Navigating the weekly boom of Kuala Lumpur's ‘gastronomic or contemporary’ dining scene can be an overwhelming challenge, when deep down, even the most discerning diner craves good old, familiar Asian comforts.
Perhaps this is why there’s a steady stream of bookings for traditional Cantonese dishes at Grand Harbour Private Kitchen in Fahrenheit 88, Bukit Bintang. Here, you’ll be privy to exquisite, authentic dishes that are hard to come by today.
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The man behind it, chef Chan Peng Wah (nicknamed chef Dai Bei ‘big nose’), is Kuala Lumpur’s guardian of traditions, who mastered the holy grail of Cantonese cooking for over 40 years now, from the kitchens of Tai Thong group of restaurants. The methods – braising, steaming and double boiling – is a methodical art form of Chinese cooking.
As its name suggests, Private Kitchen opened in 2014 on a word-of-mouth capacity specialising in off-the-menu Cantonese dishes that has once tallied up a RM10,000 bill. Elevating this experience was chef Chan’s strict emphasis of premium foodstuff.
“I need to know everything about my ingredients, how it's cultivated to its origins, to be certain they are of exceptional quality to take to the table,” the chef informed us. He personally travels to Sandakan to source seafood, Kapit River in Bintulu for fresh river catch, and China for dried seafood resources.
Where some restaurants have resorted to alternative cooking processes, Private Kitchen respects age-old traditions that do justice to the cuisine. And because of his rapport with shopkeepers, anglers and suppliers, he gets first dibs to the top picks.
When asked how a bowl of porridge can infamously cost RM1,000, chef Chan cites first-class ingredients. “Toppings like geoduck, pomfret and fish maw add up quickly. Most established dried seafood stores in the city have sold their reserves to me,” he chuckled, whose clientele include politicans, celebrities and food critics.
To demonstrate his specialties, we were in for a treat to try four of Chef Chan’s complex dishes, some of which took a week to prepare.
This is what we feasted on.
Double boiled spare ribs in pepper soup
A peppery, rich and creamy soup, chock full with multilayer pork ribs and intestines pleasantly piqued our appetites. The heavy-handed use of robust Sarawak pepper cut through the rich, collagen-heavy broth, and for a bit of bite, the ribs’ wobbly fat-meat layers were delightful morsels to chew upon. According to Chef Chan, the intensely nutritious soup had been boiled gently for five hours to extract its full flavour.
Braised sea cucumber and chicken with abalone sauce
The meticulous preparation that goes into this deceptively simple looking dish takes a week. First, sea cucumber is soaked from its dry stage, and the braise broth is made from scratch, comprising five different bases including shark fin, abalone and Teochew sauce, a concoction of Hong Kong imported oyster, bean paste and soy sauce, to produce a rich and aromatic gravy. A whole kampong chicken is gently braised till fall-off-bone tender.
BBQ suckling pig stuffed with glutinous rice
The whole suckling pig roasted to a glistening crisp commanded our attention. Beyond the lacquered surface, chef Chen revealed the story and painstaking set of techniques of this rare dish: Only a two-week-old pig can achieve this native dish’s gastronomic consistency. The pig is deboned and roasted in a volcano-stone oven, and as it cooks, chefs fry a glutinous rice mixture of preserved sausages and fragrant grains, which is stuffed into the pig cavity. To serve, it is deftly sliced in rings of crisp skin encasing the savoury filling.
Cantonese fried noodles with fresh water river prawn
This perennial noodle dish with superior ingredients completed our meal. The crispy egg noodle is exclusively imported from Hong Kong, and cooked ‘wa tan’, or silky egg gravy-style, for a sloppy and crunchy consistency. The noodles are laden with large, fresh water river prawns, poached to springy fleshiness, endowing each slurp with a sweet, protein-powered finish.
To experience Private Kitchen, advance reservations are essential. Call 03–2141 1763 for bookings and enquiries, or visit grandharbour.com.my for more information.
Next stop on your Asian gastronomic tour, try these 5 places for Japanese katsu.