Straits Food Company (CLOSED)
Time Out says
Note: Straits Food Company is now closed.
Bless the folks of Baba Low’s 486 (and a few new business partners) who have managed to pull off an assuredly nostalgic setting evocative of memories spent around syrupy palm sugar ice balls and metal biscuit tins. About six months old now, Straits Food Company doesn’t fall into the ‘try-hard’ trap, where café and restaurant owners bend over backwards to scrap off any sign of shine on their furniture to create a ‘yesteryear’ setting. At Straits Food Company, it’s all refreshingly honest despite the mosaic tiles and ratty stools. But the best accessory is the retirees who come around in sandals and khaki shorts, content with a copy of the papers and a pack of cigarettes.
The food is Nyonya, but a mellowed, get-it-fast version. There is popiah stuffed with turnip, fried shallots and egg strips, bound by a thick, sweet gula Melaka sauce. There is pai tee of course; though certainly not the best of its kind in KL, it has all the crispy elements one looks for, plus a bonus homemade vinegar chilli dip. And then there is otak-otak – the unsuspecting star of Straits Food Company. This bang-up interpretation of a classic Nyonya dish is far less severe than a tightly packed Muar version; the fish is left in fairly large flakes before wrapped in banana leaf. The best part is the chunky coconut-spice paste that falls off the custard when the leaf is unravelled – it’s like eating toasted coconut that’s been caramelised and flecked with lemongrass and chilli. I’ve eaten the otak-otak three times at Straits Food Company, all three occasions on which I polished the leaf clean.
The mains that I tried ticked all the right boxes, if the boxes read ‘ability to satisfy’ and ‘ability to fill tummy without Bangsar prices’. The Nyonya laksa doesn’t bear the immediate punch of a thick, cloggy version but this isn’t a bad thing. It’s light in creaminess, loose in texture and well-stocked with shrimp, cockles, egg and cucumber. The ikan gerang asam is something you’d expect in a Malaccan home kitchen – fish (bones and all) clumsily bathed in a spicy tamarind-chilli gravy. The kangkung sambal belacan too evokes a similar sentiment – crunchy with only a light coating of belacan.
My favourite is the curry chicken made with house-blended curry powder – it’s simply a small plastic bowl of chicken, potato and gravy that is oddly, bizarrely fresh, a pleasant respite from the redness and oiliness of a mamak-style chicken curry. After much chit-chat (you will be doing a lot of it over a meal like this), the cendol is just that topper on the cake to complete a weekday dinner. The gula Melaka is not quite as potent as the original at Baba Low’s but the use of properly Malaccan gula Melaka is good enough, which is just about the same I’d say to encapsulate Straits Food Company.