Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Another SoHo

Last weekend Rafs and I found out we are no longer the spring chickens that we thought we were. Unwilling to admit we were sick, we tried climbing an overhang and both ended up with a sprained shoulder instead. There are times when I really feel my arm might just pop out of my shoulder as I tend to hyperextend as a result of bad climbing mixed with laziness. Anyway, feeling like we really needed a treat, we wandered over the far end of the old wing towards One World Hotel and ended up at SoHo for dim sum. I wonder if they are the same people behind Bread Story since the sign board also reads "by Jun".

There is only one word that can describe this place appropriately – bright! The sparse white interior spruced with black lacquer and glass is brightened further by the floor to ceiling windows. It was already 2:30 when we sat down to lunch so we were not surprised to find it only half full. We were given some carrot and cucumber sticks and deep fried wanton skins to munch on while we waited for our dim sum to arrive. The cheong fun was a real winner and was devoured in less than 2 minutes. The rice flour noodle was smooth and delicate. The filling was fu chuk and prawn and we loved the crispy texture of the fu chuk interrupting the soft texture of noodle and prawn. Very good. Our only complain was it was too small a serving. But then again, we are known to be gluttons.
The chilli salt squid came in battered pieces topped with crunchy and spicy garlic-ky bits. Added calories without the added satisfaction as the batter was neither tasty nor crispy. The squid was very tender and tasty and could've done without the batter. We weren't sure what the spicy bits were but it had the fabulously fake taste of Maggi seasoning! Next up was har gow. While the prawns were fresh and plump, the skin was disappointingly thick and stodgy. As were the prawn and chive dumplings. We all really enjoyed the pan-fried turnip cake with the spicy dip. It was fragrant and you could still feel the texture of grated turnip. The prawn and salad pastry was also very good! But then again, I am also a sucker for mayonaise. It was supercrispy and the mayonaise just oozed out of these babies. All in all a very satisfying lunch apart from the mui choy porridge. The consistency of the porridge was like a rice paste and the mui choy tasted a lot like seaweed. The travesty of it all was the pork slices. They were lean and not stewed together with the mui choy! Gasp!

Total bill was RM110.40 including a pot of chrysanthemum tea.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Duck And I

I'm yet to come meet a duck I don't like. Smoked, roasted, pan-fried or braised. Bacon, liver, rillettes, confit and more. Whats not to like about duck? Its like chicken, but with personality. Its dark, gamey, meaty and rich. I wouldn't want to eat it every day. Well, I would but I don't want to gain 10 dress sizes over the next 5 years. Duck is a treat I like to eat once in awhile. I make a mean roast duck. A even more fabulous roast duck pasta if I do so myself. I can't take all the credit though because the secret ingredient is the duck itself. Once of the things I miss most about London is duck. The ducks over there are well-fed and fat little duckers unlike their malnourished boney cousins we get over here. Whenever my parents came to visit, I'd look forward to the numerous Chinese dinners we would have. Crispy aromatic duck. The name says it all, I love pulling the tender meat apart with just a gentle nudge of the fork. Those were the days. Tai Thong in Wisma Selangor Dredging comes pretty close. And of course, the other thing I miss is duck rice from Four Seasons. I had it again recently and it was still as good as ever.

So it was a joyous day when I noticed peking duck had arrived from China via Changkat Bukit Bintang. Kuala Lumpur (Beijing Roast Duck) Restaurant is located at a most inconvenient spot. Sandwiched between a dilapidated building and the car park of a budget hotel on a busy T-junction, it is about as visible as a cicak in the jungle. I've walked past plenty of times and on most times, it has been empty. It was not the most reassuring start. Last Friday afternoon while walking back from Bintang Walk, my friend and I found ourselves making a booking at the restaurant. The proprietor greeted us and proceeded with a heavily accented monologue in Mandarin as I just stared blankly at him. Luckily my friend speaks a little mandarin and we managed to make a reservation after several minutes and much gesticulation.

Not that we needed to because when we returned at 8pm, we were the only ones there. The roads outside were heaving with traffic. Friday night in the city spelt bad business for the restaurants around the area. There is something rather depressing about the whole place. I think it is the flat lighting coupled with the grills on the windows. Even the flies were downtrodden as a few of them floated by half-heartedly. Not to be deterred, we ordered the recomended three-course Beijing roast duck set, stewed aubergines, wu xi pork ribs and a single portion of tong poh yoke. I had ordered more but the manager (he speaks Cantonese) insisted it would be more than enough for 5 people. And he was right. The portions were rather large!

