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Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Revisiting Melaka- Part 2; Battle Of The Sungai Duyong Ikan Bakar

Well we made it back to Sungai Duyong again to savour the ikan bakar offerings there. We decided that on the first night we will dine at the original outlet, Medan Ikan Bakar and the next night we will try out the other outlet across the bridge, the one we vowed we will try out the next time we are in Melaka. This time we took the opportunity to go earlier than after dusk, the time that we usually go if my in-laws are with us. I must say that the scenery is magnificent at this time, with a nice view of the river. We were also surprised by this sign that we noticed for the first time, warning of crocodiles in the river although this did not deter some fishing enthusiasts along the river banks. We did try to look for the crocodiles, but even logs could not be found. Nonetheless we expected a fresh food experience as we saw fishing boats coming in, so our meal should be the catches of the day. Sadly this account would state otherwise as the outlet also suffers the typical Malay food outlet syndrome of success malaise.

This time we ordered two types of shellfish, local green mussels cooked in chilli and lemon grass steamed medium sized lalas, eaten with the traditional nasi lemak so typical of Melaka’s ikan bakar outlets. We believe that the restaurant now have two different nasi lemak suppliers, as they were wrapped in different types of paper, one in brown paper while the other in newspaper. The verdict? You better make sure you ask for the brown paper wrapped nasi lemak if you can when you are here, as the other was quite tasteless. This theme unfortunately continued with the shellfish dishes with only the mussels being palatable as the chilli sauce it came in was quite nice. Alas the steamed lalas only tasted nice when it arrived steaming hot but it soon rapidly cooled down and the taste metre also followed. Sadly that is not the only complaints about the lalas as a number was not cleaned properly and therefore sandy. Worse still as the photo evidences, we left behind almost a plate full of lalas unopened even after the steaming, as the rule of the thumb says that these have most certainly gone bad before cooking and to avoid complications they were left untouched. That meant that almost a kilo of lalas goes down the drain, and that will add to the shock later.

In addition to the shellfishes, we had also ordered sea prawns fried in garlic butter and pais ikan, the older brother of otak-otak, i.e., spicy fish pate barbecued in banana leaves. Yet we still had to find fault with the prawns, as the sauce was nothing to shout about and we actually had to peel the prawns off its sauce covered shells and ate it naked as that were happily were fresh . The sauce was actually unpleasantly salty as they are now stingy and used the cheap overly salted margarine blocks you usually find in the street side burger stalls as a butter substitute, a fabrication that should not be tolerated and shall never be ordered again. We actually could not finish the prawns and took it back to the hotel with the intention to clean the sauce off so as to make it fit to be eaten, but it was actually brought home back to Kuala Lumpur and modified in our kitchen to make it palatable. Thus we were left with saving grace of the meal, the pais ikan that fortunately came in a plastic packet so the cook cannot destroy as it was only a matter wrapping it in the banana leaf and cooking it over the charcoal. Nicely spiced and herby and enhanced with the smokiness of the charcoal fire, the kids loved it and concentrated on this as the accompaniment of their nasi lemak. Luckily it was a substantial portion so the kids were satiated, and we actually had leftovers. This cushioned the final shock of the bill that was presented for an amount of RM95.40 for two kilos of lalas, half a kilo of mussels and another half kilo prawns as the premium items. What a high price to pay for an unsatisfying meal, and this strengthened our resolve to try the other outlet, with a commitment that if it was better than Medan Ikan Bakar, then this place will no longer be something we will look forward to in order to have our ikan bakar meals in Melaka. Sadly this place is now another proof of a Malay food outlet that has allowed success go to their heads, resulting in their service and food quality going downhill thereafter.

I am happy to report that the other outlet, Anjung Medan Bakar, however exceeded our expectations especially since when we entered the place we had our initial doubts as the outlet was quite empty. Located within the compounds of an NGO’s training centre, the place was kitted out as a Balinese courtyard , with the tables set in their individual wakaf(shelters) , with a section beside the river though we chose to our have our dinner in the wakaf with the hardwood furnishings. A regal setting that was fit for a royal meal actually. You could even take a ride on their wooden swing while waiting, and you could also pray there since it was a training centre and had such a facility. So ambiance wise, they surely are a winner in my book.

Now turning to the food, we suspect that the kitchen also serves the training centre's cafeteria's kitchen during the day, so it was not a typical ikan bakar place. In fact they serve normal Thai style seafood meals with ikan bakar as an additional menu for the night, but their seafood is as fresh as the other ikan bakar outlets. Thus if you are looking for an alternative style of having your ikan bakar, this is a good place to consider as you can have the seafood with fried rice or other typical seafood restaurant dishes. They even have quail though this was not available the night we were there. As this was our first time here, we only ordered the basic stuff which was fried rice, batter coated squids and garlic fried prawns that actually was also fried in a thin batter coating but flavoured with the garlic. The kids loved the fried rice as it was flavourful but not hot so it was suitable to their palates, while they really dove into the squids even though we had the same thing for lunch as their version was so crunchy and flavourly spiced, it actually became a different sort of a dish for them. The prawns were slower to be consumed, though smaller than the ones from the night before, as they were shelled and the kids did not appreciate the additional work but we adults appreciated the crunchy shells so it was no hassle for us. I must apologise for the lack of photos as we were too busy finishing them off, especially since they were not that photogenic that belies their tastiness, so you should try them yourselves. We will definitely try their ikan bakar and chilli sauced mussels that we saw at another table, as they really looked delicious and we envied the family savouring them. They charge more for their prawns so our bill actually came to around sixty five ringgit, but the sweet fresh prawns cost was justifiable, especially for a hidden A-Graded food haven in such a heavenly setting. Lets hope they do not suffer the same malaise the next time we visit.

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