There’s so much more to Melakan food than pongteh and chicken rice balls, delicious though they may be. Besides the ubiquitous street food, a new crop of restaurants has proven tantalising enough to lure foodies from all over the country who come to indulge in fare such as braised abalone topped with gold leaf, foie gras mantou buns and cheesy udang galah noodles.
The Humble Table
Fusion with a modest touch best describes The Humble Table’s offerings. The food is neither run-of-the-mill nor boring while the interiors are versatile enough to be suitable for anything from a casual date night to a simple dinner with the kids. Everyone who dines here, however, orders the pastas. All made from scratch by the talented culinary team, the menu changes from time to time but crowd-pleasers like the tagliatelle pork ragu and tagliatelle carbonara are constants. But before you carboload, don’t miss appetisers like the corn ribs, smoked siakap pate and loh mai-stuffed chicken wings.
12, Jalan KSB 15, Taman Kota Syahbandar, Kota Syahbandar.
Yee Bao Bao
Satay celup is all well and good but sometimes one needs to indulge the palate. Enter Yee Yin Keong of Yee Bao Bao. Having worked in Singapore for years, including at the Michelin-rated Lei Garden, Hai Tian Lo and the Tung Lok Group, Yee is the talent behind a modest but well-appointed restaurant that specialises in fine ingredients (truffles, foie gras and gold leaf, for example) and the art of sous vide cooking. The ground level is an open-plan dining room while the first level is reserved for private rooms, some of which come complete with karaoke machines. Pro tip: Chef Lee loves preparing tasting menus and will work within your budget. Just state your preferred cost per head and he will be more than happy to come up with a suggested degustation.
30, Jalan KPKS 1, Kompleks Perniagaan, Kota Syahbandar.
Established in 2008 by master chef Lee Swee Meng, a Hokkien Mee exponent, Tong Sheng is most famous for its star dish of cheesy prawn with rice vermicelli. Inspired by Hong Kong’s lobster cheese noodle dish, Tong Sheng uses the local and more abundantly available freshwater crayfish instead. There are, of course, other versions of this dish available but, for the original pioneer, you need to come here.
377-378, Jalan Melaka Raya 6, Taman Melaka Raya.
Call ahead, arrive early or be prepared to wait. This old-school Chinese restaurant (think red plastic chairs and pink tablecloths) is heaving on weekends. The crowd comes primarily for the signature river prawn cheese meehoon (look away, Tong Sheng supporters) as well as creative spins on traditional dishes like the hotplate lala omelette and fried prawns in special sauce. Oh, and don’t be shocked as Aunty Fatso will suddenly plonk herself down next to you. It’s all part of her daily routine, going from table to table to take orders and enjoy a friendly chat with customers.
13-15, Jalan KLJ1B, Taman Kota Laksamana.
Modern World Restaurant
Whether for a fancy family feast or a delicious meal with friends and colleagues, Modern World is hard to beat. Specialising in fine Cantonese fare, this is the place for classic dishes like Monk Jumps over the Wall, braised sea cucumber with abalone, roast suckling pig and prawn salad Chinese-style.
12, Jalan KSB 1, Taman Kota Syahbandar.
Wild Coriander Café
For food that tastes as good as it looks, you can’t go wrong with Wild Coriander Café’s variety of rice served on a traditional enamel tray. There’s also laksa, Mee Siam Special and a wide range of Nyonya dishes like devil’s curry, prawn and pineapple curry and otakotak. Be sure to order dessert. All manner of Malaysian puddings are available, from cendol durian to pandan salted egg custard layer cake and kueh ketayap with coconut ice cream.
40, Jalan Kampung Pantai.
Come for the food but stay for the décor. Located along Heeren Street, Peranakan Mansion guarantees to delight both the eyes and the palate. This former traditional Melakan townhouse is where diners gather, seated around tables of varying sizes. The interiors are as Straits-influenced as can be, with lavish blackwood furniture, mother-of-pearl and marble detailing and carvings adorned with gold leaf. Begin with the classic starter of kueh pie tee before ordering dishes like babi cili garam, Nyonya chap chye and nangka masak lemak to communally enjoy with hot white rice.
108, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock (Heeren Street).
This article first appeared in The Edge Melaka magazine (Sept 11, 2023 issue).