Nestled in a cozy corner on the Al Falah Street, Abu Dhabi, is a Malaysian restaurant – Kopitiam by Chandy’s. Of all the cuisines you can find in Abu Dhabi, Malaysian is not what you come across regularly, and Kopitiam is here to satiate all your Malaysian cuisine cravings.
We visited on a Monday evening for dinner and we were warmly greeted by the man himself – Chef. Chandy. His personality was warm, welcoming and cheerful. We spent a great deal of time in conversation with him, and learnt so much about him and his restaurant.
For Chef. Chandy this has been a dream passion project, and you can clearly see, that he has put his heart and soul into the restaurant. The restaurant project took him about five months to complete, and during that time, he has made sure to give it a unique identity of its own. It’s also very evident that he has paid keen attention to every little detail around the restaurant. The selection of the paint, the furniture – every chair, every table, the cutlery, the spaciousness of the kitchen area and so on and so forth, has been made to give the feel of a traditional Malaysian Kopi-Tiam (A Kopi Tiam is a traditional Coffee Shop mostly found in parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Southern Thailand; Kopi means Coffee and Tiam means shop).
If you’re someone from this part of the world, living in Abu Dhabi, then Kopitiam by Chandy’s is definitely going to give you all the homely feels. Another interesting part of the restaurant is the beautiful colored tiled wall – which the Chef himself worked on, closely with the mason to place every tile in a particular so as to bring out the cohesive beauty of the wall. Chef. Chandy was previously a Housekeeping Manager for a reputed chain of hotels, and you can see that he has left no stone unturned to make sure the restaurant (washrooms included) is absolutely neat, tidy and spotless.
Coming to the food, it was Chef who suggested the Curry Laksa to me and I am so glad he did. I have had coconut-based curries at about two or three other places in the UAE, but nothing came close to this one at Kopitiam. The first taste of it had me teleported for a brief moment into a different world. It was the perfect blend of sweet, spicy and tangy and it filled my stomach with a mellow warmth. The curry Laksa had a generous serving of fresh prawns, delicious fish balls, some amazing tofu and also bites of shredded chicken, all served on a substantial portion of noodles, and of course immersed in the delectable goodness of the Curry Laksa. This one is a must try if you ever plan to visit.
My husband tried the Bidor Wonton Mee, which is a portion of Singapore fried noodles and Char Siu Chicken, served with a side of wontons / dumplings in a soup. (Traditionally, Char Siu is actually barbequed pork. But at Kopitiam by Chandy’s – all food served is 100% Halal, so the Char Siu is replaced with Char Siu chicken, which is very beautifully made in a way to resemble the traditional Char Siu, but of course in a halal manner).
For the drinks we had the Asam Boi (aka Calamansi Asam Boi) – A refreshing juice from the Calamansi lemon (a lemon native to Philippines, Borneo, Sumatra, and Sulawesi in Indonesia in Southeast Asia, as well as southern China and Taiwan in East Asia), with the Asam Boi (“Asam boi” means preserved plum in the Malay language. The kind used in the beverage is typically coated with powdered salt and sugar). This was an instant hit for my husband who happened to have two of them, but it didn’t quite charm me that much, because of a little hint of bitterness. I’m sure a lot of people would like this, but I’m not the kind who enjoys anything bitter, even in the slightest degree.
The ingredients Chef. Chandy chooses in his dishes are authentic, fresh and high quality. The menu is not very extensive, but you’ve got everything you’d want for a good traditional Malay styled breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s clearly a case of quality over quantity, in terms of the menu items available.
In my husband’s words – “Kopitiam is not just a restaurant; It is an institution”, which is absolutely true because at Kopitiam you’ll not only be served delicious food but also great hospitality, and if you’re lucky – some happy hearted dialogue with the man himself – Chef. Chandy
It is truly an authentic dining experience you shouldn’t miss. It’s places like these that make the food & dining industry a thriving and creative space offering nothing but culinary satisfaction for customers.