Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

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The Best Little Kopi Tiam in Car Land

posted by in Chinese, Restaurants

menu_rs.JPG

Car Land is Banawe, a destination for those looking to pimp their cars or are too thrifty to look elsewhere. Horror stories abound of course about the quality (and legality!) that one receives in terms of automotive parts, but Banawe has its own charm.

I come here for the food. There’s no dearth of dimsum and noodle places in Banawe; each one offers up its own brand of these Asian specialties and there’s always North Park for those who want to stick to the tried and true.

Singaporean food writer Victor Yue is right when he says that kopi tiam was just the “…good old coffeeshop of long ago situated at every village centre or corner of the street. Well, ask anyone now, kopitiam becomes KOPITIAM, a brand name… [with] many progressing to Starbucks or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf…” If that may be the case, then Old Chinatown KopiTiam near Banawe fits right in with Mr. Yue’s description, but it’s one of those places so appealing, I must try it out.

Situated on Maria Clara Street which is perpendicular to Banawe, Old Chinatown KopiTiam (from now on referred to as OCKT) beckons with its old style signage complete with two diametrically placed coffee beans. I assume that it only serves kopi (coffee) and kaya jam a la Kopi Roti but I‘m about to be pleasantly surprised.

Old Chinatown KopiTiam

server at Old Chinatown KopiTiam

Having opened just last December, OCKT enchants me with its interiors – heavy wood tables still possessing that pleasantly “woody” smell paired with stools and quaint chairs with high backs. Antique mugs, jars, and picture frames line one wall while strategically placed lamps illuminate the room. It’s very pretty and certainly makes me feel all the more welcome. Ask to be served by Gerald or Marco, they’ll make sure you’re taken care of.

The menu (see cover photo) is also a piece of work: four thick boards about a quarter of an inch thick and greaseproof, it’s done in a burnished yellow that soothes the eyes and excites the appetite. A short note at the beginning of the menu states that the dishes served are favorites from Malay hawkers. Naturally, there are several versions of various meat dishes served in clay pot, fish in spicy sauces, as well as several varieties of fried rice; one of which is the pineapple fried rice served in a whole pineapple and so strikingly presented that it elicits a gasp from me when served at the other table. A popular dish here, I’m told, is the Golden Butter Chicken Cubes (P188), chicken fingers in a butter and cream sauce. I don’t try it on this visit but its popularity is evident in its presence on all the other tables.

jasmine tea

Upon being seated, a metal pitcher filled with hot water is laid on the table. Dunked in it are chopsticks and spoons and forks. It’s nice to have a choice. A squat ceramic pot of hot tea appears, its golden liquid steaming. I’m surprised – this is tea that’s of the same quality served in high-end Chinese restaurants.

char kway teow

And the surprises just keep on coming. The char kway teow’s (P228) flat rice noodles are plump and soft mixing with the scrambled egg curds, different textures juxtaposing with the crunch of red peppers and the firmness of whole Chinese sausages. This is an outstanding dish, comparable to the char kway teow I’ve had in Singapore. In fact, I can almost half believe that it’s been flown in from some hawker stall there.

jumbo siomai

yang chow fried rice

I want to order the Pineapple Rice, so taken am I with its originality but I’m outvoted by my Bin and Boo who prefer the Yang Zhou (Yang Chow) Fried Rice (both P198). It satisfies on all counts especially with the Jumbo Siomai (3/P98; steamed or fried) that so enamors my little girl that she and her dad split two orders between the two of them. (I’m lucky to have wangled even half of one). The fresh black mushrooms in the filling give meatiness and satisfying bite. The siomai isn’t “jumbo” in the supersized sense of the word, but it’s quite large, about two inches high.

spareribs

chicken in clay pot

Though a bit tough, the Kopi SpareRibs (P188) have a sticky sauce that’s great dribbled over the rice and the Shaoxing Drunken Chicken in Claypot (P218) offers up these whole cloves of garlic made smoky and soft by its long braising.

kopi place

They make the kopi outside the main dining room of OCKT. I covet the stainless steel teapots with overly long and narrow spouts. In them, water and coffee grounds are heated over what the server calls a “Vulcan” stove – really just charcoal set under a grill. When my kopi with condensed milk (P55) arrives, I’m a bit disappointed to see that it’s served in a ceramic cup instead of a see-through glass so I’m deprived of the pleasure of seeing the coffee “float” over the milk. Here, the condensed milk has also been stirred beforehand into the coffee. One sip however and all is forgiven. The thick milk has smoothened out the kopi’s rough edges, its sweetness contributing full mouthfeel, and of course there’s that beautiful caramel color.

kopi

While a too-full stomach forces the soft-boiled eggs to wait for next time, the kaya toast intrigues: I can have a single spread (P48) or a double spread (P68), the latter being a triple decker, so to speak. Smeared sparingly, the kaya-butter tandem is tasty and in spite of a full meal, it’s relatively easy to polish off an order. The kaya peanut butter toast (P68) is a variation with the faintest of peanutty overtones.

kaya toast

Old Chinatown KopiTiam
86 Maria Clara Street,
Sto. Domingo, QC
415-1145 / 467-6141

Open Monday-Sunday, 11am – 11pm

36 Responses to “The Best Little Kopi Tiam in Car Land”

  • wow! everything looks good! i guess it wasn’t such a good idea that i checked out your blog before i even have breakfast. :)

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  • I just recently found your blog – where in the world did you learn to write like that? You are a total pleasure to read!

    You did my Town – The City, my ‘hood – justice with your 4 part San Francisco posts.

    Please keep writing. You make this old man smile. And speaking of smiles, don’t ever lose your preety smile!

