Wednesday, August 24, 2016

5 'MUST HAVE' MID-AUTUMN FEST GIFTS

The battle of the Mid-Autumn Fest gift boxes is on again! While I don't have time to suss out every single one in the market, I was smitten with five exceptional designs which stood heads and shoulders above the rest this year. Taking the lead once again in my personal preference chart is Concorde Hotel KL's classy lacquer jewellery boxes. 
 
I especially love the red box adorned with peonies. Coming in a close second is the floral and ribbon decorated one in maroon. Priced at RM108 (there's a 15% discount for credit card holders!), each celebratory gift box contains 6 pcs of baked mooncakes (60g). A thoughtful addition to the box is the plush suede bag with gold drawstrings to complete the plush presentation.
Inside, the red felt-lined case holds six gold sheen boxes containing the mooncakes. Set A comprises Japanese red bean, pure lotus single yolk, golden pandan pure lotus, white pure lotus, assorted fruit & nuts and green tea pure lotus paste variants.
For Set B, the mooncake flavours include golden pandan pure lotus single yolk, white pure lotus paste single yolk, green tea pure lotus paste, Japanese red bean, pure lotus and golden pandan pure lotus paste. The boxes have been such a runaway hit since its launch so it pays to be an early bird and grab them while stocks last.

Call Concorde Hotel KL, tel: 03 2144 8750 for more information and details. 
 
After tasting sweet success last year, Komugi has returned with its range of Otsukimi mooncakes. In Japanese, otsukimi means moon viewing which usually takes place during Jugoya, the Japanese festival of paying homage to the autumn moon.
The dark blue box captured my heart with its whimsical white rabbits design frolicking around a shiny full moon, referencing the country's legend about a rabbit pounding mochi (rice cakes) with a wooden mallet that lived on the moon.
Every part of the gift box is meticulously construed, from the magnetised lid to the inside cover highlighted with poems; the boxy square shape fitting four pretty gift-wrapped mooncakes nicely.
Low sugar premium lotus paste with peanut oil encased in thin baked pastry is the classic flavour to satisfy purists. But I found the inventive variants more interesting, starting with the German black forest.
Dark chocolate paste studded with black currants and sweet cherries quickly reinforced its seductive appeal with yours truly. I adore the fudgy texture which appeared lush and rich on the palate. A small wedge washed down with freshly brewed green tea won't go remiss I tell you.
The distinctive azuki (Japanese red beans) taste and aroma was unmistakable in the third variant. At the core of it was a nugget of fresh milk and nuts paste, rendering the mooncake with an agreeably delicate richness. 
Like a golden moon hidden from sight, the enticing apricot centre of Komugi's green tea apricot proved to a real gem. I enjoyed the fresh astringency of the green tea accented mooncake with its premium lotus paste filling.
Besides mooncakes, Komugi is renowned for its Baumkuchen - a unique layered cake. Originally from Germany, Baked one layer at a time on a rotating spit over an open oven, Baumkuchen means tree or log cake as its circular baked layers look similar to the 'rings' of a tree trunk. Butter, vanilla, eggs, sugar, flour and salt combine to create this rich, delicious cake which comes in different flavours. Dark and bewitching, the black sesame Baumkuchen I tried was spongy soft with hints of nuttiness to it. A fabulous treat to indulge in or even better, presented to family and friends as a delightful gift.

For more info, find Komugi Malaysia in FB https://www.facebook.com/KomugiMalaysia/  or visit www.komugi.com.my

Designed to resemble a vintage travel trunk with multiple compartments, the red and gold Mid-Autumn gift box from Dorsett Grand Subang is worth grabbing. Embellished with intricate Oriental motifs including birds, butterflies and flowers among others, each of the four pull-out compartment cases hold a mooncake inside.
Three new flavours: baked ginseng goji berry, baked white coffee durian and crystal skin peppermint chocolate mooncake have joined the line-up available. Eight other classic fillings are also featured to please traditionalists. I was quite impressed by the ginseng-infused mooncake - the herbal nuance was subtle enough and balanced by bits of kei chi or goji berries in the lotus paste.
Durian and white coffee may be strange bedfellows but in this instance, the combination works for me. The low sugar quotient also means the confectionery isn't too cloying while the heady king of fruits aroma meld well with that of white coffee. A winner in every sense.
Since I'm not a big fan of minty dessert, the peppermint chocolate version doesn't rock my boat. Those partial to cool minty freshness may beg to differ but personally, I'd avoid this particular creation as it tasted like toothpaste to me.
Dim Sum Chef Chan Chee Looi from The Emperor restaurant stepped up to the plate and showed us the art of knocking out these Mid Autumn Fest treats. We spent some time admiring the sturdy wooden mooncake moulds with their intricate etchings while he mixed up the necessary ingredients to make the crystal mooncake skin.
He made everything seemed so easy but having tried my hand at making mooncakes last year, I can assure you not everyone is cut out for the job. Anyway, the chef was incredibly patient in explaining the various steps and methods during the demonstration.
We were left impressed by his dexterous skills and had a good chat with him about the various fillings, especially why he chose to introduce the three new flavours this year. According to Chef Chan, his customers prefer tried and tested flavours but would accept minor tweaks or updates to perennial versions when the formulations hit the right note.
Priced from RM25 onwards, the mooncakes will be sold until 15 September 2016. For enquiries, call Dorsett Grand Subang, tel: 03 5031 6060 x 1954.

