It was love at first bite the minute we tasted the sizzling Salted Fish Chicken in Claypot (RM22.90). We discovered this hearty, downhome dish at Baba Nyonya by Sambal Chilli, a casual Peranakan restaurant at Avenue K recently. Glossy and dark, the caramelised chunks of chicken were superbly tasty and a fab take on the classic ham yue fah lam pou.
Good Peranakan food demands ample elbow grease but thankfully, there's a handful of Peranakan restaurants in the city to satisfy our cravings. We find Baba Nyonya by Sambal Chilli is one of the decent eateries worth trying.
You don't have to pay through your nose for decent Peranakan food here. The brightly lit, cheery outlet serves affordable packs of nasi lemak (a major crowd-pleaser), kuih-muih and delicious Assam Beehoon (RM2.50). The piquantly tangy fried rice vermicelli was so sedap we shamelessly ordered a second round to share!
Well-balanced sweet and spicy-hot accents from the resto's signature Sambal Petai Prawns (RM29) set our tastebuds alight. Both the prawns and stinkbeans were up to mark too, a combination of succulent and crunchy textures. Top notch!
For those who can't stand the heat from that robust dish, douse the fire with imaginative drinks such as Lemongrass Lychee (top pix left, RM10.90), Apple Assam Boi (top pix right, RM10.90), Cincau Bandung (bottom pix left, RM10.90) or Markisa (bottom pix right, RM10.90) - a refreshing blend of passionfruit, lemon, lime, calamansi and soda water.
The Fruit Rojak (RM9.90) also got two thumbs up. Tossed generously in dark, sticky caramelised prawn paste and crushed peanut dressing, the salad's fruity mixture and refreshing crunchiness proved so delectable, we devoured two portions in one sitting.
Bursting with such lush,deep-seated rempah flavours and lemak richness, the Curry Prawns in Claypot (RM36) left us struggling to relish it without rice. This surefire palate-pleasing offering stamped such an indelible impression on us, we agree it was worth returning for.
Amping up our quota of greens for the night was Steamed Ladies Fingers with Sambal (RM12.70). Personally, I found the sambal dip somewhat 'flat' and one dimensional but the tender ladies fingers was acceptable when partaken with the other specialities.
Two notable options which had us chomping with gusto were the wickedly addictive Tom Yam Popcorn Chicken (RM9.90) and Fried Belacan Chicken Wings (RM9.90). Again, their appeal can be attributed to the strong, distinct tastes imparted by two familiar and much loved flavours - that of tom yam and cincalok (fermented krill).
Our only grouse was the chicken wings were a tad dry from overfrying but the marinade managed to bestow the meat some tastiness.
The Crispy Fish with Sambal Sauce (RM56.90) was more slanted to Northern Malay or Southern Thai influences than Baba-Nyonya. Still, the fish was undoubtedly fresh and sweet; a nice canvas to capture the milieu of punchy spice nuances from the sambal.
Daily plates of noodles and rice are also available, to cater to the office lunch crowd looking for quick, reasonably priced lunches. The Green Curry Chicken Rice (RM14.90)was apparently a hit with the white collar clientele alongsidepopular choices of Nasi Lemak Chicken Kapitan (RM16.90) and Assam Pedas Fish Rice (RM19.90) among others.
After the earlier slew of potent servings, I daresay the Nyonya Chap Chye (RM16.90) seemed lacklustre by comparison. While the spongy beancurd puffs, black mushroom, glass noodles and mixture of veggies passed muster, the dish was too watery and flat on the palate.
The saving grace came from a defyingly simple but oh so fluffy portion of Cincalok Omelette (RM12.90). Sliced softened onion lentthe savoury eggy serving subtle sweetness, leaving our dining party asking for repeat helpings.
Remember to leave tummy space for the house special of Banana Fritters (RM11.90). Raveworthy for its gossamer-light, crisp batter and sweet, soft bananas. A side dip of zingy black soya sauce (with ground chilli added) and a scoop of vanilla ice creammade for strange bedfellows for the fritters but somehow, these trad combo worked like a charm. You gotta try it to believe it.
Other dessert options such as Bo Bo Cha Cha (RM4.50), ABC (RM9.90) and Cendol (RM3.90) passed muster. I were underwhelmed by most of them but heck, I'm firmly of the "to each his own" school of thought so do try and decide for yourself.
Traditionalists may like sampling Sago Pandan Gula Melaka (RM4.90) and Bubur Pulut Hitam (RM4.20). Overall, I'd say Baba Nyonya is worth a visit for city folks who seek affordablemeals with a homely Peranakan-Malay-Thai spin. The friendly and helpful service team earned extra brownie points from us too.
For reservations, please call BABA NYONYA by Sambal Chilli, tel: 03-21815544. Address: Lot UC-1, Upper Concourse, Avenue K, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. Biz hours: 8am – 10pmdaily