If you ask me which one restaurant that had made an impact on me so far this year, in terms of food, service and atmosphere... hmmm... among the many that would qualify in my shortlist, I would say that Elegant Inn will definitely be among the top few. Call me "biased" if you like... but hey, I don't deny that I've always been more partial towards Oriental cuisine... because, well, besides being of Oriental descent, I personally like the varied flavours, textures and cooking approaches favoured while retaining the fresh authentic essences of the ingredients used. And it is exactly these qualities which are embraced by Elegant Inn that influenced me to place this restaurant on the top tiers of my list.
Elegant Inn started with humble beginnings at a discreet corner of Cheras where they built up a reputation for presenting new taste encounters and became a favourite haunt for the city's food lovers, especially those who enjoy refined Cantonese cuisine. Spurred by the encouragement from loyal patrons, Elegant Inn took one step further to share their passion for new tastes, textures and flavours by setting up this restaurant in Menara Hap Seng, specializing in Hong Kong cuisine.
Well, the "discovery" of Elegant Inn was not by accident... I had the good fortune of being invited by the Fairy Godmother of Makan to a lovely lunch there recently. When I arrived at Elegant Inn, located on the 2nd Floor of Menara Hap Seng, I was struck by the very warm welcome extended by the vivacious Jeannette Han, co-owner of the restaurant. Such was the start to a long and lovely lunch...
Elegant Inn's promise of "Dim Sum with a Touch of Heart" is truly spot-on - that's the direct translation of the words "dim sum" or "dian xin"... meaning "touching the heart". As we all know, Dim Sum is served in small portions in individual baskets or plates and one can really indulge in a huge variety of these delectable dishes!
Together with the Fairy Godmother of Makan aka Marian Eu, Ciki, Boolicious, Paranoid Android, Aly of Red FM, Lil Chef of Senses, KL Hilton, we got off on a Simple Start...
Homemade Fish Balls (RM6)
There's nothing more comforting than eating fish balls, I tell you. Fish balls had always been my fave since my childhood days back in Ipoh and we Ipoh-Mali people can be very finicky with our fish balls. Made from fresh mackerels, they were smooth and "bouncy" enough - I could not fault E.I's fishballs at all.
Barbequed Meat Bun aka Cha Siew Pau (RM6.60)
As simple and basic as it seemed, it is by no means an easy feat to make the perfect Cha Siew Pau, so declared the affable Jeannette. The dough must be soft & fluffy, yet not stick to the teeth; the cha-siew must have a perfect balance of lean + fat meats and most importantly, the ratio of meat to dough must be such that you don't end up eating a lot of filling or worse, have a pau that's half-filled. The chef in Elegant Inn must be commended for fulfilling all the KPIs of Cha Siew Paus!
Shanghainese Dumplings aka Xiao Loong Pau (RM8.40)
I love my Xiao Loong Paus with lots of soup in them... you know, the kind where you really have to be very careful in biting those dumplings lest the soup will all spurt out? OK, let's just say that I didn't have an intense spurting experience with E.I's dumplings. Good for those who prefer their XLP a bit refined, ie no squirting accident ;-)
Steamed Aust Scallop Dumpling (RM10.50)
Now these lil beauties were a sight to behold... and taste-wise, they certainly did not disappoint! Fresh succulent Australian scallops oozing with sweet juices - ahh... they were just too decadent for words.
Watercress Meat Dumpling (RM7)
This is a rather unusual dish, certainly not found in many restaurants around here. You may think that dumplings are such a common item eaten by the Chinese but to get it right, the chef's expertise comes into play when making the skin for these dumplings - the right texture and thickness are the key factors needed to enhance the minced meat filling. The watercress was a refreshing touch.
Having tantalised our tastebuds with those "Simple" dishes, we were so ready for the Crunchy Bites...
Deep Fried Taro Pouch (RM6.60)
Known commonly as the "woo kok", these pouches were a joy to eat. Light powdery mashed yam mixed with flour with fillings of minced meat... made into dainty pouches and deep fried, resulting in scrumptious "woo kok" with a filligree of light crispy "netting" around them. Those filligree thingy - they're an artform, I tell you.
Old-Fashioned Prawn Toast (RM7.80)
Somebody mentioned that she made these during her Home Science class many many years ago! I don't recall making these for my Home Science class - Rock Buns were the memorable thing I made, haha! Anyway, if Prawn Toasts originate from the Home Science class era, then they certainly deserve the title "Old fashioned" (errr...no offence intended to anyone who took Home Science, ok! I did that, too - remember? *wink*) While prawn toast is something that anyone can make at home, that does not guarantee that you know how to fry them in such a way that not a single hint of oil was detected in the toast! Ahhh... biting into the crunchy toast was a delight because we were all deceived into thinking that the toast was fried sans oil.
Fried Beancurd Roll with Shrimps & Cheese (RM7.80)
Cheese in a beancurd roll? Hmm... can't say that's something usual. The addition of a slice of Italian cheese in these rolls packed in an unusual flavour, not overpowering but gave a creamy caress to the succulent shrimps.
