I first passed this way, way back in 2012. I marked it down as a place to return to but never did until this morning - 6 years later. San Lou Cafe is a hidden gem close to the heart of San Lou residents who live in these 3 storey flats at Stulang Darat, many for over 5 decades.
San Lou Cafe is at the corner of Blok B - a gathering place of residents of the 3 storey flats and JB folks who know where the good food are in town. Thanks to Littlestarz Serene for tipping me off to this hidden gem.
San Lou Cafe is a laid back rather dingy eatery - not a hipster cafe by any means but it is not short on personality and feel. Folks saunter in on this Tuesday morning like any morning for the past 50 years.
Take a seat inside but don't wait for someone to come to show you the menu and take your orders.
Go straightaway to the kitchen at the back to hand pick your fresh fish / seafood and make your orders.
San Lou Cafe is run by the Lee family who lives at the 3 storey flats. According to the elder Lee, their dishes are all home cooking style - literally from their home to the shop.
Two of us, we had 4 dishes - fried sole fish, la la clams, fried eggs with krill, and fried sayur manis. Yes, they were those familiar dishes mums and dads cook at home.
The Dragon Tongue sole fish 龙舌鱼 was fried to a golden brown crisp outside.
The white inside was tender and moist which complemented the crispness outside. The white meat had a mild natural sweetness. The sole fish was quite bony.
I love San Lou Cafe's la la clams.
The la la clams were very well cleaned - there was no sand or grit at all. The tender and juicy clam meat was naturally sweet with ocean brininess.
The shallow pool of la la clam stock at the bottom of the plate tasted mainly of the la la clams' briny sweetness with underlying taste of Chinese cooking wine and a bit of subtle heat from julienned ginger.
Enjoyed this omelette packed with fresh krill (small shrimps). The omelette tasted mainly briny from the soft krill with underlying egginess.
Can you see the little black peering eyes of the krill? 😮
I am a big fan of sayur manis and will order it whenever it is available. I love the crunch and squeaky bite of the leafy greens. The vegetable's green sweetness was complemented with slight egginess and savouriness from sauces / stock.
We love every dish we had today.
But, wait - we can't leave without tasting San Lou Cafe's signature dessert.
Irresistible Orh Nee 芋泥 - San Lou Cafe serves an excellent rendition of this classic Teochew sweet indulgence.
Each spoonful of orh nee had layers of sweetness from the smooth yam paste, pumpkin, and gingko nuts complemented by subtle savouriness from lard. One of the most notorious enemies in the "war on diabetes" but it doesn't take much to persuade me into sweet surrender.
4-Star (out of 5).
👍 I am so pleased to have lunch at San Low Cafe 三楼咖啡屋 at the historic 3 storey flats at Stulang Darat. It's a great place for an authentic JB foodie experience with homely Teochew dishes expertly executed with fresh ingredients. Overall, the flavours were mild and well balanced, emphasising the natural taste of the quality ingredients.
Our total bill for four dishes and orh nee dessert plus rice came to RM68. We feel it is very reasonable.
I shall be back very soon to try more dishes at San Lou Cafe such as their popular signature asam pedas fish.
We came back for a second visit specially for San Lou Cafe's signature asam pedas fish (on 13 Oct 2018).
Every business morning, the boss goes to the Orang Asli fish market in Permas Jaya to hand pick fish for his restaurant. He is usually back around 9 - 9:30am, so try to come around that time for the first pick of the catch of the day. Come straight to the kitchen at the back of the restaurant to hand pick your own fish.
There were these fish to be cooked with asam pedas (which is San Lou Cafe's signature dish).
Next time, jio (invite) a few kakis (buddies) for these shovel nose shark snort.
I picked a beautiful wild snapper fish which was caught just hours ago. There's a choice to cook it steamed Teochew style, Cantonese style or with asam pedas. We picked the latter.
The meaty snapper was tender and sweet. The asam pedas sauce was moderately savoury sourish spicy sweet.
While in the kitchen, I saw them cooking these wild sea catfish. I asked for one of these to try 😄
The catfish was stewed in a savoury sweet sauce. The catfish meat was soft and sweet complemented by the savoury sweet sauce.
We were back again for the third time on 11 Jan 2019, this time with 4 people to try more dishes. This time we arrived at 10:30am and the boss was already back from the Orang Asli fish market with the day's catch.
As per normal practice at San Lou Cafe, we went to the kitchen at the back to personally select our fish. Uncle Bob posing with a large snapper.
My main target this morning was San Lou Cafe's signature asam pedas Spotted Scat fish 金鼓鱼 which I had been eyeing since my first visit. Spotted scats are caught by Orang Asli around the mangroves and estuaries of Johor.
The meaty fish was soft tender juicy and tasted sweet with fleeting slight earthiness. The savoury tangy spicy sweet asam pedas masked the fish's mild earthiness. We all enjoyed this asam pedas fish and the natural earthiness didn't bother us.
Wild sea bass steak fried till browned and then served with a savoury watery sauce. Very homely feel but I am not a fan of this style of cooking. Prefer to have it simply browned so I can taste the natural wild sea bass flavour without any distractions.
The boss recommended this 尖沙鱼 (
While picking our fish in the kitchen, these la la clams squirted water at me, so I sent them to the pot 😂 Simply simmered in a savoury watery sauce with Chinese cooking wine, ginger and chives etc, we can taste the natural sweetness and umami of the meaty live la la clams.
Uncle Bob ordered this the moment he saw these large blood cockles. The cockles were simply blanched and served. The crunchy meaty cockles tasted gently savoury (but not as tender, juicy and intense as small cockles).
Obligatory greens. Simple stir fried tapioca leaves with eggs. Crunchy squeaky texture, natural sweet leafy taste balanced with savoury sauce. Filled the role perfectly.
I joked that we cannot leave San Lou Cafe without tasting their orh nee (yam paste dessert). No. I am serious because you will regret it, if you let it pass.
Another very satisfying meal at San Lou Cafe. Will be coming here again. Next target, the shovel nose shark 😄
Restaurant name: San Lou Cafe 三楼咖啡屋
Address: Jalan Stulang Darat (ground floor house unit at 3-storey flats facing inside), Johor Bahru
GPS: 1°28'21.8"N 103°46'42.9"E 🌐 1.472715, 103.778580
Waze: Restoran Come & Eat Teochew Muay (San Lou Cafe is at the next block just inside)
Tel: +6012 791 7868
Hours: 7:00am to 2:00 pm (closed on Thurs)
Date visited: 25 Sept 2018
First update: 13 Oct 2018
Second update: 11 Jan 2019
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