Friday, November 14, 2008

GREAT THAI-DINGS



Amazing Thailang best describes our many delicious discoveries in Bangkok and Pattaya. Street food is king here - if you truly want to eat what the locals eat then nothing beats the humble streetside offerings.

We chowed down on BBQ pork skewers, mini pancakes filled with shredded pumpkin and deep-fried chicken drummets en route to check out the shopping scene. There were tons of other stalls proffering coffee, economy mixed rice, fried noodles, fruits and iced drinks...

Lunch comprised bowls of hearty noodles in soup with sliced roast pork, meat balls, sliced kidney, fish balls, sliced fishcake and fried fish skin. Flat rice noodles similar to kuay teow but more slender in size were my favourite. The clear broth is good on its own but tastes better when perked up with the ubiquitous fish sauce, dried chilli flakes and lime in vinegar. Sliced red and green chillies are also available at many stalls. Bowls of granulated sugar are served to douse fiery-hot spiciness if need be.





In Pattaya, we stumbled upon a noodle stall tucked away in a sidelane. The premises are spotless as are the tables and chairs.







One of the best tasting specialities has to be Sticky Rice with Mango. For mere 50 Bhat (RM5) you get a generous portion of steamed glutinous rice topped with a whole ripe mango sliced for easy eating. It was such a heavenly treat that we had this twice in a row! The glutinous rice has a splendid soft chewiness about it and the mango was juicy and honey-sweet.







I also had a super-hot encounter with a Catfish Salad. It was a briny, tart, mildly sweet and extra spicy dish that literally made my hair stand on its end and broke out in a real sweat.



My other half and I also polished off this delectable pot of glass noodles with prawns. It costs 450 Baht (RM45) but we reckon it was worth every Baht - just look at the size of those fresh succulent prawns!

Monday, November 03, 2008

A VISUAL AND PALATABLE FEAST



Sometimes us Klang Valley denizens seem to take this habitat of ours so much for granted that we remain blind, deaf and dumb to some veritable treasures ensconced within its very core. Like the look out point that's nicely tucked away in one little corner somewhere between Ampang and Hulu Langat...you can call it our local equivalent to The Peak in Hong Kong.

After one rainy eve, we actually drove up there as hubby was intrigued to try out the eateries. Truth be told, I was far less enthusiastic - after one too many disappointing run-ins with Malaysian touristy-type attractions, I braced myself for the worst. The falling dusk wreathed in swirling mists gave me the creeps initially but once we found a parking spot, I was surprised to see how busy the place was.

Scores of people were already trekking up to the Look Out Tower while some families and couples milled around the three eateries. A chilly breeze sent welcome shivers down our spines - you wouldn't think it possible after the spell of sweltering heatwave we had been experiencing. I couldn't remember when was the last time I saw our capital city from a fresh perspective but that evening the breath-taking view left me literally speechless.



So when hubby proposed the idea of having dinner at Bread & Olive Cafe, I was sold on the idea. The eatery occupies a two-storey building with a spacious outdoor patio area that accords diners a panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur.



Personally I thought it is more a restaurant than a cafe but I digress. The menu offers an interesting mix of Middle-Eastern fare with Italian, Mediterranean and localised Western as our orders included Lamb Briyani, Stuffed Doner Kebab with Chicken, Spaghetti with Cream Sauce and Chicken Chop with Black Pepper Sauce.



Whaddaya know? The food turned out to be surprisingly good too. The briyani rice was superbly redolent with spices and perfect with the huge lamb shank slathered in rich, tasty gravy that was piquantly spiced but not searingly hot on the palate. Even the salad was better than many mid-priced eateries in KL - with sliced black olives and fresh zesty vinaigrette perking it up.



The huge plate of pasta came generously covered in cream sauce and sliced chicken and mushroom so there was no complaints on this.



I love my delicious Doner Kebab which was packed with shredded lettuce and tomato laced with yoghurt. Even the simple Chicken Chop was juicy and the sauce lusty without being overly starchy.



Overall it was a greatly pleasurable experience which didn't hurt our pockets too much. Of course there are cheaper alternatives flanking this eatery but I daresay Bread & Olive's excellent food and view make for an irresistible combination that is hard to outdo. Especially if you're courting that special someone or out to celebrate a significant occasion.

