Ipoh Garden, Millbrae
Had dinner at this new place last night, and DH and I are quite pleased. They still have the big "Soft Opening" sign, and one should temper one's expectations as far as speed and service go. But the food is very promising indeed!
Since there were just 2 of us, we only had the roti canai, satay (2 beef, 2 chicken), Malaysian dry curry (lamb), and blachan string beans. The string beans arrived first, followed at length by the roti, then the lamb curry and lastly, the satay. To his credit the manager/headwaiter warned us when we first sat down that the kitchen was swamped and the food would be slow. Since we weren't in a hurry, it wasn't an issue with us.
And the meal was worth the wait. The green beans with blachan were full-flavored, the real, pungent, fermented shrimp deal. This cook was not dumbing down his flavors. And the roti was probably the best I've had in the Bay Area, the rolled, multi-layered, fluffed up kind served with a fairly thin curry sauce. The lamb, sliced thin, was coated with a thick, cumin-accented curry, lots of different aromas and flavors in this dish. The satay was decent, but the least impressive of the lot, the chicken being better flavored than the beef.
Ipoh Garden is definitely a welcome addition to the mid-Peninsula area. No longer do I need to drive down to Layang Layang in Cupertino for my Singaporean or Malaysian food fix. But lots of other people seem to think the same thing because Ipoh Garden was very busy, and despite the soft opening sign, the place and the clientele seem to have an air of assurance that Ipoh Garden is likely to be around a while. If the cook, who hails predictably from Ipoh, stays true to his roots, we chowhounds are likely to enjoy many very good meals at this place.
Ipoh Garden--100 El Camino Real, Millbrae, near the corner of ELC and Millbrae Ave.
Tried it tonight and ordered the laksa. I am much more of a fan of sour laksas than curry laksa. Unfortunately the latter was all they had - a disappointment given where the chef hails from, as Ipoh laksa is even more sour than Penang laksa.
The good: really liked the veggies included here. Crisp, flash-fried green beans, eggplant, and okra all seemed very fresh. Some mint leaves in the soup as well, I think. White meat chicken and fried tofu as the proteins.
The not so good: maybe I just don't really care for curry laksa, but this curry seemed on the weak side. It needed something and I couldn't put my finger on what - either more spices, a little acid, a more concentrated stock, or simply more salt. The flavor was not unlike the chicken curry often served with roti canai, except more dilute.
The other: Pleasant enough space. Filipino news channel on the TV. Tables still have built-in burners in them from the previous occupant, Boiling Pot (they are unplugged). The bathroom sink knob came off in my hand when I tried to turn it.
Would come back with friends to try a variety of dishes (esp. the nasi lemak), but would probably skip this dish next time.
Went the other day. I really want to support Malaysian cuisine, the restaurants often fail or the food becomes a generic mess. I would recommend this place if you have a Malaysian food craving or really want to try Malaysian food. Otherwise, it's somewhat average quality (if it was a Chinese or Indian restaurant - I wouldn't be going back).
Menu was reassuring in having all the classics and actually using the funky ingredients that make the food "Malaysian."
However, when the food came . . . the dishes default spicy-ness level is very mild (rather un-Malaysian!). I also noticed a distinct lack of char which is essential to get the proper taste. I did appreciate the appropriate use of shrimp pastes/fish sauces etc, and the food wasn't overly sweet the way Layang Layang tends to be.
Servers are not professional (unfamiliar with the menu and how to pronounce things, forgot to enter orders into the system, had to wave them down). It was busy, but the fact that the waitstaff was struggling with basic tasks didn't help. The service resulted in our meal taking 2 + hrs instead of our typical 1+ hrs.