After hearing so many recommendations from friends who are proper banana leaf enthusiasts, a lazy Sunday afternoon was just the perfect time to pay a visit to PJ’s hidden gem.
After a picturesque stroll through windy, long roads into Jalan Gasing area, we found the place. It was a corner of a row of old-school shophouses. Nothing fancy, it was painted in predominantly green (look for a green shop and you won’t miss it) and its dishes laid out in the right hand corner near the entrance of the shop.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem to have that much variety of dishes, but do not let that fool you. What it may appear to lack in variety, it makes up for it in terms of quality, taste and reasonable pricing.
Fastest way to go into a food coma on a Sunday afternoon
The standard vegetarian banana leaf set costs a very reasonable RM6. It comes with 4 types of vegetables which you are at liberty to scoop for yourself in whatever portions you fancy. Speaking of 4’s, their curries also come in 4 types: your standard chicken, fish and then crab and salted fish. Salted what-? Yes, salted fish curry. It isn’t as funny tasting as it sounds. It wasn’t even that salty. In fact, it was pretty good.
I personally loved the crab curry and salted fish curry combo. Very thick, aromatic and makes the rice so easy to slurp down.
The next show-stopper is the sambal ikan bilis with onions. It is only a side dish and a portion only costs RM1, but it is so damn good. Crispy, crunchy pieces of ikan bilis coated with sweet and spicy sambal with fried onions. It worked so well. In fact, it would have been the perfect beer food, but that’s for another post.
On to the food, we had the fried tenggiri and mutton varuval. The tenggiri was fresh, fried perfectly. But it wasn’t anything that a good banana leaf outlet can’t do. Now, what impressed me was the mutton varuval though. It doesn’t look as red or power as the ones you’d be more accustomed to other places, and it doesn’t even rank that high on the heat level, but boy did it pack a deliciously out-of-this-world taste.
I can’t find the right words to describe the mutton varuval. Let’s just say they found the perfect balance between succulent, juicy pieces of mutton marinaded in the most delicious alchemy of spices and chillis and it all comes together in a humble dish which packs quite a tasty kick. Highly recommended not to share. Because you’d want to whack the entire mutton varuval for yourself. It is THAT good.
Best way to enjoy a good banana leaf: get in there with your fingers!
If there was any slight setback to this place, it would be erratic service. Firstly, we were seated and served in record time, with the person taking our order very efficient and quick. However, we ordered fried bitter gourd from another server and it never arrived. I also asked for rasam from 2 different waiters and it never arrived also. So, service is something they have to work on.
All in all, a very good eat in a place which is quite laidback and cosy if you don’t mind the occasional misorders or food items not arriving. Would definitely recommend this place to those with a bit of time to spare and a banana leaf craving to satiate.
Pricing: 9/10 – very good value for money relative to its quality and taste
Quality: 9/10 – initially, I’d rate it as only good but the mutton varuval elevates it to the level of excellence
Environment: 7/10 – typical old school banana leaf outlet operating from a shophouse in a quiet suburban part of old PJ
Service: 6.5/10 – inconsistent. some waiters very efficient while others couldn’t even bring out orders.
Location: 6/10 – located in the suburban part of PJ. not that hard to find with Waze and parking is OK. may get jammed on a busy day but otherwise relatively accessible area.
Comeback Factor: surely YES