We were given a taste of their Special Eats next...
Crispy Vegetarian Rice Roll (RM9.80)
This was my favouritest (among the many favourites!) and I believe also for many of my co-diners that day! It's a showcase of the chef's skills - layers of crunchiness in between soft layers of rice rolls and chopped taro, carrots & radish. You need to try this to know why it's my favouritest.
Stir Fried Radish Cake with Chef's Sauce (RM12)
Beancurd Roll with Homemade Abalone Sauce (RM7.80)
I like anything with beancurd in it - whether it's a roll or a puff. The homemade abalone sauce was a bonus, good for mopping up the rolls.
Glutinuous Rice Parcel with Dried Scallops & Duck (RM8)
While most restaurants would have their "loh mai kai", here Elegant Inn serves a similar dish but with a pleasant twist - duck is used instead of chicken. When the parcel was unwrapped, we were served with a most aromatic portion of rice stuffed with dried scallops, salted eggyolks and shreds of duck meat!
At this point, we moved on to the Sweet Memories...
Steamed Custard Cake (RM6)
This "ma lai koh" again is comfort food to me. For the longest time when I moved to KL from Ipoh, I could not find any ma lai koh in KL. I love ma lai koh - they're widely available in Ipoh and it was only in the last few years that this steamed custard cake made its appearance here. Elegant Inn's version is exactly what I've been eating in Ipoh all through my childhood! Sweet memories indeed. Need I say more?
Baked Egg Tartlets (RM7.80)
Soft creamy eggy centres, light crispy pastry... what is there not to like?
Banana Red Bean Pancake (RM15)
Instead of the usual lotus paste, I love the mashed banana in this pancake for its special aroma. Certainly a pancake with a unique lovely twist!
Black Sesame Glutinuous Rice Balls in Ginger Soup (RM6)
Glutinuous rice balls - I like! Ginger soup - I like it even more! And better still, have more ginger in the soup so that it packs a good punch & warms your throat right through into your tummy. Yes, all these applied and I could happily have another bowl! ;-)
Steamed Tofu Puffs
The lovely thing about our gracious host Jeannette is that she's so passionate in her quest for good food! Does anyone know that Bentong has the most yummy beancurd puffs?! Well, we all didn't know until Jeannette told us that Bentong's beancurd puffs are very different: they are more "solid", unlike most that you find here which are more "puffed" than "stuffed". To prove her point, we were served these and well, she's right - the tofu puffs are very different. Ask for this from the service crew as this item is not on their regular menu.
Salt & Pepper HK Silver Fish (RM16)
This is an Elegant Inn signature dish. I can eat plates and plates of these. Serious. Their chefs have perfected their skills in cooking the "salt & pepper" style. Jeannette guaranteed that you won't be able to detect a speck of oil in the silver fish at all! I believe her.
Crunchy Prawn Salad (RM7.80)
This is such a stunning dish, both visually and in taste & texture.
We took a break (it was indeed a verrryyy long lunch!) when Jeannette presented this stunning "birthday cake" for Marian...
No candles needed for this! The Peach symbolises longevity & good health to the Chinese... so you see, we had that huge mother peach, surrounded by some peachy offsprings at the sides...
... and when the birthday gal, Marian lifted the mother peach, there're more inside! Abundant peaches for Marian, yay!
October being the month for hairy crabs, Elegant Inn will be serving this delicacy right about now. In fact, NOW is the perfect time to dine on these hairy crustacaens! The early batches are usually not the good ones, so advised by Jeannette, the HK cuisine expert. The crabs from end of October onwards are the prime stocks.
A sneak preview of Elegant Inn's 6-Course Hairy Crab Set... starting with...
Twin Delight Platter with Smoky Prawn Cake & Crunchy E.I. Nachos
Braised Rice with Fish & Pearl Clam Slices in Abalone Sauce
Top right: Double-boiled Shark's Cartilage Chicken Soup w Sharksfin & Bamboo Pith
Bottom right: Seasonal Greens with Japanese Oyster Sauce
Left: Double-boiled Ginger Soup w White Fungus & Red Dates & Crunchy Nutty Sesame Ball
And of course, there will be the Steamed Live Tai Lake Hairy Crab, which didn't make an appearance that day because it wasn't the right time yet. By now, I believe Elegant Inn would have gotten in the fattest, most succulent full-of-roe hairy crabs ... so it's time to book a table there now!
Oh it was such a lovely lunch with even lovelier company. The dishes recommended by Jeannette were not specially cooked for us - this would be exactly what you'd get from their menu, except for 1 or 2 new items which had not been added in yet. There are so many interesting items on their dinner/lunch menu that I want to try - I need to make my booking soon!
Many thanks to Marian for the kind invitation and of course to Jeannette Han for being such a wonderful host!
Elegant Inn Hong Kong Cuisine
2.01 2nd Floor, Podium Block
Menara Hap Seng
Jalan P Ramlee
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2070-9399 Fax: 03-2070-9398
Their Cheras restaurant is at:
No.16 Jalan Waras 1
Taman Connaught, Cheras
56000 Kuala Lumpur