It was Saturday, my sisters supposed last day in Malaysia before flying back to the US, so once again we went out for dinner. This time it was all family and one good friend of my sister and so we headed off to Sam Yew Restaurant. This being an older area, Sam Yew has been around for ages, they even have a branch in PJ State, so I thought we would get some good food after days and days of eating good stuff.
We had an early dinner due to the flight time, 6.30 it was precisely when we entered the restaurant ushered in by Myanmar Staff, a girl who had shocking intonation when she spoke, and made it out like she was rude but in actual fact she was not. So she seated us and there were one or two other tables with customers. Looking around you could see this restaurant has been around for some time, because the walls looked like it needed a new coat of paint, and well there were some sections of the shop that looked downright grubby. I do not seem to understand why restaurants allow themselves to be like this after so many years of operation.
Where is the pride of having a spotless restaurant in a neighborhood like SS3? This is the case of most old restaurants that refuse to give themselves a facelift and then they wonder why younger people do not frequent their restaurant after a while. No doubts older people do come back for a while but still they should upkeep the place with some pride as this will reflect in the food that they prepare and sell.
Saw Yew lacked all these aspects. There was totally no ambiance, staff looked as lost and had no training whatsoever to deal with non Chinese speaking customers, they had no uniforms, no training in placing food and plates. It was a catastrophe waiting to happen.
Our food was preordered by the way, so we did not have to go through the whole rigmarole of ordering and quibbling about stuff. Don’t know if this was a good thing or bad, anyhow the food came after a few minutes.
We started out with Pork Spareribs with Sweet and Sour Sauce. Pretty standard, it was good, no complaints. The meat was not over fried, the sauce stuck on the meat rather nicely giving it a nice thick sweet and sour and also tangy coating. I like it, I only had one piece I think because it was devoured rather quickly. Well this was a pretty good start so I eagerly waited for the next dish which was Four Angled Beans or Kacang Botol.
Now I have to say the Four Angle Bean with pieces of Salted Fish had a very different twist to it. I have often eaten it with Sambal Belacan but I could not put my finger on how this one was cooked because it has a strange sour taste to it. It was not a citrussy sourness, it was not even a vinegar or a wine taste, but it was coated around the beans rather well and it was not too bad and it was not that good too. It was hard to decide. I do not think the rest liked it very much but I ate it. I was in vegetable mode. Again it was rather shiny, that means it was boiled in oily water for appearance. I wish sometimes people would accept things for what it is rather then appearance. But I guess it works both ways for human beings as well as foods.
Next the Braised Tofu came. It was starting to rain so it was a nice warming dish around the table. By the way the restaurant was starting to fill up with early diners. Several families with young kids were sitting around us. So back to Braised Tofu – taste wise, again it was hard to describe. Mum said it was sourish, I did not taste anything. It was not insipid, perhaps it was in between insipid and good. It was nothing to shout about I guess. Maybe its just personal taste, but I guess a restaurant that has been around for a long time should make something standard like this a little more outstanding. Saw Yew totally did not do it. Even the tofu was standard Japanese Tofu not homemade like some smaller establishments. The dish was not finished.
Yam Basket was next. This has always been my mums favorite so of course we had to eat it. The filling was seafood for some reason. According to my cousin, the lady who took our order said we did not need another meat, so she suggested seafood. Once again, the yam basket was insipid and the “basket” was in the beginnings of getting sour. This is because the yam basket was made earlier and uncovered hands was used to form its shape. This is the same when you make Indian Fish Cutlets. The starch reacts to the atmosphere and bacteria becomes acidic. Always be careful when cooking with anything with a high starch content. We were told mixed seafood, but I only ever saw two prawns and a few fish fillets. This dish lacked wholesomeness and flavor. There was no Wok Hei so to speak. Perhaps the stock used in Sam Yew’s cooking is not well prepared.
Another aspect of this dish I did not understand was having to cut snow peas into two. I have never ever eaten snow peas cut into two before. On a positive note, there was ample amounts of cashew nuts. Another fact about this restaurant is they cut their mushrooms into two. Now it was not even big mushrooms to start with. Presentation wise, even if they got much smaller mushrooms and kept them whole, it would have made things look homey and a little bit more expensive looking. Since Sam Yew is not even bothered with ambiance and other outwardly aspects of the restaurant, perhaps they could prepare very homely foods. What was worst was the tinned button mushrooms cut into four!
