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Apr 13, 2012 03:21 PM

Kopitiam Cafe in Milpitas

Have anyone tried Kopitiam Cafe in Milpitas? It seems new, and I was wondering if it's from the same team that was in Lafayette, which was one of the better Malaysian/Singaporean place in these parts.

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  1. Coincidentally, I was planning to have lunch there yesterday but got behind schedule. From what I've read about it, this is not run by the same folks as the dearly departed Lafayette restaurant. It's much more of a coffee shop with some snacks.

    1. Just looked at the menu again and it has grown though still far from extensive.

      Two fried chicken dishes that someone should try this month.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I'm curious as to what kind of fried chicken a kopitiam in America would serve.

        1. re: klyeoh

          Me too, that's why I hope somebody tries the fried chicken and reports back for July's dish of the month.

          I was looking for fried chicken in a style from that part of the world so looked at this cafe's website again and noted the changes. Taiwanese-style boba shops around here often have popcorn chicken or chicken wings on their snack menus, and it sounded like Kopitiam's might be following that path.

          And a question --- Singapore Malaysian Restaurant in SF serves Hainan chicken in steamed or fried versions. It's similar to Cantonese crispy skinned chicken. Nobody else around here serves deep-fried Hainan chicken, is that a known variant in Singapore or Malaysia?

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            The steamed/poached versions are more popular in Singapore & Malaysia's Hainanese chicken rice places, although these same places will also have crisp-skinned or roasted chicken (maybe 20% of the total chicken served).

            Deep-fried, battered chicken, usually flattened and shaped almost like chicken-fried steak, and smothered with a thin, brown gravy (scented with Chinese 5-spice, light soysauce, white pepper) and with onions, mixed vegetables (the sort which comes in a frozen bag consisting of peas, corn kernels & cubed carrots) and potato wedges, is a standard Hainanese dish in Singapore & Malaysia's Hainanese-run restaurants or food stalls. If the dish does not have the components listed here, then it's *not* considered as a "Hainanese chicken chop" dish. There are no variants - don't ask me why, just a quirk amongst Singapore/Malaysia's Hainanese restaurant fraterniry, I guess - and they are quite sticklers for tradition.

            1. re: klyeoh

              Interesting, thanks for context from the old country. The other fried chicken dish I've had that was labeled Singaporean was from Chris Yeo's original SF Straits Cafe back in the day. Not on the menu, this was whole pieces (e.g., drumsticks, wings) that were marinated overnight with anchovy or some other salty fish, and then battered and fried.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Chris Yeo's Singaporean, but his Straits Cafe's food was so "Americanized", I'd only eat there if I'm really, really desperate for something faintly "familiar" - I did that once after 3 weeks in SF (I spent 30% of my time in Oakland between 2006-2010), I went to Straits Cafe & ordered the "sayur lodeh", supposedly a turmeric-coconut-creme-flavored vegetable curry. What I got was vegetarian Thai green curry! Was absolutely scandalized!

                The fried chicken you mentioned was marinated in Chinese fermented shrimp sauce - it's called "har cheong kai" & is a very common dish in Singapore's Cantonese-run casual eateries which served the dish as an accompaniment to "yee tou mai fun" (fish-head noodles soup) - the most famous in Singapore being Ka-Soh, which has branches in Kuala Lumpur as well:

                1. re: klyeoh

                  Heh. ...and that's "prawn sauce chicken" ("har cheong kai") as opposed to "prawn intestines chicken" (also "har cheong kai") :-) depending on the tone/inflection, of course. :-D

                  1. re: huiray

                    I wouldn't have minded chicken intestines either, actually :-)

                  2. re: klyeoh

                    Thank you for the ID of the dish. When I speak of "back in the day", I mean more like 1992-1995 at Straits Cafe with the original cook and before visions of franchise and chain expansion struck. Sadly, I had to stop eating there too.

          2. re: Melanie Wong

            The menu says it serves "Laksa" but doesn't say what kind. Interestingly, it lists many items as "Malaysian" but also has "Kaya Toast" (which is found in Malaysia but is a *favorite* in Singapore) and "Roti Pratha" (Hmm, the Singaporean term is "Roti Prata") rather than "Roti Canai" (which would be the Malaysian term).

            [My understanding is that there are few truly "old-style" kopitiams left in Singapore. You'll have to go to Malaysia (try KL, Penang, Ipoh, etc) for more of them.]

            1. re: huiray

              huiray - The oldest truly traditional Hainanese-run kopitiam in Singapore (Loon Seng @ 429 River Valley Road) was taken over by Papparich, a Malaysian modern kopitiam chain towards the end of 2010.

