Last year's surprise closure of the much loved Malaysian restaurant Alice's Makan in Thornleigh caused many tears. But now Alice's Makan is up and running in a city foodcourt we're all smiles.
They have taken the place of Lee's Malaysian in the HBSC Centre Food Court, on the corner of George and Bathurst Street, near Chinatown.
Malaysian food fiends will forever argue until their cockles are completely kwaytowed about who does the best dishes where. We're not sure if Alice's does anything 'best in town' but everything is pretty dang good across the menu, we're yet to find a dud dish, our favourite savoury dishes were probably the char kway teow and the fried radish cake.
The 'wow' moments for us were during dessert. We've read that Alice's started out making Malaysian kuih, Malaysian sweets. Sweets are still on the menu and are a must-try, and the ice desserts/drinks are sensational.
We're overjoyed to learn that Alice's stays open until 6.40pm, we can make it for an after work feed. It's the only joint open at this time and it's empty except for a few fellow diners and office workers staring at their phones, students having picnics of chips and cola from the supermarket. It's like a secret oasis of early evening calm in here.
We are also pleased they don't open on the weekends - they need a break sometime.
On our first visit we have our traditional favourites...
- Har mee (prawn noodle soup) - $11. The soup broth is great, it has that lovely prawnie kick we love, maybe a little salty for some tastes. Thick slices of roast pork, prawns cut in half and a half googie. Two types of noodles and a slurping good finish. [nb - Alison didn't bitch about it being served in a disposable polysomethingite bowl, so it must have been good]
- Hainanese chicken rice - $10.50. Great rice and chili, the chook was nice soft and flavourful though with a bit of that 'boiled' kind of flavour (not sure how to describe it) that some chicken rices have. A good chicken rice but not a magic one. We did try it at the end of the day so we will give it another crack at lunchtime.
Char kway teow - $11. The flat noodles have that 'breath of the wok' we always seek, and a touch of sweetness. This version comes with seafood, egg, Chinese sausage and lovely crunchy little slithers of pork crackle. Yeah baby.
Fried radish cake - $11. Mooshed up radish that is steamed, set, then cut up and stirfried into a homely stodgey masterpiece. Here it is served with a little veg and some egg. The chef just charcoaled the edges so it has a nice charcoal finish to it, we love his work. The chef seems pretty happy that we ordered this, it's a very popular dish in Malaysia and Singapore, but we guess not many skips order it. Chef comes out from his workstation to proudly tell us that this is the only place we can get radish cake in Sydney. Wonder if he is right? [edit - Miss Piggy advises that Jackie M in Concorde sometimes does radish cake].
Nasi Lemak - $10.50. Coconut rice beef rendang (top) or curry chicken (below) with a half googie egg, sambal and ikan bilis (dried anchovies and peanuts). The rice has a nice coconut zing and it's nice and light, very happy. Beef rendang is nice and better but to our taste buds the chicken curry is a better match with the coconut rice.
- Chicken laksa - $10 - looks like chicken laksa, tastes like chicken laksa.
- Clear Soup - $11 - flat rice noodles in a plain chicken-y broth with some slices of chook and fishcake. Good for when you're in the mood for something plain.
Wat tan hor - $13 - another homely dish of noodles, prawns, pork, fish cake and veggies in a thick, plain gooey, eggy gravy. Mr Shawn had visited a few days in a row so the bloke who mans the wok offers a special version with two types of noodles, and on a proper plate. "You're very lucky" says a staff lady looking up while eating her lunch "you eat what we eat."
Ice kachang - $5. This was a mind blower, the ice had the perfect mix of palm sugar, carnation milk and grenadine flavours, reminds us of those Redskin Split iceblocks we had as kiddies, that magic mix of red ice block and white icecream. It's served in a nifty takeaway container, a good size serve for one person.
The cendol - $5 is equally fantastic. Crushed ice with the gorgeous burnt sugar flavour of gula melaka (palm sugar) with green jelly pandan snakes and red beans.
Our favourite sweety - pandan on coconut sticky rice - it's dense, moist and packed with flavour. At $5 the signature kuih may seem a little pricey but we reckon it's well worth it, though we wish they'd sell little individual fingers for say $2 for a quick cheap sugar hit.
Another visit, another kuih. This one is more sublte in flavour, for us the green coconut pandan number packs a bigger flavour wallop.
Alice's Makan is at 580 George St in the HSBC Centre. Open until 6.45 weeknights, Monday to Friday only.