Monday, May 23, 2011

Rose Restaurant Revisited

There were so many Mamak restaurants in Alor Setar in the past with great food to be enjoyed. The older generations remember fondly of Kedai No. 36, the original Nasi Lemak Royal stall at the Royal Cinema building, Nasi Lemak Ali, Bunga Tanjong (Malay restaurant), the Mamak restaurant in front of Market Besar (Main Market) near Tun Mahathir's birthplace, Mee Abu and Rose Restaurant. The modernization or progress in Alor Setar in the 1980s saw these shops of the old either faded away or relocated. There are also some who maintained and became some sort of a legend, such as Mee Abu. Nasi Lemak Royal made a comeback in the late 1990s by opening a few branches. Nasi Lemak Ali remained where it has been for decades and became legendary as it is now frequented by customers coming even as far away from Singapore.

Rose Restaurant, just like Nasi Lemak Ali remained in its same location for almost more than 30 years. My last trip there, located in the center of Alor Setar was somewhere around 20 years ago. I remember the ever so busy restaurant dishing out Nasi Kandar, Nasi Lemak, the various rotis and murtabak. That place was almost never empty. The typical setting of Rose Restaurant back then was that it has the ground floor for normal service, while the 2nd floor is air-conditioned. Anytime people want to eat there, at any time of day, all they had to do was just drive there, park anywhere nearby and go into the restaurant.

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rose Restaurant was reputed to have the best murtabak in town. However, in the mid-1980s, people claim that the taste and quality of the murtabak went down because the cook always makes the murtabak in bulk. I never knew whether this is true or not as I was not around in Alor Setar that much at the time.

The development of Alor Setar brought about changes in infrastructrure of the town and with more and more traffic and less parking area, Rose Restaurant became virtually inaccessible to people who drives around in town. With fast food franchises pulling the young crowd away, and with other stalls and eateries cropping up, Rose Restaurant seems to lose its glory.

We happened to walk by near Rose Restaurant a few days ago, and as that nostalgic feeling kicked in, I decided to go into the restaurant, with my wife and son as well. The place had changed so much. Gone is the air-conditioned 2nd floor, there were no mamaks. The owner is Indian Muslim, either 2nd or 3rd generation with a Malay wife and his staff are all Malays. Nasi Kandar is still there, along with the addition of Malay/Thai food and of course, the murtabak.

For those who might not know, a murtabak is a dish made with roti canai pastry, stuffed with an omellette comprising of onions, chicken/beef/lamb, eggs and spices. The Alor Setar murtabak differs from the Penang ones in both ingredients and texture. Overall, the northern murtabak differs a lot from the central and southern murtabak whereby the northern murtabak is always moist as a lot of onions is used. There is a theory that murtabak is derived from a Middle Eastern dish known as Mutabbaq, which is a sweet omelette-like dish stuffed with honey and nuts, and also fried on a griddle.

Back to Rose Restaurant, I must admit that the taste has not changed at all. The owner's son/grandson has maintained the original recipe and none of the ingredients has been substituted. The murtabak is served with a plate of pickled onions and fish curry. Being a traditionalist, I had mine with pickled onions. Frankly, I think his pickled onions are the best, compared to Mee Abu's as it does not only well balanced, but also enhances the taste of the murtabak - a true compliment to the experience.

The price is quite reasonable for a murtabak that size and that good, which is at RM3.50. For those who seeks a good murtabak within Alor Setar town itself, I would recommend Rose Restaurant, located at Jalan Tengku Ibrahim, which is about 5 minutes walk from Pekan Rabu and 3 minutes walk from City Plaza. It is located directly accross Kedah Shopping Centre and next to RHB Bank. Check it out, it is the place where the taste stood out with history.


  1. miss my friends at KSAH and SK Sultan Iskandar. wish i was staying nearby so that i can taste the best murtabak in whole of kedah :)

  2. Salam Syed,

    Is this rose Restaurant situated across the street from The Grand Continental Hotel & The Federal Building?

    I remembered when I was about 9 or 10 and it was in 1977 or 1978 I accompanied my father for a few times all the way from KL when he had his meetings at The Federal Building and we stayed at a small hotel (Regent Hotel & The Grand Con was still nowhere insight), on the same row of a Mamak restaurant which dished out this out of this world taste Murtabak of which after more than 30 years later I can almost still remember the delicious taste...!!

  3. Salam HjMisaiKontot,

    You got it right. Rose Restaurant has been dishing out the best murtabaks since the early 1970s. Although the restaurant now is a far cry from its past hustle bustle days, the murtabak remains as tasty as ever. Also, during Ramadhan, they also sell murtabak at the Ramadhan Bazaar at the stadium.

  4. Salam Anonymous,

    Actually the school is SK Iskandar, as that was my school as well, and I was in KSAH for 2 terms. Those were the days when we frequented Rose Restaurant the most.

  5. sedap ! susah mau cari murtabak ini macham ... bila ntah nak balik aloq setaq, nak kena pi pekena murtabak ni ... lama dah tak pekena murtabak rose ni , ehehe semenjak dok merantau dinegeri orang ni ... :-)

  6. tutup dah restoren rose ni..