Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Uninspiring

It’s not easy being in the restaurant business. It is one industry where everyone is an expert. Everyone eats. We know what we like and we like what we know. There are many who aren’t too fussy and then there are those who love to complain. The higher the price tag, the higher the expectations. Fair enough but one shouldn't be too unreasonable. So when I pay RM9.80 for an egg sandwich, not even an organic one, I think I have a right to expect certain standards right?

Delish opened two weeks ago. Taking over Delicious’ old lot in Village Grocers, it is a casual, canteen type of place that seems to be a down market version of Delicious. They’ve spent a lot of money on packaging (you can purchase Delish nuts and water) and furniture (rather extravagant Artemide lamps). The cake counter looks colourful and lovely as its predecessor. The cupcakes have tripled in size and price I think at RM6.80 each. We tried plain vanilla and a double chocolate ganache. The texture is much better than before but I am not blown away by the taste. They come no where close to the ones at ex-Vanilla Box nor Bijou. While Sis quite enjoyed the fairy cake texture and butter cream-topped vanilla cupcake, we both found the chocolate cupcake to be lacking in chocolate. It looks chocolatey enough from the rich dark colour but it barely tastes of chocolate.


We also tried a bowl of coarsely chopped grilled vegetable salad. I know salads are meant to be chilled but this was far too cold, and tasteless. The egg sandwich put the nail in the coffin to this deathly lunch. I love a good egg sandwich. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with mayonnaise and butter! The one here came packaged in a neat little triangular box; two triangles of egg and alfalfa sprouts filled bread. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t tasty, it was just blah. For exactly the same price, I'd really rather go and have Ipoh kway teow and ice cham at Old Town. Or O'Brien's for the wrap sandwiches (same price egg mayo + filling of 3 vege of your choice). Who knows, maybe I'll give it another try 6 months down the road.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The First Meeting of JFWA

This post has been long overdue. Between work, yoga, climbing and the new craze- Facebook, I've been immersed in tales of overlapping universe and souls which appear as physical shapes in the form of an animal. I am talking about Philip Pullman and His Dark Materials. I am almost done with the third and final book. With just chapters away, I don't want it to end so I am taking a breather and blogging instead.

Its not everyday I get invited to dinner with the tai ka chehs of food blogging - Boolicious & Lyrical Lemongrass. And when they invited me to join the Japanese Food Kawan Association, I was deeply honoured and even volunteered to be Treasurer as well as being delegated the arduous task of being Head Of Maki subcommittee. So it was that fateful Thursday evening, I began my initiation at Hajime. First and only topic of discussion of utmost importance - to order sashimi, or not to order sashimi? It was difficult and we skirted around the issue by ordering everything else but.


First up was the salmon shichu mushi (above left) which arrived in a little porcelain cup. It was a delicate dish of salmon poached in broth with soba noodles and seaweed. I liked the clean and subtle taste of dish with just a hint of that beautiful flavour salmon has. It was followed very quickly by fugu mirin hoshi. When we first ordered this dish, we were debating as to what kind of fugu we would be getting at RM14. Perhaps it was fugu-infused, fugu-scented or drizzled with fugu oil? In actual fact, it was frozen fugu fillets that have been sliced, dried and roasted to the point where they tasted like chee yoke kon. It was accompanied by a dipping sauce of mayonaise. The three of us agreed while it was not something we'd order for dinner, we would all be glad to have a tub of it when watching tv. Next to arrive was daikon ume salad (above right) which sounded a lot more interesting on paper. It was a rather plain salad of crisp radish and mixed greens dressed with a sour plum dressing. This was perhaps the most disappointing dish of that evening. And to put my skills to the test, we ordered one of Hajime's makis which was the black spider maki. It sounds sexy but the "black" part of the dish was merely a smattering of caviar. However, the rice had quite a good texture, the crab was crispy and overall it was good. Not the best I've had but good.


