Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Oriental Pavilion Jaya 33 in PJ - fantastic!

August 17th 2016

Fantastic meal at the Oriental Pavilion in Jaya 33 last night. Great taste, delightfully presented, superb service, no corkage - and we had the badminton on the TV, cheering for anyone who was whacking perceived future threats to Malaysia's quest for Olympic Gold. Good food, wine, raucous company and great service - doesn't get much better.

Not actually sure how this group came together, but it has been going fairly strong for a couple of years now. Mostly focused on Chinese banquet style restaurants and people bringing their wines and they tend to be good fun evenings. No agendas, just catching up with each other and sharing the food, booze and the bill. If someone has a birthday then they get a free and the bill is shared by the remainder. Which on reflection is also a good way to ensure attendance so that you don't miss your birthday special! Good fun group, though there is one little blip in the pond whom we shall call The Comedian. He does have a sharply dry and cynical perspective on the world which occasionally can be quite acerbic and mildly funny. But he is dam stingy and cheap and occasionally pompous in his opinions, which is a total red button to me - the countless opportunities I have squandered and let slip through my life due to my weakness and seeming necessity to explode people's pomposity with some smartass verbal riposte has pretty much defined my life. Can't help it - total red rag weakness for bursting people's self important balloons and bringing them back to earth.  Dam sad on my part - I could have been global…  I thought I had mellowed with age - the Comedian is proving me wrong in spades.

The Oriental Group has been around for a good while now, with restaurants dotted at Malls around the city and possibly beyond. They tend to be large venues geared for celebrations with private rooms for those who want a bit of quiet away from the great unwashed or to sing their hearts out to the Karaoke. The last time I had been to the Jaya 33 outlet must have been about eight years ago, about the time I started doing Tai Chi - it was a celebration dinner with a Tai Chi demonstration with about nine tables. Though I had done the Bangsar version about three years back with Dr Gan and Lorraine and Kien. No complaints - good solid Cantonese cuisine well prepared and presented. For some reason, it just fell off the eating map as Marco Polo took centre place as the default Chinese of choice given the service and value we get there. This foodie group is good for keeping us in touch with the higher end Chinese eateries. No bad thing.

On this occasion, there were originally supposed to be 12 of us, but a nasty flu bug had decimated (actually double decimated according to the math) the group on the night to nine. For some reason, the wines came out to be mostly Italian, with a lovely Chianti starting the evening followed by a robust supermarket NZ SB, a Montepulciano white from me (accidental - I thought I had ordered red from the supplier but white got delivered) and two odd reds to finish. As usual, the Comedian didn't bring any booze - his batting average is grim - two vinous contributions to the six dinners shared (and bottom end supermarket standard). I suspect the thinking is that because his wife doesn't drink then no need for him to bring every time, which also presumably justifies his happy chugging of whatever everyone else has brought. Dam cheap chinaman logic, assuming this is the thought process. But the rest of the group seem to cheerfully put up with him - I ignore him and he ignores me and so detente exists. Doesn't stop me throwing cheap shot barbs at his cheapness when the occasion presents - not sure if he gets them but I think he does. So now I bring a bottle of cheap RM30 stuff which I pour just for him. And the wife when she deigns to break her non drinking rule. Mean spirited? Maybe. Yes. No one likes a stinge.

Anyhow back to the food. Someone had brought some home made prawn crackers which were light and delightful as canapes with the first glass. Crispy, delicate, full of prawn and salt and fresh oil but all in perfect ratio and balance - best I have tasted for a long time and setting a great tone for the evening. 

Oriental Four Seasons
The Four Seasons were individually very good, though the soft shelll crab took honours given its texture and crisp salty shell. It was like a brilliant crunchy croquette with a hint of chili and season and no oil - so, so good. I found the Fish Maw in Lettuce lacking something, though the solution was at hand - the chopped garlic in soy sauce gave it the necessary kick to elevete the crispy vegetal crunch and soft flaky eggy combo into something larger and memorable. Both the Chicken and Scallop were fantastically fresh and full of taste - a great starter and well supported by the surprisingly good Chianti. The wines brought by this group tend to be workmanlike good rather than connoisseur level standard, but on the clear thought that had gone into the purchase of this Chianti some of the group have been learning. Light yet firm in body, good spice and nicely chewy, this made for a good partner to tame the general salt of the Four Seasons. Dam shame we had to share it with the Comedian.

Roast Suckling Pig Finest Macau Style. Yes.
People have varying opinions as to the best Siew Jie (Suckling Pig) in the city. Most seem to prefer it with more emphasis on crispy skin rather than juicy tasty meat. Which I kind of get - the texture is the critical factor and the result is generally less "porky" on the nose and mouth. In the West, though, the skin is but the prelude to the meat, and is prepared accordingly. Anyone who has tasted the Lechon style in the Philippines will understand. Tonight's preparation was somewhere between the two, having more meat under the skin and on the bones than one might see in (for example) Marco Polo. This was apparently Macao style (no, make that FINEST Macou Style), and was served with Chilled Citrus Juice which tasted remarkably like the Schweppes bitter lemon mix one might pour over Gin and ice. The pig was good - the meat soft and juicy with skin that crackled and bit saltily into the tongue. Different style of preparation which took it from the ordinary to one for the memory. Can still taste it now - smoky, juicy, sucking on a leg like a Viking and totally focused on this delightful chunk of meat. Not quite stellar, but still darn good. Took the Suckling Pig in Malaysia to a new level. Gin and Bitter Lemon - now I am feeling thirsty…

