Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Good Food at the Malabar Restaurant

Boxing Day was just going to be another usual day if not for an unscheduled visit with a friend to a newly opened restaurant at Cintra Street – The Malabar Restaurant, Dine and Chill. Occupying two of the corner lots of the heritage building in Georgetown, the new kid on the block looks chic with its designer look and matching colours.

The wallpaper and overall interior decoration adds to its charm and ambience of a comfortable dining experience. The original timber which can now only be found in heritage buildings can still be seen in parts where they are not covered by the lowered plaster ceiling.

“We want to make people feel at home. One part of the shop is for dining and the other is the bar,” says the petite and pretty restaurateur Tracy Yeoh, adding that she designed the shop herself.

Eager to impress us with their food, we were first served with a starter – Lobak, the chef’s personal favourite. This was followed by the Braised Garlic Pepper Pork Ribs, Rendang Chicken, Otak-otak, Malabar Belanda Eggs and Fried Kangkung.

The Lobak was absolutely delicious with just about the correct balance of everything – its deep-fried skin browned to a golden perfection wrapped around the juicy and chunky seasoned meat. A word of caution though - this dish is non-halal.

Although the Otak-otak was not on the menu, we were fortunate enough to try it and this dish too was amazing. Presented in a small bowl, and not the usual banana leaf, the aromatic spices, turmeric and lemon grass simply makes the steamed egg and fish literally melt in the mouth, leaving a very nice aftertaste. The texture of the steamed egg is just right – smooth and firm, and not at all soggy or watery.

The Malabar Belanda Eggs really needs to be mentioned here as well. These are sunny-side up eggs topped with garnishing and dipped in tamarind sauce. The egg yolk and tamarind sauce are complimentary and is a must-try.

The rest of the dishes were just as great and delicious. A good cook cooks well no matter what she cooks, and for that matter, the cooks are none other than Tracy’s mum and aunt. These two ladies are skilled in cooking Thai and Nyonya food, and some of the dishes in the menu are their own original recipes.

“The idea of starting a restaurant came about jokingly as we thought that our mum and aunt were great cooks and wanted to share their cooking with everyone else.

“Then, while we were in this area (Cintra Street) and saw that the ‘for rent’ signage board was up, we just thought to ourselves, why not?” confessed Jimmy Yeoh, Tracy’s brother. So that was how The Malabar Restaurant was conceived.

The name of the restaurant is borrowed from Kampung Malabar, originally an Indian Settlement within the vicinity that existed from the 19th century until the turn of 20th century. It was a time when trade flourished in this region and traders from Kerala especially flocked here to find their fortune. Later, during Japanese Occupation, Cintra Street became the red-light district filled with brothels and hotels.

Currently, renovations are on-going to have a garden setting on the second floor.

Armed with such deep-rooted history, culturally rich background and with sinfully delicious food, The Malabar Restaurant is a recommended place to visit. Prices are fair although parking may be a bit of a problem.

The Malabar Restaurant is located at 26 & 28 Cintra Street and opens from 11am – 10pm daily except for Tuesdays. For more information please call: 04-2638266.
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