Unicorn Cafe Melaka – might be the best Nyonya restaurant in Melaka!

You know what they say about not knowing what is truly excellent until you have had the best?

I’m not of Nyonya origin so I can’t claim to know or have grown up feasting on authentic Nyonya food.
I could however, recognize mediocre food. And I do have many Malaccan/ true blue Nyonya friends who lunched with me in various nyonya restaurants in Melaka.

Their verdict matched me for the restaurants below, which are “mediocre, commercialized, not worth the price paid“. We did take into consideration the labour, rent and overall cost of running a business; but the conclusion remained, most Nyonya restaurants in Melaka overprice their food.

excellent Nyonya food - Unicorn Cafe MElaka

Before I go on, I’ll have to declare that I AM AWARE that there are many different recipes and slight variations in every Nyonya family’s recipes for a particular dish.
However, I would argue that at the very basic level, some ingredients are necessary and a level of acceptability in taste is in order.

With that in mind, I’ve (with local Malaccan in tow) visited and dined at the outlets as below:
1. Makko
2. Nyonya Sayang (Jalan TMR 21, Taman Melaka Raya)
3. Ole Sayang (Taman Melaka Raya)
4. Donald & Lily’s
5. Nancy’s kitchen
6. Song Nyonya Taste Cuisine
7. Aunty Lee (when she was still cooking – many years back)
8. Amy Heritage
9. Unicorn Cafe

Other than Unicorn Cafe, there are 2 other restaurants that was decent – Nyonya Sayang and Aunty Lee.

But those visits was sometime ago; while Unicorn Cafe is a recent discovery. After my meal here, I don’t think I’ll be spending my money in any of the other Nyonya restaurants in Melaka anymore.

Unicorn Cafe offers a great package; authentic Nyonya food at wallet-friendly prices in fair portions with an accessible location.

babi pongteh - excellent - Unicorn Cafe MElaka-001

This cosy cafe comes with a heartwarming story too, but I would encourage you to discover that during your visit.
The people behind the cafe are affable and open, so don’t be a stranger when you are here. Feedback are welcomed and no doubt praises too.

We were in a big group so ordering almost every dish on the menu was possible. Well, ALMOST.

A simple one pager listed out their offerings, but look out for their signatures such as Kuah Lada Ikan (as far as they know, they are the only outlet offering this in Melaka), Babi Assam and their amazingly tasty, thick Babi Pongteh, coincidentally one of the best I’ve tasted so far.

1. Nyonya Popiah (RM5.50 set of 2 rolls).
This was one of the most satisfying popiah I’ve had for a long time.
It was lusciously stuffed with everything that matters – turnips cooked to the right degree; not too soft or undercooked, beansprouts, egg and diced beancurd wrapped in a thin egg skin.
The skin is lined with a film of house-made sweet sauce (tim cheong) and chilli, just enough for taste and thus not overly sweet or spicy.
Fried shallots, a dash of pork lard plus chunky pieces of pork lard added overall fragrance and flavour.

excellent Nyonya food - Unicorn Cafe MElaka-006

Unlike the common popiah sold in Klang Valley which are bland and rely solely on the sweet plus chilli sauce for taste, these rolls are delish on the merits on its ingredients.


2. Nyonya Laksa (RM5.50)
As the bowl was set down on the table my eyes widen in shock. Whoa, all that for RM5.50??
As I dug in, I realized this could easily feed two. And yes, I love cockles and these are as fresh as they look.
The punchy gravy is the result of a myriad of spices prepared fresh in-house and cooked in the freshest coconut milk. It was balanced in both spice and richness, delivering a most gratifying bowl of Nyonya Laksa.

excellent Nyonya food - Unicorn Cafe MElaka-013

3. Babi Asam (RM9.90 – set meal) – sliced pork cooked with tamarind sauce.
This was a first for me.
I was delighted with the unusual blend of tang and sweetness of the thick gravy. You can request for either lean cuts or those with some fat as you see below.
I prefer the half-fat-half-lean cuts as below, for these deliver both tender meat and soft fats gratification with each chew.

excellent Nyonya food - Unicorn Cafe MElaka-011

excellent Nyonya food - Unicorn Cafe MElaka-005

4. Pongteh Babi (RM9.90 – set meal)pork meat stew in taucheo, potatoes and chinese mushrooms.
This is an excellent pongteh and I’ve yet to savour one as aromatic, thick and cheap as this bowl.
For RM9.90 (with rice!) there were 3-4 thick pieces of meat (with thick fat layers as how it should be) with mushrooms.

All too often the Pong Teh I eat at self-proclaimed nyonya restaurants are watery and just plain sweet. The gravy lacked aromatics and the rich flavour from the spices.
That shouldn’t be the case. A good pongteh gravy should be thick, brown with substance broken down from the taucheo, potatoes and spices, not thin and watery.

