TUCKED away in a cosy corner shop lot on Jalan Balam, just off the busy Jalan Ipoh is 1 Stop Cafe, a modern take on the classic Hainanese coffee shop.
Owner Heng See Soon's grandfather had actually started the business at its current location in 1961.
With 10 years of experience as operations manager for a big Malaysian restaurant chain, Heng decided to take over the family business about three years ago.
Together with three chefs experienced in different gourmet styles, they revamped the look and also the menu of the shop.
Unlike older coffee shops, the interior of 1 Stop Cafe is bright and cheerful yet simple and unpretentious with no fancy decorations or gimmicks, very much like the food they serve.
He explained that on top of serving regular dishes like noodles and rice, there was a need to have some special dishes that could only be found in 1 Stop Cafe.
“We are continuously experimenting with new recipes to come up with interesting dishes to stay ahead in this competitive market,” he said.
One of their signature dish is the pumpkin pie, a finger food with a delectable steamed pumpkin filling with a crispy outer pumpkin shell coated with bread, painstakingly crafted to resemble the actual pumpkin fruit.
Another must-try is the pumpkin paste, a creation of chef Pang Chee Teck.
“The sweetness of the paste comes naturally from the pumpkins so we don’t even need to add sugar. You can have it on its own or with our homemade tau fu fah (soft beancurd),” said Pang, 39.
Another one of Pang’s innovations that has become a best seller is the Snowman Brownie, a chocolate cheese brownie.
The Crepe Couple is an innovative dessert: bananas and grated coconut wrapped in a soft crepe. The alternating green pandan crepes and yellow egg crepes give it a creative touch.
To create the Sandwich Roll, the chefs came up with an interesting twist to the regular sushi roll stuffed with cucumbers, carrots and omelette by replacing rice with bread.
“With bread, this makes a light snack that doesn't fill you up too quickly,” said Heng.
For those who would like to stick to the more common kopitiam food, Heng suggests the Massala Chicken Nasi Lemak and Fried Meehon with glass noodles.
The cafe also has an extensive list of natural juices that was thoroughly researched and tested by Heng and the chefs.
“We go through books that recommend certain juices for certain health benefits and we’ll try it to see if it tastes good as some of the concoctions can taste quite awful,” said Heng with a laugh.
They have about six signature mixes like Summer Holiday (mango and watermelon) and Purple Lady (beetroot, starfruit and apple) that they retain and they change the rest every three to four months, depending on the demand from customers.
Some of the other blends on their menu include Memory Mender that has tomato, cauliflower and orange, Triple C with cabbage, carrot and celery or the Popeye Power that combines apple, spinach, parsley and celery.
Even with a contemporary decor and new fusion dishes to keep things fresh, 1 Stop Cafe has also successfully maintained that time-honoured aura of a Hainanese coffee shop.
“That's why the ‘Stop’ in our name actually stands for ‘same time, old place’,” said Heng, adding that some of his current customers were descendants of customers who frequented the shop during his grandfather’s time.
The coffee is flavourful and strong, unlike the run of the mill coffee that is commonplace in many restaurants and eateries these days.
Heng explained that they sourc-ed the coffee from the very same supplier that his grandfather had bought from: Hainanese relatives who still roast their own coffee beans.
“Even the craft of making the perfect cup of coffee is a dying trade. Our tea lady has been working here for more than 20 years. Not many youngsters want to learn the art of making coffee. Even I myself did not pick up the skill,” he admitted.
The cafe also provides catering services for small parties and functions.