Thursday, May 31, 2007

Shiver Me Timbers, Pirates Ain't For Me

Don't you hate erratically paced dinners? I'm talking about one of those occassions when the timing has gone completely off. You get your appetiser after 5 minutes but wait another 20 minutes before your ice water arrives. Then it takes an hour for the main course to come by which time your stomach is all confused and can't decide whether its still hungry or full from the wait and demolition of the bread basket. Then dessert appears in under 10 minutes but the coffee arrives 30 minutes after dessert has long gone. I'm not making it up, I have experienced this a few times in my life. Its rather annoying. And that was how Pirates of The Carribean 3 was for me. Erratic, drawn out and overindulgent like a 12 course porkless Chinese banquet. Gasp!? No pork? Exactly, pointless.
There were so many sub plots going on that they just lost the plot completely. The most annoying thing about the film was Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Swann. Her character was given such a pivotal role when she was merely the intricately carved turnip of a phoenix rising from the four seasons platter. The first two were so entertaining for me so I can't help feeling very disappointed by the last installment. Hurrah for Johnny, Bill, Geoffrey and Orlando who saved the film! Although it would've been better if they were half naked in manner of ripped and crazy Spartans in 300. Phwoooarh, Gerard Butler!

One cold shower later: Before the 3 hour movie, we had a 30 minute dinner ala The Fast and The Furious. I am so happy that Little Penang Cafe has opened in KLCC. Finally, cheap and decent food! It was fast paced and predictably good. This is possibly the best halal char kway teow I've had. Hunky loves it. In fact, he was so relieved that Chilli's was full so he got to eat char kway teow, again! I also like the rojak buah. Apparently it has sotong in it. I found a single tentacle. Even then, I'm not sure if it was just an odd piece of cendol that had fallen in. Oh well...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dim Sum at Shanghai 10

Last Sunday, the siblings and I, along with a couple of attachments, went for lunch at Shanghai 10. We were going to go check out the K residence show unit which is why we ended up eating at Avenue K. Its possibly even more depressing than Summit Subang. Summit may be run down, but it was bustling with people at least. Avenue K is like an enormous art gallery with no art and no people. Such a shame really since it is a lovely space. The only part that is busy in the whole entire mall is on the upper? Or was it lower? Anyway at the upper or lower concourse where all the affordable restaurants are located. It is here you will find KGB (Kim Gary Beyond, beyond what exactly?), Hainan Kitchen, a japanese restaurant that I can't remember the name of and Shanghai 10. I have heard mix reviews about this place. My brother comes here to eat often as he works around the area. He said it was not bad and quite cheap. Can't really go wrong then...

We ordered spicy pan fried cheung fun which was surprisingly bland. It was very spicy but tasteless otherwise. After we doused it with some soy sauce and vinegar, it tasted much better! The siew long pow was quite good. The skin was not too thick but thick enough to contain the lovely soup within. We also ordered deepfried beancurd skin stuffed with squid and cheese which was yummy but shockingly oily. When I lifted it from the place, oil splashed onto the plate. Yes, actually splash, not drip. It was enough to turn me off lunch completely. There were some avocado buns (no avocado in sight), deepfried prawn dumplings, royal bridge biscuit (not nearly as nice as Shanghai at JW Marriot), char siu pow and panfried pork dumplings. The bill came up to be RM115 for the six of us. It was cheap I guess but my gripe about this place is the msg. I was so thirsty after lunch. I doubt I will come back again. At least not to the one in Avenue K anyway. The K residence show unit was impressive. You want a view of the KLCC? Well, talk about up close and personal! The view here is unlike any of the other developments around KLCC park. At RM1200+ psf, it better be!! I especially like the wraparound balconies. Wah, damn lunsi!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Ini Mini, Mana Mo?

UPDATED : interior of the fig. I'm not sure if they are edible and didn't want to risk an upset stomach as I was heading off to a meeting. So I had a lick instead, wasn't very sweet.

By now I've made it very clear how I feel about pork and pretty things. That I love them and I am completely vulnerable to their charm. What you don't know is that I'm also a sucker for miniatures. I'm not talking about mini skirts nor mini coopers, although I wouldn't mind owning one. A mini cooper that is, not the skirt. There is this side of me that goes gaga over these things. I am enamoured by the painstaking details and craftsmanship that go into creating miniatures. There is just something about the delicate nature and dimunitive size that make want to gush, "Eeeeeeee sooooo cute!" I especially love miniature tea sets, furniture and toys (there were some really groovy ones I collected from Kinder eggs which included a teeny tiny slide viewer). Maybe this also explains why I like cupcakes, canapes and dim sum so much. This post, however, is about miniature fruits crafted by nature.




