A way chic restaurant takes a stab at modern Chinese cuisine.
WAY MODERN CHINOIS (pork free)
Jalan Changkat Semantan
Tel: 03-2095 1118
Opening hours: Mon to Sat, noon-3pm and 6pm-10.30pm
The boutique property developer and Asian private equity investor has gone quite the other way to create a mostly grey palette for their restaurant which is named after their son, Way; the word also means “unique” in Mandarin.
The adventure begins at the door, literally. Instead of an ordinary entrance, you get the impression that you’re pressing an elevator button and another surprise awaits. The “elevator” doesn’t lead to another floor, but transports you to another world.
Modern and contemporary, Way’s understated elegance underscores a different approach to Chinese dining. New age music plays in the background and the only subtle hint of the Orient is seen in the outline of the dragons in black steel “guarding” the forefront of the restaurant. This opens up to the dining area, a rectangular room with tables laid out in orderly fashion. Rosewood panelling, sombre furniture and strategic spotlights lend to the ambience of what could easily pass off as a Continental establishment. There’s even a cosy waiting lounge, where you can have pre-dinner drinks.
All very impressive, but what of the food?
A quick glance at the menu revealed a selection of dim sum for starters which didn’t stray far from the conventional. What was different was the presentation style and the extra effort put into tweaking the predictable into something remarkable.
For instance, Pac Man Dumplings looked quite the part as the dumplings were made to resemble the “ghosts” as in the game, pursued by Pac Man, in this case, a cracker. The steamed prawn marinated in Szechuan spices and spicy ponzu was well-seasoned in stock and rich in flavour, accompanied by a small serving of avocado salad on the side.
Creativity comes with a price tag to match, RM22 for four tasty morsels, as does the delectable XO Pan Fried Carrot Cake at RM28. Who’d knew that something as common as fried radish, a close cousin of the popular Char Kway Teow, could make the mark as elegant fare with just the addition of a few scallops?
Other favourite small bites include the Snow Bun (stuffed with chicken Char Siew); Rainbow Shanghainese Dumplings (steamed chicken soup dumplings which you can sip with a straw); Crispy Eel with Wild Honey Sauce (RM23) and Salted Egg Chicken Strips (RM18). Resistance is futile with the crispy, sweetish, deep-fried eel, but then again, anything deep fried always tastes extra yum. These would go great with a beer as would the salty, slightly spicy chicken.
Engaging potions such as Waterless Chicken Soup and Elixir of Youth make up Way’s signature soups, but I had Szechuan Hot And Sour Soup instead. The name didn’t lie as it packed quite a punch, by far the spiciest and most sour Szechuan soup I’ve tried. I’ve no complaints as I love my spice, and it’s addictive especially if the sourness gives you a kick in the gut. But I reckon this may not go down well with everyone.
The real story in any culinary tale though, is told through its main course, and while the starters provided an entertaining teaser to the palate, they are mere guest stars in the plot.
The main character has to be able to sustain interest and the protagonist here, in my opinion, has to be the duck. Be it the Truffle Roast Duck, Peking Duck Our Way or The Red Duck, it’s pretty much accolades all around. I had the pleasure of The Red Duck (RM60 for half), which looked ordinary enough. But the crisp skin and succulent flesh belied the expertise that went into the gentle roasting, which resulted in a mouth-watering platter. The name, explained Chef Liu Jin Xian who hails from Guangdong, comes from the red fermented beancurd used in marinating the duck. Even if you don’t really care for the other items on the menu, the duck is good enough a reason to visit Way.
Did I mention that Way is pork-free? But there’s no lack of meat dishes as Hong Kong Roast Goose is available, along with chicken, lamb and beef selections as well as seafood. Moving away from the predictable steamed fish served in most Chinese restaurants, the Crispy Lion Fish, (no, not the Dory that you know from Nemo!) is deep fried grouper, with the fillet nicely moist underneath the light brown crust (RM59). It’s not as spot-on as the duck; perhaps the skeletal fishbone could have been retained for presentation sake.
Not one for fried rice usually, I found myself eating spoonful after spoonful of the Abalone Seafood Fried Rice (RM56). Cooked Basmati grains were stir-fried with prawns and abalone, and topped with crab roe; I had to stop myself from the carb-overload. Kind of telling what I thought about the rice, huh?
Dessert was Musang King Durian Pancake and it was a first of sorts, as amazingly, all five of us at the table were not durian fans! Quite an achievement in that we were all game to give it a try anyway, and gave our approval despite our disposition!
The menu took 15 months to come together, and proves that gourmet food need not be experimental, new-fangled dishes. Instead, fresh and quality ingredients, new textures and robust flavours can go a long way to reinvent an old familiar recipe.
Essentially, this is Way’s innovative take on Chinese food, celebrating the four dominant tastes – sweet, salty, sour and spicy. Like me, you may not agree on every note. But you’ll never know if you don’t find out for yourself.
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