First to arrive, the delectable roast duck. The skin was crispy, most of the fat had been drained and the meat was tender and full of flavour! The pancakes were a tad floury but otherwise, I was in heaven. I'm not sure if my friends enjoyed it as much as I did but I thought it was the best peking duck I've had in a long time! They are usually so oily. Maybe its just been awhile since I had it. The ones at the bottom of the plate were a little chewy by the time we got to them. The next two courses were a simple duck broth which had a very mild taste reminiscent of chicken with salt and pepper, and shredded duck stir-fried with cucumber and celery. If I didn't detest celery so much, I would've liked it. It was simple and tasty. The other dishes were quite forgettable. The stewed aubergines were tasty but the presentation was not appetising at all. It arrived as a heaped mountain of brown aubergine. I think Hunky was rather put off. The wu xi pork ribs had a lovely aromatic taste of aniseed and five spice but the texture of the meat varied between tender and tough. I had a sneaky suspicion that they have given us leftovers because I noticed the table next to us (yes, two more tables came later bringing up the total customers to 10 altogether!) had whole ribs which were several shades lighter while we had dark, chopped up pieces. The tong poh yoke was 95% fat and was deemed a health hazard. It was promptly dumped at the wasteland, or better known as my darling friend Potato Queen. He devoured it in two seconds.

The menu is rather small by Chinese restaurant standards. While it has a lot of duck dishes on offer the rest are fairly limited. The name does suggest it specialises in duck so perhaps it would've been better if we just stuck to duck. I'd come here again but not sure if any of my friends would. They need to improve on their menu and work on their presentation before they would even think of coming back.

The three course duck was RM78++. The total bill was RM184.25 which included one beer, two cokes, tea and rice.
Kuala Lumpur (Beijing Roast Duck) is located at 60 Changkat Bukit Bintang (on the t-junction of Changkat Bukit Bintang and Tengkat Tong Shin, across from 11 Eleven and Radius International Hotel). Call 03-21489627 for reservations but be prepared to speak mandarin.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Answer is Char Siu

When you are feeling down, dial 1-800-char siu for immediate relief

The Benefits
  • acts as a natural placebo. The mere sight and smell induces a feeling of euphoria
  • is known to improve skin texture by "moisturising from within"
  • helps aid digestion especially when eaten with yau fahn and iced barley
  • also known to cure hangovers/neutralise effects of alcohol - simply ingest entire slab preferably using your fingers (so you do not waste any precious oils and minerals)
Related Topics:

Paprika's Picks For The Miss Char Siu Pageant
This particular beauty (pictured above) is from Overseas Imbi. Ms. Overseas Imbi is so popular that you need to order in advance. She is tender all round with voluptuous streaks of fat and a lovely coat of sticky caramel. She costs RM25++. My other finalists are, Ms Meng Kee! She hails from Tengkat Tong Shin and is only available during the day. She is not as voluptuous but equally as tender. Sometimes she can be a little burnt around the edges. She isn't cheap either, RM10 for a small portion. And last but not least, Ms Soo Kee from Ampang. Ms Soo Kee is somewhat of a veteran in this pageant. Although she has fallen from grace in recent years (she caused a scandal with her seedy and dirty methods), I still think she should be included. She has always been, to quote Destiny's Child, "My body is too bootylicious for you baby!" She isn't one to visit often as it would most certainly result in a heart attack of sorts. She was already charging RM10 back in the day so I hate to imagine how much it is now. So those were the three finalists so far. And the winner is.....

