Don't Mess with Melaka! The Good, the Bad, and 50 Shades In-between: Restaurants and Attractions

14 February 2017

There is a lot of food to try in Malacca, interspersed with some sightseeing attractions along the way. Because virtually everything to see - and eat - is concentrated in the same area, we trekked up and down the same few streets in our two days there. But there is so much to do, juxtaposed with only so much time (and only so much our stomachs can distend), that we had to forgo several things on our itinerary.
This is our run-down of everything we did in 2 mere days, as well as what I want to try on a return visit. It's a list of the delights that we chanced upon, and some of the things we would avoid (don't believe the hype online!). But I wouldn't want to badmouth Malacca too much and get on its bad side; after all, these signs are plastered everywhere

We hired a van with 10 passenger seats, but the company assumed that passengers will travel with zero luggage space. It's a tight squeeze for 8 of us with luggage, and Miss XS had to keep her legs crossed throughout the drive because there's no leg-room for her. Nada. The driver was perfectly lovely, but I wished the company he worked at was a little more upfront about the physical limitations of the van. Other than that, the service was impeccable. For interested parties, this is their company

When going to Malaysia, it really does pay to wake up early. We reached Tuas Checkpoint at 7am on a Friday, and there is no queue. We went on our merry way after having cleared both Singapore's and Malaysia's customs in 20 minutes. (On the other side of the road, we saw the flood of Malaysian vehicles thronging the causeway making their way in the opposite direction, and it ain't pretty.) 

Restoran Sunroast 
Restoran Sunroast was our spot for breakfast. It's located smackdab right between Tuas Checkpoint and Malacca, about 2 hours in either direction. Okay, this restaurant is technically in Yong Peng and shouldn't be in a post on Malacca. But we needed breakfast, and the poor driver (who drove down from Malaysia at 4am to pick us up in Singapore) sure could use a break. Judging by the small number of locals already here finishing their brekkie, roast meat for breakfast is definitely a norm. 
This restaurant made its name roasting its meat the old-fashioned way via charcoal. I wandered around and found a pile of charcoal neatly stacked together, each stick thick as my thigh. Don't play play.  
The Roasted Pork Belly is perhaps the best dish here. The pork meat was a little oversalted, but the crispy skin made up for it. Their Char Siew and Charcoal Roasted Duck are decent, though the char siew had a thick coat of oil covering it. Duck's good, but a little plain. As Ya Wang in Johor Bahru has shown, a herbal sauce - dang gui or anything - would complement the roasted duck very well.   
The town of Yong Peng is renowned for its noodles, and the noodles at this restaurant was cooked firm to the bite. Perfect. The Italians would have approved too. We also had the Chinese Herbal Pork Tail Soup, a heady brew of ling zhi and dang sheng. The pioneer generation amongst us loved it, but we younglings found it too bitter. 
Their refreshing Lemongrass Tea gave a nice contrast to the oily and savory dishes. 

We paid RM98.40 for the eight of us. 
Address: No 2,Bt 1/4,Jalan Air Hitam, Yong Peng 83700. (Their address listed on Google may be a little outdated, so this is their Facebook page.)
Hours: 7.30am - 4.30pm. 

Along the Malacca River
Christ Church, Queen Victoria's Fountain, Melaka Clock Tower, Dutch Square, the Stadthuys, Cendol Jam Besar
So many attractions named here, but they basically all share the same red square. It's a place to stop by to take a photo or two, but the horde of tourists milling around makes it frustrating to try and get an unobstructed shot. If you crave dessert, Cendol Jam Besar has pretty good reviews on tripadvisor, although we didn't try it. We were done here in 5 minutes and moved on to...

