This past weekend, my darlin’ and always hungry wife S and I decided to get out of town. We didn’t want to go far, so we decided to drive up to Malacca, just a quick couple of hours away. I have been wanting to check out YTL’s new boutique hotel, The Majestic Malacca, ever since it opened. And I knew S wouldn’t say no to an indulgent weekend of eating in Malaysia.
Now, we’re not exactly Malaysia experts, and certainly not Malacca experts by any means (for real expert advice, go to Robyn Eckhardt’s fabulous Eating Asia blog), but the below is a quick recap and list of places we enjoyed visiting in this often overlooked and beautiful historic town.
The Majestic Malacca is really pretty. This very well-located hotel is made up of two buildings. The reception, lobby, and main restaurant are located in a beautifully restored mansion that dates back to the 1920s. It’s always nice to see such a fantastic building preserved so well. The property’s 54 rooms and suites, and spa, are located in a new modern building set behind and connected to the mansion. The very comfortable rooms are done up in a luxe colonial style.
I have to admit that we had a great time at The Majestic. While it certainly has a few kinks to work out (breakfast was pretty inedible and we couldn’t understand why, given the hot tropical weather, iced drinks, i.e. iced tea or iced coffee, weren’t on the menu or available in the lobby lounge), the hotel had many saving graces that made our stay a real pleasure. Chief among them were the front of house staff (especially William and Kevin). They were friendly, helpful and genuinely interested in making all their guests’ stays the best they could be. William even walked us to a nearby restaurant that he had recommended (which was excellent) to ensure we wouldn’t get lost.
We’ll definitely be returning to The Majestic. It’s the only real, up-market boutique hotel in a town that has needed one for a long time.
The Majestic Malacca
188 Jalan Bunga Raya, 75100 Melaka, Malaysia.
Tel: +606 289 8000 Fax: +606 289 8080
We went to Teo Soon Loong Chan Teo Chew Seafood Restaurant at the recommendation of Robyn. And boy are glad we tried it. One of things that S and I seem to do quite a bit when we travel around the region is visit really old Teochew restaurants. Of course, this is understandable since S is Teochew and one of her ambitions is to put together the definitive Teochew cookbook.
This hole-in-the-wall off Jonker Walk has been around for, well, as Joo, one of the owners put it to me, “a really long time.” It’s fantastically old-fashioned. Walking in here is like stepping back in time 20 or 30 years. Teo Soon Loong Chan is tiny. It can only fit between 7-9 tables depending on the size of the group. This makes reservations essential. We were lucky we had called in the early afternoon of the day we wanted to visit. We landed the very last available table that evening. In fact, while we were there, we saw at least 3 families turned away at the door.
We had a great meal. We feasted on the restaurant’s signature and somewhat famous oyster noodles; had a perfectly cooked steamed pomfret; tried their fried soft shell crabs (this was okay but not amazing); tasted their stir-fried leeks with homemade Chinese sausage (yum); and finished our meal with their orh nee (a soft yam pudding). We actually wanted to order much more. We wanted to try their suckling pig, clams, homemade bean curd, braised duck, and a host of other yummy sounding and looking dishes. Unfortunately, Mr Tan, who took our order, refused to let us order anything more, saying that two people just shouldn’t (or couldn’t… I forget) eat so much. Which means we’ll have to return, and return with a big group so that we can try everything.
Teo Soon Loong Chan Teo Chew Seafood Restaurant
55 Jalan Hang Kasturi, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Tel: +606 282 2353
Our usual haunt for Nyonya food when we’re in Malacca is Nancy’s Kitchen. We’ve eaten there many times over the past decade and S even recommended it in The Lonely Planet World Food Guide to Malaysia and Singapore. This time, though, I wanted to try a place that I had read about only recently and which sounded great. Restoran Aunty Lee is a small, humble little Peranakan restaurant about 20-30 minutes by car from the historic centre of Malacca. It took us about 40 minutes to find because even with a GPS unit we got a little lost. It was worth it though. Aunty Lee serves up some really good, authentic nyonya food.
Amusingly, Aunty Lee also had the same attitude to ordering food that Mr Tan did, i.e. they wouldn’t let S and I over-order (or order as usual for us). We had to beg just to get the number of dishes that we had. We tried the ayam buak keluak, which was really, really good. The cincaluk omelette was delicious. And I’m still thinking about how good the itek siu (braised duck) was. Unfortunately, the itek tim (duck soup with salted mustard greens) was a bit too peppery for S’s tastes. We finished up our meal with a nice, small Chendol.
Eating at Aunty Lee reminded me a little of eating at Sin Huat Eating House where chef-owner Danny serves one table at a time. So too here, each table is fully served before the chef starts working on the next table. And if you pre-order and reserve a table, you can jump in front of walk-ins (like us). We had to sit through two huge tables (one of which arrived after us) getting their food before getting ours. But the wait was worth it.
Restoran Aunty Lee
385 Jalan Ujong Pasir, 75050 Melaka, Malaysia
Tel: +606 283 1009
On our last night in Malacca, we decided to spoil ourselves and booked some massages at The Majestic’s spa. Since our sessions ended at 7pm, and we weren’t up for braving the increasingly congested weekend traffic, we decided to try to find a restaurant in the hotel’s neighborhood. One of the hotel’s front desk guys recommended a coffee shop behind the hotel (well, behind and through a parking lot) that specialzied in crab dishes. When he mentioned the magic “c” word, S’s eyes lit up and our plans were made.
Restoran Lee is your typical Malaysian coffee shop restaurant. Plastic stackable chairs. White fluorescent lights. Open to the elements. And packed with people from all walks of life. When we arrived, the restaurant was already pretty full. We grabbed a small table in the street in front of the restaurant and ordered a plate of crabs in milk sauce (recommended by The Majestic staff), some bean curd sauteed with minced pork, and a platter of Hokkien mee. Everything was excellent. The Hokkien mee was authentic and drizzled with crispy fried pork fat. The minced pork and bean curd was a delicious savoury combination. And the crabs were really fantastic. The milk sauce turned out to a thick, Thai-inspired, slightly spicy sauce with coconut milk. The Sri Lankan crabs themselves were cooked just right — the flesh was tender and full of flavour.
From what we could see, Restoran Lee serves up crab in many varieties. We saw tables of people eating pepper crab, chilli crab, and crabs fried in garlic. All of them looked great. And from the look of contentment on the customers’ faces, I’m sure they tasted good too.
155 Jalan Bendahara, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia
Tel: +60 19 361 2008
We also took some time to try a couple popiahs from the very famous Ong’s popiah stall in the Newton Food Court, across from Makhota Parade Shopping Center. I had read about this stall and the one owned by his brother, Fatman Popiah on Jalan Bunga Raya. Unfortunately, we only had time to try Ong’s, which was good but not amazing. The good part was the inclusion of fried pork fat. Aside from that though, the popiah just didn’t live up to the hype.
One of the things we always do when we’re in Malacca is stock up on some kitchen pantry essentials (well, for us they’re essential). S likes to buy gula melaka from Bibik House on Jonker Walk (129 Jalan Hang Jebat). This trip, we also bought some cincaluk, nyonya belachan, belachan powder, and curry powder from Pusat Pengeluaran Tay Hup Huat, aka Pat Nyonya Home Make Product. We liked that Pat was actually there and that she was fiercely proud of her products. We’re looking forward to trying them out.
Pat Nyonya Home Make Product
173 Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Tel: +606 283 2220