Canton Fare @ Solaris, Mont Kiara
The King of Roasts
It’s Saturday. 12 noon. My stomach is rumbling. I’ve skipped breakfast in anticipation of a great meal to come.
I was introduced to this restaurant by a Red FM listener, Donald Teh. Donald got in touch via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and told me I absolutely had to try the food at Canton Fare. Apparently, it serves the best roast meat in KL. Always the cynic, I mentally slap myself back to reality. No expectations, no disappointments.
Just under a year after the opening of its second branch at Solaris (the first is at Plaza Damansara), Canton Fare has already built up quite a reputation as ‘The King of Roasts”.
“Hmm… (I think to myself) Every King needs a Queen…”
“I want to know what you think of the food. Good or bad.”
That’s one of the first things owner Gan Kok Beng says to me as I sit myself down at a round table boasting a ‘lazy-susan’ as the centerpiece.
The deco is stylish and modern, yet classically Chinese at the same time. It’s the combination of eggshell walls flanked by wooden carvings and vases, teamed with bursts of red paneling and the warm lighting puts me at ease.
Normally when I think of roast duck or Cantonese cuisine, I think of two extremes. Sitting in a coffee shop hidden somewhere in PJ or splurging out on a fine dining at Chinese Restaurant in a hotel. Canton Fare takes the best of both worlds and serves it on a plate with a smile. It combines the highly sought after hawker taste with immaculately prepared dishes served with the finesse you would get in a top restaurant. Just without paying an arm and a leg for it.
A whole duck (RM 68) was brought out for inspection as we waited for everyone to arrive.
A lengthy discussion on the price of ducks and which restaurant in KL serves the most ducks in a day follows. Gan tells me they go through about 15 ducks on a slow day and up to 30 when the restaurant is bustling. Together with his business partner Chua Ying Ying, an architect, they travel abroad at least 3 times a year to source recipes and taste the finest of Cantonese Cuisine. After many taste tests and witnessing the skills of their highly sought after chef, each dish is tweaked and refined before finally making the cut to be on the menu. I say goodbye to the duck as it is carted off to the kitchen.
Alex Tang, Canton Fare’s accommodating manager, ushers in our starters when he notices Terry(Red FM Drive), Nisha (Red FM Late Night Love Songs), Jeremy (Red Evenings) and I munching away at our pickled green chili in soya sauce.
Let the royal feast begin!
I stared at the dark blue, translucent wedges of egg in front of me for only a second before popping one in my mouth. A velvety smooth layer of yolk coated my tongue, not too strong in flavour, with just a hint of jelly consistency from the white. Century Eggs, an acquired taste which when combined with the pickled ginger or house specialty pickled papaya, would only put an RM 6.00 dent in your wallet.
The Jelly Fish with Sliced Mango was subtle and refreshing, while the Crispy Deep Fried White Bait is mildly addictive. I am distracted momentarily by a waitress who refills my dainty cup with hot Jasmine tea. I take a sip and move on to a house specialty, the Canton Fare Wonton. RM 8 will get you six enormous won tons, generously stuffed with juicy mince and prawn, soaked in a clear broth made from dried shrimp.
We were off to a good start, and things continued to look up when out came our Peking Duck. Delicately sliced to include some crispy skin and tender breast, served with shredded onions, cucumber, plum sauce and pancakes, it’s a ‘roll your own’ dish. I was transported back to the Four Seasons Restaurant in Bayswater, London, a place I used to frequent when I needed the comforting tastes of home.
Rolling 101: Take a pancake, smother a layer of plum sauce, add a few slices of duck, top it off with the shredded onions and cucumber, and don’t forget to ask for Canton Fare’s ‘sambal’ to give it a kick. Roll as you would do a taco, or fajita, fold the ends to secure, open wide and enjoy!
“Surely that can’t be the whole duck?” I ask, after we’d polished off the last of the paper thin pancakes. “Ahh. It’s not,” replies Gan. “The rest is coming at the end of the meal,” he assures. I smile.
I had plenty to keep me occupied, what with Canton Fare’s signature Two Roast Meats.
The first kind was, I dare say, was the best ‘Char Siew’ I’ve had. Ever. Succulent meat coated in a sticky, caramelized outer layer of crackling, with a distinct sweet BBQ aftertaste. The second kind of roast meat was the Siew Yoke. Simple, yet bursting with flavour, greatly enhanced by dipping it first in mustard, then sugar. It was a scramble for the last piece, and we ended up ordering a second plate.
The Claypot Cod Fish Head is also another specialty, cooked the Canton Fare way with superior soy sauce.
Not a big fish-lover myself, I could still appreciate the exceptional flavour and preparation of this dish, and Nisha confirmed my suspicions by polishing off the whole head.
Along came the prawns. Of course, this was a dish I could truly appreciate!
Slightly disappointed that there were no prawn heads in sight, that thought flew out of my mind as I bit into the Sa Zhi Prawns. This dish is similar to Salad Prawns, but the sauce less overpowering in consistency. Deep fried first, then coated in a light mixture of mayonnaise, honey and chili that make the Sa Zhi dressing, the coating of sesame seeds were just the icing on the cake.
Always a fan of sweet and savoury dishes, I adored the Salted Eggyolk Pumpkin. It’s simple. I love salted egg and I love pumpkin. But I’ve never thought of combining the two.
A warm and creamy, sweet orange pumpkin filling awaits you as you chew into the crispy salted egg yolk batter. Fashioned to resemble French Fries, these are extremely easy to eat and very, very Moorish. You have been warned. They will disappear before your very eyes.
If you still have space, don’t forget to try the Steamed Drunken Chicken made with rice wine and the Brocolli with Mushroom braised in brown sauce.
And of course, I made room enough for the rest of the roast duck served flash fried with thin egg noodles. Oh yes, I made plenty of room for that, and almost didn’t have any space left for the Mango Pudding and….
Going back to Gan’s request at the start of the meal, I tried. I really tried, to find something wrong with the food. I just couldn’t. Dish after dish was served, and with every dish I found myself ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ in joyous surprise, as bite after bite continued to surprise and satisfy. What is Canton Fare’s Secret? No MSG, a passion for food and a constant strive for perfection.
Canton fare is everything it promises to be, and more. The King Of Roasts indeed. I’ll be your Queen. Anytime…
Wanna try it for yourself? Tune in to win RM 100 vouchers to Canton Fare!
The Big Red Food Review with me Aly. Only on Red FM, Today’s Best Music.
No.5 Jalan Solaris 4,
Solaris Mt Kiara,
50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-6203 0223