Cravings - old and newBY MICHAEL D’OLIVEIRO
359, Ground Floor
1-Utama Shopping Centre
Lebuh Bandar Utama
Petaling Jaya, Selangor
(03) 7727 2581
Opens daily from 10am to 10pm.
The new wing of 1-Utama Shopping Centre in Petaling Jaya offers many new restaurants. I guess the name says it all. But I recently discovered Oriental Cravings, a restaurant that turns the pages back a couple of generations and delivers some mouth-watering sensations long-lost to us.
Like the food, it presents a contrasting visual pastiche that is almost black and white: Appropriately enough, the place has a black-and-white feel about it, like those long ago photos. Dark tables are set strongly against the white-tiled walls. Black frames encase old family photographs. All of this is in good taste, of course. And certainly, it seemed inviting when we first walked in.
Under a large rectangular mirror (a respectful nod to feng shui by the owners), we took a step into familiar and yet unchartered territory. I tried the Charcoal Roasted Segamat Coffee (RM3.50), and found it flavorsome and strong. Probably not recommended Probably not the thing to have if you’re there for a late dinner and need to be up early the next day. Alternatively, you can also try the Hainanese Tea (RM4) which is mixed with coffee and Milo as well. Talk about eclectic.
We also tried the Sour Plum Kasturi (RM4.80). Surprisingly, it was served in a dark, soupy concoction that revealed a more bitter-sweet herbal taste. We were quickly assured that this was the real McCoy. The drink is most often commercialised in food courts and usually brighter in colour.
It gradually dawned upon me that Oriental Cravings was a restaurant devoted to much of the older cuisines of our parents and grandparents. Further queries revealed that much of the menu was dialect-driven. Hakka, Hainanese and Hokkien are the principal inspirations. But care was taken to update the old with new ideas too.
The Lotus Root Petai (RM15) was another surprise. I tend to think of the lotus as a herbal ingredient but Oriental Cravings presented the sliced young root as a truly crunchy vegetable eaten with petai, minced pork and some cili padi. We took this with steamed fragrant rice (RM1.20).
We offset the dryness with Beancurd with Mushroom (RM12), which was ample for two. It came with ingredients like crabmeat, prawns, minced meat, mushrooms and vegetables. The dish was neither salty nor thin, and was an excellent, healthy alternative as well.
The Crunchy Oatmeal Prawn (RM25.90) was hardly Chinese. But this invention of the chef’s – prawns in flakes of oatmeal fried in butter and sugar – sounded good all the same. Garnished with curry leaves, the dish was inviting and fragrant. We wiped the plate clean.
Prices were reasonable, considering the large. The service was also friendly despite a couple of mistakes with the orders.
It was a delicious culinary adventure that revealed more about dialect dishes then I ever knew existed. The blend of old and new, and the nice ambience make Oriental Cravings a restaurant that will appeal to both the old and young.