I often drive past the bright orange signboard emblazoned with the name Fonzie on the way to or from the Ipoh Echo office in Greentown and although it evokes memories of that popular TV series in the ‘70s and ‘80s ‘Happy Days’ which featured the loveable rogue the Fonze, as is usual in Ipoh, nothing piques my curiosity unless it is recommended by a friend. And as usual, my partner-in-crime, fellow foodie, Ginla Foo got me interested.
Located very conveniently two doors away from the Excelsior Hotel, sinFonzie actually dates from the ‘70s, having been established 35 years ago. Alan Wong, the current chef/proprietor took over the restaurant in 1997, bringing with him a wealth of experience from 10 years with Overseas Restaurant.
Alan, who’s a meticulous perfectionist when it comes to all natural and healthy ingredients, tells me that his specialty lies in their homemade noodles: both wheat and rice. Unlike most other restaurants who buy their noodles ready-made from factories, he even makes their signature yeemeen by frying their homemade noodles himself. This way, he can assure customers of their freshness and eliminate the possibility of rancidity from stale oil.
This is not your banquet-style restaurant but a place to bring friends and family for hearty noodles and rice, accompanied by a few selected dishes.
We started with a selection of their appetizers or as listed on the menu, their snacks. The vegetable roll, vegetables wrapped in bean-curd sheets and deep fried, were crispy at the edges and succulent in the middle –RM4.00 for two pieces. The fried dumpling or Gao Tze came with vinegar and sliced fresh ginger – RM4.00 for three pieces. The homemade fish balls were extra large and came in a soup – RM4.00 for two pieces.
Hong Kong Style Congee
As we were a large group on this particular day, we proceeded to order a variety of their noodle and rice dishes. My first taste of their porridge or congee justified our visit. Evoking taste memories of the congee I used to eat in Hong Kong; smooth, semi fluid, the rice reduced to creaminess that only hours of simmering can create, this congee had meat balls and egg, umami to the last spoonful – RM15.00 for a claypot enough for three or four people sharing other dishes. Other congee can be ordered with fish, abalone, or conpoy (dried scallops). But the base for all their congee comes with Chinese Kam Wah ham and eggs.
Then came oodles of noodles. The Lo Shu Fun (short fat rice noodles), literally translated as ‘Mice’ noodles, with seafood, tomatoes and a touch of Chinese rice wine, came in a creamy sauce with the addition of Zhejiang vinegar, one of the finest in Chinese black vinegar. I loved the tangy mildly tart taste of the vinegar which imbued the sauce with its own unique character – RM18.00 for a claypot.
This was followed by the quaintly named Lat Duck Hoi Sum (spicy hot and happy), rice noodles in a creamy sauce laced with evaporated milk and with enough chilli spiciness to give bite without searing and tear-ing. Topped with their homemade crispy bean curd skin (Fu Pei) sprinkle, this was delectable – RM18.00.
Piece de Resistance
More noodles ahead as we tucked into their piece de resistance Prawn Noodle soup, homemade wheat noodles in a well-simmered soup redolent of pork bones and prawn shells, topped by large prawns and served with a few sprigs of green – RM28.00 for grade 2 prawns and RM48 for grade 1 (to be ordered one day ahead).
Another of their signature noodles is their claypot-braised Yeemeen which Alan proudly informed me that because they are homemade and not rancid, is not soaked in water prior to braising (as is the usual method). This allows the noodles to soak up all the braising liquids from the prawns, meat and mushrooms that up the dish – RM28.00 per claypot.
Already groaning with the surfeit, the Lemon Grass homemade hollow rice noodles that came in a ‘Tom Yam’ type of broth with Chinese shitake mushrooms, cabbage and prawns – RM9.00 per portion, was the icing on the cake.
In between the group sharing the congee and noodles, we also ordered their 60-day old free range chicken. This was the blanched chicken which arrived without breast meat, one of the special touches that proprietor Alan Wong pointed out was their signature, given that most Chinese prefer the dark meat – RM13.00 for a portion to serve three or four people.
Fonzie serves a variety of healthy drinks which Alan is more than willing to recommend. They also do take-outs.
53 Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil
Tel: 05-2558481 Alan Wong: 012-5587988
Hours: 12-3.30pm and 5.30-10pm
Open 24/7 except for long holidays. Call to find out.