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The joy of sharing family dishes

The Star Online logo The Star Online 23/4/2018 JADE CHAN

THE first thing that catches your eye about Tables of Joy is likely its name – an intriguing moniker that promises great things to come the moment you step into the restaurant in Damansara Utama.

“We wanted to create a place that reflects the joy of eating a delicious home-cooked meal as a family,” said Joyce Yap, adding that the restaurant’s name is also a play on her name.

“We hope to be a place that brings back the memories and joy of digging into a table full of a mother’s or grandmother’s cooking.”

Tables of Joy was established a year ago, and is run by mother-daughter duo – Lillian Foo, 73, who is fondly called “Auntie Lillian” by regulars, and Yap, 30.

“Mum is the master of the kitchen, while I am the chief of everything else,” said Yap with a laugh, when asked on their partnership and division of duties.

“Tables of Joy was created mainly so that I can preserve the invaluable recipes which mum has crafted and collected over the years.”

Nasi Lemak with Pork Curry is one of the signature dishes at Tables of Joy. © Provided by The Star Online Nasi Lemak with Pork Curry is one of the signature dishes at Tables of Joy.
Nasi Lemak with Pork Curry is one of the signature dishes at Tables of Joy.

Yap, who enjoys cooking herself, shared that Foo agreed to opening the restaurant on condition that her daughter learnt how to cook all the dishes herself.

“She’s a traditionalist, so she insists that the ingredients be hand-cut, dishes handmade and everything done how she wants them to be,” said Yap.

“During her younger days, mum worked as a cook in a hotel and a couple of restaurants. Even after settling down and becoming a housewife, she still spent most of her time in the kitchen whipping up delicious meals for our family.

“Meanwhile, I decided to forgo the job security and financial stability of working in an investment bank to pursue my long-standing passion for food.”

Yap described Tables of Joy’s menu as “classic Malaysian flavours”, with a focus on Chinese and Nyonya dishes, as well as some colonial Hainanese-inspired items.

a plate of food on a table: The Sambal Assam with Squid and Prawns has a spicy kick. © Provided by The Star Online The Sambal Assam with Squid and Prawns has a spicy kick.
The Sambal Assam with Squid and Prawns has a spicy kick.

Some of its signature dishes include Baked Stuffed Crab, lamb rendang,Nasi Lemak with Pork Curry, Chicken in a Basket, and Sambal Assam with Squid and Prawns,

As for bestsellers, they include Dong Gu Man Kai (Chinese-Style Braised Chicken with Shiitake Mushrooms), Grilled Chicken Chop and Pork Bolognese.

A personal favourite was the lamb rendang. The lamb was tender and did not have a gamey taste; the rendang was flavourful with a hint of spiciness.

The sambal and rice that came with the Nasi Lemak with Pork Curry were a tad sweet and coarse respectively for my liking, but it was nevertheless an enjoyable dish.

The spicy Sambal Assam with Squid and Prawns includes an optional addition of petai (stink beans), for those who enjoy its pungent flavour.

Chicken in a Basket is a dish that Yap said has colonial Hainanese influence. It offers a whole spring chicken marinated with a home-made recipe, then deep-fried until the skin is crispy, though the meat remains tender.

The Baked Stuffed Crab features crab meat, onions and mushrooms bound with bechamel sauce. This delicacy is only available on Fridays and weekends.

For vegetables, there are crunchy vegetable acar featuring carrots, cucumbers and onions cut and pickled by Foo herself, Steamed Okra with Crispy Garlic, and Four-Angled Beans with Sambal Udang Kering.

A popular, kid-friendly dish is the Pork Bolognese, which Yap said was her go-to comfort dish.

“Our menu started off with dishes that we felt were quicker to cook and serve, such as nasi lemak and sambal assam, as we wanted to appeal to the office crowd here,” said Yap.

a plate of food with stew: Dong Gu Man Kai is popular among Chinese households. © Provided by The Star Online Dong Gu Man Kai is popular among Chinese households.
Dong Gu Man Kai is popular among Chinese households.

“Then the dinner crowd started requesting for sharing dishes, so we began catering to that. We now have older customers and family groups as our regulars, as these are the people who appreciate good, home-cooked food.”

The restaurant’s decor is kept clean, simple and comfortable, said Yap, to allow the food to shine.

“Despite the growth in fusion eateries and hipster cafes, we decided that those are not who we are and that we should stick to what we know best.

“It’s a great compliment when a customer says our dishes offer a taste of home or remind them of what their mothers cooked,” she said.

Yap said the restaurant’s menu would be updated to focus on the sharing dishes, while individual meals would be streamlined to offer the popular ones.

New sharing dishes in the pipeline include Ikan Assam Pedas and Pork Belly Stir-fried with Bean Paste.

The individual meals are priced between RM13 and RM25 per portion, while sharing dishes are priced between RM6 and RM35 (one dish serves about three pax).

TABLES OF JOY, No 13, Jalan SS21/1A, Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya. (Tel: 03-7710 0388). Business hours: 11am-3pm, 6pm-10pm, Wednesday to Monday. Closed on Tuesday. Non-halal.

This is the writer’s personal observation and is not an endorsement by StarMetro.

Lillian Foo (left) and Joyce Yap are the mother-daughter duo behind Tables of Joy. Foo is the master of the kitchen, while Yap takes care of everything else. — Photos: DARRAN TAN/The Star © Provided by The Star Online Lillian Foo (left) and Joyce Yap are the mother-daughter duo behind Tables of Joy. Foo is the master of the kitchen, while Yap takes care of everything else. — Photos: DARRAN TAN/The Star

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