Monday, February 26, 2007

Revenge of The Sashimi

I've lost count on the number of Japanese restaurants there are in this city. Its a close race between the Japanese and Italians I reckon. Of course that just means more choice and sometimes headache for us. I've walked past Mizu in Bangsar Village many, many times but only went there for the first time recently. The exterior of the restaurant doesn't allow for prying eyes so I was quite surprised to find that it was quite crowded in there and also it was kind of dark. I don't like dark exteriors with bright light shining through the windows. Its reminds me of being in a nightclub during the day. The overall effect for me was depressing and disorienting. After we sat down, we were promptly served by several very efficient wait staff. You can always tell how good a restaurant is by their set menus. Its supposed to be fast, good value for money and tasty at the same time. So with that in mind, I ordered a beef shogayaki (slices of beef cooked with onions in a ginger sauce) set while Lem chose a salmon teriyaki set. All sets come with miso soup, pickles, fruit, chawan mushi and rice. The portion was definitely value for money with generous slices of beef. However, the meat was teetering on musty. Even the tasty gingery sauce could not mask the faint taste of yesterday. Lem's salmon teriyaki was predictably boring and pleasant, but fresh at least. Judging from the keen crowd, I'm thinking perhaps the stale meat may just be a result of chinese new year. I will try it again one of these days.

The following day, Hunky and I went to Rakuzen in Plaza Damas with Sis. Eversince the sashimi bar in Federal Hotel closed down, Rakuzen has become the next best thing. The sashimi really is very fresh but can't say much about their other stuff because I only ever go there for sashimi. The chawan mushi is extra smooth and wobbly. Hunky ordered a king prawn tempura sushi roll with avocado. That was really yummy! After all is said and done, my favourite Japanese place is still the fuss-free, porky, cheap and cheerful Dontaku.


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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Unexpected Visitor

Taking a break from Chinese banquets, Hunky and I stayed in and had one of his favourite meals - bangers and mash. Not just any banger, it has to be from Jarrod & Rawlins which is undisputedly the best homegrown sausages available commercially. Well its not too difficult seeing the competition is either canned or processed beyond recognition. I tried to find some information about the meat content in their sausages but to no avail. I guess I will have to call up their office on Monday.
Anyway, Hunky fried up the sausages while I caramelised the onions and made the mash potatoes. The potatoes were a tad floury but nothing a huge dollop of butter and massive quantities of cream couldn't fix. As if it wasn't filling enough, we also had some leftover crumble that Hunky's mum had made. I think she said it was a Nigella recipe which is probably why the crumble was more like shortbread, rich! We also had an unexpected guest during dinner. I had to take a photo as the little guy looked so serene glued to the window.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Landscapes

Every year my friends and I pay homage to our origins by visiting the sanctuary of Chinese delights, the culinary and cultural icon thatis Overseas. Everyone I know has been to Imbi and hold sacred a list offavourites they never deter from. With my family, we must have the HolyTrinity -nam yue pai guat, deep fried soft shell crab and sticky sweet freshwater king prawns. Over the years, my closest friends and I have formed our own list by marrying dishes from each other’s list.

On the top of the list is beggar’s duck. This dish came about from one dinner I had with Ivy’s family. I’m not sure how I got invited to dinner that fateful night but I am ever grateful for being introduced to the devastatingly tender and herbaceous duck. One can only marvel at the landscape of duck resting on the stainless steel platter. A gentle prod with a fork and the moist dark flesh starts to fall off in chunks onto the thick aromatic gravy.

Surely the devastating char siu needs no introduction. Just look at it. I surrender in awe. Underneath that sweet, sticky and charred exterior, layers of soft translucent fat and pale tender meat wait to be discovered. It is the perfect aperitif. There is always just enough to leave us wanting more. Pure oral pleasure. On this occasion it was no different. We skipped on the yee sang as it is one dish they don’t make very well at Overseas. To celebrate the new year we ordered lap mei fahn. The waxed meats arrived separately from the claypot rice which we unceremoniously tipped into the pot. I had the honour of mixing it all up. The smokey, gamey meat and fragrant oil-soaked rice is an indulgence I wish I could have more frequently. Less is definitely not more with this dish. Even though my jeans were starting to cut of the blood circulation around my waist, I had two large bowls of the rice on top of everything else.

