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Motormouth From Ipoh

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An Italian Experience @ SSTC (Spaghetti Sweet Tea Cafe)

Italian restaurants in Ipoh are limited to either Italia Mia in Sunway, Tambun, or the trio of Pizza Hut outlets. And the latter's not really fine dining, no? :)

SSTC - Spaghetti Sweet Tea Cafe @ Medan Ipoh Bistari, Ipoh

I've read about this particular cafe way back then, when they started business a year or two ago, at Greentown Nova. Subsequently they relocated to this current premise at the new row of shoplots near to Tesco in Medan Ipoh Bistari, Ipoh Garden East. But what's keeping me so long from giving this restaurant a try? Hmm, let's see ... the lack of publicity and rave reviews from friends and acquaintances for one, and paired with the prospect of fine dining in a relatively-unknown restaurant was holding me back.

The clean and minimalist interior exudes a sense of warmth, and homely feeling

Out of ideas on where for lunch on a weekend, we found ourselves driving in circles around Jusco/Tesco. Bumped into this cafe, AGAIN (Serai Sate Kajang is situated a few doors away), hence shortlisted our options to either McD Drive-Thru, Kizuna (which is nearby as well), SSTC (Spaghetti Sweet Tea Cafe), or satay for lunch. And why not go Italian? :)

Pictures of the chef's mentor, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck from Las Vegas and Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook fame

The place was miserably empty on a Saturday's afternoon. We had our doubts, but still trusted our instincts. And the screaming hunger pangs kinda let rationality bypass our brains.

The attentive and cheerful staff were perky and proceeded to serve us with such gusto, explaining the items on the menu and their specialities, as well as giving me a rundown of the restaurant's history in one breath. OK, so I exaggerated, but she was really informative in more ways than one.

Seems the chef learnt from his mentor in Las Vegas, a celebrity chef by the name of Wolfgang Puck, supposedly a Michelin Guide's 3 Stars chef, the highest accolade one can achieve in the kitchen. I meant, recognition of his work in the kitchen. (=P) Gee, at least that was reaffirming.

Panini - Italian Sandwich (RM12)

The menu's simple, separated into various categories, ranging from several categories of spaghetti (normal-160g (smaller serving), special-200g (regular serving), and signature ones), risotto, soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as desserts. No lasagne and pizzas, as she claimed those are "fast food", and deviate from their principle of serving ONLY fresh food from the freshest of ingredients.

We picked the Panini as an appetizer, listed in the "Herbed" segment. Panini is a type of Italian sandwich, made from ciabatta bread, and toasted with fillings of ham, cheese and rocket leaves (Arugula). Served with sides of fresh lettuce drizzled with a tangy, citrusy lemon dressing, the sandwich fared well in our books, the soft bread lightly buttered and highlighted by the creamy, melted cheese and ham. Quite a portion, and sufficient for light eaters.

Turkey Ham Spaghetti with White Sauce (RM20)

But the best dish that afternoon went to their pasta. The spaghetti was supposedly from the best quality batches produced by Barilla, a world's leading pasta manufacturer. And glad to say, SSTC cooked them to perfection, al dente, and did not skimp on the portion nor the ingredients. Though the turkey ham slices may be slightly saltish (expected from cured meat), the addition of fresh rocket leaves lent the pasta a refreshing, mint-y flavour, and off-set the creamy, "guilt-inducing" white sauce. Btw, you can opt for other sauces such as tomato paste, brown sauce, and Asian brown sauce (spicy).

Chicken Risotto in Brown Sauce (RM20)

With no pizzas or lasagnes in sight, I was torn between the risottos or the grilled meats. I was rather apprehensive when it comes to risotto, as Italiannie's version was a letdown, too soggy and lacking in flavour and texture. But still, after the waitress reassured me that they had feedback from customers, stating that they did not wish for soft, squishy and soggy risottos. Hence, she proceeded to explain how good risottos should NOT be too soft or overcooked, and must retain the rice's (usually Arborio) natural flavour and texture. SSTC import their grains from Milan, Italy, or so it seems.

And I was pleased to bite into the plump, rounded & short rice, each grain providing a slightly firmer bite and yet remained creamy enough to be differentiated from local produce. The accompanying chicken in brown sauce was nothing to shout about however. Should've gone for the seafood risotto in white sauce instead.

