Friday, January 14, 2011

Old is new at Old Town Kopitiam Mamak

I’ve gotten to an age where I’m seeing fashion trends come around for seconds, thirds even (I’m currently thinking all those vintage floral and liberty prints). While I’m not sure I want to see baggy jeans or denim overalls again, it reinforces the cyclicality of life and that everything old is new again at some point, probably with some adjustment.

Inside Old Town Kopitiam Mamak, QV Square, Melbourne CBD
For me, the rise of Asian street food, especially Malaysian hawker style food, is new, exciting and different; while for others, it’s same old food from home in a different setting with a different price point.

My experience isn’t framed by what the food ‘should’ be, since I have no real reference point for it (well, not until tomorrow) – which, in a way, heightens my enjoyment. New food experience versus old, familiar comfort food – explains a lot about differing opinions on the very same meal.

Front of Old Town Kopitiam Mamak, QV Square
It was brunch time in Melbourne and Old Town Kopitiam Mamak near the open air section at QV was reasonably full, filling up completely as lunch hour rolled around.

A glance at the kitchen showed a huge stainless steel space and well as a bain marie out the front holding a range of options for the nasi kandar part of the menu. The menu lists everything I’ve come to expect from mamak food, plus a few new ones I haven't seen yet.

Drinks section shelf
With the drinks and desserts section of the restaurant occupying an entire bar the width of the venue, it was hard to go past a traditional drink that would use something from the well-stocked shelf of Milo, Horlicks, condensed milk and other national treasures of Malaysia.

Old Town teh tarik
The hot teh tarik arrives in an elegant teacup with matching saucer with a bit of froth on top from the ‘pulling’ of the tea – pouring the white, sweetened tea from cup to cup (usually at height) for an airy, frothy drink. It’s both strong and sweet, and as good a pick-up as a morning coffee.

Old Town teh C special
You could consider the Teh C Special a pimped-up version of tea; a three colour, three layer beverage of palm sugar syrup, condensed milk and milk tea. If the caffeine in the tea does nothing for you, all that sugar must.

Roti canai
Rightly or wrongly, I base my roti standards on Mamak, as my first ever roti experience was there and fantastic. Even then, I also rate the frozen packet stuff you can get in Asian supermarkets, but it’s never quite as light as Mamak’s roti canai.

This roti canai doesn’t quite hit the Mamak benchmark but is a worthy contender. More chewy than crisp, it was served with a curry sauce and a fiery blob of sambal.

Roti telur bawang
The flat pieces of the roti telur bawang were filled with rather pungent onion, and cooked with egg on and through the surface of the dough. Served with the same sauces for dipping, I think roti is a great way to start a meal (although admittedly, the carbohydrates are probably quite filling).

Otak otak
I was told that traditional otak otak was not quite meant to be as this version was, which almost looked like a rectangular pat of curry paste, wrapped and grilled within banana leaf that was secured with toothpicks.

The minced fish was spicy and packed with lemongrass, but the texture was soft and grainy, and didn’t hold together well. I can’t wait to see how otak otak is really meant to be.

Mee goreng
The deep coloured mee goreng arrived steaming hot to the table; obviously fresh from the wok. The Hokkien style noodles were sweet with kecap manis, and mixed with a combination of ingredients including chicken. So tasty it was, we finished every last noodle on the faux banana leaf plate.

Char kueh kak - fried carrot cake
I’d never tried this dish before but was advised that it was like the turnip cake one can get at yum cha – which I don’t particularly like. This char keuh kak, I like.

Slightly glutinous and rather bland when steamed, the ‘carrot’ cake comes to life in the wok with tonnes of seasoning, tossed with the addition of bean sprouts and shallots.

The brunch/lunch crowd
The thought of dessert – roti tisu or cendol – was scurried by my satiation but also by the people outside waiting for a table. It’s quite a large dining area, yet it still fills up at lunchtime with the nasi kandar proving a popular choice. We pay the very reasonable bill and edge our way out and let the new hungry clients take over from where us, the old, left.

Old Town Kopitiam on Urbanspoon


MelbaToast said...

Ooo - we went here when we were in Melbourne last year. I was excited to get some Roti Canai into me, but totally overwhelmed by all the other options so don't think I ordered as well as you do.

Tina said...

Hi MelbaToast - I went for all the usual faves but was helped along by some native eaters ;)


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