Pantai Seafood Restaurant – Jalan Cempaka, Kampung Sungai Ara, Petaling Jaya

Driving on Friday evening for  dinner at 6 pm is quite shocking I must say but since Sister was around, so I made an attempt to go out for dinner with the family and friends.  I  was not too keen to get caught in the traffic and so I was actually good with my sense of direction because we were the last to leave, and we still go there early.  We did not get caught in traffic and so I was pleased.

Now I had no idea of Pantai Seafood Restaurant.  I am not a fan of seafood so I guess I am quite ignorant to places like this.  This is bad I must say, but I guess because I do not get around much, I find going to places like this which is kind of secluded from other places to be quite a chore.  So here we were in the car looking for the place and low and behold, you have to be blind to actually overlook it because of the bright lights and banners and the building that stands out rather well.  I did have my reservations of a place called Pantai in the middle of PJ; I did expect to see some sea and the fact that there was no water feature or sea or river of any sort in the vicinity I again thought to myself, “Now where the hell are we?”.

We were ushered by  Nepalese Parking Attendant, he was very pleasant unlike most Nepalese who are so rigid that if you do not park your car straight they may just jab you with a Stun Gun.  This one was pleasant, smiled and made us feel welcome. A plus point I should say to my current feelings of the place.  And parking was absolutely easy, in fact even with the place half full, all three cars were parked near the entrance.  They do have ample parking which is a plus point because I hate having to look for parks when I am wanting to eat out – and its free.

I entered, it is a big place I thought, and it was already half full and it was still early by Malaysian Dinner Time Standards.  I am one of the few weird people who like to eat at 6.30 at the latest, although my friends and family have chosen to ignore this idiosyncrasy of mine like a bad smell!

I saw my group sitting right at the corner of the restaurant, so that was good because I had a view of the whole place to check out all through dinner, the who’s who, the who’s wearing what, and who’s eating what, so I was quite happy.  So we waited for Annie and Kenny to come and so we ordered away.

I am sure everyone was prewarned  of my dislike of finicky seafood because I just do not like to dirty my fingers when I eat so I think Annie was quite careful with her ordering. I actually ordered a seafood dish much to everyone’s shock.

The food came rather quickly, in fact less then 10 minutes flat, we had almost half of what we ordered on the table.  And I have to add this restaurant was full of people as well.  So out came the Kai Lan in two styles.  I did not know what Annie ordered, so here was the Two Style Kai Lan staring me in the face.  I did not mind the one style but I really and truly disliked the other. I just feel deep frying a vegetable till its crispy is the worst culinary innovation.  To me, making something healthy totally less healthy is just shocking to the core.  Furthermore it looked like I had a plateful of Crinkly Hair on my plate. Not a Favorite of mine, although I did taste it.  The other style of Kai Lan was nice and good enough for me.  It was simple and no hassle.

The Crispy Fried Salt and Pepper Squid was rather pleasant as well. Maybe presentation wise something could have been done to prettify it to make it more photogenic, But I guess in a restaurant like this one cannot expect much.  Nevertheless, the squid pieces was not rubbery and over fried. In fact it was just right, and I did not even need to dip it in sauce. I liked the garlic bits with the tiny bits of chilly all over it.  Note I am not a fan of fried foods, but this one was pleasant and tasty.  The fact that they could use the whole squid and cut it into bite size pieces meant it was easy to pick and place in the mouth without having to tug and pull at the squid.

Next was the dish I ordered, Mantis Prawn Kong Poa Style.  And I have to say everyone just loved it.  I was quite proud of myself there because I got a crowd favorite.  The Mantis Prawn flesh was sued so no hassle of picking and pulling, just pick up with chopsticks and stick it in the mouth.  To me this is how all seafood should be eaten, just pick and put in the mouth and no fiddling, and pulling and worst of all pulling bones from the mouth!  There was an ample amount of cashwenuts as well.  The piquant taste of the sauce was slight and not overpowering and the pieces of onions were rather sweet as well.  I liked this dish as you can see, so no complaints. The Mantis Prawns were nice to bite, and almost perfectly cooked, not undercooked or overcooked.  I could have had a whole plate to myself actually.

Braised Tofu was next, actually not the next, in fact they came all together with the first three dishes.  That was how fast the chefs in Pantai Seafood Cook.  I wonder what their kitchen must be like because there were literally hundreds of people in the restaurant.  Pantai Seafood Restaurant, has many doors for people to come through I noticed, people were milling through from all directions.  They even have private rooms of whole sections that can be cordoned off for weddings or private parties.  I guess this is the reason for the many doors.  It’s also well staffed as we had our own little Nepalese waiter waiting for us hand and foot, And he too was rather pleasant.

Ok Braised Tofu, nice, not extraordinary.  Pieces of Tofu which was suppose to me homemade, and  with a light sauce and minced pork all over it. It came sizzling so I guess that’s what makes it a favorite.  Lot’s of people do not realize that , sizzling dishes are not cooked in the plate they come served. The food is cooked separately in a wok and poured into a hot plate that has been left on the fire to heat up. The dish was nice and perhaps homey in its own way.

One this I have to say about the four dishes served so far was that they were all small portions.  There were nine of us and it was barely enough.  I guess that could be a marketing tool here, “Keep it Lean, and Make them Keen”!

