What a weird lunch, I must say.
Feeling that I have no social life lately (most of my friends at that time were either gone somewhere or indisposed), I decided to accompanied my mum to have a pre-lunar new year lunch with her ladies club - six middle-aged tai-tais plus my mom, and I was the only male on the table. There were only 8 of us, but there were 12 chairs. The extra 4 chairs were used to put their Hermes birkins. Ah, how tai tai-esque. Bags are more precious than butts. Even though the restaurant was a full house and some waiters politely asked one of these ladies to give up the vacant seats for some other guests, but one of them said, "then where do you suppose we would place our bags, dear?"
Actually, I was rather reluctant taking pictures of food in front of those tai tais, because none of them know what a 'food blog' is. When they asked me, why was I taking pictures for, my mom tried to step in and explain to them that I'm a food blogger. But when they start asking what a blog is, I stopped my mom from trying to explain, and just told them..."it's a magazine". End of story. LOL
This place has been a tai tai favorite for ages. This is one of those 'real' restaurants that tai tais would consider as serving 'real' food. Most Jakartan tai tais are really trendy and happening these days, dining in places like Cilantro, Cork and Screw, or Satoo - but when it comes to serious food (that is, food that they don't have to PRETEND liking), Ah Yat is one of the favorite places to go. Other examples would be Shang Palace, Dragon City, Taipan, Teratai, and such.
-> Very nice. I've never tasted anything like this, really. I guess it's cooked in a short time, but somehow it tastes like one of those stews you have to cook for hours to perfect. Nice and succulent.
-> This extremely mouthwatering creation made me beg for more. It's sweet, sour, spicy, and tangy - much like som tum (papaya salad). The fish is hot (in temperature, not spiciness), and it's wonderfully combined with the fresh, cold dressing. Very nice.
-> The main spectacle of the meal. First of all, it's extremely expensive. Ah Yat actually has lots of different types of abalone on the menu - depending on the origin, the price varies greatly. From the cheap African / Australian abalone, to the exorbitant Japanese ones. This is one of such exorbitant ones, a dish no matter how rich you are, should be consumed on special occasions only, because it's so good, nothing much else can even compared to its delicate taste. It's like Beluga Caviar and Black Truffles, don't eat them too often or you will be bored with the mundane-ness of other food for the lesser-moneyed folks.
-> Served in individual portions. The scallop is extremely tasty - it's one of the more expensive dried scallops, so the texture is tight and excellent. It has a mature aroma and a delicate taste. The giant mussels are good as well - although in my opinion this is a somewhat acquired taste. I didn't like it when I had it the first time.
-> Delightful fish, that soon hock. It's native to southeast asia, so it's not really eaten in China or other east asian countries. I'd have to say that they're missing out a lot. It's superior in texture compared to Garoupa, and it is said that the flesh on the cheeks of Soon Hock fish is the best part. Even Empress Cixi, the very person who started the whole 150-dish Royal Qing-dynasty banquets was known to have JUST the cheeks of Soon Hock fish (and throw the rest of the fish away).
-> We ordered dim sums as well, because they brought a dim sum cart to our table. It's like an impulse buy at supermarkets, I guess (something that westerners would NEVER fall for on restaurants)
-> Served with condensed milk sauce. It's highly addictive, and in my opinion, this is what mango pudding should taste like. I've never tasted anything better anywhere else.
(Chinese herbal jelly)
Anyways, typical of those tai tais, they claimed that they're so famished they could eat horses, ordered a LOT, and ate like, TWO BITES. the rest of the food, well, they told ME to finish them, being the big brawny man I am *sarcasm*. After I gave up, they instructed the waiters to pack all the leftovers for their "doggies". (gosh, I WISH they're joking. All these expensive food for dogs??)
And then, came the big FIGHT over the bill. Everyone wanted to pay for the whole bill. It's tai tai custom, really. Finally I was very proud to say that my mom won the fight, because she said that "I'll be going to Hong Kong for a month next week, let this be my treat so that you'll all miss me". But actually, it wasn't those words that made her win - it was her super-swiftness in handing the credit card over to the waiter.
These people are unbelievable.