The best dish of the evening - hotatei corn yaki (above left). Scallops baked with a corn flavoured creamy cheese sauce. It may sound a little tacky but it was reaaaally good! The scallops were cooked to perfection with a slight spring to the bite and the sauce was just dreamy! Boolicious and LL were kind enough to let me have the last one. I grabbed it before they had a chance to change their minds. We also had the second maki of the evening called taco belt. It was a rice-less fried maki filled with soft shell crab, salmon and avocado. It had a wonderful array of textures that was deeply satisfying as your taste buds explore the different layers in each bite. The wagyu roll with shimeji mushroom was a little disappointing as there was nothing about the beef that suggested it was wagyu. It was neither flavourful nor mouthwateringly tender. The piece I had was filled with shimeki mushroom which added a very nice flavour to the beef. Boolicious' piece, unfortunately, was all beef and didn't taste of very much at all.


The hamo (pike eel) teriyaki (above left) is meant to be different from the usual unagi variety we get here. Perhaps it takes a real connoiseur to be able to distinguish them. Since I not, I really couldn't tell. If anything, it was just paler in colour and looked as if it may at least have been fresh once! Unlike the uniformed frozen caramel-coloured unagis. Eventhough we were probably quite full at this point, we felt that the evening would not be complete without resolving the sashimi issue. So it was with my arm-twisting that President LL ordered a sashimi platter. We sampled the "cheaper" platter of the two that were available. The presentation was quite lovely with a separate green leaf cove for the tuna. The sashimi was very fresh and we were thoroughly satisfied by this inspection of Hajime on Jalan Damai. To finish off the evening, we shared kuzukiri (below) for dessert. It was an odd dessert of jelly-like noodles sprinkled with chestnut powder, gold leaf and gula melaka. It was very pretty and unusual in taste. I liked that it was not very sweet and the chilled noodles was a perfect way to neutralise all the savoury food we just had. The chestnut powder had us stumped for awhile. I would definitely come back here again as the pricing is reasonable, service is good, food is yummy and plenty of parking!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

First Night, Last Night

We were invited to dinner by Sabby's family but because she hated the restaurant they were going to, we declined as graciously as possible and went off to Venue instead. Venue sounds like a bar or club to me but in actual fact its a popular Chinese restaurant located in RH Plaza Commercial Centre near the airport. Sabby, being the good host, had preordered most of the dishes during the day. We started off with wild fern stir-fried with belacan. This tastes a little different. For one thing they were much fatter in appearance. At the same time, they were young and crisp. The or chien was interesting. The egg was mixed with batter and deepfried and the starchy sauce with tiny oysters poured over it. I liked the texture of the two combined but the oysters were to fishy for me.
We then had lai yau ha which came without the usual creamy sauce. Instead, it was coated, fried and cooked in the sauce until it was dry. The result was a crisp springy prawn with a mere hint of creamy butter and curry leaf taste. It was tasty but for me the best part of this dish is the sauce. Rice and sauce, comfort in a bowl! Then came the fried tofu which was filled with pei tan and minced prawns. This was very good and I loved the tacky cocktail sauce and acar that they served with it. The last dish, the pièce de résistance, was the deep-fried pork knuckle. It was slightly creepy looking at the gnarled feet but it was soon forgotten when we started devouring the lovely pig. This can give El Cerdo a run for its money. It was well seasoned, crispy, moist, tender and full of flavour. Fantastic! You can see in the right bottom corner of the picture, exactly how much we liked it! All this, with rice and drinks for RM141.

On our last night, we revisited a restaurant that Sabby had brought me to before. Although she had no recollection of this incident. I think its called Peter's Place. Will have to check. Anyway, when we were there, the proprietor informed us that they'd be moving to bigger and better premises by the end of the year so I will update the information later. Currently, its a no frills corner coffee shop with some serious rotiserrie equipment. They are famous for the grilled meats. The lamb we had was a good example of whats on offer here. It was sumptuously tasty and tender. It didn't even need the obligatory mint sauce.

