When a chef is proud enough of his staff meals to post them on Instagram, you really get the sense that they cook for the sheer joy of feeding people. Junda Khoo’s enthusiasm for the modern Malaysian dishes he presents is what drew me back to Ho Jiak Haymarket once again.
All that really needs to be said about the Indomee Buttermilk Truffle ($39) is come and eat it already! You’ll have to hurry though, because truffle season is almost at a close. The aroma of the shaved black truffles hits you as soon as this bowl of spicy fried noodles lands. Buttermilk cream is a great vehicle for extending the flavour of the funky fungi, with red onions providing some balancing sweetness. It’s very cheffy without being stuffy in either attitude or presentation.
Chook wings dusted with buttery salted egg yolk, Kiam Ah Nui Kay ($12), are excellent drinking snacks. I ate a version of this dish at Momoda in Canberra the day before, and Ho Jiak easily wiped the floor with it. Punctuated with curry leaves, and twice-cooked whilst avoiding being over-cooked or greasy, they’re something you’re going to enjoy stuffing in your gob against Tiger Beer ($8) or the very drinkable Framingham Classic Riesling ($15/glass).
Sang Chye Hniau Kor ($20) will likely expand your beliefs about the capabilities of lettuce. The green mound of steamed lettuce cups arrive ringed by toothsome Chinese mushrooms. Both make for compelling eating against garlic and oyster sauce.
It was a bit of palate relief too, in a meal that quickly spiraled out of control into a feast of epic proportions.
Nui Choay Cim ($45) is an impressive meal centerpiece, as it is topped with whole blue swimmer crab. It cuts an ominous claw-forward stance on a bed of silky steamed century, duck and chicken egg like a Malay chawanmushi. It’s hard work and messy, so only order it if you’re prepared to do the hard yards extracting crabmeat to sprinkle over your savoury custard.
I’m a bit of a rendang aficionado, so I viewed the Crispy Rendang KFC ($38) with a bit of suspicion. For me this particular curry is all about coconut and long fibres of beef, so it's probably not surprising that I didn't love this tomato-heavy version. I will say the crisp chook was cooked very nicely, and it will no doubt appeal to many.
By the time I hit the Kari Claypot ($45) – a huge clay bowl of barramundi, okra, cabbage and eggplant in creamy coconut-based curry – I was seriously running out of stomach real estate.
Luckily dessert goes to a separate stomach because the warm Pulut Hitam ($9) – black glutinous rice drizzled with coconut milk – here is seriously good. It’s got a comforting, homely appeal that has me thinking fond thoughts about curling up in bed.
Teh Tarik Affogato ($12) ensured I had enough hot kopi (hot coffee) in the tank to get home with my eyes still open. While as you can see the temptation to order everything is strong at Ho Jiak, remember you can also visit for a simple, well-priced, one-dish dinner.
NOTE: You can read a previous review of this restaurant HERE.
92 Hay Street, Haymarket
Ph: (02) 8040 0252