Maria’s Cafe @ Greentown – The Best Steaks in Ipoh?April 1, 2011 | 15,519 views
Western food in Ipoh has grown leaps and bounds since the days when it was either Rendezvous, First Coffee House, Scotch Pub, Miner’s Arms or to some lesser extent (catering to simpler, fuss-free palates of the younger ones), Crazy Ice Cream House. Back when we were still watching Ultraman, Voltron and still idolized turtles with weapons and talking trash (somewhat), dining out at any of the above was a cause for rejoice.
Okay, drop the last one, since Crazy Ice Cream existed back in the 90′s if I’m not mistaken (and still operating the last I heard). But only Scotch Pub managed to last well over its prime. And surprisingly, still attracting a loyal legion of fans come lunch hour. (*Though one of the comments in that same post came from an avid fan of theirs, and seemingly the owner is selling off the quaint eatery!)
Fresh Oxtail Soup (RM17.50/USD5.80) - Thick, creamy and robust taste of freshly stewed oxtail in a tangy tomato base cream soup, served with garlic bread. This could be a main dish, for all I know.
Anyway, fast forward a decade or so later, Maria’s Cafe came to the scene. Indefinitely, this was a cafe in a class of its own (back then), we shuddered to think of having dinners there since being students and all … the price was not so agreeable. Especially when this was THE place for good steaks and cakes, and a full-blown 3 course meal at Maria’s could have rendered us incapacitated for days without lunch money.
But that was then, and let’s fast forward again to present day. When the sight of Western food outlets (Cafes, Bistros, Steakhouse, Restaurants, etc) at every corner of the eye in densely-populated by commercialization area (Greentown, 1Casuarina, Ipoh Garden East) becomes the norm. And Maria’s Cafe still holds strong amidst the strong competition (Movenpeak, MP, Brewster’s, Yeolde English are merely walkable distance).
Read on to discover the sheer number of food tasted in this review, and how Maria herself fought off competition and retains loyal customers with food cooked with the freshest of ingredients and delectably-homemade desserts …..
Cream Of Mushroom Soup (RM6.50/USD2.20) - Creamy, smooth and hearty, this went well with the Grandma’s.
Minestrone Soup (RM6.50/USD2.20) – Mum was elated by her choice of this inviting appetizer; tangy to a tolerable extent, and laden with an array of vegetables.
Nicoise Salad (RM12.50/USD4.20) - An awkward ‘ulam’ like addition of lightly-blanched French beans aside, the hard-boiled egg with briny tuna flakes salad was a light starter, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.
The starters were good, especially the soups. The oxtail soup to be exact. Rarely found in most cafes nowadays (still remember how Miner’s Arms used to serve a delicious rendition of the same hearty soup), Maria’s Cafe managed to balance the distinctively robust flavour of the oxtail with delicate flavours from the savoury broth.
Chicken Supreme (RM25/USD8.30) – Butter shallow-fried chicken roulade served in a rich supreme sauce on a bed of mashed potatoes and blanched greens. This will go down well with the kids, since the chicken came boneless and stuffed before served in a pool of decadent creamy sauce.
Fish Provencal (RM26/USD8.70) – Freshly grilled fish in a pesto-base sauce served with vegetables and baked potatoes. Looks scarily healthy, but the fillets of cod were of succulent texture and the flesh was sweet.
Roast Chicken (RM16.50/USD5.50) – Drumsticks stuffed with water chestnut stuffing in a brown gravy.
Chef Nigel Lee is the new addition to the lineup, a local Ipoh boy with culinary experiences in various eateries and stints as apprentice chef in both Shook! and Equatorial Hotel in KL. This guy looks much younger than this artifact from Jurassic age named Motormouth, and he already is a HEAD chef?! Come on !!! I can’t even poach a proper egg for goodness sake …..
Most of the dishes were his creations, and was glad that most succeeded in bringing oohs and aahs around the table. Of course, our table consisted of discerning diners from 3 generations (the family, to be exact … we are a tight-knitted group with a serious penchant for eating!), and pleasing each and everyone of us might be difficult since the elderly might not take to too funky/fusion stuff with no substance (overly creamy/cheesy/spicy), and the younger (okay, somewhat) ones like yours truly eat anything and everything as long as the food satisfies this sharp tongue.
Australian Wagyu Grade 5 – RM65/100g, charbroiled and served with sauteed vegetables, and baked potatoes served with English mustard.
But indeed, for the best steaks in Ipoh, Maria’s Cafe is definitely somewhere up there in the top 3. Maybe the BEST in most books, since Ipoh’s suffering from a serious lack of good steakhouses. Though San Francisco Steakhouse came to the picture sometime in 2010, the restaurant did not live up to the hype. Maybe a chain restaurant can never succeed in exceeding expectations?
We were rendered speechless by this beauty of a 280g slab of meat. Cooked to a medium texture (some in the family do not take medium rare or rare), the Grade 5 marbling score was a perfect balance of fat and meat; fatty enough for that melt-in-mouth wonder but not without a substantial bite from the tender meat. A prized cut of course, but still one of the more reasonably-priced Wagyu that I have come across.
Share this, and order a salad or soup instead as the other main. Or you can unleash that greedy self and hoard a piece for yourself. I wished I did.
Blueberry Cheese Cake (RM7.50/USD2.50) - One of their highlighted desserts, Maria bakes the cakes herself and ensures that quality is not compromised. Hence you don’t see mass-produced cakes in 20 or 30 varieties, but a small display with a few choices.
Prune Cake (RM7.50/USD2.50) - Warmed before served, this was a MUST-try. Coming from myself and the generations wearing dentures.
Maria’s cakes were priced almost similarly a decade ago. And back then, the cakes were premiums, compared to Secret Recipe’s which were priced at about RM4.90 or so per slice. But since then, the latter’s cakes have gone down the wrong route; being of smaller cuts, lower quality and priced almost the same as Maria’s now.
So for RM7.50 per slice, you get GOOD, homemade cakes that are Maria’s forte.
Illy Coffee is served at Maria’s Cafe, so you can end your feast in style and with a caffeine high.
I admit I had my reservations (as in qualms, not bookings) initially when I received this invitation from Chef Nigel for this review. The last time I visited Maria’s Cafe, the place was a pale shadow of its old self; somewhat vacant on a weekend lunch session, though the lunch sets were value for money. Now Maria’s Cafe only opens for dinner 7 days a week.
Maria’s Cafe – Serving possibly the best steaks in Ipoh? You be the judge.
60, Persiaran Greentown 1,
Greentown Business Centre,
30450 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.
Telephone : 605-242 4133
Business hours : Mon-Fri, Sun – 3.30pm – 11.30pm
Sat & public holidays – 3.30pm – 12am
GPS Coordinates : 4.59888,101.095751
Google Map to Maria’s Cafe
*Heartfelt thanks to Nigel and Maria for the invitation. No monetary compensation was received in exchange for this review.
(Maria’s Cafe also has a branch in Damansara – C313A, Center Wing, Metropolitan Square,, No 2, Jalan PJU 8/1, Bandar Damansara Perdana, 47820 Petaling Jaya, Selangor 03-7725 2313)