Sun, 13 Jun 2004

Seafood restaurant serves it Hong Kong style

Maria Endah Hulupi, Contributor, Jakarta

In Hong Kong, there is a fishing village which for over a century has been famous for its seafood restaurants. What makes Lei Yue Mun in Kowloon special is that customers can choose the type of seafood they want, and then have it cooked fresh before their eyes.

Customers first stop in at the huge fish market nearby to buy fresh seafood and then take it to one of the seafood restaurants to be cooked the way they want it.

Jakarta residents need not go all the way to Hong Kong to enjoy such an experience (and the experience of picking one's own fish fresh from the pond is also offered by many a local Sundanese restaurant).

Lung Mun seafood restaurant in the Wisma Standard Chartered Bank Building on Jl. Jend. Sudirman, Central Jakarta, professes to offer as close to the Hong Kong experience one can find in the middle of the city.

The modern Chinese restaurant, a branch of Lung Mun restaurant in Hong Kong, offers a range of locally caught items like fish, lobster and shrimp, as well as some much sought-after imported ones, including abalone, snow crab, king crab, whelk and scallops.

"We try to maintain one shipment from Hong Kong every week to provide favorite items, including seasonal items," said the managing director of PT Aneka Selera Boga, which runs the restaurant, Lim Ai Djun Sam.

Since the key to delectable seafood is its freshness, the restaurant keeps the different creatures in tanks at specially controlled temperatures, for those which live in more temperate climates and also cold water fish.

The former are attractively displayed in tanks near the restaurant's entrance.

The restaurant has four cooking teams, including one in charge of dim sum, each of which is headed by a chef from Hong Kong. For each seafood item, the kitchen team can come up with over 20 different ways of cooking it.

For those spoiled for choice and unable to make up their minds, the staff will also give recommendations on how a selected item can be best enjoyed.

"This is because some fish are good for steaming, some others are delicious for stir fry or for soup," Sam said.

Despite the extensive methods of cooking, customers are free to request an item cooked the way they want it, including if they have special dietary needs.

"Anything they would like to try, they only need to discuss it with the kitchen staff," he said.

To give the dishes their distinctive flavors, Sam explained that the oil and the sauces that the restaurant uses have been preprocessed with the addition of several important ingredients in them.

The restaurant also ensures that its customers get their money's worth by making sure that no parts of the sea creatures go to waste.

For instance, a plate of lobster sashimi does not mean that the lobster meal ends with the last piece of the raw, succulent flesh that you swallow.

The diner will be offered another delectable dish, prepared using the remaining part of the lobster, its head, which can be cooked into other mouthwatering dishes.

"Nothing is wasted and this way guests can get the most out of each of the items they order in several ways," Sam said.

Charges are not based on the elaborate meals but by the weight of the chosen seafood items. There is no additional fee for cooking each of the items into different dishes.

For dessert, the restaurant serves a selection of treats to sweetly end the seafood experience. The dessert list include popular onde-onde (round-shaped treat with sweet filling) and freshly made kembang tahu (bean curd with brown sugar sauce).

To ensure novelty value for regular diners, the list is renewed every two months.

Its modern interior is suitable for business luncheons, elegant enough for fine dining yet also a cozy corner to have lunch or dinner with family and friends. In marking its first anniversary, discounts from 15 percent to 20 percent are in effect throughout June.

Its wine cellar houses at least 400 bottles of around 60 different types of wine from France, Australia and California, but customers can also bring their own tipple of choice.

"Some people who have favorite drinks, which we may not have here, can bring along their own bottles. We just want to make sure that they enjoy everything," Sam said.