The deep fried soft shell crab was the last to arrive. This dish always brings me back to my childhood. I guess it was one of those dishes that parents would order for their children. Fried chicken, fried fish, fried, fried, fried - no wonder we are overweight. Anyway, it still taste as good if not better because now I can appreciate the taste and texture of the crab along side strands of chives and onions. I only managed two pieces this time. Over this lifetime I intend to work my way through the menu as there are hundreds of dishes I have not tried. Hmmm, must make more friends…

Ritzy Parcels of Pleasure

I am utterly shocked that I have not posted about my favourite dim sum restaurant. I didn't realise I have not been in over a year. I have not visited Ming Room yet but I hear the dim sum is quite good. Until then, I stand by Ritz Carlton being the best. I like the impeccable service, the small intimate space and fantastic dim sum. There are three things on my dim sum list. Firstly, I don't care how tasty a restaurant's dim sum is, if I can taste stale oil/lard, its over. There is nothing more vile than the taste of oil thats been reused once too many. Secondly, the translucent skin of steamed dumplings have to be just the right amount of thickness so that it springs back lightly and falls apart in the mouth. And last but not least, msg. I know its impossible for Chinese restaurants to not have msg but it is possible for them to exert some control. It is ok for a little enhancement but not to the point where my throat is all constricted from thirsty irritation by the end of the meal.

Hunky must have his ha gow and I must have my cheong fun. The cheong fun here is fantastic. Its so smooth and thin. We usually order the cheong fun with yau tiew or prawns but this time we tried the one with minced meat and chive. It was a little bland compared to the rest. Safe to say there was no msg in that one! We tried a dim sum from the new year menu, pan fried yam cake with prawn and pork stuffing. It was good.

We had something similar to gau choy gow. This steamed dumpling was bursting at the seams with gau choy and minced pork. It was almost too much stuff to be honest. Its like eating noodles that have more liu than noodles. Hunky ordered a fried dim sum with mango and prawn as a substitute to our usual prawn dumplings with salad sauce. I liked it, it wasn't oily and the mango was nice and sweet. I couldn't fit dessert in but had a bite of Hunky's mango pudding. I'm not a big fan but the texture was lovely and smooth with tiny pieces of chopped mango.

Noble House

In the spirit of Chinese New Year, I've only eaten Chinese. Its that time of the year when red appears in boutiques, people lo sang one month in advance and there are boxes of mandarins sitting in your kitchen. About a week back, we had lunch in Noble House after being mistakenly led there for dim sum. The problem with Noble House are the prices they charge. It is pricey for Chinese. Ya, ya, they aspire to be the Frangipani of Chinese cuisine but its hard to pull off with karaoke sets in corners, reverberating yam sengs and militant staff. We started off with crispy cod dumplings with pork floss and mayo. It was the size of one small spring roll cut in half. It was crispy, tasty and slightly tacky which I love. I'm guessing the cod is their reason for charging RM15++ for this magic. Now you see it, pop, its gone!

Next up was tangy and sticky sweet ribs. Or rather, rib. For RM12++, the experience was simply to short. I was really enjoying the vinegary sweet crispy shell and then its all over. All that was left were two pieces of overdressed gem lettuce. The foie gras fried rice RM20++ was shared between the four of us. I still like this dish. The fried rice was bursting with flavour from a very hot wok. The foie gras gave the dish a soft and creamy finish. I wish I could eat it everyday but I don't want to visit IJN anytime soon.

We ordered pancakes for dessert. They add banana to the usual lotus seed paste. The pastry was crispy and hot and the filling had just the right amount of sweetness but it was nothing to shout about. I also ordered some black sesame dumplings in ginger water. Bit stingy with the dumplings (two) and they were not as good as Shanghai at Marriott. Lunch cost RM60 odd per person which was hefty for 1) lunch and 2) Chinese.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Gong Hey Gong Hey!

Gong Hey Fatt Choy everyone! May this year be full of lucky bacon, prosperous pork belly sweet happy cha siu! How many ang pows have you received? Yesterday Hunky and I were the only ones above 3 years-old to receive ang pows at Aunty M's. So embarassing! The weather has been highly unusual for this time of the year. Its always scorching heat during CNY. I can't believe its overcast today. What a great day to sleep in! I don't have any parties to go to today and will use this time to catch up with my posts.
We had a big reunion dinner at the family home. This is the first time in many, many years that Grandma is here in KL. I am thankful that we give traffic on the PLUS highway a miss this year. Mum made pork stomach soup, steamed fish, steamed chicken, fried prawns, sah kok and stir-fried pak choy while my relatives brought a truck load of siew yoke and famous roast duck from SS2. We also had to have lap mei of course. I remember I the first time I discovered how delicious liver sausages were. It was during lunch with colleagues at my very first job many (many) moons ago. It had been stir-fried with soy sauce and coriander. I ate it thinking it was normal sausage and my god, I was pleasantly surprised! Haven't looked back since!
After dinner I listened to Grandma talk about my late Grandfather and his scandalous affairs, how she fled deep into rural neighbourhoods during the Japanese occupation to avoid being raped and many, many more vivid and colourful memories. I love listening to her but its also sad to realise how little I really know about my grandparents and I only have one left. Well, shes a sturdy old lady so I still have time to get to know her. Of course the night wouldn't be complete without a spot of gambling. I won $20!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Family Dins at Shang Palace