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  • What charming interiors! I wouldn’t have expected such ambience in Banawe. Chinese food isn’t my favorite, but lately I’ve been reading so much about Banawe’s Chinese resto row that I’m intrigued. And good kopi and kaya toast are worth the distance. Besides, unlike dessert destinations, this is a restaurant I won’t have trouble convincing dimsum-and-noodle-loving Felipe to visit. ;-)

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  • I was just looking for a Chinese restaurant in Banawe to treat my mother to. We’re more familiar with Banawe than Binondo. Thanks a lot for this. We’ll try this restaurant out. As usual, great prose and pictures. This is the best food blog.

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  • I read in Table for Three, Please that you don’t like ampalaya. After just having read your review on Old Chinatown Kopitiam, I couldn’t help but post a comment. If you get the inclination to give ampalaya another chance, try OCKT’s ampalaya. I forgot what it’s called, but they serve only one ampalaya dish last time I was there. I’m not a fan of this veggie, but I can say that OCKT’s ampalaya dish is quite good. I’ve heard that some customers even complain that their ampalaya isn’t bitter ;-)

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  • This place looks great! Thanks for sharing Lori…I’m drooling with all the photos!

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  • you should try the soft boiled egg and kaya toast, they’re my kids favorite. for those who havent try this place, im telling you, you’re missing a lot. its inexpensive and good ambiance.

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  • I tried the place earlier, what can I say…. definitely one of the best in the area.. you should try the “kampong lala” and “kaya toast” =)

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  • i’ve tried OCKT a couple of times with my family and we were very amazed by the taste and ambiance. Also, i love the chilled taho…itz da best! =P

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  • hi lori! im glad you got to go to banawe. kopitiam is good but if you are after pineapple rice: try causeway its better=)

    my fave is the kopi with condensed milk. its calorie overload!!!

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  • Great article! You really write well, Lori. I can’t wait to try this restaurant. Thank you for keeping this blog alive. I check it on a regular basis so I know where to go whenever I’m on vacation in the Philippines.

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  • Great food and good ambience ! try the hot choco with kaya toast.

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  • u have done it again lori… nice article

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  • I’ve tried OCKT a couple of times with my family and i must say that we were very amazed with its exotic foods, ambience and great service. I also love the chilled taho………you should try it!! itz da best!! =)

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  • i’ve tried OCKT a couple of times already with my family and friends. It’s definitely the BEST resto in town. i love the food, great service, value for money and the ambiance. try the OCKT fried chicken…its my nephews favorite. he can even eat a whole order.

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  • u did it again lori… great post:)

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  • cant wait to try this out!! :) thanks for the info, lori :)

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  • Gad! I’m salivating…thanks for the tip Lori!

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  • Great place but Kopi Roti’s bun still rules. But I have to agree that their ala carte food are yummy! I was also disappointed that their coffee was served in ceramic cups and already stirred with the milk. Nevertheless, everyone should try OCKT. Great photos, Lori!

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  • I was actually about to try this place last night with my bro-in-law and sisters…but unfortunately there was a function that evening and no parking available =( sayang!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • very nice resto.. you gotta see the real thing… my family enjoyed the function room ambiance.. a bit modern oriental mood.. can seat 15-20 pax.. and if anyone celebrating your birthdays.. you gotta do it there. the friendly staff surprised us with the happy birthday song in chinese.. simply the best! my mom loves it.
    I must agree that their kopibun is not yet at par with kopi roti however the kopoi in ceramic cup simply makes it more authentic (as we have experienced in Malaysia and Singapore kopitiam)… when do you plan to serve breakfast? more power to OCKT!

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  • another place to add to my list when i go back thanks lori!

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  • great food and good ambience ! need more parking space sana may valet parking kayo.

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  • I tried OCKT yesterday and I must say that the food is really good! However, they must really improve their service. People in the other tables got furious because some of the food that they ordered were only served when they had already finished eating. Nevertheless, ambiance and food were A-okay! :-)

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  • great hawker food and must try the XO fried rice.

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  • yes, kopi spareribs is the best! my kids loved it very much. thanx lori nice article and more power. god bless!

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  • Tried this resto, food is great, but service is bad.

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  • congrats to old chinatown kopitiam. saraaaap food nyo naiiba.

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  • grabe we came all the way from Tambo, Paranaque.. we tried this resto last sunday and it was really packed –small place lang kasi :( atleast 30-35 people are queued outside.. ibang klase… but I have to admit that it took awhile for food to be served… but’s it’s really worth the wait!! yummy talaga yung mee goreng and kaya toast. OCKT when do you plan to expand your dining area? or any branching out plans? dito naman sa BF.

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  • patok ito…panalo ang ambiance… (kahit si Erap hindi magrereklamo kung bakit mahal ang ambiance).. kakaibang Chinese food.. okay naman ang lunch crowd not too packed. great place to hang out! we’ve tried it 4x already.. wala bang discount mga suki? hehe :) :)

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  • ate there just this lunch… daming tao. congrats ockt! cool ambiance.. great food! hirap lang magpark… :(

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  • i been to this resto for more than i can count and the food is really great, i noticed that their people are constantly being changed maybe that’s why the service is not so good yet, they are still finding the right people but the food is still delicioso. I agree wlth henry OCKT should expand there dining area.

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  • I’m from K.L. Malaysia

    I was surprised the food was similar to my country food in terms of taste

    Great Job & keep up the good work, can’t wait to visit again

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  • cool and nice place. great food also naiiba ang taste keep up. god bless!

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  • my girlfriend and i have been eating here since it opened since it is only one block away from her house, the char kwey is really good, we usually go there late at night just to eat that. we’ve also tried the spare ribs and those are also great, maybe we’ll go there later ;)

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  • try the bah kut teh nice soup………….

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