More than just a cuppa
January 20, 2021
I still remember my first taste of Bac Xiu or Coconut Milk With Coffee, so naturally I am excited when My Best Friend tells me that Cong Caphe (pronounced Kerb Café in Vietnamese) has opened a second outlet in 1Utama, which is considerably closer to home for me.
|Bac Xiu (top) and kaw-kaw Hanoian Coffee|
Bac Xiu (RM12.90/hot; RM13.90/iced) has a mild coconut aroma that adds a second layer to the coffee flavour. It’s a lux treat, whether you’re having it hot or cold.
Purists may prefer the more “kaw-kaw” taste of Hanoian Coffee (RM10.90/hot; RM11.90/cold), served with condensed milk. Just a sip or two and my senses perk up instantly.
These 2 items are in the Vietnamese “phin” (filter coffee) selection, brewed with beans imported from Vietnam. Of course you can get regular stuff such as latte, Americano, cappuccino and espresso but nay, nay… the main reason we are in Cong Caphe is for its phin coffee.
|Colourful chairs and tables with sewing machines for legs |
When I walked in, I was surprised to see that the outlet in 1Utama was very different from that in Nu Sentral, Kuala Lumpur. By the way, I was there before MCO 2.0. To help flatten the Covid-19 curve, Cong Caphe will deliver your food and drinks to your door. To order, go to http://www.congcaphe.com.my/webstore and get RM5 off your order with a minimum purchase of RM20!
|Collection of antique sewing machines|
Restaurateur Peter Tan told me that all Cong Caphe outlets reflected the childhood memories of its founder, performing artiste Linh Dung. While the outlet in Nu Sentral is all about school and learning, this new outlet in 1Utama has woven into its decor the many facets of textile factories; after all, Vietnam is the fourth largest exporter of textiles and clothing in the world.
|Spools of colourful thread hang on the feature wall just inside the entrance|
|Cosy dining area on the first floor|
Just inside the entrance, my eyes were drawn to a wall decked with spools of colourful thread. Most of the tables had bottoms made of sewing machines. Old sewing machines too sat on shelves of a wall divider. Seats of chairs were upholstered in cloth, some in floral designs of bright, cheerful colours.
It’s fascinating. Peter said all décor items were imported from Vietnam as these were more easily available there. Indeed, the café oozed nostalgic charm from every corner and I found that this soothed and calmed the soul.
|Croissant and cakes. Right: Light and flaky Almond Bar|
We hadn’t had breakfast, so My Best Friend and I decided to give the pastries a try. We ordered a flaky croissant (RM6.90), served the way Vietnamese folks liked it, dipped in condensed milk. A new addition to the menu, Almond Bar (RM8.90), is my new love. With a crisp exterior dotted with crushed almonds, the pastry was delightfully light and airy.
|Chicken Ham Bahn Mi |
We also shared a Chicken Ham Bahn Mi (RM13.90), stuffed with thick slices of house-made chicken patty, a slather of pate, onion, freshly julienned carrots and coriander. I do love the freshness of the baguette at Cong Caphe – crispy and crusty, the way the French make it.
|Coconut Green Rice smoothie (left) is made with cooked green rice (right)|
When two more friends joined our table, we orderred more drinks. I remember well the Coconut Milk Coffee Smoothie but this time, my eyes locked on a new item, Coconut Green Rice (RM17.90). I took a sip and immediately thought of it as “boba in Lilliput” (of Gulliver’s Travels). Embedded in the coconut nut smoothie were bits of chewy green rice. Yes, rice!
With my curious mind working overtime, I asked Peter to show us the raw rice and he obliged. According to Wikipedia, “green rice or cốm, is immature rice kernels (hence the natural green hue) pounded until flattened”.
|Passionfruit (left) & Fresh Lime smoothie|
We also ordered 2 smoothies: Fresh Lime (RM13.90) and Passionfruit (RM15.90). The lime was refreshing with citrusy notes but the passionfruit just zapped me away! The perfume of passionfruit reminded me of both citrus and ripe mango, a powerful combination in one tall glass.
Fruit juices are also a hit. We had watermelon (RM10.90) and ambarella (RM13.90). Both drinks came in bottles, with ice in a glass offered separately. With the ambarella, the rim of the glass was flecked with bits of crushed sour plum.
Meanwhile, our morning tete-a-tete edged its way to the lunch hour, so we perused the menu once more. Cong Caphe has made substantial additions to its Vietnamese Specialty Food section with rice noodles (from RM13.90) and “instant noodles” (from RM7.90).
|Noodles, spring rolls and bahn mi from Cong Caphe|
The rice noodles are served cold, with shredded vegetables such as lettuce, cucumber, carrot, mint, coarsely chopped nuts and a slightly tangy nước chấm dressing.
|Rice noodles with chicken ham and fresh salad|
|Bouncy instant noodles with smokey tofu, egg and salad |
Instant noodles are really Hao Hao instant noodles. I usually balk at the thought of instant noodles when dining out but when I pinched some from MBF’s bowl, I was pleasantly surprised at how palatable this was. Despite tasting it 30 minutes later, I found that the noodles maintained the bouncy texture instead of turning soggy. Noodles were topped with shredded lettuce, sunny side egg and marinated tofu while lime, pickled carrot and radish came in a side plate. I’ve always loved the soya-sauce marinated tofu at Cong Caphe. It’s firm in texture, with a robust, slightly smokey flavour.
Apart from tofu, customers have a choice of toppings such as chicken ham, beef ham, egg and spring roll (which is also available as a snack).
Lunch over, we craved some cakes (RM8.90) as we’d seen some in a display counter earlier. While the chocolate cake was rather mundane, Cong Caphe did offer an old-fashioned orange poppy seed cake that we enjoyed thoroughly, much more than the earl grey which had but only a mild flavour of tea.
CONG CAPHE (pork-free)
G130A, 1Utama Shopping Centre
Sunday to Thursday: 10am to 10pm
Friday & Saturday: 10am to 10.30pm
Deliveries during MCO
Cong Caphe delivers! Make your orders at http://www.congcaphe.com.my/webstore and get RM5 off your order with a minimum purchase of RM20!