Ipoh Kopitiam (Alhambra): A Pictorial Essay

Malaysian-style coffeehouse Ipoh Kopitiam soft-opened to an enthusiastic crowd this past week in Alhambra. Home caterer turned restauranteur Chef Kenji Tang worked hard to crank out orders on their first day. Inevitable but understandable hiccups caused delays in the kopitiam’s operations during my visit. Patience was certainly a necessary virtue, but for those who persevered, we in the dining room were treated to a truly tasty glimpse of the delicious Straits cuisine which Chef Tang was capable of preparing. Despite the soft opening menu limiting customers to only a few available dishes, I am assured by staff that the full menu will be debuting soon.

Kaya toast with butter, Ipoh white coffee… Marvelous. The city of Ipoh (the chef’s hometown) is known for its white brew. The authentic kaya toast complemented the creaminess from the special coffee bean roasting. Enjoying the whole presentation felt like being transported to Malaysia, even if it was just for a brief moment.

Roti canai with beef rendang… Very, very nice. The beef rendang made by Chef Tang is as good as any I’ve tried in Southeast Asia. Super satisfying. Huge bite!

Singaporean-style Hainan chicken rice… There is stiff competition in SoCal these days to see which chefs can master this iconic dish. And I’m happy to say that Ipoh Kopitiam’s version of Hainan chicken rice is truly damn fine. The rice is imbued with the necessary depth to match the chicken. The chicken itself is slick, soft, tender and soulful. The accompanying sauces and garnish are all traditionally flavorful. I just wish the portion was a tad larger. This plate puts the Ipoh Kopitiam Hainan chicken rice on par with that of Pearl River Deli, and even breakout darling Marden’s Chicken Rice. Huge bite!

I truly hope the service becomes more fluid here as the staff eases into their new roles. Street parking was a bit sparse, but I found the free underground garage at Regent Plaza to be plenty accommodating. Food-wise, Ipoh Kopitiam already shines as an authentic and bright hope for Southern California’s Singaporean and Malaysian food scene. I cannot wait to try their other menu items soon!

RECOMMENDED.

Ipoh Kopitiam (怡保茶食室)
1411 S. Garfield Ave., Suite 104
Alhambra, CA 91801
626.703.4198
Ipoh-Kopitiam.com

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Based on your first pic, it looks like there’s some outdoor seating? :slightly_smiling_face:

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I can’t wait to try it. Thank you for the review! I think we both chatted about this on here but kopitiam’s need to be a thing!

We probably won’t get the vibe of a bunch of retired uncles reading the paper and chatting.

No big parking lots but I had luck with the neighborhood around Savoy. Maybe pick up some SJB’s across the street.

I hope they got some spicy piping hot char kway teow

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That looks great. What’s next to the rendang? Or is it just more rendang?

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Outdoor seating indeed exists on their patio. But the servers are still figuring things out, so for now they are running at limited capacity.

It looked to me on my visit that a few of the uncles with the newspapers (and aunties who lunch) have already found this place! Hopefully the vibe continues. I tried to order their char kway teow and bak kut teh, but these items weren’t available during soft open…

The orange stuff next to the rendang was a fragrant curry lentil dipping sauce for the roti. Very good. I like the local flavors being created by the kitchen here.

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The place is slammed all the time these days.

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When recently on a Friday night at 6 o’clock and the wai was about 20 minutes. Maybe we got lucky. Get in line via Yelp before you arrive.

Arrived piping hot and perfectly flaky.

Very nicely done. Agree w/ @J_L the chicken portion seems tad bit small. Seems like short a couple pieces of breast and thigh. Only quibble was our rice was tad bit dry.

Love the crispy bits of pork cracklings.

some dishes were sold out though, like the laksa and bak kut teh.

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Wow, everything looks super tasty—especially the roti!

what level is the char kway teow? Like best in LA area or just pretty good?

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Honestly not a dish I’m expert at as in ordering at every place that has it but on technical standpoint, the wok hei was ok—didn’t hit me in face with it but was present. Well seasoned and liked the crispy pork bits. Noodles weren’t overdone and stayed chewy and intact. Would order again—after trying other things on the menu.

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I’m not a char kway teow expert either but for me any stir fried dish biggest thing aside from taste is the wok hei. Thanks for the thoughts!

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This statement already makes you more of an expert than many, many other people lol.

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Hit it for take-out last weekend - the crowd is no joke and, being extremely hungry, I was glad to have scheduled pick-up rather than wait in line. Roti with chicken curry was a knock-out, loved the nasi lemak with beef rendang too. Spicy anchovies, roasted peanuts and cucumber alongside the rendang was a lot of fun. Had the kaya toast with butter and found that the butter overwhelmed the rest of the dish. But the curry was the standout, especially with that incredible roti. Flavor very close to the chicken curry at Caribbean Gourmet just a couple miles down the road in Blossom Hall. Excited to go back. Picked up a couple malasadas at Dot & Dough afterwards too. Great hungover afternoon combo!

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I hate to declare a “best” in any arena because there are so many factors day to day but my experience was transportive to trips in SE Asia:

“memories of wok-fired late night snacks are in every bite of these nicely chewy noodles.”

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Closest rendition to what I personally remember having in Malaysia and Singapore, so to me it’s the best. :woman_shrugging:t5: I still haven’t been to Seasons Kitchen in Anaheim though.

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We much prefer the CKT at QQ Kopitiam which is SNG/Indo, not Malaysian. More enhanced wok hey. Hours are tough though. The Ipoh version was pretty greasy, but not all that different than the street versions. The very best hawkers in Malaysia and SNG lack that shiny, slippery effect of too much oil.

The curries are definitely pounded, a rarity in restaurants these days. The chicken curry blew our socks off. The Asam Laksa is very authentic and sufficiently “fishy” and sour. Do not expect the coconut milk-laden version.

I’ve never been to Ipoh, but lived in SNG and traveled a good bit to JB, KL and PNG. It’s magic to have jewels of kopitiams like QQ and Ipoh and people like Simon Tan doing elevated Nonya. It makes me so happy.

Now to find a great version of Bak Kut Teh…

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Damn, I haven’t had a proper assam laksa in maybe 25 years. Next trip to LA maybe I’ll stay in the SGV for a few days.

What did you think about the one at Ipoh?

Not ever having BKT in Ipoh, so it could just be me. The broth was more reminiscent of Canto Herb soup than both the Teochow and Hokkien versions I’ve had. It was not as “crowded” in the bowl and felt a little empty without many goodies. Perhaps my expectations were mislaid and I don’t understand this version that could be more reminiscent of Ipoh.

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