Most of the time, I don't ask why I was brought to a certain restaurant or stall to eat. I'm sure my parents find them to be of a certain standard (as in taste and not ambiance and class, which we really don't care much) before suggesting it to the spoilt (as in the tastebuds) son.
I vaguely remember dining here although I do pass by this area quite often. The restaurant itself is of an interesting proportion, almost like a slice of pie (yes!), and looked more like a rusty zinc-roofed coffee shop that serves breakfast in the morning and perhaps, just beer at night to the old folks who live nearby.
Things got a little interesting when the boss came to take our order and dad started to talk to him. Apparently, this restaurant has been around for more than 50 years. Back in the olden days, this was like the place to be for lunches and dinners. The owner of this restaurant, whom was also the father of the current boss, used to play soccer with the uncles in my neighbourhood! Now, I was more intrigued in their conversation rather than the food. Things have not changed much since then. It is still packed during lunch hours but the dinner crowd has thinned. We didn't ask why but judging from the number of commercial buildings surrounding this restaurant, it was quite obvious dinners are often catered to the residents in the neighbourhood, which is rather scare as most houses made way for the development of this area.
And that's not a bad thing, if you ask me. With a smaller crowd, one is able to absorb in the history of this place. The interior is still very much similar to those old coffee shops in Chinatown and the signboard bearing the name of this restaurant still stands tall, overlooking the busy Jalan Ipoh.
Although they've stepped up to the game by coming up with dishes to suit the younger tastebuds, we went for their good old signature dishes instead. Okay, it was dad's idea to go classic.
It came piping hot and the aroma of the mashed salted fish was simply wonderful. The continuous heat supplied by the claypot ensured that the aroma is not lost and that's great. There's something about that acquired taste (and smell) of salted fish that makes it appetizing. The pork belly, coated with a nice, thick layer of soya sauce was well-cooked and delicious. Some dried chillies were added for heat as well. I had a crazy thought of mixing my bowl of white rice into the claypot and just have it all to myself because white rice and this dish make a perfect pair, definitely.
I remember a fish dish. Deep-fried that resulted in a crispy skin and flaky white meat. But I can't seem to recall the type. Most probably a siakap. But it was the soya sauce that got me excited. So, what makes a good soya sauce dressing for fried fish? It has to be re-cooked with piping hot oil and fried garlic. There should be enough sweetness in it to give a good contrast to the saltiness of the sauce. And yes, this one was just everything I imagined. Nice.
When the boss suggested spinach with superior soup, I rolled my eyes in my mind. Yes, it's definitely achievable. Anyway, it was a signature dish that was greatly misunderstood on my part. The fact is, it was not so much about the spinach but the soup itself. One sip and you'll taste the richness of the soup. Not surprising as it does come with three types of eggs, namely century, salted and well, normal chicken eggs. To add more flavours and textures, there were button mushrooms, shitakes, chinese ham and anchovies. A bowl packed with flavours, this. As I looked around, this dish was on every table! They don't call this a signature for nothing.
Dad had to order the classic of the classics; fried prawns with yam sticks. Perhaps for diversity in texture and taste, the combination was interesting but the batter was rather generic and reminded me of those pre-packed Kentucky powder we use for deep frying. In other words, overspiced. But that's just my opinion as some like them with lots of five spice powder. Dad also said that the yam sticks used to be finer.
Another good dish was the stir-fried black pepper pork slices. Combined with healthy portions of onion and scallion, the dish was a good go with white rice. I think I must have had two bowls of rice, at that point. The aroma of black pepper was evident and the pork slices were smooth. Okay, I like this dish.
Some would have noticed that I rant about Hokkien mee all the time and how people just don't cook them like they used to. I bring this thought with me everytime I visit a new dai chow restaurant. So, with about 0.5% storage capacity left and the fact that this is an old skool Chinese restaurant, I requested for Hokkien mee, hoping to find a taste that was lost since my primary school days. It passed the test on multiple levels, for example; dryness, colour, his royal lardness, ingredients and chilli paste. But it was the slightly milder taste that lowered the score but still, very much better than those restaurants that serve wet Hokkien mee which I always think is misunderstood for Hainanese mee.
I should mention that the chilli paste was absolutely flavoursome. Authentic enough, it was re-fried with the addition of dried shrimps for that savoury taste, unlike those that serve cold chilli paste off the plastic bags.
How often do we see complimentary desserts these days in dai chow restaurants? This one even made coconut and mango jellies, which I thought were optimally sweet and tasty.
I believe I'm the third generation in my family to have dined here. I can't remember the first time I was here, maybe because I was too young and too into the western fried chicken restaurant somewhere along the road but it was a good revisit and it did spark off a new dai chow interest in me. When you have traveled too far and have eaten too much of those sushis and steaks, it's good to go back to your roots and enjoy what you've subconsciously missed; a bowl of warm, white rice with your favourite stir-fried dishes.
More of yesterday once more, please!
HUP KEE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
4A, Batu 4 1/2
51200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (+603) 6258 5309 / (+6012) 306 2628
Click here for the map.