Sherman's Food Adventures: Kaya Malay Bistro Presents "Welcome the Prosperous Pig” Dinner

Kaya Malay Bistro Presents "Welcome the Prosperous Pig” Dinner

Normally, when one thinks of Chinese New Year dinner, a 10-course spread including soup, lobster or crab, fish, chicken, pork and beef come to mind.  It represents many different things, in particular, prosperity and wealth.  If one was to eat out for CNY, many restaurants offer such dinners.  The usual suspects include Kirin, Red Star, Western Lake, Chef Tony and many more as the list is endless, especially in the GVRD.  However, did you know that Kaya Malay Bistro offers up their own CNY 8-course dinner?  Now you might think this sounds rather strange, but for the many ethnic Chinese in Malaysia, they celebrate CNY with similar dishes, but also ones that are unique.  This is where Kaya comes in, giving the opportunity for us to experience a Chinese Malaysian CNY meal.  I was invited recently, along with Jacqueline, to try it out.

We began with the Lotus Root Soup with chicken feet and peanuts.  For us, this was a classic Chinese homemade soup that wasn't complex on the surface, but definitely good for the soul.  It was lightly silky with the natural sweetness from the chicken feet coming through.  Subtle aromatics all around where the salt content was restrained.  Personally, I love lotus root and the ample slices were tender while retaining a sticky bite.  Next up, we were presented with the Smoked Salmon Yu Sheng Salad consisting of julienned carrots, cucumber, daikon, scallions, red pepper, cilantro, marinated jellyfish, pickled ginger, wonton crisps and smoked salmon.  The smoked salmon took the place of raw fish as Kaya isn't known for their sushi.  To properly eat the salad, one must "Lo Hay" or mix the ingredients.  That we did and yes, the textures were abundant as well as the combination of tangy, sweet, salty and the unmistakeable essence of cilantro.

My favourite dish was the Fish Head Hot Pot featuring local salmon.  Normally, one would find cod or basa in this, but the salmon gave the hot pot more body.  With that being said, the salmon was not heavy nor overcooked.  It was flaky and moist with almost a cod-like texture.  Loved the tang in the sauce really helped brighten up the flavours of the sauce.  Hidden within, we found the usual fried tofu, napa cabbage and roasted pork.  Presented as a smaller portion (since it was only Jacqueline and myself), the Kumquat Chicken was full-flavoured.  Yes, the sauce was essentially a sweet n' sour, but there was a unique sweetness from the kumquat.  I found the chicken to be tender with a uniformly cooked exterior batter.  The addition of Mandarin orange segments added pops of natural sweetness.

To get some veggies into the meal, we were served a Malaysian dish in the Wok-Fried Green Beans and Eggplant with tomatoes and shrimp.  I've had this dish several times before at Kaya and it was as solid as usual with crunchy, yet cooked-all-the-way-through, green beans and tender eggplant.  The version here, compared to other Malay restaurants in town, tends to be sweeter with less spice.  There was good wok hay which meant there was proper carmelization with no moisture leakage from the veggies.  Another favourite of mine was the Braised Lamb Shank.  No joke, this was one of the best executed lamb shanks I've had in a while (including fine dining restaurants).  This was perfectly and uniformly tender with the classic gelatinous texture from the lamb.  Flavours were impactful without being salty.

Of course the meal ended off the main dishes with a carb being the Seafood Golden Fried Rice.  This was chock full of tender baby scallops and large crunchy shrimp.  There was good wok heat where the rice was chewy and fragrant.  There was enough seasoning so that the rice could stand on its own without the need for any condiments.  To finish, we were served the Malaysian Nian Goa with sweet yam and taro.  These were deep fried with a thin crispy exterior giving way to a sticky and moderately sweet nian goa.  I found the yam and taro a bit firm, but the flavours really worked.  Moreover, there was quite the textural contrast.  So that's the Malaysian Chinese New Year dinner one can find at Kaya.  I would say this is pretty unique and ultimately tasty as well.  It costs $38.00 per person for a minimum table of 4 (dish sizes will be bigger than what we had).

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Something a bit different
- Well executed proteins
- No absence of flavour

The Bad:
- Well, you'll need at least 4 people (is that a negative?)
- Taro and yam could've been softer

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