The first of many yee sang started last week at Shang Palace. I hardly ever eat fancy Chinese unless its dim sum which I am super picky about. On this rare occasion, my brother was buying the family dinner as his Shangri-la priviledge card was about to expire soon. We ordered yee sang with nashi pear and jelly fish. I liked that there were not any neon-dyed vegetables. I aslo like the delicate flavour and crisp texture of the pear along with the ginger and crunchy crackers.

We had peking duck which would've been very nice if it had not been for the thick doughy pancakes. We also ordered a small portion of claypot duck with yam. That was interesting. I love yam and I love duck. It tasted terribly rich and incredibly salty. My brother had ordered it because it reminded him of a dish he had in Hanoi. He said the one in Hanoi was nicer because it wasn't so rich.

There was a dish we picked from the "healthy dish" page which was a deep-fried mango-filled pastry. I'm not sure how this falls into the healthy category! Our one token vegetable was chinese cabbage cooked in cream and smoked ham. It was like carbonara but better! It was very nice but again, very rich as you can imagine. My favourite dish was the braised pork with fried mantou. Mmmmmm! Fatty pork, gravy and fried bread, need I say more?!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Chutney Chase

Chutney Mary may sound like a drag queen's name but in actual fact it’s the name of an Indian restaurant on Telawi in Bangsar. It’s a funny little place because the d├ęcor resembles a trendy night spot but the service is unmistakably curry house. No fluorescent lighting or stray flies here so put it down on your list as possible date destination. The menu is predominantly Indian with some odd crowd pleasers thrown in. Fish and chips? Surely it’d be the last thing you expect to order in an Indian restaurant.

There is an array of cheap, quickie lunch sets on offer. I ordered the briyani rice set with chicken tikka. While we waited for our food, we snacked on hot black pepper wafers. I love these but I hate how it sticks to your teeth. The briyani was very fragrant and tasty on its own but even better when drizzled with thick smokey tikka masala sauce. The chicken masala, all two pieces of it, was creamy, smokey and spicy. I finished all my yogurt to put out the fire in my mouth. The set also came with a single gulab jamun for dessert. I’m usually not keen because they are more often than not tooth-achingly sweet. I was surprised to find that the syrup was quite diluted so the sweetness was just perfect for me. Finally, for the first time I was able to taste the dumpling itself! I hope this place stays open for a long time to come. Its rare to find good food in Bangsar.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

How Much Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways. Once on Friday, another time on Monday and once more on Wednesday. If the staff at Bill's in Darlinghurst felt that we were odd, they didn't let up. I love the quiet tree lined steet that Bill's is on the corner of. I love the natural light and of course the dry, crisp weather makes the experience even more pleasurable. And best of all, about all the restaurants in Sydney, it is non-smoking. Its amazing how much more we can smell when the person at the next table isn't waving their lit cigarette at you.

As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words. And thanks to Dween, I finally learnt how to post bigger pictures. This trip I really developed a liking for the ricotta hotcakes. Nevermind the ricotta amounts to no more than the flecks of icing sugar sitting on top of the hotcakes. As a child, this was probably what I imagined clouds tasted like. The texture is so soft and springy, and the honeycomb butter adds a lovely salty sweet flavour to the hotcakes.

I was crazy about the corn fritters with grilled tomatoes and bacon during the last trip. This trip, I wasn't so keen. I had it on my last day and found myself giving away half of it and digging into Dween's hotcakes instead. I think I could eat hotcakes everyday. I'd be a lot fatter but possibly small price to pay for absolute bliss. We also discovered the evil-kenevil scrambled eggs. If the devil was an egg, he'd be the lascivious srambled eggs at Bill's. A small moutain of fluffy butter coloured clouds, oozing with velvety creamy richness and spilling over the plate like a inclined Rubenesque beauty. And as if the butter and cream in the eggs are not enough to kill you, they serve it with fantastic Sonoma toast with a slab of butter on it. In the picture you can see something sandwiched in the toast, thats not cheese.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Aliens Invade Chinatown!

