THOUGH barely four months old, The Wok Cafe already has its own crowd of regulars and diners who just cannot get enough of its authentic Penang nyonya offerings.
Some customers comprise those who frequent Hot Wok Restaurant in Penang — the sister outlet to The Wok Cafe.
Both restaurants are run by the Yeoh family, with father Robert, 58, and son Mervyn, 33, being the ones handling the Kota Damansara outlet.
“We have had a lot of requests from close friends and Hot Wok’s regulars to open an outlet in KL, as a number of them reside here,” said Robert.
“We did a one-month survey and discovered that there was potential to create a place where customers could come to enjoy authentic Penang nyonya food.”
The Wok Cafe’s menu features a list of dishes that most Penangites would be familiar with, as well as popular hawker fare like Char Koay Teow, Penang Prawn Mee Soup, Assam Laksa and Penang Chee Cheong Fan.
For appetisers, choose from perennial favourites like Otak-Otak (fish fillet steamed with egg, aromatic leaves, lemongrass and coconut milk), Lor Bak (crispy pork rolls marinated with five-Chinese spices in beancurd sheets) and Perut Ikan (tangy and spicy vegetable goulash with local fish tripe and roe).
There are also mouthwatering soups like Kiam Chye Boey (tangy salted cabbage mustard leaves soup with roasted pig trotters) and Chap Chai Soup (mixed vegetables soup with seafood, fishball and pork).
The cafe’s recommendations for main dishes would include house specialities like Kerabu Mango (spicy fresh mango salad with dried shrimp) and Jiu Hoo Char (turnips with carrots, cabbage, mushrooms and dried cuttlefish, served with Chinese lettuce and sambal).
Other dishes include Gulai Tumis Fish (choice of fish fillet or stingray in tamarind-based sambal curry with ladies finger) and Assam Big Prawns (pan-fried tamarind caramelised prawns served with cucumber and sambal belacan).
A meal would never be complete without dessert, which includes Ais Kacang (a refreshing concoction of shaved ice, sarsi sugar, nutmeg slices, cincau, peanuts, jelly, atap seed, evaporated milk, ice cream and cendol), Sago Nangka and Cendol with Gula Melaka.
To ensure the authenticity of its dishes, the cafe brings in a fortnightly supply of ingredients and spices like the Chinese five-spices, cincalok, belacan and sesame oil from Penang.
The Wok Cafe’s Penang flavours encompasses not only its food and owners (who do most of the cooking), but also its décor.
Everything — from the intricate door frame and partitions, to the tiffin carriers, tea sets, framed photographs, antiques and furniture — are from Robert’s collection for more than 10 years.
“I got them from houses and shops that were about to be demolished or had no space for such items,” said Robert, who painstakingly restored all the wooden décor by himself.
On why it took more than a decade to open The Wok Cafe after Hot Wok was established, Robert said the family only toyed with the idea after ensuring Hot Wok could be managed by Kelvyn, his younger son, as running a restaurant required a lot of effort and time.
“I had the intention of coming to KL to settle down and establish a cafe offering simpler items like drinks and snacks since last year,” said Mervyn.
“It was my father who suggested that I go all out and open a proper restaurant to give KL a true taste of Penang and its hospitality under one roof.”
Robert also personally attends to customers as he believes it is important to recognise and interact with them.
“Great service is important to ensure the customers feel welcome and that they would return,” he said.
THE WOK CAFE, 26-G, Jalan PJU 5/21, The Strand Damansara, Kota Damansara. (Tel: 03-6142 7388. Website: thewokcafekl.blogspot.com). Business hours: Tues-Sun; 11am-10pm. Closed on Mon. Non-halal.