It almost felt like a wedding of an arranged marriage.
The anxiety, the anticipation, the obligation, the exhilaration and of course, the hefty cost. He cropped his hair and had on a clean, white shirt. His family was there. Just an hour away... He was prepared for the big day. He ignited the engine and hoped for the best. Then, he felt a tap on his shoulder. “Are you sure of this?” she whispered. His world came to a pause. She knew it all. He’s been talking about this new-found love of his for sometime now, unawarely. He got introduced by his blogging friends. It felt good. And real. “It’s not too late to change your mind. Chynna can wait”, she said. He was torn. But he must decide. Now.
Traffic was clear on the third day of the lunar new year. Stepping into the restaurant, he was greeted by the typical oriental sounds of Chinese restaurants, before the smiling staff. Dim sum carts were making turns like tuk-tuks on the busy streets of Bangkok. The drivers, mostly ladies, donned a regal black and gold uniform. Perhaps they were late. At 10.30 am, the crowd was thinner than expected.
They started off with the Salmon Yee Sang (RM38 for half portion). The captain was there to assist in the preparation. Each addition of ingredients into the dish was accompanied by an auspicious wish. How interesting. First bite revealed a rather bland taste. By the second bite, the flavours began to communicate. The finely crushed peanuts and sesame seeds were aromatic and crunchy. The pickled ginger and shallots gave a rather sharp taste while the jellyfish provided crunch sans the polymeric taste. The plum sauce was subtlely sweet, which was much appreciated. Pepper and five-spice powder were optimally used too. At first glance, the salmon looked promisingly fresh, judging from the bright hue. And it certainly was. May he add generous portion and thick slices too. A much loved, much refined Yee Sang.
Next, dim sum time. As they planned to have noodles later, the selection was down to only a few dishes in bamboo steamers. The Chicken And Shrimp Dumpling resembled a typical siew mai (pork dumpling), minus the lard. Firm and savoury, it was alright. He could not figure out the topping though. Roe? Salted egg yolk? Or dyed sago seeds?
The Steamed Pork Ribs was given a Chinese New Year twist as it was herbalised (with angelica roots and wolfberries) and topped with black sea moss. A strange cross between bak kut teh (herbal soup pork) and braised pork. He preferred the common version.
No one shied away from the quintessential Char Siew Bao (barbequed pork bun) as it was very flavourful. Unlike the normal dyed red, diced chunky meat version, the flaky meat filling was finely minced and well-marinated with a sweet/savoury soya sauce mixture. Bun-wise, warm and fluffy. A second order of this was placed. It was that good.
The Stir-Fried Radish Cake did not fair as superlative as the buns. Quality was maintained as it was neither too salty nor bland. There were also generous amounts of choi poh (preserved white radish), beansprouts, chives and scrambled egg thrown into the dish. He thought the lap cheong (waxed sausages) was a nice addition.
He was always sceptical about his Chee Cheong Fun (rolled rice flour lasagne with char siew). It's going to be either too thick or too soft or just plain bland. None of the above, surprisingly. The skin was thin enough to melt yet firm enough to be gripped. With a hint of rice fragrance to boost too. The soya sauce amplified the taste of the dish but char siew (or shrimp) was optional, he though. He loved it.
A signature dish, the Braised Egg Noodle With Siakap (barramundi) closed the brunch. The noodle was crispy while the slices of fish were firm and fresh. The starch/egg sauce was optimally salted. Greens were aplenty too. An average dish with very generous amount of ingredients. If only there was enough wok hei (char flavour).
An old-school dim sum experience that he sorely misses. There were traces of answers to his earlier questions too. No fancy fusion, just good old traditional dainties to touch the heart. With a bill summing up to about RM152 for 5 pax (peak season, mind you) and absolutely impeccable service, he was more than happy with his choice.
Pleasurable guilt at its best. He made his choice. But was it the right choice? Could things have been better if he chose Chynna instead? For now, he doesn’t know nor does he even care for love is blind and it should stay that way. What's really important is that it touches the heart, like those morsels. As for Chynna…he’ll keep in touch.
Marco Polo Restaurant Sdn. Bhd.
1st Floor, Wisma Lim Foo Yong
Jalan Raja Chulan, 50200 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: (+603) 2142 5595, (+603) 2141 2233