When we were at Ravesi's yesterday we got invited by Ah Fah's godparents to dinner at Chinatown. No holiday would be complete without at least one Chinese meal right? We met at Golden Century to eat some "special Tasmanian crab", I was told. So there we were, feeling the effects of late nights and walking around in scorching temperatures, when the waiter comes round and drops a huge mother of a crab on our table. Geez! It was the size of a bull terrier! It was fascinating at first but after awhile I started to feel bad for it. I'm sure it must've known it was about to be devoured by the twelve hungry people before it. I was relieved when the waiter finally came back and took it away but not before I gave it a comforting stroke on its pincer.
The crab was so big that we had three dishes made out of it. The first dish was stir-fried with scallions, ginger and wine (above, background). The crab meat tasted absolutely amazing! It was so sweet and fresh. And the texture was almost noodle like, flaking off in translucent white strands. The second dish was batterfried with salt and pepper. This was very tasty too but I felt the batter took away from the delicious texture of the meat. The third was noodles stir-fried in crab roe. I didn't have much of this dish because I wanted to save my stomach for the next seven courses! We had assorted roast meats & cold ham, roast chicken, black pepper beef, stir-fried clams, sweet & sour pork and a very small plate of token vegetables. There was meant to be one more dish somewhere but it never arrived much to the relief of our distended stomachs.

The following day we spent the most part of the day in Paddington. The guys made a pit stop at Max Brenner while us girls disappeared in a Karen Millen clearance store. Thank the heavens! Chocolate AND Karen Millen! I was the first to emerge from the drowsy depths of silk and satin. It didn't feel like I had been gone that long but Handsome pointed out that they had finished their second round of drinks and polished off two plates of sinful chocolate pleasures. I didn't manage to fit in any Max Brenner that day but I did have a espresso and milk chocolate frappe in Manly the next day. Damnnnnn, it was so smooth, rich and intense. I'm so glad everyone had their own drinks so I didn't have to share!

Ravesi's at Bondi

The next morning, we had to rush off to Bondi for a post-wedding brunch with the family. It was a bright blue day and the streets were littered with half naked, young, bronzed people. Our table on the balcony of Ravesi's had a particularly advantageous view. The last time I came to Australia, there was no chance in hell to getting into Ravesi's for a drink. It seems to be very popular but at the same time, my local friends have branded it overrated and pretentious. I was about to find out soon enough.

We had three options for both starter and main course. I went with the duck spring rolls with hoi sin sauce to start with. The skin was nice and crispy, the filling was tasty. For my main course, I chose the asian-inspired fish with coconut milk, coriander and pickled ginger. The fish was perfectly done but the sauce was exactly what I was afraid it would be, sweet. It tasted like they used sweetened coconut cream. Well, I finished most it anyway after scraping the sauce aside. It was nice with the herbs and pickled ginger.

Dween ordered the steak which was a vast improvement from the night before's. The meat was tender, juicy and well marinated. I also tried Hunky's chicken stuffed with ricotta. As far as chicken goes, it was pretty juicy but the subtle taste of the chicken and equally subtle ricotta left the dish tasting flat and bland. Overall, I'm not impressed with Ravisi's. The only saving grace is the fantastic view of the sea. Oh, and the make a bloody good Boody Mary too.

We met up with Ads at Iceberg and watched people do laps in the pool below. It was fun whenever the wave crashed over because you could see the swimmers pushed sideways. Must be quite challenging and scary because you never know when the next wave is coming.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

I got teary more than once during the day of the wedding. Ah Fah looked so beautiful, radiant and serene. I, on the other hand, was nervous for her. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. It was completely blue which resulted in several guests getting sun burn. However, it was also very windy which provided relief to the men in their suits and made for very dramatic photographs. The wind was so strong, it picked up Ah Fah's veil and nearly got blown away if not for my lightning reflex! After the exchange of vows, we all breathed a sigh of relief and sipped champagne from plastic flutes and manipulated melting Pat & Stick's Homemade Ice Cream around the wind to stop the ice cream dripping onto our nice threads. With my bridesmaid duties officially over, I was able to enjoy the evening reception at Doltone House on Jones Bay Wharf.
It was such a lovely venue. The quirky couple surprised everyone with a mariachi band. I missed quite a few canapes as I was busy snapping pictures and catching up with people. And they sounded so delicious too! I've never been to a wedding where they had alternate serving before. Luckily, I had the option to swap with Hunky as he pretty much eats anything. I got the poached scallops with carrot and cumin frittata and yoghurt dressing to start. Hunky got goats cheese with beetroot relish which he mistook for red cabbage. The flavours were interesting but I thought the cumin overpowered the delicate tasting scallop.

