Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Brown Sugar

After that uneventful lunch which left EJ looking like she wanted to punch someone, we went to check out Brown Sugar which was located at StarDuS Clubhouse. It was a rather odd building to have a restaurant. The owner Yuan, who is also the chef, started out as a chef for hire. At this cosy little restaurant you can expect very personalised service. You can call in advance to have something specially prepared. The table next to us were having lobster which was not on the menu.

We ordered all kinds of starters to share. The one dish that stood out from the rest was the norwegian mussels in white wine. They were so fresh and succulent. Taut little white juicy mussels in a light white wine sauce. Simple and lurvlee! The deconstructed apple and rocket salad sounded more interesting that it tasted. It was merely stacked in layers. The soft shell crab salad was "no big shakes" as EJ said. The baby octopus salad was nice and tangy.
For my main course I had wagyu burger topped with foie gras. It was a large piece of foie gras! Not the best quality but good enough for an extra SGD6. The wagyu burger was hand chopped and lightly seasoned. It was sumptuous! It was delicious even without the foie gras as the meat is incredibly tasty on its own despite only having a marble score of 6. (No prize for guessing who asked about the marble score). Good enough for me! The desserts were a let down unfortunately. The steamed pudding was heated up in the microwave which resulted in a slightly chewy texture. The pear tart tartin was lovely in taste but again, the pastry was tough from the reheating. I think it may be worth a second visit just for the mussels and burger.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Where Tai Tais Come Together

I'm back after a manic four-day gastronimical tour of Singapore. Clean, efficient Singapore; where old buildings are treasured and people may have food on their minds even more often than Malaysians. When we got off the bus, we were picked up by Sis' old friend EJ. EJ is a yoga freak and serious foodie. The type who most people might mistake as arrogance but she is actually just very interested in everything gastronomical, a touch competitive and too frank for most. We had lunch at Marmalade Pantry, in EJ's words "bloody tai tai hangout". It was close by and Sis wanted to have a burger.

We ordered quite a number of things because we are kiasu like that. Sis ordered the burger with foie gras. It was very good. I was surprised they chopped up the foie gras into the patty but I suppose it makes $ sense because you can't tell exactly how much they put in it but you can still taste it. The duck fat really rounds up the meaty flavour perfectly. That was by far the best dish of our meal. She also ordered the soup of the day which was chicken and sweetcorn chowder. I must say that this soup was quite appalling. Not only did it look and taste like Campbell's soup, it was almost the exact same thing in EJ's chicken pot pie. Don't get me wrong, I love Campbell's but I'm offended when one has to pay SGD9 for it! Needless to say, EJ took one bite of her pot pie and turned a dissatisfied shade of purple. It came in a funny short crust container which looked interesting at least.
I had the sweet potato soup which was thick and tasty with just a hint of cumin to balance out the sweetness. We also ordered a crab caesar to share and that was tasty. I liked that it was not dripping with dressing. We exchanged the corn chowder for a warm spinach salad instead. Alas, it wasn't any better. It was as if they had poured butter all over the salad. It was so oily we just couldn't eat it. When the waiter asked if there was something wrong with the food EJ told him it tasted like "dog food". I know she meant to say "shit". Oh well, if we ever go back again, I'll make sure its not with her because they'll probably spit in our food. Apparently the Head Chef has moved to their other outlet hence the drop in standards. I did remember having a very nice meal there over two years ago. It is a little run down now. The carpets look slightly damp and worn down, paint in flaking off the walls, it looks slightly neglected. I've heard about the must-try cupcakes but EJ wouldn't let us have any. "Pleaselah! Your cupcake is so much better! Why pay SGD3.50?! Idiot...Stupid...Choi..." They do look pretty though... Marmalade Pantry fared better over at Boolicious' blog.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Three Good Reasons