One morning, while reading the papers, my nephew says "Pineapple". I tell him there isn't any and he can have an orange instead. He starts tugging at my sleeve and chanting "pineapple". Finally I relented and followed him to the garden. There it was, a beautifully formed miniature pineapple. I've seen them plenty of times in flower arrangements but never before in my garden. This one has definitely reached its maximum growth judging by the leaves. I wonder if they are actually edible? I suppose by the time you cut off the skin there wouldn't be anything left anyway! Funny how I never noticed it before he pointed it out. Can you tell I'm not a plant person? In the same week, while walking back from The Weld, I spotted crab apples sprouting from the side of a tree. Okay, I'm not sure if these were crab apples but it was closest thing that came to mind. Told you I wasn't a plant person. Let me illustrate how lousy I am when it comes to plants. I once mistook lily leaves for pandan. Do you know how embarassing it was when I complained to my mum that our "pandan" leaves didn't have any perfume. Hey, the were both long, flat and green! Er...so, anybody know what fruit this is? Ordinarily, I would've been quite gelee looking at this cluster of fruits but they were just too pretty to walk away from without taking a photograph.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Kamimura

The Weld is an odd shopping mall. Once upon a time, it was bustling with expats and locals shopping for groceries at Cold Storage. I remember Mum dumping me at Kathy's toy shop where I would run wild with my cousins. Then came the boom in the 90's and bigger and better malls sprouted all over KL. The Weld soon became a solemn place that was empty once the office crowd left the city. Last year, the building went through extensive renovations to pull in the crowd. Several new restaurants have opened; there is a posh-looking Indian restaurant on one corner, Basil Leaf, Old Siam Cafe, Mark's Asam Laksa, Gengki Sushi and even a Hong Kong cha chan tang. I'm glad that Yogazone has opened at too, otherwise I'll never get around to doing any excercise. Yes, I know its not real yoga but they have a lot of different classes to keep it interesting and fun.
My favourite restaurant at The Weld is Kamimura (sebenarnya, bukan murah sangat). Its been there for several years now and is always busy at lunch. The ambience nor menu isn't anything to shout about but they serve pork! For me, thats definitely a plus. Katsudon has to be pork. Its not the same with chicken. Breaded pork, deepfried and poached lightly in a salty sweet broth with egg and onions, mmmm comfort in a bowl! I like the one here as the sauce is not as intensely salty sweet like the one at Dontaku. Having said that, I do like all that chup in my rice!

On Monday, I skipped yoga and had lunch with Rafs instead. Funny thing is, both of us wanted something light and ching. We ended up at Kamimura and I ordered katsudon, while she had tempura soba. Light my butt! They have an extensive set lunch menu, each dish comes with the usual miso soup, salad/pickles and dessert. Rafs got fruit as part of her set while I got a pretty in pink mochi. Its so pink and preeetty, who can resist really?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Late Night Roti

There is really nothing I like more than to soak up a night's alcohol with something spicy, greasy and carb-laden. Nasi lemak and maggi goreng top the list. Occassionally, claypot lo shi fuhn and wanton mee too. However, my days of late night suppers are long over. For one, my idea of a night out these days is having a coffee or non-alcoholic beverage (usually ribena soda so I can fool persistent alcoholics that I am having a yum seng with cranberry vodka) and heading home by 1am . Secondly, who can afford the calories these days when I now have a metabolic rate of a slow loris. Seriously, when E told me that it was all going to go downhill when I hit 30, I thought he was just pulling my leg. Here I am, into my 30's and realising the full extent of his portentous words.

