"The char siew is like eating savoury pork candy"
So we heard of this newbie at Plaza Damansara which opened just over a month ago. And yes, the market is already bursting with Canton cuisine so what's one more? Fear not, there's more than meets the eye. True, at first glance, their menu isn't that different. But I beg to differ when it comes to its quality and variety.
Take for instance the roasted section – charsiew, siew yok and roast duck. It's been done to death and the mere mention would probably have me rolling my eyes – AGAIN??!! But here, it's an art that's been mastered to perfection. The roast pork is crisp yet succulent, the charsiew has the right combo of sweetness, crunch and fat but the real winner is the duck. It's flawless to say the least and I dare say it's one of the best in KL, or even the country. I can vouch that the only other place that serves roast duck this good is across the globe at Bayswater London at 10X the price! The owner prides in the 10 hours preparation combined with the 3 hours of slow grilling to achieve this sinful pleasure. If you give one day prior notice, the chef can make to order roast goose too and I heard this is THE prize dish. Judging by what I've sampled, this goose warrants a follow up.
The rest that followed impressed us too. The deep fried prawns with sa zhi sauce is akin to salad prawns but the freshness makes the prawns exquisite with each bite. We wonder how the prawns could be so succulently fresh. Kudos to the stirfried egg white with crabmeat too. It's simple yet so tasty and the sauce has just the right consistency. The seafood wan tan hor deserves applause. I can taste the 'wok hei' due to the chef's expertise in wok frying with high heat, thus little oil is used. The sauce is so yummy, thanks to the richness from runny eggs poured over the dish.
This popiah is made fresh everyday…. every part of it is handmade from the skin down to the filling. In an exclusive never seen before footage, Popiah SS Ali shows FriedChillies how he makes the ‘soft as a baby’s bottom’ popiah skin that is the trademark of his popiah. He should win some kind of hand award for this….
Here’s some banana leaf rice from a small restaurant in PJ. Sometimes you just don’t need words…
"Fresh squid right in the centre"
I was biting into a pyramid of fishy goodness. It was sweet, slighty sticky with strings of coconut in it and the taste of newly caught fish glistening in silver nets. Somehow the blend of coconut and fresh fish makes one think of sun, surf and sea the essence of Terengganu. Earlier we were just driving from one long windswept beach to the next thinking of irrational non-city slicker thoughts- like building a sekuci
(a local sampan), living a nomadic beach existence and planting coconuts. Such is the appeal of the East Coast, it allows you to drift on modest wholesome dreams.
Back to the Satar. It comes wrapped in coconut leaves, after being stuck on long spits and smoked on hot embers. Made out of fish, grated coconut, santan and a bit of sago- it's a favourite snack here. While we were there, car after car came to buy dozens of it to take home. That and the sea air makes this snack really addictive yet small enough so you won't feel too guilty about scarfing down a truckload of these tasty little morsels.
Pak Nor (the father who started the stall) also makes otak-otak from tenggiri and other fishes. The otak-otak is not as juicy as the satar but has a really smouldering flavour. Best thing is that at the centre of each otak-otak is a chunk of fish. Yesiree... orang ganu ni suka ikang
"Nice fried ikan bulus adds crunch to your meal"
'Starve yourself tomorrow!' A friend of mine declared boldly. 'But, but why?' I proclaimed sadly, a day without food is definitely my idea of hell. 'Because tomorrow... is BANANA LEAF DAY!! WooHooo!'
And that was good enough reason for me. For even though I am proud to be a Foodster, my tolerance for a huge intake of rice is somewhat shameful. But then, compensation comes in shape of delicious banana leaf rice side orders. There are so many to indulge in at Vishal like chicken masala, mutton varuval, fish curries, vegetable thairu and rassam. Just saying the names out loud is enough to make your head spin in ecstacy. Believe me when I say, none was spared from the taking.
I dug around a little for a bit of history. Vishal was originally a small canteen on the top floor for the staff, while downstairs was where they ran Vishal Print Distribution. Soon enough the number grew and more space was needed. Good things could never be kept a secret, especially when it came down to Malaysians and their food. The set-up is still pretty much laid-out the way it was before. True, they have moved a floor down for easier access for their customers. But other than that, nothing much has changed.
The set-up itself is truly unique with long tables facing each other. Pretty much like a real mess hall. During lunch hour all the tables and chairs are full to the brim. You will be mesmerised by the sheer speed and dexterity of each and every server. They have a well practiced rhythm here that can hypnotise you if you watch the servers for too long. Layout leaf, plop on rice, plop on vegetables, dish out chutney, lava on curry, place pappadoms on top pile - pour water. Your meal is served.
"The tender lamb brisket has no salt in it"
My jaw hit the table with a thud.
"Not a grain," says Mr. Dennis Ng, of Joy Café, a place he runs with his wife, Joyce. "People from far away as Subang, Damansara, KL, Shah Alam all travel here for the food." The passion isn't just in their cooking; it's also in its preparation and serving. Their big bowls aren't for the portions, or for show - it's to prevent the waiters' thumbs from dipping into the food. Nor do the cooks grab noodles with their bare hands - each serving-sized portion is wrapped in plastic, to be used only when needed. And they're organic noodles.
This was only my second time in Joy Café. During the first time I had their toast bread and chicken curry. They also have it served with kaya and butter which you have to spread it on yourself. I also had the orange white coffee; it was my first encounter with the fruity variant of my favourite brew. The taste had me begging for more. Another interesting flavour is the blackcurrant white coffee- a full-bodied concoction with a blackcurrent taste. The menu of the months-old café is packed with the usual fare kopitiam fare: nasi lemak, "special fried rice, laksa with the addition of their braised dishes and a few other items. They also have brewed Chinese tea, and at least one dessert for each day of the week: double-boiled lotus root, red bean, etc - all served in a green-painted environment that instills a Zen-like calm while you wait. You wouldn't need to go anywhere else for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and supper.
I took another look at my half-eaten bowl of lamb brisket. Nice, tender chunks of lamb brisket (what else?), swimming in delicious brown gravy with a bevy of ginger and water chestnut slices. The gamey smell that gave it character was subtle enough not to offend. Such a flavourful dish - and no salt was involved? That's like hearing "no, there's no MSG in our kway teow soup".
Do you like your seafood as fresh as they can get? Then you have to watch happy lil’ Li Ann catching her own din din. With some help from the seafood catchers of course….