Monday, January 28, 2008

Dining with the Best

Clockwise from top left: Mandagery Creek venison with mushroom salad & smoked pomme puree; white asparagus with parmesan & onion powder; cured blue fin tuna with citrus & melon gherkin; carpaccio of local octopus with leek & marigold

Last Saturday, I was invited to dine at Eest at The Westin. If someone had told me it was going to be at Eest, I don't think I would've gone given my last experience there. However, this was no ordinary dinner. It was a wine dinner with celebrity chef from Australia - Mark Best. It says on the poster that his food is "modern French cuisine with an Asian twist". I had heard many good things from Boolicious and Lyrical Lemongrass the last time he was here (click on the respective links to read their reviews). It was rather last minute and I cursed myself for not fixing my camera. When it comes to special occasions such as these, I usually whip out my Fuji. However I am amazed by the quality of the photos that my W800i produced given the dim environment. I am so proud of my little Sony Ericsson.

If my sister hadn't been to the cooking lesson, I would not have heard about the dinner. Incidentally, she was raving on about how interesting it was and she felt it was really good value for money as they were also treated to a feast after the lesson. I would've thought they would publicise it to their advantage. After all, it can't be cheap getting a celebrity chef in. I guess a lot of people must not have heard either as the restaurant was barely half full. At RM288++ per person for a 10-course dinner with wine pairing, I am surprised people are not tripping over themselves to dine here.

To begin, chaud-froid free range egg. Hot and cold egg. The warm, runny yolk was hidden underneath creamy mousse-like egg whites. There was a hint of maple syrup and nothing else. It was such an decadent way to eat an egg. What a lovely way to start dinner! Next up, blue swimmer crab with almond jelly, gazpacho, corn custard & avruga (above) paired with Shaw & Smith sauvignon blanc. The flavours were very subtle and so delicate. The almond flavour was actually in the almost dust that surrounded the jelly. The jelly itself was reminiscent of a slab of chilled fat. Nothing wrong with that! I found the almond overpowering so I was careful to eat too much of it. I think they could've added a bit more avruga (save the sturgeons! Eat avruga/herring roe, hailed as the new caviar) to give it a little punch.

The third course was carpaccio of local octopus with leek & marigold paired with Cassegrain Stone Circle Chardonnay. Can't go wrong with sashimi. I like the contrast of crisp-fried texture of the leeks against the soft octopus. The chardonnay was lovely, crispy and perfectly chilled. Next up was cured blue fin tuna with citrus & melon gherkin paired with Cassegrain Stone Circle Merlot (I like merlots least of all the red wines). Again, it was like eating sashimi. I like the way the tiny citrus sacs burst in my mouth. There was a small trail of mayonaise which was lightly scented with orange. The melon gherkin was a nice way of balancing the salt cured tuna.

The fifth course was white asparagus with parmesan & onion powder. It was refreshingly crisp! The tendency to overcook asparagus is as sure as floods in KL. I also like the parmesan cream and onion powder. Again, very subtle. I wonder if most people would find a lot of his food bland. Especially Malaysians since we like it spicy and intense. Next up, twice cooked pigeon with pumpkin tofu, pickled onions & sesame salt paired with Cassegrain Cabernet Merlot. I've never been a fan of pigeon. So little bang for your buck. The pickled onions really lifted the dish for me. The tofu had a yogurt-like consistency and tasted faintly of pumpkin. The pigeon was too gamey for me. Thank God there was only half a mouthful from that miniscule thing.

Wrapping up the savoury courses was the Mandagery Creek venison with mushroom salad & smoked pomme puree paired with Cassegrain Reserve Shiraz (lovely, without being too spicy nor heavy for a shiraz). I'm not a big fan of venison but as far as venison goes, this was perfectly cooked but just a tad sinewy in bits. The mushroom salad was served raw and tasted woody and intense. Even with the blob of mashed potato, this dish tasted super healthy! The general concensus was that the food was very light and subtle because after 7-courses we didn't feel heavy nor sick from overindulgence.

The first of the desserts was sauternes custard. It wasn't custard like how I know it which is quite light and eggy. This had a consistency of creme brulee. Very creamy and rich with the sauternes adding nice alcoholic kick. Next up -chocolate vermicelli with lychee sorbet & yoghurt paired with Outback Chase. It was actually tagliatelle rather than vermicelli. I think it would've been nicer as vermicelli. The noodles were very chocolatey but chewy at the same time. It was a weird sensation. I guess it would be like eating really good quality chocolate dense chewing gum. I didn't really get the yoghurt thing. However, when you eat all three together, it comes together in a rather disjointed sort of way. Yes, it was as confused as I sound right now. Finally, coffee arrived with the final dessert which was a lump of chocolate salted caramel and apple jelly with lime powder each. Wow! The apple jelly, or should I say p√Ętes de fruits (fancy speak for little cubes of jam), was super sweet! I love the ones at Chef Jerome's and I love this one too. The lime powder was actually tiny particles of kaffir lime which didn't hit me right til the end. I thought the chocolate was divine! When you bight into it, sweet runny caramel floods your mouth and then the salt kicks in. Lovely! The salt neutralises the usually tooth-achingly sweet caramel. Hmmm, I wouldn't mind a box of those!

