Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oversea Restaurant, KL.

with Prof Massi and Prof Francesca in KL

Oversea Restaurant has been a KL institution since its founding in 1977...I barely remember when was the first time I ate here, but it was a long time ago. Memories sometimes have a way of fading...and what remains are the great times we have had, and the feelings. Overseas left an imprint in me, with many pleasant memories about the wonderful food.

I returned many times, each time to re-affirm that this was a great restaurant, worthy of being an institution. In December 08, I took both my Italian friends to a taste of Malaysia.

When we arrived, the signature dish of char siew was high on my list...and even thinking of it makes me salivate. Amongst Overseas, Meng Kee and Soo Kee (by reputation as I have yet to try) are the holy trinity for char KL, and by extension Malaysia and possibly the world. The simple char siew is elevated to an art in these establishments. Kay Lee and Fatty Cheong's come close in Singapore, but my cigars go to the vaunted KL establishments. As I have blogged rather extensively in my Meng Kee post, the sticky, sweet, fragrant, tender roasted meat is supreme.

But as early as 2pm on a Sunday afternoon...they had already run out of char siew...rats! Disappointed, but still there were treats galore from their a la carte menu.

We started with an Assam Prawn Curry.

Served in a claypot, this was a piquant, fragrant, sour, pungent and spicy dish. The prawns were fairly large...curled up in their cooked state about 3cm in diameter. And they were very test of freshness - crunchy to the bite, hinting on the fragrance of the sea, sweet was passed with flying colours.

Next by special request of Francesca, we had the Braised Eggplant.

The eggplant was rendered very tender, soft. And the various spices and braising sauce made this dish very pleasing and delicious. Francesca thought it was rather delicious...special. I agree.

The Home made tofu was also delicious.

The tofu was very fragrant...but this standard of tofu is common amongst top restaurants where the chefs make their own tofu. It was also very soft, tender...almost spilling out, but encased in a rather more robust skin. A braising sauce similar to that of the eggplant was used, and made for a great dish. Very nice dish, but not special.

In lieu of char siew, and to somewhat calm our disappointment, we had the roast pork and roast duck combo.

Typical of roasteries that specialize in roasting meats...they have perfected the techniques of brining, drying, slow cooking and charring. And most meats done by these specialists are of a standard too high to aspire to for more ordinary restaurants. The gold standard set by Oversea for their char siew made expectations for their roast duck and roast pork soar.

They delivered with the siew yoke (roast pork in Cantonese...spoken widely in the Klang Valley). The skin was super crispy. A thin layer of fat lay below to provide umami support as one bites into the meat. And tender meat below that providing the body and substance. This was very good roast pork. A more robust version of the very elegant roast pork served at Lei Garden in Hong Kong...a restaurant recognized by the cognicenti by a Michelin Star; but the Overseas version was equal in all aspects of taste, fragrance, mouthfeel, and shiokness.

The roasted duck was slightly disappointing. Don't get me wrong, this is very delicious roast duck. But with the competition as stiff as that provided by Kay Lee in Singapore, and Yung Kee in Hong Kong (albeit roast goose), this one fails to make the very top grade, and as a result fails to impress in a comparison test. The meat was a tad, mind you only a tiny tad, tough. The skin could have been crispier, and the fat layer below the skin could have been drained by more thorough control of the fire. Only with a comparison can one appreciate the fine differences. This is by most standards, very very good roast duck. If this was a French restaurant, say in Lyon, and coupled with the fanfare and pomp typical of the French restaurant - excellent service, beautiful ambience, I can imagine the restaurant to be at least a Good Eats award.

The accompanying sauce was top drawer. Spicy, very fragrant, piquant, it balances out the oily mouth feel of the roasted meats extremely well. I will highly recommend it as a dip for the roast duck, and possibly also the roast pork. Though, had the char siew been available, no dip or sauce should be prescribed, as this would mask the taste of the pork and thick smouldering sauce already covering the char siew...but I digress.

Overall, this restaurant has earned its laurels as a mainstay in KL restaurant scene. Were my fond memories of great food at Overseas well founded?...yes, they are safe...I will return to this restaurant again and again. The food is well cooked, and tastes excellent. And for Singaporeans travelling to Malaysia, very good value given the current exchange rates.

Oversea Restaurant
84 - 88 , Jalan Imbi
Kuala Lumpur
Tel No: 03 - 2148 7567
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