Progressive zhi char
It is one thing to inherit and expand your parent's popular seafood zhi charbusiness but doing it on your own is another story altogether.
If you simply open another outlet and carry on with the same old stuff in dad's menu, customers may be reminded of the original place and head there instead.
So, the kids of Keng Eng Kee took almost two years to work on a brand new menu which inherited the style and culture of the old kitchen but is executed differently.
FAMILY BUSINESS: Mr Wayne Liew with his mother Koh Liang Hong.
When I sampled the goodies at this week-old joint, I immediately had a catchphrase for it - progressive zhi char.
It is led by Mr Wayne Liew in the kitchen and supported by his brother Paul and sister Geraldine manning the front of house services. These Gen Y kids are the ones to watch in this space.
"Almost 80 per cent of the dishes are new as we stayed away from the tried-and-tested favourites from the old place," said Mr Liew.
Only the signatures like their chilli and pepper crabs, and the moonlight hor fun remain.
"My dad is supportive," says Mr Liew, though there is a business timeline to adhere to.
"He gives us three months to prove our worth and success. If not, we have to revert to the old menu or close shop."
What did dad, Mr Liew Choy, say about the new dishes?
"Nothing. He just kept quiet and smiled," says the younger Mr Liew.
First, I tried an item from their "Tapas" section: Prawn Toast - prawn and sotong paste smeared over thin toast with water chestnut and Taiwan sausage, then pan fried. It was light and crispy and, surprisingly, not too oily.
Then out came a Salted Egg Yolk Soft Shell Crab Pasta - pasta tossed in salted egg yolk sauce with curry leaves and below fried soft shell crabs. Beats any carbonara-style pasta I've tried.
They introduced a Halibut With Capsicum Sauce which sounded very seductive, complete with fresh fried fish fillets and a sourish sweet a la chilli crab kind of sauce minus the chilli. But alas, it did not seduce me.
Mr Liew also concocted a Korean-inspired Beef Wrap, done in lettuce leaves with rib eye slices topped with sambal, garlic, pickles and crispy ikan bilis. It was so easy to like but he is thinking of switching to pork cheeks. I can't wait for the switch.
I had to order the Mix Vegetables With Macadamia Nuts. The combo was refreshing, with fresh and crispy fried slices of lotus roots, baby bok choy, button mushrooms, black fungus and even cashews. I enjoyed polishing this off.
KEK Pandan Gardens
200, Pandan Gardens, #01-12
- 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5pm to 10pm daily
Makansutra, founded by KF Seetoh, is a company that celebrates Asian food culture and lifestyle. It publishes food guides in and around the region, produces a food series, develops interactive mobile content and services, operates foodcourts and eateries, organises food tours and events, and consults on culinary concepts.