Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Lunch at Restoran Peranakan House, PJ

I almost never go out for lunch during the work week with the exception of Fridays when I have to go for lunch near the mosque where I do my Friday prayers. Most of the time, it’s just me and a mug of hot 3 in 1 instant cereal mix in the office. Once in a blue moon, when we have an occasion to celebrate, I do get to go out for lunch with the whole team that I’m working with here. We had one of those occasion on Tuesday when we had a farewell lunch to one of our team who will be leaving the company for what he hopes would be greener pastures.

Restoran Peranakan House (No. 4, Jln SS 23/11, Taman SEA, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tel : 03 7804 2778) was one of those quaint gems tucked away in nondescript neighborhoods just waiting to be discovered for the first time. To get to the place, look out for the huge Hong Leong Bank sign on your left as you travel on the LDP highway towards Taman Tun a little ways past the Kelana Jaya Putra LRT station. Turn left into the shop lots area till you reach the traffic light before turning right into another shop lot block. Round the block and you should be able spot their signboard on the road that runs parallel to the street that you entered before. Parking seems to be OK when we came for lunch but we could have been just lucky on that day.

Upon entering the establishment, one would definitely notice how homely the surroundings felt. I appreciate the lack of clutter that this place had relative to other Nyonya cuisine restaurants that I have been to. The focus here was clearly to the quality of the food and less towards the need to provide ambiance for dining. The lunch crowd that was there while we were having our lunch there was quite thin but I attribute it more to the fact that only people in the know would venture out here to this restaurant. It was nice to be able to eat at a place where we could have a decent conversation without having to raise our voices to be heard.

While service was prompt and attentive, the floor staff could have been a wee bit friendlier in terms of appearance. Being able to gauge what the diners might be interested to have and giving recommendation of house specialties would be helpful to diners who were clearly on their first visit to the restaurant. Thankfully most of us were familiar with the type of food so the menu did not become too intimidating to order from. The restaurant did have a good variety of items on the menu ranging from meats, seafood and vegetables. With the 8 of us there we decided to get white rice with Pong Teh Chicken, Baba Chicken Curry, Paku Belacan, Mango Kerabu, Honey Sotong and Braised Nyonya Beancurd. For drinks, we all decided on Fresh Watermelon juice as recommended by our waiter.

We didn’t really have to wait long before rice was served with the Paku Belacan dish that was the first to arrive. Paku Belacan is basically wild fern shoots cooked with fermented prawn paste and chilies. The dish was surprisingly good as it combined just the right amount of belacan and chilies that did not overwhelm the fresh taste of perfectly cooked wild fern shoots. The ferns had a nice bite to them but not to the point that it was too fibrous to truly enjoy. The clean taste of this dish went down well with the white rice and set my expectations of what to come.

Next arriving to our table was the Pong Teh Chicken which I have never had before. Cooked in it’s special blend of ingredients, the flesh of the chicken literally flaked away on my fork and each morsel was saturated with the taste of sauce. Despite appearance, it did not look as salty as I would have imagined it since soy sauce seems to be one of the major ingredients in the dish. I would imagine that the dish would have been slow cooked to get the tastes and texture of this wonderful chicken dish. Unfortunately for the Baba Chicken Curry that arrived about the same time in the former dish, the Pong Teh Chicken totally outshined it. Most of us at the table was raving more about the Pong Teh Chicken than the slightly underwhelming curry dish. Having been so used to the Indian style of curries, the less fiery Baba Chicken Curry was a bit too understated for my taste.

The Honey Sotong was quite fun in terms of taste and texture. The thin slivers of fresh squid was dipped in batter and then deep fried to a crunchy consistency before being tossed in a light honey and line sauce. The sweet and sour taste worked well with the squid especially when there was really every little oily aftertaste left after the deep frying process. Tasting much lighter that once would expect a fried dish to be, the Honey Sotong was quickly dispensed with by our clearly appreciative group. Best thing was that since they were quite light of the sauce, the crispy squid stayed crispy till the last bit was taken even when after it was tossed in the honey and lime dressing.

The Kerabu Mango would have been more a success if they would have used a slightly younger mango than the one that they used on the day we went for lunch there. A good Kerabu Mango should be crunchy, subtle tasting but with a bit of a taste kick from pounded bird’s eye chili and peanuts. The one we had could have been improved by having a little more crunchy mango and a little bit more heat from the chilies. The Braised Nyonya Beancurd on the other hand was quite a bit of a let down after the other dishes. It didn’t taste distinctly enough from the others to let it stay in our mind. It was still serviceable beancurd dish to order to round out the meal selection but the one that we had was the least memorable of all the dishes that we had today.

The total bill for our lunch including watermelon juice for the 8 of us came up to a surprisingly cheap RM134. Each item was in the range of between RM 11 – RM 18 price range. I would guess that our meal would be a lot more expensive if we had ordered whole fish and/or prawns. Looking at the pricelist, most of the dishes we saw on the menu were very good value for money. The large order portions were good enough to feed 8 people and that added to the good value. It is always a good day when you find a place that would not do huge damage to you wallet for a good meal. The Restoran Peranakan House is once of those hard to find places that give you good value and great food under the same roof.

I would definitely come back to this restaurant with friends so they can discover this gem of an eatery as well.

No comments: