We tried the seasonal menu at Fifth Palate (no longer available) as well as another dish from their ordinary menu and were impressed enough to recommend this place as a go-to cafe destination. For food, at least! And particularly if you’re in the area.
In today’s review, we look at a number of limited-time-only dishes from Fifth Palate that are no longer available…and why Fifth Palate still warrants a visit despite our very much out-of-date words.
During 18 August to 18 September 2017, Fifth Palate launched its limited-time Merdeka Specials. Attentive readers will note that this time period has long passed. We are in October’s realm now – or rather, we are close to November now. But we are still contractually obligated to deliver our unbiased thoughts on the meal, regardless of whether said meal is still available at good ol Fifth Palate. (Editor’s note: can someone check this please is this how it works). And so we begin our time travelling journey with the MALAYSIAN BREAKFAST (RM 25).
Soooo this is a nasi lemak, right? Yes and no. The marketing material reads “Pandan infused coconut rice with pork rendang, fried squid, papadum, sambal and condiments“. The palate reads a fascinating little twist and shout on our national dish. We dig in very, very quickly indeed. Half the plate is gone before we consciously make an attempt to slow down, isolate and identify individual ingredients, and write out notes beyond just “Damn” and “Good“.
First: the pandan-infused coconut rice. It’s very, very fragrant. Hover the spoon below the nose and the laces of pandan immediately waft in. The scent of pandan is particular, unique, a fragrance caught in between basmati rice and banana leaf and freshly cut grass. It’s a distinct scent. It’s a scent that brings to mind a Malaysian childhood.
But back to the rice – the first surprise is that it isn’t what you’d expect from nasi lemak. It’s sticky without being mushy. It’s almost like pulut, texture-wise, which strangely turns out to be a very good thing indeed. Because lord is it tasty. And then there’s the sambal. The first note is a strong sweetness which immediately horrifies us. Could this be Village Park all over again?
Not quite, friends, not quite. The note of sweetness quickly deepens and darkens in the mouth, then morphs into a pleasant heat coating the back of the throat. It’s not an oppressive spiciness that blots out all other tastes and sensations. Instead, it’s a warmth that lays down the picnic blanket for the rest of the plate, and we happily oblige. In goes the pork rendang, tender as anything. It’s large and chunky but a quick chomp shreds through the willing flesh. Taste-wise, it’s perhaps not quite as punchy as we would want our quintessential rendang to be. It’s a bit of a muddled, muted taste. In go the papadum crackers, still crispy and crunchy, with splotches of oil all over. In goes the sotong, which is the first disappointment. It’s overloaded on the batter outside and disappointingly rubbery inside. Squid is a tough dish to pull off, and Fifth Palate falls short on this account like many others.
On an overall basis, this was a highly enjoyable plate though. It tastes like a sort of amalgamation of lemang and nasi lemak, and strangely enough it works! Now to wait for the Merdeka month of 2018 for this dish to roll out once more.
But that’s not all there was to the MALAYSIAN BREAKFAST. This is Malaysia, after all. We don’t stop at the point of obesity. The feeding never ends. And as such when we ordered the pandan lemak, we also received a complementary gula melaka teh tarik.
Yes, we know it sounds like a terribly overly-sweet idea. That’s what we thought when seeing it on the menu. That’s what we thought while waiting for it to reach. And that’s what we thought up to the point we brought it to our lips and took a few sips.
Because damn this gula melaka teh tarik is good.
It’s like a milky, frothy, creamy teh tarik. The gula melaka gives it a very interesting Xanthan gum-like effect, thickening the tea almost to a latte texture. You can just about chew on it. The mouthfeel is that thick. And it’s really not overly sweet, somehow! The body of the tea still manages to slice through the sugar, and there’s that lovely caramelized-sort-of-taste you get from gula melaka.
But, you ask, what about their non-holiday menu?
Well, there’s this, for starters. Or for a lazy Sunday brunch where you need something to jolt you out of the haze of last night’s alcohol. Yes, folks, it’s the Peruvian Seafood Pasta (RM26). The sauce is bright, zesty and zingy. It’s quite a curious little sauce, actually. There’s the tingling sensation of green chili (a bit like the one from Real Sambal) but without any of the heat, if that makes sense. It’s a bit like…essence of chili? It’s certainly not very spicy. We’re told the inspiration for it is from a small place in Ipoh that the founders visited and fell in love with.
Also, seafood. There are some nice salmon bits in here – proper small chunks of salmon/trout too, not the shredded canned tuna some places opt for. I like it. The squid is very rubbery though. YMMV. Squid-y failings aside, this is a pretty good bet for pasta if you’re in the area.
And they have cold pressed juices too (of course). We sampled the CLEANSE: pineapple, spinach, green apple, mint and lemon. It does feel nice and clean. Which isn’t to say I felt particularly cleansed afterwards, but take what you can get, right? The flavours were bright and bold but did get a bit mushed up together which made it hard to isolate each note. It’s a healthy mush-up, at least.
And oh boy, we almost forgot the Appam Eggettes. These were on the Malaysian Breakfast special menu and it had me scratching my head a bit. It felt structurally precarious, on the verge of collapsing like melted steel beams. It could be the way we cautiously picked at it, gingerly holding the base and taking nibbles while keeping both eyes fixed at all times. Perhaps the proper way was to grab it with conviction, lift it firmly into the air like a burrito, and go to town.
Flavour-wise, it was pretty decent. There was a satisfyingly sturdy exterior outside, shielding the pleasantly fluffy pandan innards. It didn’t get too mushy and soggy inside either. There was some mild (very mild) coconut ice cream, and some corn and desiccated coconut for texture. Nothing particularly spectacular but it looked good!
We also note that the Drunken Frenchman is apparently a hit here and it bears more than a few shades of resemblance with Standing Theory’s BBC: there’s french toast, caramelized banana, bacon (pork bacon ie real bacon), Guinness reduction and in-house peanut butter.
Some pretty decent grub…though I suppose it can be notched up to be considered great for the area. It’s slightly off the beaten track but there looks to be a solid lunch crowd on weekends. Worth the visit especially if you’re in the area. May even become your regular neighbourhood haunt, who knows? We all could do with a home-base cafe.
Fifth Palate is located at Block D-G-1, Encorp Strand Garden Office, Kota Damansara. They’re open from 8.30am to 5pm and are closed on Wednesdays. Give them a call at 03-6144 0055. Ask them to bring back the Malaysian breakfast.