PETALING JAYA, Jan 5 — Last October, many regular customers of Restoran Sunrise here were shocked to hear the news of founder Lawrence Lee Tee Tong's death.
Rumours also spread like wildfire that the eatery was closing down as he didn't pass down his legacy to his children. This turned out to be completely untrue.
His son Mark and son-in-law Chong Siew Kai reopened the restaurant on December 17 after a break to mourn Lee's death and also to carry out some minor renovations. That date was also chosen as it would have been Lee's 76th birthday.
Sunrise, a beloved neighbourhood restaurant, started back in the 1980s. Mark said Lee was actually an architect with a German firm.
One of his most notable achievements was designing the Tenaga Nasional head office in Bangsar.
However, he left architecture as he wanted to start his own business. Since food was a passion for him, he pursued that path. His choice was roast duck as it was considered unique back in those days.
They also served char siew but that stopped after the Japanese encephalitis (JE) outbreak in the late 90s. Lee decided to name his eatery Sunrise, Mark tells us, as, "The sun will always rise and it was a new beginning for him."
Lee actually started the restaurant in Johor Baru where his in-laws lived. After six months, the business was relocated to Petaling Jaya.
He opened up a stall at the old Cheow Yang coffeeshop (where Kayu Nasi Kandar is now located) for six months. Unhappy with the management of the place, he eventually moved to the present premises at Seapark in 1981.
The business saw all the family members pitching in. Lee's daughter Karen would take orders and assist him in chopping the roast duck. Mark would head to the eatery after school to help with roasting the ducks.
When Karen died about three years ago, her husband Chong took over. He had always been the cashier but he stepped up to learn how to do the chopping.
Chong learnt how to do this by observation. For about three months, he would help pack the roast duck for takeaway orders while observing how they chopped the duck... before he was allowed to take over the important job.
Even the third generation is helping out; grandchildren Brian and Jayne Chong take turns to be the cashier. Brian, who studied culinary arts, is keen to help modernise the business and one of his ideas includes food delivery services.
Everything at Sunrise remains the same. The restaurant has always prided itself for using a smaller duck which yields tender and juicier meat.
Mark explained that the size also makes it easier for the herbs to be absorbed in the duck, giving it more flavour. Even the bones are softer after roasting, making it easier to chop and eat.
The ducks are roasted over a charcoal fire in an upright Apollo oven. This is done in batches to keep it fresh and it arrives at your table, still slightly warm.
It's best to slowly relish the duck including the bones with the juices. If you prefer a deeper flavour, they offer a bowl of their sauce to dip the duck in. It's their secret concoction of soy sauce and duck broth made from boiling the roast duck bones.
For those who love skin, they also strip off the crispy bits from the neck, which is often left out at other stalls. Accompany that with a bowl of their soup.
Unlike at other places, the broth has a deeper flavour of ham choy (salted cabbage).
A new addition to their offerings is homemade achar. The tangy, crunchy vegetables are good and give an appetising kick to your meal here.
Since they reopened, business has been brisk with many regulars coming back for their roast duck fix.
Restoran Sunrise, 31, Jalan 21/1, Sea Park, Petaling Jaya. Tel:03-78769689. Open: 11.30am till they sell out. Closed on Mondays.