Bread & Olives Café
No. 7, Lot Perniagaan Komplex Pelancongan,
Menara Tinjau, Jalan Ampang Hulu langat,
68000 Ampang, Selangor Darul Eshan.

Friday, September 19, 2008

CLASSY CHINOZ



Despite these trying times, there is a segment of Malaysians who are recession-proof and don't mind paying for a fine and memorable meal. Especially if it's cheaper than flying to London and dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant like Chez Bruce or a swanky restaurant like Mirabelle or putting on the ritz at the Ritz.

High flyers can now high-tail it to Chinoz KLCC and let new chef de cuisine Haffizul Hashim blow them away with his inimitable culinary prowess. Having spent several years in good ol' Blighty namely London, this Bachelor of Culinary Arts degree holder from Thames Valley University had his baptism of fire at the Ritz. The resilient lad then honed his skills at the Mirabelle and later, at Chez Bruce before his return to hometurf late last year.

Thanks to his former bosses' glowing account, the young chef soon found himself helming the Chinoz team. Full creative licence and new kitchen gadgets were quickly granted by owner Teng Wee Jeh. Chef Haffizul of course repaid the faith by revamping the outlet’s a la carte and Degustation menus.

His imaginative starter of Carpaccio of Blue Fin Tuna with Green Beans Salad and Poached Quail Egg with Basil and Parsley Vinaigrette (RM42++) will leave you hot and cold. It's a special dish in which three varying temperatures – hot, warm and cold converged on one plate with each ingredient’s fresh, unadulterated nuances coming to the fore on their own instead of melding together.



I'm a sucker for scallops and the chef's creation of plump Hokkaido Scallop with Cauliflower Velouté and Cucumber Jelly and Chives (RM42++) is simply awesome. The scallop’s inherent sea-sweetness is unmistakable thanks to the velvety smooth velouté (a basic white sauce thickened with roux, a mixture of butter and flour). The sharp, clean nuances of chopped chives and cucumber jelly provide the perfect finishing touches to this sumptuous dish.



Tiny flecks of natural sea salt were all that's needed to bring out the rich, decadent smoothness of the Pan-fried Foie Gras. Paired with Sweet Corn Puree and Toasted Sour Dough, this is another heavenly speciality which earned praises around our table that night.



If you think fish and red wine seem like strange bedfellows, the combination of Roast Potato Wrapped Barramundi with Seared Hokkaido Scallop, Parsnip Puree and Red Wine Jus (RM68++) with ‘Tenimenti’ Barbaresco Coste Rubin 2000 is guaranteed to change your mind. Chef Haffizul said the secret lies in the parsnip's subtle flinty sweetness in drawing all the other ingredients together.



The Italian red’s sour cherries and plummy accents proved equally apt with the Chicken Ballotine with Veal Sweetbread and Sautéed Wild Mushrooms, Potato and Truffle Emulsion, Madeira Sauce. Now sweetbread (calf’s thymus gland) is not something ordinarily most local diners will devour but I admit it's difficult to discern the uncharacteristic ingredient since it's well tucked away in the chicken ballotine (deboned chicken stuffed, rolled and tied into a bundle before being braised or roasted). The deliciously full-bodied sauce of cepes mushrooms, truffles and Madeira also helps tremendously.



For his final flourish, Chef Haffizul serves up Pineapple Tarte Tatin and Vanilla Ice Cream. I just love the sweet intensity of the pineapple chunks post-baking so who cares if they appear less refined on the eye?

You can sample all these exquisite dishes from Chinoz's latest a la carte or as a Degustation menu priced around RM230-RM250++ per head. I for one is rooting for this young and talented chef - his fresh perspective is definitely something the local culinary circle should be excited about. Malaysia Boleh!

