Taking a quick lunch in the CBD often makes me feel like it’s more of a chore than an enjoyable experience. Food halls are overflowing with humans shuffling between fast food this and fast food that so I make sure I avoid the peak times when taking a break at work. I recently discovered a newish little place on the corner of Pitt and Park, located in the sunken Foodbase on Park eating space that has a small cluster of lunchtime options.
Any diehard fan of To’s Malaysian Gourmet in North Sydney may recognise some familiar faces at this place in the city. Hubby and wife team Irene and To have opened up shop at Foodbase, dishing up some of the Malaysian favourites people used to flock to at their previous Miller Street digs that are now under new ownership. I never made it to To’s Malaysian to sample the food but I automatically knew the auntie that topped my prawn mee (9.5) with generous scoops of fried shallots was Irene. She asks if I’d like some chilli sambal so I oblige by taking a side dish of it to add to my golden coloured soup. Not that I needed the chilli as it already comes moderately spiced, as I discovered after the first spoonful. This was incredible stuff. The flavours of prawn shells punch through the hot broth with every mouthful. Juicy and plump prawns, pork, loads of noodles and half a boiled egg. I just couldn’t help myself with the house made sambal, relishing the belachan saltiness and chilli sting.
The chicken satay (2.5 each) comes over rice or as an individual skewer, smothered in a beautifully spiced peanut sauce. Pity there’s no option of having it with ketupat (compressed rice cake cooked in woven coconut leaves), red onion and cucumber chunks as they tend to do in the mother country. This is one of my ultimate street foods and the one at Ito’s didn’t disappoint. Same goes for the laksa. I tried the seafood laksa (12) and found it light and creamy with a lot of chilli heat. It didn’t have a great deal of depth and richness but it was a good specimen nevertheless.
The Hainan chicken rice (8.6) is pretty good as well, served cold with a vibrant smear of chilli sauce. I love how they don’t hold back on the chilli here. Just the way it should be. The beef rendang (8.5) is delicious and warms my heart (and congests my sinus) with more chilli heat. It’s milder on the chilli compared to the other dishes and that meat is slow-cooked to melting perfection. Nice work, guys.