The New Vietnamese/French Kid in Town – Alex HouseJune 29, 2013 | 6,051 views
More Vietnamese street food than haute cuisine/fine dining, Alex House sits at a corner of this quiet (well, almost) neighbourhood where the vegetarian restaurant used to occupy.
With the haze all but gone, it’s time to go food hunting/day-tripping again. The Friday evening traffic was horrendous in PJ, a positive sign that people are indeed on the road, going home, traveling to malls, sucking in the fresh(er) air compared to a week ago where all we had was dust and smoke.
Catching up on lost sleep over the past week (on average of 4 hours per night, seriously), the precious minutes of relaxation were all invested in short naps and lengthy periods of apathy.
A new restaurant in town, Alex House opened to low fanfare, until a reader dropped me a mail on this interesting concept of French-Vietnamese cuisine. A stone’s throw away from home, of course Motormouth’s interest was piqued. Here we go … an Ipoh food review that was way overdue.
Combination Platter Mix (RM17.90/USD6) consisting of grilled skewered beef, scallops, prawn and chicken on a bed of rice vermicelli noodles and fresh vegetables
The set up was relatively bare; minimal decorations to the lot previously occupied by the vegetarian restaurant; Min Sin Yie. Draped in red table cloths, and soft lighting, the ambience exuded a sense of dining in serenity yet not posh enough to warrant for a black tie, high heels affair.
Even then, the menu was a stark contrast to the otherwise restaurant-style environment. Photocopied pieces of handwritten menu, featuring simple Vietnamese classic street fares like the fresh spring rolls, rice noodle soup with beef (Pho Bo) or chicken (Pho Ga), platters of starters with grilled marinated meats and seafood over a bed of rice noodles to be wrapped in rice paper, and even dishes like beancurd, stewed pork, hot and sour soup, etc to go along with rice.
Fresh Sugarcane Prawns (RM13.90/USD4.60) for two pieces
To which thankfully, the lady serving us clarified that they were still looking for a properly designed, printed menu with photos of the items they serve. And expanding to beyond just conventional Vietnamese cuisine (thus, the French portion of the branding comes in).
Starting off with the platter of skewered grilled meats wrapped in rice paper (all DIY, for the fun of it … taking your attention off the slightly long-ish wait), dipped into their specially concocted sauce (a spicy, creamy condiment with crushed peanuts) and lots of fresh, raw herbs and greens. The sugarcane prawns were priced at a rather premium price of RM7/USD2.30 per piece, but the chunks of mashed prawns and fish paste wrapped around a stalk of sugar cane were delicious and barely needed additional punch from the dipping sauces.
The Vietnamese Drip Coffee which was thick, robust and aromatic. Almost reminded me of this experience.
Pho Bo (RM12.90/USD4) – The ubiquitous Vietnamese signature you can find everywhere on the streets of Saigon/Hanoi, but not every restaurant does this well in Malaysia. The marrow was a bonus; look at those large straws!
We contemplated on ordering rice and dishes; but the selection of starters and individual meals; beef noodle soup, beef/pork/chicken with cold rice noodles and mixed vegetables sounded so much more enticing. And so we followed the flow. The lady was pretty quick at throwing recommendations and she certainly know her stuff.
There were hits and some misses; the rice noodles (pho) was not as excellent as the real deal, or even some served in Vietnamese kitchens in the Klang Valley. Yet, one can’t help but be contented by the fresh slices of beef and beef balls, plus a side serving of bone marrow (sup tulang, anyone?) for a mere RM12.90. Definitely more than enough for one. The flavour of the soup was satisfactory; slightly clear broth with a very light hint of pepper. Definitely far from overwhelming, a good thing as the last thing you would wish for is the soup drowning the natural sweetness of the beef.
The grilled lemongrass chicken paired with a bowl of rice vermicelli noodles and julienned carrot, raw vegetables and chopped peanuts fared much better. The chicken was moist, grilled to a slightly-charred sides and infused with flavours from the marinade.
I won’t deny that there are still rooms for improvement, and I am sure Chef Alex would be more than pleased to know that his place will fly provided that he still keeps his composure and passion amidst his very VERY strict rule of cooking every single dish himself.
Yes, including grilling the meats. Very meticulous, but wondering how can he cope with a restaurant running at full capacity …. the place can easily seat up to 50 diners or more. We shall see.
Chef Alex apparently has experience working in restaurants specializing in French-Vietnamese cuisine, and even African cuisine over in Europe for a good number of years. So it’s comforting to know that Alex House is no mere pushover or a risky venture to test waters.
ALEX HOUSE (non-Halal)
39, Laluan Ipoh Permai 1,
Taman Ipoh Permai,
31400 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.
Tel No : +605-547 8828
Only opens for dinner, from 4pm – 11pm.
GPS : 4.620651,101.133892
Right before you reach Citrus Wine & Dine on your right, if you’re coming from Ipoh Garden East towards Tambun’s direction