Brought a friend from the UK to lunch today. Where to go in Ipoh? Ipoh is rather famous for some local food. Maybe my friend will enjoy some local food. So we decided to bring him to Ipoh old town Tian Chun (天津) for the famous soup based flat noodles with chicken strips and shrimps.
Parked the car, and we walked on the Concubine Lane towards the shop. The Concubine Lane was full of tourists. Has to be, as they were seen snapping photos. We then realised today is school holiday. And Tian Chun was packed. Found ourselves a table that just cleared. Considered ourselves lucky as we didn’t have to wait for a table at all. Ordered our drinks, and then three bowls of the famous noodles.
Initially we felt content. We had much to catch up. And we were not hungry. But half and hour went by, then 45 mins, and there was still no sign of our noodles. Chased the lady, who looks like foreign labour, and she said they have not forgotten about our orders. Another 15 minutes went by, even the table that came later than us had their noodles. Think they bloody messed up our orders. It was hot, and it was very humid inside the shop, as there was a heavy down pour not long ago whilst we were waiting for our food. I felt like I was about to explode if I were required to wait any longer!
So the noodles finally arrived, after just over an hour. It costed us RM17.50 for three bowls of noodles (normal size RM5.50, big bowl RM6.50). When asked what my friend thought of the noodles, “it was ALMOST worth the wait”, not wanting to sound rude! What do you think?
Demise is probably too strong a word, when the new Nam Heong wasn’t that great to begin with anyway. But such is the feeling. It is built opposite of the Menteri Besar of Perak’s residence with fancy light reflecting facade.
Rumour has it that RM2 million is spent on furnishing and decoration of the premise. And apparently owner boasted that business would break-even in 8 months. Although I have my doubts, I don’t know enough of their business to really question whether that is feasible.
However what is interesting is, now that a new block of shop lots are built infront of Nam Heong (where there used to be a piece of empty land where people can park their cars), their shop is completely obstructed from view from the roundabout! The large fancy facacde-cum-signboard becomes rather pointless. The shop, which is already difficult to get to, with only one entrance from the main road, is almost completely hidden away from the main road as things turn out. Parking is going to be a nightmare too I would imagine now that there are more shop lots, albeit still vacant at the moment.
I haven’t been dining at Nam Heong for some time, must be over a year now. I shall pay a visit one day again. Not so much for the food, as it is nothing extraordinary considering that I actually live in Ipoh, but just curious to see if their business can defy “gravity” given the negative change in circumstances. Because quite a few pointers seem to suggest that it must be rather difficult to operate a business in that area!
This is a snapshot of Nam Heong on the sixth day of CNY (13th Feb 2016). It is a Saturday, in the evening about 9pm. Elsewhere in Ipoh Garden 冬菇亭 (next to Woolley Food Centre), people needed to wait for tables..
It is incredibly difficult to find information on almost anything in Malaysia. Information is too fragmented, into multiple languages. And people seldom document information on websites for sharing. Especially the Ipoh folks.
I learned the hard way when I started my business. Basically if you know nothing about starting a business in Ipoh you can’t build up your knowledge from Internet research. You need to find contacts, to begin with. But numbers you find on the Internet are notoriously out of date. And Ipoh folks don’t use email. I had to ask around, and I needed to ask the right people.
So if you want to get into F&B (food and beverages) business, you need a kitchen. Before you proceed to get a builder to have your kitchen done up, it is best if you consult suppliers who will supply your kitchen equipment. Turns out that these suppliers provide more valuable input to the kitchen setup than the builders. For example it might be better to construct a drain from the stove to the drain exit from the outset for easy cleaning of the kitchen everyday, particularly if your kitchen is going to be very oil at the end of everyday. Concealed pipes, however large the pipes are, are not ideal, as pipes can clog easily, and they will clog given time! So don’t make the mistake like I did, thinking that you can just design the kitchen like a house kitchen. Engage these suppliers as early as you can, and ideally together with your chef or cook(s) too.
There are two such suppliers, Jit Fung and Snow Mountain. Jit Fung specialises in stainless steel works, like shelves, walls, and custom made stoves etc. Snow Mountain specialises in refrigerators. But both farm out their business to now overlap with each other. So there may not be a lot to choose from between the two. Workmanship of Jit Fung is apparently better, if you plan to have stainless steel walls rather than tiled walls.
It is interesting now that I’m in business I am more sensitive to how businesses are doing around. Just noticed another restaurant is closed in De Garden. This time it is a Sri Lankan restaurant, fine dining one, called Aliyaa.
We have been there once. Food is great, service is great. But I guess the pricing is on the high side that it can’t sustain in Ipoh. They have one in Damansara which presumably is doing quite well that they open a branch in Ipoh. But again Ipoh is a tough nut to crack. Many franchises have come and gone without much success. Those that stay apparently are not really doing so well. We used to have Burger King, PappaRich. Not sure what else. But they are no more in Ipoh. The Ipoh folks are misers. Spending power not on the same level as those in KL, population in Ipoh much smaller, and less foreign tourists. In general more difficult to do business. Think we are going to see yet more businesses packing up during this economy downturn.