Seafood as the KLites eat.
Whenever we Singaporeans visit Malaysia or Indonesia, and I mean a proper visit, not like a day trip or something, we have to have seafood. The reason? Seafood dinners in Singapore are expensive. You order prawns, fish and crab, and you’re looking at one, if not two hundred for a meal. Sure, the seafood is posh but the spread’s not extravagant, if you know what I mean? We want a table of plenty, to be well fed.
After a very rejuvenating body scrub at Kuala Lumpur’s Fahrenheit 88 mall in Bukit Bintang, we met up with Titus’ friend who arranged for us to have a seafood dinner.
Restoran Tak Fok Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant has not only managed to outlast many of its competitors, but has even expanded, with restaurants in Kepong, Puchong and Jaya One. Its claim to fame were the price of its crabs, retailing at MYR 18 at one point. The price has since doubled, but Tak Fok’s crabs remain some of the cheapest in Kuala Lumpur. The seafood restaurant has also moved beyond competing on price, with a whole horde of original signature dishes that are certainly must-tries on every foodie’s adventure here.
Titus’ friend persuaded us that in his view, the branch in Puchong was the best, and willingly drove us out of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) south into the suburbs.
It would be disingenuous to describe Tak Fok as a restaurant, because the environment is certainly more casual and convivial. I’m reminded of Ban Leong Wah Hoe Seafood almost. It’s certainly a restaurant, only in the sense of the dining tables, chairs and customers. The decor, as is expected of many of these kind of establishments, is minimal and almost utilitarian. There was a queue that had developed, but we managed to override it pretty fast. Titus’ friend, we presume, had made reservations.
In Singapore, even at the more upmarket brands like Jumbo, menus are most often a single laminated A3 card with more words than pictures. Here, every dish available is well presented, shot and documented so you know exactly what you’re getting. It’s not as exaggerating as Jakarta where menus, regardless of the type of eatery, are serious coffee table books, but it’s close. Nevertheless, it was the three of us, and we only had enough stomach space for a few of the many signatures.
We started off with the Salted Egg Crab.
To be honest, I don’t like salted egg crab in Singapore. Served in an overwhelming salted egg custardy sauce, it’s too much for my palate. Surprisingly, this version was the complete opposite. There was no sauce to begin with, which was great. The salted egg was there, but rather than taking over, it contrasted well against the saline sweetness of the crab meat inside. It worked very well.
The next one was the peculiar named Mongolian Squid. No, the squid was not a Mongolian citizen before it was sacrificed, and no, it’s not really a dish that is cooked in a way familiar to native Mongolians either. This Chinese style of cooking, rarely seen in Singapore, is meant to mean an ‘exotic’ flavor. There’s no specific recipe, but it typically entails the addition of every sauce and condiment you’d typically find in an Asian supermarket. One recipe I’ve seen, includes hoisin sauce, plum sauce, oyster sauce, Chinese vinegar, peanut oil, shaoxing wine, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, cut chili and onions…seriously, go check out Food.com. This good calamari – they even got the batter right – was covered in a savory brown sauce that echoed a strange sweet savoury piquant citrus caramel that was provocative and stimulating. I wouldn’t eat this for this, but it functioned as a good enough palate opener.
The Roasted Long Bone Pork was certainly one of my favorites. When I first had it, I was like, this, Cafe Cartel is how you do St. Louis Pork Ribs. The meat was so tender, it was out of this world. You could literally use a spoon to spoon out the ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ meat. There was a lovely well charred anchor to the roast, which really balanced well with the ultra sweet sauce. I don’t like pork, but when pork is done right, you just can’t help yourself. Everything, even the meat, tastes like pure, succulent rich fat.
You can’t have a seafood dinner without prawns, and this was no exception. In Singapore, butter prawns are those crispy motherfuckers that tastes so good, you actually eat the shell, without peeling. In Malaysia, at least in Kuala Lumpur, butter prawns are something else entirely. It’s prawns, stir-fried in a mustard yellow buttery sauce. It wasn’t what we were expecting, but hey, they’re prawns. Nobody’s going to say no.
We also had the ubiquitous greens which was, nothing to write home about.
Getting There: Your best bet is to visit the branch at Jaya One. It’s a mall, and getting a cab back into KLCC may be easier. Otherwise, Restoran Tau Fok in Puchong will be a few minutes walk from Taman Perindustrian Puchong LRT station on the Ampang Line when it opens in 2016.