Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The new Yut Kee Restaurant

When landlords get ambitious and they start looking for other uses for their properties with promises of greater returns, there can only be so much that a tenant can bear. Once the breaking point is reached, the tenant will start looking for alternatives.

Such would have been the fate that befell the landlord that had been renting his premises at 35 Jalan Dang Wangi in Kuala Lumpur. For several years already, I have been hearing stories that the Yut Kee Restaurant, founded by a Hainanese chef, Lee Tai Yut, in 1928 which would make the place 86 years old today, would be relocating to new premises of their own.

And finally, they have, When I was down in Kuala Lumpur about 10 days back, my friend and I took an early lunch at Yut Kee's new establishment in 1 Jalan Kamunting, which is actually just at the back of their old premises. What used to be a row of hawker stalls in a lane behind the old premises are now hawker stalls in the same lane beside the new premises. (Incidentally, check out the mee rebus here if you have an opportunity, okay? Before it disappears with time.)

The new Yut Kee Restaurant is housed in a three-storey building with the ground floor completely occupied by tables. The place retains the charm of the old premises - which the owners had tried painstakingly to recreate by bringing over the old huge mirrors, signboards and picture frames of the old family patriarch, and there's the old radiogram that used to sit beside the window, it's here too - but it is definitely more spacious than before.

Although there were ample empty tables for us to pick and choose on arrival, we suspect that the place could still get pretty congested during peak hours like breakfast or lunch time. Whereas customers would have to stand patiently outside the old premises and wait to share tables with strangers, the owner has now thoughtfully arranged rows of red plastic seats outside the entrance for the people,

I am not exactly certain what the first and second floors of the building are being used for, but I can guess that the upper-most floor is being used as quarters for their foreign workers, some of whom have worked at the restaurant for donkey's years already, and somewhere up there is the kitchen and bakery.

There is a lift at the back of the building and while I was there, it opened and closed several times as the workers moved loads of freshly baked cakes and Swiss rolls from upstairs to the counter on the ground floor.

And what about the most important aspect of the restaurant? What about the food? I looked at the menu on the wall and all the old items are still listed there. I made my choice. My first order was my favourite Hainanese chicken chop and it came beautifully cooked and served with onions and fried potatoes, and drenched generously with their brown sauce.

I had also ordered a slice of their French toast which came with a huge dollop of fabulous egg kaya, the type which my mother used to make. To complete my lunch, everything was washed down with a cup of their local coffee - hot, bitter-sweet and delicious. The premises may be new but to me, the food remains like what I've known and enjoyed before. Ahh, it was just like old times. Bliss. I wish Jack and Mervyn (Lee Tai Yut's son and grandson) all the best at their new premises!

Related: Yut Kee to make way for boutique hotel

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