We also had grilled prawns wrapped with bacon. This was really good! Fat, juicy prawns bound tight with streaky bacon. If it wasn't so fatty, I would've helped myself to another one. As it was, I think I was all "lard" out during the trip. The grilled pork ribs was ok. I've had better. This one was kind of lean and dry. Aunty Pai Guat's is much better! We also had some stir-fried mani cai which Chunky was arguing whether it was the same as Sabah cai with Sam. I found out from Sis-in-law after I got back that they are the same thing except Sabah cai are the young shoots that come from the mani cai. Which would explain why the mani cai tasted so similar yet it was so much more fibrous and intense. Its always nice to travel somewhere and have good food. Thank you Sabby for taking us around and so sorry that you are still sleep-deprived!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Land of Meow



Above: The highlights, pork satay & hakka mee

Two Saturdays ago, we arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed in the land of laksa, kolo mee & cats. It has been almost 9 years since my last visit. I remember it to be an alcohol fuelled holiday as drinking seems to be what Kuching people like doing most. I figured this time round, it would be a little less crazy as we are all 9 years older. This obviously wasn’t the case although it wasn’t so much about getting completely wasted. Time just passes really quickly here. The next thing I knew, it was 3am and we were leaving Ipanema (Sam’s lovely laid back bar that has Kilkenny’s on tap!). Every night was a late night so I did not eat as much as I expected to. Sabby's mum made sure she bought us breakfast every morning. When I say breakfast, it was more like early lunch which was when we woke up. Every morning there would be packets of Sarawak laksa waiting for us. Pictured below, from left to right: We tasted a spicy and mellow version which was a favourite of Sabby's Mum's Pastor (Yes, I don't have the exact names because Sabby is obviously still too hungover to give me details of the food). The second one was a sharper version of the first which is from a shop near where a relative lives. And the final one which also happened to be Sabby’s family favourite – an intense and flavourful one from Foodie Goodie. Below: Spot the difference!
When we did get a chance to eat at the stalls, we tried pork satay in Chinatown at the coffee shop which also houses a Chinese theatre. It was very different to the one from Ipoh old town. This was peppery, spicy, caramelised and highly addictive. This place was also where I first fell in love with kolo mee. Somehow this time, it didn't quite have the same effect. I found it bland and oily. Never a good combination! The keow, which is basically wanton, was very tasty and meaty. I like it with vinegar and chilli oil which I didn't get to taste this time. Still, there is something very comforting about biting into gorgeous little meat and prawn dumplings. I have never been a fan of fishballs. Not since I was six? I like my fish ball to be reminiscent of fish not some springy ball that my dog would love fetching. The fishballs here were not too bad. They were springy but they had the texture of real fish.

The day before we left, we had tea "Kuching-style". According to our sleep-deprived host, this meant belacan mee hoon and tomato mee. The belacan bee hoon was an acquired taste. I like belacan, I like har koh too but this was bordering on nausea for me. It was wet, prawny, fishy and pongy. No, I much prefered the tomato mee which was seriously tacky. It was crunchy, sweet and slightly tangy. Kind of like eating Mamee with sweet and sour sauce. Surprisingly good! My favourite meal of all was probably hakka mee on Carpenter Street on our last day. This place was Sam's favourite and he explained that the way they serve it at this shop is different to all the other places in Kuching. They also make the noodles themselves on a daily basis. Its certainly different to what I am used to. For one, this had keow and char siu in it. The noodles had a lovely and springy texture which really made the dish for me. I wish I could've had another bowl!
Last but not least, my darling Sugar Bun. I remember Sabby going on and on about this magical piece of chicken that would put KFC to shame. One bite and I was hooked. This time round, I had the honour of converting another doubter, Rafflesia. Thats her opening her mouth below. Look at how crispy that skin is. And you bite into tender, well-seasoned and juicy chicken. She almost wept tears of joy. It looks like we're force feeding her sprout but really he is enjoying it. This was after a big meal of tomato mee for him. Mmmm sugar bun....

