I am quite new to the Malaysian food scene, although I am quite obsessed with Char Koay Teow, so when I was invited by a foodie friend to come along and check out Ho Jiak’s new restaurant in Haymarket I was very keen. I have eaten at exactly four Malaysian restaurants in my life including Ho Jiak and for me it is easily the best and not only that…… surprisingly and happily this restaurant is my current number one restaurant in Sydney for 2018. No word of a lie, it’s exceptional.
HO JIAK VENUE:
Ho Jiak (Haymarket) is split into two completely different versions of the same restaurant. The lower level, the main entry, has a feel of eating outdoors at a Hawker Market. Most of the cement walls have fantastic artwork painted directly on them. There is a giant pelican, a girl fishing, bicycles and more. The art is fantastic and it really gives the place a personality. The roof is painted black and the way the place is lit you will always feel like you are outdoors and it is night. The kitchen and the main counter look like food stalls, I love this relaxed design.
There is a TV on the back wall that scrolls through instagram photos from people who have tagged them – I was very happy on my second visit to see two of my pics on display. One wall is made up of brightly coloured door frames and faux shuttered windows – from memory most of this wall was in pink and blue – it is VERY colourful and adds wonderful contrast to the rest of the venue and this mismatched decor works really well adding to the Hawker style.
Then there is the upstairs level, you walk up a fairly long staircase to the upper level, the entry is actually outside on the street. The upstairs is like an upmarket Cuban or Singaporean family home, although Colonial Malaysia may have been similar in style. It is designed to replicate their own family home and you will see the restauranteurs’ grandparents filling photo frames around the level, there is one private room that is a recreation of their family kitchen – I want a private party in there! I have only dined downstairs and was advised the upstairs is fairly new and not always open – the kitchen is downstairs and I pity the waitstaff carrying items up the stairs!
THE BEST OF MALAYSIAN FOOD:
Malaysian food is some of the most culturally diverse and influenced in the world. Due to its location and history the cuisine has been shaped by Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and ethnic Bornean citizens, with heavy to light influences from Thai, Portuguese, Dutch, and British cuisines. This explains the question I pondered for a long time; why is their Chinese sausage in Char Koay Teow? It migrated there, the dish is originally Chinese as the word is translated from the Chinese characters and literally translates to “Stir Fried Rice Cake Strips.” Char Koay Teow is most known as Char Kway Teow – I believe this is the universal spelling from Singaporean/ Chinese translation – but HO JIAK pronounces it Char Koay Teow so I will embrace the venue spelling.
I am of course banging on about the CKT so much because it is my single favourite Malaysian dish, if I enter a Malaysian restaurant and they don”t have it – I am leaving haha.
WHAT WE ORDERED:
- Pai Tee 派迪 – Crispy tart shells filled with vegetables and topping of your choice (4pcs) – we selected prawn
- Loh Bak 卤肉 – Five spice pork roll wrapped with bean curd skin and deep-fried (4 rolls)
- Sam Wong Dan 三王蛋 – Silky steamed century, duck and chicken egg
- Kangkung 通菜 Belachan 马来棧 – Stir fried KangKung Belachan with shrimp paste and chilli
- Kiam Ah Nui (Squid) 金鹹蛋 Stir fried with salted duck egg yolk, butter and curry leaves
- Char Koay Teow 炒貴刁 – Ho Jiak’s signature spicy stir fried rice noodles with seafood and Chinese sausage
- Indomee Goreng 印尼炒麵 with added Salted Duck Egg & Crab meat 金鹹蛋蟹肉 – Spicy stir fried instant noodles with seafood
- Hainan Chicken 海南雞 Laksa 咖喱喇沙 – Spicy and creamy coconut curry soup noodles
- Teh tarik – Ice Cream 冰淇淋
- Nyonya High Tea (We attended to eat this on the second visit) – requires reservation
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
What we ate was based on two visits – the first visit was mammoth and we ate sooooooooo much. The second visit was to try Ho Hiak’s Nyonya High Tea, the single brightest high tea I have seen in my life. They also allowed me to order my two favourite dishes to have on the side of the high tea.