I wanted to save this picture for next month's "pic of the month" but I just couldn't wait any longer. I haven't been very inspired to blog lately as I am coming down with something. Perhaps it has affected my brain somewhat which would explain this loopy post. Guess I should go have some char siu, it is THE miracle cure after all.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Kylie Kwong Returns

Last week we celebrated Big Bro's birthday. Sis channeled Martha (driven, focused and slightly deranged) and slaved over the stove for two whole days in preparation for the big birthday feast. Sis has really started to enjoy cooking Chinese, even if really is more Kylienese than it is Chinese. Kylie's recipes are a little like Nigella's in a sense that they are quite ad hoc and perhaps not the best to use if you don't like tweaking and guessing. Having said that, the dishes are guaranteed to be hearty, rustic and flavourful. I'd gladly have that any day over fussy and pretty food.
She made several dishes, some hits and some misses. Especially with my mum who eyed everything warily. She wasn't quite sure what to make of this "Chinese" dinner. After all, how does one eat rice with oysters and lobster & foie gras salad? The oysters were not Kylie's recipe. Sis had modified a recipe from one of the foreign gourmet magazines. It was a combination of mirin and saishikomi, and topped with chives, cilantro and spring onions. They were good but I prefer my oysters raw. The dish that I thought I would love the best turned out to be my least favourite. Not because it tasted bad. It was just too much! The lobster, poached egg and foie gras salad looked fantastic when Kylie made it on her tv show. Sis used chicken egg instead of duck. She also used foie gras instead of foie gras pate. I had one helping and even then I barely finished it. Something about the gooey egg yolk and foie gras combination that made me slightly nauseous. What a shame!

The duck was the favourite of the night. The duck is first marinated with crushed pepper and salt. It is then steamed and left to cool and dry out in the fridge. Then it is boned and deepfried before being drizzled with a thick caramelised orange sauce. I loved the hint of cinnamon and star anise in the sauce. It also had the pungent saltiness from fish sauce which balanced out the sweet oranges perfectly. The result, a superbly intense orange sauce. Lovely! My favourite was the salt & chilli squid. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary but it was just done really well. I'm tempted to post a picture of my sister spacing out halfway through dinner but think she would kill me! Poor sis, think she passed out at 10pm! Thanks for cooking us dinner Sis.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Happy Birthday Edwin!

Last night we celebrated good friend/actor/political scientist/singer/iPod-enthusiast Edwin's birthday. Being the drama queens that we are, it was the perfect occasion to glamourise. Actually, the birthday boy did request we dress up to the nines and we were only too eager to oblige. Cuz had organised for the dinner to be at Al Nafourah as she had been raving on about the semi-buffet for awhile now. None of us had visited Al Nafourah before but the reviews have been half and half.
We were seated at the private room which had a view of the pool and half naked people walking about. Shame that it got dark very quickly and we couldn't leer anymore. We were shouting over the music until the waiter turned the volume down. Ah, the advantages of sitting in the private room, you can control the music and lighting. We were then given tiny glasses of apricot scented water. I liked it. It was like one of those tacky peach tea from the packet. The waiter came round and took our orders for main course. It was a choice of 5 tagines. Lamb, beef, chicken, cod and vegetarian. I ordered the lamb because it came with apricots and almonds. All of us then went off to the appetiser buffet. I love the pita breads here. They are warm, fresh and fluffy. They had the usual hoummus and baba ghanoush. I was not familiar with the rest like the spicy muhamarra but I had a pleasurable time trying all the dips. I especially liked the walnut dip which tasted like really gourmet peanut butter or perhaps a non-spicy satay sauce. It was incredibly aromatic and rich. There was a good variety of mezzes which I could've happily continued ploughing my way through especially salads like fattoush and tabbouleh. I also liked the dried beef which tasted like bresaola. Meanwhile, the resident belly dancer had made her way over to our room. It was a glittering performance of hip-shaking action and slinky belly rolls that made my back ache a bit while I was watching. She flipped her hair, bowed and left. Edwin then treated us to his version of the belly dance which was hilarious!

As I was too busy eating and being sociable, I didn't take many pictures of the food. All I can say is that I wished I had eaten more of the appetisers as the main course was just disappointing. Oh yes, it was very impressive when several waiters waltzed in with the tagine covered plates and presenting them at the table. When they lifted the covers, it didn't look very appetising. It was such a, for a lack of better word, manicured version of the rustic tagine. Nevermind the presentation. The flavous lacked depth and although my lamb was tender, any enjoyment was interrupted by the sweet syrupy apricot. Hey, I like my sweet in my savouries but this was an overkill. Hunky's cod was far too overcooked. The three people on my left were all having the cod and complained that it tasted like aeroplane food. Rafs even said that canned tuna tasted better. Ouch. Hot Mouse, who was having chicken tagine, said that it was bland and the chicken tasted like it had been in the fridge for too long. The rave reviews from the appetiser was slowly being tainted by the dismal main course. Could dessert save the meal?

