Fatt Hei Len is shaping up to be Cheras’s estimable answer to stellar Cantonese fare. The restaurant is constantly perfumed with a heady scent of siu heng wine emanating from the all-time favourite steamed fish that servers shuttle between tables. Props must be given to the chefs’ unflashy precision as they bring refined cooking reserved for swanky restaurants to a neighbourly scale: The sticky-sweet pork ribs, steamed rice in lotus leaf, and salted egg prawns easily qualify as wedding banquet entrées if you pay no heed to the plating. Fatt Hei Len adheres to the principles of modest cooking while delivering bold flavours, but trust the restaurant to whip up a showstopper occasionally, like their claypot prawn porridge – a comforting, shareable dish that makes everyone at the table huddle around.
Leave it to the veteran chefs at Leng Kee to bring it home with a menu built around seafood dishes. Staples such as siong tong lala, salted egg sotong and seng kua (luffa gourd) tofu won’t exactly knock you back in your seat but they’re still reassuringly good. The kitchen is especially adept with Cantonese-style cooking, breaking convention once in a while with dishes like the Hakka-inspired braised pork belly with preserved vegetables – the sheer variety of dishes, as well as the restaurant’s speedy service, are compelling reasons for the restaurant’s firm popularity and staying power. Leng Kee is one of the shrinking number of Chinese restaurants that serves a straight-up meal while scoring big in the flavour department – it just goes to show that you don’t have to be fussy to draw a following.
The food at Good Taste is irreproachably dai chow-classic, although the dimly-lit restaurant could use a pump of Febreze. The photos of dishes plastered across the walls, which are in fact their menu in entirety, are reliable predictors of what will actually arrive at the table.
It’s interesting how the chef has maintained a disciplined vision of his cooking while leaving plenty of room for you to enjoy something your sceptical Cantonese grandmother would probably frown on. You’ll never go wrong with their signature ‘yat zi guat’: This huge slab of pork rib is on par with the archetype that’s been served at upscale Chinese restaurants. The sticky-sweet glaze pushes flavours into a pleasant, intense realm of smokiness – mop up the sauce with the fried mantao and try not to smile.
From the outset, Hau Kee doesn’t look like it’ll be any good. But, if you get pass all that, you’d have one of the best Chinese food this part of the KL suburb. The stir-fried pork intestine with dried shrimp was so fragrant and savoury it’s addictive. The marmite pork ribs were just the way it should be: tender pieces of pork with a slightly charred surface coated evenly in a sticky sweet, salty syrup.
The clam in superior soup (siong tong la la), a rich stock that had been boiled with ginger, garlic, Chinese wine and coriander, was made better with the addition of cili padi. The restaurant takes pride in their signature dish, the ‘one bucket chicken’, and it’s not difficult to see why almost every table had an order of this. It is essentially kampung chicken steamed and then served in a wooden bucket (hence the literal name). But the use of premium soy sauce, sesame seed oil and Chinese Angelica (tang kuei) in the steaming process actually enhances the sweetness of the chicken.
Eight Treasure is a small neighbourhood restaurant that attracts a continuous queue of zealous diners. The shop could definitely accommodate more people but the owners limit the tables to an auspicious ten. Is it because they couldn’t afford any more furniture? Or is this a sign of arrogance? We’d like to think that it’s an assurance of quality.
After more than 15 years in business, nothing much has changed: rattling air-conditioners, dun-coloured wall carpets, and the profoundly aromatic pork ribs that everyone dreams of finding at a Chinese restaurant. A peek inside their kitchen revealed a legion of woks, blasted by flames that produced the required wok hei to dish up their famous nam yue (red fermented beancurd) pork ribs. No piece of crackling pork was cast adrift without a salty buzz from the beancurd equivalent of aged cheese. Salted egg prawns – shelled to resemble prawn cocktails and coated with duck egg yolk – were fried until they curled into golden bite-sized balls.
You’d never guess from its humble exterior but a daring experiment is underway in a nondescript restaurant at Taman Mastika. Mastika where? It’s in Cheras, where the proliferation of Chinese restaurants is as rampant as hipster cafés in the city. It seems unwise for a double-storey restaurant to set up shop in a sleepy commercial area but this also means that competition isn’t as fierce. After all, My Restaurant has nothing to worry about as its business rests solidly on the quality of its homey food. This is a restaurant that holds tradition in high regard but that’s not to say the fare isn’t inspired. The chefs have taken classic dishes and updated them to reflect modern sensibilities.