For the main course, I got braised lambshank with mash and baby carrots while Hunky got the grilled Scotch fillet. The lambshank was nicely cooked but not seasoned very well. It turned out alright though because the mash was extremely well seasoned (gag!). I desperately wanted to suck on the marrow, my god! I would've stuck a straw in! Sadly, I had to leave it alone as I didn't want to mortify the other guests on my table. Hunky was very disappointed with his rubbery steak. It was tasty but overcooked unfortunately. By the time dessert came round, the bride and groom had completely left our table which left me to contemplate on whether to scoff their dessert. I figured they would be too drunk to notice. Alas, they came back. My dessert was a caramel and banana mousse thing with white chocolate. I didn't like it and Hunky was only too happy to swap as he did not like his apple tarte tartin with apple sorbet. I loved it!

The cake was shaped to look like a box with a figurine of their beloved dog sitting by the side. Rafs and I were completely fooled. We thought they would lift the box to unveil the cake. How stupid would we have looked if we had gone over and tried to lift the box! I seemed to have been the only one liked the royal icing. I thought the sweetness was perfect as the cake was a dark and intense chocolate cake. I think I had two slabs while everyone was getting more drunk on champagne. We were also treated to a waltz by the happy (and tipsy) couple. It was so sweet! What a funtastic and beautiful evening. Below is a photo that really captured the essence of the evening!

Vegemate!

Wow its February already! I just got back from Sydney after attending Ah Fah and Ah Pho's wedding. I am now officially cursed of course, after being bridesmaid for the third time. Now theres no turning back so if anyone would like me to be their bridesmaid, please drop me a line. My resolution to drop those last couple of kilos have been set back by a couple more kilos now after spending 7 days with my closest friends who love nothing more than to gorge themselves with food. Ah, that is why I love them so. If we lived together, we could start a colony for fatties. So here I am back in KL, bursting at the seams and ready to blog about all the food I had in Sydney.

We arrived early in the evening last Wednesday. We were all starving after picking on salty coagulated cream penne courtesy of Austrian airlines. After a quick shower, we all packed into the Landrover and headed off to Burgerman in Darlinghurst. Its a small unassuming restaurant tucked away in one of the side streets. Its not much to look at but I can assure you the burgers are delicious. I ordered the beef burger with beetroot and horseradish mayo with wholemeal bun. I loved that lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and crisp. And the horseradish mayo packed a real punch. It definitely woke me up! The tomato relish was deliciously intense. Now that was a good relish! The chips deserve a special mention I think. First of all, the were just the right size. Secondly, the flavour of the potato itself was yummy. And finally, it was cooked to perfection! Golden and crispy without leaving your fingers moisturised in oil. They also gave the bride and groom a chocolate rice crispy dessert each after we mentioned we were in Sydney for a wedding. I liked the dessicated coconut in the chocolate and ate most of it since the groom has an aversion for anything coconutty.


I don't know how they manage to pack it in but most of my friends had a gelato each at Messina. I was "pressured" into having a scoop since I am supposed to be the greedy glut when it comes to dessert. I had a kiddie cone because I was trying to save my calories for Bill's (I will have to write a separate entry for Bill's as we had breakfast there THREE times during the course of our stay!) the next day. I had the pandan and coconut gelato which was really delicious as the texture was so smooth and light. It really reminded me of the ice cream from my childhood. I also had a bite of each of my friends. Very, very good! Bloody 'ell!

It was Australia Day the next day and I went to meet some old school friends for drinks at Cargo Bar on King Street Wharf. There were bronzed drunken Ozzies spilling out of the place. It was a beautiful day and we drank the afternoon away until we finally felt hungry. Met up with the others at Nick's seafood. It wouldn't be the kind of place I would've picked but a lot of restaurants were closed for the holiday and some of us were bit too drunk to care really. I had rock oysters to start and rocket salad with beetroot, goats cheese and pinenuts. Rafs ordered oyster kilpatrick, real bacon! Waaaah...

It was Hunky's first time in Oz so he ordered the red wine braised kangaroo. The picture doesn't look very appetising but the taste was fantastic! It was beefy and gamey at the same time. It was surprisingly tender though which made me wonder if it was actually beef after all. Oh well...