I first experienced EST perhaps 5 to 6 years ago. It was then only one restaurant in Damansara Kim at Jalan SS20/10 in PJ. Now they have 2 restaurants. A branch opened in The Club @ Bukit Utama, at No. 1, Club Drive, Bandar Utama not too long ago. I have been to both restaurants. They are both good. But somehow I prefer the one at Bandar Utama.
I like EST for the many innovative dishes that I have tasted over the many visits. My latest visit was back to the original outlet in Damansara Kim. It had been awhile since I was there and I was in for a surprise. It had a complete makeover.
The Damansara Kim EST used to be in a single shop lot. Now it occupies three. It now has a totally new decor, pleasant lightings, rather gaudy curtains and fabric covered seats. It is definitely a better dining environment.
Twelve of us were there for dinner not too long ago. It was a family outing. We were there for some wine, good food and a change from the ordinary. But it turned out somewhat not so exceptional. Perhaps we did not quite ordered the right dishes.
The first dish was a mutton soup. It was superb. It was not the first time we had this soup. And it lived up to the previous delight. The soup was kind of milky in taste. It was very aromatic and I could detect the strong presence of herbs. The meat was tender and delicious. It is served with green vegetable and a sauce which, I do not even know how to describe. Absolutely delicious.
Next was a duck in a kind of a sandwich. The duck meat was wrapped with a fried-something and some green vege in a white steamed bun. I wish I can be more specific on the fried 'something', but I don't really know what it was that we ate. It was nice. Quite innovative. We only had a piece each. Wished there was more. But there was excess duck meat and it was served separately in another dish.
The tilapia was big and steamed in a chilli and garlic sauce. It was very good. The fish was probably alive when we ordered it. So very fresh. Not a whiff of fishy smell. And the sauce was one of a kind - fabulous. We picked it to the bones. The tilapia may be a humble fish. But it sure can taste great when prepared the proper way.
Then there was the tofu with scallops, french beans, mushrooms and pine nuts in a yellow creamy sauce. I don't know the name of the dish. It was quite innovative as well and tasted OK. Not the most exciting dish. But I enjoyed it nevertheless.
Those were all the good dishes that night. The rest to come were not so great.
The braised pork was totally unappetizing. Looked unappetizing, tasted unappetizing. Even my picture did not turn up nice.
The kai-lan (芥蘭) dish was rather uninteresting. It was kai-lan stem with crispy fried cuttle-fish and some pine seeds. Not great at all.
I did not like the next vegetable dish either. I don't even know what it was. It had a kind of bitter taste that was not too agreeable with me.
Finally, the lap mei rice (腊味饭) was a disaster. It was rice cooked with Chinese sausages and waxed-duck (those that we have during CNY) in a clay pot. The rice was burnt and was rather tasteless. The smell of burnt rice overpowered all other flavours. There were a lot of meat and liver sausages, waxed meat and waxed duck. We couldn't eat them all. It was the flavoured rice that we were after but it was terrible. We finally tar pow all the meat back for the benefit of Bob, our Golden Retriever. We had lap mei rice before in their Bandar Utama establishment. It was good then. I don't know why it was so terrible that night in Damansara Kim.
Dessert was Chinese pancake and sea coconut. Rather ordinary. We wanted red bean paste (紅豆沙) but they ran out and we had to settle for the sea coconut, which I felt was rather too sourish for a dessert.
EST has a website and they attempt to promote themselves for fine Chinese dining. I do not think they have yet reached that grade. Also there is an obvious consistency gap between their 2 outlets which they need to narrow. The Bandar Utama branch is undoubtedly more superior in food taste. Still it is a restaurant that I will return to again and again.