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.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Restoran Sun Kar Hee - okay, I guess...
September 3rd 2016
Got really angry trying to find this one (and I really abhor with a vengeance these outlandish expeditions into the unknown in search of new tastes for old dishes). Out in the middle of some Kampong jungle area named Taman Kok Lian on the east side of some dopey nowhere. Fricking madness. On the map it looked simple enough to get to - hang a right off Jalan Ipoh and just follow the roads. It would have helped if the roads were not piled up with debris and barricades from what seemed to be abandoned repairs and building - couldn't seem to get into the area. And actually getting to the area proved to be a safari through outland forgotten urban jungle in which a few houses seemed to have been planted and subsequently abandoned to despair and ruin. And dark. Eventually after trying about five different attempts to get into the area, the roads became slightly more accessible and suddenly there was a long block of shophouses and a Chinese Temple and hundreds of cars looking to park up and eat. Unbelievable. Only in Malaysia. Thankfully getting back was straight out onto the highway and five minutes to our turnoff. Now if only someone had told us the reverse to get there in the first fricking place…
Our hostess had come out to look for us and guided us to a verge on which we parked the car with a prayer it would still be there on return. This was a strange area - surrounded by jungle with blocked off roads. Felt… not entirely safe for me. Strange vibe on the place. Perhaps I was just too freaked by the madness of getting there. The restaurant also felt strange and somewhat of an anomaly - a large corner block upstairs with enough rooms to hold a banquet or two at the same time. Slap in the middle of nowhere. Yet clearly surviving and doing reasonably well. We got ushered into an upstairs room. This one was to be with the same group I wrote about for the Oriental dinner we had last month, the one that evolved from Lenglui's Line Dance kaki and relatives and which focuses on the Chinese cuisine places. The one with the Comedian. Who was also here on the night with spouse. And who again brought no wine. But I managed to skewer the joker - more on this later. Dick.
I opted to first go to the bathroom to simmer down from a hugely frustrating drive to get here and on sitting got handed a glass of cold white which helped hugely. I guess they had been talking about me while I was out of earshot and Lenglui would have suggested a glass of booze to calm the shattered nerves. It really annoys me - wasting time getting lost in some outlandish backend of freaking beyond just because someone has said the food is the best on the planet and we all should try it. I would cheerfully strangle the SOB who planted this idea in the Chinese consciousness. Because in my experience most of the time the food is nothing to really write home about.
Which for most of the dishes would prove the case on this occasion. It was pretty standard Cantonese cuisine - braised belly pork with (very tasty) bread, garlic fried vegetables, and a couple of other dishes which I can't remember now four days after the event. There were two somewhat standout dishes - first was a seafood broth made of the scrapings from the claypot rice pots after a good cooking and mixed with hunks of crab, prawn, and various other bits of seafood. The broth came together as a hearty whack in the chest and the soaked rice made for good slurping. The second dish was the Sotong - the burnt carbon edges suggested it had been roasted over some charcoal fire but just enough to impart a wonderful char to a squid that had lost its rubber and gave way to a perfect bite. Not sure of the preparation - perhaps a soaking in some brine to soften the boy - but little more. Okay, this was possibly worth the head and heartache to get to the place. But only just.
Anyhow, back to the Comedian. I normally get parked next to the wine because as IWFS Secretary it is assumed that I know more about wine than everyone else and can assume the opening and pouring duties. Well, and maybe. For this occasion, I had brought a Tocornal SB out of Chile and presumably the TMC supermarket and an old G D Vajra Barbera 2008 which we had bought from a visiting winemaker some years back on the recommendation of a wine sifu at the time and which we had never quite liked. It had been parked with the clearance wines in the rack and needed to get drunk. I had been pouring the Tocornal for Comedian (which had proven quite grim on the throat and as a result of which I was taking evil pleasure in pouring it for him) and had moved to the reds and neglected to pour any for him. This had put the thirst on him and he waltzed over in search of some liquid on the premise of "my friend's glass is empty" and verbalising something like "what do we have to drink now?" I turn to him saying "I don't know, which wine did you bring?" He dissembled and I pursued - twice. He mumbled something and after a short lurk at the icebucket stumbled back to his seat. Bugger couldn't answer me. See if he learns a lesson from this. I somehow doubt it - cheap chinamen don't change spots easily. The other wines were fair - a frisky SB from Cola, a somewhat earthy and harsh South African Shiraz and a drinkable Heartland Cabernet from the LTO. The G D Vajra proved quite friendly with the food and far less fierce than memory served - still good forest fruit, medium bodied, firm finish and in fair balance. A new friend on the table who seemed to be only sipping the other wines helped himself to a second and third round of the GD - guess he knows his wine.
Not sure I would go back to this place. The Seafood broth and Charred Sotong were very good and probably worth the mental drama for a taste, the food and wine service was efficient and with decent stem glassware and ice buckets (I had forgotten to pack the glasses on this occasion) and the aircon was fiercely cooling. And now that a presumably easier way to access the place from the highway rather than the trek through the jungle is available, the drive is certainly less fraught. But I somehow think that this won't do it - the roadworks are awful and the parking on a Saturday was madness. One for the intrepid and the dedicated only. But our organiser clearly enjoyed it - she sucked down the fish head and two crab bodies, in addition to whatever else she had piled onto her plate on the first round. Fair enough - if no-one else is going to take it then got to get sucking. Especially when the total cost gets shared by everyone on the table. Beautiful when the gods smile like that, eh?
Restoran Sun Kar Hee (also Kedai Makanan Sin Kar Hee)
28 Jalan Manjoi
Taman Kok Lian
51200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel 03 6253 1240