Last Saturday, Hunky wanted to have Slow Uncle's (not his real name) wanton mee for dinner. We haven't been in ages and I justified it as being late dinner rather than supper. Yes I know, same difference! Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, it was closed. We called E and decided to head over his neighbourhood mamak stall on Jalan Semarak that he has been raving about for years. It was unusually quiet for a Saturday night in KL which made crossing the crazy cross junction of Jalan Semarak a breeze.
It is mainly al fresco seating at this cosy little mamak stall which is much better for my complexion. Fluorescent light is so unflattering! It was a lovely, cool and relaxed evening, and it would've been perfect had it not been for the odd mosquito having a nibble at my legs. We ordered a round of teh ais. I liked that when we asked for kurang manis, we got exactly that. Just the right amount of condensed milk so that you can still taste the tea. E insisted we sample a few different rotis so we ordered roti kosong, roti telur and roti pisang. I must say, the roti really is very good. I liked the roti kosong best. They only open from 5pm onwards so the roti is freshly made unlike some places where they are just reheated.
I also ordered maggi goreng which was a bit of a let down. There wasn't enough kick in it. I guess I would describe it as the mildest and possibly healthiest maggi goreng I've ever eaten at a mamak stall. I finished it anyway because I don't like wasting food. After that I ordered roti tisu for dessert. Hey, I may as well go full whack right? Good roti but dripping in Planta and not sweet enough. 6 teh ais and 1 teh halia later, we finally called it a night. The bill? RM18. Imagine, that will buy you two lattes at most cafes.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Date With Two Blondes

I never got around to making the lamington sponge cake last weekend. And because I have the attention span of a goldfish, I have moved on to bigger and blonder things. While feeling quite uninspired to blog last week, I fed on other people's wondrous accounts on food and came across a recipe for Blondies (as opposed to Brownies) over at Freya & Paul's blog. I've never heard of blondies before. The cute name, witty blog and easy recipe sold me!

Dates, pecans/walnuts, butter, sugar, flour. I like! In fact, the hardest part of the recipe was lining the tins. I stuck to walnuts because pecans were quite pricey at Hock Choon. It really was very easy to make. I made two at one go, one with plain flour and the other with rice flour. Why? Because I like to eat rice mah. Anyway, I had rice flour problems. While I was sifting it, it did smell pungently rice-y but I stubbornly went ahead anyway. The texture, as promised by the recipe, was lovely and gooey. Too bad that it was ruined by the taste of the bad rice flour. Fortunately, there was back up!

The other one was perfect! Although when I first cut into it and saw the gooey centre, I thought I had undercooked it. If I was a souffle, I would've sunk with sadness to the bottom of the ramekin. Then I tasted it and realised it was heaven. I could not wait for it to cool completely, it was even more delicious warm. Mmmm, like a warm hug on a rainy day. I'll definitely make it again but will reduce the sugar even more (I used 140g instead of 180g). Its teetering on a toothache for me.
Ooooh, aaah, gooey goodness....

Friday, May 18, 2007

Farewell Vanilla Box

Its always sad when a cafe closes it doors indefinitely, especially when its a place you know and love. I wrote about Vanilla Box's moreish chocolate cupcakes and nasal-cleansingly powerful chocolate peppermint velvet cake when I first started my blog. Recently the owner of this cosy little cafe announced that she well be closing shop. Hopefully not forever but it will be a long while yet as she plans her upcoming nuptials and journey into the land of marital bliss. Ever since I found out about her plans, I have been visiting every week. For those of you who still haven't been, you have exactly ONE week to sample a little magic from Vanilla Box.
Earlier today, Sis and I brought the monsters along to have an early lunch. We had a deeply satisfying chilli con carne pizza while the kids shared a cupcake and vegetable pizza. I guess what I will miss most, apart from the chocolatey things I have already mentioned, are the fruit tartlets. They still are the best tartlets I've tasted in KL. The tarts are always crisp, the crème patisserie smooth and never too sweet. I just bought four and ate two. I'm saving the other two for tea later. Share? What are you talking about?

Above: chocolate peanut butter creams. Don't start if you aren't prepared to stop. Divine!

Vanilla Box is located at Asian Heritage Row, below Wine Room. They are closed on Sundays.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

In The Mood For Cake

Its not very often that I bake. I much prefer eating cakes which is also why I don't bake. I simply can't enjoy the cakes that I bake. Even when they are good, and I know they are good, somehow I can't seem to surrender to the same satisfaction I get from eating cakes baked by someone else. It got me started thinking about the cakes that have left their crumb print on me through the years.
The first cake, forever my sweetheart, has to be the humble pandan chiffon cake. It brings back fond memories of me sitting at the kitchen table in my primary school uniform. "Don't shake your legs or they will swell up to the size of an elephant!" and "If you eat fish you'll be able to swim like one" were just a few of many tall stories Mum would say to me at the table. It didn't occur to me then that my Mum couldn't swim herself despite eating plenty of fish. Eating at the table was our time together. My Mum was never very communicative and feeding me was how she loved me. She would make me a milo while I'd help myself to a giant slice of pale green pandan chiffon. I'd squeeze the life out of it and remould it into a neat compact cube. She would give me a stern look but she would cut me another slice anyway. She started buying the orange ones later on but I never grew as fond of the orange flavoured one as I did the pandan.

