KUALA LUMPUR: The shop named “Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock” near Jalan Petaling tends to rouse the curiousity of passers-by.
The name itself is unique. The exterior, meanwhile, suggests that it is a shop selling antiques or artifacts from the 1950s.
Those who venture into the premises, though, would be pleasantly surprised to find that it is in fact a “kopitiam”.
A welcome sign hanging in the middle of the restaurant in three languages – Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, greeting visitors who wish to enjoy the traditional foods of the Malay, Chinese and Indian.
The establishment was set up by three friends: Ernest Ong, Colin Soh and Bruce Wong. They chose the name “Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock” to signify the microcosm of “muhibbah” (unity) among the races in this country.
Wong said the concept was also chosen to recreate the environment of the kopitiam “back home”.
“We want the atmosphere to be evocative of that of “warung kampung” (village stalls) or traditional kopitiam.
“This is because such traditional establishments are rarely found nowadays,” he said.
REMINSCENT OF OLDEN DAYS
The unpainted interior may make the establishment seem a bit drab, but the 60s furniture and decor are bound to evoke a sense of nostalgia among patrons.
The arrangement of tables and chairs was an amalgamation of those found in village stalls, kopitiam and mamak restaurants.
The Malay dishes are placed behind food display cases like those found in village stalls.
“We use benches and long tables like those found in village and mamak stalls, and round marble tables and stools like those typically found in kopitiam,” said Wong.
Songs from the 60s and 70s in Malay, Chinese and Indian languages are played in the background.
“We want our customers to have the experience of dining in a bygone era,” he added.
Wong said many of the wall decor were antique items. There were also old family photographs of all three kopitiam founders.
“Besides adding to the nostalgic atmosphere, these monochrome photographs also help our customers know us better,” he said.
A 1MALAYSIA MENU
The establishment’s manager Jimmy Ng said the menu boasts of traditional offerings like “chee cheong fun”, “mee goreng mamak”, “nasi goreng” and “nasi lemak ayam berempah”.
Ng, who is also the head chef, said the most popular item on the menu and one he would recommend was the “nasi lemak ayam berempah” (nasi lemak with spicy fried chicken).
“Nasi lemak is our signature dish and it is also a favourite among patrons, perhaps because it is a dish beloved to all the races in the country,” he said.
The writer was fortunate enough to sample the dish and could attest to its deliciousness, like the number of foreign tourists and schoolchildren who frequent the kopitiam for the dish.
According to Wong, the kopitiam in Jalan Petaling is the second branch, following the one in Oasis Damansara which was opened two years ago.
“If all goes to plan, we would be opening our third branch in Cyberjaya soon,” he said.
He hoped that the establishment would attract patrons of various races and become a place for them to enjoy the local food while interacting with one another.
“We wanted a place where we can not only showcase the look and feel of the restaurant, but a place where all Malaysians can get together and eat,” he said.