By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
A restaurant with a name like Opëam, is bound to raise eyebrows, or it will have people queueing to check it out. Especially if it’s also housed in a bungalow behind a discreetly lit sign posted above the entrance. I had to turn my car around as I passed it without noticing the sign. Instructions from Foodie Kaki Ginla Chew was “bungalow opposite DeGarden” and sure enough there it was, a bungalow, on the corner of Lebuh Hock Lee facing the Korean Restaurant Daorae.
Of course as we all know, opium is illegal but eating and drinking is not (thank God) and that is what Opëam is all about. Good wholesome eating and drinking in a conducive ambiance. Calling itself a Restrobar, Opëam is the brainchild of young chef/entrepreneur Nicole Gan, from Seremban, who after obtaining a degree in mass communications from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman took off for the bright lights of Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia for 10 months.
There in the US, she developed a passion for all the exciting baked items she was exposed to and with her inherent love of baking and cooking, she returned to Ipoh where she started Patisserie Boutique in Old Town along Jalan Sultan Yusuff, a cafe which quickly garnered a faithful following, especially for its delectable pastries, cakes, and simple fare.
That was four years ago and now with the opening of Opëam, this enterprising young lady has moved into the food and beverage industry big time. It is hard work for her, dividing her time between mornings at Patisserie Boutique and evenings at Opëam, baking, cooking and offering a small menu with an emphasis on quality of produce and a ‘less-is-more’ style of preparation.
Despite not having had any formal Chef’s training, Nicole succeeds in dishing out beautifully prepared and plated items, coming from her love of baking, cooking and most importantly, a discerning palate which helped her pick up menu ideas during her sojourn in the US. Hence the cuisine is reflective of the Californian style where menu items are light with minimal oil and with little aid from sauces, reliant purely on the light touch and seasonings by Chef Nicole.
Specialties of the house here aside from the food items are their cocktails. Moscow Mule, a concoction using lime, ginger beer and vodka was refreshing, while the Rum and Orange tended to the sweet side – RM28 each. My favourite was the Pineapple Daiquiri which came frozen and served with a spoon – RM32.
As a group of five, we ordered a selection of two pizzas for starters. Listed as Skinny Pizzas on the menu, the first to arrive was the Truffle and Cheese, ultra thin crust oozing with melted cheese, fresh mushrooms and paper thin slices of black truffles, it’s fragrance wafting in wild abandon. Topped with fresh rocket leaves this was a unanimous favourite with our group – RM28. This was followed by the Kimchi Pizza (how’s that for a mix of east and west?) which generally did not find favour around the table – RM26. All their pizzas are topped with Gouda and Marta mozzarella cheese.
The Penne with scallops and prawns with homemade Pesto sauce, fresh dill and pine nuts was absolutely delicious. The penne was cooked al dente and the generous portions of large sea-fresh prawns and scallops was a treat. I haven’t had a better pasta since Italy – RM55.
The New Zealand Lamb Rack served as two chops per order was tender, juicy and flavourful, paired with a homemade mint sauce, charred Brussels sprouts and grilled cherry tomatoes – RM65. This was followed by air-flown Salmon Steak served with salmon roe (Ikura), which was cooked to perfection, the centre still pink and the skin crisped and crackling dotted with mixed nuts and topped with salmon roe which lent its umami saltiness as each egg bursts open in the mouth – RM45.
The pièce de résistance which came next was the Wagyu Steak Marble 6, a generously sized portion of well marbled beef, tender and fragrant and grilled perfectly, topped with a dab of herb butter and served on a bed of mange tout or pea pods. Accompanying garnitures were grilled cherry tomatoes and a whole baked garlic. The searing was expertly done and the steak was well seasoned. RM160 for Marble 6 and RM210 for the Marble 9. The steak is served with a truffle butter sauce on the side.
Before dessert we decided to sample the cheese platter which came attractively plated on a wooden flat spatula offering a choice of imported Gouda, Emmental and Fontal cheese accompanied by strawberry preserves, mixed nuts, mixed fresh berries, olives, raisins, crackers and sliced Chorizo sausages. This can be a meal in itself – RM38.
Then came the highlight of the evening. A dessert which caught my eye was the Salted Egg Yolk Croissant with Vanilla Gelato. This was a true fusion effort, appeasing the Malaysian penchant for salted egg which they use for everything! And combined inside the croissant served with the velvety smooth gelato was heaven in a mouthful – RM16.
The menu items vary from week to week so do ask for the daily specials.Opëam Restrobar28 Lebuh Hock LeeTel: 05 541 2421Business hours: 4pm-11pm. Closed Wednesdays.(Ample parking next door)