Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Foo Heong past its heyday

During its heyday, the Foo Heong Restaurant in Cintra Street, George Town was one of the most popular places in Penang for anyone to have a sumptuous dinner.

Every evening it would be full of patrons, occupying tables downstairs and upstairs. It served some of the most fabulous course dinners but usually, I would go there to order its special sar hor fun.

I remember that in the late 70s, I was invited there for a dinner by my first bank supervisor, Ng Chak Hon, to celebrate his promotion to become the manager of the Ban Hin Lee Bank's branch at Komtar. He was given a table upstairs and the food was excellent.

The Foo Heong Restaurant's reputation was enhanced further by the presence of their brash, loud-mouthed proprietor who was a very surly man with a perpetual scowl. A stocky guy, he sat at the counter and whenever someone made an order through him, he would write it down on a slip of paper and then barked out his orders. His loud voice carried well into the kitchen. None of his staff dared cross his path. His wrath was really Old School "charm".

I would guess that when he died, all the kitchen staff were actually quite relieved. His children took over the restaurant but there was no more loud-mouthed shouting. Unfortunately with his passing, business was never quite the same again.

As the decades rolled by and the old cooks had either retired or died, the quality of the food went downhill. The patrons became less.

But I was not quite prepared for the sight that greeted me when I passed by the restaurant last Monday evening at about nine o'clock. The whole of the ground floor was deserted. The only sign of life was from the family members who were gathered at a table beneath the staircase and playing on a computer. Upstairs was in darkness.

This, then, is the fate of Foo Heong Restaurant, once one of the busy eateries in the city.

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