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Monday, October 13, 2008

First Impressions: New Malaysian-Singaporean Cafe in Lafayette

Posted By on Mon, Oct 13, 2008 at 3:28 PM

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By Meredith Brody

After sampling the extensive menus at two of San Francisco's Macanese-Singaporean coffee shops, T 28 and Macao Friends, which like Hong Kong-style coffee shops feature a wide variety of Chinese and Sinofied American dishes, as well as Portugueuse-influenced Macanese cuisine, I was excited to learn of another Singapore-style eatery that opened last year in Lafayette, Kopitiam.

Kopitiam (which combines the Malaysian words for coffee, kopi, and shop, tiam) is located right next to Trader Joe's (thus benefiting from a large free parking lot). Its modest awning-shaded storefront belies its exceptionally pleasant and nicely-decorated interior, which features lime-painted walls above dark-wood wainscoting, marble-topped tables, lazily-turning fans, and pendant light fixtures, conjuring up a chic neo-colonial setting. It could almost be a timeless location from the Bette Davis/W. Somerset Maugham Singapore-set The Letter.

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Kopitiam serves multi-ethnic Malaysian specialties such as curries and the Nyonyan vegetable stir-fry chap chye as well as a variety of soups, stir-fries, and simple snacks such as toast topped with peanut butter or condensed milk. We sipped iced coffee sweetened with condensed milk, served in a tall green glass emblazoned with the Coco-Cola logo

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and nicely-served brewed coffee while perusing the multi-paged menu.

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We shared three dishes, roast chicken wings ($6.95) served with a sweet dipping sauce, braised curry pork ($9.50), and "jade forest" ($6.95), blanched Chinese greens - that day mustard greens, aka gai choy - in soy-and-vegetarian-oyster-sauce, topped with toasted minced garlic.

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What's left of the chicken wings after eager eaters had devoured the two drummettes!

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Golden coconut-milk curry cloaking pork, tofu, and cabbage, as well as diced aromatics, served with a bowl of jasmine rice (not pictured).

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A forest of jade, i.e. crunchy stems and limp chewy leaves of gai choy, under a drift of toasted garlic.

We were delighted by our lunch, and plan to return and work our way through the menu, starting with chef Thian Boon Leong's famed organic chicken rice. We also find this description irresistible: "Golden, runny rivers of yolk pulsing out of their white refuge, with a dash of pepper and soy sauce, its richness melts onto your tongue, slowly supplying a silken sensation. It's a taste like no other - the closest you will ever get to tasting sunlight!" No wonder they call them Sensually Soft Boiled Eggs. And at only $2.50! We're on our way.

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Janine Kahn


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