Eating Out For Under RM30 features mid-range restaurants where one can eat well within this budget. It's usually a meal for one – but when we're lucky, we find places where two or three can eat for that price.
I may not have discovered Highland Viet Cafe if not for being stuck in front of it on a bus that was blocked by a double-parked car. (A few guys on the bus and a driver stuck behind us tried to lift the car out of the way but couldn't manage it. :-) ... A story for another day.)
Having stared at the shop front for 30 minutes, it was no coincidence that I would be eating there two days later – which happened to be just three days after it had opened. In fact, I could smell newly shellacked wood as soon I stepped into the cafe that Sunday a few minutes before noon with my mother and sister.
There is no fuss with ordering: Just choose from a double-sided laminated menu with dishes listed by letter and number and grouped under noodles, rice, soups, breads, desserts and even something called "Vietnamese portion size meal". This last section lists Snakehead Fish with Black Pepper (RM10.50), which we eagerly ordered.
Now, the live fish may be considered ugly, but there was nothing unpleasant about the taste of this dish. A couple of steaks and the tail end were cooked with more than a sprinkling of black pepper and light soy sauce in a claypot. It reminded me of my childhood – we would sometimes cook and eat the aruan or haruan, as the fish is called in Malay, which we caught in the padi fields and longkangs (monsoon drains) around our home as children.
It was the last dish to arrive at the table but I polished it off even after finishing my individual meal and sharing a plate of summer rolls (RM6.50 for five pieces). There isn't much in the way of vegetable dishes on the menu so make the best of the usual garnishes (lettuce, tomato, cucumber) on the side of the plain rice that comes with the fish.
I don't think the broth for the pho dishes had been simmering for hours, as is often the criterion for a good soup, but Highland Viet's was still excellent. I often find myself adding more soy sauce to soupy noodles but this was perfectly seasoned for my oversalted taste buds. The pork noodles with rice vermicelli (RM7.80) had generous slices of pork, sautéed mince and even a piece of rib. There were also a couple of quail eggs in the mix, and my mum enjoyed her hearty bowl. For an extra ringgit-plus, they throw in a good-sized prawn (RM9.20). The chilli-soy sauce dip that came with both dishes – which we suspect is a made-for-Malaysians adjustment – was unnecessary.
The pate bánh mì (see top image) was ham and steamed pork (RM7.50) filled into a really good baguette. If you ask nicely, the servers (authentic Vietnamese women) will even sell you a bun or two.
We couldn't go to a Vietnamese restaurant without ordering the Vietnamese iced coffee (RM5.80) – it was as good as any we've tried, with just the right amount of sweetness. But if you want your taste buds tickled with something sweet and sour, pucker up and and try the iced tamarind (also RM5.80)!
Based on its location, Highland Viet Cafe's patrons are probably those working around the area, who don't have to look for parking (doesn't look like it would be easy to find – remember that double-parked car I mentioned in the beginning?) and can just walk to the eatery. For the rest of us, the cafe would make a good breakfast/brunch place on the weekend.
Highland Viet Cafe
129 Jalan SS25/2
47301 Petaling Jaya