Thursday, 31 May 2018


Twenty four hour eateries are the rage amongst Malaysians, including middle class Malaysians and I have suffered being dragged to them by friends and acquaintances to sit for hours talking the same dull political topics repeated over and over again like a broken record each time, as if by doing that, they can solve the issue.

And with some exceptions, the standard of service at most of the 24-hour eateries is awful, with waiters, almost all foreign workers from the poorer parts of India or Bangladesh, and very often understaffed, overworked and with hardly any time to respond to customers' service requests, especially during peak periods.

I have found the quality of service and food much better at eateries which do not operate 24 hours and this includes small food stalls operated by individual owners, such as those in municipal food courts and food courts in shopping malls.

I place the fault fairly and squarely on the Malaysian owners and managements of these 24-hour eateries - especially the chain eateries, who appear to cut corners and not bother to train their workers in proper practices and who seem to be mostly concerned with raking in tonnes of money every day from customers, including urban, educated, English-literate, middle class customers, whose standards are so low that they are willing to accept sub-standard service as long as some food item there, such as the chapatti, the thosai or the Milo tastes nice to them. Such customers will eat curried excreta as long as it tastes nice.

On 12 September 2017, Mimi Haris posted a video on You Tube proclaiming that Raj Restaurant in Bangsar is the "Best banana leaf restaurant in KL (Kuala Lumpur)"
BEST BANANA LEAF RESTAURANT IN KL (SEPTEMBER 2017 VLOG) - Courtesy Mimi Haris You Tube Channel 12 September 2017

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a banana leaf restaurant is an Indian restaurant which serves food on pieces of natural banana leaf, which is disposed of once it has used, much like a paper plate. Banana leaves have traditionally been used to wrap cooked food in and being naturally biodegradable, they are more environmentally friendly than the plastic sheets increasingly being used today, though people still enjoy the novemty of eating food off a banana leaf.

However today, some use synthetic "banana leaves" made of laminated, green coloured paper, green coloured rectangular plastic plates, regular round plastic plates or stainless steel metal food trays.

On 29 May 2019, a shocking video went viral on social media, showing staff of the 24-hour Raj's eatery in the Bangsar suburb of Kuala Lumpur washing stainless steel metal trays with what looks like muddy water from a pothole in the back lane immediately behind the restaurant.
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Click on this link below to see the video on The Malaysian Insight's You Tube channel.
Worker's at Raj Banana Leaf restaurant in Bangsar caught washing dishes with dirty water - Courtesy The Malaysian Insight 29 May 2018

(Surprise, surprise! The Malaysian Insight which was suspended due to lack of funds before the 9th 2018 May general elections has come back to life again.)

Anyway, Star Online published a You Tube video, in which it cited an apology posted by Raj's management on its Facebook page, blaming its new staff as being responsible for this gross violation of customers' health and assuring customers that this is not normal for Raj's and will not happen again.
Raj's Banana Leaf claims dishes washed in murky water by new staff members - Courtesy StarTV 29 May 2018

However, StarOnline's video above used scenes from the viral video and from Raj's Facebook page but not scenes directly from the ground, which is understandable, given that 29 May 2018 was Wesak Day, a public holiday in Malaysia, so with me being rather wary of the deceptive videos (fake news) which have being doing their rounds of social media, I decided to check out the back lane behind Raj's in Bangsar to see whether that pothole and other features seen in the video are actually there, so I drove over there and took these pictures below between 7.30 and 7.45 am on 30 May 2018.
Here you can clearly see the pothole, the water in which the staff in the video were washing aluminium food trays with. Since there's no mud in the pothole, it looks like the brownish coloured water seen in the pothole was pipe water which they had been using to wash the dishes, which had collected in the pothole with which had become coloured brownish from the residue of food from the serving trays and aluminium food trays seen placed on the road in the video, and the staff in the video appeared to using the pothole as a kitchen sink or a basin for washing. The concrete drain covers and the steel platform in the picture above match those seen in the video.

Heck! Even if they were using water in a kitchen sink or a basin for washing dishes, they should change the water regularly and not let it get so coloured with food residue.  

By the angle of the shot, that video obviously was shot from a height from behind the unsuspecting staff and it looks like it was taken from one of these windows in the building behind Raj's

And here is a longer view shot of the back of Raj's Bangsar,

Raj's Bangsar was closed at the time I was there.

The StarOnline later reported that Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) inspectors have closed Raj's Bangsar down indefinitely, pending a cleanliness review, though DBKL had earlier rated Raj's Bangsar with an A rating for cleanliness.

I had been under the impression that the Raj 's chain of eateries was one of the better ones, since the dining areas in the former Raj's outlet in Petaling Jaya and the big one in SS15 Subang Jaya look clean enough, and the quality of service pretty decent. Perhaps this problem only affected Raj's Bangsar outlet, though in future make it a point to observe how such outlets handle their food and wash their dishes before you sit down to eat there.

If I recall right, I have never eaten at this Raj's outlet in Bangsar, at least not at the corner lot which it occupies now, unless it was that banana leaf restaurant at an earlier smaller location, the name of which I cannot remember.

Anyway, how does Malaysia expect to become a high income, knowledge-based, developed nation by the Year 2020 when Malaysians gladly accept such low standards and backward practices until the schiess proverbially hit the fan, as in this case of Raj's Bangsar ?

Whilst those people interviewed may forever avoid Raj's Bangsar after it is allowed to reopen, however Malaysians have short memories and I would not be surprised at all if other Malaysian from elsewhere will soon replace them at the dining tables in droves.

