We love eateries like this - family-run, with enthusiasm and real pride in what's served.
There's grilled fish and then there's lovingly grilled fish, and the grilled fish served at Ikan Bakar Pak Din is of the latter variety. The food is why we're here, of course, but the assorted members of the Pak Din clan that keep this place humming are so friendly and so obviously happy to see us enjoying their grub that we can't help but feel we've found a keeper.
Family head Pak Din mans the grill set up outside the back of the stall. His approach to ikan bakar (grilled fish) falls into the category of 'simple is best' - no post-BBQ saucing, no complicated pre-BBQ marinades or rubs, just a touch of salt, pepper, and turmeric.
The result is plain perfection: a grilled fish with moist, aromatic flesh enclosed in skin that's crispy in some spots, charred in others, and entirely delicious. Though this fish doesn't need a dip, Pak Din's is a stunner, sour-sweet and fishy-spicy from sugar, tamarind, belacan, small fresh chilies, and thickly sliced red shallots. Happily, it's served in generous portions, which means plenty left to eat with rice after the fish bones are picked clean.
There's only one thing as memorable as Pak Din's ikan bakar,
and that's Mrs. Pak Din's rendang ayam, chicken stewed in coconut milk with chilies and herbs. We were lucky enough to arrive just as a batch was coming off the fire. The memory of its coconuty richness balanced by a fresh lemongrass-iness lingers two weeks later (and there are a few takeaway servings stashed our freezer).
Pak Din has been in business for about a decade, having moved just a few years ago from a portable set-up under a tree to this bricks-and-mortar stall in a tiny food court at the edge of the Lake Gardens. Business is going well ... which means plenty of ikan bakar and rendang ayam in our future.
Ikan Bakar Pak Din, food court on Jalan Cenderasari near police station. Open early morning till around 3pm (but arrive by 12:30 for the best fish selection). Closed Sundays and holidays.