What a lovely evening! Unfortunately, his stint at Westin ended on the 27 Jan. If you ever get a chance, do attend the cooking lessons and dinner when he is here next as it is very good value for money with the wines. There was also a premier wine option which costs RM560++.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Funless Junk

When I first tried Kim Gary, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The thought of eating cheese baked rice and deep-fried bread laden with margerine, peanut butter and honey invoked a thoughts of excitement and indigestion. After that first meal, I decided that I liked it very much. I like my junk food as much as I like gourmet meals and healthy food. I'm still not into the whole salty faux cheese sauce thing on rice but I like their baked pork chop rice and french toast alot. It was a bit of a craze back then and I haven't been in a long time. I've tried other places like Chatterbox and Causeway Bay but overall Kim Gary still reigns King of fast-paced junk food destination in my books.

A few days ago, some of us met for a movie at Pavilion. With an hour to kill, we decided to have a quick dinner at Wong Kok Char Chan Teng. I regretted the decision the moment we walked in. There was something very disturbing about an empty char chan teng. It was so... Depressing. But the killer view and limited time we had made us stay. HK heartthrob Kwok Chun On is staring up at me from the placemat. Hmmm, possibly not a good sign (flashback to a lousy meal at Eric Tsang's restaurant in Plaza Damas). The menu featured plate after plate of unappetising meals. Com'on people, even I take better photos than that on my camera phone! I ordered the least offensive thing on the menu - fried rice with pork in pineapple sauce. E ordered baked spaghetti with two sauces, cream and minced beef in tomato. Hunky stuck to having coke as he hates char chan tengs. We also ordered some fried dumplings with chicken floss to share.

My meal arrived relatively quickly. If I wasn't so hungry, I would've found it thoroughly disgusting. The fried rice tasted of stale oil and had no flavour whatsover. The bits of fried pork were drowning in a bowl of pineapple syrup. The pork was tender but again, it tasted suspiciously stale. E's spaghetti turned out to be pretty okay. It reminded us of our childhood, back when we were often left to our own devises by the RSGC pool. This was poolside spaghetti. It was oddly comforting. The dumplings were crisp enough and fairly tasty but not good enough to make me want to eat here ever again. I've read many other reviews and so far all of them have been positive. I can only conclude that 1)the food quality is affected by the lack of customers in this particular outlet and 2) we ordered the wrong things. What a shame.

WKCCT is located on the 6th floor of Pavilion next to Dain Ti Hill and TGIF.

Other people have more positive things to say about Wong Kok Char Chan Teng. Also, check out what Yammylicious and Jason has to say.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Penthouse

Everybody seems to be crazy about property these days. Every few days I would read about a new development in the papers. I really wonder where the demand is coming from? When I was working a regular 9-5 job, I couldn't afford a lower mid-level apartment with my pittance then. And the prices keep going up and up! Sigh, I wonder if I'll ever get to own a luxury apartment around KLCC. With prices starting at RM900 psf, I guess I would have to start with a shoe-cabinet size apartment. Maybe I can rent the maids room? Then I can sneak away from "Mum", run through the park and go have a drink at The Apartment, Downtown. No, its not a new development, its the second outlet of The Apartment from The Curve gone upmarket. Located at the ground floor corner closest to the Mosque, The Apartment has a fantastic view and is completely obscene in size! I really think they should have named it The Penthouse instead. Gone is the cosy feel, replaced by a more sleek approach. Although, there are bits and pieces which managed to escape suburbia. Printed plastic tablecloths are fine for mamak stalls and kindergarten, they are not to be used anywhere else.

We were fortunate enough to be invited to the soft opening. Guests were given Monopoly money, what I can only assume, to budget what you would be ordering. But since we did not receive any money, we ordered 1 item from each of the 8 menus. There is something for everyone which I always feel is rather dicey. I won't comment about the food because this was the soft opening. I will say that for a soft opening, the food and service was pretty good. However I will say, and I did tell the Chef, that desserts need to be improved. Please don't order the pavlova because its not actually a pavlova. Three bits of meringue on a plate topped with cream, a sliver of strawbery and slice of tinned peach. The tinned peach was the best part! The crepes were nice and thin but the banana crepe reeked of banana essence/syrup. And I finally got to try Wondermilk cupcakes. I am so disappointed especially since they looked so gorgeous. I should've guessed they would be more style than substance. Royal Vanilla my ass.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where's Humphrey & Ingrid?

