Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dining NY style with Ding & Dhong

Roast chicken with lemon jam, watercress salad, pumpkin cake with oriental style belly pork, NY style striploin steak & steaks plump and juicy in the pan

My friend Ding married her Dhong two years ago on a bright sunny day in Sydney. These two were made for each other, like apple pie and ice cream, coke and hamburgers, you get the idea. Ding can't cook to save her life so its no wonder she married a man that can. The boy is a whiz in the kitchen! And we somehow managed to rope them into cooking for us. At first it was 6 people, then it became 7 and finally it was 9. Poor Ding was a little stressed on the day. Nothing worse than not having enough food right? They arrived at my place around 4pm and began preparing for the big feast. I did say to Dhong, a simple dinner will do really. And please don't cook too much because I can't deal with leftovers. What does the man make? Pumpkin cakes, NY style steaks with red wine gravy thing and balsamic and olive oil roasted baby roma tomatoes and parmesan fries, watercress salad with feta, walnuts, honey and mango, roast chicken with lemon jam and oriental style oven roasted belly pork! Is the man nuts? Mildly.

We started off the evening with some sauvignon blanc, oven roasted belly pork, watercress salad and pumpkin cakes. The pumpkin had been oven roasted, seasoned, mashed up and pan-fried. Served with a dollop of creme faiche, miso reduction, grated coconut and toasted sesame seeds. It was a nice smooth contrast to the savoury belly pork which was tender but still with some bite to it. The watercress salad was light and refreshing on that hot evening. We took a small break in between the meals and Sabby entertained us with her notorious escapades while Dhong fried up 9 steaks on 1 griddled pan. Each striploin steak was about 250gm each with a nice chunky piece of fat attached to it. I managed about 3/4 of the steak and polished off all the lovely roasted baby romas and parmesan fries. The red wine gravy thing was very good! Bit stingy with the sauce, only 2 tablespoons each! Then there was the roast chicken "just incase we didn't have enough to eat"! The lemons were thrown into the oven as well so it was caramelised and jammy. It was nice but too bitter and overpowering for me. And finally, dessert which was my only contribution to the dinner. A Bailey's cheesecake as requested by Ding. I added a layer of chocolate ganache to the base which upped the initial recipe of PG13 to 18SX. Deliciously decadent! Thank you Ding & Dhong for cooking such a brilliant dinner!

Bailey's cheesecake, Ding & Her Dhong

Friday, July 17, 2009

Marathon x2 - Singapore & New York

My knee is all better and I can't wait to run in the Standard Chartered Singapore marathon! I will not make the same mistake as I did last time by leaving it to Hunky. I will now take his credit card and register for the both of us! Voila, why didn't I think of that before? Oh well, important to learn from one's mistake. Click here for more information. Lets go! I've already made a bet with Beef - last person to finish has to buy breakfast at P.S Cafe!

Recently Sara Wilson of Fresh Air Fund contacted me to help get the word out about the upcoming NYC Half Marathon happening on 16th August. The Fresh Air Fund is still looking for runners and sponsors to join their Fresh Air Fund-Racers team for the NYC Half-Marathon. This is a great way to participate in NYC's premier summer road race while helping Fresh Air Fund children. Last summer's NYC Half-Marathon was a huge success and the Fresh Air Fund-Racers raised more than $125,000. We are also still in need of Friendly Town hosts for next month. Host families open their hearts and home to a NYC child who would not otherwise have the opportunity to escape the hot, crowded city streets. Click here for more details. Happy running everybody!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Royal Selangor Cafe

A familiar guest at weddings and a must to bring when visiting friends abroad. Royal Selangor pewter. Its one of those places where you never think of going unless you are buying a gift or you have friends from abroad wanting a "truly Malaysian" product. I love their signature melon teapot and photo frames. The last time I visited the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, I brought my two Aussie friends to the School Of Hard Knocks. They were able to have a go and banging out their very own pewter bowl. I think it was very therapeutic especially for Hogey who was particularly agro at the time. More recently, they have added a cafe within the building. It is a lovely space with lots of natural light and a small koi pond with humongous mutant kois. Seriously, what have they been feeding the kois? Ex-employees? They are huge! If there was a Biggest Loser for fish, they would be worthy contestants. Back to the cafe, it was my first time dining there last Friday. I was fairly quiet at the time as there weren't any tourist buses. The tables were all occupied by employees. And there was me.

It is a simple cafe that has a small menu consisting of salads, sandwiches and cakes. What is really nice here is the daily local menu. Monday is nasi lemak, Wednesday is Hainanese chicken rice, and Friday is asam laksa. I can't remember Tuesday and Thursday (probably because it wasn't something I like!). I always say I am not a fan of asam laksa but whenever I eat it, I do enjoy it immensely. Its the noodle that I am not so keen on you see. I am prejudiced against fat noodles. I much prefer waifs like mee sua and bee hoon. It was on the encouragement from the manager that I ordered the asam laksa. I'm so glad I did! The broth smelt so sour, spicy and sweet all at the same time. And it really was very good. It had just the right balance of the three. It was spicy enough to make me reach for a tissue but not enough to burn a hole in my stomach. And it was sour enough to make my mouth water now as I recall the hot aromatic broth. So much for not liking the noodles, I ate it all! TGIF! By 1pm, the asam laksa had sold out. I don't think they make that many portions which is probably why the stock tastes so concentrated. And only RM8.90 for a bowl. I also had a slice of lemon cheesecake with raspberry topping (RM8.90). Very nice! It was simple, smooth, creamy and fluffy at the same time. What a lovely way to spend Friday afternoon.

