It’s not easy to find the perfect fried egg. All too often, you get that bland uniform bleached white of the albumen, so uninspiring, so listless, so like something from a child’s playset. It’s far more rare to find an egg fried until the edges take on the crisp, delicate aspect of a lace ‘hem’. It’s hardly a technical challenge: scalding hot oil, a spoon and a little attention are all that is needed to produce a still-molten yolk and a frilled edge, the eponymous puntilla.
You might know this place as the former home of Katiwok- now going from strength to strength, just up the way- though the overall effect has been toned down. The retina-scalding pinks and greens remain, but the massed Bollywood posters only remain in the loos.
The printed menu has a home-made feel to it; it’s very much a bilingual affair, with the target audience being students for whom this Chinese-Japanese-Malaysian menu should furnish welcome memories of distant home.
A vertiginous trio of prawns is a steal at £3.50, the panko crumb beautifully grease-free. Dumplings, steamed then fried, are eminently scarfable.
Squid is advertised as salt and chilli though both seemed curiously muted in their batter, though it again showed a dab hand with the fryer. No one really needs sweet chilli and mayonnaise for food like this: a honking alioli perhaps, but with the salad of shredded white cabbage is simply dressed with sesame oil, vinegar and sliced red chilli- which is a moreish combination in its own right- it’s an odd choice. It comes with all three orders.
Roast meats are deftly presented. The finish on the duck has you reaching for words like ‘burnished’ and ‘lacquered’. It certainly looks the part: the nicely fatty little batons of belly are topped with perfectly crisp uniform little nuggets of crackling.
But… it’s lukewarm at best. Now that may be an ‘authentic’ way of serving it- and it’s worth remembering that this place is very much aimed at students from the Far East, who make up the rest of the diners while we are there. But it does seem odd, especially when the starters arrive piping hot.
Crisp, fatty duck skin- usually such a treat-becomes something markedly less so when it’s cold.
When I told a keen amateur chef friend about this, he said, ‘There’s nothing worse’. I know what he means, though he clearly neglected to factor in bubonic plague, tsunamis and Ellie Goulding.
The rendang is a good example of a perennial favourite, only let down by some pieces of over-chewy beef in the mix. That’s a shame, as the flavours and the heat are spot on.
This isn’t where I’d have expected a perfect egg ‘con puntilla‘- that eponymous ‘frilled hem’ so loved, so rarely seen when eating out- but here we have three of them. It’s an unexpected bonus.
Each plate- this, the spare ribs and yellow bean sauce and, from the Specials board, beef rendang- comes with a neat mound of steamed rice and those lovely fried eggs; at Happy Lok, they clearly believe that it pays to be punctillious about your puntilla.
You’ll have to get down and dirty with the former, as the ribs come cut into in short lengths needing to be picked up and sucked clean.
Happy Lok is not perfect, a few niggles becoming obvious. It’s headed in the right direction, though. A recommendation, with a couple of caveats which should be simple to put right.
Happy Lok Dinner
53 Crwys Rd,
Monday – Friday
12noon – 2:45pm and 5pm – 9:30pm
Saturday – Sunday
12noon – 9:30pm
Closed all day Wednesday
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.