Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Fifth Palate in Kota Damansara: A Love Story

first published in The Malay Mail Online, 22 September 2015

Once upon a time, a couple, Dennis and Joyce, opened an eatery somewhere in Happy Garden. They sold familiar stuff: nasi lemak, fried rice, Nyonya curries and rendang, and a whole lot more.

It's not just what's sold at Fifth Palate, but also the people behind it.

Dennis, who dabbles with home-made stuff like yoghurt, rojak sauce, sesame sauce and the like, sometimes sold the results of his experiments at the eatery, Joy Café.

Though I can’t remember when the café first opened its doors, makan kaki Melody and I have known this place for years. It didn’t take long for Joy to become an institution among residents nearby.

Then, the inevitable: Joy closed its doors towards the end of April 2015. I think the staff turnover was a major factor, apart from age. Imagine having to train new employees from scratch every year or so.

The uncomplicated yet tasty "Everybody Loves Ramen" is certain to be
among Fifth Palate’s signature dishes.

No more home-made yoghurt. No more orange-flavoured white coffee. No more simple heartwarming fare from a couple we’ve known for years.

While I was still digesting this, Melody WhatsApped me a photo of a noodle dish. Of course, she managed to do so while I was hungry and bored at work.

I think my reply was along the lines of “What is it called never mind I know what it is it is lovely it looks good it has egg it has pork IT HAS PORK OMG GIMME OM NOM NOM NOM NOM.”

Even better: this came from a place run by Dennis and Joyce’s kids.

Family affair: Dennis’s home experiments now have a label and
are on sale at Fifth Palate.

That was how I ended up driving all the way from Old Klang Road to Kota effing Damansara to Encorp Strand Office Garden, where Fifth Palate is located.

Inside and out, it looked no different from the dozens of hipster coffee joints out there. But I suppose few millennials would want to open and run a Joy Café-like place, all formica tops and wooden stools, serving kopitiam fare.

♪ What shall we do with this Drunken Frenchman, what shall
we do with this Drunken Frenchman, eat it in the morning~ ♫

The menu was limited in terms of mains: the prerequisite big breakfast was there, along with baked eggs and my quarry: the French toast and the ramen dish Melody told me about.

The components of "Everybody Loves Ramen" is guaranteed to make everybody love ramen. Several thick chunks of pork belly brought back memories of Mom’s steamed pork belly and yam dish; slices of apricot mushroom were a joy to chew; and next to a pile of noodles was a poached egg. All of this was immersed in a flavourful shoyu broth.

I managed to eat my way around the dish until the egg and a bit of broth remained. The intact egg was finally in my mouth and I bit down, flooding every corner with liquid yolk.

A plainclothes waiter came to pick up my empty bowl. “Was it really that good?”

Yes, and I didn’t have breakfast.

Dennis's wheatgrass yoghurt with a touch of pandan: a little jar
of happiness from a once-soulful little corner of Happy Garden.

A little earlier, a waitress asked if I’d like my French toast after my ramen. I said yes, and she told the kitchen to hold it. She returned as I was finishing up, and after checking with me, duly informed the kitchen to start prepping the item.

What service!

The French toast arrived.

Now, a French toast at Joy Café was a French toast. Fifth Palate’s version, the "Drunken Frenchman", was a chthonic-looking pile of fried bacon strips and caramelised bananas stacked on top of the actual French toast, made with Dennis’s home-made chunky peanut butter.

(If your hands feel the urge to make signs to repel sin at this point, don’t stop them.)

The "Frenchman" was crowned with a single scoop of Forty Licks vanilla ice-cream garnished with a mint leaf and surrounded by lashings of what might be a Guinness-based reduction.


And how could I wrap up this meal without a taste of Dennis’s wheatgrass yoghurt?

Instead of a tiny tub of recyclable plastic, the yoghurt now comes in a covered glass jar (and a higher price tag) that’s served on a small wooden tray.

Nevertheless, one slurp of that creamy, rich pandan-tinged wheatgrass-y sweetness brought me back to a corner of Happy Garden, surrounded by green walls and listening to LiteFM on an old radio, shooting the breeze with Dennis and Joyce and getting ribbed by Melody over eating too much.

It brought me back home.

Fifth Palate
Block D-G-1, Encorp Strand Garden Office
Jalan PJU 5/1
47810 Petaling Jaya


Thu-Tue: 8:30am-5pm

Closed on Wednesdays

+603-6144 0055

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