The brilliant Crispy Tuna Fish
Next up was the Crispy Tuna in Pomelo sauce and this was a star. One thing Lenglui and I lament here in Malaysia is the general lack of a good Fish and Chippie anywhere in either the city or the nation. I love the taste and texture of battered fish - comes from growing up with it as a kid and getting sent to the local chippie to pick up Cod or Hake and chips (the chippie here was Dowdings on Holmsdale Street - story was that Old Man Dowding decided to retire and the family sold the business on, though it was still a chippie when I was last back there about eight years ago). Tonight's offering had a soft underbelly to the batter crust which made for a texture that was at once firm yet soft in the mouth. It also made for a lovely chew when combined with the Tuna - and this made for a first time with battered tuna for me. Who'd have thought Tuna could get battered? Should have known - Chinese can batter anything. Tastewise it came across as Kurau but with more of a firmness on the bite - full on the mouth, though neither overpowering nor fishy. Not close to the taste of the Cardiff past, but excellent nonetheless. 

But the real delight was the Pomelo sauce. Tasting like sweet citrus and with bits of Pomelo strewn across the sauce, it was a sweet fruity sharp and tangy counterbalance to the oil and batter and fish. The use of the fresh Pomelo also gave a pithy, pippy bite and crunch to release the citrus into the mouth. Very, very good, and the whole combo went most agreeably with the remains of the Chianti and the newly opened NZ SB. Combine this with the increasing noise level as the Malaysian Hope got closer to the winning line, it was shaping up to be a good night.

Steamed River Fresh Water Prawns
Most people seem to rave about Fresh Water Prawns, and in some cases I understand why. When done properly, the texture is heaven and the sweet taste when perfectly steamed is unforgettable. In my experience, less is usually more when it comes to these. Tonight's preparation was a bit gingery which for me got too much in the way of the prawn. The texture was good, taste was there, just that the ginger dolloped over the top got a bit too much in the way for taste. Though none of the group made any complaints - just wolfed the thing down with approving noises and grunts. The white Montalcino was a bit on the oily and heavy side for the prawn - the Comedian loudly proclaimed that he didn't like the Montalcino, saying that he was more of a supermarket wine drinker rather than a connoisseur like me. We used to call this inverted snobbery in the old days. Today we just smile and think "Dick". Though I think I responded with something like "at least I bring two bottles of wine," which he seemed to pretend not to hear. Dick. 

The fluffy pancake-y Red Bean... doughnut, I guess
Dessert was Red Bean Soup and a kind of a pancake bun that was all egg and fluffiness and surrounding a dollop of red bean paste. And it all made for a good end to the evening's food adventures, with a little bit of sweet from the red bean coming up against the egg tarty pancake. There have been a lot of new preparations and presentations tonight - kudos to the kitchen for its inventiveness!

The service of both food and wine was pleasantly efficient, with fair glassware and ice buckets available. One girl in particular stood out for consideration and pleasant engagement with us and who got tipped accordingly when asked to write out in English the menu for me to prepare this report. Think her name was Christina. Also got a copy of the bill for the written Chinese version for production next time I go there with Lenglui and a different gang. Total after some discounts from our evening's organiser was RM1173 (RM131 each for nine) which felt all right for an evening of very tasty and well prepared food. Lots of parking in the complex, paid around RM6 for four hours parking.

I'd go back for pretty much all of the dishes on show here, though a group is necessary to share the bill for things like the Siew Jie and Steamed Fish. A pleasant surprise from an old restaurant friend. Well worth a shot. 

Fresh Water Prawn with Glutinous Rice. Loads of ginger and cilantro
Just a footnote on Jaya 33 - a smallish shopping complex that's been around for about twenty years and whose main tenants are a supermarket on the Ground Floor (with supermarket wines for the Comedian) and ACE Hardware on Level One. There's also the more recently constructed Plaza@ Jaya 33 which houses the excellent Kampachi and Noble Mansion restaurants. Jaya 33 has lots of little eateries (both halal and non) on the frontage (including Vintry which is of note for its excellent ribs and dwindling but still good wine selection). A high end photography shop somehow survives there as does a DVD store and Pharmacy, but there were lots of empty shuttered outlets on this visit. The Retail Economy doesn't look too good. The supermarket houses a non halal section where to my delight I found a taste of my childhood - lots of boxes of Brains Faggots parked almost out of sight in a cold box and retailing at RM12 a box. Bargain. These are (or were) tasty balls of chopped up bits of meat and fat in gravy which come in foil boxes of six - just heat and eat, traditionally with vinegar. Which I intend to do soon. Never seen them in Malaysia before and haven't seen them anywhere for decades. I bought two boxes. Let you know if they still taste as good as I remember. Cheers!

Oriental Pavilion Restaurant
1st Floor Jaya 33
3 Jalan Semangat
Section 13
Petaling Jaya
Tel 03 79569288

Oriental Pavilion Four Seasons
Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab
Jelly Chicken
Deep Fried Fish Maw with Egg and Lettuce
Baked Scallop with Bacon

Crispy Tuna Fish with Pomelo Sauce

Roast Suckling Pig 
Finest Macao Style served with Chilled Citrus Juice

Steamed River Fresh Water Prawns 
with Glutinous Rice

Red Bean soup
Some Dessert that was like Egg Pancake Baked around Red Bean paste

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