Saturday, April 15, 2006

The World's Best Restaurants - really?

/Summary: Are the world's best restaurants really those that are fancy, famous and expensive? I don't think so. What do you think?/
The Evening Standard, a daily paper in London, reported on a list, just published, of the world's best restaurants. The top 50 show a strong European and American bias, with a couple of entries from antipodean Australia and South Africa. There was only one entry each for Asia (India) and South America (Brazil). Among them are the fanciest restaurants that you see talked about in the society pages of the style and fashion magazines like Vogue etc.
What? No mention of Malaysia where food is a passion for all of us? I have to ask, what do these fancy restaurant critics know!
Now, let me tell you about the best restaurants on my list - where you get great food, never mind whether the surroundings are fancy or not or whether you get the top vintage of wine served with your meal. I'm talking about real food for real people who love real food.
There are great places to eat in London but the ones I pine for, needless to say, are all in KL, Malaysia - except one.
First of all, there used to be Imperial Room on the edge of Chinatown down a dark, narrow alleyway. They served the best dish in the whole world - eels stewed in thick dark soy sauce and garlic. My grandparents used to take us to its previous incarnation at a fancier location in the 1960s where Ah Lan was the head waitress. Then she took it over and ran it with her husband in its last location. Everyone in my extended family loved the food here and even though many of us now live in England, America, Australia and Canada, every time we went home to KL, we had to go to Ah Lan to eat eels. Tragically, Imperial Room isn't there any more and I have been depressed ever since.
Then, there's Hakka Restaurant near my old school, Bukit Bintang Girls School, which does the best stewed belly pork with salted greens. You can sit outside in the open air and if it rains, they roll out the sliding roof. Again, plain surroundings with the emphasis on the food and being with your family.
And Sakura on Imbi Road, which does a great laksa - whether lemak or Penang. Their chicken rice is also pretty good. Now, Sakura is a bit fancy because it has aircon and smoked glass in the front. But a little luxury now and then doesn't necessarily spell disaster for the quality of the food!
Near Sakura there's a coffee shop that does amazing fried kway teow. I have no idea what the name is - but it's on a corner and I know it when I see it. They only do kway teow at lunch time, it's always crowded and the parking is hideous but we will always set off mid-morning and do whatever it takes to make sure we get there and get a table!
As for places to eat in Taiping, my family's home town, well, I could go on forever. But I will only mention one place today - my second cousin Meng-Huat and his wife Wee-Lee took us there one evening. It's a small hut, really, under a big tree somewhere outside town near Air Kuning. It does the most delicious fresh seafood I have ever tasted. The fish and shellfish splash around in big tubs of water and you choose the one you want. Within minutes, it's on your plate fried in ginger and spring onion and chilli.
If you have an off-beat restaurant on your list that you'd like to tell me - and the other readers - about, why not add a comment to this post? It can be anywhere in the world - the only criteria is that it must not be the kind of place that turns up in guidebooks or official lists and it has absolutely got to serve great food!
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At 23/4/06 4:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was introduced to your blog by your sis. I know the hakka restaurant you mentioned, where they serve one of the best versions of hakka yong tau foo and kau yoke. Alas I hear that they are no longer there.

At 26/4/06 5:06 pm, Blogger Yang-May Ooi said...

Thanks, Anon, for telling me the sad news that Hakka is no more. I hope that another good restaurant maybe has taken its place...



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