I was out with my colleague for a meeting with a client and it was near Upper Paya Lebar therefore we decided to lunch somewhere nearby. Throughout the years staying in Paya Lebar area, I have passed by the eatery almost every time I drove home and yet did not manage to have a taste of it. Finally, today we decided to give it a try. We was lucky because we queued up minutes before crowd came pouring into the shop for lunch
History of Kay Lee Roast Meat
The history dated back as early as 1931 when the first generation, Mr Ha, the father acquired “Zhu Jiang Style Roast” recipes in Guangzhou, China. In 1940, the father setup a stall in Old People Park, Chinatown. 20 years later, the recipes and cooking methods as passed down to his son, Mr. Ha Wai Kay, whom and continued the business. The second generation Mr. Ha and her wife setup a stall in 1974 in “Gong Seak Gai” (Current Chinatown) as a small stall known as Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint in a coffee shop known as Wantat Eating House which was forced to move to 189 Upper Paya Lebar Road due to Governments’Acquisition. In 2003, they moved again to 125 Upper Paya Lebar Road. Inherited with knowledge of uniquely spiced roasts, they made their fame in the neighbourhood which was still popular even till today.
In October 2014, the couple decided to sell the eatery to a conglomerate Aztech Group at a price tag of $4 million as their two children do not wish to continue this business. The deal finally came in two and a half years after they was put up for sale with an asking price of $3.5 million, with its recipe alone going for $2 million.
We ordered a plate of mix of roasted duck, char siew and pork belly to share among two of us. Although it cost as a whopping $24, but I think it was definitely worthwhile.
The duck was simply fantastic. Although the skin was crispy and much to our surprise, the meat was tender and flavourful. You can taste a tint of herb taste without any bitterness.
Next was the Char Siew which really stands out of the crowd. The style was similar to those we can eat in Malaysia which the outer coating is in dark colour instead of the normal red coloured Char Siew we eat around Singapore. Although there were slightly more fats on it, but it does not stop me from popping it one by one into my mouth with a spoon of gravy filled rice. By the way, the gravy alone could maybe just make you eat a bowl of rice or two without the meats, it is that good.
Preservation Of A Heritage Brand
Although there were people who thought their taste will be much affected by the buy-over, the quality of food has definitely been sustained. While the couple Madam Betty Kong and Mr. Ha Wai Kay will still continue to work at the eatery without a deadline until the chefs are familiar with the recipes and cooking method. Meanwhile, Aztech Group plans to open at least 10 casual restaurants under Kay Lee name mostly in heartland malls in the next two years. One of the outlets that has been opened recently was at Suntec City Mall, Level 2.
For those that are keen to try out their duck specialty and roasted meat, below are their original outlet address and information.
Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint
125 Upper Paya Lebar Road
Tel: +65 6743 8778
Everyday from 10.30am to 8.30pm