Wednesday, November 18, 2009

IZAKAYA IN VOGUE


ENJU SIGNATURE RICE ROLL

Izakaya in Japan denotes small taverns where patrons can eat, drink and be merry ... without burning that big a hole in their pockets. It's also the latest Japanese dining trend to catch on in KL lately as more outlets are jumping onto the izakaya bandwagon with their own variety of small dishes not unlike the Spanish-style tapas.

SMALL FRIES BIG TASTE...TATAMI IWASHI
ENJU at Prince Hotel & Residence KL has also caught on with the launch of its latest Izakaya A La Carte Menu. One of the most popular offerings include TATAMI IWASHIwhich refers to the ultra-thin, flat sheets of grilled dried tiny baby sardines that truly resemble the Japanese tatami mat. Slightly crisp with a hint of smokiness, its mildly briny taste makes it a splendid accompaniment with any tipple, be it sake, wine or beer.

The SHAKE HONEY NO POTATO SALADA YAKI seems a tad heavy for an appetiser but superbly delectable nevertheless. Basted with a honey and ginger sauce before the salmon is grilled, the fish is best eaten hot accompanied by a wasabi and ginger shoyu dip. We love the mashed potato salad that served as its base.


If you're a big sushi fan, don't miss ENJU SIGNATURE RICE ROLL. Mango and deep-fried tiger prawn are the key ingredients that hog the limelight in the ROCK & ROLLcreation while the SUNRISE ROLL proffers deep-fried oysters in breadcrumbs encased in sushi rice, dried seaweed and sesame seeds.

Less rice, more fish makes ENJU DYNAMITE ROLL stand out from the regular repertoire. The combination of fresh salmon, cucumber, flying fish roe, tempura flakes, avocado and sushi rice wrapped in nori (laver) is guaranteed to please.

My only complaint about the MAGURO TATAKI ROLL is that the fish slices are too thin thus lessening the pan-seared red tuna's impactful presence.



OKONOMIYAKI ... tasty chaos - here's an overview and closer look

OKONOMIYAKI - a Japanese pizza of sorts is thicker at ENJU than those you'd find elsewhere so it is best to go easy on this. Embedded within its bread-like texture are chopped crabmeat, octopus, prawns, scallops and vegetables. Additional flavours come from the topping of bonito flakes, seaweed strips, tonkatsu (Japanese-style Worchestershire) sauce and mayonnaise.

GYOZA - the Japanese equivalent to Chinese pot-sticker (wor tip) is another utterly scrumptious option. Freshly made from scratch, the dumplings boast a filling of minced chicken, cabbage, chives and water chestnuts.

I always enjoy the Japanese 'back to basics' way of grilling fish ... the SANMA or Pacific Saury was the freshest ever with its inherent flavour clearly untarnished, its texture superbly refined.

The GRILLED COD is indulgently rich but sweet and silky smooth to the last bite.

Another notable niblle to complement your favourite tipple is GRILLED BEEF ON SKEWERS. Its well-marbled, butter-tender texture was simply sublime.

I didn't fancy the dessert though probably because the sourish accent really threw me off guard. It wasn't the sweet ending I was hoping for - a shame really as the chef has gone to extra lengths using fresh strawberries to make the mochi filling.

ENJU JAPANESE RESTAURANT (pork-free)
Prince Hotel & Residence
Jalan Conlay
Kuala Lumpur
Reservations: 2170 8888

Thursday, October 29, 2009

TASTY DISCOVERIES

One of the biggest thrills of travelling have to be the joys of discovering new food. That was exactly what happened when hubby hopped over to the Lion City following a recent business trip down south. His interesting finds include these pillow-soft rolls and imported Japanese seaweed that looks remarkably like tiny strands of sparkling beads.


I love the colourful box with arty renderings on the Matcha Roll! The simpler one is for the Salt Caramel Roll.





The Matcha Roll which was redolent with the unmistakable and intense flavour of Japanese green tea had generous lashings of fresh whipped cream in it. Its subtle sweetness certainly help to temper and balance the cake's astringent tea accent.


