I had been aware that this shop is a scion of a fish head shop in Jalan Alor, KL. With such a good off-spring, I had imagined that the original fish head shop would be one heck of a place. We finally got to get there one Saturday afternoon. The original Guo Lou is in Shui Kee (水记) restaurant in Jalan Alor, KL. Actually Shui Kee and Guo Lou are the same - same shop, same owner - and they sell nothing else.
It is old, somewhat dilapidated and the environment is a far cry from its off-spring in Uptown PJ. The shop is long and narrow and was rather disorganized and messy. I could see a couple of air conditioning units but I could not feel much cold air. Outside the shops were several tables sheltered by big umbrellas.
The place was packed - both inside and out. All the tables were taken up. We co-incidentally bumped into KP and his wife - coincidental because it was KP who introduced me to Gou Lou in Uptown PJ. They were just finishing their meal and we took over their table. Even then, we had to share it with 2 ladies, one of whom was incessantly yakking away the whole time and was quite annoying as we ate.
At the front of the shop was the stall or kitchen where the food was prepared. There were pots and pans and stoves and gas tanks and things all over the place. Another messy state of affair. Heaps of fish meat and noodles and veges provided an indication of the volume of business they did.
Gou Lou Choy (高佬财), the boss man who gave his name to the 2 eateries in KL and PJ, did not prepare the food. He was walking around taking orders and collecting monies. He did not look as tall as the wall picture we saw in the PJ outlet. When I made the comment to him, he said he married a short wife who made him look tall beside her.
The task of food preparation fell on his wife and a number of foreign workers. Indeed, she was a short lady. In spite of her busy work, she managed a big smile for me.
Like its off-spring in Uptown PJ, this parent shop offered fresh and fried fish head; in soup with or without evaporated milk. They also had tom yam noodles with seafood and curry noodles with chicken. But they did not have side dishes offered in Uptown.
The bowl of fish head noodles in clear soup (without milk) I had looked very much the same as that in the Uptown PJ branch. The fish was very fresh and had absolutely no trace of mud. There were the same hum choy (咸菜) and tofu in the noodles. It was delicious and I enjoyed it. But somehow, I liked the flavor in PJ better. The soup in PJ had more oomph. The PJ branch was also more generous in the portions of fish and noodles. If I was not mistaken, the prices for the bowls of noodles in both parent and off-spring were about the same. If there was a difference, it was minimum. Thus value for money, PJ was better.
I did not taste the fish noodle with milk - not in Uptown PJ, and not in Jalan Alor. My preference had always been without milk. Thus I cannot compare the milk noodles. But, I don't think the assessment would deviate very far from my experience on the non milky kind.
This was the bowl of fish paste (鱼滑), without noodles that we shared in Jalan Alor. The fish paste were in a bowl of clear soup with some spinach. I could not tell the difference from the fish paste we had in the PJ branch. They were equally good. Again, I felt the PJ branch was more generous in portions.
The verdict? My wife and I did not disagree. The off-spring in PJ Uptown served better bowls of fish head noodles. We were surprised. The off-spring was better in all respects - ambiance, taste, generosity of serving and menu variety. Gou Lou in Uptown PJ remains our favorite place for fish head noodles.