Maritime Museum, unknown fort, Medan Samudera 
The Maritime Museum is about two minutes drive from Christ Church. The ancient ship (not pictured) was gorgeous. It looked like something straight out of Assassin's Creed: Black Flag, I was so keen on exploring further inside. My sister, who did went in before, said that it's pretty empty inside and that she completed the tour in 15 minutes. So I contended with a quick picture of the vessel and went on into the market across the museum. Medan Samudera sells a variety of products that's mostly catered to tourists, but that's no reason not to visit. I picked up 3 bags of gula malaka (palm sugar), which was cheaper here than anywhere else I saw. Now all I have to do is find a recipe worthy of them...
There's a half-demolished fort (pictured) - complete with canons - about 10 minutes walk away that's worth a few pictures. I can't seem to find the fort on Google Maps, but it's the direction back towards Christ Church. 

Sultanate Palace *Wishlist*
Entrance fee is RM2 to view the architecture of a 15th-century palace. I've never been here... yet!, but it's on my to-do list for my next trip.

Meanwhile, on the Northern side of the Malacca River...

Kedai Kopi Chung Wah
There are numerous restaurants in Malacca selling chicken rice balls, and Chung Wah's name keeps popping up online in every 'Best Chicken Rice Ball' list. We walked in at 11.30am and scored a table right off the bat. By 11.35am, a queue has started under the hot sun. Ha! Beat the crowd.
The meal itself was... disappointing. Chicken rice balls certainly isn't everybody's cup of tea, but I didn't expect everybody in our party to find it distasteful. I love chicken rice only for its rice, the rice that Anthony Bourdain touted as 'so fragrant, it can be eaten on its own.' These chicken rice balls have all of the oil, but none of the taste. These ones were rice-cooked-till-pulverised-and-then-mashed-into-the-shape-of-a-ball quality. 

The chicken was stringy and chopped willy-nilly. Someone's knife skills needs work. The chicken was pulverised almost as badly as the rice was and we were fishing bones out of the most unlikely of places. When pushed, Yi says that she likes Chung Wah better than Hoi Wah, the latter which serves cold chicken* to its customers. 
Love it or hate it, the daily queue at this place is undeniable. I'll be pissed if I had to queue for food of this quality, but there are people who swear it's the best chicken rice they ever had. To each their own. 

*Yes, we know why some stalls do it, but really, it takes a rare breed to prefer cold chicken. 

Address:
18 Jalan Hang Jebat, 75000, Melaka, Malaysia

Calanthe Art Cafe and Restaurant
Calanthe is about a 10 minutes walk from San Shu Gong/Chung Wah. It's not the easiest place to find, seeing how their signboard is nowhere to be seen. Just keep a lookout for this overgrowth over the whimsically decorated storefront (these hipster giraffes are a giveaway), and you'll find it. 
This cafe is a real piece of art. Pots and pans make up some of the decorations in this cafe, as well as an old-time TV-set-turned-aquarium. This is more hipsterish than most cafes in Melbourne. 
Some of the fan favourites in this place is their Nyonya Laksa, Kaya Butter Toast and their selection of coffee. The laksa was good: the broth is rich and creamy and definitely a good dish to order. 
The other dishes were less impressive. The kaya toast was under-toasted and had no crunch to the bite. The slab of butter looked thick but was tasteless. If you have had Ya Kun before, there is just no comparison. 
Yi had an Iced Melaka Coffee, which she enjoyed. My Hot Melaka Coffee, on the other hand, was pretty weak. The Cappucino too, was bad and our friend didn't even bother to finish his cup. There used to be Eunice - a mix of Jasmine tea with coffee - which they discontinued to our disappointment. 
All in all, the food was not nearly as spectacular as the decorations. The decor makes it worthwhile to stop by to take a pictures, but the food makes a return visit unlikely.  

Bikini Toppings 
This place is a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2016 recipient. They offer a selection of coconut-based desserts, and free wifi is available. The Coconut Jelly (RM6.50) doesn't sound like much, but it's is my favourite of them all; it's cool and refreshing and perfect for the hot weather. 
The Coconut Ice Cream is a little too icy for our liking, and just not creamy enough. 
After desserts, there is a picturesque alleyway leading to the Malacca River right beside the store. Just don't go swimming in the river, since my parents spotted a crocodile in the river... Honest. 

