Viewpoint: Nothing to boast about Kay Lee's roasts

Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint, which was bought by conglomerate Aztech Group, relaunches under the new management today. -- PHOTO: JAMIE KOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint, which was bought by conglomerate Aztech Group, relaunches under the new management today. -- PHOTO: JAMIE KOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

In the late 1980s, I would lunch regularly at Kay Lee Roast Meat in Upper Paya Lebar Road because I was working in nearby Kampung Ubi at the time. The roasts were decent but not exceptional, but there were not many good lunch options in the area then.

Which was why I never went back after I changed jobs in 1989. There was no reason to join the long queues when there was better food to be found elsewhere.

When I returned last Saturday at 11.15am for this assignment, I had to queue for 35 minutes for my combination plate of roast duck, roast pork and char siew.

It was not cheap. Together with a plate of rice, it cost $12.60. But it was not worth the wait or the price.

All the meats were dry and had little flavour. Disappointingly, the skin on the roast duck was not crispy. The roast pork was sliced too thinly, but the meat was so tough that it would have required a lot of chewing if it was thicker.

The char siew had a little fat but was still dry. And while the edges were crisp, they also tasted burnt.

Returning yesterday on the first day of operations by the new owners, little had changed outwardly. The people taking orders and chopping the meats were the same. But now, there was a proper cashier and you got a receipt for your payment.

This time, the wait was only five minutes, perhaps because it was already almost 2pm and raining.

Ordering the same three meats, I found the char siew and roast pork juicier this time because the cuts were a lot fatter. But they were still not amazing.

The roast duck, however, was still as dry and unimpressive.

The sauce for the marinades were the same - well-balanced and not too sweet - and the gravy poured on the rice tasted good.

But I would say the meats ranged from bad to just above mediocre, depending on the cuts you get.

Will I go back again? Perhaps not for another 25 years - but by then, I probably would not be able to chew on the juiceless meats.

ahyoke@sph.com.sg