Like the mythical phoenix rising, Hotel Equatorial Kuala Lumpur’s famed Golden Phoenix Chinese Restaurant is set to soar once again, reinstating its position as one of Kuala Lumpur’s finest Chinese restaurants.
The restaurant has been given a boost. It is now ultra-modern, tastefully decked out in soothing cream, sunny yellow and rustic earth tones. Clusters of elegant hand-painted lampshades with contemporary Chinese designs featuring the legendary phoenix adds a lovely touch to the overall warm ambience. The warm mellow lighting casts a cosy intimate feel, nothwithstanding the artistically hand-made Oriental craft pieces which add a restrained touch to its décor. I like how the modern touches give this restaurant an elegant Oriental grandeur.
Actually, the last time I was there, I hardly had time to take in the wondrous décor of Golden Phoenix as an unwise detour via Jalan Sultan Ismail caused me to be half an hour late for my lunch appointment. I was here to sample the new Dim Sum items, dished up by their resident Dim Sum expert, Chef Yau Kim Yew. Such a jovial affable man, this Chef Yau – he gave us the most explicit explanations on ingredients used in all his dim sum creations.
Glancing through the spanking new Dim Sum Menu, I can see that Chef Yau is showcasing his specialities – dainty morsels that incorporate the use of traditional well-loved ingredients with the injection of some fusion elements.
To start the ball rolling, what could be more apt than the plate of “Eye of Phoenix” (RM11)? Beautifully crafted with thin crystal skin of pinkish hues, these steamed prawn dumplings had the added sweet flavours of pumpkin cubes.
The Steamed Mini Buns, upon biting in, revealed an aromatic sandy-like black sesame paste filling. According to the chef, both black and white sesame seeds were used – the sesame having been dry-fried till fragrant before blending into a paste and cooked with some oil and sugar. It is this unique blend of black and white that gives these buns the ultra sesame aroma.
The Double-Boiled Wantan in Seaweed Soup (RM15) is featured as a “premium dim sum” traditionally. Here, Chef Yau has added some Japanese influence by using seaweed, thus lending a richer marine flavour to the soup. The dumplings are full of pork, shrimp and chopped waterchestnut goodness.
We tasted similar freshness of succulent porky and shrimpy pastes in other steamed dumplings, like the Pork Dumpling with Crabmeat (RM11) and Steamed Beancurd with Prawns (RM9).
There were a few vegetarian versions too. The lack of meats in these certainly did not render them bland at all… in fact, I love the refreshing crunchy chopped vegetables, bamboo shoots and mushrooms used. Both the Steamed Crystal Vegetarian Dumplings (RM8) and Steamed Vegetarian Rolls (RM8) were light enough to go for seconds!
While Chef Yau’s steamed dim sum were executed very nicely, we all agree his forte lies in the deep fried items. His ingenuous Deep-fried Glutinuous Skin Puffs (RM8.50), known as “ham sui kok” in Cantonese were most impressive. He has perfected the art of deep-frying these oblong balls made from glutinuous rice flour till they are extremely light and crispy on the outside, while maintaining a divine soft chewiness on the inside. Bite into them and you get this filling of tasty diced chicken oozing out – just divine! As they were done so well, there wasn’t any hint of oiliness on these puffs at all and that was the winning factor – we wolfed them down with smiling nodding approvals all round the table.
The Deep-fried Prawn Balls with Cheese in Thai Sauce (RM11) is another testament of Chef Yau’s ingenuity. Not favouring the use of breadcrumbs or diced bread, which absorb lots of oil, this chef decided to coat the prawn balls with crushed dried noodles (resembling maggi-mee), which he explained, yielded a non-oily crunchiness that would agree with most Malaysian health-conscious palates. I totall agree with him, and so did my fellow diners.
Besides the winning “Ham Sui Kok”, my other favourite must surely be the Deep-fried Sesame Ball stuffed with Shredded Coconut (RM8.50). I am such a sucker for fillings made with fresh shredded coconut (not the dessicated type!) so it’s no wonder that these delightful balls were an instant hit with me. The good chef has added some custard and butter into the shreds and again, the chef’s deftness with glutinuous rice skin pastry came up tops here – these were really the most fragrant balls I have had in a long time!
Baked Barbeque Pork Buns (RM8.50) or “mini siu pau” showcased flaky chinese pastry (ie use of 2 kinds of dough) encasing a delicious filling of char-siu and green peas. I could not fault this at all – they were fresh out of the oven and we had to be cautious when biting into these irresistible piping hot buns.
Not contented with spoiling us with all those yummy morsels that “touched our hearts” (literal translation of “dim sum”), we were further pampered with more signature dishes… which are not on their Dim Sum Menu but on their regular a la carte Menu.
Peking Duck… don’t you think those pieces look like golden sheets floating on clouds? All I can say is that these pieces of crispy duck skin, sliced so perfectly with not a layer of fat in sight, were a sight to behold and a decadent indulgence to swallow. But who are we to argue when a platter of such tempting yumminess is placed in front of us?
We dutifully smeared (the plum sauce), arranged (the pickled radish, carrot, cucumber, sprigs of spring onion) and folded (the thin pancake wrap) to make our own little parcels of gloriously ducky decadence … I really don’t mind this laborious process, you know. I don’t think any of us minded, actually. It was truly a labour of love… love in every bite!
The next time you are at Golden Phoenix, be sure to ask for their Crispy Soft Shell Crab Prosperity Salad (RM38 per portion, good for 2-4 persons) even though it’s not Chinese New Year. It’s available whole year round.
Comprising 18 specially selected finely sliced and grated fresh fruits, like pears & apples, vegetables like lettuce, purple cabbage, carrots, spring onions and added flavours from dried persimmon, cuttlefish and crunch from peanuts and pine nuts, toss this delightful salad with honey-orange sauce and the crispy soft shell crabs and voila… what a monstrously irresitible salad you’ll get! The different textures, tastes and flavours gave rise to a wonderful mouth feel which is so memorable… yes, I’m hankering for a plate of that now.
Desserts – we had Chilled Mango with Special Kway Teow (RM15)… wait a minute, did I say “kway teow“??
Yes, we had kway teow-like “noodles” made specially by the chef! They are actually thin Japanese milky jelly sheets rolled up and cut like kway teow and served with vanilla icecream, mango puree and mango cubes. This was a total HIT with everyone at the table and we slurped every last bit of this scrumptious dessert.
Despite all that we had eaten, I wasn’t going home without having this “piece de resistance“… golden pillows of…
… the Best Durian Pancake (RM18) in town! Although not enticing to some, I am nuts about Equatorial KL’s durian pancakes. Chilled blobs of the most aromatic mashed durians encased in soft pillowy crepes… this is the only way to end a great meal here, I tell you.
So, all you dim sum afficionados, indulge yourselves for lunch from 12.00 noon to 2.30pm (Monday to Friday) or enjoy Leisure Morning Dim Sum from 10.00am to 3.00pm every Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday. Of course, non-dimsum signature delicacies are also available.
Golden Phoenix Chinese Restaurant
Hotel Equatorial Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur