Monday, January 19, 2009

Reservations are for wimps, Fong Lye at Desa Sri Hartamas

No reservations should be tolerated when ordering at a curious new place, whatever the circumstances. Just started a new diet? Restart tomorrow. Just ate? Don't care, skip next meal. Eating with company that requires a high sense of decorum? Never mind, always good for others to see and love the REAL you.

Unfortunately, I exercised no such lack of caution at Fong Lye's flagship outlet in Desa Sri Hartamas, over which I'd let myself get into a tizzy with curiousity. Determined to upend that less-than-stellar experience at Siew Fong Lye in Mid Valley, I made a beeline for Fong Lye one afternoon, two dining companions in tow.

We settled down to a table in the centre of the room, where we got plenty of natural light from the wall-to-wall windows.

Appetizer promptly appeared before us - braised slices of lotus root with dashings of sesame seeds and sliced chillies. This was simple yet so delightful!

The highlight of the meal for me was this lovely blue china teacup, receptacle to the equally lovely Xiang Pian (Jasmine) tea. I cannot say enough about what a difference tableware adds to the meal.

Now dishes that followed next were by no means bad. Eating out requires gumption, it calls for a a sharp acumen for lines that can or can't be crossed and the executive decision-making to cross them anyway. Alas, we had none of that! We missed the point of dining at Fong Lye altogether by trying to space-save, be healthy, aiya-maybe-too-much-la, and ended up ordering a tragically ordinary meal. No lines were crossed, reservations had won this round, unfortunately.

For some reason, I cannot remember what this vegetable dish is called. It was a toss-up between this and the "mosquito" chives dish that was recommended here but when we asked the very polished, articulate waiter which one he preferred, he actually went with this. Can someone help me out here to identify what type of green vegetable this is, in its chopped up , masticated-looking glory? It was quite tasty, nonetheless, every mouthful flavoured with bits of juicy fried bean curd.

Homemade tofu on a bed of steamed bok choy, topped with a minced meat & preserved vegetable gravy. We probably should've, could've skipped this; I think you can find a similar dish at your local dai chow for half the price.

We probably hit all of one tiny nail on the head with this dish - the Three Cup Chicken, which came bubbling and frothing in a claypot, and had fresh basil leaves mixed in at the table. I can't say this is the best version I've tasted, but it's still a mighty fiery dish indeed. Makes everything else on the table (save for pretty teacup) disappear in a forgettable "poof!" under the fine Saturday afternoon sunlight.
And we couldn't miss the plain sweet potato porridge, for the last few morsels of the Three Cup chicken begged accompaniment. This was fine, but I think at RM6 (?!), it proved a little hard to stomach.

At about RM80 for the 3 of us, I would be hard-pressed to repeat ordering any of the dishes. Like I said, we had no affinity whatsoever with the menu that afternoon. We were passive. We were defeated. If new to curious restaurant, order no less than the WORKS! Pork leg! Whole freaking whale of a fish! Crazy cholesterol and fat content! Reservations (not the booking type) are for the sad race of people who, like forgettable dishes, incite no fervour and no joy, and pale into oblivion against the bleak city landscape. I think if we'd gone crazy instead of try be demure on day one of our newly revived health regimen, we'd have had a more rave-worthy dining experience and done Fong Lye's menu a lot more justice.

We walked out of the restaurant that day, our heads hung low in deepest shame.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree (though my pants are protesting like mad) that we should not have any reservations when trying out somewhere new. The veg looks like chopped up spinach to me but I'm not sure. It is just way too..err..masticated.
I love the china tea cup. So pretty.

Duckie said...

i love sweet potato porridge ...

Ciki said...

heads hung low in deepest shame..?! aww.. not so bad la, right? at least the chicken was good:D

worldwindows said...

The sweet potato rice is so expensive!

Selba said...

The three cup chicken looks yummy.

Sweet potato porridge, never tried before... wondering how it tasted.

Tummythoz said...

Perk up. Sometimes the simple dishes tells a lot about its other more extravagant and pricy offerings.

Anonymous said...

I think it's normal to feel overwhelmed at certain restaurants and lack the gumption to order the works. Some restaurants do that to us. On the other hand, I've come across some amazingly inspiring restaurants that make me sing arias even before ordering the dishes. hehe. Keep fighting the good fight! :-D

backStreetGluttons said...

never mind , there's always the day after and the coming Gluttons in waiting !

Happey coming Holidays and eat more as is where is thats the way babe ...

J2Kfm said...

geez, even the original outlet also scored poorly? that's bad.

but Fong Lye in Gardens still reeling in the crowd.

minchow said...

Foong, yes the china tea cup redeemed our missteps with the food orders..

Duckie, me too... but paying RM6 for a small bowl seems a bit exhorbitant to me.

Ciki, yeah chicken was good, but look at the lost potential of the rest of the meal! Tsk tsk!

Worldwindows, tell me about it! Actually this Fong Lye outlet is pricier than I'd expected.

Selba, tastes much like plain porridge, with a hint of that sweet potato earthy goodness!

Tummythoz, too true. I guess it was a matter of overexpectations and under-delivering, both on my parts!

LL, arias before tasting the food?! Inspiration enough for me to soldier on! :-)

BSG, yes! Am planning to vindicate myself over the CNY break :-P

J2Kfm, see, I didn't think I did the menu justice, so I can't say that it fared badly. My judgement was so poor and I didn't really taste the best they had to offer!

Anonymous said...

I already back listed Fong Lye after I went to their branch at Gardens.. so-so food, bad service and HIGH price.. and people actually QUEUE to eat in there.. what the fish?!

Anonymous said...

sorry for the typo *blacklisted*

Rebecca Saw said...

wahh..mayb u just ordered the wrong dish laa.. nx time right??!

boo_licious said...

Sad to hear abt your experience with Fong Lye, as I still think it is one of the better Taiwanese places in town esp since they use ingredients imported in from Taiwan (thus the special delicate fragrance in their food and sauces).

Maybe next time you can go for the clams with basil, the salt and pepper prawns, the bittergourd with beef or even the seafood hot pot (a fav with a lot of people) or even the famous Taiwanese lionhead meatballs.

minchow said...

Vkeong, I am still not ready to give up on this place yet. It's a matter of ordering the right stuff, I think!

Nomad Gourmand, yup! Great excuse to revisit!

Boo_licious, I knew I should've kept to the tried and tested! I actually got spurred on by your blog post some time back to visit this place. Will go for the dishes recommended next time!