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Next Best Thing

I am back from Kuching and still recovering from the late nights. While I compile my photos and collect my thoughts, I will blog about Ipoh hor fun instead. My sis and mum have been eating at Old Town Kopi Tiam for quite a while now. I guess I was never quite convinced which is why I never followed them. That was until they told me that the hor fun travels down from Ipoh daily. I was impressed because this then changes everything. There are things you just can't replicate from Ipoh and they are hor fun, ngah choy kai and tofu fah. Something in the water in Ipoh. Like Smallville except there only mutations result in extremely smooth texture and surfaces.

Sis and I visited the outlet located on Jalan Yap Kwan Seng. It looks deceivingly small from the outside but there is a whole other room that is concealed from the main road. I have heard that the food varies from outlet to outlet. This particular one did not disappoint. We ordered an Ipoh hor fun each and a kaya toast to share. The toast was made with brown bread and was lovely and crisp. The butter, however... My god, I just couldn't bring myself to eat after I bit into it and saw the chunk of butter in it (pic, right). The hor fun was surprisinly good. I would have prefered a bit more vegetables and the chicken could've been smoother but overall, I thought it was pretty darn fantastic! The broth was prefect. I've tasted a few other Ipoh hor fun places in KL and they always get the broth wrong. It shouldn't taste like prawn mee broth. There is a hint of turnip and a slight sweetness from both prawns and rock sugar. It is a superbly subtle dish. Anyway, I'm glad I finally tried this place. Saves me driving 1.5 hours the next time I need a hor fun fix!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Banquet (no, not another wedding!)

A few things came to mind when I first heard about a new restaurant called Banquet at Bangsar Village 2. Chinese. Red table cloth. Tea. Pork. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong. Banquet is half French, half Malaysian. If it were a man, he may have been called Antoine Wong or something to that effect. Sister to Café Café, the menu comprises dishes from Café Café’s French-styled menu combined with some local favourites like mee jawa, rojak and mee siam. Where Café Café is dark, mysterious and has an old world feel to it, Banquet is the opposite. It is bright, cheery, girlie and borderline kitsch.

We sat in the smoking area much to the relief of Lu as he intended to chain smoke through lunch. The smoking area is a glass cocoon of mirrors, white wicker chairs. white banquet chairs and white washed floor boards. Yes, the colour scheme here is white with dots of green in the form of artificial trees in planters that cordon off the non-smoking area. I wasn’t particularly hungry and toyed with the idea of having a healthy nicoise salad but then greed set in and I ordered butter fish with honey mustard sauce instead. It was sublime! I guess I was expecting it to be overcooked as I've experienced in quite a few places. It was cooked to perfection, meaty white chunks of fish falling apart in moist delicate flakes. The sauce was a tad sweet but wasn't even necessary as the fish was lovely on its own. It was a perfect portion for someone who wasn’t hungry.
Sis, who is not a big fan of salad, ordered rocket salad with pear and walnuts AND loved it! She was most impressed by the delicate attention given to the salad. The shavings of cheese were paper thin, as were long skinny slices of pear. There was also some funny little bits in there which we thought were walnuts but tasted more like fat. Mmmm! Lu ordered seafood spaghetti which was neither good nor bad. Like FBB says, pasta is pasta. The tomato based risotto reminded me of baby food with all the diced vegetables swimming in an ocean of soft rice. Quite unfortunate. I don't like tomato based risottos but as far as texture and taste goes, it was pretty good. For dessert, the four of us shared crepes with vanilla ice cream. Best crepes I’ve had in awhile. They were thin and drizzled very lightly with syrup. Very good, and so light you can just keep eating and eating. The only thing lacking was the quality of the ice cream. It really wasn't very good. The bill came up to RM210 which included 3 ice lemon teas, a Heineken and a side order of garlic mushrooms (too boring to blog about). Its fairly expensive for lunch but unless you want to eat at the stalls and kopi tiams that seems to be the case these days. I'm interested in coming back to try the Asian stuff especially the rojak. We noticed 3 separate orders going out while we were there. Must be good right?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Groovy Sushi

