One of the central tenets of Chinese restaurant Yen across the many W Hotels around the world is to focus on innovation when recreating traditional Chinese dishes. It’s a different story in W Kuala Lumpur’s Yen. Here, practicality takes pride of place in each dish. Take for instance the Peking Duck, which stays away from the theatrics of having the whole bird broken down in front of you, and the remaining carcass is sent to the kitchen to be cooked in congee or something else. Instead, the duck comes ready wrapped in rice paper, served with the usual sides of cucumber, scallions and plum sauce with chunks of duck meat with crispy skin served on the side.
It’s the same story with the dim sum. Each basket offers wholesome flavours using fresh ingredients; a far cry from other restaurant that try too hard with bizarre combinations. Here, Executive Chinese Chef Tan Kim Weng leaves you with a comforting feeling of home-style cooking.
Yen’s interiors are avant-garde. It boasts a glitzy dining space of gold and dark walnut, unlike the typical oriental-themed restaurants. There is a bar, an art space as well as private rooms spread out around the restaurant, which is located on the 11th floor of the building. There are no dragons, phoenixes or peonies; instead the designers have taken a contemporary approach akin to the rest of the interiors of W Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
If this is your first time dining in Yen, there is a tasting set menu that is perfect to sample the restaurant’s varied offerings.
The crispy yam pastry filled with chicken and foie gras is a highlight — a classic combination that isn’t too overwhelming. Unlike pork fillings that come with some fat, the foie gras adds a fatty element to the chicken mince to give the fried dumpling a smooth and decadent texture.
Another standout dim sum is the fried dumpling with cod fillet and chilli padi cheese filling. The cheese, sourced from local food artisan Milky Whey adds an interesting zing to the perfectly cooked fish. The chilli balances the flavour profiles of the cod and cheese – both rich in its own natural ways.
Next on the tasting menu is Yen’s signature daily soup. The double-boiled soup comprises five-finger fig root, abalone, conch and farm chicken – the perfect remedy on any rainy days.
“It takes about three to four hours to boil the soup – it is the Cantonese way to cook the soup with low heat. We also specifically use fresh chicken from our own farm to ensure maximum flavours and sweetness in the broth,” shares chef Tan.
The Stewed Ee Fu noodles however fail to hit the mark. Despite being umami and flavoursome – the noodles are a tad overcooked. Perhaps the noodles have been simmered for a little too long, resulting in a starchy outer layer instead of the silken texture most braised noodles tend to have.
If you need another savoury dish to complement the set, order the Emerald Rice Noodle — a unique pairing of chee cheong fun and crispy unagi. The crunchy texture and umami flavour set against the silken rice rolls are the definition of comfort eating thanks to its generous helping and unpretentious presentation.
The sweet delights make up for the lack of finesse from the noodle dish. The lemongrass-infused ai-yu jelly is the last dish on the tasting menu and it is the perfect ending with its fresh and citrusy notes from the yuzu pearls. The soupy dessert in bright amber colour comes with an interesting mix of textures – softness from the jelly and crunch from the peach resin – creating a symphony in the mouth with every bite.
Complete your dining experience with an extra helping of desserts with chef Tan’s signature milk pudding with truffles. It jiggles like a well-set pennacotta and is not overly sweet. Every mouthful comes with a lingering hint of truffles – just enough to tempt you to a second scoop.
Many Chinese restaurants in hotels often do too much to impress diners with either ostentatious plating or unnecessary garnishing. The closest chef Tan is into doing that is with the fried charcoal pastry with durian filling that comes in a trio of black swans in a nest-like basket. To order or not to order: we’ll leave that decision to you.
While the prices may be a little on the high side, the dishes promises great value in terms of quality and freshness. Be sure to have these on your orders: crispy skin Peking duck and the slow-cooked grain-fed beef short wagyu ribs with Chinese herbal broth and 10-year-old Hua Diao wine.
Otherwise, Yen offers a unique dining experience that brings back childhood memories with chef Tan’ signature style of homecooking. So stick to the more traditional Chinese dishes on the menu like dim sum, soups, steamed fish, braised seafood and wok-fried dishes.
Lunch: 12:00pm – 2:30pm
Dinner: 6:00pm – 10.30pm
Noise Level: Relatively quiet despite the crowd
Service: Friendly and attentive