Tiramisu (RM15)

Desserts selection comprises of three items, the Chocolate Cream Cake, Rice Pudding or the perennial Italian favourite, Tiramisu. No Creme Brulee though, a French dessert of egg custard with caramelized sugar, one of my favourite sweet treats of all time. I love anything with eggs, mind you. LOL.

Tiramisu's their signature, as in the case with most fine dining restaurants, especially Italian ones. The creamy, light and spongy Tiramisu at SSTC was rather delightful, but I'd prefer mine with the coffee syrup laden with heavier alcoholic tone, like Suchan's version. Or with a twist, with creamier mascarpone cheese and served in a cup.

Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, they serve Set Lunches @ RM17 from Wed-Fri.

Overall, a rather pleasant dining experience. And the friendly yet classy ambience was akin to fine dining, but not as strict as to impose dress code on its patrons. I was there in short pants and slippers. Hehe .... A disgrace, I know. But there's always redemption in future visits.

Location : Spaghetti Sweet Tea Cafe @ 19A, Jalan Medan Ipoh 1E, Medan Ipoh Bistari, 31400 Ipoh, Malaysia. Tel : 05-5488832. Same row with Serai Sate Kajang, refer that post for directions.


YBrat said...

James, that's my Uncle (3rd photo) shop la..Should tell me, I'll ask him to give you special discount.

Anonymous said...

Mamamia, description very interesting again here. I liked cured hams particularly parma ham and that plate of spaghetti, done al dente seems so good...
Wow, young brat's uncle shop some can have a second visit with discount, good deal for good food linked to Michellin star man !!!

Anonymous said...

the spaghetti just looks great. if i go there, i will order this one.

Anonymous said...

do u think its tad expensive?

Ciki said...

i use to think Ipoh had TOO much untapped potential for good, mid-range dining.. i was right! Soon, everyone will be opening a joint of their own.. eh, can you cook? you open a restaurant la.. sure can make money one.. lol

backStreetGluttons said...

By inadvertently putting "sweet tea" ( arghhh ! ) in the critical centre zone of a sacred Europeanised namesake , it has what we would call fallen irretrievably into the youngy taiwanese chinaapek trap where false modestied sweetness is the order of the day. as for a european trying his terrible best to speaking cantohainanese brazilian thai inglishee . Guaranteed to kill innocent bystanders ! No ?

Perhaps we are wrong ! we hope


J2Kfm said...

young brat : aiya! why didnt you say earlier?!faster show him this post then I'll ask for discount by shouting your name, ok? =P

jencooks : hehe, yeah. I'll definitely return for the others.

allenooi : they have various types of pasta and the combination is endless, with the accompanying meat and sauce.

anonymous : for Ipoh's standards, yes. but compared to Italia Mia, I'd say SSTC is cheaper.

cumi & ciki : erm, i CAN cook. instant noodles' my forte. =P
what? cannot ah?

bsg : erm, agreed the name;s really a bit off, you wouldnt expect to see a Italian fine dining restaurant with THAT name. I'll ask what's the fuss over SSTC the next time around.

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

this looks authenthic enuf..

tried risotto in italiannies?? oh puhles..pls try italian food in italian restaurants..plenty around in KL..

maybe i shud try this if i drop by ipoh

Anonymous said...

Hi. there seeing the tiramisu, I raelly feel tempted to try ya! As for spaghetti, I used to like Indulgence one, do you think this is better than that?

Allie said...

I am interested to try the risttos. Always watch in TV and wonder how it taste. Hehe

HairyBerry said...

haha, i wear short pants and slippers to restaurants all the time...ok lar, except those that require dresscodes...

interesting looking risotto there. woah, another agenda on my future ipoh excursion lar... :)

Anonymous said...

Italia Mia's choices were too limited leh, perhaps this one is better? But by the way, why would they shifted from Greentown Square to here?

Penang Tua Pui said...

aiks.... hmm... what a great food.. but if we pay a visit to Ipoh hor...... difficult to go include this... why.. once makan.. sure kenyang liao.. hee hee

worldwindows said...

A good one! But doubt I will visit as I am on hawkers' food mode on my a few times a year trip back to Ipoh.

choi yen said...