Last Sunday, after scraping some of my skin off at Camp 5, a few of us went to grab some lunch at Sushi Groove. I never would've known about this place had I not read about it on Boolicious' blog. I am a creature of habit and the crowds at 1 Utama on the weekends keep me at restaurants located close to exits and elevators. Sushi Groove is located opposite L'Occitane. Its hard to miss this place with the thumping music and bar vibe. We felt rather under dressed in our sweaty gym attire as we waited at the lounge area for a table. Its sleek dark interior makes it look like the anti-sushi. The sushi menu is extensive with cute pictures alongside funky names. We ordered krakatoa, fusion dragon, golden gate, baby dragon and mayonaise dream roll. The problem with all this complicated names was by the time they arrived, we forgot what was in the darn things. Apart from the mayonnaise dream roll which is self-explanatory. Fortunately, there is a website.


Above left, Golden Gate. Fresh salmon and avocado roll topped with tuna sashimi. It was pleasant enough. We devoured it within seconds as we were starving. Next was the Krakatoa. Deep-fried roll of gindara (silver cod) and asparagus with spicy mayo. It looked impressive but the taste failed to impress. I didn't even know there was asparagus in it. Reading the menu on the website now, I feel a little cheated! Where were all these phantom ingredients?



Above left, the Baby Dragon roll which consisted of shrimp tempura, crab salad, avocado and tobiko. I could definitely taste the tempura but it could've done with a bit more avocado. Above right, Mayonnaise Dream roll. Baked sushi with salmon, crab, carrots and spicy mayo. Its a lot smaller than it looks. They really are bite size pieces of mayonnaise. What crab? Carrots? Really? At the average price of RM10++ per roll, I wouldn't complain too much really. But there is one thing that is not acceptable and thats the rice. It was a little soggy and bland. It had a consistency of very thick porridge. Perhaps they overcooked it and forgot the vinegar on this occasion.

The roll that saved the meal was the last one we ordered, and that was the Fusion Dragon. It was a scary looking thing that curled like a colourful snake on the plate. Marinated salmon, shrimp tempura and slices of beef in a sweet and spicy sauce. It was also torched for effect. Very tasty but we definitely tasted mango which isn't listed as an ingredient. I like the different textures and tastes coming together. For dessert, Beard Papa's. Delicious, chilled vanilla and chocolate custard in crisp choux pastry. Hunky's favourite. He can devour a box of 5 in a day. No wait, let me rephrase that. He can have 5 a day and not put on any weight. Why? Why is life so unfair?!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Adventures of a Newly Wed & The Wedding Banquet

First things first, I'm married. Wife No.4 no less. The prefered one right? Although, Lyrical Lemongrass aka Wife No.2 threatened to deck me one when I dared to ask. And who is this husband of mine? Why, Action Jackson of course. Yes, Jackson and I met Pudu last night. Over tea and peanuts, I came to realise I was attending my own wedding dinner at Sek Yuen with the fellow bloggers (and other wives) as guests to the three-course "banquet". I have to say, I want the marriage annulled as I did not receive the customary roast pig and it was also seven courses short of a banquet. Jokes aside, parking in the backstreets of Pudu is not something I want to do alone again. It was a little scary as there were quite a few random men just lurking around on the pedestrian bridge which I had to use to cross the busy Pudu main road.

