char siu or baked honey cod?
Here's my bumper post on Chinese food, dim sum and mooncakes to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival (that falls on this Tuesday i.e. 22 September) and my return to the blogging grindstone. It is laden with pictures as I absolutely love the images I managed to snap in my visits here.
Peking Duck - expertly prepared with a chopper and a knife
Well known for its refined and exquisite Chinese cuisine, it is always a pleasure to dine at the ever established Li Yen. In fact, my family used to patronise Li Yen quite a while back ago for family dinners as the food has never dissapointed us so far. Hence, when I decided to join a group of friends for a tasting of the Chinese menu I knew I'll be in very good hands.
spinach layered beancurd with shimeji mushrooms
For the dinner, we kicked off with their soup of the day - a light tasting dried cabbage with pork ribs soup (RM20 per person). Then it started getting serious with their Peking Duck (RM50 for a medium portion) as it had a sense of theatre involved. We ooohed and aahed when the crispy whole duck was rolled in with all the paraphernalia for the making of a great dish - vegetable pickles, spring onions, soft sesame studded pancakes in a bamboo steamer and the hoisin sauce. Instantly, the cameras started popping away as an experienced looking waitress expertly wielded her chopper (yes, it was a big chopper!) and fork to slowly remove the skin from the duck. Before we knew it, we had soft pancakes all wrapped up for us to enjoy. It may not be the crispiest duck skin around but the pancakes were wonderfully soft. The duck was then whisked away as the kitchen prepped it up for the second course (a choice of using the meat in fried noodles or rice). Later in the evening, it emerged all diced up and mingling with niblets of fluffy fried rice and chopped spring onions that we all ate even though our tummies were full.
fluffy fried rice with cubed Peking duck, champagne prawns
The restaurant does monthly promotions revving up their repertoire of tried favourites and October's promotion is champagne, a favourite ingredient in Li Yen's infamous mooncakes (more on that later). We got to preview the baked prawns with champagne (RM25 per person) - all gleaming from bath of champagne scented sauce. I guess if Cleopatra believes in milk baths, why not anoint prawns with a touch of bubbly for a wonderful sensation. While I wasn't too partial to the texture of the prawns that seemed to lack a bounciness I prefer, I did enjoy the bubbly enhanced sauce.
Baked spare ribs with Chinese tea leaves
When this plate of gleaming baked spare ribs with Chinese tea leaves (RM14 per person) was placed on the table, you could hear the resounding chorus of ooohs and aahs. Once it went through the ritual of being photographed to death there was silence as everyone slowly enjoyed the wonderful pork ribs. Brushed with the sweet sauce, the pork ribs were literally to die for as the meat was tender with just a hint of the Chinese tea leaves. Equally as outstanding was the marine version - baked cod pieces brushed with a similar honey glaze that made it resemble large fatty pieces of char siu with the sticky caramelised edges. Mingling between the "char siu" like dishes, we also had a light tasting home made spinach layered beancurd with shimeji mushrooms and spinach (RM12 per piece).
Moet & Chandon champagne snowskin mooncakes
Rounding up dinner was the avocado cream - a luscious creamy dessert with a look akin like face mask but a fluffy light texture that made it easy to relish even though it was a heavy meal.
durian snowskin mooncakes, a selection of 8 mooncakes, baked mooncake with white lotus paste
Since I was at Li Yen, I grabbed a box of Li Yen's mooncakes to sample. Famous for their Moet & Chandon Champagne snowskin mooncakes (RM8.50 nett per piece), this year they have introduced their sweet pink Moet & Chandon Champagne Rose version (RM15 nett per piece). Even though the pink version looked darn pretty, I felt the rose taste should have been a little more subtle as it felt a little too jarringly sweet and slightly artificial. Instead, I still preferred their classic champagne version that trumped the other mooncakes. Another popular mooncake is the durian mini snowskin mooncake (RM8.50 nett). I had great expectations for this mooncake as when I cut into it there was a beautiful aroma of the pungent durian but upon tasting it, I felt the texture of the filling was a little unevenly mixed together. Moreover even though it had a strong aroma, it didn't taste like there was much durian in the lotus paste. As I had to get a box of eight, I also sampled their mini baked mooncake with white lotus paste (RM8.50 nett). It wasn't too sweet but the skin was just a bit too dry for me.
