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Restoran Seng Lee
Photo: Stacy Liu

Now closing: Old establishments along Jalan Batai

Restoran Seng Lee is among the decades-old businesses forced to shut down

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After Sin Seng Nam was forced to take the plunge early this year, old institutions like Restoran Seng Lee along Jalan Batai will endure a similar fate in the looming couple of months. Talk of the street’s redevelopment has surfaced for over two years, but plans to spruce up the street by commercial property developers, Selangor Properties Berhad, are confirmed.

The most recognisable victim of this takeover is Restoran Seng Lee, a Chinese coffeeshop that houses Mooi Je, a humble stall serving honest-to-God delicious pork noodles. The bowls (that we like to have sans noodles) of cloudy broth are loaded with vigour, topped with a wobbly poached egg, uneven nuggets of pork meat and innards. Another well-loved stall here is Chan Sisters’ curry laksa, whose proprietor tells us that the restaurant owners have bought over the lot, forcing the stalls to evacuate. ‘They want to make this place high class,’ she laments in Cantonese.

Restoran Shangri-La down the road is spared the damage, but lacks space to host stalls from Seng Lee. When we visit Seng Lee for some of our final bowls of pork noodles, a petition was being passed around the shop. Word of mouth suggests Alexis to take over Seng Lee, but a representative from the café declined to comment. Next door is Restoran Ameer Baru, a 40-year-old mamak restaurant that’s also forced to shut down due to the takeover. Faizal, the grandson of the shop’s owner, tells us a termination letter was sent to the shop for a shutdown date of December 31. However, a second letter was sent to the shop extending the move to mid-February, allowing Faizal and co. more time to pack up the business. In the midst of this mess, the restaurant’s rent was recently increased by approximately RM500. Faizal isn’t certain of what will be erected in Ameer Baru’s place, but vaguely speaks of ‘coffee old town’.

Around the corner is Hock Lee’s, an independent supermarket serving the grocery needs of Damansara residents since 1971. Owner Mr Chong tells us he didn’t receive a notice, but adds that rumours of a potential shutdown have been brewing for two years. A few lots away is Mister Dhobi, a 30-year-old laundry shop that’s purported to close in February. Pushpa, who has been serving customers in the shop for 18 years, tells us that a certain ‘espresso’ coffee shop will take over. TOKL also brought the matter up with a representative of coffee chain espressolab and received a reply: ‘At this point in time, I am unable to neither [sic] deny nor confirm the rumours that there will be an espressolab flagship store at Jalan Batai’.

Whether contemporary cafés or commercial chains take over, Jalan Batai is proof that gentrification only intensifies, and with that, more old recipes continue to be stashed away.
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