Restoran Vargina (tagline: “Makanan Islam Yang Lazat”) is one of those places that many people make fun of but never really eat at, or know much about. If you Google it, you’ll find a bunch of links that say it’s the dirtiest place around, and that you’re going to get food poisoning if you eat there. You’d expect the place to be empty.

Nevertheless, the first rule of advertising is that sex sells. And true enough, when I visited Vargina at lunchtime, the place was packed.

My mother had warned me not to go over there and make fun of it, because (she said) the owners would probably beat me up for it. But, you know what, if there’s something I’ve learnt from living in Sentul all these years is that, if you’re not an asshole, people here are always up for a chat, and will tell you pretty much anything you want to know.

Anyway, the staff were really friendly in Vargina. They were okay with me taking photos, and not ordering anything. (Hey, I couldn’t risk getting food poisoning, could I?).

I was eyeing the sweets at the counter when I noticed a guy taking photos of me. He turned out to be the owner. We started talking and he said, “Vargina is my mother’s name.”

If you’re a writer looking for a funny story about a restaurant called Vargina, and its owner — big Indian bloke with a serious expression — says it’s named after his mother, there is very little you can poke fun at after that. What a killjoy!

“People confuse the spelling, and you know … you know lah … you know.” (He was still serious.)

I didn’t know, actually. But I pretended I did, because I didn’t want to piss him off. Especially since he had photos of me. (Remember what I said about people here being street savvy?)

Looking around, I noticed lots of Islamic wall hangings. A sign nearby read “Allah melihat apa yang anda lakukan”. I decided I would ditch the vag jokes. I asked him what sort of establishment Restoran Vargina was.

“It’s a mamak, so we serve mamak food lah, what more you want?” he said. “Oh, but at night got Tom Yam.”

I found out that Vargina is open 24 hours a day, and has been around for 7 years. They serve Jus Cinta (love juice), which I think is their way of telling everyone they’re in on the jokes too. Everything else is basic mamak fare. So nothing unusual — but definitely not the hole it’s reputed to be.

That got me wondering why all the comments I’d read online were so negative.

kotor sgt ler, kotoq ler puloqq…rase nk tmuntah pon ader

We live in a country where “vagina” is considered a dirty word, so I guess it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if such comments turned out to be baseless or purely speculative. But aside from that, eating out in Malaysia is often similar to playing Russian Roulette: you’re bound to get food poisoning sooner or later — so no big deal, really.

While Restoran Vargina wasn’t as exciting as I had expected, it looks like an okay place for eating out. Casual, warm and welcoming, with practical doses of religion: a perfect balance between guilt and God.

WATCH: Popek-Popek bersama June Low, PopTeeVee’s sex education show.