A few years back I went scouring all over Spain for delicious, saffron scented, golden paella. I was fascinated by this one pot dish of wonder. City after city, I was disappointed not to find a single restaurant that made fresh paella during my trip. Of course if I wasn't being such a pig-headed tourist, I would've read the guide book properly that clearly suggests that I was eating in all the wrong places. I needed to be along the coast, in the country side, not in Zara-infested cities! So it is ironic that I would finally find the elusive paella here in KL. Ah, the irony! I want to get down on my knees, look up to the heavens and cry out "Why?!" Hopefully it would also be raining at the time to add to the effect.
El Cerdo has become one of my favourite restaurants. How can it not? With a menu full of delicious pork, pork and more pork, I only wish I had a thin body and fat wallet so I could eat there everyday. It is unfortunate that the truth is in reverse but oh well, its not a perfect world. The paella is a fairly new dish on their menu and it comes in three sizes. The smallest size is for 2-3 people and costs RM88++ but you get some really good quality stuff. Crisp fresh prawns, scallops in their shell and slices of chorizo ham on a bed of fragrant saffron rice. They usually put chicken in too, but we always tell them to leave it out. The chicken merely disrupts the delicately harmonious taste and texture of the saffron, rice and seafood.

Yesterday we drove around the block trying to pin point my sister's cravings. I could literally see the light bulb flash over her head before she swerved violently towards El Cerdo. They have a couple of set lunches priced very reasonably that includes a cold starter buffet. We both chose to have the cold starter buffet (rm18++) and shared the paella as a main dish. Its a great spread of hams, pate, rillette, salad, roast pork and terrines. Its a perfectly satisfying lunch even without the paella. And if these two things still don't interest you, then you must at least try their roast suckling pig. It is divine! To die for! Unlike Chinese restaurants, this suckling pig has quite a bit of meat on it. It is so tender and crispy, you just can't stop eating it. The only thing that bothers me about ordering this dish is their rather noisy gimmick. I won't ruin it for you if you haven't been, you'll just have to go check it out yourself. Oink.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Meal Deals at Max!

This little restaurant on Tengkat Tong Shin has all my fellow floggers salivating for more. This is my second time at Max! after having dinner there a couple of months back. It was my brother who told me about their lunch deal. Let me tell you my brother is a man of very, very few words. Therefore, he must've been very impressed to share his lunch experience with us. For RM22++ he enjoyed a two-course set lunch with ice lemon tea! I was surprised by the outstanding price but shocked that he thought the aubergine soup was delicious. He doesn't even eat aubergine!

I had lunch there last week. I had the duck salad to start which was overdressed with olive oil. Otherwise it was very tasty. The greens were fresh and crisp, the duck tender and tasty. My main course was pieces of rib eye served with polenta and mushroom gravy. It was pretty good. After all, at RM22++, I don't think one should complain. Its gone up from RM18++ which is still great value for fine food. The only problem is parking. Cars move around pretty quickly during lunch as the office crowd hone in on Meng Kee. Be very careful about parking illegally as the parking warden comes round frequently in this area.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Picture Perfect Saturday

I feel so relaxed after a lovely evening out with my closest friends yesterday. When I woke up this morning, to a very much delayed sms that read "Are you out tonight?", I just didn't want to do anything. So with so much time on my hands, I decided to do a pictorial post instead. I went to Imbi market with my mum and nephew instead. First we stopped at the corner coffee shop at Imbi to pick up some egg tarts. An idea I have not been able to get out of my head after looking at those luscious tarts on Lyrical Lemongrass' blog yesterday. Imbi Market was heaving with couples having a late-ish breakfast. I was also inspired to bake after reading food blogs and cookbooks. In between, I tried to teach my nephew some yoga moves. Everytime he sits in lotus, he laughs because his ankle is pressing against his very ticklish thighs. Its hilarious! And finally Hunky came over and cooked dinner for me and mum. Its been a perfectly relaxing Saturday. Tomorrow will be a different story!

Isthmus, finally!

