It is said that every visitor to a Chiu Chow home will always be welcomed with a cup of freshly brewed Chinese tea. This traditional Chaozhou's social etiquette is similarly observed at the Pak Loh Chiu Chow restaurant from the day it opened until now.
In Kuala Lumpur, Chiu Chow food enthusiasts can descend on Pak Loh Chiu Chow restaurant (the “Golden Sister” of Hong Kong's renowned Pak Loh Restaurant) for their fill of the cuisine.
Opened in 2005 at the Starhill Feast Village, it is now helmed by Hong Kong Chef Alex Au Ka Wah or Wah Jai who has worked at the original Pak Loh for over a decade. He picked up the finer rudiments of Chiu Chow cooking from his father.
Chef Au says: “We have imported more fresh produce and ingredients such as goose, bombay duck fish and grey mullet, to expand the variety of Chiu Chow dishes for the latest menu. Our aim is to delve even deeper into China’s rich culinary culture especially that of Chiu Chow and cement this restaurant's standing as the city's finest and most authentic Chiu Chow restaurant.”
For the media preview, Chef Au dazzled us with existing and newer signature mainstays. To start the ball rolling, we feasted on Cold Flower Crabs with Sweet Vinegar and Shredded Ginger Dip. The crabs' inherent sweetness is the focus here with an accompanying vinegar and ginger dip to counteract any fishiness. The only snag is tackling the carapace can be a messy affair so you wouldn't want to eat this in polite company.
Then came the Steamed Grey Mullet with Preserved Soy Bean Dip. This scaly fish has fine, creamy white flesh with a faint muddy nuance hence it's served with the mildly briny dip to mask that. I took quite a fancy to the preserved soy beans which remain whole and not mashed like taucheo favoured by the Hokkiens. Instead of discarding the fish scales, they are deep-fried and served as crisps to munch on. Talk about waste not, want not.
Crispy, crunchy textures dominate the Crystal Crispy Duck with Mushroom and Water Chestnuts – a gossamer-light deep-fried roll filled with slivers of duck, tender mushroom slices and crunchy bits of water chestnuts.
Another excellent dish that I'd return for is Deep-fried Baby Oysters with Plum Sauce. Biting into the little plump, juicy molluscs, bursts of faint metallic sea-brininess intermingled with unctuous plummy sweetness will be unleashed onto your palate. Heavenly!
Of course, Chef Au could do no wrong with Pak Loh Chiu Chow's definitive signature dish – the classic Slow-braised Goose, Pork Fillet, Pork Intestine, Pig's Ear, Egg and Bean Curd Combination. Its unpretentious earthy, home-spun flavours remind me of Mom's vintage tau eu bak (braised pork in soya sauce). My absolute fave is the tender crunchy cartilage that streaked the pig's ear!
Tread warily when partaking the Steamed Bombay Duck Fish with Preserved Turnips and Glass Noodles. This little fish's unusual name is said to be a corruption of the specie name bommaloe macchli. Enjoy its fine meat but hair-breadth bones abound so beware and go slow. Its natural pungency is deftly tempered by the chef using preserved turnip, soya sauce, chopped spring onion and Chinese rice wine. Don't miss out on the slippery and superbly yummy noodles that line the plate. Having absorbed all the concentrated liquid pooled at the bottom, they're out of this world.
Mindful of Starhill's posh clientele, Chef Au's creation of Fortune Parcels of Goose Liver with Superior Stock truly befits the restaurant's classy stature. Personally, I find the delicate good liver-stuffed "parcel" way too rich. Perhaps it also didn't help that yours truly was slipping into a semi-food laden stupor from the surfeit of delicacies earlier.
Humbler offerings of Stir-fried Prawn with Preserved Pickles and Coriander, and Braised Roasted Pork with Vegetables should evoke waves of nostalgia in older folks like Mom and Dad. They may start waxing lyrical about the good old days the minute they try these.
Rice fiends will rejoice over the Chiu Chow Baked Yam Rice with Dried Shrimp and Peanut in Clay Pot. Pheasant food at its best but its heartwarming honest-to-goodness deliciousness is something you'd never tire of.
Prices start from from RM14 onwards for starters, RM15 onwards for main dishes and RM9 onwards for dessert.
According to Director of Autodome Bhd, Jeremiah Tan, "Pak Loh Chiu Chow already offers a unique gourmet experience but we want to raise the bar with this new menu; by showcasing the distinctive flavours of Chiu Chow cuisine that deliver an unprecedented level of authenticity."
Well, the proof of the pudding's in the eating so drop in and judge for yourselves.
PAK LOH CHIU CHOW RESTAURANT
LG12 Feast Floor, Starhill Gallery, 181 Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +6 03 2782 3856