By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
Every time a new shophouse development pops up in Ipoh, we can be rest assured that a few new eateries will show up as well. Sure enough, with the new development of Jalan Centre Point, in these few rows of shophouses, a familiar name glows in the dark, beckoning to diners.
And diners at San Poh are aplenty. Arriving at the already late hour of 8.30pm one Wednesday evening, I was very pleased that I had made a booking in advance and had a table waiting for me inside the airconditioned comfort of this small restaurant while a small queue was hovering near the few tables outside on the pavement.
The name Sam Poh is a familiar one, having reviewed them in IE149 in 2012 when they had their restaurant in Ipoh Garden East and I can still recall the lingering mouth feel of their specialties at the time, their faux shark fin which tasted like the real McCoy, their magnificent grilled squid with abalone sauce and a host of other delectables.
Now with this new outlet, although the anglicised version of the name is now San Poh with an ‘N”, the same proprietress Elliza is very much present, leaving the running of the other outlet which is still operating, to her partner. And while most of the items that I raved about in the Ipoh Garden outlet are available here in this new one, Elliza has decided to expand her repertoire, introducing new and innovative dishes which are well worth coming for.
The Steamed Tilapia with dominant aromas of calamansi (our local limes or Tsuen Kum) lifted the fish to new heights of degustation. More Thai in flavours than Chinese, the fish was fresh, the flesh firm and the sauce delectable – RM47 for a big fish for eight persons.
The Seafood Pot was incredibly smooth, with pigs’ tendons imparting their gelatinous properties to the sauce while lending a velvety texture to the other ingredients of sea cucumber, Chilean clams, prawns and a host of other seafood delicacies – RM48.
Chicken with Red Yeast Rice which is a perennial favourite among locals, was tender and fragrant, the rice wine thick and sweet (although not too sweet as can be found in other restaurants), accompanied by the usual accoutrements of ginger, wood-ear fungus which makes this a dish favoured as a postpartum dish – RM15.
The Thai Style Pig’s Trotter (I was told that the trotter was from Germany where of course, the Schweinshaxen – their grilled version – is almost like a national dish) is supposed to have a crispy skin but somehow missed the mark on that, arriving on the table with a garlicky, spicy Thai sauce which added a lift to the meat and especially the fatty bits. Aside from the lack of crispiness to the skin, I couldn’t fault the taste with the meat falling off the bone, the tendons, grizzle and fat done to the perfect degree of tenderness and the sauce mitigating the richness – RM36.
The fried homemade Tofu next was delicious, firm, yet tender, and had all the umami taste and textures which only the addition of fish could provide – RM10.
Another dish that I particularly loved was their Long Bean ‘salad’ with minced pork. This arrived on the table, totally smothered in Thai Basil, dressed in a mild yet distinctive sauce, that had the group of us clamouring for more – RM12.
The last dish for that evening came in the form of the ‘Lai Wong’ Crab, three mid sized crabs drenched in a buttery, creamy sauce, the crab very fresh and the sauce velvety smooth. I would have preferred bigger crabs but as these were the local mud crabs, I had to accept the size given and considering that three mud crabs cost RM78 (these are all daily prices depending on availability), all in all quite reasonable.
I went back on another occasion wishing to satisfy my yearnings for home cooked ‘Kah Heong Choy’ and ordered their Steamed Salted Fish with pork – S/M/L:13/18/28 and found this comfort dish did the trick. Their Sambal Kangkong at S/M/L RM 7/9/12 lacked some ‘Wok Hei’ but was tasty enough and their Oat Chicken S/M/L RM15/20/28 was most satisfying, the chicken pieces still succulent on the inside while the crispy oats which enveloped the chicken pieces provided the contrasting crunch to a delicious mouthful.Restoran San Poh13 Jalan Centre Point 1,Jalan Bharu off Jalan Tokong31550 Ipoh.Tel: 05 241 0357 Elliza: 011 2323 8378Business Hours: 11am-2.30pm; 5.30-10pmClosed Tuesdays but open if it’s a public holiday.