An all time favorite Nyonya restaurant by Geetha Krishnan

FEW restaurants can lay claim to having served several generations over the years. Besides this feat, the Nyonya Restaurant in SS2, Petaling Jaya, has also witnessed the rapid changes in the locale and the surrounding vicinity while indelibly maintaining its mark. The restaurant has anchored itself to the same shoplot since 1974 and parents who used to frequent it with children in tow are now bringing along their grandchildren. Senior citizens like the Lims have been dining frequently at the restaurant since the 70s.

Its fourth owner, Mr. Tang, is also keen on attracting a younger crowd and re-igniting the passion in them with wholesome and home-cooked heritage food.

Tang believes he has Nyonya roots on his maternal side but the recipes at Nyonya Restaurant were handed down from the previous owner.

Changes, since Tang took over the reins in 2003, have been kept to a minimum. Its name, which does not keep diners guessing on the sort of cuisine the restaurant offers, has also been retained.

“When the business proposition came up, I decided to visit Nyonya Restaurant for myself and try the food. Suffice to say, the deal was sealed almost immediately,” he said.

Some minor renovations were done and tasteful furnishings were brought in. Soft colours dominate the restaurant while fabric panels lend a touch of nostalgic elegance.

The current cook was mentored by the pioneer cook, which should explain why diners keep returning.

“I believe that people won’t get tired of the unique taste of Nyonya food. Furthermore, everyone can identify with the combined flavours of Malay, Chinese and Thai food in Nyonya cuisine,” Tang said.

Most of the dishes come in small, medium and large portions.

“The Ikan Gulai Tumis easily converts reluctant fish eaters because the homemade blend of spices gives the fish a marvellous taste. We also favour the ikan jenahak for its springy texture and delightful aftertaste,” he said of the piquant dish with a liberal serving of okra.

The Sambal Udang Petai set fire to the tongue although Tang said the spiciness had been toned down. Nevertheless, there was a discreet pleasure in tucking into the prawns, numbed-tongue and all.

According to Tang, only a few Nyonya restaurants offered Sayur Paku these days. The crunchy shoots were cooked with shrimps for added flavour. Udang Assam Koh had hints of tamarind for a sour kick towards the end.
All sauces, pastes and marinades are made from scratch in-house so thoughts of replicating the dishes at home should be banished.

Nyonya Restaurant offers set lunches and accepts catering orders. The restaurant is also popular for its full moon packages to mark the first month of newborns.

Source: The Star, March 20th 2007