So if you find yourself around Setapak, make sure you come and try the food at the Royal Selangor Cafe. I would estimate the pricing to be very similar to Secret Recipe, so do yourself a favour and come here instead. The food is made with a lot more love I can tell you that! The best part is parking is easy and free! Call 03 4145 6186 to check on the daily specials which do change occasionally. The cafe is open 7 days a week from 9am - 5pm.

Click here for directions

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Republic Of Randomness

I've had this post in my drafts folder for over a month already. I was quite disappointed with the meal and I thought I ought to give it some time so I might look back at it with a more impartial view. So here goes...

I had read glowing reviews about Hakka Republic at Menara Hap Seng. I know, like you I assumed it was a Chinese restaurant. The decor may have Chinese accents but the food is about as Chinese as Prince Charles. Hunky and I were excited to try this new restaurant that served "steamed wagyu". Up until quite recently, Menara Hap Seng had been MUI Plaza for as long as I can remember. Its an odd place similar to Menara Weld. After 5pm its completely dead. Good thing is parking would be in abundance! Hunky and I walked from Changkat Bukit Bintang. The 10 minute walk would've been a 40 minute drive as the roads where completely congested at 7:30pm. The place certainly looked promising as we exited the glass lift and into the restaurant. I like the voluminous ceiling and sexy lighting. Definitely a place for first dates as the lighting is very forgiving. Not the best place for a blogger to take photos especially when you have a compact like mine. We were seated in the dining area, facing the surprisingly green courtyard which I never knew existed. What is truly impressive about this place is the thick wine list. Thanks to a enomatic wine serving machine, its possible to have a single glass of the finest wines.

Pastry & Gf turned up and we ordered a bottle of chianti (RM266+) to share with our meal. For starters we ordered the steamed wagyu and seabass sashimi with spinach salad and yuzu dressing. We wanted to have foie gras terrine but it was not available that night. It was with much anticipation as we waited for the steamed wagyu to arrive. Perhaps I had gone on about it a bit too much. When it arrived in the bamboo steamer everyone just looked at it doubtfully. It certainly smelt nice. It was impossibly tender. The meat just melts into nothing. Don't expect flavour as this is purely for texture's sake. The ponzu dipping sauce complemented the meat perfectly. The seabass sashimi was nothing spectacular but I had a problem with the local spinach that they served us. I felt the texture too coarse for the sashimi, I think baby spinach would've been nicer. On the upside, the wine was lovely.

Do you know its been so long that I have trouble recalling my main course. Thank goodness I took a photo of the menu. Grilled garlic, mustard and herb crusted Black Angus tenderloin (RM72, 180gm). It was accompanied with chilli roasted potatoes and portobello marsala reduction. I don't remember the potatoes being spicy but they were lovely. The reduction was aromatic and intense. The tenderloin itself was a delicious cut of steak but it was completely overpowered by the crust. I remember I had to scrape off the crust to truly appreciate the meat. Hunky had slow braised Black Angus beef cheek with creamy polenta (RM52). It was delicate, tender and devoid of complaint from Hunky. He did comment that "the one at Frangipani is better". I have a feeling he might just have been ever so slightly biased. Pastry ordered the wagyu steak with blue cheese infused butter (RM120, 180gm). I had a bite and it was much better than the steamed wagyu. It really is just the novelty of it being steamed and served in a bamboo basket. If its flavour you are after, go with the steak.

By this time, I decided that I wasn't going to do dessert. Somehow I just knew that it would be disappointing. I have super high expectations for desserts. It doesn't have to be lavish. It just has to make me feel like I just died and gone to heaven. Too much? Anyway, they ordered three desserts to share. Hunky of course had to have Baileys infused croissant and butter pudding (RM18), Pastry had chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream (RM22) and Gf had vietnamese hot coffee chocolate cake with Kahlua foam and coffee ice cream (RM25). This was probably the most disastrous part of the meal. Where do I even begin? The baileys was barely infused into this rather stodgy lukewarm lump. Chocolate fondant was nice enough but a little stingy on the portion for that kind of price. "Vietnamese hot coffee cake"; the cake was not hot, it barely tasted like coffee and it was dry! Very disappointing.

To summarise, my impression of Hakka Republic is first and foremost a wine bar that happens to serve food. I appreciate their efforts to pair a selection of wines with every course which is great for people like me. I think their huge wine menu is fantastic and it would be perfect if they improve on their menu. Unfortunately when you charge this kind of prices, expectations will be high. Our bill for that evening was just under RM1000.00. For that kind of price, my friends and I expect to be wowed.

For more information and contact details - Hakka Republic . More reviews: A Whiff of Lemongrass, Masak-Masak, Cumi & Ciki

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Splash of Colour

I think I'm suffering from post-race depression...

Its barely been 5 days since I ran my first mini marathon. It feels odd, like a faded memory that you're not sure is really yours or that you've heard it repeated enough to convince yourself that you experienced it first hand. I see pictures of myself but my brain doesn't compute. Has it only been 5 days? I think I'm going to have to consider Ciki's idea about running the 11km Adidas King Of The Road race on 2nd August! My knee is finally feeling better so I'm going to try and run this Sunday.

Meanwhile, to cheer myself up I've been eating colourful food to make me feel happy and virtuous. Bought some ciabatta from Artisanas and placed whole heads of garlic and bell peppers in the oven. Grilled some aubergine slices on the non-stick griddle pan. Twenty minutes later, aromatic and caramelised goodness ready to be layered on my barely toasted ciabatta. I did want to add some cheese but the block I had in the fridge smelt very suspicious. The sandwich would not be complete without some green pesto and fresh organic tomatoes. What a deeply satisfying vegetarian sandwich! I love the sweet smokey taste of the roasted garlic spread and salty sharp pesto against the sweet peppers. Mmmm, I could eat this everyday!