Chinoz On The Park (pork-free)
G47, Ground Floor
Suria KLCC
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 2166 8277

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A MID-AUTUMN 'FEASTIVAL'



Don't you find the mound of bright orange roe a sight for sore eyes and rumbling tummies? Yes, those miniscule, slightly crunchy pearls are ebikko or prawn roe - most people mistakenly assume these as tobikko or flying fish roe which actually are bigger, more translucent and pricier. We reckon they make such an appetising adornment for the dish of seafood fried rice! I daresay this delectable dish created quite a stir with my whole family last weekend for our Mid-Autumn 'feastival'!



In case you're wondering where did we partake this amazing dish, it was pure serendipity which led us to its discovery. My siblings and I were just racking our brains on where to go for our family feast that wet, wet Sunday ... since Mom has retired from cooking our festive meals, we had to find a place to eat our Mid-Autumn Festival celebratory dinner. Our regular haunt, Restoran 52 threw a spanner in the works earlier when they informed us at the last minute that the outlet won't be open for the day! So there we were, moping around and wondering when the torrents of rain would ceased when we got really captivated at the sight of the two 8TV Ho Chiak presenters scarfing down this dish of fried rice with seafood, egg yolks and fish roe which we thought was rather unique. You could have seen our jaws dropped in disbelief when it was revealed that the eatery is located in Kajang!

To cut a long story short, we were out of the house in a jiffy and headed for the said outlet for dinner!



Besides the Seafood Fried Rice with Flying Fish Roe (that's what the outlet called it anyway), we also ordered Deep-fried Oyster Mushroom, Steamed Tilapia with Spicy Bean Sauce, Homemade Tofu with Minced Pork, Saucy Pork Ribs, Stir-fried Long Beans with Brinjal in Sambal, as well as Shelled Prawns Deep-fried and Tossed with Mayonnaise and Coleslaw. Admittedly, we went a tad overboard but the food portions were not exactly skimpy either for our clan of seven adults and four kiddos.





While waiting for our dishes to arrive, we had a field day drooling over the wall-mounted colour photos depicting the outlet's many house specialities. The dishes are imaginative and varied compared to other no-frills restaurants with selected ones requiring advance orders. More outstanding ones that caught our attention include Shark's Fin Kway Teow, Hairy Gourd Stuffed with Dried Scallops, Tofu with XO Sauce, German-style Crisp Skin Pork Knuckle, Premier Loh Hon Chai (Vegetarian Dish with Assorted Mushrooms and Layered Bean Sheets), Deep-fried Prawns with Salted Egg Yolk, Freshwater Prawns Noodles and Black Pepper Udon.





Overall, the Fried Rice was a hit with everyone especially the kids. The crispy fried mushrooms were great with a piquant and tangy chilli dip but we found the fish a tad too sweet from the bean sauce which literally 'drowned' the fish. The vegetable dish passed muster as did the beancurd. Luckily the pork ribs and prawns proved memorable for their inventive marinade and sauces.





But what's even better is the prices which are similar to that of Restoran 52. According to the young chap who runs the place, his father helms another outlet by the same name in heart of Kajang town by day while his uncle takes over at night. However, he told us that the three of them offer different dishes so we may have to try out the other two as well given a chance. One thing's for sure - this eatery has not seen the last of us yet!

OLD MAN RESTAURANT
CG-1 & CG-2 Ground Floor
Block C Jalan Putra
Taman Putra
Kajang Selangor
Mobile no. 012-3450575, 012-2380575

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NICE ICE BABY!

Our current hot sweltering weather simply demands cool solutions for soothing relief from the intense heat! What better way to do it than with these sweet and splendid treats!



Shall we Haagen-Dazs? We wish the cafe would make more effort though as its single scoop presentation leaves much to be desired. Come on, surely someone at HD can rack up on the creativity that befits the brand's premium stature? Heck, at RM13 it's not too much to ask for is it?



Even Movenpick succeeds in creaming the competition with this colourful ensemble. Granted the ice cream was a tad soft and melty but the way it was presented left us feeling there's some value in it!



Ice-cream doesn't melt your heart? Then how about the ever-popular Ice Kacang? Few Malaysians can resist this slurpilicious mound of shaved ice filled with nuts, cendol strips, red beans, black grass jelly dices and creamed corn, drenched with evaporated milk and rose and palm syrups. When the heat is on, this yummy creation is the ultimate nice ice treat!

