Monday, July 18, 2011

Simply Mel's

This family-run restaurant furnishes a treasure trove of Malaccan food whipped up by Auntie Melba Nunis, a cheerful matriarch who acquired her passion and prowess for cooking by helping her own mother in the kitchen.

Auntie Mel's lovingly prepared food _ including assam prawns _ is a valentine to anyone who adores wholesome recipes handed down through generations of women who wanted to feed their families as best as they possibly could.

Kari Buah Keluak, a treat that KL's residents can finally enjoy regularly. These seeds of creamy "black gold" provide a pleasantly bitter nuttiness that complements both the chicken & the curry. Currently available here strictly on weekends, but expect it to be a daily fixture soon.

Paying homage to Auntie Mel's mom: Mama Mercy's pineapple & cucumber salad, tossed in sambal belacan. For now, this new outlet only offers a short list of items, though its permanent menu will eventually showcase a sweeping selection of Malaccan Portuguese & Peranakan fare.

Father knows best: Papa Vincent's fish cutlets, stuffed with saltwater fish & spring onions. Dense and moist; could almost pass off for crab cakes. There's a strong sense here of a cook who sincerely cares about her food and takes tremendous pride in it, allowing nothing that contains substandard ingredients or excessive oil, sodium or sugar.

Cincaluk. An acquired taste, but thankfully, I learned to like this over 15 years ago, while I was still a teenager growing up in Malacca. This version ranks among the best I've had _ the shrimp tastes fresh despite being fermented, with clean, aromatic flavors that might confound customers who mainly recall pungently stinky cincaluk.

Chicken pongteh. Auntie Mel wisely reminded us that no two families' interpretation of this black-bean-&-shallot stew ever tastes exactly the same. For the record, I prefer my grandmother's preparation (her sauce was sweeter and thicker, with mushier, melt-in-the-mouth potatoes), but the pork-free one here is lovely too.

Belacan chicken. Superbly savory, enhanced further by tasty condiments, including one that comprised pickled salted fish, chili & onions.

Karing-karing. Crispy dried threadfish, kinda like super-sized ikan bilis. Utterly addictive.

Devil Curry, a spicy dish, heavenly for some but hellishly fiery for our feeble tummies.

The Malacca Curry Laksa might work much better with a heap of cockles. But we enjoyed everything else in it _ especially the fish balls, which boast a rare homemade feel.

Nasi Lemak, the quintessential Malaysian dish that everyone appreciates. Mel's concoction, which comes with serai-laced chicken, is recommended for customers who relish a tangy twist, thanks to its tamarind-infused sambal.

Roti Bakar with Mama Mercy's Kaya, another cherished family recipe that puts mass-produced, artificial-tasting versions of coconut-&-pandan jam to shame.

Don't diss the desserts. A familiar favorite: Sago Biji Gula Melaka, as great as it gets.

A little cup of fresh-cut fruits to momentarily slash the guilt factor.

Back to sinful calories with Auntie Mel's "secret recipe" of a chocolate cake, indulgently creamy without being indecently saccharine. Beats KL's better-known Secret Recipe hands down.

Bubur pulut hitam. Boiled pudding that bowls us over whenever it's executed with finesse. This one landed on our table at the ideal temperature (hot, but less than scalding), brimming with reassuringly soft, sticky rice.

Coconut-&-cinnamon-laced cakes. At first glance, these looked like leftovers from a humdrum "open house" festival spread, but they turned out to be light, fluffy and so very fragrant. We'd joyously munch on them every Christmas, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya & Deepavali.

Surprise! The Last Polka supplies ice cream here! Fittingly enough, we had the Salted Gula Melaka flavor, filled with rich notes reminiscent of caramel.

Cold calamansi juice for me, hot coffee for you.

The motto of Simply Mel's is "Beng Naki Kumi!" _ a Kristang-language call for the family to come to the table and chow down. With food like this, we wouldn't need to be told twice.

Simply Mel's,
1-1A, 1st Floor, The Sphere,
No. 1, Avenue 1, Bangsar South, Jalan Kerinchi, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2241-4525

35 comments:

  1. Yummy~ the food looks good :)

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  2. tz: oh yeah, satisfying traditional fare that many malaccans might have grown up loving! =)

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  3. Thanks Sean for the beautifully written post! We are so happy and thankful for your support :)

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  4. Cheryl: my pleasure, I meant every word =) am looking forward to enjoying the kapitan chicken, black sotong, baked fish and all the other goodies that'll be on your permanent menu soon :D

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  5. Hi Sean, it was so nice to have you and your friends and Simply Mel's. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the food. We hope to see more of you soon - please come back anytime.

