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To many, Lai Ching Yuen Chinese Restaurant at the Grand Millennium Kuala Lumpur needs no introduction. Formerly known as Zing, it was well-known for its exquisite Chinese cuisine, and this excellence is continued under the new brand name.

Thus it was a new take on an old favourite during the Festive Dining series in conjunction with the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival hosted by Organising Chairman Dato’ Steve Day and Datin Su Wai Fun.

Tunku Dara Tunku Tan Sri Naquiah Tuanku Ja'afar and HE Maria Bassols Delgado

Mrs Christiane Gruber, HE Dr Gunter Gruber and Trudy Moreno

 Mr Raimundo Bassols, Mrs Raimundo Bassols and HE Maria Bassols Delgado

At the restaurant foyer, beautiful ladies dressed in striking teal-hued cheongsam greeted the guests, who included HE Gunter Gruber, Ambassador of Germany, who was accompanied by Madam Christiane Gruber; HE Maria Bassols Delgado, Ambassador of Spain, and Mr and Mrs Raimundo Bassols; YAM Tunku Dara Tunku Tan Sri Naquiah Tuanku Ja’afar and YM Tunku Kecil Besar Tunku Datuk Mudzaffar Tunku Mustapha; and YM Tunku Nasruan Adil Tunku Mudzaffar and Ms Ong Sue Lyn.

Partaking in Virgin Mojitos, warm Ginseng tea and white wine, the guests mingled while also enjoying the canapés prepared by Veteran Festival Master Chef Leong Weng Heng, whose dim sum bites were well received, especially the crab meat dumplings that disappeared almost as soon as they were served.

Intricately carved sliding wooden doors separated the foyer from the restaurant proper, where three round tables were set for the dinner. Small yellow lanterns hung from the ceiling, making for a break with tradition from the usual red lanterns seen in Chinese restaurants. The tables were located right next to an open kitchen, where guests could watch Chef Leong prepare the dishes they would be feasting on.

The round tables were very elegant, with minimal decorations, and the show plates sitting on them spoke for themselves. The fine China featured elaborate Chinese designs and decorated with scenes from rural China. The tall back wooden chairs, also beautifully carved, gave the scene the regal ambience of a grand palace.

Mr Patrick Teoh, Mrs Mint Teoh, Ms Christine Chin and Mr Donne Ray Radford

Aside from the restaurant setting, the proceedings were also lit up by special celebrity guest stars, namely radio and TV icon Patrick Teoh, who was accompanied by wife Mint Teoh, and none other than lead singer of the Platters from 1986-1992, Donne Ray Radford. Little did everyone know that a special private performance was in store for them later in the evening.

Ms Jennifer Cheng, Datin Su Wai Fun, Mr Melvin Lim and Ms Millie Chan

 Mr James Beltran, Mr Miguel Schmidt, HE Maria Bassols Delgado and HE Dr Gunter Gruber

Other guests included Ms Christine Chin, Chairperson of SPCA Selangor; Mr SK Wong, Country Manager of HTC Malaysia, and Ms Shirley Law; James Beltran, Chairman of Malaysia Assurance Alliance, and Mr Miguel Schmidt; and Ms Jennifer Cheng, General Manager, Private Banking at Hong Leong Bank.

Mr Adhiyanto Goen, Ms Amanda Teng and Floyd Pereira

To start off, Dato’ Steve introduced to his guests Melvin Lim, General Manager of The Grand Millenium, who in turn introduced Chef Leong and the kitchen and service teams. Also present from the hotel marketing team were Trudy Moreno, Director of Sales and Marketing, Adhiyanto Goen, Director of Marcoms, and Amanda Teng, Assistant Marketing Manager.

Then it was on to the meal, which started with crispy seafood spring roll and scallop salad with assorted fruit, followed by double-boiled sea treasures in whole coconut. Each course paired beautifully with a selection of wines, the meal continued with baked fillet of sea perch with wild mushrooms, wrapped in crispy filo.

As each dish was served, Dato’ Steve made more introductions, letting his guests in on the “secrets” of their dinner companions, and conversations flowed smoothly as everyone got to know one another over the shared experience of a wonderful meal.

The fourth course was spinach bean curd with Chinese wine, topped with fresh crab meat, while the fifth was fried rice with minced goose liver and pine nuts. The meal closed with a combination of avocado purée with durian custard rabbit dumpling.

The end of the dinner saw several guests giving closing speeches. The German Ambassador drew on his own experiences of cooking, and how he won his wife’s heart through food, how difficult it is to prepare a good meal and how amazingly well the entire team did on the night. He praised them again and again and applauded the excellent service and quality of food. Tunku Dara followed in her usual eloquent way, commenting especially on the custard dessert, which contained durian, much to her delight.

Chef Leong Weng Heng (right) and the team

Finally, Dato’ Steve and Melvin Lim closed proceedings by thanking the entire team again for a wonderful evening and urging everyone to spread the word about Lai Ching Yuen, and to come back with friends and relatives.

The evening was not over yet, though, as Dato’ Steve invited Donne to perform for the group. The tenor proceeded to belt out some absolute classics, including Only You, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and The Great Pretender, in a spellbinding performance. Everyone sang and clapped along, thrilled by the intimate private mini concert to complement a memorable meal.

HE Gruber said he thoroughly enjoyed the evening, especially for the chance to get to know new restaurants. “We attend a lot of events, my wife and I. The wonderful thing about MIGF is that you learn about new places. My time is well spent, thank you Steve and Su. This is an initiative that deserves all the recognition, and so does Lai Ching Yuen,” he said.

The Spanish Ambassador also complimented the restaurant and its cuisine, and picked the sea perch as her favourite dish “because the main ingredient was great. It’s so simple and healthy. It was well done, in the hands of a marvelous chef”.

Ms Millie Chan, a lawyer with Vancouver-based Ladner Gervais, said she loved the dessert most of all. “It was gorgeous in every way. I loved how there was a liquid and doughy component to it, so that when I ate it, I had smooth and silky texture, but I could also feel what was in my mouth and bit down on the peachy bits. For me, the texture is very important and this dessert was just right in this respect.”

HTC’s Wong, meanwhile, said “the people and sharing conversations around the entire table”, when describing the most memorable part of the evening.

Dinner was sponsored by Vision KL