Ox Marks The Spot
It's the year of the ox! Contemporary Chinese restaurant Yen at W Kuala Lumpur celebrates the 2021 Lunar New Year with a pop art makeover and familiar and inventive yee sang variations, festive dishes and desserts, limited time dim sum, and of course set menus. All items are currently available until February 26, giving you ample time to plan a much-needed reunion with your loved ones once the MCO 2.0 eases up.
Members of the media and writers such as myself were actually invited to Yen in December for a sneak preview, and I gotta say I enjoyed my dining experience. Those unfamiliar should know that Yen is a pork-free. However, it still manages to overcome that lack of pork using premium ingredients and a signature cooking style that infuses contemporary touches with a classic Cantonese foundation.
Those looking to avoid a dull CNY celebration will appreciate Yen's novel decor and cuisine, the former of which has just received a facelift in light of the coming festivities. On display around the restaurant are several bright, bold, and in-your-face pop art pieces on the current Asian landscape by the Gung Ho collective, a group of artists comprised of Edith Ho, Jonny Zerox, and Lim Kok Hong.
Yee Sang Sitch
One thing I look forward to every year is the endlessly creative takes on yee sang, one of my favourite CNY foods to indulge in. This year, Yen keeps it lean with four variations. There's the:
▻ Premium jellyfish yee sang with Korean snow pear and avocado oil
(half portion – RM118; full portion – RM228)
▻ Norwegian salmon yee sang with air dread Szechuan fish chips and crispy salted fish skin
(half portion – RM118; full portion – RM228)
▻ Qiandao Lake angel beads yee sang with crispy lobster meat and soft shell crab
(half portion – RM188; full portion – RM388)
▻ Caviar, gold flakes, truffle oil and abalone yee sang
(half portion – RM248; full portion – RM488)
I tried the salmon yee sang during my tasting, which I particularly enjoyed and that I find most will gravitate towards. The mix of fish chips and skin really added a nice, mildly spicy crunch to an otherwise classic offering. Easy to enjoy and always fun to do, Yen's yee sang hit all the right notes and had a good balance of sweet and savoury.
Take away yee sang is available too.
Dim Sum Dance
God, I love dim sum. And there are four unique creations Yen has prepared for CNY. Diners can go for the imaginative steamed prosperity mandarin orange dumplings with bird's nest the very modern oven-baked fatt choy abalone pie with chicken onion filling. Even the humble xiao long bao receives a festive twist, made with a herbal broth and gold flakes, and the deep-fried golden fun guo with superior chive soup.
The mandarin orange dumplings were surprisingly tasty, mainly because I don't usually enjoy having bird's nest. However, these were tangy and slightly sweet, a fun little creation in ode to the humble mandarin orange. The fatt choy pie with abalone was also a fun and modern take on a beloved festive dish, incorporating Western influences into what is still a predominantly oriental dish. The xiao long bao had a lovely and light herbal tinge with a relatively clean taste (thanks to the chicken), while the deep fried fun guo dumpling was a welcoming twist on an otherwise steamed Teochew classic, especially when taken with chilli oil.
Set menus are an undeniably fuss-free way for you and your family to share a good meal and a few laughs. My party of four had the Rich Fortune set menu (RM288 per person; minimum two persons), which was a seven-course meal that started with the salmon yee sang, as mentioned earlier.
All good set menus have soup one an entry, and the restaurant's mini "monk jumped over the wall" soup was a nutritious broth that really gets the ball rolling. The soup featured a premium seafood mix of abalone – fish maw, sea cucumber, and sun-dried Hokkaido scallop – and had a wholesome taste that really warmed the body and prepared the palate for the meal ahead. There is just something about a well made Chinese soup that really does wonders for the soul, and this tasted and felt deliciously nourishing.
Next, there's wok-fried lobster meat, arrowhead, asparagus, and truffles in a lettuce cup. Despite me not being a fan of truffles, the taste was surprisingly minor, and the flavour profile instead focused more on the succulent lobster and the arrowhead and asparagus duo. It's a welcoming luxe twist on the more familiar egg and radish fillings that usually come with lettuce wraps.
Dish number four swaps focus to vegetable territory – braised Hong Kong pak choy in a fish broth with fish maw. A light and fresh serving, it was a welcoming prelude to the last savoury, carb dish on the menu – braised Hokkaido crab claw with Nepalese rock rice, organic quinoa and crispy rice. The combination of rice, quinoa, and puffed rice in a semi-thick gravy was a great alternative to the atypical fried rice served near a meal's end. The crab claw itself was plump and sweet, balanced by the green bite of asparagus and the grains' earthiness.
All set menus come with two desserts – a streamed traditional layered ninko with osmanthus and a gold ingot and a sweetened mandarin orange soup with lotus seeds, water chestnut, and a green tea dumpling. The former was a fresh take on ninko, steamed and combined with a light floral jelly to balance the glutinous rice's density. The latter, on the other hand, doubled as a palate cleanser. Not too sweet and rather refreshing, the actual bits of mandarin orange and the somewhat bold flavoured green tea dumpling is a creative take on the typical tong shui.
Intrigued? Take a look at Yen's Chinese New Year menus.