Classics stand test of time

Pizza made fresh to order in the stone oven at Nipah in EQ, Kuala Lumpur.

A DAY before Nipah Coffee Shop at the old Equatorial Kuala Lumpur was closed down in 2012 for the grand makeover that would see the hotel being rebranded as EQ, someone having high tea there remarked if things would ever be the same again after they reopened.

Seven years on, the brand new Nipah is, of course, nothing like the old coffee house of yore.

EQ general manager Robert Rick Lagerwey said it would have been impossible for things to remain as they were but the owners have not forgotten its loyal diners.

“If someone is missing the raclette from Chalet, for example, we can recreate this dish though it is no longer part of the hotel,” assured Lagerwey.

This explains why the rebranded hotel has decided to stick with the same name and its signature flavours continue to feature in the new menu.

The curry noodles, created by the late Chef Azhar, who was one of the hotel’s pioneer employees, is one evergreen they have not left out.

In the curry noodles menu, the Perak native had insisted on using the shells of tiger prawns, together with heads so the roe would melt into the stock.

Together with dried shrimp and a blend of secret herbs and spices, it is put on slow simmer for four hours to create a rich gravy, consistent to a hearty seafood chowder.

The meat for the kampung chicken rice continues to come from a supplier who has known the owner, Datuk Lim Kong Wai, since the opening of the hotel.

For toppings, there are prawns, shredded chicken, fish cake slices, half a hard-boiled egg, tofu puffs and crunchy bean sprouts.

The sambal, which comes on the side, is good enough to be eaten on its own. Carrying the fragrance of dried shrimp, it is enriching to the curry broth and adds a fiery note to each spoonful. Pity, there are no plans to bottle it for sale.

Another dish of Azhar’s to make it into the new menu is the oxtail soup.

All EQ chef de cuisine Ali Tuwin was able to reveal is the spice blend for the soup is by Adabi.

The chicken rice is a golden oldie from another pioneer, known as Pak Hamid.

Made with Thai fragrant rice and served with steamed chicken, we were told the supplier for the ayam kampung has not changed since the hotel’s opening in 1973.

The firm and tasty flesh is credited to a farm in Kuala Selangor and the farmer is a friend of the hotel owner.

Nipah’s strawberry cheesecake (right) is one of the hotel’s signature cakes.

Back to the present, the coffee house serves an express lunch buffet where a stone oven produces fresh pizza to order.

Drawing diners is the seafood-on-ice section, where a chef on standby with knife and metal gloves saves guests the task of having to shuck their own oysters.

An extra step to brush off any possible grit with clean water not only adds finesse but heightens the oyster’s juicy flavours as one wolfs down the flesh.

Over at the dessert counter, the strawberry cheesecake is the hotel’s signature confection.

The cheese has an unusually light texture, perhaps a result of the aeration from the whisking process.

Even for moderate eaters, it is possible to down a whole slice solo after a hearty main course.

The recipe for Nipah Coffee Shop’s curry noodles dates back to 1973, the year of the hotel’s opening, and was created by one of its pioneer employees, the late Chef Azhar.

The sourish note from the strawberries cuts through the richness of the cheese.

A special mention needs to go to the meringue topping on the lemon pies for it is soft as a cloud and light as a feather.

To end the meal, call for a latte. They have fine-tuned the coffee machine to produce a remarkable milky foam which slides like silk across the tongue.

NIPAH COFFEE SHOP, Ground Floor, EQ, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 03-2161 7777). Business hours: 7am to 11pm. Pork-free.

This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.

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