Until now, I still have dreams, or rather nightmares, about exams. I'd get a knot in my stomach and sweaty palms just thinking about it. Well, the reason why I hated exams was because I never studied. Well, I did try but my mind was always wandering off somewhere. And children, that explains Aunty Paprika's bad grammar amongst other things. I managed to skim through but the nightmares of being ill-prepared still haunts me to this day. I usually have these dreams near deadlines and the dreaded filing of taxes. Today I experienced being in school again. Looking through my pictures, I realised I haven't blogged about so many restaurants! My God! Some of the photos took some time to recall. So here I am, trying very hard to finish my homework before school starts! I think I will stop eating until I finish blogging about all the old ones. Yea right.

Rick's Cafe. Yes, inspired from the one in the classic "Casablanca". Rick's Cafe in One Bangsar is described as "Morrocan-inspired Western cuisine". It was in October last year that Nigel and Allan (better known as the deadly delicious duo from Just Heavenly) organised a dinner for a bunch of us bloggers. Not unlike school, I was unprepared that evening. As my dining companions whipped out their Nikons and Canons, I decided that I would spend the evening just concentrating on the food and left my little Sony Ericsson W800i hidden in my bag. I decided to revisit Rick's several weeks later with Cuz. It was a balmy evening, it had rained for the most part of the day. We had spent the whole day traipsing around Bangsar looking for a new wardrobe for Cuz. When I say wardrobe I don't mean the cupboard, just incase you should start searching for furniture in Bangsar. Anyway, when we arrived at Rick's, it was a lot more quiet than it had been when I visited last. Well, the noise came from us bloggers mainly. It was just me, Cuz and a family of four sitting in the far corner from us.

I remembered the la kemia (Moroccan tapas to us peasants, av. RM12 per tapas) that I enjoyed the most and ordered them for us to share. Chicken liver pate with orange preserve, ocean trout belly grilled with sea salt and topped with tomato pickle and lamb patties with tomato relish. They were still as good as it was the first time. The pate was smooth and creamy with a hint of alcohol. The ocean trout was so tender it just fell apart in my mouth. The lamb was strong on the spice but the sweet tomato relish balanced the heavy taste. Cuz fell in love with the Twice Baked Mushroom and Gruyere Souffle (RM26) just like I knew that she would. After all who could resist mushrooms and cheese? Especiallly when done like this. It was buttery, it was salty, it was light, it was creamy, it was just sinfully satisfying! We didn't have any dessert as the souffle just tipped the scales by a few kilos I reckon. Anyway, I was disappointed to see that the blue cheese ice cream we tried previously was not on the menu. I really liked it! Oh well, must come back another time and hopefully they will have it then.
Tel: 2287 1618 Full listing click here. Other reviews, Masak-Masak, Living In Food Heaven & Lots Of Cravings

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Dare To Be Different

Wipe the slate clean. Settle old scores. Forgive those who have trespassed against you. Do something new. With all these things in mind, I'm thinking I want to eat better, new, different things. Its all well knowing what you like to eat and eating what you like. But in the culinary melting pot we live in, it seems a tad insular to keep eating from a selected food group. The English are cooking Thai, Malays are cooking Italian, Burmese are cooking kick-ass char kuey teow on Jalan Alor... So, its time to step out of my comfort zone. Before I start tackling wichety grubs and fermented yak cheese, it is essential to take baby steps such as ordering something new at my favourite restaurant or ordering my favourite dish at a new restaurant. And that is exactly what I did.

I blogged about my love for uppuma recently, in particular the one at Nirwana Maju in Bangsar. Lyrical Lemongrass had mentioned that Saravaana Bhavan serves uppuma too except that its called rava kichadi. Finally, after almost half year later, I finally made it there. Its rather swanky mamak with air conditioning and cutlery that don't bend when trying to spear a piece of chicken. The average price is also higher than the regular mamak shops. My rava kichadi arrived startlingly yellow with dahl and coconut chutney. It was still hot which was probably why the texture was wetter than usual. I liked the added cashew nuts but it was little strong on the ghee. The coconut chutney was delicious! So rich and luxurious. RM4, the most expensive uppuma I've had to date. Hunky's marsala thosai was ordinary. I'd like to go back and try other dishes but there is one thing that bothers me about the restaurant. The fact that its all closed up and the ventilation is rather poor. At one point I found it hard to breathe as the delicious aroma wafting from the kitchen became too intense and stifling. I still like my RM2 version at Nirwana. Tonight I'm going to Oriental Cravings, MUST remember to order something new! Ohhh, how would I be able to resist pork curry and golden tofu? Gulp...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Welcome 2008!

2007 was great for me. I cried, I laughed, I only fell sick twice (shame the second time had to be yesterday), I filed my taxes on time (finally!), I fell in love again, I made mistakes, I learnt from them, I lost weight, I put on weight, I expanded my business after two years of back and forth, I got reacquainted with old friends and I made some fantastic new ones. It has been a contemplative year and I wouldn't change anything if I had to do it again. There are a few things I didn't get around to doing which I intend to achieve in 2008. I'm looking forward to great change in 2008. To love, truth, adventure and understanding. Wishing all of you a very happy 2008!