Let me jump to Kuala Lumpur now, because I am tired of the posts on the banquet meals in Shanghai.
By the time we got to KL, we were dying for Malaysian food, especially KL food. But my friend C, who lives in San Francisco and comes back twice a year to visit her mom, was not familiar with the city. Each time we went out, we drove round and round in the grid less city. Paris even on a first visit is easy to get around in but KL, where I've been countless of times, is totally unnavigable to me. The roads are a maze and always jammed, the drivers are selfish and the taxi drivers are still pulling the same trick of not going anywhere inconvenient to them. In the city center, roads are built as an afterthought, as and when required, so that they wind around the buildings (e.g. behind Pavilion) and if you take a wrong turn, sorry lah. KL takes the cake for being an example of a badly-planned city. The LRT (an inefficient above-ground metro constructed as an easy way out of the complicated planning and work required for a good underground metro) doesn't connect station to station, forcing passengers to go up and down and in and out of stations several times to complete one journey. Then there's the poor security, the many toll booths and the low standards of public transport, to name a few. A terrible road accident happened while I was in KL. A dozen bus commuters were killed and some guy in the relevant authority defended the driver--who died too-- by blaming the road divider (!) and the commuters, who, according to him, were responsible for stopping the bus driver if he was speeding. That's just ridiculously outrageous and the lesson is not learnt. The newspaper headlines screamed "Answers need to be found why this happens". Is it not apparent that it's the low standards of drivers and failure to enforce? The driver of the bus I took from LCCT to KLIA was on his mobile all the way, one hand on the wheel. I bet that happens all the time and the authorities know it but are they doing anything about it? One morning, while waiting for C by the road of a high rise apartment in Mont Kiara, a mineral bottle filled with cigarette ash, water and sand fell about 1.5 meters behind me, splashing Hub with the contents. I had been standing at the very spot but had just walked away seconds before the bottle fell. I would've been seriously hurt, even killed, if it fell on me, given the weight of the bottle and the impact it made when it crashed onto the ground. All we got from the management of the building was that some kids were responsible. No action taken, no lesson learnt. Try throwing anything from a high rise in Singapore or Hong Kong.
At one point, totally flustered, hot (KL was 34 C, Shanghai 24 C) and lost driving around, I asked C: "Tell me just one thing good about KL!" Without hesitation, she said "The food". I guess when nothing's going right, food's the only way to redeem a city.
But you know what, if you don't know where to eat, the food in KL can be pretty crappy too. Since C's mom lives in Kepong, we hung around the area because that's where C is most familiar with. The first night, we ended up in a hawker stall center because I wanted hawker food. The food was bad.
C's list of restaurants is confined to places she used to eat in when she lived in KL so that includes Madam Kwan which I was rather fond of too. However, this time I was disappointed. I think while the food was very good ten years ago when they were most popular, Mdm Kwan has not kept up with the competition and standards have dropped after they opened more outlets. Or maybe it's just the Mdm Kwan in Bangsar that doesn't measure up.
Yut Kee is another of C's haunt. Some of the food are good, but some are just okay. The place is popular with office workers who roll up their sleeves in the unairconditioned restaurant. I loved their soft-boiled egg because it was full of fresh egg flavor. Days later we were at another restaurant and I ordered soft boiled egg and it was bland. I think Yut Kee's eggs can pass the Spaniard or Portuguese test. I'm told that the eggs in these two countries are incomparable, much like how the tomatoes in Italy have no match.
Yut Kee's menu is quite wide, from western food to rice to noodles and bread. The third generation of the founder now runs the coffee shop.
Soft boiled egg (known as half boiled egg here because the Chinese term for it is "Half raw half done") so good that it didn't matter if the plate was chipped. The toasted bread was ordinary and kaya dry and grainy but the coffee was thick.
Salty chicken rice, a nice change from Hainan chicken rice. I used to disdain 'albino' chicken but now I think they have their place, especially in chicken rice.
Lam mee, Yut Kee's specialty, is not my kind of noodles. I found it just okay.
Hokkien mee. Pretty good with lots of dried flounder floss, something we don't get in our Hokkien mee in KK, but I was disappointed that the pork fat crackling was missing.
The Swiss roll was warm and the texture was unusual; I liked it. The butter cake was touted as 100% pure butter cake but I detected margarine (you can't fool this mama), specifically Planta, and I asked a young man who looked like he could be the grandson of the founder if margarine was in the cake. He was honest (brownie points) and said they do mix in some margarine but not much. Hmm. What does 100% mean? I tasted more margarine than butter.
The marble tables and mismatched chairs tell that the restaurant is old.