After reading countless newspaper and flogger reviews, all good by the way, I was excited to finally have lunch at Isthmus last week. I love the wooden deck. Made from old chengai wood, it must’ve cost a small fortune but completely worth it. It adds character to the modern red interior. We sat next to the huge windows because we were still thawing from our meeting in a freezing cold room. By the end of our meal, my back was starting to feel rather hot.

Sis and I ordered the quick lunch platter which had their signature blue lotus dumpling, gravlax, oyster shooter, simply avocado and I still don’t know what the last one was. The blue lotus dumpling was so pretty but the taste was a little bland as the dumpling skin was far too thick. The oyster was fresh and succulent but I didn’t have the shooter because there was just too much vodka in it for lunch! The avocado was wrapped with eggplant and deep fried. Sis liked it so much, she ate all of hers and half of mine. The gravlax was smokey and salty, but too salty for me to eat it on its own like that. I don’t know what the last one was. It tasted like woo kok, without the meat. Very tasty and nice with the slightly tart sauce. The sauce was pretty - bright orange and dark chocolate in colour, it looked like a spider squashed by the “woo kok”.
Sis ordered the signature duck which I seem to remember as Harajuku Duck but somehow I think I could be wrong here, huh. The duck looked radiant like it just stepped out of a tanning salon. Her skin was golden and luminous (and crisp! Maybe one too many trips to the salon), a ruby red sauce on the plate like bright scarlet lipstick on a collar. The meat fell of the bone and was wonderfully tender. I wasn’t keen on the sweet plum-like sauce because it reminded me of the late 90's when fusion food was rampant. Otherwise, the duck was lovely with the salad.

My honey mustard lamb cutlets were beautifully done. The meat quality was good and it was lovely and rare, but not bloody, in the middle. I also liked the creamy sauce with wholegrain mustard. The most disappointing dish was our partner’s dish. She had ordered some sort of soupy udon. It was forgettable to say the least. The two desserts we ordered may not have been a reflection on the rest of their desserts. The durian bavarois was not as smooth as I would’ve liked and merely reminded me of chilled lau lin goh. As for the pineapple tartin, we were expecting a tart tatin. We should’ve read the menu properly because the dessert was just thin pineapple slices served with a smooth mango ice cream. Probably the healthiest dessert I've had in a restaurant, apart from fresh fruit.

While I can’t say that I am as impressed with the food as some of my other fellow floggers, I will say that every single dish in Isthmus is visually appetising. They make food look fun, vibrant, happy and tantalising. Looking at these pictures just make me want to eat it again eventhough I wasn’t blown away by the taste. I will definitely return for dinner, but maybe only when the Head Chef is back from Melbourne.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ah Yat Ah-Baloney

Wild horses couldn't drag me to PJ on a weeknight at peak hour traffic. That is, unless the wild horse is called Mum. Mum was taking us out for dinner as a birthday treat for my brother. So at 7:30pm on a rainy Monday evening, we were stuck in slow-moving traffic out of KL. It wasn't all that bad, barely 45 minutes which was a good 15 minutes under my estimated guess. The only restaurant I know well in PJ is Greenview. Greenview is one of the best Chinese restaurant that I have been to. I was hoping that Ah Yat Abalone Forum Restaurant (yes, what a mouthful) would be another buried treasure waiting to be discovered.

It has a "banquet hall" feel to the restaurant, like every other Chinese restaurant. It even has floor mounted lights like a runway, for tipsy brides perhaps? Mum had only been there for lunch and apparently the dinner menu is exponentially more expensive. My mum thought the set menu was RM788++ per table but it was actually per person. That was the top of the range menu with dishes like abalone, sharks fin (very bad!), ginseng, birds nest,... We ordered siew yoke, claypot vegetables with preserved beancurd, black pepper beef, peking duck, stir-fried duck noodles and crispy fried tofu.

