Apiwon was my top fav place for Sabah's most famous noodles, ngew chap. Ngew chap is similar to the Vietnamese pho, but not quite. Instead of thin slices of raw beef, bean sprouts and Thai basil, Sabah ngew chap is less fancy and consists of two types: the darker beef soup noodles where the meat has been stewed for hours with soy sauce and some spices and the other, a soup noodle where there's no color because no soy sauce is used. The non-soy sauce one is more authentic to Sabah and common, the darker ngew chap being a version of the Hong Kong ngoe nam meen.
I wonder how many of you remember the 'mobile' ngew chap stall at Victoria Cinema in what is now Wisma Tun Fuad? An old man used to sell ngew chap under the large raintrees (which are still standing). He'd carry his ngew chap in two wooden boxes on a pole across his shoulders, something vendors did a long long time ago. His ngew chap soup was clear, lightly flavored but very delicious. It was very 'ching' or light and refreshing without too much spices. In fact, I only remember the tung choi flavor and the sweet springy meatballs. After the old man passed on, his recipe was gone. Or maybe not, as word has it that Apiwon bought the old man's recipe from his children, including the recipe for making the meatballs.
When I first tasted Apiwon's ngew chap, I went mad with joy. It tasted just like the old man's ngew chap! I became a regular at Apiwon, so much so that my kids and Hub wouldn't let me make the final decision on where to eat our Sunday lunches. It wasn't just the taste of the ngew chap that drew me there like it was my second home. The place is everything I wanted in a coffeeshop: it is the cleanest coffee shop in KK, with clean floors devoid of used tissues. Chopsticks and spoons were held in wooden boxes that have lids. The tissues provided were serviettes, not toilet tissue (toilet tissue as napkins is truly truly atrocious, just think about it). They served their noodles in ceramic bowls. Their meatballs were the biggest in town, so that you can bite it into half before chewing it whereas all other meatballs have shrunk to pea-size and you don't even get to bite; you chew straightaway. Their beef meatballs also tasted of beef while all other shops' meatballs taste neutral, bland. Their fish balls too very tasty and springy and smooth. Apiwon also had a tasty, thick chili sauce that I could tell was grounded by a stone mill, not processed by a machine. Other pluses are the shop is located at a corner lot, so that even though it isn't air-conditioned, it is cool. Parking is easy and shaded because of the big trees around and the area isn't jammed with cars. And one of the biggest thing they got right was the bosses were involved in the every day running of the shop. The lady, her hub and their son were nearly always there and their standards were the same day in and out, year in and out except for the unfortunate switch from ceramic bowls to melamine ones sometime last year.
When at least two different people told me a few months ago that they weren't impressed with my recommendation of Apiwon, it was like an insult to me, since I love Apiwon's food. Then my daughter came back for a visit last year and Apiwon was one of the first places she headed to. She came back very disappointed. I went one morning after that, and it was very good. Another visit around CNY turned out very disappointing. The last time I ate there was in February, and it was so disappointing too that I've not been back until today. I was hoping that whatever led to the drop in quality had been corrected.
Unfortunately, after today's visit, I have to regretfully and reluctantly take Apiwon off my list of places to eat.
When I complained, the employee who now seems to run the place (the bosses are never around now) gave me a dour look and said, "Tell the boss!" Well, boss is never around now, that is the problem I think.
Ngew chap, RM6.50
The star attraction, the beef meatballs, have shrunk in size and number (only 3!) and the stewed beef slices were stingy and thin while the price has gone from RM5 to RM6 to RM6.50 for a regular portion (RM8.00 for large) which by any standard is small. The chili sauce is so watered down that when I dipped my meatball in it, the sauce runs off and doesn't cling to the meatballs.
Seafood soup with tossed noodles on the side, RM7.50
The seafood noodles too suffered similar drop in quality and quantity, with only 2 tiny fishballs, 2 small prawns, 1 slice of fish and 2 slices of fish cake floating in a soup that taste distinctly different because it didn't have the zhou cai /preserved veg anymore. And instead of Emperor's veg, they are now using chinese cabbage. At RM7.50 for a regular portion (RM8.50 for large), I'd be crazy to eat their seafood noodles again. And the ngew chap too.