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Thursday April 10, 2008

New food outlets perk up sleepy lane


HIDDEN from plain view, Lorong Kurau is perhaps one of the most interesting places around Kuala Lumpur when it comes to food.

You might even find it hard to locate the place if you hardly frequent the Bangsar area. But, the seasoned city slicker would be aware that this neighbourhood has undergone some drastic changes in the last three years.

Once a “sleepy” part of the city centre, Lorong Kurau has been given a facelift with the opening of four new food outlets – with a fifth in the offing – offering a blend of local and Western dishes.

Not easily located: Nestled in the heart of the city, Lorong Kurau is one of the oldest urban areas around the Klang Valley.

I am happy to point out two such places in this part of Bangsar – known only to residents in the area and office workers in Jalan Pantai Baru and Jalan Riong.

First off, there is the “no name coffee shop” that is located in the centre row of shop-houses here. Managed by an elderly couple, this is one of the established makan places around, offering simple noodle dishes like curry laksa, char koay teow and ching thong meen (clear soup noodles).

And, like any other old school coffee shop, this one also serves the usual roti bakar with kaya and margarine and hot beverages in the form of kopi-O, Milo and tea.

Prices are reasonable, with a hot bowl of curry laksa with a double helping of freshly shelled see-hum (cockles) and plenty of ngar-choy (bean sprouts) on the side at RM4.50 in a single serving.

Family recipe: Baba Low’s Nonya laksa is a household name at Tengkera in Malacca.

Also recommended is the char koay teow that is a hit among the residents and office folks who eat at this coffee shop.

If you love nasi lemak, keep an eye for “Mak Chik Volkswagen“, who has a mobile stall at the end of the row. Now, why mention the German carmaker? Strictly from an observer’s point of view, the lady who runs this stall is one of the few motorcar owners around who has a Volkswagen van that is still in working order.

How good is her nasi lemak? Let’s just say that by 11am, she is done for the day. This is one hawker who is also considerate enough to clean up after packing up.

Moving on, there are at least four noteworthy new makan places in this area. They are located in the same row and one of the more established outlets belongs to ex-bank executive ‘Baba’ Victor Low.

The 32-year-old Malacca boy started his business in the area two years ago. Called ‘486 Baba Low’ coffee shop, this outlet serves traditional Peranakan Chinese food with a modern touch.

Low’s eatery is open from as early as 7am, serving breakfast fare like toasted sesame bun with margarine and kaya, nasi lemak and mee siam.

The toasted bun and kopi-O combination costs RM2.50 a pop, while other, more substantial dishes include the Nonya laksa and “rice set of the day” which is something that you would reserve for a late breakfast or an early lunch.

Speaking of living up to family traditions, Low is a second-generation food operator whose business has its roots in Malacca.

“My family has a restaurant in Tengkera specialising in traditional Peranakan food and they have been running the business for more than 15 years,” he revealed.

On the house speciality, the young business owner would push the Nonya laksa that he is undoubtedly very proud of. Low said he had picked up the family recipe and introduced it at his outlet in Lorong Kurau, and was surprised that it had garnered a loyal following.

“This is one noodle dish that I would recommend if you love curry laksa. It's light, spicy and has a strong taste,” he enthused.

“Other than that, we have the regular rice set for which its main dishes are changed on a daily basis.”

At RM4.50 a bowl, the Nonya laksa is a good starter. To complete the experience, there is the popiah (spring roll) and kueh Pai Tee (top hats) that you can gobble up on your own or share with your friends.

No name coffee shop: This is one of the oldest food outlets in Lorong Kurau dishing out simple meals like noodles that are cheap compared to what is offered at other outlets around Bangsar.

Besides Low’s outlet, there are two other eateries along the same row that you can check out. To get there, Lorong Kurau is roughly about a 20-minute walk from the Abdullah Hukum LRT station.

You can take a shortcut by using the back lane behind the Petronas station along Jalan Bangsar, that connects Jalan Liku to Lorong Kurau, located behind the supply dump at the Tenaga Nasional headquarters.

And, as parking spaces are truly limited in this locality, it is best if you car-pool or walk to the neighbourhood.

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