Dining at Ah Yat is not cheap. Our last visit to an Ah Yat restaurant was happily subsidized. I had a small 'fa cai' (发财) during our annual CNY poker session and decided to use the winning to buy my family a good dinner to commemorate 2 belated celebrations which we did not manage to observe before the CNY.
We opted for the Ah Yat nearest to home, i.e. their PJ Section 13 outlet on Jalan Kemajuan. We arrived in the immediate aftermath of a very heavy downpour and I was forced to drive down the basement car park which was wet and rather unpleasant.
The restaurant was already quite packed on that Saturday evening. We spent quite some time perusing the menu. We wanted abalone and were trying to decide whether the ala carte or the set meal would be better value for money. The prices were so exorbitant - either choice would be heavy on our pockets. We consulted a waitress and finally decided on the set meals.
After ordering our meal, I went around taking pictures for this blog - inside and outside. The place was so typically Chinese - they could be a bit more creative. Their centerpiece signboard needed replacement of some blown lamps. Before very long, my family started to wave me in. Our meal had started to arrive. It was that fast.
The first course was the soup. We had a choice of the mini buddha-jump-over-the-wall (佛跳墙) or the shark fin soup. Our daughter and I opted for the mini BJOTW while my wife had the sharkfin. Both soups were superb. The mini BJOTW was so aromatic and sweet. The soup was at just the right temperature. There were pieces of mushroom, abalone, conpoy (干瑶柱), chicken, fish maw, etc. I scrapped the bottom and savored every drop of it.
The shark fin soup was likewise rich and indulging. There were generous portions of shark fins and the soup tasted sweet and delicious. The soup was unlike the normal starchy shark fin that are served in most restaurants. I much prefer the Ah Yat version.
Next was a dish of Chinese mushroom, sea cucumber (海参) and abalone. This was the highlight of the meal. The dish was cooked in a simple Chinese sauce to allow the diner to enjoy the original flavors of these 3 fine Chinese delicacies. We were served grade 3 abalones - i.e. the abalone were of the size that were 3 pieces in one catty (斤) or 600 gm. This means each abalone was about 200 gm which is really quite good size.
We took our time to relish the dish. Abalone and sea cucumber are so ridiculously expensive nowadays and it is not often we get to enjoy them.
The cod fish was another most delicious dish. It was pan fried in terrayaki sauce, served with a couple of fried onion rings and some meagre fruit salad. The fish was very fresh. It was fried to perfection. The flesh was soft and succulent. The skin was delightfully crispy. Very delicious indeed.
The vegetable served was kai lan (芥蘭). About 3 stalks of it. It was very simply prepared - just boiled with a light sauce over it. Yet it tasted good.
The noodle was most unimaginative. I don't know why they even bothered. It was plain with hardly any accompaniment. After such delicacies like the abalone, sea cucumber and BJOTW, the noodle was totally out of place. I get the feeling that they offered it to fill our stomachs just in case we were still hungry.
Dessert was mango sago with some sprinklings of pomelo. It was good. I enjoyed it.
We supplemented our sweet with a plate of bird nest (燕窝) egg tart. And it was wonderful. It was rather expensive and the tarts were just bite size. There were ample bird nest in the tarts. The bird nest melted in the mouth together with the soft creamy egg. It was the first time I had such a delicacy. The money spent was worth the experience.
The food that Ah Yat serves borders on fine dining. However, I don't think they have the aura and service to qualify for this honor. The PJ outlet has the ambiance of a typical Chinese restaurant and their service is only so-so. For fine dining, we are looking for a lot more.
I came out of restaurant considerably poorer. My poker fortune made it somewhat more bearable. I don't think we will have another Ah Yat abalone meal any time soon. I really do not think it is worth all the money.