It was a Sunday evening. We had just returned from Sungei Petani and after a long tiring drive, cooking was absolutely not in our agenda. Still we had to eat. This pan mee noodle shop is in our neighbourhood. And on that weary evening, it seemed to be the most apt place to go for a simple meal.
面对面 literally means "noodle facing noodle", but a clever play of words can make it to mean "face to face". And that is the name of this shop. It is located in the centre of Dataran Ara Damansara, in PJ. This dataran has grown to be a real busy commercial centre in Ara Damansara - with many eateries and shops, and far too many car workshops which illegally hoard parking spaces, making car parking a real nightmare on most times of the day. During lunch time on weekdays, this is not a place to be in.
We have seen and passed by this shop umpteen times but had never bothered to go in. Until that evening. Inside, it was a pleasant respite from the craziness of the locale. The atmosphere was cool and unhurried. It had simple furnishing, comfortable enough to get a quiet meal in a more sane environment.
Pan mee (板面) is the mainstay in the shop's menu. This hand made noodle is unique to Malaysia. Some people are crazy about it, so much so shops like this are now all over the Klang Valley. Not me. I can eat it, but it is not my first choice.
Besides pan mee, the shop also offer other noodles and rice dishes - even char koay teow. They also have a variety of side dishes to choose from.
Many eateries now make their patrons tick and write their orders in printed slips. I guess it saves on labour. I like the idea. I can take my time to browse the menu and select my options without anyone hovering over me to make a decision.
My choice was drink was the good old iced lemon tea. My wife's was a cold honey lemon.
On our table was a host of condiments. There were 3 types of chilli pastes and a sambal. And of course the mandatory soy sauce and pepper.
I had this bowl of dry (kon lo - 干捞) fine pan mee. It came with a poached egg, minced pork, fried ikan bilis and a bowl of soup. It wasn't great. The texture of the noodle was rather soggy and did not have the al dente springiness. The ikan bilis was kind of stale - not totally crunchy - surprising since this was a pan mee shop and their turnover of deep fried ikan bilis should be high enough to ensure constant supply of this good crunchy favourite.
They provided a plate each of chili paste and sambal with the noodles, which were already on the table.
My wife's choice was this bowl of chicken soup mee suai (面线). I had a sip of the soup to check its flavour. Again, it was not great. The soup was kind of murky.
This bowl of sayur manis soup we ordered was really quite unnecessary. Sayur manis or potato leaves to the Chinese, is the usual soup served with pan mee. The bowl we ordered had an egg in it. The soup was not bad. I liked the flavour of the sayur manis and the egg gave it a smoothening effect. But since my noodles came with a bowl of soup and my wife's bowl was all soup, this was rather redundant.
I thought this side dish of fried sui kow (水饺) was the best of the dishes we ordered that evening. It was piping hot when it arrived at our table. The stuffing was good and the skin was crispy. Sad, we came in for a meal, and it was this crummy side dish that I enjoyed most.
In spite of being in our neighbourhood, I don't think we will be back in this pan mee shop any time soon.