Cheng Ho Cultural Museum
Entrance fee is RM10. It's a small building, but there's a surprising number of rooms. 

Cheng Ho, or more commonly known as Zheng He, was a voyager who commanded a fleet from China to other regions such as Africa and Southeast Asia. Unlike Western explorers who sailed to foreign lands to colonise these areas and enrich their home lands, Cheng Ho played nice with the locals and brought trade and wealth to the lands. No wonder he is so celebrated here. 

Did you know he's a eunuch? No wonder no one gave him grieve about traveling to see the world all the time. His fleet consisted of over 250 ships and nearly 30 000 men. Several ships were outfitted for specialised tasks, like growing agriculture for sustenance. The entire fleet was akin to a floating city.

Last impressive fact: Cheng Ho traveled the world 70 years before Columbus did, and the ship Cheng Ho sailed on was several times the size of Christopher Columbus's.

 Also, unlike Columbus, Cheng Ho was reputably a nice guy, and not a d*ck. (Eunuch joke omitted for being too easy. And also unsuitable in the spirit of this blog. If you want cheeky jokes inappropriate for publishing you have to meet me in person.)

Outliers 
Locahouz
This coffee shop is a little out of the way from everything else, but I had to put this in because, guys, this might just be our favourite place in the whole of Malacca. This coffee shop might be the most tastefully (and whimsically) designed coffee shop that I've ever been to. Check out that cheeky vespa hanging around the foyer!
It's not easy to find; my traveling companion has to point out the 'Locahouz' sign to me four times before I finally cottoned on. I thought it was just several misshaped wood hammered together by a novice woodcraftsman. See if you can spot it from the picture below. 
Food-wise, the coffee here alone is worth the trip. Their full-bodied taste of Malacca Coffee sings boldly of caffeine. Best coffee I had in Malacca (well, out of two sample data...) But this Asian-style coffee would have been considered excellent anywhere.  
Because life is no fun without variety, my sisters had the Iced Malacca Coffee and the Hot Lemon Tea. A taste of the lemon tea convinced me they do all caffeinated beverages well here.
The decoration is heavy on plants, and we struck a conversation with the young owner of the cafe who happened to be a gardening enthusiast. Gardening, sewing and coffee: I think my grandmama was smitten by her. 
It's a quiet little joint just a small ways apart from every other attraction in Malacca, but if you drop by, the charm of this coffee shop would certainly rejuvenate you for the hustle-and-bustle in the rest of Malacca. Out of everywhere I'd been to on this trip, Locahouz holds a special place in my heart. 

Portuguese Settlement Seafood (Store 8) 
We wanted to go to Store 10, but the chaps from Store 8 is so chatty to us, we just couldn't say no. That's how they get you... But the food was still great, so all's well.

One of the best dishes here is the  Garlic Cream Butter (?) Sauce Crab - the sauce was really fragrant, and went well with the fresh crabs. Less impressive was the Black Pepper Crabs: crabs are fresh but the non-existent sauce makes it the Last Dish Standing (TM) at the table. It tasted pretty weird to boot.

Something is up with the orientation of this crab...
We also really enjoyed the Fried Calamari: it's hot and deeply crispy. Best of all: it doesn't feel oily at all. The butter sauce from the crab also made a great dip for the calamari. It's a match made in heaven. 
The Sambal Baked Portuguese Fish tasted like a bonier budget version of Sambal Stingray - not bad, but not something I'll order again. 
Skip the Salted Egg Prawns, they only come shelled and they were pretty overcooked.
The Sambal Brinjals were over-salted, and the sauce was a little too overpowering. 
Yi really wanted to try their lauded Scallops, but Store 8 just sold out when we went. (We contemplated buying a plate from Store 10 and bringing it to Store 8's table.)