Getting into the spirit of the Mid-Autumn Fest is surprise, surprise...Garrett Popcorn Shops! The cute Jade Rabbit Tins with embossed lids bearing ornate floral pattern similar to that of the traditional treat are collectible items, especially for fans who already own the different Garrett Tins.
Set against the blue striped background is several bunnies amidst swirly clouds...the slightly shiny effect looks far better when seen up close. Somehow online images don't do the Jade Rabbit Tins justice. I suggest you visit the nearest Garrett Popcorn Shops at KLCC, 1Utama, Mid Valley or gateway@klia2 to check them out.

The Mid-Autumn Gift Set comes presented in a rectangular box too which makes the two TIns easy to carry once they are filled with your preferred popcorn flavours. Besides Chicago Mix, you can choose Matcha CaramelCrisp - the green tea variant popcorn has made a return for the occasion till end September.
Priced from RM54 onwards per gift set, the Mid-Autumn Gift Set from Garrett Popcorn Shops may just add more cheer to your family and friend gatherings during this happy celebrations.

For more information, refer to Garrett Popcorn Shops Malaysia FB page: 
https://www.facebook.com/GarrettPopcornMY



Monday, August 22, 2016

EAT LIKE AN EGYPTIAN...AND MIDDLE-EASTERNERS AT CHATZ



Egyptian guest chef Ayman Ibrahim pulled out the stops for the Middle Eastern Food promotion at Chatz Brasserie, rustling up a repertoire of 37 Egyptian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes throughout the period between now and 31 October 2016.
Coriander seeds combined with sesame seeds lent subtle crunch to the Falafel (RM20) - a popular snack and appetiser of chickpea croquettes with tahinah (sesame paste). I like these patties as the chef has ensured they weren't overcooked and dry.

Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Egyptian cuisines share some similarities and one of the most obvious we sampled at the preview was Warq Einab (RM22), brined grape leaves stuffed with rice. These dainty rolled parcels were surprisingly palatable - the grape leaves weren't as tart and salty as I had expected and the rice filling was agreeably tasty. The pleasant taste left a good impression as past encounters with this speciality hasn't been up to scratch.

Another common appetiser across the region is Hommous (RM16), the evergreen chickpea spread. Of course, recipes vary from chef to chef and restaurant to restaurant but I had yet to savour a dud so this delightfully smooth and dense spread was a joy to eat with warm, pouffy Arabic bread.
Bulgur wheat and tiny wedges of cherry tomatoes lent subtle 'bite' to the guest chef's Taboulah (parsley & mint salad, RM20). The tangy lemon juice and olive oil dressing was tantalising enough minus any sharp tartness so we rated this as a definite 'must have'.
Even the rustically creamy lentil soup or Shorbah Adas (RM26) won us over with its back to basics approach. Every spoonful was a testament to the chef's TLC, warming our hearts and tummies with its soulfulness.
Pasta, chickpeas, beans and lamb cubes bestowed heartier substance to the same lentil soup, transforming it into Shorbah Harirah (RM30). The resultant broth had greater complexity and depth but personally, I preferred the pared down, lighter version. 
 