Every birthday and anniversary of my grandparents meant two things: 1) a three hour journey back to Ipoh with non-stop Tom Jones. Why, why, why Delilah indeed! 2) butter cake with pink and yellow piped icing. Twenty years ago, on my grandparent's 50th anniversary, there was a magnificent 5-tiered butter cake. It stood on the stage at the Chinese Assembly Hall where the grand dinner was held. I remember thinking it was the most beautiful cake I had ever seen. It was sight to behold back then. After the party ended, Cuz and I quickly volunteered to carry parts of the cake to the car so that we could dig our grubby little fingers into the icing. We were scared shitless we were going to be caned by Grandma but we just couldn't stop until half the cake was pockmarked with excavated icing. We were never found out, the adults were too drunk and hungover the next day to care. I think rats were blamed. Until this day we still eat the same cake made from the same lady whenever we are in Ipoh.

Remember when La Manilla was the bakery to buy your cakes from? If you don't remember, that means you were born in the 90s and you better not call me Aunty when you see me! It was a cute corner shop in Ampang Jaya and they were most famous for their chocolate and banana cake. It was the talk of the town (okay maybe just among my parent's friends). No one had heard of such a thing! Until La Manilla came along, we were still eating black forest cakes from Angel Cake House. Not that theres anything wrong with Angel Cake House. Their star has faded into light as more and more bakeries popped up over the years offering cakes that were not just decorated with butter cream and wafer roses. They still makes the best sponge cakes. I loved the crazy assortment of waxy buttercream coated cakes. I especially liked those with colourful jam-filled tops. We would go quite regularly when I was a child. Mum would always let me pick a few, we always bought nine because it fit into the box perfectly. I always ate the chocolate one with a solid chocolate top and chocolate sprinkles all along the side. Hmmm, looking back, my mum really, really loved me!

Then there came Alexis in the 90's. Who knew that it would be the start of cafe society in KL? A little trivia about Alexis. It was almost named Culture Vulture but was thankfully changed to Alexis after the salacious character Alexis Carrington/Colby from Dynasty. Anyway, I think my friends and I spent almost every other night of our summer holidays eating cake and drinking lattes at Alexis. The pivotal cake of course being the most unauthentic tiramisu ever. Okay, so it originated from Suchan but Alexis elevated this fake into what it is today and that is, still the best faux tiramisu cake ever! The only thing that is remotely close to tiramisu is the mascarpone cream they use to sandwich the sponge layers together.

There was a sponge cake that was a cut above the rest. It was the lightest sponge I have ever tasted. It was a simple cake with assorted fruits set in jelly on top. This holds bittersweet memories for me. My late Aunt always bought this cake for me because she remembered I liked it so much the one time we had it on Poh Poh's birthday. My Aunt never married and was always fantastic with us niece and nephews. I'm grateful we got to go on holiday to Korea before her cancer took a turn for the worse. The last time I got to eat this cake was on my 21st birthday. May you be at peace wherever you are.
Today I baked a cake. I've been wanting to make this cake since I saw it in Mum's Womans Day magazine. It was a simple recipe for a lamington sponge cake. What sold me was the 10g of butter. What the hey? I think I use 10g of butter on one slice of toast and here is this recipe that requires the same miniscule amount for 2 sponge cakes! I'm not sure if it was because I may have used plain instead of self raising flour. I did think at one point while folding the flour into the egg and sugar mixture, that it just wasn't going to rise to the occasion. Still my lamington sponge was tasty if not a tad flat and dense. Grated coconut dusted over chocolate coated sponge, sandwiched with freshly whipped cream and a dollop of Duchy's Original Morello Cherry conserve is hard to go wrong. I'm going to try and make it again over the weekend. Damnit! I'm going to make the sponge rise higher than the twin towers. Like the Emperor summoning Darth Vader, "Rissse".

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Scallops, Mussels & The Merlion

Okay. So the thing about eating out in Singapore is, you are spoilt rotten for choice. The restaurant business here is intimidatingly competitive. In four days, I saw a restaurant that only has mussels and beer on their menu, another nothing but soups; a microbrewery with Germanic dishes, molecular gastronomy at Saint Pierre, and many more multiple-syllabic descriptions that I simply can't remember. And this is merely the tip of the iceberg. With 90% of the population living in spaces the size of a very large walk-in wardrobe, people love or perhaps need to go out to meet friends for food and breathe in some fresh air. Indeed the air is much fresher over the causeway. When it comes to restaurants, is the grass greener too?