    Auntie Melba

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  6. Sean, I always look at your desserts picture first than the mains. It never failed me. Your pictures are well taken. Love the idea of showing Santan and Gula Melaka at the same time on Sago Gula Melaka. Lovely! But I know Sago not easy to cook it perfectly, you can see the middle white spot in some Sago. But I do not mind that, I will finish them in no time :)

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  7. Auntie Melba: you definitely haven't seen the last of us! thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us despite being busy in the kitchen. I hope I'll be able to bring my family from malacca to your restaurant someday, cos I'm sure they'll love your food too =)

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  8. River/ Huck: thanks! I never realized that sago is difficult to cook. i think I only manage to eat it two or three times a year. but yeah, I can finish two bowls of sago by myself, haha. anyway, see you soon! I'm feeling hungry now by thinking about your food! :D

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  9. The food looks really good but where is this place?!

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  10. Michelle: kerinchi ... less than 10 mins away from midvalley =)

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  11. crazy boy! how much did u eat?! I hope this was on two separate occasions at least! the black gold has my name written on it.. time to pay auntie Mel a visit:P

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  12. Ciki: heheh, ya, all this food was shared with multiple people. We were stuffed! :D there'll be a black gold/buah keluak sambal on the permanent menu, hopefully by next month, so that should be worth sampling too! :D

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  13. The assam prawns look really yummy! Gotta figure out where this place is!

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  14. Pureglutton: oh yeah, the prawns were very flavorsome, delightfully tangy! You might find the location quite easy to reach; just take the kerinchi station turnoff from the federal highway =)

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  15. Oh at The Sphere! Good enough, we have our lunch at S'mores or Tappers there occasionally.

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  16. Food looks good. And this place is relatively easy to get to from my place. And they have The Last Polka ice cream here too! Many flavours available?

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  17. are you like the 1st customer!?

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  18. That's a lot of food! Haha. The only thing I dislike about Bangsar South is the traffic... and lack of parking space. But then again, I've not been there for quite awhile now. So, maybe it has changed.

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  19. j2kfm: it seems like a nice location, with plenty of parking (for dinner and on weekends at least!). but i guess weekday lunches might be crowded with office workers nearby :D
    baby sumo: not as many flavors as Marmalade, The Bee and The V seem to have. there were only 3-4 flavors available during our visit, but maybe they'll stock up on more varieties soon =)

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  20. ky: heh, well, we went for the first official night in business, and then returned the next day for lunch because they only have the buah keluak curry on weekends :D
    chong: oh, traffic seems tolerable here these days. and parking for this restaurant is a breeze, since there's a large open-air parking lot in front of the f&b outlets (only 1 ringgit for three hours, i think) :D

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  21. The Last Polka and Nyonya food. It's like reading Romeo & Juliet all over again except it doesn't end in tragedy:)

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  22. Aww looks like we have a reason besides S'mores to go back to Bangsar South now! The prices should be friendly to the average family too? =D

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  23. so what is this Black Gold?!! I haven't heard of this before. Something exotic?

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  24. hungry female: heheh, who says it might not end in tragedy? spicy food often wreaks enough havoc with our digestive systems to make us wish we could just poison ourselves and bid farewell to this cruel world :D
    dropsofcontentment: yeps, prices are OK, though to be safe, plan to spend RM30 per person for a full meal, especially if you wanna have the kari keluak, which is a bit more costly (probably cos the buah keluak is imported from indonesia) =)
    eiling: oh, it refers to "buah keluak," considered a delicacy, mostly used in malaysia by the peranakan community. they're basically nuts from a certain type of tree that's mainly found in indonesian jungles :D

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  25. The food looks authentic and GOOD! And it's in Bangsar.. quite near my new place! Looking forward to visit it during the weekend for the Keluak! :)

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  26. iamthewitch: hope you enjoy the kari keluak! the 'bangsar' address is a bit misleading though. it's 'bangsar south,' which is more of kerinchi/pantai :D

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  27. I alws felt that its a waste if there's no pork fr this cuisine. Do you miss it, or the food here is good without anyways?

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  28. tng: oooh, i guess the difference with me is that i didn't enjoy pork while i was growing up, so i don't miss pork when it comes to malaccan nyonya food. so in a way, i prefer chicken pongteh compared to pork pongteh =)

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  29. Sean, thank you so much for popping by our new venture :) I'll be revealing what yummy dishes we'll feature this weekend, very soon on our facebook page :) Hope to see you soon! xx aly

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  30. aly: oooh, sound tempting already! i'll definitely keep an eye out for when you'll have the complete a la carte menu available, and i'll drop by then for a full-out feast! :D

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  31. all these sour stuff makes me like saliva manufacturer... lol.

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  32. Extreme power: hope you get to satisfy your cravings very soon! :D

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  33. To further our conversation tonight, Devil managed to find the Chinese name for buah keluak (Indonesian black nut). It's 黑果 (Hēi guǒ) which literally means "black nut". Hooray! :)

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  34. lfb: hei guo! that sounds like it could be some sort of obscure dim sum :D

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  35. Hello Melba, Cheryl & Alison ... great venture!! Amazing pictures .. mouthwatering ... yummmmmmm I realise now how much I have missed all our family meals by Melba and Mama Mercy. Wish I could take the next flight home to have a bit of that pineapple & cucumber salad with belacan! :) and that Nasi Lemak. I can only imagine its taste and the aroma of Melba's cooking.... spices .... hmmm

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