Pinang Masak Café offers good Minangkabau food, but that depends on when you drop by.

DINING at Pinang Masak Café in Bukit Tunku on the weekends is a totally different experience compared to weekdays. Our first visit to the café was on a Saturday afternoon when Rif and I wanted a break from our usual chap fan (mix rice). We were greeted by a friendly old man, who gave us attentive service throughout our lunch. Sadly, we didn’t enjoy the same dining experience during our second visit for a weekday lunch. I’ll describe my earlier visit first.

The menu comprises specialty dishes such as lontong, laksa Johor, mee kari, mee rebus and nasi kerabu. Pinang Masak also serves a variety of Minangkabau dishes like ayam rendang, ayam masak merah, sambal sotong, sayur lodeh, tempe goreng, pucuk paku, sambal terung udang masak lemak, ikan asam pedas and ulam.

I opted for the ayam rendang (RM5.50), sotong masak hitam (RM6.50) and tempe goreng sambal (RM2.50) to go with my white rice. The rendang gravy was thick and redolent of an assortment of spices and chillies. I enjoyed the well-flavoured chicken, which was tender, smooth and juicy. It worked as a flavourful accent to the rice (RM2).

The sotong (squid) was also tasty. The masak hitam gravy was spicy and sweetish, and the squid was tender. That said, I would prefer a thicker gravy. The tempe was deep-fried and cooked with sambal, long beans, ikan bilis and petai. I didn’t care much for this as I like my tempe moist in the centre; this was crispy all over.

The highlight of our Saturday lunch was definitely the lontong special. It comes with an option of ayam rendang, sambal sotong or paru (beef lung) as a side – we opted for the paru. My bowl of lontong comprised chunky rice cubes (nasi impit) and sayur lodeh, with long beans, cabbage, glass noodles, tempe, tofu cubes and half an egg. All the ingredients were bound together with a topping of peanut sauce and sambal chilli. This was mildly spicy, imbued with a considerable richness from the coconut milk and full of varying texture from the ingredients. Good stuff! The paru was adequately prepared, resulting in tender slivers of lung in a spicy sambal chilli dressing.

A plate of ayam masak merah and vegetables makes a good meal.

I actually thought the nasi goreng kerabu (RM11.90) would be blue in colour, the way it is sometimes served. But it looked more like a nasi goreng ulam. Light in colour but not in flavour, the rice came with bits of bunga kantan, daun kunyit, daun kesom, chicken, prawns and a few other ingredients I didn’t know. The rice was rightly moist, firm, yet fluffy and aromatic from the herbs.

On our week-day visit, the place was crowded and a new team manned the counter. They were not as polite and rather hostile looking. The mee rebus (RM9.90) was a huge disappointment. I found the broth overly sweet and diluted, like a mee sup. Ingredients were scant – I counted four shreds of chicken, beansprouts, green veg and half an egg. To make matters worse, I also spotted the staff chucking noodles into a bowl, pouring mee rebus gravy over them and putting the bowl into the microwave oven. I expect my mee rebus to be freshly prepared, not fresh out of the microwave.

Even more disappointing was the mee kari (RM9.90) – their “Today’s Special”, which was also heated in the microwave. For that price, all I got was a small bundle of noodles, some beansprouts, greens and half an egg. No chicken or tofu. The gravy was incredibly oily and left over from breakfast. I hope they don’t take breakfast leftovers and turn them into “Today’s Specials”. Their laksa Johor is said to be very good, but it wasn’t available on both my visits.

034E1F1EF91E407E83DE3B788EDCB52ENicely prepared paru goreng.

I quite enjoyed their cucur udang (RM1 for two pieces). It was crispy, without being overly crunchy and had a fluffy centre. I wanted to try the pengat durian for dessert but it wasn’t ready. Prices aren’t cheap (drinks cost a minimum of RM4 each!) but the air-conditioning beats sweating it out at a roadside stall.

Pinang Masak Café, K2 Taman Tunku, off Jalan Langgak Tunku, Bukit Tunku, Kuala Lumpur. Closed on Sundays and public holidays. 03-6201 1964. GPS coordinates: N 3 10.44888 E 101 40.78494

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