I have to say I wasn't paying too much attention to the food at this point as the usual camwhoring session had begun. Dessert selection was a lot smaller than the appetisers. I had something which resembled bread and butter pudding with a lot of extra cream. I really enjoyed that. There was also a fried pastry that had been soaked in honey. Everyone seemed to really like this but I couldn't get past the refried oil taste. I also liked the rose scented custard which was more like cream pudding than it was egg custard. After that came a to-die-for peanut butter birthday cake! My god, the dessert buffet was forgotten after that! I can't even begin to describe how lovely this cake was, sadly, it was so rich and I was too full to even finish a full slice. I am so disappointed with myself. It really is a lovely restaurant and while I was not bowled over by the tagine, it is an interesting experience. I'm not sure if I would come again. I've heard that the ala carte menu is better. Who knows? Make sure you cab it because the parking charges are phenomenal! Ours cost RM26, and we got the first hour free! One thing is for sure is that I will not be going to Zeta bar ever again. 5-star hotel expensive drinks with 3-star rubbish live band.

The view outside at the entrance of the private room. Click here to visit the hotel's website. Semi-buffet is priced at RM108++ per person and includes coffee and complimentary shisha. Available from Thurs-Sunday only. Please note that the semi-buffet will be replaced with a Ramadhan buffet during the fasting month.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! Thanks for dinner and hope you had a blast!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Baby Got Back

When Sis asked me to have lunch at Ripley’s, I thought it was some sort of Alien-themed restaurant. I am a fan of Alien, the movies (except Alien Resurrection which was so lame) but I am wary of themed-restaurants. Turns out she was just lazy at enunciating. She had read a recent review of Rib Lee's in one of the local magazine. Rib Lee’s is a family-run restaurant that adds emphasis on personalised service and pork specialities. Located above a bank in one of the corner lots of Sri Hartamas, it is a unassuming sort of place. There decor has a steakhouse feel with some personal touches which reminds me of visiting someone’s home for the first time.

It had rained in the morning and the air was still cool and moist. Parking is a real problem at this place. We managed to park at a spot which was reserved for an office around the area. The parking attendant reassured us that the car would be in pristine condition when we got back. It was quiet at RibLee's. We were served by the owners of the place. He even offered to make me a fresh iced lemon tea after he told me that the one they serve is from a packet mix. This little touch was much appreciated. We ordered grilled bacon rolls, grilled baby back ribs and roasted pork belly with pesto.

While the grilled bacon rolls were nowhere as nice as the ones in Kuching, I reckon they would taste really good with cold beer. These were slightly sinewy and I did not like the bits of celery in it. The pork ribs was flavourful and tender. I loved the marinade they use. Its a little like barbecue but very peppery at the same time. The one we enjoyed least was the pork belly funnily enough. I mean, com'on, its pork belly! Whats not to love?! I know the belly part has a lot of fat but this one was just one big heart attack waiting to happen. I think you can see from the photo below that most of it was just fat. Furthermore, the skin wasn't crispy. The pesto was somewhat odd and the dish just didn't come together as it should've. On the up side, the truffle-scented mash potato was quite divine. Its a nice little neighbourhood restaurant but seeing that I don't live in the vicinity, I doubt I will be back again anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Eating Out At Home

Its August already? I can't believe 2007 has just flown by that quickly. Malaysia is turning 50 in a few weeks. I will be turning %& shortly after. And in a few months, which will seem like two weeks, my new flat will be ready. I'm excited about finally moving into my own place but also a little anxious about leaving the family home. Meanwhile, I am busy looking at furniture, lighting, wallpaper, crockery and white goods. Speaking of which, I was at Great Eastern Mall a couple of weeks back. I met up with some ex-colleagues over lunch. Funnily enough, all of us have bought a place since we left. It was for this very reason we all left around the same time. It happened over one fateful lunch 4 years ago, while visiting a property showroom that it dawned on us that we would never be able to afford a place with the mere pittance we called salary. We left, moved onto better things and are proud home owners. But I digress, back to GE Mall. We met up for lunch at, aptly called, At Home. It is a huge shop selling everything from pens and chandeliers to plastic flowers and whisks. They even have a little cafe that has a mixture of local fare and Italian-inspired dishes.

