Thursday, 6 March 2014

Airview dining at 'tin yut keng'

Somehow, I feel those red awnings are not quite in-sync with the old-school Chinese feel -- until you walk into Moi Lum Restaurant (founded in 1920s in Chinatown but only moved to Airview Building in 2008). This restaurant is as Chinese and as Cantonese you can get. Famous for its crispy chicken -- and yes, it has the old-school taste especially when you dip it into "wa-yim" -- salt slightly fried with five spices.  Pic taken in Dec 2013. Here's how it looked in the old days.:

Airview Building is co-owned by Yeung Ching Foundation and Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital. Built in 1924, it was initially leased out to New Asia Hotel, owned by a Cantonese businessman. It was a very well known hotel in those days, with a Cantonese restaurant on the rooftop, popular for weddings. But it too had to go in the face of stiff competition. In 1974, the hotel was refurbished into a commercial building for letting.
The Yeung Ching Foundation (2nd building, left) at
 Club Street, Chinatown.

Both the name Airview Building (Tin Yut Keng in Cantonese) and Kwong Wai Shiu were familiar to us during our childhood. The names often cropped up in conversations between mum and dad. Dad probably had some "kakis" he knew in Kwong Wai Shiu. And once in a blue moon, we would have tea at Tin Yuk Keng with some of his friends. It was grand -- indeed a place with a view -- and the greatest fun was going up the old-fashioned lift with the iron gate.

If mum and dad were around, they probably won't recognised Airview Building today. Well, perhaps only on close scrutiny of those arches. But they would be perfectly at home dining at Moi Lum. Recently, when we were there for lunch, the whole restaurant was filled with Cantonese banter. Old ladies dressed in floral samfoos reminding me of mum's friends in my childhood days, were clacking away.

When I called earlier to make a reservation, I started out in Cantonese (to the extent of saying "wei" instead of  "hello") -- and the reply came back in rich and thick Cantonese. I visualised a cook in white singlet talking on the other line, with a huge paunch. And when my Cantonese petered out to English, equally fluent English came from the other end. My vision of the chef became one dressed in starched white, and well, maybe a smaller paunch.

I recognised the thick, throaty Cantonese when we finally went there for lunch. He was indeed a bit plump and cheery. And he spoke in perfect English. Wonder if he was the boss -- by now, second generation?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Old photos of the building can be found at the NLB here: