Kuala Lumpur - Dim sum lunch at Marco Polo
Had Sunday dim sum lunch at Marco Polo Restaurant in Wisma Lim Foo Yong, Jalan Raja Chulan. For KL-lites, Marco Polo is a dim sum icon, having been in business since the 1960s and is one of KL's oldest Chinese restaurants (its great rival is Mandarin Palace at the Federal Hotel in Jalan Bukit Bintang, another legendary 1960s eating spot).
Back then, until the 1980s, you won't be able to get into Marco Polo without an advance booking. These days, thing seemed to have changed, as Marco Polo's dim sum dining hall looked half-empty - most KL-lites preferred Chinese restaurants which are located in upmarket malls these days, e.g. Ming Room in Bangsar Shopping Centre, Reunion in Bangsar Village, Li Yen at the Mandarin Oriental near Suria KLCC, Shanghai at the Ritz-Carlton opposite the Pavilion, Han Room at the Gardens Mall, etc.
The dim sum at Marco Polo's good, but not great - a far cry from its past whence its har-gau & siu-mai were legendary. What we had yesterday:
- Har-gau - fresh crunchy shrimps in translucent skin. Not as pretty as those you'd get at Crystal Jade (Gardens Mall) or dainty as the ones in Li Yen (Ritz-Carlton);
- Siu-mai - Marco Polo's version stood up well, taste-wise to those from the Overseas Group of restaurants, but their siu-mai did not have the reddish-crab roe topping which I'd expected to see.
- Loh mai kai - steamed glutinous rice - delicious!
- Chee cheung fun: one with shrimp filling, one with cha-siu filling. The rice rolls were thicker than normal but, taste-wise, like everything else, were good.
- Pan-fried aubergines with fishpaste filling in the middle - a touch of Hakka amidst all the Cantonese offerings.
- Cha-siu bao - the baos were smaller than usual, and the dough was not as fluffy. The cha-siu filling were thick & delicious, caramelised pork with sesame seeds.
- Fong chau - stewed chicken's feet. Very delicious & I loved the textures, even if a bit over-steamed here.
- Pei tan chok (century egg congee) had a dried oyster flavor which I didn't like (personal preference here) and I'm partial to the subtle version at Crystal Jade Restaurant.
It's a satisfying meal, but not a place I'd go back again in a hurry. KL has got too many other better Cantonese restaurant these days, and Marco Polo did not seem to have moved with the times much.
Service-wise, the wait-staff were all middle-aged women who're very experienced and who seemed to have worked there all their lives. Decor looked a bit tired, with an 80s feel to it.
Marco Polo Restaurant
1st Floor, Wisma Lim Foo Yong
86, Jln Raja Chulan
50200 Kuala Lumpur
BTW it is clear the place is not 'halal'. I had not thought about it until now, but are all dim-sum places in KL not 'halal', or do those in public hotels [which I understand from you in a previous post are all 'halal'] serve "modified dim-sum" - e.g. no normal siu-mai or char-siu or steamed pork spare ribs etc ?
Mandarin Palace is (surprisingly) non-halal from what I've heard - I had planned to have lunch there with some friends this Saturday, but had to cancel our plans when a planned pro-democracy demonstration by Bersih (organized by a non-governmental organization) in town threatened to erupt into a violent confrontation with UMNO-supported Perkasa, an ultra-rightwing Malay rights group who threatened all Chinese to "stock up on food & stay at home"! Basically meant they'd attack anyone who looked Chinese in downtown KL! I am still coming to grips with life here. I do live to eat, but I'm not about to lose my life over a dim sum meal :-D
Malay religious and nationalistic zeal in the country seems to be ever present, then. Perkasa being supported by UMNO, the main party of the government, says all one needs to know about the politics of the place!
Food-wise, hopefully you can continue to sample Chinese foodstuffs around town for the time you are there without (always) risking life and limb!