We took an instant liking to carb and protein laden speciality like Lamb Kabsah (RM48)
with Roz Boukhary (long grain rice cooked with lamb marinated with assorted spices, RM25). The meat was subtly suffused with aromatic spices; its delectable accent amplified by the flavourful rice. We also tried Roz Saiadiah (RM18), irresistible fried onion rice which served as a foil for several other mains.
Chef Ayman proved to be a dab hand at grilled spring chicken or Dajaj Ala Elfaham (RM36). The juicy chook bore hints of warm, smoky spices which should leave you asking for more.
Another combination of spices was discernible in Kofta, barbecued lamb meatballs. These gamey spheres appeared a tad dry for my liking but we took so long photographing them, there could have been some moisture loss.
Vege such as okra stewed with tomato and beef formed the premise for Bamiah bil Lahm Ejal (RM50). At first glance, the dish could be mistaken for curry but the red hue stemmed from the tomato sauce base. A perennial Middle Eastern comfort food that should please homesick foreign visitors from the very same shores.
If you prefer not to deal with bone-in pieces of chicken then Shish Tawook (barbecued skewered chicken cubes, RM30) would suit you down to the ground. Marinated in yoghurt, lemon juice and spices (possibly cayenne, paprika and sumac), the lean cubes of grilled chicken were slightly dry to the bite.
Similarly, seafood and fish are often thrown cooked on the grill. The mixture of spices may differ but the key ingredients' inherent taste is maintained. Proof of the pudding was the sublime accents discernible in Jambary Mashwi (grilled prawns with saffron sauce, RM55) and Samak Mashwi (fried fish glazed with tahinah, RM46).
Broad beans with rice and herbs or better known as Fooll Akhdar (RM28) underscored the simple homespun fare enjoyed by the people residing in the Mediterranean and Middle East for centuries. A tried and tested offering that most of them would identify with.
Sweet toothed diners shouldn't miss the trio of dessert available. My fave has to be
Kashul (almond pudding, RM25). Perfumed with rosewater, the pudding looked stodgy but once I sampled it, the luscious treat reminded me a little of creme brulee although it was less dense.
Other options guaranteed to please Middle Eastern cuisine fans included Baklava (RM25) and Basbosah (RM18).
Four types of nuts were coarsely crushed and filled into petite florets of fillo pastry; a sticky mass of syrupy sweetness encased in buttery, flaky fillo layers. They could be terribly addictive unless you are allergic to nuts.
Semolina together with grated coconut and ground almonds formed the foundation for Basbosah, the classic Egyptian cake (similar versions found in most Middle Eastern countries). Drenched with rosewater syrup (again this differs from recipe to recipe), the crumbly cake was meant to be savoured with a strong cup of coffee.
For dining convenience, Chatz Brasserie is offering a Middle East Specialities Set Menu comprising an appetiser, a soup and a choice of Mandy (RM88 nett), Dajaj Kabsah (RM85 nett) or Samak Saiadiah (deep-fried fish in pungent sauce, RM85 nett) for the main followed by a dessert. The dishes reviewed here are also available a la carte from 12noon to 12midnight daily until end October 2016.

For reservations, please call CHATZ BRASSERIE, tel: 03-27828301. Address: Lower Lobby Level, PARKROYAL KUALA LUMPUR, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

MUCH ADO ABOUT WAYGU AT FU RIN


At RM90 for 3 pcs, the Aburi Sushi Nigiri is a treat fit for a king or queen. Sprinkled with a savoury sauce, the generous slices of slightly seared Waygu beef we sampled were ultra-tender and juicy. The assertive freshness of chopped spring onion and delicate woodiness from threads of deep-fried leek added layers of flavours to the vinegared rice clumps too.

This serving of sublime beefy goodness beckons at Fu Rin Japanese Restaurant, Holiday Inn Glenmarie. It's one of the many dishes featured in the current Wagyu promotion which will run till further notice.
The famed marbling of this premium beef was clearly visible in every slice of Wagyu Beef Tataki (RM200). Served with shoyu wasabi dressing and a pile of crisp garlic flakes on the side, the meaty layers had a cluster of asparagus spears hidden underneath. Again it was a deftly prepared dish - the beef with its just right degree of doneness made an indelible impression.

Besides the two specialities mentioned above, diners can look forward to other Wagyu dishes such as Gyuniku Yasai Maki (Wagyu beef and vegetable rolls served with butter and soy sauce, RM280), Wagyu Steak Jyu (fried Wagyu sirloin with blended soy sauce served on bed of steamed rice, RM128), Udon Wagyu Beef (hot udon noodles with Wagyu, RM128), Trio Wagyu Beef (fried, grilled and teppanyaki Wagyu, RM280) and Wagyu Wafu Steak (fried Wagyu beef with teriyaki sauce, RM200).

I'm partial to fried rice so the portion of Wagyu Chahan (RM48) hit the spot for me. Bits of omelette, smoky minced garlic and that scrumptious beef raised this simple comfort food to gastronomic heights that would leave you 'ooh'-ing and 'aah'-ing at every mouthful.

 
Like melted butter...that was the impression I had when I bit into the cube of Teppan Wagyu (RM280). Moist, juicy and impossibly melt-in-the-mouth tender, the voluptous flavour coat the mouth with silky richness. The accompanying salad helped to offset the meaty indulgence.

Word has it the Sunday Brunch may be returning to the fold of Fu Rin soon. Buffet fans should keep their ears and eyes out for updates via the hotel FB page. 

FU RIN, HOLIDAY INN GLENMARIE, 1 JALAN USAHAWAN U1/8, SEKSYEN U1, SHAH ALAM, SELANGOR. Tel: 03 78025200