By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
First it was a pub, now it is a Chinese restaurant and still a pub. With a name like The Museum and the decor inside is plush red velvet upholstery and a gallery of framed pastoral scenes on the walls, you would expect to have the usual gastro pub food but since The Museum had a complete change of heart and menu, it is now a Chinese restaurant with some much-sought-after delectables on the menu.
The Museum proprietor Lee Kah Tee, fondly known as Chee, when asked why he made the transformation which has since garnered a large following, judging by the full tables and the queues outside especially on public holidays and weekends, he said, “The pub business is a tough one and with new ones opening all the time, the business is highly competitive. I made the switch in 2017 gradually adding a few dishes at a time to the menu. Finally, when I felt that we had gained full acceptance, I converted the old seating arrangement into a dining facility removing the high stools usually found in a pub for the round tables more suited to Chinese dining.”
And what a shrewd move that was, judging by the cramped tables and the queues waiting outside where the high stools and tables now sit.
Their signature dishes have to be tasted to be appreciated, the most sought after being their Char Siew or Roasted Pork. Taking the fattest part of the pig, usually the belly, this is freshly roasted daily in a huge antique earthenware jar not unlike a tandoori oven. Simple marinades of dark soya sauce, sugar and molasses coat the pork, producing an almost black crust leaving the meat inside juicy and nicely interspersed with fat. Absolutely divine; RM18.80/RM37.69 S/L.
Their molluscs are the next in popularity, with daily deliveries from Pantai Remis and Indonesia. Their kerang, or cockles, are large, very fresh and superbly juicy, eaten either on the shell or de-shelled as a topping on curry noodles. I arrived too late for lunch one day and was only given enough to go on top of the curry mee, so a booking is essential. Portion of Curry Mee with cockles is RM50 and more cockles can be added at RM40 per kg (with shell weight).
The Lala or clams is another irresistible dish. There is a choice of cooking styles but the one we chose stir fried with Thai basil was superb, the clams, large and VERY fresh with no sand in between. These are usually from Indonesia and delivered fresh every day. Seasonal price.
We had a tureen of Glass Vermicelli with medium-size prawns, cooked in the claypot with the juices of the prawns soaking through to the vermicelli. Delicious. Seasonal price. I would have preferred this done with crab but that was the next course.
The Salt Baked Crab also from Pantai Remis was also ocean fresh, still alive and in a styrofoam box as we walked through to our table. The meat was firm (an indicator of its freshness) and the light saltiness was an added bonus. Served with a chilli sauce which I didn't use as I felt it deterred from the umami sweetness of the crab meat. Seasonal Price. They also have a very good sambal belacan which you have to ask for to go with any of the dishes.
The chicken feet with pork belly soup was umami and the chicken feet which had been deboned was a good dose of collagen for those of us who care for our skin; RM28 RM55.
We had the black pomfret cooked in an asam sauce which I found a tad too sweet but would likely please the Ipoh taste buds. The fish was firm and fresh and came with ladies fingers and ‘tau pok’ or fried bean curd.
On another occasion, we began with their Cucur Udang or prawn fritters, small prawns in a very crispy batter which was superb to go with drinks while waiting for the rest of the food, RM15.90. Followed by the de rigueur Char Siew.
Then to try something new, I ordered their fish head cooked in black beans and bitter gourd. Again the fish head, cut into chunks was very fresh and the sauce was umami and coated the fish and bitter gourd well. Seasonal price.
For veggies, I loved their stir-fried Tong Hou or chrysanthemum leaves RM20, their Paku Salad with small crispy prawns and sweetish dressing with sesame seeds; RM16/RM30 S/L and a salted egg coated mixture of lotus root and bitter gourd. Very umami and delectable; RM25.
And we now come to the pièce de résistance at The Museum. It's a wonder that they can put together a delectable Lap Mei Fan all year round considering that this is a Chinese New Year celebratory dish. And put together they do. Lovely umami rice with a small crust at the bottom (Fan Chiew) topped with very good liver sausage, pork sausage and waxed duck. A meal on its own; RM42/RM65 S/L.
The menu at The Museum is extensive with most of their fish and shellfish at seasonal prices. So do ask before ordering. But considering that everything is very fresh and mostly come from Pantai Remis, it's worth the prices charged.THE MUSEUMNo. 1 Persiaran Greentown 7Greentown Business Centre, Ipoh.Tel: 05 246 0688Business hours: 12.30pm-3pm; 5pm-10.30pm 24/7