Our family in KL is still very much in Korean mood. We went to Daorae, chosen randomly by my brother from the dozens of similar restaurants in mini-Korea of Sri Hartamas, not once but twice over a week. Daorae is huge and popular. They are also friendly and efficient even though the staff speak very little English.
Their BBQ selection is big, and comes with lots of garlic, lettuce and side dishes. Come to think of it the rest of the menu selection is pretty big too. Something for everyone, who cares about authenticity as long as it tastes good?
I love their bo-ssam served with terrific oyster kimchi. They also do stir-fried rice cakes with spicy sauce, excellent. For chilli head husband, he was in nirvana with all their spicy stews. Soon dubu was not so good, but that's because I've had some good ones in Korea where the portions are so generous they are a meal in themselves especially at the end when they would cook rice in any leftover broth; here it is just a supporting player to the big BBQ boys.
The political scene in Malaysia is one big hysterical joke but it's okay, we still love you.
Not least because in Malaysia the eating is so good. Even in shopping malls. One night at dinner at Reunion restaurant in Bangsar Village my brother kept saying how good their dim sum was. He was right, the dim sum here is as refined as their downtown competitors.
Poor V, she was not used to eating restaurant Chinese food especially dim sum because the one time we ate at a dim sum restaurant in Paris our food came with a serving of little black pellets that I suspect were rat droppings. Anyways, she spat out her first bites of dan dart, cheong fun etc but curiousity eventually got the better of her and she was soon happily digging into custards and fishing out sweet nuggets of cha siu from the cheong funs.
We went to Bangsar Village almost every day. The Japanese restaurant Mizu is very good and it's my mother's favourite neighbourhood restaurant for she almost always suggests this when she does have time to eat lunch with us. Their set lunches are delicious and well-priced and their a-la-carte menu has some innovative east-meets-west combinations.
What I also like is the little push cart stall outside the supermarket that sells kueh. It's only one of many stalls of the La Cucur chain but the quality is above average.
This trip I managed to satiate my craving for popiah, starting with the twee little 'basah'(wet) version here and when Sunday night rolled round, we headed to the pasar malam at Bangsar where the uncle who operates the Stadium Popiah stall has been a fixture for nearly 30 years, assembling and rolling out his signature popiah. It's very relaxed even though the queue never abates. He even told the crowd not to bother queuing, his memory is so good he can remember everyone's order in the correct sequence.
Another 'nearly 30 years' experience is at the coffeeshop in the corner of Jalan Batai/Jalan Beringin. It has a grandioise name of Shangri La. I say 30 years because our family moved to this Damansara neighbourhood when I was 13 and I am now already 39 years old, but it's been around even longer. The food may not be the best in KL, though I would still maintain that the char kway teow (CKT) from the coffeeshop a few doors down (he was in Shangri La at one time) is my favourite in all of Malaysia. A trip home will not seem right without meeting my dad for lunch in Shangri La. He and husband will ta-pow the char kway teow before meeting up the coffeeshop for rojak, wantan noodles and cups of strong coffee. The wantan noodles have just the right springiness. At one time there was a very good prawn noodle stall, unfortunately the owner had a gambling habit and he eventually gave up his stall.
(Updated 24 September with this 5 year old image of my favourite CKT man. If you click on this slightly more recent review by Robyn of EatingAsia you will notice he still has the same t-shirt but the cap has changed. Oh the microphone? It was only Mr K F Seetoh and his crew filming him for the Malaysian edition of Makansutra, wonder if any one has seen it?)
The vendor of the minced pork noodles worked really hard to send their children to university. When their children grew up, the couple retired. Their pork balls were handmade and the noodles always very tasty. The new owners added liver sausage to their noodles, but these days the sausages are of lower quality and the pork balls a lot more industrial tasting. So much for nolstagia.
There is another Shangri La that we grew up with. The Shangri La Hotel was the first five star hotel in KL when it opened, about 30 years ago. My maternal grandparents love their Chinese restaurant Shang Palace. Over the years they would often invite us to join them for lunch at other fine-dining Chinese restaurants as they open all over the city, but Shang Palace was always a constant. Shang Palace today is better than ever I have to say, the decor is up to date modern Chinese, the service impeccable and the dim sum exemplary.
They provide two condiment dishes. Default chilli sauce and brown bean sauce the latter of which is hardly seen in most dim sum places now. House XO sauce not as good as that of Li Yen, Ritz Carlton Hotel, but bonus points for the elusive yellow mustard. On the lazy susan would also be found chopped raw garlic. Another memory of those languid dim sum lunches with the grandparents is the pungent overhanging reek in the car as everyone, except me and my sisters, would have chomped through a tonne of garlic in bravado and blind belief that garlic is the universal cure.
We stack the baskets high to keep them warm, also they are no more space on the lazy susan.
Cha xiu sou is already very good, the walnut topping was just more gilding but I'm not complaining. The dim sums are very old-school here, no cute rabbits.
Fried fishballs. Nobody did steamed fish balls like them, now the fried version reigns. Some people like it with a bit of fishy sauce on the side, I liked them fine just as they were. I think I ate like 2 plates by myself.
The other day I was very happy to discover red bean desserts in Paris. But lotus paste, that is a rare thing. Not here, pure lotus-ness.
Where else did we eat? Madam Kwan's of course. Satay Kajang H.J Samuri in Damansara Uptown. A ghastly and expensive dinner at Sri Ayutthaya in Damansara Heights. Nasi kandar and roti canai in Bangsar. Plus a magnificient seafood dinner at Greenview Restaurant. Previous dinners have always fallen short of my expectations yet the family return there again and again, well this time I saw the light. Sweet firm-fleshed crabs fried with egg yolk PLUS curry leaves was die, die must try good. Live Prawn noodles was equally good, the prawns particularly large, succulent and their heads heavy with roe.
On the bus journey back to Singapore I bought a packet of nasi lemak at the rest-stop because I don't know why but I am unable to walk past a nasi lemak bungkus without wanting to eat it.
In Singapore we ate some more. Thosai at one of the coffeeshops near the Old Rex cinema. Our hosts invited us to a Veuve Clicquot dinner. The 1988 vintage was so delicious, it tasted like preserved limes the wine expert said, he was quite right and I had about 3 or 4 glasses which left little room for the other years. There was also a seafood dinner with friends at Long Beach Restaurant in Dempsey Road, burp. Finally ending with a big, and rather emotional, bang of a lunch at Hokkaido Sushi. Goodbye my beloved family and friends, until the next time we meet!