The waiter highly recommended the drink stall's mango juice. In fact, he bet we'll go back to the store for a second order. Our first sip of the mango juice was intensely sour and everybody wrinkled their face in disgust... except for my father, who missed the entire conversation with the waiter and enthusiastically declared "this lemon juice is good!" It's actually a mango-sour plum combination, and after you swirl the drink and let the ice melt a bit, it's pretty addictive. 
Jonker Street Attractions
Just further up North from Bikini Toppings is the famed Jonker Street. There's a wide selection of local delights here, and by 6pm on weekends, traffic is halted and the entire street turns into a night market. Don't miss out on the fun! (Also, don't park your car here after 6, you won't be able to drive out.) 

Most of the things we bought here are found in an upcoming blog post because they're food souvenirs that'll keep for days (hyperlink), while the ones listed here are things that you have to eat there and then.  

Eat Better: Durian Puffs
I was lured into this store by the fragrance of their pineapple tarts baking in the oven (we thought they were making Portuguese egg tarts). The salespersons convinced me to get a box of durian puffs (6 for RM13) instead. The pastry was light and fluffy, and filled with chilled durian creme. This is durian puffs done right, it's delightful! Take care to eat one in a single bite, because otherwise the choux pastry squirts durian creme. 

Jonker 88
We like their Yong Tau Foo: think of it as DIY rojak. The yong tau foo is fried to a crisp, and stays that way because it's not mixed with the rojak and chili sauce. Come during off-meal hours because this place is always crowded. 
People online may convince you to get the cendol here, but don't be scammed. The cendol is bad. The people who rave about these cendols have 10/10 never set foot outside their house before. Their original cendol is pretty run-of-the-mill ordinary. Their durian cendol is oversugared, and the durian sauce is runny, like an artificial sauce made with durian essence and colouring. I don't think a fruit as fibrous as durian can be made into a sauce with the consistency of water. I can walk into any hawker centre in Singapore and get better cendol. 

Yi, who has been to Auntie Koh, said their cendol is more remarkable. 

People also say Red Bean Ice Kachang is good, but seeing the standard of their cendol, I won't be holding my breath.

Nancy's Kitchen
Technically not in the area of Jonker, but rather close by. We originally made a reservation for Amy's Heritage, but they messed up our reservation timing and could not give us another slot. The queue at Nancy's is known to be formidable during meal-hours, so we went at 2pm. It paid off: the lunch hour crowd had just cleared and we got a table immediately. 

The best dish we had was the Sweet and Sour Fish. We had the small size, which we regretted. Next time we come I'm ordering the largest possible size.
Kueh Pie Tee was the second dish that everyone couldn't get enough off. We ordered a second round after everyone polished off the first. 

Sayur Lodeh was a hearty bowl of mild curry. 

Rendang Chicken's curry was too runny, and no one certainly appreciated the chicken breasts. It's a decent curry, but not fantastic.
Their otak was average, like something you can pick up from a supermarket. 
Give their tasteless Eggs a miss. Literally any one can cook better eggs at home. 


McQuek Satay Celup *Wishlist*
Think a steamboat, but you cook the meat in a pot of bubbling satay sauce instead of broth. Sounds delish to me. Capitol Satay Celup is the popular one with tourists, but McQuek is where the locals go (probably because there's no need to queue here.)

Address
5, Jalan Hang Kasturi, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
11am-9pm

The Daily Fix CafĂ© and Restaurant’s *Wishlist*
I hear the Durian Cheesecake, as well as Pandan Pancakes with Gula Melaka, are spectacular.


Things to Do Around Hatten Hotel 
We got a sweet deal on Agoda for Hatten Hotel, which was about SGD$80-100/night. Hatten is one of the best hotels in Malacca; it's luxurious and has several malls in walking proximity. If you're thinking "who comes to Malacca to shop?", you might have a change of heart too, when you see the prices here. Identical goods would be sold in Johor Bahru at twice the price. 

There's more than just shopping; several renowned restaurants and cake shops lie just a short walk away, don't miss out! 

Tong Sheng Seafood
On Miss XS's first visit, she walked in without a reservation. It took 1 1/2 hours for her to get a table, and another hour before she was served. Somehow or other, this time around, they lost our booking when we came by, but luckily, we reached just ahead of the dinner crowd and snagged a table.  

