SP and family decided to have a meal out with us one weekend. We made arrangements to meet, only as usual, we could not decide where dinner was to be. We were all ready to drive out to meet them at their place when we got a call to say that they had decided to eat at La La Chong. This restaurant is very near our house at Ara Damansara, PJ. So we stayed put and waited for them instead.
La La Chong was a very popular restaurant at the Subang Airport, near Terminal 3 - the present Skypark terminal. Now they no longer operate there. Instead they have 2 outlets - one in Ara Damansara and the other Kayu Ara, PJ. The Ara Damansara outlet is located on Jalan PJU 1A/5A, tucked in a remote corner of our neighbourhood.
The Ara Damansara La La Chong is at the end of a roll of almost deserted shops. It has an indoor and an outdoor dining area. Upstairs, there is also an air-conditioned dining hall. Combined, they make quite a big restaurant. My family comes here every now and again, when we were too lazy to cook. We normally just have simple meals. On this occasion, our orders were a little more elaborate.
We arrived at the restaurant just before 8.00pm. It was a nice evening and we opted for open air dining and had a table outdoor. We bumped into SP's brother-in-law and family. They had just finished their meal and were about to leave. We chatted while ordering our food. And as they left, we were shocked when they told us that our bill had been settled. They bought us dinner. What a very nice gesture. But that was the only nice thing that happened to us that evening. Things then began to turn disastrous. It started with the food.
Our meal started with the tau fu kan (豆腐). La La Chong used to be famous for this thick tofu soup when they were at Subang Airport. I used to enjoy this sweet and tasty broth. The tofu was so soft and smooth and made the texture of the broth so delightful. However the soup we had that evening was not that. It was a little bland and did not taste so savory. Somehow, I thought it lacked something. I didn't know what it was. If I did, I probably would be able to cook up the same.
The lor hon chai (罗汉素) - a vegetable dish, was not like one at all. It was like a dish of Chinese cabbage. Lor hon chai is supposed to be non-leafy. There were some pieces of mushrooms, cauliflower, tau kan (腐根), etc. Normal lor hor chai does not include Chinese cabbage. But in this dish, the leafy vegetable ruled.
The hoi mei kai (海味鸡) is a chicken and seafood soup. I have always enjoyed this soup in La La Chong. It is normally half a chicken (supposedly free range chicken - 菜园鸡) boiled with conpoy (dried scallops - 乾瑤柱), fish maw (魚鰾), clams with some Chinese herbs to make a very sweet and delicious soup. It was served in a claypot. The soup did not disappoint. It was one only dish I enjoyed that night.
The next dish was a steamed prawns. They were definitely over done. Prawns should never be over-cooked, especially when steamed. When cooked right, the prawns are soft, juicy and succulent. They become hard when over done. The prawns we had that night was just that. I did not enjoyed them at all.
The la la (clams) we had was prepared "kum-heong" (金香) style. Just going by its name, I guess this restaurant should prepare their la la well. I really cannot complain about their la la. The shells were half-removed which was very considerate. The flavor was adequate. It was not bad. But it was not outstanding. It did not cause me to want more of it. The dish was only so-so.
The crabs, cooked in chili sauce, was a failure - but not because of the flavor. The sauce was really quite good. The crabs were not. They were quite hollow and were not totally fresh. The meat in the body was soft and mushy. The claws had meager meat in them. Crab meat should be firm and sweet. What we got was soft and crabby. (Apologies for the pun)
Even the fried rice with salt fish was not good. It was actually quite tasteless. We had to eat it with the crab sauce for flavor. What could go wrong with fried rice in a restaurant like this. But that night, La La Chong did not get it right.
Half way into the meal, we felt a couple of drops of rain. We initially dismissed them. It was after all such a calm and lovely evening. Then there were more drops. Eventually we realized we had to relocate. But the restaurant was full. There was no where to relocate to. The restaurant people extended a canopy which was not all encompassing. We moved our whole table to the edge of it.
And then pandemonium reigned. The few drops turned into a storm. It rained cats and dogs. The deluge soon flooded the place. Water blew into our table. Not long after, we were knee deep in water.
We totally lost our mood to eat. Whatever lousy food served to us tasted even lousier. We had to abandon ship. Only my nephew KG continued to eat nonchalantly.
It was a catastrophic night out. SP and wife vowed never to return. It was not just the rain. It was an AOG (act of god). It was more because of the awful food. That definitely was man-made.