siu mai with prawn roe
Making it a trilogy of reviews, I decided to give Li Yen's dim sum a test run one Sunday. They are famous for their dim sum and based on how full it is every Sunday, there's a regular clientele of people who love their dainty morsels. Similar to their food and mooncakes, there's an air of refineness to their dim sum offerings. No big portions but bite size ones that seem to have less oil and fats, so the after effects of the lunch is much easier on the tummy.
beef dumplings, grouper fillet chee cheong fun, fluffy char siu baos
I enjoyed the char siu baos or steamed pork buns (3 pieces for RM9), not too sweet pork filling encased in a soft fluffy buns. The siu mai (4 pieces for RM10) was dainty and filled with chopped prawns, pork and mushrooms. I loved the prawn roe that topped each piece as they had a slight bite to them indicating they were nice and fresh.
light as air yam puffs
Every month, they also have promotional dim sum items and we sampled their steamed layer cake (ma lai koh for RM10) - fluffy sponge like cake with little oil. Also from the promotional menu is the beef dumplings (3 pieces for RM12) - beef balls with a hint of ginger encased in a wantan wrapper that is deep fried.
antique looking vases, fluffy steamed layer cake, spring rolls, flower decoration and avocado rolls
I like their unusual chee cheong fun items - we sampled their grouper fillet version (RM11.50) which had chunks of the fish and the pan fried chee cheong fun with XO sauce (RM11.50). The pan fried version was unique and lovely as it was stuffed with the XO sauce, making each bite full of flavour. Another favourite was the ku chai dumplings (3 pieces for RM9). You can either order them steamed or pan fried. While it was a little oily, the dumplings were laden with spring onions and teeny weeny chopped prawns. The taro dumplings or wu kok (3 pieces for RM9) was also equally good with a light as air fluffy exterior and a soft yam texture. A must for all dim sum lovers is har gau (4 pieces for RM10) where prawns are encased in a transparent and soft skin. We also sampled the avocado rolls (RM9) - an unusual combo of creamy avocado with chopped bananas in a spring roll wrapped with crunchy kataifi pastry. The spring rolls (RM9) was nice and crispy but nothing exceptional in taste. My least favourite was the deep fried mango prawn rolls (RM10) since there was definitely a lack of sweet mango taste with the prawns. We ended the meal with their seafood noodles (RM35 for a small portion) - lovely strands of noodles braised and served with an abundant amount of seafood: prawns, scallops and fish. While the dim sum was not too salty, we did feel the noodles had a tad too much sodium. Nevertheless, the whole dim sum experience was enjoyable. Service is brisk especially after you have placed your orders. It can get a little chaotic especially on Sundays as the place can get packed to the brim.
The whole dining experience at Li Yen has been memorable indeed and we vowed to return for their dim sum as they definitely made us a fan with their healthier version of those delectable morsels to be enjoyed on a lazy Sunday. Also high on our priority list is another round of that gorgeous baked spare ribs with Chinese tea leaves with a bowl of piping hot white rice to savour.
Tel: 03-2142 8000
(Non Halal. Open for lunch from 12 noon to 2.30pm from Mondays to Saturdays, 10.30am to 2.30pm for Sundays and Public Holidays. For dinner, they are opened from 6.30-10.30pm daily. Mooncakes are available until 22 September. Reservations are advised especially for dim sum on Sunday lunchtime. For more pictures, see my Flickr set.)
*Notice: The reviewer declares that part of this review was by invitation from the restaurant. The mooncakes and dim sum were all paid for by the reviewer.