A-PORK-CLYPSE NOW!

The Rib Shop started the ball rolling when it boldly ventured into the non-halal territory by offering porky dishes to go with its extensive wine range in Damansara some years ago. Then came El Cerdo which had KL-lites all abuzz over its Spanish suckling pig and pork-centric delights.

It didn't take other restaurateurs to figure out there's a sizeable non-Muslim clientele who are just waiting to gobble up something different apart from the usual staples of Bak Kut Teh, Roast Suckling Pig, Roast Pork, Char Siew, etc.

So when I was invited to a special dinner headlining the Cochinillo Segoviano or roast Spanish suckling pig, how could I refuse? Bruno's Restaurant & Bar turned out to be a relevation of sorts - secreted at one corner of Jaya 33, this eatery is started by the same lady owner who runs the much-talked about Food Foundry.

What's good to eat here? Well, Chef Franky Chin who used to work with the Four Seasons in Singapore and then spent some time working/studying in the UK, is a dab hand when it comes to serving up Mediterranean, Italian and Spanish-style delicacies.



Starters to get you off on a head start include Piquillo Peppers with Anchovies with Tuna Belly (top) and White Asparagus with Iberico Ham and Romesco Sauce (below).



For those of you who have no inkling of what's so special about the Iberico pig, this Spanish black-haired breed is prized by gourmands for its tender, tasty meat. Also the pigs can be considered organically raised as they are allowed to roam freely, feeding on grass and acorns from the plush plains in Spain. Yeap, no growth hormones, antibiotics or chemical-laced feed for these precious piggies.

How is it different from the Cochinillo Segoviano? Well, the roast Spanish suckling pigs are prepared using 20-day old piglets which are suckled exclusively on their grain-fed mothers' milk. It is a classic speciality from the province of Segovia since the pigs are bred specifically in this area under strict regulations of the relevant certification bodies in Spain.

Chef Javier Sancha who is a third-generation expert when it comes to the Cochinillo Asado (roast suckling pig) at his family's famed El Pastor restaurant back home, was brought in to demonstrate how the speciality is prepared for local diners to sample. In essence, the piglet is roasted in a wood-fire oven for 2-2.5 hours with just a sprinkling of salt and nothing more.



It is interesting to find that the skin is thinner than our local Chinese suckling pig's and definitely yields a greater amount of tender, juicy meat. Those who are aversed to the strong milky aroma of dairy products may find the meat a bit of an acquired taste. Not surprising really since the little piglets had nothing but milk in their diet from day one.



Earlier we were also treated to an El Pastor Tapas Medley - each was a truly delightful morsel that remained in memory even after it was eaten. The other speciality featured for the special evening was Lechazo Asado (roast suckling lamb), an equally delectable Castillian delicacy.



Dinner rounded up on a luscious note with Natilla and Leche Frita, a superbly creamy deep-fried pancake and decadent pudding.

I have been back since for a heartily satisfying lunch. Now I can't wait for Bruno's to bring on the bacon since the outlet will be starting its weekend brunch soon!

Make haste and make a pig of yourself at Bruno's if you are into porky pig!

Bruno's Restaurant & Bar
PG-01 A Ground Floor
Jaya 33 Section 13
Jalan Semangat Petaling Jaya
Tel: (03) 7960 2663

Saturday, July 12, 2008

NOODLES TO DOODLE OVER

On scorching hot days, nothing beats a bowl of cold soba noodles! Found one recently at a little Japanese outlet known as Hokano in Damansara Uptown. The place also serves reasonably priced set lunches and a variety of imaginative sushi rolls. But that's another story altogether.



I find the easiest way to revive jaded tastebuds (well, mine at least) is to eat something spicy or robustly flavoured. For some inexplicable reasons, I have this urge for mee rebus and mee bandung. So imagine how esctatic I was when I stumbled upon this nondescript outlet enroute to Kajang town which sells Mee Bandung Muar. The outlet - D'Muar World (inspired by Akademi Fantasia's hottest winner of all time, Mawi no doubt) has always had lots of cars parked in and about its vicinity so we suspect the food must be pretty good. Once I had my first bite of the mee bandung, you can almost see one of those big cartoonish speech balloons popping up above my head with the word 'Sedaaaapppp!!!' in it. The gravy is thick and richly flavoured with prawns and spices with a just hint of sweetness. Super yummy!



