Friday, December 14, 2007

Toast of the town

From The NST

When in Kluang, you don’t have to go all the way to the Railway Station for a taste of its famous kopi, kaya toast and other signature items, writes PEGGY LOH

Laksa noodles, mee rebus and chicken curry
Chocolate brownie topped with ice-cream
Jack serving his regular customers
“DO beh chia mea?” I was puzzled by this question on the little menu. After asking for a translation, I learned that it’s Hokkien dialect for “What would you like to eat?”

My eager but silent reply was “everything”. But I politely settled for a little of everything instead. It’s hard to resist the classic kopi, kaya toast and every other specialty at Kluang Rail Café, a new branch of the famous Kluang’s Railway Station Coffee Shop that has been whipping up the goodies for 68 years!

Just Like The Rail Thing

It’s obvious that “racial segregation” is unheard of here. Coffee shops such as this are still places where friends of every race swap stories or seal business deals over cups of coffee.

Chinese, Malay and Indian youths, office workers and families and even Europeans employed by multinational companies in Kluang and Batu Pahat are frequent patrons who appreciate the café’s ambience and array of food. Some are such regulars that they order without looking at the menu.

Jack Lim, a fourth generation Lim of Kluang’s Railway Station Coffee Shop, has taken over a corner shop in Kluang new town, turning it into the “Toast of the Town”.

Its nostalgic railway theme and décor is keeping in line with the “rail tradition” of the original coffeeshop that operates at the Kluang Railway Station.

There are wooden tables, stools and plank walls with wire-net windows and lots of natural light, but in air-conditioned comfort. Pointing upwards, Jack proudly drew my attention to double railway tracks suspended from the ceiling!

As I lingered over my cup of aromatic Kluang Rail coffee, I watched Jack exchange greetings with familiar customers. Two obviously good friends studying the menu and discussing choices, made a pretty picture of what it meant to be truly Malaysian. Heads close together, the Chinese lady’s curly head nodded in agreement with the Malay lady whose head was covered by a modest pink tudung!

The affable Jack said: “People are just comfortable here, sitting and eating together.” The right mix of trendy ambience, mouthwatering menu and fair prices is clearly bringing people back for more.

What’s Special

From toast and sandwiches to noodles and rice, there are choices of Eastern and Western favourites to suit every taste.

For me, roti khawin (with kahwin spelt the old way) was simply irresistible. Melting butter and kaya oozed out from charcoal-toasted slices of bread and buns, served in white and wholemeal choices. It’s the perfect “marriage” of butter and kaya in a combination that titillates, bite after bite.

Served on greaseproof paper, nasi lemak and mee siam were fond favourites while spicy mee rebus and curry noodles looked equally yummy. I savoured Rail Sandwiches made of mantou (plain pau) filled with sardine, tuna or sambal ikan bilis with crispy cucumber and pungent onion slices.

I was glad I saved some space for a superb sweet ending, a rich blend of creamy coffee with Milo and vanilla flavours in the cool Railway Float and a wedge of Rail Chocolate Brownie topped with vanilla ice-cream.

How To Get There

Kluang Rail Café is located at No. 33, Jalan Manggis and open daily from 7am to 10pm. Closed on Mondays. You can reach Kluang either by rail or by road on the scenic route from Johor Baru or via the North-South Highway and exit at Air Hitam toll to Kluang town.

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