We came back from Sungei Petani in time for me to host a dinner for my siblings, cousin and nephews who were back from Australia for the CNY. The dinner coincided with another commemorative occasion.
The restaurant we picked was the Grand Kingdom at the Tropicana City Mall in SS2, PJ. Because of the festive season, we had to make our reservation 3 weeks in advance. And when we went there before the CNY to make our menu selection, we discovered that because of the same reason, they had limited ala carte selection. They recommended 4 set menus priced between RM888 to RM2188. We settled for one in the middle.
This was my first time in this restaurant. It was tucked at one corner on the 1st floor of the mall. The common dining area was not very big, but they had individual dining rooms all around. I did not have the presence of mind to ask for a room and we ended up with a table in the noisy dining hall.
The place was pleasantly furnished with a very contemporary setting. It was rather congested, and I suspected that the acoustic of the dining hall could be better as it was really very noisy with a packed house. Service was prompt and efficient. A couple of guys who appeared to be foreign workers attended to our needs. Unlike some foreign workers in other establishments, they knew exactly what to do and seemed to be very well trained.
We sipped some wine and soon the dishes began to arrive at our table.
Being the CNY season, the starter was obviously the Yee Sang (魚生). It was served in a big round tray. The ingredients were varied and colourful.
Two types of seafood came with the Yee Sang - fresh salmon and the Muki Amaebi (Japanese fresh shrimps).
We were provided with long chopsticks for the toss. I was still harping on my jackpot. If indeed it is granted, there will be another feast in this restaurant, and a lot grander. But coming back to reality, the yee sang was very good. The flavour from the sauces and spices was just right. There was nothing to complain about the freshness of the ingredients.
The soup was individually served. It was a double boiled ginseng soup with fish maw. There was a choice of fish maw or shark fin. And of course, our option was against the fin. The soup was delicious. The flavour of the ginseng was distinct. Disappointedly, there was only a single piece of fish maw in the soup. Fish maw is really not that expensive. Instead, it was filled with chunks of chicken breast that most probably contributed to the main flavour of the soup. We were in no mood to eat the bland coarse breast meat. So we collected them all and got the waiter to tar pau (打包) them for Bob and Alex.
Next was a whole roasted suckling pig. It was presented in a golden platter and served with a sweet sauce and spring onions. What we got was just the thin layer of the piglet's skin - with the head and 4 legs as adornments. It was delightfully crispy and delicious. But where was the animal's meat? There was no trace of any. Naturally we did not touch the head and the legs. And without any request from us, the waiters promptly tar pau the head and leg for us. But shouldn't they also include the meat? After all, we had paid for the whole piglet.
The fish was superbly steamed. It was a giant tiger grouper (龍虎斑). It was very very fresh. The meat was soft and succulent and broke off in flakes. The sauce was light and did not mask the sweetness and flavour of the fish.
The stir fried fresh scallops with sea cucumber (海参) in XO sauce was another delightful dish. There was also some very nice crunchy green beans. The scallops were big and thick. The sea cucumbers, which are very expensive nowadays, were likewise thick and of very good quality. I tasted a tinge of chilli in the dish. It worked perfectly.
The was probably the highlight of the meal. It was braised whole abalone with Chinese mushrooms, dried oysters, and fatt choy (髮菜- black hair moss). The abalone were of decent sizes. They were marvellous. I also liked the big dried oysters. The fatt choy were sparse; they could had been a little more generous on that. Again the sauce was light and secondary to the original flavour of the various delicacies in the dish.
The last savoury course was the claypot Hongkong lap mei rice (腊味飯 - waxed meat rice). I was looking forward to this dish. We normally eat lap mei (腊味 - assorted waxed meat) only during CNY, and I had tasted some really nice lap mei rice. But the lap mei rice was not to expectations. It wasn't bad, but it did not turn out like how I expected it to be. I was actually surprised when this large plate of lap mei showed up on our table. It comprised delicious Chinese meat sausage (腊肠), Chinese liver sausage (肝肠), waxed duck (腊鸭) and waxed pork (腊肉). I had expected all these meats in the pot of rice.
A large claypot of rice did arrive and in it were more lap mei meats. They served the rice into individual bowls. The large plate of meats were the extras. There was a lot of meats - so much so, there were leftovers to tar pau back. The rice did not taste as good as I had experienced before. It some how lacked the flavour of the lap mei. Still I enjoyed it thoroughly.
They even scrapped up the rice crusts at the bottom of the claypot. The crusts were aromatic and crispy. Hard to believe we paid so much money to eat rice crusts.
Dessert was wonderful. There was this large bowl of chilled snow fungus with aloe vera. It was deliciously refreshing.
And we also had a plate of 2 different desserts. On the left were the lemon puffs. They were absolutely gorgeous. The pastry was soft and fluffy. Inside was a lemony sweet creamy filling. It was very very good.
On the right were the Nein Kuo (年糕 - traditional CNY rice cake). It was deep fried in a yam pastry - much like Woo Kok (芋角- yam puff), only the filling was not meat but Nein Kuo. It was very innovative. This was the first time I had Nein Kuo this way, and I enjoyed both the flavour and innovation.
It was a most satisfactory quality meal. But pricey. Grand Kingdom is apparently known to be an expensive place to dine. The meal costed me a small fortune - made worse perhaps by the festive season. I would like to return to try out their ala carte. Such places need to have an occasion to be there.
Perhaps I need to wager more into 4Ds.