Polly Szantor and photographer Cheryl Hoffmann enjoy an inspired Chinese New Year set menu at The Hilton, Kuala Lumpur.
Dining at atmospheric Chynna took me back to the little lanes and alleys of ancient Pingyao, a historic walled city in Shanxi Province; there was something so authentically Chinese here, so enticingly foreign. The table settings were delightful, with beautiful hand-painted plates showing scenes of China in days gone by.
Award-winning Executive Chef Lam Hock Hin has created four special set menus especially for Chinese New Year and Chynna is the perfect place to celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Black Water Snake.
We sampled Set Menu 3, Scholarly Honour of Rank and Wealth, and were lucky to try two of Chef Lam’s Yee Sang combinations. (There are five varieties on the a la carte menu.) His signature Hakka-style Lao Sang was served with Sea Bird’s Nest and MD2 pineapple from the Philippines. The flavour was reminiscent of Yee Sang that I’ve enjoyed in the past, enhanced with the sweet sour pineapple. The unexpected Lei Cha Lao Sang, making use of well-bruised basil and rice-bran oil, emanated a wonderful green fragrance and tasted fresh and healthy. I couldn’t decide which I preferred, meaning that I had to keep trying a little bit more of each!
Thick and rich, the Shanghai-style Braised Shredded Abalone with Sea Cucumber and Fish Maw was brimming with fine strands of abalone, sliced mushrooms and sea cucumber - another healthy and tasty dish.
The intriguingly named Poached, Free-range Eunuch Chicken with Wincarnis Sauce refers to a capon, which is a castrated chicken. Chef Lam explained that capons can weigh up to 5kgs, and are prized for the distinctive texture of their flesh, which is neither tender nor tough. Chef described it best by calling it “crunchy”, and indeed there was a bounce to the meat that I’ve never experienced before. Wincarnis is a British tonic wine, invented over a hundred years ago. It imbued the sauce with herbal overtones, which complemented the poached chicken without overpowering it.
The Steamed Marble Goby didn’t have the most attractive face at the table, however its flesh was sweet and tender and the accompanying Tauchu Chili Sauce added exactly the right amount of spice.
Doesn’t the glistening Braised Abalone in Dried Scallop Sauce look enticing? This dish, with its generous portions of abalone, sun-dried oysters and sea cucumber, evoked the smell and taste of the ocean on a clear blue day.
These large Bamboo Clams with Spicy Home-made Dried Shrimp Sauce were sweet and only a little chewy. The sauce was perfect – not too spicy but zingy enough to perk up the taste buds.
The Bean Vermicelli with Minced Meat Sichuan Style, aptly nicknamed Ants on Trees, was my sort of dish. I love chewy noodles, and these were prepared with very little oil and super-finely ground chicken. They were spicy but not burningly so and I ate every last strand.
I often find a lotus and red date dessert rather tasteless, but Chef Lam’s version was much more appealing, with slightly sour red dates and a refreshing sweetness to the liquor. The only fried dish on the menu was the traditional Deep-fried Nian Gao with banana. A crispy bite revealed the chewy glutinous rice flour filling surrounding sweet banana - a fitting end to a most delectable and refined meal.
In addition to the main dining area there are several private rooms, making Chynna the ideal venue for business, family or romantic dining. Almost all the dishes were either braised, steamed, poached or boiled, so it’s a remarkably healthy CNY menu. Also, Chynna is a pork-free restaurant and they do NOT serve Shark’s Fin. Bravo Chynna!
Reason to visit: To taste authentic, wholesome Chinese food in a beautiful setting.
Prices for the set menus range from 178.80++ per person to RM398.80++ per person for a table of 10 guests. Hilton Premier Cardholders enjoy discounts of 20% off the set menus, while CIMB World Mastercard, Visa Infinite and Visa Signature, CIMB Platinum, Gold and Classic Credit Cardholders are entitled to a 15% discount.
For reservations, please call (60) 3 2264-2592/2596 or visit: www.life.hiltonkl.com
Hilton Kuala Lumpur Hotel
3 Jalan Stesen Sentral
Kuala Lumpur 50470
"The Yum List supports a shark's fin free Chinese New Year for the prosperity of our oceans and the sustainable future of our global community."