We all agreed that the siew yoke was the best dish of the night. It was still warm and had a thin layer of fat separating luscious tender meat from crispy golden skin. It was served with salt and mustard. I could've eaten the whole plate by myself but my family beat me to it. The peking duck came rolled in a rather egg-y and chewy pancake. The duck itself was crispy and tasty. The tofu was surprisingly good. It was almost crunchy on the outside but the inside was smooth and wobbly.

The black pepper beef was nothing out of the ordinary. My mum doesn't eat beef and therefore does not cook beef at home. So everytime we go out for dinner, she feels the need to order beef for us. No surprise at the tenderised tofu-like texture! I liked the claypot vegetables because it had aubergine in it on top of the usual beancurd skin, black fungus and vermicelli. However, there was no hint of the main ingredient, preserved beancurd, anywhere. That was odd. The noodles were suspiciously sweet. As were most of the other dishes actually. It was all confirmed later that night when my eczema started acting up like crazy! To be fair, my skin is quite sensitive. And since we did not have any seafood that night, it must've been oyster sauce, a lot of it! With so many other fantastic Chinese restaurants like Overseas Imbi, Imbi Palace, De Foodland and Foong Lye on my favourites list, this place just didn't make the cut.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Jewel In The Burbs

Hunky and I were all set for our walk this morning. Despite the threat of rain, we were determined not to break the momentum of our "healthy weekend" routine. With my little niece in tow, we made our way over to Taman Tun only to be met by rain. We were about to drive over to Marmalade in Mont Kiara when I remembered Bijou. I never come to this part of town during the week. You could say I am somewhat allergic. Located at the same building as Energy Spa, Bijou is a bright and cheery space perfect for a rainy day such as this.

The first thing you see when you walk in is a table spread with cakes of all shapes and sizes. How happy was I? Its like being greeted with a big fat hug of warm, buttery loveliness. When I finally tore my eyes away from the cake display, I noticed the alarming amount of families enjoying breakfast. I normally avoid restaurants that attract parents and screaming children. Funny though, these days I don't seem to mind as much. Hmm, biological clock finally ticking maybe? Anyway, since I had my niece with me, we fitted in seamlessly. We were led far away to the other side of the restaurant. I swear the waiter must've read my mind. There were some young people (listen to me, like some old aunty!) sitting outside so bringing a child is not a prerequisite.

I love how pretty Bijou is. White-washed floor boards, white walls and bright pink and orange soft furnishing liven up the place. In the picture above, I guess it could look like Alexis in BSC but with free parking and a lot more natural light. It is possibly an extended version of the original cafe at Fit For 2 in Bangsar. Same owner, similar concept. The food is simple, relatively healthy and unpretentious, although the decor might lead you to believe otherwise. There is even a small playground in full view where you can watch your kids at play. My niece wanted to go down the slide, by this time the rain had paused for a breather. Any mum would've said no because the slide was still wet but noooo, I let her slide down anyway. She grabbed her behind, looked up at me with big, sad eyes and said "Wet, wet". See how unprepared I am...

I ordered french toast with maple syrup and balsamic strawberries. I appreciate that they used wholemeal bread to make it healthier but it was a tad soggy in parts. As for the strawberries, I'm glad I like balsamic vinegar because they were not macerated as one would expect rather, they were simple chopped up and thrown into a ramekin of vinegar (see picture). The combination of the bread, strawberry and syrup made for a slightly naughty but healthy breakfast. Hunky's corn fritters with baby spinach was tasty if not a little doughy. He didn't like it at all because he was comparing it to Bill's which is completely unfair. Its like comparing a Perodua Kembara to a Nissan Murano.

I think we'll be coming back because it is a nice, airy space and the prices are reasonable. Both our breakfast cost RM12 each. Thats reasonable right? Or am I comparing it to AUD$ Bill's? Yikes! The lunch menu looks interesting. I guess I will have to visit after climbing next weekend.