Saturday, May 19, 2018

RESOUNDING APPLAUSE FOR TWO HANDS

Crisp. Golden brown. Gluten-free. Inspired by the Indian pakora (vegetable fritter), the Crispy Parmesan Cauliflower (RM22) by Chef Vicneswara Thenamirtham (better known as Chef Vic) is a showstopper at Two Hands, a 7 month-old cosy restaurant tucked away inside Qliq Hotel at Empire Damansara. 

Coddled within pouffy-light, crisp gluten-free batter (made from a mixture of chickpea, tapioca and rice flour), the cauliflower florets makes eating vegetable pleasantly addictive. Dusted with parmesan and heaped atop Greek yoghurt flecked with chopped dill, onion, coriander and Spanish smoked paprika, the delectable morsels will have you asking for more after one bite.
We like the pared-down, utilitarian look and homey feel of Two Hands. Its white, deep blue and gray colour scheme accentuated with naked Edison bulbs and futuristic etched shade brass pendant lights conjure up a fuss-free yet welcoming setting for Chef Vic's food to take centrestage.



According to Chef Vic, he strives to source and use as much local produce where possible. Due to rising demand, many of the dishes served at Two Hands are also vegan-friendly and gluten-free. "There has to be synchronicity between food producers and consumers as both are stakeholders in this aspect; both parties have to be responsible for the food we cook and eat. As a chef, I care deeply and devote a lot of efforts into transforming local, organic and fresh produce into healthy dishes for diners."


His creation of Hummus 3 Ways (RM28) exemplifies the aforementioned philosophy. The bright and flavourful trio of tahini chickpeas, beetroot and roasted pumpkin hummus is a surefire winner. Served with house-made bread, the appetiser is good for sharing. Each type of hummus is conferred with marinated chickpeas, diced beetroot and roasted pumpkin on top for textural interest. Touched with balsamic glaze and globs of feta cheese, this is an offering to write home about.
Salad days have never looked cheerier than the Apple & Walnut Salad (RM21) from Two Hands. Even my jaded palate perks up once the refreshing melange of mixed lettuce leaves (the menu stated local spinach but the greens may change depending on supply) tossed with unwaxed apple dices, roughly chopped heirloom cherry tomatoes, streaked with creamy, tangy Greek yoghurt and organic acacia honey.
Housemade, crisp Cinnamon Rolls paired with Smoky Albondigas (RM31) sounds odd off the bat but the unlikely pairing proves to be a revelation. Chef Vic's tireless experiment paid off in his search for the perfect bread to complement his albondigas (Spanish for meatballs) -- hand-rolled chilled mince lamb meatballs imbued with smoked dry rub. Chunky, blistered tomato sauce anointed with freshly chopped coriander tie up the artful melding of savoury-sweet nicely. (Note: add RM6 for 3 pcs cinnamon rolls)
Flaky, housemade Croissants (RM6 for 3 pcs) are the ideal companion for the Salted Egg Custard Prawns (RM28) offering. While it's tasty, the lush braising gravy of garlic, onion, chilli flakes and crumbled salted egg yolks strewn with curry leaves seems to overwhelm the delicate sweetness of the sustainably caught sea-white prawns. IMHO it's a decent but unexceptional dish.
Besides the cauliflower speciality, I'd urge you to plump for the scrumptious 4-hour Beef Short Ribs (RM112 for 2 persons to share). Baked with rock salt for 4 hours, the short ribs are toothsomely tender. Topped with Chinese chicken floss, spring onion and sesame seeds, the beef is heavenly sublime; the slices slicked with moreish beef jus and barbecue sauce. Catching all that saucy goodness is a generous spread of garlic and coriander mash. 

Inspired by the aromatic Cajun rice dish cooked with onion, pepper and celery 'mucked up' with chicken liver and ground beef, Chef Vic tweaks his version with smoked paprika, braised tomato and coconut cream to create Grilled Portuguese Chicken with Dirty Rice (RM58, ample for 2) in a skillet. The crusty, burnt bits scraped from the pan base are especially delish. We also like the juicy chicken which tastes reminiscent of ayam percik.

After that slew of stellar offerings, it's hard to appreciate the simpler Pulled Beef Pasta (RM57 for 2). Intermingled with pulled chunks of stewed beef, brined carrots and asparagus, the hearty pasta dish appears underwhelming on the tastebuds but we daresay it should hit the spot with ardent pasta fans.
If you are in the vicinity during lunch, pop in for Two Hands' good value lunch deals. Top of the list is Thai Green Curry (RM18 – Slashed for Lunch, RM26 - a la carte), a tiffin carrier containing rice topped with a fried egg complemented by mild green curry. Portion-wise, it's big enough to ensure a hearty eater leave replete.
Health-conscious and fitness buffs will be pleased to know Two Hands serves vegan-friendly and gluten-free dessert treats. Try the fudgy, biscuit-based Strawberry Jelly Cheesecake (RM14) with toasted coconut and chocolate chips or Vegan Chocolate Fudge Cake & Coconut Latte Ice Cream (RM18).
The assorted ice cream featuring Salted Caramel with Walnuts and classic flavours are lusciously good. Remarkably on-point as a wholesome treat to wrap up the meal.