It was steamed Tilapia with a “curry” topping with vegetables like long beans, ladies finger, chilly and onions. Now I have to mention, almost every dish had onions. Is the onion being used as a cost saving measure? I only had the vegetables and a small piece of fish. The fish was fresh, no doubts, but the flavor was not there. Nothing acidic about the Assam Fish. The curry gravy was a trifle bit spicy, not sweetish and sourish. I think this was quite a disappointment to say the least. This was another dish that was not finished.
Now I seem to notice on the other tables, that they were getting nicer foods. It looked a lot nicer then our table, perhaps this is a case of the grass is always greener on the other side. But still it did look better. Perhaps what we were eating was nothing signature of the place.
The Crispy Fried Sotong was next. Now at first I really and truly did not know what it was. It looked like huge globs of batter fried to a crisp and we should eat it fast before it becomes soft. This was just absolutely shocking!
The batter was too big for the Squid Rings, the squid rings was tough and it was like eating chewing gum, it was tasteless. The batter was tasteless, the squid was tasteless and the chilly sauce they gave us did nothing to bring out the dish. A total disappointment. I am sure fried squid rings is a dish that always goes first, we did not even finish it.
We had noodles next, and by now everyone was either full or quite put off. The noodles were Kon Lo Mein, I liked it but again it was not tasty at all. It was full of ingredients, but not tasty. There was plenty of mushroom slivers, and minced pork and whole stalks of choy sum, but somehow once again, it just did not taste nice. Furthermore, bean sprouts was used, so you either ate the noodles quickly or the bean sprout will soften and make the noodle dish become very watery. Perhaps another vegetable should have been used.
Dessert was next, and after a rather disappointing meal hopefully desert would save grace. Alas our usually favorite dessert was a thorough disappointment. Just look at the photo and see how horribly it was presented. It was served on our table with totally no pride at all. I wonder if it was because we were non Chinese that we got treated like this. I know I am wrong to say this, but it made me think this way because how could one serve something that looked like that to a paying customer? It was disgustingly oily, the pastry was like curry puff pastry, it was a thorough put off?
And the cold dessert which was the usual Sea Coconut and Longan was another shocking disappointment. We had more ice then anything else, the longans was mediocre quality, not nice big ones like we had the previous night. The syrup was nothing but brown water. A thoroughly bad ending to a meal and most importantly my sisters last dinner in Malaysia till next year.
Sam Yew Restaurant. —- I am sorry but NEVER AGAIN!
For the last six days we had really good meals and the final one was just too terrible to talk about. Perhaps we were all stuffed too much to appreciate their so called good food, but I beg to differ. Two words – NO PRIDE!
My cousin who was sitting next to me sensed my disgust and quietly paid for the meal. I do not know how much it was, and I am sure it won’t be easy digging it out of her. I will though one of these days.
I am saying this because its sad to see something like this happen to an obviously family run business. Now they had another outlet, and I was told the food was extremely nice because my church had a party there. So why the difference? Why isn’t there standardization? Don’t these people realize that once I do not like your food in your first outlet, the chances of me going to your franchise is extremely slim. And I do not speak for myself. I am sure other people are the same. I would never ever recommend SamYew to my friends, not even if they live across the road from it.
I do hope things will improve. I may go there one day and taste other things. Perhaps as I mentioned earlier, what we ate was not their signature dishes. But still COOK WITH PRIDE! I forgot to see who was the cook, because i had to run to the car because of the rain. It would be interesting to see if the chef was local or from Myanmar, a phenomenon that is happening in a big way in our country today, hiring foreigners who have no concept of taste to cook our local foods. Training is one thing but it is not easy to adapt to our tastes. I am not saying that all these foreign cooks are not good because I have tasted nice food prepared in KL, so perhaps they need to look at this problem. If it is a local chef….. he needs a good kick up his behind!
By the way they packed our leftover food and my girls had it for dinner, and the Deep Fried Squid was still crispy!