On Ipoh Food
By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
The genius Leonardo da Vinci received inspiration on Lake Como, that breathtakingly beautiful part of northern Italy that also inspired writers like Goethe and Longfellow to make the name Como evocative of all that is artistic and creative. Now Ipoh has its Como Cafe, where proprietors Ally Loke and Johnny Liew, young Ipohites who have come home to roost after studying and working in Australia, are showcasing their own brand of creative food and beverage with an eclectic cuisine, mixing traditional with offbeat to woo diners’ hearts.
Located in the lobby area of the newly-opened Palm Hotel in Falim, Como is a cafe cum restaurant cum cocktail lounge barely three months old. The cafe is modern with minimalist decor while the cocktail lounge named La Rouge is surprisingly retro, complete with red plush upholstery and a long bar where an interesting range of cocktails are served with a special brand of ‘mixology’ from 6pm onwards, by none other than the proprietor Johnny Liew himself.
Craft Beers and Fresh Juices and cocktails like Eat 8 Hold Up (vodka, aperol, pineapple and citrus) RM28, Negroni, (Gin, Campari and Sweet Vermouth) RM28 which on the menu is described as “Sweetness always comes after Bitterness”. And that it certainly is, the Campari which is very bitter, tempered with its own sugar and the vermouth, mediated by the Gin, makes this a drink perfect for the melancholic.
While Johnny looks after the drinks department, Ally looks after the food. A passionate patissier and baker, Ally who comes from a totally non F&B background and tired of the pharmaceutical industry where she worked as a lab chemist, began pursuing her love of patisserie when she came home to Ipoh. Surrounded and encouraged by family who themselves love cooking, Ally devoted her time and energy to creating the menu at Como. Together with a young chef with many years of experience in Singapore, Ally has created an eclectic menu that is still a work-in-progress with items changing on a regular basis as she tunes in to the desires of her patrons.
The menu items are innovative, each one with its own unique twist on the traditional presentation, resulting in an interesting fusion, some of which achieve a certain panache while others may require a little tweaking.
Dishes which I enjoyed include the Como Benny Egg, poached egg served on a crispy crab cake and toast drizzled with homemade Hollandaise, a lovely diversion from the traditional Eggs Benedict – RM18.90.
By the way, the croissants are wonderful here, buttery, flaky, crispy and ordered with the Louisiana Soup (a hearty tomato-ey, paprika-ey mixed vegetable soup redolent with Cajun spices) or their superb Wild Mushroom soup (creamy, fragrant), can be a light meal or snack on its own. Both soups RM9.90.
Another delightful dish is their Crab cakes with Quail Eggs, served with Ebiko Mayo, a trio of crab cakes that actually had generous chunks of fresh crab meat, crisped at the edges and topped with a delicately poached Quail egg, which on the first bite, coats the crab cake with its velvety yolk which is still runny – RM 14.90.
The Spider Burger, fried soft shell crab, sandwiched in a lightly toasted burger bun, topped with sriracha mayo, on a bed of lettuce and gherkins and served with fries was a yummilicious departure from the usual beef patty which they also carry on the menu. Spider burger, RM25.90; Beef burger, RM24.90.
Another must-have item on the menu is the Wild Mushroom Risotto, creamy Arborio Rice cooked the Italian way with mixed Imeji and King Oyster mushrooms. The rice was perfectly done, still slightly al dente (a teeny lingering bite to each grain – which to some Chinese may be totally abhorrent) with the mushroom fragrance permeating the whole dish – RM21.90.
The Cajun Chicken is another dish deserving of mention. Chicken marinated with Cajun spices served on a bed of great mash potatoes, and served with salad and mixed vegetables and an interesting fried ball that revealed oozy cheese. Very delectable – RM21.90.
The Salted Egg Popcorn Chicken listed under Nibbles, which I was urged to try from friends who had been there, was an interesting appetizer. Obviously for diners with a sweet tooth, these would have been been delightful but as my readers will know by now, I am averse to sugar in my food other than where it rightfully belongs – in desserts! When added to pasta, listed under Mains as Gold Nuggets Spaghetti, the sugar was overpowering, and while the pasta was done just right (al dente) the sugar of the Popcorn Chicken overpowered the savoury intentions of the rest of the dish. Great for those with a sweet tooth which alas, is what the average Malaysian palate has slowly been programmed to crave. As for me, both as an appetizer and main, this could have been enjoyable without the sugar. But don’t let me stop you readers who like things sweet. RM12 for appetizer and RM17.90 as main.
Now for the desserts which are Ally’s domain as the passionate patissiere, the ones worth trying are the Im-Passion-Ator, passion fruit cream with an oozy chocolate centre. Listed as “a passionfruit but not a fruit and has a liquid chocolate centre but not a lava cake” – RM14.90.
And Chocolate Garden, an edible garden with homemade raspberry sorbet, chocolate sponge, mini brownie, soil and berry compote – RM14.90.
And finally, order the Tiramisu, yummilicious sweetness of cream, liqueur, coffee flavours and served in a large wine glass – RM 9.90.
Como offers a 3-course Lunch Menu from noon till 3pm for RM17.90.
Consisting of a Light Bite Mini pastry or fruit and a choice of four Mains which changes regularly which on the day I was there included the Hornbill which was Cajun fried chicken, hard boiled egg, roasted peanuts sambal served with lemon grass pandan rice (similar to nasi lemak but toned down) and the Japanese Crane which was Ramen with smoked duck, ebi, soft boiled egg, pickled daikon, nori and miso broth.Como Cafe and Dessert Bar (inside Palm Hotel)5 Persiaran Menglembu SuriaPusat Perniagaan Menglembu Suria, 30200 Ipoh.Tel: 05 281 0998; 012 550 1103Business hours: Wed-Sat noon-10pm; Sunday 10.30am-10pmEmail: email@example.com