Background on Bangsar

Bangsar was an ordinary residential area in what then was the edge of Kuala Lumpur back in the 1950s. As a small child, I remember my mother, who was a medical doctor with the Malayan government, working her roster at what was then called Bangsar Hospital back in the 1950s. This part of Bangsar is now called Bangsar Utama (Original Bangsar) today.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bangsar Baru (New Bangsar), adjacent to Bangsar Utama was developed into a residential area and this development continued to spread until houses and apartments covered the hilly area between Jalan Pantai, Jalan Bangsar all the way to the top of the hill and down to Jalan Damansara and all this area is referred to as Bangsar today.

Especially in the 1990s and the 2000s, Bangsar became very popular with Kuala Lumpur's expatriate community and many upmarket pubs, bars and upmarket western-style restaurants have popped up there, especially in the Jalan Telawi area in Bangsar Baru and the Bangsar Shopping Centre at the top of the hill before Jalan Ma'aroff dives down towards the junction with Jalan Damansara.

Besides the expatriates, these recreational and entertainment areas of Bangsar became popular amongst Malaysians as places to be seen in and these people, whom I have dubbed "Bangsar wallahs" had taken on a sickeningly pretentious air about the Bangsar nightspots being a place they had to be seen in to be regarded as a "somebody". I even quipped that some wannabe yuppie would take their girlfriend to a Bangsar night spot, just to impress her, despite the premium prices in the outlets there.

Being centrally located and easily accessible from Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, Bangsar's entertainment outlets also became a popular venue for media events held by IT companies and with Malaysia's push to become a "knowledge-based, information-rich economy" back in the mid-1990s.

The Bangsar eateries and entertainment outlets also became a favourite hangout for many young, technology entrepreneur, tech-startup types, though following the exodus of quite a few expatriates following the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s, coupled with there being less emphasis on Malaysia's IT industry under former prime ministers' Abdullah Badawi's and Najib Tun Razak's administrations, Bangsar's entertainment outlets have quite visibly lost some of its former vibrancy and lustre, though now with Tun Dr. Mahathir back as prime minister again and that he has indicated that he will place emphasis on development of Malaysia's IT and multimedia industry, perhaps Bangsar's entertainment hangouts will regain their pretentious lustre again.

More recently, the Bangsar nightspots gained some notoriety in earlier media reports that Dutch-Belgian model Ivana Smit, cryptocurrency trader Johnson Alexander and his Kazakh wife Lunara Almazkyzy visited the night before Ivana fell to her death from the balcony of the Johnson's 20th floor  apartment in Capsquare Residences in the heart of Kuala Lumpur  on 7 December 2017.

"Smit reportedly was drinking with the pair in Bangsar the night before her death. She returned to their apartment at 5 a.m....."

However, more recent reports say that the threesome went to 9 Club, where closed circuit TV footage showed a Caucasian-looking man, presumably Johnson Alexander carrying a young woman, presumably Ivana into the lift, followed by another woman, presumably his wife Lunara.

"They left together and moved on to 9 Club, where patrons rent private rooms. There, says Alex, they continued to drink heavily."

Well, 9 Club is on Jalan Kampung Pandan is quite a few kilometres from Bangsar and the pattern of the carpet leading to the lift seen in the CCTV footage matches that of the carpet in the reception area of the club.

Compare the pattern in the picture and website above, with that seen in the Daily Mail video clip in the link below.

The Johnsons told their side of the story to the Daily Mail which published it on 31 March 2018.

And to date, no solid evidence has emerged which can be used to determine why or how Ivana plunged off their apartment's balcony, whether alive or already dead, whether she jumped, fell or was pushed over.

Much like the cause of the loss of Flight MH370, the cause of Ivana Smit's tragic death may forever remain a mystery.

Anyway, she did not die in Bangsar.

Whatever - May her soul rest in peace.

The Star's earlier report on Raj Restaurant follows below.

Raj's Banana Leaf outlet faces closure following dirty dishes video - Nation

PETALING JAYA: Raj’s Banana Leaf restaurant in Bangsar will be closed until further notice, after a video showing its staff members washing dishes in a puddle of murky water made rounds on social media.   

It is understood that the Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL) is expected to issue a closure notice starting Wednesday (May 30).   

It is also believed that health inspectors are set to pay the restaurant a visit at 10am.  

The 30-second video showed three staff members squatting at the back of the restaurant, scrubbing and rinsing plates in what appears to be a puddle of water in a pothole.   

The video, which was published on Tuesday (May 29), has since garnered over 270,000 views and 6,800 shares.   

Netizens have slammed the restaurant, with many expressing disgust and disbelief over the video.  

Meanwhile, Raj’s Banana Leaf restaurant had issued an apology on Facebook, claiming that the dishes were washed by newly recruited staff members at its Bangsar outlet.  

“This has never happened before and should not have happened.  

“We also want to assure that Raj’s Banana Leaf consistently passes the health inspection conducted regularly."  

It said it would continue to monitor the restaurant's hygiene and will take strict action against the staff involved.   

“We truly understand your concerns. However, I hope you will still give us a chance to serve you in the future,” the outlet said.   

Raj's Banana Leaf restaurant initially offered customers a complementary “buka puasa” dinner at its Bangsar outlet from 7.30pm - 9.30pm on Thursday (May 31).   

However, this offer is unlikely to be taken up given the outlet's imminent closure.

Yours truly