              I'd not come across a place which felt like a kopitiam (traditional or modern) during the times I was in the San Francisco Bay Area, and often wondered if Singapore chains (e.g. Killiney Rd, Ya Kun or Toastbox) or Malaysian chains (Papparich, Old Town) should venture into the US with their offerings (kaya toasts, laksa, chicken curries, etc.)

              1. re: klyeoh

                Sad, about Loon Seng.

                Regarding "progress" (Not): Even Win Heng Seng in KL, the kopitiam I've mentioned to you, saw fit to "gain more revenue" by plastering (i.e. selling the space) that billboard ad over all three of its upper levels and blocking the view from every window of the "apartments" above the kopitiam proper. :-(

          3. I didn't know the Lafayette place, but agree with Melanie on doubting it's related. The owner is a charming man who just moved over from Singapore, if I recall our conversation correctly. I've been for breakfast only -- the roti prata is superb; comes with the same curry as the nasi curry (although they ensure you get chicken and potato chunks with the nasi curry, while it's mostly just sauce with the prata). Teh tarik and kopi are just as I remember (I lived in Singapore 2006-08).

            I went before they offered the chicken, stew pork rice or wonton noodle and look forward to trying those. I need to get over there more often -- really hope they succeed!

            1 Reply
            1. re: sweethooch

              Thanks, good to hear a first mouth report! Soonish on the chicken would be a good addition to July's dish of the month project.

            2. remember reading about and maybe meeting the lafayette people. much older, probably in their 50's....

              4 Replies
              1. re: shanghaikid

                Thanks for the updates. I was justing reading the nytimes piece about kopitiams in Singapore, which makes me want to drive right over tomorrow for some kopi!

                1. re: ricegeek

                  Do you mean this one?

                  General Note (to readers): "Kopitiam" is not specifically "Singaporean vernacular", as that NYT article states. It's a Malay/Hokkien term (not "Singaporean"), literally meaning "coffee shop", which the article does describe, but it is commonly used throughout Malaysia and Singapore. Frequently such a coffee shop in either country also "hosts" (or rents space to) stalls within its premises or property which cook and/or sell various kinds of food that customers will order. The coffee shop itself would sell the drinks (and coffee) that the customer in turn is expected to also order for consumption with his/her meal, unless the food is "take away" (ta-pau) only. There are noted and "famous" stalls purveying their own "specialties" or their own variation on a local/common dish at specific kopitiams and folks would go to the kopitiam hosting whichever stall whose food they had a hankering for. In droves. :-)

                  1. re: huiray

                    Yes! Thanks for the additional color to the story. I actually have only been to kopitiams in Malaysia, and it's been quite a while ago, so all this is bring back some good memories.

                    1. re: ricegeek

                      Heh. Well, I suspect you would be hard-pressed to find a cup of kopi that looks like the one pictured (no caption provided that I can see) on the website of this modern place in Miltipas in a truly old-time kopitiam in either M'sia or S'pore. Not with that fancy cappucino-style swirly doodad pattern on top - unless it IS a cup of cappucino, of course. :-)

              2. It's my new favorite place to eat in Milpitas! Singaporean/Malaysian food taste so good! I've never been to either country so I'm not an expert, but the food is really good.

                It's 15 min drive from my workplace so it's a bit far, totally worth it. It's in the 3yr old Seafood City shopping center between Korean Garden & Subway. Location: Landess & Dempsey in Milpitas.

                It's a small shop basically a coffee shop with several tables & chairs. Order at the counter, pay, sit down, & they will bring you the food.

                Stuff I got:

                Laksa - Spicy curry noodles $6.80 - it's a big enough serving for 1 person. Pretty spicy, made my nose run a bit. I liked it.

                Roti - Malaysian pancake w/ curry $3.90 - one round pancake w/ a small bowl of curry sauce. I liked it.

                House Noodles $6.80 - M. got it, not sure if he liked it since he didn't finish all of it. It has yellow egg noodles liked a bit crunchy or not, mushrooms, some fried dumplings, 2 green veggie pieces.

                Kaya toast $1.80 - 2 pieces of white bread toasted, crust removed, & a sweet coconut, sugar, pandan leaves jam like inside. Tasty.

                Teh Tarik aka Milk Tea $3.20 ea Cold - it's been pulled earlier guy said & just refrigerated. If you get it Hot ask for it Pulled & he might make it Fresh for you. Will try that next time.

                Charged it. If you buy 7 drinks you get 8th FREE ask to be placed in the system - Last name & phone number!

                Separate bathrooms available.

                Fried chicken from the pics looks like what you get at Quickly & those kinds of places - we didn't try them. Sign outside said Snack Combo milk tea & popcorn chicken $4, pearls 50c extra.

                Oh, I think I heard Cantonese from the guy working there.

                M-Th 7am-10pm
                Fri-Sat 7am-12AM
                Sun 8am-9pm

                Pics attached.