal vegetables. This is lamb cooked to perfection, a favourite of mine – RM48.
Their Grilled Chilled Angus Rib-Eye Steak, topped with truffled butter, served with roasted swiss brown mushrooms, seasonal vegetables and a divine potato puree was heavenly, a raison d’etre for coming over and over to Exclusive Venue – RM56 for 180g portion. Tasting these two meat dishes filled me with compassion for the non red-meat eaters who are really missing out on a taste treat.
Exclusive Venue has certainly made an impression on me. The only caveat is whether these two young chefs will maintain the quality and can the service match up to the quality of the food. May Phoon the very helpful manager has assured Ipoh diners that this will happen.de’ Exclusive Venue @ 79 79 Jalan Raja Ekram (Cowan Street), Ipoh. 016 5328779 or 05 241 0882 11.30am till 12.00 midnight. Closed Wednesdays except public holidays.