Nowadays, green is in but how many of us really conscientiously bother to adopt a low-carbon, eco-friendly diet? My token efforts amount to nothing more than buying and using that occasional organic wholewheat flour, sea salt and veges. Yeah, I've got a looooong way to go before I become a full-fledged greenie. But I must say I felt really good after eating Woods Macrobiotics' 5 Energy Somen Noodles. Don't they present a pretty picture? Made from organic wholewheat flour, their different coloured noodles are resultant from ground organic soya, bitchotan charcoal, green tea, beetroot and carrot powder. Each type of noodles supposedly helps to strengthen the heart, liver, kidney and stomach. I'm all for eating my way to good health!



Being the chilli fan that I am, Mee Siam naturally is one of my all-time favourite noodle dish. Toast & Toast Cafe in Balakong serves a decent version which is spicy enough. The rice vermicelli is also not too dry which is nice. Actually I can dish up a pretty mean version myself but slothfulness and work deadlines have prevented me from venturing into the kitchen. So the one at Toast & Toast will have to do for now ;-p



Nothing reminds me of my childhood more than Hokkien Mee. Believe me, this dish of ubiquitous noodles is bound to make its appearance come any tai yat chee or Chinese festivals in my grandparents' house alongside the park chit kai (white-cut steamed chicken) and popiah (spring rolls). Mom is a consummate expert at dishing this black soya sauce drenched noodles but she has since retired from culinary duties years ago! So what's a Hokkien gal to do but resort to search for alternatives? Luckily, the Klang Valley (especially in PJ - why is that??) still has 2-3 stalls that offer a decent version - not quite my Mom's gold standard but heck, beggars can't be choosers now eh? Our favourites? The no-name stall in Jalan Pudu (average wait 45 min-1 hour!), Millennium Eighty Six CoffeeShop and O&S Restaurant.



Last but not least, pasta is fast becoming a staple in our household. Especially with the little one who eats it faster than you can say Yee Meen! Don't know if it has anything to do with the fact that Italians have cheesey sauce ... Our little weekend luxury treat is to pop into Susan's Bistro at Bandar Mahkota Cheras (yes, that famous no-toll access road area which saw a battle royal between big money-making toll company and 'rakyat' months ago) for Spaghetti Carbonara. Creamy, unctuous yet oh-so-delicious, it takes Herculean effort from a light eater to finish a singular portion! But who's complaining eh?

Friday, May 09, 2008

CHOCOLATE FRENZY



After the earlier success of my chocolate muffins, I was inspired to give the trusty pound cake recipe another go. Although the recipe calls for a 6 inch can pan, I used an 8 inch ring pan instead coz that is what I have on hand. The rest were 2 inches too big so I really don't want to risk the cake 'stretching' unnecessarily.

Since the temperature stated is 375 degrees Fahrenheit, I set my oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Also I added 3 tablespoons of milk to the recipe as I read somewhere that cocoa tends to dry out the cake texture during baking. After the cake had been baking for a while, I noticed the top was cracked. This indicated the oven was too hot or it could be due to my own foolhardiness in using that ring pan!

Anyway all's well that ends well. After 45 minutes I realised the cake had shrunk away from the pan edges a little so I quickly removed it from the oven. Luckily no further damage was evident. Phew!



Here's a close-up of the end result. Doesn't look too bad does it? Tastes great too I must say. It was a tad dry when it was still warm but after 1-2 days, the texture actually became more moist. To cover up the unsightly cracks, I decided to slather the cake with some chocolate frosting.



I used 200 ml whipping cream mixed with half a large bar of cooking chocolate and a small pat of butter for the frosting. Can you believe it was my first time making this? I got really worried when the mixture looked too runny when I poured it onto the cake - I guess I should have let it cool down first before even thinking of using it! Nevertheless, nobody complained about the taste so I reckon it was fine. Once overnight, the cake appearance looked much, much better as the frosting has taken on a nice sheen.



This recipe is for keeps!