Malaysian eatery Ho Jiak, known for its Penang home-style cooking originally served from a Strathfield Mall stall, then from a venue in Haymarket, will open a new venue. It will have a bar stocked with more than 50 bottles of international and local craft beers, live music and a late-night menu of noodles and barbeque. It will also be twice the size of the Haymarket restaurant.
Junda Khoo and Will Xie’s new spot is at 125 York Street, a space that was until last March The Cuban Place. “The day they closed the [real estate] agent called us – the same guy who found [the] Haymarket [location] for us. We went to have a look and as soon as I saw it we signed an agreement saying we’d take it,” Khoo says.
The new venue will be called Ho Jiak Town Hall. It will take what Ho Jiak already does very well – traditional Malaysian food – and mix in Khoo’s interpretation of modern Malaysian cuisine. “The first restaurant [in Strathfield] was a hawker concept ... The second [in Haymarket] was about my grandma's food and the third one is my passion project.”
Teasers from Khoo’s Instagram show uni (sea urchin)-topped steamed eggs on a base of fried crisp rice, and a har mee (noodle soup) styled like a pho but instead of raw beef it uses raw scarlet prawns. “I want to show off more of Australia's produce in a Malaysian cooking style,” he says, adding they will also, for the first time, be serving roti. “I staged [an unpaid internship] at a mamak [Malaysian street food stall] just to learn how to make it,” says Khoo.
At 10pm the format changes. From then until 2am the food prices are reduced but the heartiness is increased. “It will be a lot of things I used to cook for myself in uni days,” Khoo says, showing us pictures of wok-fried Shin Ramyun (a popular brand of Korean instant noodles) and whole roasted barbequed chicken in black pepper sauce. “I have fallen in love with the people in the service industry. This menu will cater to people who've just finished service,” he says.
The beers (16 on tap and 50-plus in bottles) and Malaysian-inspired cocktails will be available all day.
The venue will look at little like a verdant American saloon: a lot of timber and greenery wherever the Creative 9 team can fit them. The Cuban Place’s stage will stay, but Khoo is unsure what will eventually fill it. “Could be anything, we'll see how we go, it's a long way off.”
Ho Jiak Town Hall is slated to open at 125 York Street early 2020.