Previously I've only been to Singapore to a) shop and b) catch a Cirque du Soleil performance. This time, my sole intention was to eat. And eat I did. So with all this choice on my plate, there was bound to both hits and misses. Singapore on the whole has intrinsic design values. And therein also lies the problem. A lot of the restaurants we visited were visual feasts but often disappointed with lackluster food. I don't think I used the term ho tai mm ho seik quite so often as I did in Singapore. I'm not saying KL doesn't have its fair share of places that, to put it bluntly, suck. Here is a place where you can get fresh artichokes, fresh Norwegian mussels, wagyu thats not limited to the face or backside of the cow, zucchini flowers and more. With plenty of fresh produce in hand, I simply expect more.

We visited Rochester Park which was reminiscent of Kenny Hills in its heydays. Beautiful black & white bungalows surrounded by thick luscious greenery. Although, not quite thick enough to hide the sounds of a lorry lumbering past on the adjacent highway. There are only a handful of restaurants that have opened here, with a few more to open in the pipeline. We were warned by friends and foodies that the food here left a lot to be desired. Did we listen? Of course not. We simply thought, "Honestly, how bad can it be?". And honestly, it wasn't that bad. It wasn't good either but it made me realise my "high expectations" aren't quite as elevated as others. Graze serves "Australian" fare. I think its a bit of an insult to Australian food. I don't know what possessed my sister to order the corn chowder with coconut milk. There was no hint of corn but it was convincing as curry from a box at best. Ms Orange ordered a trio of mini burgers which had more breadcrumbs than meat! Fine dining my butt. Expect good cocktails, mediocre fusion food and a lun si manager.

Another trendy hot spot is Superfamous at OCBC Centre in the CBD. Perched by the stairs overlooking a zen water feature, it certainly looks chic with its contemporary open structure and deliberately simple decor but lunch was a complete waste of time. I was so excited when I saw pulled pork on the menu. I've been dreaming about it after reading it was referred to as the kwai loh roti babi. This version was nowhere close. Forgettable, pricey food in chic surroundings. On our last night we ate Reif + James in Robertson Quay. Another good looking place with promising descriptions on their menu. We were offered vanilla risotto which we could either eat as a main or dessert. I thought that was a little strange and a bit off putting because I immediately thought of Ambrosia rice pudding from a tin. A few people ordered seafood pastas and all of them were on the sweet side. We were assured that this was a result of a superior lobster stock. Hmmm. The best part of the meal for me was their homemade ice creams.

On the other hand, there were some nice meals too. We were at PS Cafe on Dempsey Road twice! Once for dessert and drinks, and the following day for breakfast. It was described to me as Singapore's version of Alexis but I think the former is better. Or maybe I'm just bored with Alexis. Dempsey Road has long been known for its collection of antique shops. The buildings are converted army barracks. They are not as charming as Rochester Park but has its own appeal. PS Cafe's structure was built from scratch on a plot of empty land but I would never have thought the structure was new because it has a really nice 70's rustic and retro vibe about it. The desserts are fantastic! I especially liked the steamed lemon pudding with lemon curd. Brunch was pretty good too. We got there at 9:30 in the morning as we were told that the breakfast crowd on Sundays could get crazy. I liked my portobello stack with bacon and poached eggs. I also liked the sun streaming through the huge windows and the expanse of greenery in front of me.

The best meal of the trip happened that same day during lunch at La Braceria in the Green Leaf Area. It is a quiet and unassuming restaurant tucked away in a row of somewhat dilapidated shophouse. I loved the crazy mozarella ball that looked like a cross between a deflated balloon and giant poached egg. Pierce the sinister opaque exterior to release a river of creamy mozzarella. Eat simply with basil, black pepper and salt. Delicious! I loved the simplicity of the ricotta ravioli served with drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of parsley. We also ordered baked fish with salt and lemon, clams in white wine, risotto, baked pork sausages, pizzas and more. It was worth it!

On the whole, the few good dining experiences more than made up for the bad ones. The good were really good. I enjoyed this trip to Singapore, especially as we had EJ to take us around. I want to go back to check out all the other restaurants that I missed. Okay maybe not all, since they are so many. I mean, I didn’t even make it to Vivo City and Sentosa. Hey, who knew Singapore stretched beyond Orchard Road?