Its an odd place to be having lunch as you feel like you are part of the display. Still, the prices seemed very reasonable and it was a welcomed change from Alexis. Crispy ordered pan-fried garoupa fillets with angel hair pasta (RM23++). I don't know why but I can't seem to understand fish with pasta. It tastes perfectly fine but something doesn't seem right to me. His fish was slightly overcooked but tasty nonetheless. Hunky ordered curry laksa (RM11++) which is listed as one of their specials. The bowl was impressively huge but the dish itself was disappointing. The gravy was watery and tasted more like asam laksa than it did curry laksa. Or perhaps that was intentional as it was listed as their signature dish after all.
The winning dish of the day was Fren's grilled tenderloin with mash and mushroom "rog out" (RM30++). I'm sure they meant ragout. Unless its some Ampang speak for some type of food ronggeng? The slices of beef were tender and well seasoned. Actually, it didn't even need the ragout. The mash was fluffy and reminded me of my mum's mash potatoes. Being the cynic, I had ordered the least offensive thing on the menu which was angel hair pasta with sundried tomatoes and prawns (RM18++). Let me explain why I was cynical. First of all, the faintly fluorescent lighting was not encouraging. Secondly, the layout of the place suggested the food was an afterthought. Thirdly, I was put off by the "Best Of Elevator Music" combined with the ambient chirping of imaginary birds in the background. Anyway, my pasta was actually very pleasant. It was a sizable portion of al dente pasta tossed lightly with olive oil, garlic and sundried tomatoes. The prawns were a little overcooked but at least they were fresh.

Crispy was still struggling with his rather huge and thick mango lassi when it came to dessert. Hmm, that sounded rather rude. Anyway, Hunky ordered his favourite, tiramisu (RM11++). It arrived as a pair of shot glass filled with cream and coffee-soaked sponge. I actually quite liked this eventhough its not quite tiramisu without the liquer and mascarpone. Actually, there was a hint of cheese. Very faint and was quickly overpowered by the taste of coffee. I liked it because it was small and light. Overall, it was a very pleasant and relatively cheap lunch. Now, if only they would change the lighting and music...

At Home is located on the first floor of Great Eastern Mall. Total bill including coffee and two iced lemon teas RM143.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Kiss Kiss

How fast does time fly?! Its been almost three months already since we said farewell to Vanilla Box. And last week I went to say hello to Bisou. Bisou is the youngest sibling to Bianco and Bijou. I didn't recognise the lot at all! It looks completely different from its predecessor. I guess its more in line with the whole feel of Heritage Row. That is, a little more slick. The look is similar to that of Bijou. Its bright and feminine; fairy lights adorning the tree, a cupcake display tempts you by the window. Walking past the window, any girl would not be able to resist stopping and going "Oooh" in her mind. Men, I'm not so sure. Saw a lot of men walk straight past! Oh well, can't win them all.

It was about 9:30am when Sis and I sat down at Bisou. There are not many tables here as it is more a cake shop than it is a cafe. Sis ordered a brioche (RM5++) and chicken pie (RM9++). Sis' brioche arrived piping hot with butter and strawberry jam on the side. It was lovely hot and that subtle sweetness was yummy with the salty butter. The chicken pie was ok, nothing out of the ordinary. Its the run of the mill type of chicken pies that we have come to expect. You know what I mean, diced chicken and vegetables in gravy that resembles Campbell's mushroom soup and baked in puff pastry. Not to say that its a bad thing. I quite like it but before I die, I would like to try a chicken pie that doesn't have that mushroomy gravy.

I stuck to coffee and for an extra RM2 I added a "muffin of the day" which happened to be orange with chocolate chip. I love the taste and texture of my muffin. I liked that the muffin itself was not very sweet and the slivers of fresh oranges gave it a fresh and zingy contrast to the chocolate chips. And the texture is gorgeous. Its dense without being floury, more like moist steamed bread. I was thoroughly satisfied with my mid-morning snack. Sis felt that she wanted something sweet and ordered a treacle and ginger slice. I liked it a lot as it is not as toothachingly sweet as Nigella's. It was moist and almost spicy from the ginger. Perfect with hot tea. I wouldn't say the food here is cheap but everything I had tasted good, the service is good and it is located in a strip that is better known for its drinking culture than fine foods. Closed on Mondays. Open from 9am-11pm Tue - Fri. I think they close earlier on the weekends.