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Shoppers looking for an elegant retreat from the retail frontline of One Utama couldn’t do better than some R&R in Zuan Yuan. The décor combines tradition with modern comfort in an effortless manner without pretensions. The air-conditioning is sometimes a bit cooler than might be required, but with all the chilli dishes on offer, this should not be a problem. The crowd mostly consists of families, but there is nothing raucous to distract from the pleasure of the food. Be sure to book at the weekend.
The menu provides an unusually comprehensible introduction to the wonders that await at Zuan Yuan. The balance of dishes is excellent, and along with all the old favourites are quite a few innovations.
The signature dishes offer a preview to this, with a stalwart such as double-boiled black chicken soup sharing the lineup with a more unexpected baby duck. Even the conventional-sounding soup is given an extra dimension with the inclusion of abalone. Whether this is really necessary is another question; the stock is so superbly pure in flavour that it seems to be gilding the lily to add some expensive seafood to the quintessential black chicken offering. The deep-fried baby duck is also teamed up with abalone, in the form of a sauce. Although at first sight it looks like nothing more than a small duck, it turns out to be exceptionally tender. The abalone sauce provides a rich accompaniment.
There is a pioneering approach to a non-traditional ingredient such as cod, making it even less traditional by adding apples to a tomato-based sauce. The fish serving is bigger on taste than size.
The chef’s inventiveness does not end abruptly when it comes to desserts, as is usual for a Chinese restaurant. You can tell they are having fun with new flavours, and the champion is durian. There is one dessert that combines three approaches to durian in what should become an acclimatisation course for those who think they hate durian. Spring roll, pancake and ice-cream make for a holy trinity of taste.
This is a restaurant that takes tea more seriously than wine or anything alcoholic. It might be the right approach for those who really want to savour Chinese food rather than have an East meets West compromise meal.
The team provides pleasant and efficient service without intruding. The members are professional without being unnecessarily friendly.
As with every upmarket Chinese restaurant, there is the cheap way to eat or the sky’s the limit. Fortunately there are not too many market price items on the menu. The signature dishes are among the more expensive offerings but at least there is fair warning given. The staff are good at preventing over ordering. Despite this, it is still easy for three diners to clock up RM500 without any serious drinks. At least they will leave satisfied and without any MSG side effects.