I came to Cheras Leisure Mall for dinner (with my family) only to find that Vietnam Kitchen is no longer here, a place we'd go for its affordable set meals and convenient location near where we stay. Not sure if it's permanently closed or under renovation since the place has been barricaded (and there's no signage whatsoever). My guess is it has closed shop (permanently) and I can't say I'm surprised.
The menu is pretty limited, so you won't take long to order what you want at the counter. Since it was Ramadan month, they were offering Buka Puasa set meals (available until 15 July), the first of which was the Pandan Nasi Lemak + Lime Juice @ RM14.90. It came with pandan-flavoured rice (that tasted like normal rice other than it being greenish), a piece of kunyit fried chicken (no complaints here as it was freshly fried, fragrant and crispy) and the usual condiments of hard-boiled egg, ikan bilis, kacang, cucumber and sambal (that's meh!).
We actually wanted two sets of the nasi lemak (boys will be boys, they like rice) but were told that they had only one last plate left...yikes...and it wasn't even 7pm yet! I didn't see any crowd at the place so I'm not sure why they ran out so soon (maybe a lot of people already "tapau" for buka puasa?). So, my husband had no choice but to order the other set, their Penang Prawn Mee + Lime Juice @ RM12.90.
The bowl of prawn mee had the usual suspects of prawns (two miserable ones), some fish cake slices, shredded chicken, hard-boiled eggs, kangkung and fried onions (that didn't taste like the freshly fried kind). The prawn mee broth did nothing for me! :(
I had their Penang Curry Mee @ RM10.90 which was laden with prawns (just two), cockles (note that I didn't say blood cockles!), bean curd puffs, strips of cuttlefish, long beans, bean sprouts and sambal. At first glance, it certainly looked like how a bowl of authentic Penang curry should look like with its white broth and almost blackish sambal.
Even after stirring in all the sambal, the curry wasn't spicy at all (great for those who like it this way, I suppose). The broth is lighter and more watery than those thick and creamy versions that I'd rather have but still respectable since this is the style of Penang curry mee after all. At least this was still better tasting than the Penang prawn mee. Probably the most disappointing thing was that I didn't get them 'bloody' cockles (pun intended) but 'shrivelled up' cockles that
For the meal sets, you can add on an additional item of either Dragon Roll (don't know that is), Pandan Chicken or Durian Chendul. Our first add-on was the Pandan Chicken @ RM5 which my son seemed to enjoy but failed to give me the aroma and taste I seek in a pandan chicken.
Our second add-on was the Durian Chendul but, luckily, they ran out of durian (phew!) and substituted it with the Original Teochew Chendul @ RM5 which I'd much rather have.
When I stirred everything together, my first thought was that it would be very sweet looking at the rather dark coloured gula melaka but (surprisingly) it didn't turn out as sweet as I expected (the difference could be the gula melaka from Penang?). Overall, it was a pretty decent chendul with not overly sweet kidney beans, fragrant gula melaka and coconut milk (need more santan though). I particularly liked that the shaved ice was very fine (almost like ice blended texture) and the overall chendul's sweetness was still tolerable even when I didn't ask for the sweetness to be reduced (since I was sharing with my husband).
Of course this legendary Penang Road Famous Chendul started as a pushcart stall in 1936 in Penang that is still in existence until today although they have many branches (or franchises) now all over Malaysia. I've not tasted the original one at Lebuh Keng Kwee, so I wouldn't know how this compares (though my husband who had it before says it's almost similar, so I'll take his word for it). Of course, if you ask Penangites, they'll tell you that there are better cendols than this in Penang (hey, there are better cendols in KL too). But, I'm not in Penang, so I'm glad to be able to partake in Penang Road's famous chendul here if and when I want to.
When I saw "Kuang Jiang" @ RM7.90 on the menu, I had no idea what it was, so I asked the worker at the cashier counter. He told me it's yam @_@ I've also seen it referred to as radish cake with peanuts but the website says it's fried glutinous cake made with rice flour, dried shrimps and peanuts. I won't know what it was actually since they ran out of that as well and we substituted it with Fried Popiah also @ RM7.90. The funny thing about this fried popiah was that it came with a weird dip that looked like tamarind juice. On tasting, it was like assam laksa broth and I couldn't stop dunking the very plain tasting popiah into the now-not-so-weird dip anymore....hehe! ;)
My Personal Opinion
It's a place you can go to for a cheap and no-fuss meal but keep your expectations in check although the chendul is worth trying if you like very fine shaved ice.
If I do come back it would to try their Assam Laksa (since I had a small sampling with the fried popiah dip) and to have their chendul again....but next time I'll have my own bowl and ask for less sweet (or ask for the gula melaka to be served separately) to make it as perfect as possible (for my personal taste bud)! ^_*
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul
L1-43 & 44 Level 1
Cheras Leisure Mall
Taman Segar Cheras
56100 Kuala Lumpur