“RUNNNNN!” The frantic yelling across the street startles me from what I’m doing – grappling frantically with an umbrella that refuses to cooperate.
With the heavens threatening to burst any minute and heavy wind swirling everything in its wake like some bad tornado movie, I abandon my futile efforts and make a dash towards the source of the voice, coming from in front of what looks like a steamboat restaurant.
“Good timing!” my friend Marc exclaims as heavy rain begins pelting down around us.
The ominous hissing of the wind further quickens our entry into the restaurant — a cosy, warm haven.
So this is Mama Kim Sauna Mee Cafe, HerbaLine’s (skincare and facial spa brand) in-house cafe, which Marc had been bugging me for months to check out.
I’d managed to resist up until now because personally, when I see the tagline “Where Healthy Is Yummy”, I only see the word “healthy”’. And that makes me run a mile! But having run out of excuses to use to fob off his “advances”, I relented — hence our date today.
The sight of a steaming pot of what looks like stew from one of the tables is a welcomed one.
Catching my furtive glances at the table, Marc offers to order the very same thing.
“That’s the famous Sauna Mee,” he enthusiastically explains, pointing to the piece de resistance in the centre, before beckoning me to take a seat and passing me a menu to study.
It’s certainly a very comprehensive menu. And everything looks so colourful. Maybe this healthy-eating lark isn’t so bad after all, I think, as I spot the blurb at the front that proclaims that the recipes here comprise 80 per cent vegetable and 20 per cent meat.
“People think healthy food is not nice but wait until you try the stuff here,” coaxes Marc as dish after dish begin appearing on the table. Before long, the table is heaving with all kinds of goodies.
The signature dish, the Sauna Mee, intrigues me. Not normally a fan of anything soupy, this one looks really tempting.
Ever the helpful companion, Marc explains to me that the broth has been boiled and stewed for over five hours in an earthen pot at a temperature of 250 degrees Celcius so that every mouthful of soup is hot from start to finish.
There’s a choice of two soup bases — chicken and fish soup, or vegetarian. The former comprises chicken bones, 10 types of vegetables and Bonito flakes, all cooked together for a minimum of three hours.
The result is a clear, strong-flavoured soup, which is eaten with noodles. Choose from rice noodles or pumpkin noodles. And for a touch of spiciness, add some fried garlic or sambal.
The Sauna Mee is served in a charming stone pot. During the “cooking” process, the pot emits infrared rays induced by the heat, making the dish easy to digest and healthy.
I’m told that the stone pot has its own health benefits as it contains bioactive complex minerals, such as zircon, which emit infrared rays under high temperatures to decompose food, which in turn results in the food releasing even more nutrients.
HEALTHY AND TASTY
Next to catch my attention is the Black Porridge, made with selected brown rice and black wild mushrooms. These are boiled together to create a surprisingly flavourful dish.
Marc informs me that the Black Porridge is a high-nutrient version of the conventional porridge, and is great for aiding digestion.
Wild mushroom, known for being rich in protein and multiple vitamins, feature again in the next offering — the Wild Mushroom Fried Rice. The fresh wild mushrooms are stir-fried to aromatic perfection and provide a lovely flavour to the fried rice, which is free of artificial flavouring.
The Baked Cheesy Mushroom Rice is another not-to-miss dish. The cheese adds a touch of decadence but rest assured, everything else is pretty healthy. Vegetables and brown rice combine to produce quite a distinctive taste.
Meanwhile, I’m told that the dish is baked at low heat in order to lock in the nutrients and original flavours of the ingredients.
The ‘Five Colours’ rule is meticulously observed in the preparation of this dish, which hits both the healthy and tasty buttons.
In a nutshell, the general principles of Mama Kim’s dishes are pretty straightforward: five major colours, fresh ingredients, no MSG, no white flour, no sugar, less salt, less deep-fried and balanced nutrients.
TIME FOR PAMPERING
Stomach contented, I turn to Marc to find out what else we can do in this vicinity of upmarket Desa Sri Hartamas.
It’s my day off after all and I have time to burn. From where I’m sitting, it’s obvious that the elements outside continue to rage unabated. I’m definitely in no hurry to leave.
“When was the last time you pampered yourself?” Marc asks, eyes twinkling. I can spot the beginning of a great plan hatching. The fact that I’m taking some time to mull the question is answer enough for him.
“You wanna do some massage and facial?” he asks again. I tell him that I’m reluctant to leave the area because of the downpour outside. He chuckles before telling me that I need not go far to do both.
“Just go next door and up the stairs,” adds Marc gleefully, noting my surprised expression.
It seems that I’ve landed a jackpot here — wellness and pampering experience in one place.
Mama Kim Sauna Mee Cafe is just one of three offerings served up by HerbaLine, whose incorporation of food and hospitality into their brand mix recently signals a new chapter. The end result is an integrated wellness business.
Not only do I get to tuck into healthy, tasty food but I can also head next door for some wellness pampering from the folks at Healthland, one of the country’s reputable wellness centres.
Marc tells me that I can enjoy body and foot massages here from therapists who have been trained at the acclaimed Wellness Academy in Thailand.
It’s music to my ears when he adds that the services here won’t burn a hole in my wallet!
Once I’ve done that, he says, I can proceed for a relaxing facial at HerbaLine Facial Spa salon, also located in the same building, which offers various cleansing, moisturising and lifting facials.
I can even opt for a number of body massage treatments, and while I’m at it, enjoy a leisurely fish spa therapy and salt foot bath. This 3-in-1 concept is certainly timely considering the growing consumer demand for integration of various services.
Enthusiastically, Marc elaborates that some HerbaLine outlets carry a 2-in-1 concept, which includes facial spa (HerbaLine) and cafe (Mama Kim Sauna Mee Cafe) in one location.
It was sometime last year that HerbaLine went on to introduce a 3-in-1 concept by collaborating with Sojourn guesthouse in Pandan Indah, Cheras and Mama Kim Sauna Mee Cafe. A new tagline was thus coined — “Eat Well, Look Well, Live Well”.
Meanwhile, this 3-in-1 outlet in Desa Sri Hartamas, which offers Herbaline Facial Spa, Healthland and Mama Kim Sauna Mee Cafe, was launched earlier this year.
Not needing any convincing, or wanting to waste any time, I tell Marc that I’m certainly overdue for some personal loving.
Summoning the waiter, we hastily call for the bill before making our excited departure from the cafe, just like two mischievous schoolchildren in on a great plan. Let the pampering begin!
HerbaLine Facial Spa
Go to: www.herbaline.com.my for details
Healthland Wellness Centre
Go to: www.healthland.com.my for details
Mama Kim Sauna Mee Cafe
Jalan 31/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur
Go to: www.mamakim.my for details