That tiny piece of Tiramisu cost RM15.00? Expensive lah!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, nice food.. some are pretty good value for the price.. except that Tiramisu.. RM15 omg. Add another RM2 can enjoy the lunch set already lol. Nice lengthy and detailed coverage man!

Anonymous said...

True enuf...RM15 for the tiramisu...Abit tad too expensive.. =)

J2Kfm said...

joe : wei, which one nice in KL? mana tau, Italiannies most accessible in shopping complexes ma. =P

simplegirl : sorry gal, I've eaten Indulgence's buffet pasta only. but not up to standard, I felt. or maybe it was a buffet, after all. can't compare, but can give this a try. a tad cheaper than Indulgence's.

allie : eh, an acquired taste for some. as the grains are tougher than usual rice, and creamier.

nic : Hi FIVE! hahaha ... imagine eating in your most uncomfy clothes. such a chore huh?

jason : erm, this one not very extensive, but I found Italia Mia's chops to be so-so. the pasta not bad there as well.

penangtuapui : haha, can share share loh. not really that feeling also.

worldwindows : true. most come to Ipoh for the hawker food anyway.

mimid3vils : eh, a bit loh. expected if one's dining in such restaurants? but Suchan and Alexis one also RM9.90-RM11.90 only. =P

vkeong : true. haha ... but they claimed the tiramisu is their forte ma.

mboy : a bit tad too expensive. well said, so descriptive one you.

Anonymous said...

I must give this place a try!...:)

J2Kfm said...

yeah fcoe. fine time to treat this Motormouth, eh? :)

Raynebow said...

Hmmm... ya, kinda expensive for most ipoh folks, i would rm15 for tiramisu?

cariso said...

That spaghetti looks really perfect! *my salive out odi*

Anonymous said...

james.. Incidentally I do cook (i'm sure you would have noticed that if you surfed around my blog - it used to be a cooking blog before i got lazy) and risotto is one of my signature dishes (White Truffle Risotto to be specific). I say this proudly cuz my friends who hv eaten it has said that it is better than those in fine dining restaurants :D

Ok lah... I doubt Ipoh restaurants will ever be Atas enough to serve truffle risotto unless they use truffle oil (which is actually olive oil scented with chemicals). But still, I know the basics to good risotto are:

1) The ideal risotto is one which is very smooth, very creamy but the rice still has a little bite to it. Kinda like al dente for rice.

2) To achieve different textures, the trick (used by a lot of Atas restaurants) is to use different rices! Not just one! So a mixture of Cannaroli (which has more bite) with Arborio (creamier texture) By the by, arborio is considered cheap rice, and cannaroli the most expensive risotto rice.

3) The other trick I use (and I guarantee none of the restaurants in Ipoh know about) is that for the creamiest and fluffiest results, you should stir in some whipped cream or mascarpone and a few cubes of butter in right at the last minute before serving. There is a catch though - a lot of skill is required because you have to be quick and the temperature can't be too hot otherwise the fat (from the butter and cream) will split and it will be horrid.

You are probably thinking... cheese, cream, butter?!?!? Must be too much la... but the truth is, risotto is traditionally eaten as a starter (so only a few spoonfuls of it) or as an accompaniment to a main course (e.g. Risotto ala Milanese where it is eaten with braised veal)

Btw the risotto look's awful la. It looks like oyster sauce chicken with rice. Next time I come back Ipoh i'll make u my risotto!

p/s a picture of an awesome risotto (pretty much similar to the one I make):

pp/s in case you are wondering, the best white truffles cost about £50-70 for a small nugget - enough for maybe 1-2 people :S

J2Kfm said...

Raynebow : yeah that's true. in fact that was what the lady was telling me, they cant afford to lower the prices much as most of their ingredients are imported.

cariso : hmmm, not exactly perfect, but the taste was just right. certainly one of the better ones in Ipoh.

genuiness : wow, better than fine dining restaurants? haha. gotta try it to believe it.
truffle oil? to imagine serving a plate of RM20 spaghetti and most already complained about the price (or so the lady said), and you expect truffles? hehehe ...
but really, the brown sauce chicken was not a good complement to the risotto.

Hays said...

Just went yesterday to SSTC with my aunt. I love the cheesy turkey ham spaghetti..and the rissotto, i love the rice very muchies. Also the sweet temptation Tiramisu..nice