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.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Yen Restaurant at W Hotel - Hits and Misses

February 20th, 2019

Got invited by the Lenglui's Godfamily to try the food at the Yen Restaurant in the relatively new W Hotel on Jalan Ampang. Parking in the complex would prove easy (though stiff at RM25 for our three plus hours) and the lift took us straight to the door where we got ushered through the spacious main area into the equally spacious private room at the back. This was actually quite special, affording a vista view to the twin towers and a look down into the cratered and scorched earth that is the remains of what was once the glorious Bok House. Better et this view while you can, chances are whoever owns this plot of land will build on it and block the view (or should that be "Bok" the view... no). 

Table in the Yen Private Room
14 of us were parked around a massive red round lacquer table on solid and immoveable chairs. Our host has been a follower of the Chef here at the Yen through his time at the Renaissance, the Shangri La and a couple of other places. I remember his pig at the Renaissance as being finestkind and his Hokkien Mee is still the taste of legend. On his move to the Shang Palace, the pork aspect needed to be sidelined as the hotel became halal (ostensibly to easier facilitate business from the non pork consuming section of Malaysian society) and equally here at the W is was no pork. 

The dried scallop was indeed dry, though mostly as a result of the crab meat lacking any juice whatsoever (though not lacking in bits of shell that needed expectorating) - I have had better elsewhere. The Szechaun Eggplant was special request and on tasting it I remembered why - fiery spitz on the tongue yet with a sweet caramel sauce and the gunge of well cooked strips of brinjal were dynamite.

Soup - magnificent
The soup that followed was epic - Chinese Herbal with the usual boiled dry chicken and rubber chewy abalone, but serving it in a coconut and allowing the flesh to cook in the heat brought an amazingly delightful and sweet touch to the broth. The single Garlic chip on the plate was presumably for salt taste - I crunched it down on its own and it was a cracking little snap on the tongue; could happily have platefuls of these with beer and football. One of the better soups I have had, ever. 

The Giant Grouper had been cooked and cut and doused with its juice and chili. It was still cooking over those candles and I think by the time it got to me it had just flipped into overcook. My small chunk was firm and drying. So it goes. Would perhaps have liked to have seen the boy before it got drawn and quartered to assess the size. I did not touch the beancurd - I have a serious jones about beancurd; last two times I ate it the thing seemed to dislodge stones in the kidney and cost a shedful of ringgit to get treated. The Gwailo does not do beancurd. 

Serving of the Giant Grouper
I enjoyed the beef ribs. Mouth melt, tender, taste, no strings - I thought it extremely well prepared and presented and would happily have taken this home for breakfast. Not sure about the wine or the broth - there was a gravy looking substance on the dish, so perhaps this was it. Very rich, finestkind. Worth a return for this.

Beef Short Ribs
In contrast, the Oyster was awful - metallic, undercooked, and with that baked cheesy gunk on top. Darn sad - it was one of those humungous Pacific boys and would probably have been magnificent with just a dab of lemon juice. Definite fail for me and the Lenglui, though the rest of the table wolfed them down molto gusto. Maybe not a Western taste. 

Oyster. Pretty grim, sad to say
I passed on the Abalone and Sea Cucumber as usual and was thus able to get stuck into the Hokkien Mee. When it comes to this dish, Chef is absolute legend. People still remember his cooking it from twenty years previous. As do I - the stuff we would have at the Renaissance was brahma, sublime, whatever similar word you can come up with. Rich black sauce, not overly sweet, firm noodles, lots of tasty pork and ladles of Chee Ho Jiak (deep fried croutons of pork fat) - ho, ho seck. One that is totally seared in the memory. 

Abalone and Sea Cucumber
In a non pork environment, Chef turns to chicken and prawn for the proteins and created a wildly tasty substitute of Duck Fat for the Lard. It worked extremely well, giving that fatty crisp bite in the mouth to coat the mee and the meat. In this, the prawns were some of the freshest and best I have tasted for a while - excellent bite on these boys. One can only lament the absence of connection between chef and pork, though this was far from a bad dish. But O, the Hokkien Mee of the past….

The Pork Free Hokkien Fried Mee
Dessert was… okay, I guess. Almond Milk is a new experience for me, and I think I got it. Gingko beans lent a sweet vegetal crunch, and I guess the snow fungus gives a fibrous rubber like texture. The Green Tea Yam was actually pretty tasteless on its own but it became the perfect crunchy foil for the amazingly tasting Salted Egg Yolk in the middle. Absolute belter - gooey egg with layers of taste and texture was wonderful - Asian version of a Cadbury's Creme Egg but savory over sweet. Someone offered me another - I opted to refuse, preferring to savour this brilliant mouthfeel of gunk and goo. Belter of a taste. 

Drinks were Chinese Tea and a couple of New Zealand Pinots which were well received and the light texture and cherry pop mouth matched quite nicely with most of the dishes. This group enjoy a little taste of the wines but I don't think they drink sufficiently to warrant investing over the longer term. Never mind - happy to share the booze. 

Ambience and views were excellent, the service was attentive and polite and efficient (though I decided to take over wine pouring duties for the table - a shade slow in this regard). 

So…  the hits were brilliantly on target whilst the misses were pretty grim. Overall, quite enjoyable (though would have been more so had I opted for a lighter lunch). Worth a visit, though I can't see a return for me in the near future - RM25 to park the car? Nope. Better to park up in KLCC and walk across, though that can be a whack as well…

Dried Scallop, Fish Maw, Scrambled Eggs, Crab Meat, Bean Sprout, Szechaun Egg Plant, Lettuce Leaf

Double Boiled Anoectochilus Soup, Abalone, Farm Chicken, Yunnan Aged Black Garlic, Whole Coconut

Steamed Giant Grouper Fish, Hinan Yellow Fermented Chili, Beancurd Sheet

Slow Cooked Grain Fed Wagyu Beef Short Ribs, Aged 10 Years Hua Diao Wine, Chinese Herbs Broth

Baked Japan Oyster, White Sauce, Cheese

Braised Abalone, Sea Cucumber, Pomelo Peel, HK Sprout Vegetables

Briased Local Hokkien Noodle, Sliced Prawn, Chicken, Duck Crackling

Sweetened Amond Cream, Snow Fungus, Gingko Nuts, Natural Peach Resin

Crispy Green Tea Yam Dumpling, Creamy Salted Egg Yolk Filling

2013 White Cliff Pinot Noir NZ

2016 Giesen Pinot Noir NZ

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