Post-work succour in the form of spirited cocktails abound here too. Notable concoctions we can vouch for include Jack Jean Paul (RM44) -- London dry gin with jackfruit puree, Russian vodka, fresh mint and hazelnut liqueur; Coffee Chanel (RM31) -- an energising drink of Kahlua, vodka, frangelico, caramel and espresso; Coconut Coach (RM32) -- Malibu coconut rum, vodka, freshly pressed pineapple juice and organic coconut oil, and Cucumber Chloe (RM37) -- elderflower liqueur, dry gin, Russian vodka, cucumber juice, cured cucumber and thyme.
For reservations at Two Hands Restaurant & Bar, please call tel: 012-424 1194. Address: A-LG-05, Qliq Damansara, Jalan PJU 8/8A, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Open daily, 7am-12 midnight. 


Sunday, May 13, 2018

GRUB UP FOR GRABS AT DONKEY & CROW IRISH PUB


Irish eyes are bound to smile when they spy a comforting dish of Dublin Coddle (RM33). Rich and hearty, this salubrious stew of potatoes, root vegetables and Irish sausage is a signature speciality at Donkey & Crow Irish Pub in KL. Served with rustic bread slices, the offering may look unassuming but taste-wise, it’s heartwarming succour that satisfies the soul.

We enjoy the simple dish at Donkey & Crow, a laidback Irish pub which has two outlets: TREC KL and Bangsar Shopping Centre (BSC). Established in 2015, we learn the choice of name combining Donkey to denote perseverance and strength and the Crow to symbolise fearlessness and courage. These characteristics are firmly held by the Donkey & Crow team in their quest to be the Best Irish Pub in the region.

Historically, pubs (a contraction of public house in the old days) is a welcoming, go-to folksy outpost for a casual bite, a couple of pints and some jolly good time. Likewise, Donkey & Crow strikes a similar path for today’s white collar professionals, expatriates and urban families.


 

Newer than the TREC KL outpost, the BSC outlet exudes an old-world charm interior-wise. A colourful, mosaic-laid mural serves as the focal point at the heart of the pub while the shaded patio with high stools and tables is a hot hanging out space at dusk. 


There's even a hideaway private room in addition to a pool table right at the entrance. Besides beer, liquor and spirits, the beverage menu proffers an interesting selection of beer-fused concoctions like Beejito (RM38 nett), cocktails and mocktails.



While I had eaten Scotch eggs as a child, I didn’t know it was a popular picnic staple and convenient snack in the UK. Basically, it’s a whole hardboiled egg swaddled with mince or sausage meat with an outer, deep-fried breadcrumb coating. Interestingly, Wikipedia mentioned Belgium and the Netherlands have them too. In Malaysia, Scotch egg falls into the same milieu of colonial fare as chicken chop and mulligatawny.

We were a little perturbed by the frontliner's raised eyebrow when we ordered 2 servings of Scotch Egg (RM23 nett) and we soon discovered why. The Donkey & Crow’s version is huge and a meal in itself! Personally, I find it too salty for my liking but for the Caucasian pub regulars here, the offering accompanied with mustard sauce heralds a taste of home.
 
Pale and plain, the Blue Cheese Mushroom (RM23) looks deceptively nondescript until its lush flavour hits your palate. We thoroughly enjoy every mouthful of the tender button mushrooms in creamy blue cheese sauce with toast. Cooked down to velvety richness, the savoury white sauce has a subtle, well-rounded ‘bite’ to it.




The Snacks Platter (RM68) may be a viable curtain-raiser for small groups as the selection of Pigs in Blanket, Smoked Duck Breast, Nachos Bacon, Onion Rings and Chips is ample enough for 2-3 persons to share. Most of the options hit the spot although our bowl of nachos was somewhat dry and underwhelming. 

For main course, we readily vouch for Grilled Pork Ribs with Whiskey Sauce (RM49). Although a stronger boozy overtone is desirable for the whiskey sauce, the ribs with corn, roast potatoes and salad prove noteworthy.
Sweet-toothed diners will find the ho-hum Brownies with Ice Cream isn’t something to write home about. You’re better off with another pint or cocktail before hitting the road.

For reservations, call Donkey & Crow Irish Pub, tel: 03-2011 1868 (BSC) or 03-2110 5349 (TREC KL). Address: 1) G130, Ground Floor, Bangsar Shopping Centre, 285, Jalan Maarof, Bukit Bandaraya, Kuala Lumpur; 2) E-G-05, Electric Boulevard, TREC, Lot 434, Seksyen 90, Jalan Tun Razak, KL.