Monday, August 22, 2011

Hee Lai Ton (Sheraton)

I don't go to Hee Lai Ton (aka Sheraton) Restaurant very often when I am back in KL, even though it is one of my favourite Chinese restaurants. It's mainly a proximity issue - it takes 10-15 minutes to drive to my other favourite Chinese restaurant Sin Kee, in Sri Gombak, and about 30-40 minutes to drive to Hee Lai Ton, in Seri Kembangan. Also, compared to Sin Kee, Hee Lai Ton is posher, and the food is better, but more expensive. Therefore, adding the fact that I am normally only in KL for a few weeks, I rarely get to dine at Hee Lai Ton more than once per trip home.

I don't think I've ever had anything at this restaurant that I didn't like - but I am pretty sure that I've only tried maybe 20% of their dishes. Like most normal Chinese restaurants in KL, there's no menu - if there is, it's either written on a board in Chinese characters and/or no one uses it anyway. My marginal grasp of spoken Mandarin and Cantonese and illiteracy in Chinese makes trying to order something new a little bit of challenge, but I have developed a simple solution. Now, when I am in the mood for something new, I just pick a course (i.e. pork, fish, tofu, vege, etc) and ask the waitstaff to recommend something. Then I wait until they name an unfamiliar dish that sounds good and then I quickly interject with "That! I want that!". You have to be quick though, otherwise you'll get into the whole, "No...the one you said before that....nope...before that...." Then, if you get lucky and get something you really like, the challenge is to try to remember what it was called. 

My visits are so rare and far in between that by the time I actually go, I would have been dreaming about a particular dish for days/weeks. So you'll have to forgive me if I tend to fall back on the familiar favourites - trying something new is too risky and just doesn't occur to you when there are specific desperate cravings to satisfy.

When I am not in the mood for novelty, there are always the tried and true. The restaurants in KL are so widespread (in suburbs with complicated routes/access) that unless it's in the neighbourhood or you're desperate for a feed in unfamiliar territory, I think it's rare for KL-ites to visit a restaurant that hasn't been recommended to them in some way. My point is, most people already know what dishes are good at a particular restaurant (whether by word of mouth, reputation, media reviews, etc), even if they are dining there for the first time. My father's business associate brought us to Hee Lai Ton and did all the ordering, and even though I don't remember what we had that first time, I am am pretty sure that when we went back ourselves, what we ordered was based on his recommendations. 

Below are the dishes that I had at Hee Lai Ton during my last trip home. They include two of my absolute favourite dishes, the 'Yan Lei Har' (Indonesian style prawns) and the 'Har Cheong Kuat' (Pork Ribs).

PS: They also do a good 'yee sang' during Chinese New Year, that my mom likes.

'Yan Lei Har' (Indonesian style prawns): For the record, I don't know if this is actually Indonesian, but that's what they call it. Once I tried to order it by asking for the 'curry prawn' dish and was corrected by the waitstaff. Succulent prawns in beautifully rich curry sauce, contrasted nicely with crispy/chewy slices of 'you char kway'.

Okay, I am pretty sure this was one of the "That one!" dishes I ordered. It looks like 'Choy Heong' tofu, but I know that wasn't what it was called. I dont remember it being particularly good or bad, so I guess it doesn't really matter. This style of tofu, with the meat sauce, is one of my favourites and Sin Kee does it quite well.

Har Cheong Kuat (Pork Ribs): 'Kuat' means bone or rib in Cantonese, but I don't know what 'Har Cheong' means. This is one of their signature dishes. These ribs are incredibly, incredibly tasty, juicy and tender. I cannot think/write about them without salivating. A lot of deep fried things have are tasty on the outside and kinda boring on the inside - not these ribs. The meat is deliciously flavoured right to the bone and the delightful, savoury, light crisp exterior is so tasty that it makes you want to lick it all over before actually eating it. Goes beautifully with the tangy chili dipping sauce.

Standard stir fried asparagus with garlic. Unlike in NZ, we don't seem to get the big fat asparaguses in Malaysia - they're all slim, young shoots like above.

Another 'specialty'. Mangoes are seasonal, relatively expensive and good ones are hard to come by. Most Chinese restaurants serve a fruit platter for 'dessert', which usually comprises of watermelon, honey dew and papaya slices. Hee Lai Ton also serves the usual fruit platter but has made mangoes their speciality. There are always boxes of mangoes stacked next to their 'bar'. Usually their mangoes are good, but on this particular occasion, the mangoes were somewhat bland and lacked the sweetness and sourness that, to me, together with the firmness of the flesh, is the definition of a good mango. 

Hee Lai Ton (Sheraton) Restaurant
No 12 Jalan Muhibbah 3
Taman Muhibbah
Seri Kembangan
43300 Selangor

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