(The Main entrance to The Starhill Gallery)
My wife and I went and had dinner at the Starhill Gallery. Other than having one of our rare nights out we had also seen the review of this Japanese restaurant which looked really interesting. The review was in The Star some time ago. The photos were really nice. Very trad Japanese yet a little avant garde in a way. So we made a mental note to go visit. Neither of us had really been to the newly remodelled Starhill Gallery. After a rather confusing search for the entrance to the car park which really didn't look like it belonged to a classy place like The Starhill Gallery, we parked our car in a rather drab and dirty looking bay and promptly went through the wrong door on our failed first attempt to find the floor where the restaurants were. On the second attempt we met this rather efficient and helpful security guard who guided us through a short corridor which would look more like a disused service entrance in Pertama Complex than the 5 star Starhill Gallery. Anyway, we ended up on the ground floor. Ah! There is a concierge counter with a very pleasant looking lady who looked Chinese. But when she spoke her Japanese parentage was very obvious. Class or what? Instead of a slurred "Can I hepshu?" now you get a slight bow and a toothy grin with real Japanese accented Engrish.
Me: Excuse me. May I know where is the Japanese restaurant?
Concierge lady: Solly, no Japanese lestaulant here.
Concierge lady: 5 revels up (pointing to the lift)
Me: Oh, 5 levels up?
Concierge lady: Yes. 5 revels up. laddish floor.
Concierge lady: Laddish floor. (seeing that I still had a puzzled expression she inhaled and said...) Radish floor. (that must have taken some effort knowing their problem with R's)
My wife: Let's take the lift.
So we walked to the bubble lift and entered. All the while I was thinking of reasons why someone would place a Japanese restaurant on the same floor that sold ladies apparel. "Laddish floor", right? No. Surely there would be no market at The Starhill Gallery selling radish.
Entering the lift we noticed that unlike other buildings lifts here did not designate floors with numbers. They used names. While I was stupidly looking for the Ladies floor my wife pointed to a lift button. "There it is", she exclaimed with confidence. And indeed there it was. The floor that the Japanese concierge lady had been trying to point me to....RELISH.
The Japanese restaurant, Gonbei is indeed very pleasant eye candy. Comfy. Spacious. A very nice mixture of traditional Japanese decor and modern design. Very attentive service staff who announce each guest's entry with a beat of the Japanese drum at the main door. But just so we knew we were eating in an authentic Japanese restaurant all the Japanese chefs retained their bored, disinterested expression the whole time we were there at a table right next to the sushi counter. But otherwise it was nice. Oh the food? It was forgettable. And pricey. So much so that I even forgot to take a photo of the place.
After dinner we walked around and eventually made our way back to the ground floor. We found Pak Loh Chiu Chow restaurant. Chiu Chow cuisine is something that is not very easily found in KL which seems too fond of Hong Kong Cantonese food. And as you know that is boring after attending your 68,000th wedding banquet. I went in and approached the Maitre 'D who was friendly. I asked about the Chiu Chow fare. His response was almost apologetic. Apparently, the restaurant is part of a chain from Hong Kong. And they didn't really serve 'real' Chiu Chow cuisine because the restaurant was "Halal" as were all the restaurant in the place. And we all know that Chiu Chow food without pork is like a long wank without orgasm. Well, so much for that potential gastronomic adventure.
But as this is Malaysia and so 'tolerance' for each other's religious and cultural differences can be confusing and contradictory. Just 10 feet across the aisle from the Chiu Chow restaurant was The Village Bar with it myriad selection of wines and spirits. Definitely non-Halal.
Some would celebrate this as our cultural diversity and say that this 'tolerance' is indeed what makes Malaysia, Truly Asia. I look at stuff like this and think that all of us Malaysians are not understanding, respecting and accepting each other's diversity and differences but instead 'tolerating' each other into cultural and racial oblivion.
The Village Bar. Middle Eastern lamps and lanterns. Alcohol by the gallons.
The Chiu Chow restaurant. Very classy. Chinese calligraphy. No pork.
Post script. The Village Bar is really good and cheap. A whiskey soda is RM11++. A bottle of Famous Grouse is RM250++. And they have a wide selection of good wines from Australia and Chile starting from RM50++ a bottle. Really good value with great attentive service and bar tenders who can chat as well as serve drinks. You can also order snacks or meals from the surrounding restaurants.