My home town, Ipoh, is in Sydney right now.
Well, kind of. Ipoh, you may or may not heard of, it is the place where I was born, the city I grew up in, and it is my home town. I am Ipoh mali (slang in Malay means I came from Ipoh) and damn proud can? Ipoh is a 3 hours drive north of Kuala Lumpur and has never been rated well on the tourism radar. There are a few caves here and there that you can visit, but that's about it. But when comes to food, is a totally different story.
Ipoh is most famous for its hor fun (rice noodle) and bean sprouts as many believe that the hard water from the calcium carbonate (limestone) is the core ingredient for the flawless complexion, smooth as silk rice noodle; fat and stout extra crunchy bean sprouts. Believe it or not, the water in Ipoh does make the food taste better, and a few food bloggers who went to Ipoh may agree with me (I hope!).
Well surprise surprise, another Malaysian restaurant named after my home town has just popped up in Sydney (no surprise there) on York Street. Ipoh on York is hidden on the lower ground not far from Grace Hotel, and I've been told is worth to check it out. Ive been told the restaurant is owned by the same owner who runs Jimmy's Recipe, this two months new restaurant is a lot more spacious comparing to the other Malaysian restaurants in Chinatown, but since it is located in the business district, the only let down is it only opens for lunch until 6pm, so if you want a late night mamak experience, it is not going to happen.
As we descend to the restaurant, we are immediately welcomed with friendly smiles and asked to take a seat with the menu but I do believe there is no table service and order at counter only. You will expect Malaysian hawker food here, from nasi lemak, satay, roti, to chicken rice, nasi lemak and even assam laksa. It worries me sometimes to see a restaurant trying to cover so much under one menu, rather than focusing on a few but doing it good. I pick a few random dishes from the menu to share between two of us to find out how they fare.
We order a murtabak, a thick slab of roti canai is stuffed with chicken meat, egg and onion, grilled to a nice golden crisp and then drenched in curry sauce. Whyyyyy? I don't see the logic of serving the murtabak covered in curry sauce, as it slowly absorbs all the liquid and turns soggy. The flavour is authentic and very generous with the fillings, but they can definitely add a little bit more oomph in the the heat department, even my anglo Australian friend thinks is too mild for her liking.
The Cha Kueh Teow (CKT) sadly is our least favourite. It is rather lacking the breath of wok and the thinner version of rice noodle normally used for Pad Thai simply doesn't cut it. Especially Ipoh is famous for its (Sar Hor Fun) thick rice noodle, I think their asses need to be spanked by using Pad Thai noodle! Nevertheless, the portion size is generous with lots of plump juicy fresh prawns. But I am still missing the lap cheong and the crunchy salted radish in my CKT.
One of Ipoh's most famous signature dishes has to be the bean sprout chicken, it is a simple dish using the same technique as cooking the more commonly known Hainan Chicken Rice which let the flavour and texture of the chicken speak for itself. At Ipoh on York, they will ask you whether you would like to have the thigh or the breast for the Hainan Chicken Rice, I opt for the breast.
When the dish arrives at our table, first thing I notice is the chicken breast is served without the skin which makes me think the chopping skill is questionable. The breast meat is tender and not too dry, but nothing can't be saved by dipping them into the chilli and garlic ginger dressing. Despite the chicken is not up to par, but the accompanied oil chicken rice is surprising good and well cooked with lots of chicken stock flavour.
As much as I'd like to love Ipoh on York, but it is not quite there yet. Without the 'magic' water from the real Ipoh, it is just not the same. But keep up the good work, I'll be back.
Ipoh on York 89 York St
Sydney, NSW 2000 P: 02 9299 0001
Mon-Fri - 10.30 - 6pm
Sat 11am - 3pm