I was excited about finally eating at Sek Yuen as I have heard so much about it. Since it the first leg of a food crawl, Boolicious had organised for us to sample three of the more popular dishes. We had pat poh ngap, fish cake lined with chicken skin and kah hiong cai. I loved the duck! It was so lovely and tender. And the inside was filled with gingo nuts, bean, mushroom and other treasures. I loved how the filling almost tasted like a really delicious zhong. I could've eaten the whole duck by myself. I would've slowly ploughed my way through. I would've been very ill but very happy indeed. I was not very fond of the chicken skin dish as I have never liked fish cake. And the chicken skin just tasted like deep fried beancurd skin to me. I felt it was a bit of a waste of calories. My mum would absolutely loved this dish though! The kah hiong cai was very tasty. It had a nice balance of fermented bean and medley of vegetables. It would've been a perfect dinner had it not been tainted by the unfortunate incident over the bill. Three dishes, five bowls of rice and chinese tea came up to almost RM170. How is this possible? We're still not entirely sure what happened but I checked the price of the same duck (same filling) at Overseas and it costs RM60. I would be very surprised if Sek Yuen turns out to be more expensive than Overseas.
After Sek Yuen, twelve hungry bloggers continued on their quest for food. We crossed the road over to Wai Sek Kai where a streetful of vendors with hot, tempting food called out to our rumbling stomachs. It was a massacre of food. We had fried chicken, chee cheong fun, fried radish cake, cockels, porridge, rojak and there may have been some other things I did not get round to trying on the other side of the table. The fried chicken was very good and deserves a special mention. The skin was crispy and it wasn't oily. The chee cheong fun was firm and springy, not like the smooth and soft ones I am used to. It was interesting but the sauce was a little too sweet. I prefered the curry version that Lyrical Lemongrass was busy drinking next to me. I'm so glad I met this bunch of food bloggers. What could be more fun than to hang out with a bunch of people who thoroughly enjoy food? I have so much more to learn and eat!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Mock Meats in Pudu

Pudu is a haven for good Chinese food. It is home to the best siew yoke, teochew porridge, wanton mee and roast goose to just name a few. With so many places on offer, I do wonder why I don't eat there more often. I think its partly because I identify it as a breeding ground for criminals, thanks to my parents for scaring me with endless stories about the prisoners of the old Pudu jail. The only time I go to Pudu these days is when I have to meet my printer, Mr. Cheong. Pudu is lined with printers so if you are thinking of getting any invitations printed, you should head on over to Pudu. No gangsters here, just templates and heavy printing machinery operated by tattooed criminals. Well, there are tattoos but I may be exaggerating somewhat about them being criminals!
Anyway, last Saturday, after asking Boolicious for a recommendation, I dragged Hunky and Rafs to Pudu for dinner at Yu Yee Chai on Jalan Changkat Thambi Dollah. It was easy to find but it was not easy to park. We ended up parking on the divider illegally like all the other cars. It wasn't as busy as I thought it would considering it was a Saturday night. But then again, people who come here probably eat quite early as they open from 5:30pm for dinner. It was 8:30pm when we arrived and they were going to close in an hour. I'm not sure what I ordered as I was getting confused between the nam yue, fu yue and mock meats. I did order the kao fan mantou which was also recommended by Boolicious. That was really good! It was very gingery and full of mushrooms. It reminded me of crispy pork knuckle in mantou. It was very crispy on the outisde and tasty within with a lot of chewy texture. Very good!

We also had fried spinach with fu yue (which I don't remember ordering), lai yau ha and mock goose with lotus root & fungus. The prawns had the texture of fish balls but the sauce was very tasty. I enjoyed the mock goose dish the most. I didn't even realise it was meant to be goose as I was just eating the lotus and fungus at first. It had a nice sesame aroma with a hint of ginger. I definitely want to go again eventhough I did feel slightly thirsty after the meal. The dishes came up to be RM44 but the total bill was RM59 (inclusive of taxes) which included nuts, rice and tea. RM2 for nuts that we did not touch. Hmmph. While looking for parking earlier, we came across even more restaurants tucked away in the back roads. I must come back and explore this place a bit more.