Their top-selling dish is the Cheese Prawn Beehoon (RM105). The first bite was amazing. It has a creamy rich broth brimming with flavour. Miss XS loved it, but the taste does get a little tiring for me (well, after several bowls...). Not everyone is a fan of the strong peppery accent in this dish. 

Another well-received dish is the Fresh Milk Crab (RM212.50 for two). The crabs are fresh, and a great bargain for the price
The Horlicks Prawn (RM60) was delicious. Miss XS didn't like it, but that means more for me. Ask for the deshelled ones when ordering!
I remember the Chicken dish (RM15) being pretty good, but not very memorable.
The otak-otak (RM15) broke new grounds in its level of spiciness; I couldn't take it, and even the chilli veterans amongst us have trouble with the heat. I ate the steamed eggs around the otak, but that's about as far as I went. 
Skip the Hokkein Mee (RM8), which is unmemorable. 
The Fried Cuttle Fish (RM53) was another dish that we didn't finish. It's partly because it's a giant platter, and also because it's not as outstanding as the other dishes are. The sauce is very salty.  
Oh. And, a lady selling cut guava comes by the restaurant around 6 - 7pm every day. Buy a bag: they're delicious!

Address
377 & 378, Melaka Raya 6, Lorong 2 Jln Desa Duyong 3, Taman Melaka Raya, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia

Opening hours: 5.30-11pm. 

Amy's Heritage *Wishlist*
This is across the street from Tong Sheng Seafood. 

Things people talk about online: 
Amy's Ayam Goreng
Udang Nenas Lemak 
Fried Rice 
Ikan Cili Garam
Pai Tee
hee peow soup
kangkung in lemak
assam fish
Rojak Mee
chicken buah Keras
chicken pongteh
mango salad
Chap Chye

Address: 
75, Jalan Melaka Raya 24, Taman Melaka Raya, 
75000 Malacca, Malaysia. 

Hours 11:30 - 14:00, 18:00 - 21:00


RX Hair Saloon
Every time I go to Malaysia, getting a hair cut and dyeing my hair ranks pretty high up my to-do list. (Also up there somewhere is a massage.) Ethan at RX Hair Saloon did a bang-up job, and this is one of the best hair cuts and hair dye that I had. He has some snazzy tools too, which make dyeing hair much faster than my usual experience. Also unlike my other experiences, my newly dyed hair doesn't change the colour of the water when I wash my hair afterwards. That's some strong hair dye. 10/10 recommend.

I had a hair cut, dye and hair wash for RM80. 

Phone: 014-321 2234

Address: 
No E028-E Dataran Pahlawan Megamall
Jalan Merdeka, Kawasan Bandar 27
75000 Melaka 

Massage
We had a 90-minute massage at Scents & Senses, about a 10 minutes walk from our hotel. It's clean, and the price is reasonable. Website: facebook. 

Nyonya Memoirs *Wishlist* I so so badly wanted to spend an afternoon here, but we unfortunately really couldn't afford time to. Shame. I was really looking forward to dressing up in traditional Nyonya costumes and taking loads of pictures in their interactive museum.

Website: http://www.nyonyamemoirs.com/

RM10 for adults, RM6 for child.
Address:
Level 3, Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall, Melaka, Malaysia
018-663-9696

Opening Hours: 11am-9pm.


Nadeje
We had a hell of a time trying to find Nadeje. We must've spent half an hour hunting for it. But their top-notch quality is worth the hunt. (Walk through KFC and exit the mall through KFC's door, turn to your left and continue walking. You'll spot Nadeje Crepes eventually.) 
Generally, their crepe cakes are of an excellent quality, and which one you should order really depends on what flavours do you like. We had a great Matcha Crepe Cake, as well as the Original. The Original had a lingering caramel aftertaste, which I didn't really care for, but it's a personal thing. 


Opening Hours: 11am-10pm
Address: G23B, EG 4 & EG 5, Ground Floor, Mahkota Parade, 75000 Melaka