The Phoenix rises… again!
KUALA LUMPUR, July 2 — My eating history with Golden Phoenix at the Hotel Equatorial goes back a long way, when good, old-fashioned Cantonese dishes were served and when birthdays of senior relatives were regularly celebrated there. Many of those dishes are no longer on the menu.
Now the restaurant has undergone a facelift, sporting softer colours in its furnishings, in a more restrained Chinese décor. The menu too has changed, including that for dimsum, and chef Yau Kim Yew has given a new twist to old favourites.
Take the Eye of Phoenix Steamed Prawn Dumpling with Pumpkin — it’s not just any “har kow” but one that highlights the sweetness of the prawn without sugar added. The dumpling tumbles a springy prawn and chopped pumpkin into your mouth. Now my test for a tasty dimsum is whether it needs a chilli sauce dip — this didn’t.
I liked it that the chef had thought of having a deepfried Japanese egg beancurd topped with prawn and tobiko. There’s the lovely crunch of prawn sinking into soft eggy tofu — it is a marvellous combination.
The Steamed Pork Dumpling with Mushroom and Crabmeat is a reverse Shanghai dumpling. Half of it is crabmeat, and the other half mushroom. But the crabmeat tasted like the frozen kind that had been thawed out, so it had a sawdust aftertaste. It would have been better with fresh crabmeat. Give me the Shanghai dumpling any time.
In between we discovered the chef is a deft hand at anything deepfried. The Harm Sui Kok or Deepfried Glutinous Skin Puff with Chicken Meat Filling was so light in its sticky sweet pastry that contrasted deliciously with the savoury almost liquid meat filling that hinted of five-spice powder.
I even liked the Deepfried Beancurd Roll with Cheese, but not so the Deepfried Prawns with Cheese and Thai Sauce. The prawns had an instant noodle covering that didn’t work at all. The noodles were just too thick and overwhelmed the more delicate prawn. Perhaps finer wantan noodles would have been better?
The Deepfried Sesame Ball Stuffed with Shredded Coconut was simply scrumptious. You could hear the crisp sound of your bite going right through to the moist, rich, shredded coconut filling with a little custard and roasted sesame. The lovely aroma of the coconut fills your senses. It reminds me of those coconut buns I used to eat as a child in Ipoh, sold by the “ting ting” man. It was just nicely sweet.
The Baked BBQ Pork Buns passed muster: its filling had green peas in it to make it less rich; the pastry is a little resistant to the bite.
There’s the Double Boiled Wantan Soup that tasted of miso, but is a perfect foil to the flavourful wantan.
The lunch went back to the main menu, with the Softshell Crab Prosperity Salad. Apparently prosperity is for all seasons. It was a combination of deepfried softshell crab, dried persimmon strips (unusual!), pear, apple, cuttlefish strips, pine nuts, sesame, peanuts, lettuce and carrot, tossed with an orange honey sauce. There was lots of crunch, amidst a fruity and lightly sweet sauce. It was an interesting collage of textures and flavours.
Peking Duck is now available every day at Golden Phoenix. We had a heap of crispy duck skin and prawn crackers, served with pancake, spring onion and pickles. The meat was fried with beansprouts.
The lunch hit the high note in the ending with the Durian Pancake, redolent with creamy D24 durian, and the Mango Kwayteow as the chef calls it. I slurped up the gorgeous, silky smooth, flat translucent noodles from the fragrant mango soup whipped with ice cream and loved the feel of them! How did the chef bring about this exquisite texture of the noodles? Well, it’s gelatine melted in fresh full-cream milk, spread out as a super thin sheet and rolled up.
Most of the dimsum is priced between RM8 and RM12. The Mango Kwayteow is RM15, Softshell Crab Prosperity Salad RM38, durian roll RM18.
Dimsum is served at lunch on weekdays and from 10am to 3pm on weekends and public holidays.
The restaurant has also started selling mooncakes!
Golden Phoenix is in Hotel Equatorial Kuala Lumpur (Tel: 03-2161-7777).