Thus the elements of an excellent pong teh starts with its thick gravy with balanced caramel sweetness from quality gula melaka tinged with the saltiness of taucheo. The meat should be tender but still with some bite, the potatoes soft but not mushy.

This dish needs the fat from the pork to accentuate the overall flavour, and will not taste the same with a dry slab of lean pork.

UPDATE: This dish below is meant for sharing.

babi pongteh - excellent - Unicorn Cafe MElaka

This is the set (RM9.90) I’ve had on my 3rd visit on Oct 20th.
It has about 3-4 pieces of pork, some mushrooms and potatoes.

best babi pongteh melaka -002

The gravy and overall flavours are still spot on.

best babi pongteh melaka

5. Kuah Lada Ikan (RM9.90 – set meal).
It was difficult to describe the gravy as it is truly complex. A mix of freshly grounded peppercorn, spices and turmeric in coconut milk, it carries a peppery heat plus multi-facet fieriness from the spices coupled with the richness of creamy coconut milk.
It calls for rice, and I concur that it is certainly best enjoyed with a bowl of hot carbs.
Stingray is used here, and you can expect 1-2 pieces of fish with each order.

excellent Nyonya food - Unicorn Cafe MElaka-009

excellent Nyonya food - Unicorn Cafe MElaka-010

6. Seh Bak ((RM9.90 – set meal) – sliced pork marinated with herbs and spices.
While the earlier Babi Assam is sharp and sweet, this is a more familiar braised pork dish. The flavour carries a tinge of cinnamon with the saltiness from the soy sauce.
Likewise for this dish, you can opt for lean or mixed fat-lean cuts.

excellent Nyonya food - Unicorn Cafe MElaka-012

7. Pai Tee (set of 5 – RM4.00)
Pie tees are a perennial favourite of many due to it bite sized convenience and also for the crunch from the dainty pie tee shells or otherwise known as top hats.

I’m not a fan since I don’t fancy additional calories from fried items but these ones are good; fried to a crisp minus the grease and filled generously with similar filings as the popiah.

excellent Nyonya food - Unicorn Cafe MElaka-003

8. Lemak Sayur – this is the vegetables of the day which comes with the set meal we ordered but since we ordered so many sets, this was served in a big bowl instead of numerous smaller servings.
I love this as it was satisfying creamy yet not overly so. The gravy adds taste to the vegetables, but the greens retained its texture and flavours.

excellent Nyonya food - Unicorn Cafe MElaka-008

9. Chendol (RM3.50).

This is the best RM3.50 chendol in Melaka.
I love my Justberry’s chendol with durian ice cream but for RM3.50, this bowl has all aspects of a good chendol covered; rich coconut milk tinged with saltiness, thick aromatic gula melaka, fresh green jellies and soft SMALL red beans.
I’m fussy about red beans and I’m of opinion that kidney beans are a no-no.

MELAKA Day 2 - dai chow Part 2

UPDATE: 3rd visit on 29th Oct 2015.
Still as good – finely shaven ice, gooey palm sugar, fresh jellies, soft red beans and creamy coconut milk.  It melts really quick though, so slurp it up in haste!

best chendol melaka

best chendol melaka -001

10. Nasi Lemak with Chicken Rendang. RM7.90.

This was from my 3rd visit and apart from the pongteh, popiah and chendol, I ordered the nasi lemak.

nasi lemak - unicorn cafe melaka

The sambal is on the sweet side, the anchovies thin, fresh and crunchy and the rice redolent with coconut milk. In fact, the rice was excellent enough on its own.

The chicken rendang was a tad salty for me though.

rendang - nasi lemak unicorn cafe melaka

All in all, after 3 visits (2 with food, once for drinks) I must say I’m pleased with the overall ambience, service and food here.
I’m definitely actively recommending friends and readers to Unicorn Cafe.
However, I’m not in Melaka all the time and I would welcome any feedback from any visitor to Unicorn Cafe. Let me know if you agree with the food and if not, where else is better?
Your family’s home-cooked version doesn’t count (unless you are inviting me over for a meal lol!). It has to be something available commercially to the public.


Unicorn Cafe
75000 MELAKA, Malaysia
Contact: 0163425365
HOURS: Mon-Wed: 10:30 am-4:30 pm
Fri-Sun: 10:30 am-4:30 pm

Prices: Affordable. RM10 – RM30.

Pork-free/Halal: Serves PORK.
WIFI: Yes.
Tax: No.
Service: Warm and helpful.Your orders are served to you.
Ambience: Comfortable. Casual.
Aircon: No.
Outdoor seating: No.
Powerpoints for charging: Limited (indoors).
Parking : Roadside. Easy.
Payment: Eat first, then call for bill to pay.

nasi lemak - unicorn cafe melaka-001

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. yy

    Hi, you can try also Lin restaurant at limbongan, the row of shops after McD. It serves authentic nyonya food too at great value prices.

    1. Rebecca Saw

      Hi Yen
      It is under renovation now so I couldn’t try them yet. Will do so soon.

  2. des

    Btw. On the Kuah lada, nope, they are not the only one serving. Chanap cafe does too. Tho, i would give props for probably being the only nyonya restaurant to serve glorious pork pongteh and sambal belacan and cater to the real peranakan taste buds. Ow and se bak. Yummy.

  3. Brian chen

    Hmm, with such a post effectively dissing every other nyonya rest in melaka, you would have thought the cafes food must be really good.
    Sadly, i tried and was heavily disappointed:
    1. Rendang floating in oil and not enough rempah
    2. Sayur again very watery
    3. Babi pongteh too salty, tastewise ok but nothing to suggest it is head n shoulders above the other restaurants. Likewise ikan chili garam
    4. Chendol good. Probably would come back for this
    5. “Cosy” if you call hard chairs and oily small tiled floors cosy. Not to mention the place seriously needs more ventilation.

    If this was a paid/invited review, i think it should be pointed out as such

    1. Rebecca Saw

      Oh hi Brian
      So nice of you to leave a comment.
      With such an effective comment disagreeing with my review, I was hoping that you would have shared the names of the other restaurants that are better than Unicorn, since I’ve provided a list of those I’m comparing Unicorn with, thus forming the base for my review. Hence I’m curious which outlets were you evaluating Unicorn against?

      Food here is good for me. Like I’ve said I wasn’t privileged to grow up eating nyonya food all my life so perhaps you have a higher rating score.

      I wrote we didn’t like the other restaurants’ food but “effectively dissing every other nyonya rest”? REALLY?
      I’ve merely listed out the ones I’ve tried, and in fact paid hundreds of RM during my visit to SOME of them. Like yourself, I have a right to feel “heavily disappointed”.

      No, Unicorn Cafe isn’t invited nor was it paid review. I went on a total of 4 different visits.
      I do include “thank you for hosting” if it was an invited review and here I must correct your perception of online sites/bloggers. Many of us work hard for our blog, invested long hours writing & spent hard earned money for the food we enjoy (or didn’t enjoy). F & B outlets hardly ever pays.
      And while there are those who sing high praises of outlets in return for free food, not all of us does.

      As for “nothing to suggest it is head n shoulders above the other restaurants” – again I’m curious as to which other restaurants are those?
      For the ones I’ve been to (and listed) the pongteh here certainly stood up above the rest.
      There’s restaurants that serves good pongteh at RM9.90 per serving? Gosh, I MUST TRY!

      No, cosy refers to the overall ambience – small, friendly service, unassuming outlet.
      Perhaps I’m a simple person hence my definition of cosy differs from others.

      Haven’t tried chili garam and thus it wasn’t in my review.

      1. Melanie

        Hi Rebecca

        I’d just thought of dropping by to say thank you on behalf of my aunt and my cousin as they are the one who were behind the scenes of Unicorn Cafe. It was really grateful of you writing a recommendable post of their must-try Peranakan cuisines.

        And to Brian Chen, to justify through your unsavoury two-cents worth of comment, let me explain to you clearly. I grew up tasting my aunt’s cooking and mind you, these dishes were cooked and served with love and an extra touch of family warmth.

        Another note to Brian Chen, have you gone trying every single Peranakan restaurant around Melaka? Perhaps, you could play the part for every one of us on being the ‘wonderful food critic’ and provide a testimonial, preferably a long one that has to be reviewed and rectified as the world’s bestselling testimonial by all world-recognised food experts, Michelin-certified chefs and well-known food critics as well. Happy?

        And Rebecca, during my last visit along with my friends to Unicorn last Sunday, I can justify that they have told me that these Peranakan dishes were one of the best that they’d ever tasted. Plus they were affordable and easy to our pockets.

        Plus, you definitely have my 200% support behind this blog post!!

      2. Rebecca Saw

        Thank you Melanie for dropping by!
        I truly enjoyed the food, more so when I realized the work and passion that went into it for each dish every day!
        I’m glad to have discovered Unicorn Cafe and I hope it will enjoy brisk business everyday. 🙂

        It seems that Mr Brian has nothing to add to his remark so far.. LOL.

  4. Sarah

    Hi Rebecca,

    My husband and I went to Unicorn Cafe for a late breakfast Nov. 5, 2016 and it was all that you wrote it would be. Mind you we are no authority on this type of cuisine, this being our first time trying certain dishes like Cendol – which I loved!!! My only annoyance was that they brought the Cendol at the same time as the Nyonya Laksa, so I had to eat that before eating the hot soup. It wasn’t busy at all there, so I don’t know why they did that. I would go again though.
    There is also a nice Italian-style coffee bar just down the road. Pricey, but good if you like European-style coffee.

  5. TC

    Usually I do not read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up
    very compelled me to take a look at and do so!
    Your writing style has been surprised me.
    Thank you, quite nice article.

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