Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Chaplang Kafe, A Neighbourhood Hangout Reimagined

first published in The Malay Mail Online, 24 August 2016

About two years ago, makan kaki Melody brought me news of Butter + Beans' opening in OUG. This year, she told me B+B was closing down for a revamp.

Perhaps it was inevitable. Some similar cafés had appeared in the neighbourhood in its wake and I guess patrons hankering for that ambience were now spoiled for choice.

Outside Chaplang Kafé + g-Lat, formerly Butter + Beans @ OUG.

I had initial reservations about the "new" Chaplang Kafé + g-Lat.

"Chaplang" is a Malaysian term that means "odds and ends", while "g-Lat" is another way to pronounce the Malay word for "lick."

Two weeks ago, I finally dropped by and tried their aglio olio pasta with rendang chicken. The flavour's more subtle than I expected, but the dish worked.

Back there, days later, I bumped into the co-founders of Chaplang. Yong was with his family that evening, so I chatted with Ken.

"Tell me about this place," I asked him, while waiting for my breakfast pizza.

"What happened with Butter + Beans?"

The Chicken Rendang Aglio Olio Spaghetti might just be the go-to pick
for the terminally undecided.

According to Ken, he and Yong had some kind of agreement with the management of Butter + Beans in Petaling Jaya to open the OUG outlet. It's not a franchise thing, he insisted. But B+B didn't work out, so the space was transformed into Chaplang + g-Lat.

The latter is a joint venture with ice cream brand Forty Licks. The all-Malaysian flavours, which include Neslo, red bean, bandung, durian (yes!), kaya toast, teh tarik and coconut/gula melaka, are unique to the g-Lat range being pushed in Chaplang.

And yet, "I still have people asking for vanilla and chocolate," Ken said exasperatedly.

Many, he said, come for the ice cream and waffles, which is fast becoming a draw.

The waffles were nice, and even better with ice cream. But even for hungry old me, polishing off a waffle with just two scoops of ice cream was a feat.

The Breakfast Pizza is best eaten fresh out of the oven.

The main event, however, is the Bulatan Kampung Pandan Waffle: a pandan waffle (what else?) with four - FOUR! - scoops of ice cream and lashings of their version of pandan kaya. Just thinking about it made me queasy. Ken, however, claimed that a food blogger polished off a whole Bulatan Kampung all by himself when he was here.

Can I have the pandan waffle with just two scoops of ice cream? I asked Ken.

Senior citizens like me should watch what and how much we eat. Alas, that option was unavailable, but he thought it might be good to have, for an extra ringgit or two. Make it happen, Ken - please?

Then, I spied a customer asking about the missing pastries. She probably knew this place back from the days when this was B+B. My breakfast pizza had gone cold, having arrived long ago. But it was nice to have a long chat with a human outside of work.

The monster dessert that is the Bulatan Kampung Pandan Waffle
(not mine). Share with a friend or three.

It was a good pizza, but the mushrooms' strong flavours were more assertive, perhaps due to the temperature. I noted that the crust was still nice and crispy, even though the pie had gone cold.

"I like it myself," said Ken, regarding the pizza crust. "I got the recipe from someone in Australia."

I recalled that he'd sampled sauces for his other food venture; when the owner cares enough to test the goods himself, the place should be in good hands.

The duo, along with a third partner I have not met, aspire to turn Chaplang into a neighbourhood hangout and go-to venue for indecisive diners.

"That's hard to do," he admitted. People are spending and eating out less these days.

I don't usually choose to wind down my days with soupy things, but the
Tom Yam Penne (no longer sold, alas) was an exception.

But the ice cream and waffles are a good idea, I feel. Who can resist a sweet treat?

"I consciously avoid having the same stuff the nearby cafés offer," he said.

A week later, I was back again, slurping their Tom Yam Penne.

Chock-full of seafood (watch out for galangal slices, kaffir lime leaves and the lemongrass stalk), the dish is good for cold lonely nights, but the battered and fried fish fillets don't make much sense in a soupy dish.

Draining the bowl, I began missing Butter + Beans less and warmed up to the idea of this being a neighbourhood hangout.

The food, décor, the whites and greens of the interior, the cartoons and borrowed quotes I dubbed "Chaplang-isms" on the walls made this café more open and welcoming than its previous incarnation.

Chaplang Café + g-Lat
53, Jalan Hujan Rahmat 3
Taman Overseas Union
58200 Kuala Lumpur



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