I think it worked, because we did order a lot of things.

The next was the Pork Knuckle. Again I had my reservations with this because if it is not cooked well, it is going to have a horrible smell and an after taste which I do not like at all.  The dish was presented to us whole and I noticed it was deep fried, so hence the name Crispy Pork Trotters.  As soon as it was presented, it was sent back and chopped into pieces and served with this funny looking sauce. Now I wonder what would happen if they presented the meat and we did not like the look of it? Although I doubt that ever happens, because not being an avid pork person, I thought it was rather nice.  It was obviously boiled till soft and then deep fried in rally hot oil, not left in the oil to fry but a touch the oil and remove quickly cooking method.  It did not have that porky smell or taste which suited me fine, though I think it could have been seasoned a little more.  Now I had one thing to pick here and it was the sauce they gave us. Nine of us and that little bowl of dipping sauce.  But I realized in the end no one touched the sauce because I did and found it to be rather insipid and dull.  It was like thicken water with some oil drizzled on it for visual effect, not taste!  It was neither peppery, or salty or even sour.  It was just a waste of space on the table.  With the amount of stock that passes through that kitchen, I am sure the chefs could have concocted something nicer.  The meat was nice but the gravy was not.

Next was my mums favorite, Crabs coated in Salted Egg Yolk.  I had this a few times in other places and it was pleasantly nice. I did not bother eating the crab but more so scooped the salted egg yolk with a spoon and ate it. The tinge of crab and salted egg yolk was extremely nice.  Not the healthiest of choices but why does everything unhealthy seem so tasty?  We had all of two crabs,  in this style. It was nice, a little oily for my liking but the Crab was fresh of course.  The meat was soft and had a lot of taste. I tasted it because mum broke the shell for me.  The only reason I will eat crab is if someone does all that.  This is a very rich dish when you think of it, calorifically speaking that is.

The next crab dish was Marmite Crab. Again two crabs, with marmite like sauce. Pleasant tasting, salt, sweet taste and the gravy goes well with hot rice for some reason.  I did not have rice but pinched a mouthful from my brother.  Everyone liked it, because they all ate silently.  I always think Crabs are dishes you cook and eat at home,  because the public just watches you making a mess of yourself at the table.  But I guess you’re in a seafood restaurant so that’s allowed.

I  have to add, the crabs were not too large, in fact in was a little under the medium size, but at RM38 per dish, I guess its fine.

Next we had Japanese Snails. I’ve never had Japanese Snails before, Ann ordered it.  It was Shelless Crustaceans on a plate,  it too came with a pleasant sauce, not too heavy or overpowering. I found the Snails rather rubbery. I think it was probably the way it was cooked because snails are seldom rubbery unless overcooked.  But I guess, having limp looking snail on your plate is not a pretty sight as well.  It was pleasant enough to eat though, chewy but nice.  I thought it looked like Escargot though, but I was told it was Japanese Snails.

The next was another Japanese Snail Dish, this time Escargot style with shell and all. Complete with Bechamel Sauce and  cheese.  I had two shells, it was nice, somehow it was served at the wrong time of the meal, but I guess we’re Malaysians so anything goes.  Obviously the snail is placed into the shell and topped with béchamel and cheese, it was easy to remove with a toothpick so it was practically mess free.  It was grilled lightly so the cheese was not burnt.  A nice golden hue it was so it was pleasant to the eye of course and in most cases to many diners these days, pleasant to the eye means wonderful for the palate.  It was nevertheless. I shan’t say anything more.

The next was vegetables, by this time I was craving more vegetables, and so we had Sweet Potato Leaves with Garlic.  It was simple, no frills kind of dish, so it was nice for me. I  have this tendency these days to like simple styles of food, and so this suited me nicely.  Everyone was kind of full, so I had heaps of vegetable to eat. Although I must say it was a trifle bit shiny, so that means it was high in oil.  Again, this is something of a pet hate for me.  But I guess people do eat with their eyes so there you go. In fact it was so shiny my camera flash made the dish invisible a few times.

Ahhhh… dessert, a cold dessert and a hot dessert. Hot dessert was Lotus Paste Pancake. It was nice and crispy and not overly oily. This is always a firm favorite of my family so it is important for it to be good.  This one was really good and not enough.  The Cold Dessert was Longan and Sea Coconut.  It was nice to actually see a lot of Sea Coconut and nice big fat Longans.  There were heaps. The photo was taken after the 9 bowls were portioned, and yet we still had more. Truly a nice ending to a convivial evening with friend and family.

So my verdict, I would go back to the place for a meal if I have a group of friends from overseas.  The variety is pretty good and the quality is fine I should say. The price for all our food and beverage that night was RM333.75, which I thought was rather good.  All my reservations of the place should have been left at home.  The place was comfortable, and while there was not much of an ambiance to start with, if you walked around you could have seen the aquariums of fish, prawns and shell fish. It was a sight to behold. I took a photo but my camera shut off for some reason.

It was raining when we left, and the traffic going out was quite shocking because the road was narrow and somehow it was eating time for most Malaysians.  It was easier coming in then going out.  I still have to say the area was really unassuming for a seafood restaurant, so never judge a restaurant by its area!

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