Firstly – this is the best Malaysian food I have eaten – I could get very fat indulging in this brilliantly cooked and presented food. The Pai Tee was interesting, I had never heard of it before. It was like a cross between a spring roll and san choy bow. You can select the protein of crab, prawn or veg. We chose prawn, of course. You then fill the crispy shells, with ingredients. The shells were extra crispy and the filling was delightful, a wonderful starter matched with a bottle of On the Grapevine Pinot Grigio. The second dish, Loh Bak was amazing!! Picture those delicious Chinese Bean Curd rolls – then fill them with pork and deep fry them – I NEED SOME NOW!!
Th next dish Ho Jiak recommended to us. It is a mixed egg dish that presents like a cross between custard and omelette. The recipe is from the owners’ grandmother and it is the second best Malaysian dish I have ever eaten. On my second visit when the venue offered me the choice of adding some dishes to the high tea it was of course the Char Koay Teow and the Sam Wong Dan that I had to have. A silky smooth dish of chicken, duck and steamed century eggs, this is a subtle dish I still think of often. This was nicely accompanied by the KangKung Belachan – a side made from stir fried KangKung Belachan – otherwise known as Water Spinach. The shrimp paste added a wonderful salty flavour and the spinach stalks were cooked to a nice crunch.
Next dish was the Kiam Ah Nui Squid (you can also have it with prawns). This was one of the better salt and pepper styled squid I have had. Stir frying it in salted duck egg yolk with butter and curry leaves made my knees wobble, just perfect and the coating was nicely crisp with the insides perfectly cooked and tender.
Then there was the Char Koay Teow – the best I have had, one thing I did learn from the venue, you can request your spice level. It was warm and spicy and I said to them I would have preferred it a tiny bit less spicy. I was advised, “ask for it that way on your next visit,” and I did and it was HEAVEN!! The Indomee Goreng with added Salted Duck Egg and Crab Meat is another favourite. That added Duck Egg and Crab meat is another work of genius – it is like the pimped Mi Goreng from Kusuka Cafe, Malaysian style – I definitely will be ordering this again. And to wrap up the mains was the Hainan Chicken Laksa – O M G – this was also amazing. I usually loathe Hainan Chicken because of the little bone bits when it is cut up but this was perfection and the laksa underneath it added such wonderful accompanying flavours.
And for dessert we shared a Teh Tarik Ice Cream – on my next visit I will be trying their Teh Tarik affogato – best dessert ever :).
Our second visit consisted of the Sam Wong Dan and then the Char Koay Teow for round two. Both consistent across both visits and both divine!
We then had their current special – the Nyonya High Tea. The high tea experience is running between 2.30pm to 5pm daily, at $25 per person with free flow of coffee or tea, or $40 per person with free flow of house bubbles. The Ho Jiak high tea offers intricate Malaysian sweet and savoury delicacies, made in-house, with love. The process takes hours to produce a beautiful display of colourful, tasty morsels, served on a three tiered display stand. The colour in these dishes that you demolish in ten seconds and takes hours to make will surely impress. The instagrammers will lose their mind at the rainbow of brightness.
Currently my Number 1 Restaurant in Sydney for 2018 Ho Jiak serves Malaysian Cuisine like comfort food you get to eat in their family home. The technique in the cooking is top notch and the Malaysian flavours may cause your eyes to roll into your head, your toes to curl and for you to scream out “yes yes yes.”
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 3/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets and 1/1 bonus
Ho Jiak Haymarket Deets:
PH: 02 8040 0252
92 Hay St, Haymarket NSW 2000
BOOKINGS: Yes via Dimmi
OPENING HOURS (7 DAYS)
11am to 10pm with a Lighter Supper Served 10pm to 1am
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: Yes
*** Spooning Australia was invited to attend as a guest of another food blogger – for High Tea I was personally invited ***
For more reviews of Sydney Restaurants – check them out HERE