KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 — The first time I fell in love with a dish, I was maybe 12 or 13.
I had just tasted ham yu fa lam po — a classic Cantonese dish of braised slices of pork belly with salted fish in a clay pot — for the first time at Restaurant Oversea in Jalan Imbi, and the idea that I could experience such pleasure, such delight in a single bite left an indelible impression on me.
Over the years, I’ve had a few opportunities to rekindle that romance, the latest of which took place at Great China Restaurant located in Pandan Indah.
You might be thinking, "Hold on a second here — you didn’t say Restaurant Oversea".
And you’d be right. It isn’t. However, Great China is the latest venture of "Cheong Gor", renowned for his time as the head chef at the Oversea Restaurant group.
His apprentices helm the kitchen, churning out refined Cantonese cooking in a slightly less luxurious but no less comfortable setting.
First order of business: taste their version of Braised Sliced Pork Belly with Salted Fish in Claypot (RM42).
I was filled with expectation and anticipation in equal measure, the latter of which soared sky high as the clay pot arrived.
The server lifted the lid to reveal a gorgeous medley of sights and smells — paper-thin slivers of pork belly coated in a dark, luscious sauce sizzle in the pot as the sharp aroma of dried chilli and salted fish travel through the air.
It’s every bit as good as I remember — so good we ordered a second portion before we were through — and at last I could relate to Peaches and Herb's "Reunited, and it feels so good.”
Braised Homemade Beancurd with Petola (RM36) is yet another dish that Oversea Restaurant is famous for, and the version here is similarly excellent.
They may not look like much, but these thick pillows of smooth but firm tofu sitting in a pool of brown sauce with chunks of soft, sweet luffa make for fabulous eating, especially with a bowl of steaming hot rice.
In fact, most of the dishes here are practically begging to be eaten with rice, including the Steamed Red Tilapia in House Special Sauce (RM88).
The fish is butterflied, perfectly steamed and just absolutely slathered in a reddish-brown sauce with bean paste, some chilli and a boatload of lard.
Hints of savouriness and spice come through, but lard sets the tone throughout, making for an unctuous spoonful.
A generous topping of crispy lard "croutons" doesn’t hurt either, making for a welcome textural contrast to the flaky fish.
It’s at this point in the meal where everything starts to blur together, and your duty as a diner is to simply enjoy the ride.
Attempting to bring some balance to the meal was an order of Fry Cameron Sawi with Sliced Crystal Prawn (RM68), a relatively simple dish of mustard greens stir-fried with prawns, halved lengthwise.
I enjoyed the sweetness from the prawns, and the greens retained their crunch, but I couldn’t help feeling it was overwhelmed by everything else on the table.
Closing out the meal was a carb-laden assault that more than did the trick: House Special Fried Rice in Claypot (RM25) was chock full of smoky wok hei flavour, complete with chunks of green beans, char siu and even yam, accompanied by a small amount of shredded crab meat on top.
It was a more than decent end to a delicious, satisfying meal.
For Chinese New Year, the restaurant offers four different set menus, featuring nine courses each, available for groups of six or 10.
Prices start from RM628+ for six people and RM998 for 10 people, going up to RM1,388+ for six people and RM2,268+ for 10 people.
All sets are currently available, except the RM628/RM998 set. As the restaurant is closed on February 10, the other sets will be available from February 11, the second day of Chinese New Year until the end of the festival.
A deposit of 50 per cent of the cost of the menu is required to book the set of your choice.
Great China Restaurant
28, Jalan Pandan Indah 4/6, Pandan Indah, Kuala Lumpur
Open daily, 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30pm to 10pm
Tel: 012-912 4699
Closed for February 10, the first day of Chinese New Year.
*This is an independent review where the writer paid for the meal.
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