MIKHAIL S Zhovner walked into the Kelantan Delight restaurant at KLCC last week asking if he can try the nasi kerabu, a famous rice dish from Kelantan and the east coast. He insisted that he wanted to try the rice because it was recommended by the author of a Russian tour guide book!
Restaurant owner Juhaidi just couldn't believe his ears. Here was a genuine Russian tourist, who hails from Moscow, and was asking for nasi kerabu! Zhovner had walked into the restaurant on Aug 22 with four other friends who had all heard about the dish and were so eager to try it out.
But they were disappointed. They came on the closing night of the famous restaurant. The kitchen has been closed and the owners had instead organised a private function to say Thank You to their loyal patrons over the years. Instead, the Russians were treated to the buffet spread and went away happy and cheerful.
You see, Kelantan Delight had to close it doors to customers, and have to move out to a new location near KL Sentral in the next couple of months. High rental and some strange policy used by the management of KLCC Suria had forced the restaurant to close.
Its owners, Juhaidi and Zainab, have been at KLCC since 1997, operating at first from the food court before opening a proper restaurant, one that has done so well, beyond the expectation of its owners.
I had thought that Juhaidi had invited the Russians to the restaurant's final night, a sort of farewell to regular customers and friends. As it turned out, the Russians were indeed genuine tourists.
The restaurant is no stranger to local and foreign food hunters; and they seldom go home disappointed. Specialties such as lompat tikam (desset) have long been a favourite of many. My favourite is the daging masak merah and tom yam.
On the closing night, Juhaidi had invited orphans and old folks and gave then a treat. With Ramadhan just round the corner, I thought that it was a fitting farewell. The owners of Kelantan Delights are not shy of sharing their wealth with the less privileged and have-nots.
Many people have good memories of Kelantan Delight. The owners have done well for themselves, especially for sticking to their guns when they opened the restaurant 10 years ago. The naysayers have been plentiful, but most have been won over.
But Juhaidi did not succeeed in winning over the policy makers at KLCC Suria. It seems that retail outlets at KLCC Suria have to refurbish and refresh their outlets regularly to maintain a 'new' look all the time. This costs money, big money.
And not many retailers have the capacity or deep pockets to do this, without eating into their margines. Operators like Juhaidi and Zainab braved the competition and did well for themselves. But to continue operating at the KLCC, they have to spend more to make their outlet look 'new and fresh.'
And how would they recover their costs after spending on renovations and new tables and chairs? Pass them to customers? Would the rental remain the same after all the renovations? No way! Rental will go up and the price of the lompat tikam and daging masak merah will all carry new and revised (upwards that it) price tags!
I wish Juhaidi and Zainab will find a more reasonable landlord when they reopen soon. They are a victim of their own success. Good luck with your new outlet!