The Salt Caramel Roll is such a big hit that our Singapore friends actually called to reserve it for us! What makes this treat so distinctive is its super-soft texture and light coating of briny caramel on the outside and mixed with its fresh cream filling. Its taste reminded me somewhat of peanut butter though its viscuosity is much lighter.




We also love the unusual seaweed that resembled delicate strands of tiny glass beads. Crunchy with a mildly salty flavour once you bite into the minute pearls, their texture is akin to that of salmon roe with a barest hint of the sea.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

RETRO DYNASTY


Warm and inviting...Dynasty Restaurant's a balm for jaded souls

Nothing beats a nice quiet dinner with good friends to help one de-stress from the rigours of work.

It's been some time since I had last dined at Dynasty Restaurant at the Renaissance Hotel KL. But on that particular evening, the outlet's serene ambience and mellow lighting were a balm for my work-worn soul. I must admit when my fellow foodie friend, Sidney (yes, he of the Big Boys Oven fame) cajoled me into going for a review of Dynasty's Malaysia International Gourmet Festival (MIGF) special menu a day before, I was only partially enthusiastic. As it turned out, the dinner was such an inspiring one that my faith in the future of Chinese food is amply renewed :-)


Tasty trio to tease the palate

The trio of entrees turns out to be an enticing balance of modern and retrospective bites. I love the wok-seared scallop topped with tiny eggplant dices and walnut oil for its harmonious blend of delicate flavours and silky soft textures.

Memories of wedding banquets in the 1970s flooded back when I savoured the chilled terrine-like shredded farm chicken in gelatine as a similar version was the perennial favourite for the appetizer platter back then.

Looking cheerfully bright like a mini sun, the organic carrot ball in pumpkin puree was springy to the bite but I felt somehow its subtle flavour was slightly eclipsed by the earlier duo I had sampled.


Stupendous soup to wax lyrical over

Now I'm not big on soups but the double boiled shark's fin, chicken consomme and wood ear mushroom dumplings certainly hit the spot that night. I relished every drop of it and the warm comfort it brought.


Priceless prawn platter that's worth its weight in gold

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, the Yin Yang Prawns comprising a silver prawn ball pierced with a stalk of asparagus and crab roe sauce and a sizeable fried prawn wrapped in crispy kataifi pastry and drizzled with hawthorne berry reduction elevated our culinary experience to greater heights. What a fantastic melange of different nuances and textural constrasts! This is definitely one of those rare dishes that made me want to rave about it to all and sundry.


This lamb's got a lotta bite in it!

A hot, hot, hot sauce that combined ground Szechwan and black peppercorns literally set our taste buds alight when we bit into the lamb cutlet. It was the chef's version of Mongolian sauce and a darn good one too.


Missing mama's cooking? These oodles of noodles will assuage any homesickness!

To temper the heat, a bowl of somen noodles laced with yellow sweet wine and five spice roast duck meat followed. It proved to be another retro-style delight that was truly soul-satisfying!


Dicing with dessert

Although I was not too hot with the confusion of sweet-bland-tangy nuances of the barley sherbet with herbal jelly and mini tong yuen (glutinous rice balls), the pillowy soft salted egg yolk layer cake succeeded in warming the cockles of my heart.


Chef Tan's sterling performance deserves a standing ovation

Chef Tan should be commended for his fresh approach towards some yesteryear's delights. It seems there is currently a revival of sorts in our local Chinese culinary scene as diners are beginning to rediscover dishes that evoke nostalgic memories and give younger ones a taste of their rich heritage. I for one will be all out for it!

Head on over to Dynasty Restaurant and savour this exquisite menu for the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival (October 1 - 31). Priced at RM119++ (without wine). A 4-course Light Festival Menu is also available at RM88++ per person.

DYNASTY RESTAURANT
1st Floor East Wing
Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel
Corner of Jalan Sultan Ismail & Jalan Ampang
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (03) 2162 2233

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Starry Starry Bites


For the ladies of leisure who frequent the Couture Pavilion precinct of Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Cafe Stelle is a godsend. With a 40-metre elevated fashion runway down its centre aisle, this tranquil haven is perfect for a cosy tete-a-tete or merely to refresh and rejuvenate after a bout of retail therapy. Husbands and beaus who sometimes are roped in as unofficial bag carriers will also find welcome respite from the labourious task of following their other halves around.

An outlet managed by the international Raffles Hotels & Resorts company, Café Stelle exudes modern chic with a stylish environ that abounds with natural wood and metallic finishes, neutral hues and streamlined furnishings. Aside from formal table seating, patrons can loll around comfortably in cosy ottomans and lounge settees.

The word 'stelle' which stands for 'stars' in Italian is a tribute to the very spot where the Pavilion KL and hence the cafe is sited - Bukit Bintang - a thriving commercial hot spot which means Star Hill in Malay.

The cafe's Italian-inspired menu is entrusted to Chef de cuisine Elson Cheong, a multiple-award winning chef who has spent 10 years working in some of the finest hotels in Singapore. Despite his tender age, Cheong's finest hour came when he was named Best Chef in Asian Cuisine at the 2008 Food and Hotel Asia Culinary Challenge. Citing Chef Otto Weibel as his mentor and the biggest influence in his culinary career, Cheong confesses he is as finicky about food quality as he is about his dishes' overall taste and presentation.

With an obvious penchant for Singaporean and Malaysian street food, the youthful culinary wizard admits he relishes the challenge of modernizing local specialities without losing out on the original flavours.

"Modern dishes is similar to modern art. You rely on the basics but one still has to find new or innovative ways to build on. The results can be pretty unusual yet interesting," he opines.

“At Café Stelle, the same principle applies. Whether it’s a healthy gourmet salad, a bowl of simple soup or a delicious sandwich, the finest and freshest ingredients are our key basics that we build upon. Whether it's to replicate the traditional and contemporary delights in our menu, everything that comes out from my kitchen has to look and taste good.”

For the starter of Confit of Salmon, Mango Salsa and Crunchy Baby Salad, Cheong slow-cooked a slab of marinated salmon at 40°Celsius for 30 minutes. Served with warm olive oil, the fish tastes sublime; its inherent richness is well-balanced by its aromatic marinade of herbs, garlic, onion, dill, salt and pepper. Adding divergent colours, flavours and textures to the artful composition are zesty mango salsa speckled with tiny dices of red chilli, tart orange wedges and briny green olives, accentuated with splashes of fragrant vanilla oil and sweet aged balsamic vinegar.



Next came the Cream of Wild Mushroom which seduces the palate with its superbly rich and creamy flavours. While the fresh button, wild shiitake and portobello mushrooms are credited for the broth's alluring earthy aroma, it is the unexpected inclusion of mascarpone that gives the soup its full-bodied thickness. Chef Cheong reveals that instead of flour, he thickens the concoction with potato while truffle oil imbues it with a woody, musky scent.



The Rack of Lamb with Feta Crust and Three Types of Caramelized Vegetables, accompanied by Lamb Jus with Shallots also come with a sumptuous surprise which turned out to be goose liver in a crispy, golden coating of breadcrumbs. Juicy and tender, the lamb remains slightly pink in the centre which is exactly the way I like it. It is one of those rare dishes that manages to boast a balanced mix of strong and light flavours, brininess and sweetness intermingled with earthy accents.



The chef's dessert creations are no less imaginative. Tongue-ticklers include Avocado Sorbet, Porcini Mushroom Ice Cream or the constrasting flavours of Marinated Strawberries with Balsamico and Pepper.



Do bring the curtains down on your fine meal with a pot of TWG tea here. The brand’s refined selection encompasses choice blends such as Grand Wedding (black tea with white flowers and exotic fruits aroma), Moroccan Mint, Magic Flute (black tea with citrus fruits and hints of red berries), Emperor Sencha and Royal Darjeeling. I had the Creme Caramel which amazingly has all the sweet, delectable fragrances of the famed dessert minus the calories!

One can eat well without burning that big a hole in the pocket at Café Stelle. Its three-course set lunch is served at RM68 while starters start from RM18 onwards. Soups range from RM17.50, sandwiches from RM19.50 onwards and pasta dishes between RM29 and RM38 each. Main courses tend to hover around RM40 and RM90 while dessert is at RM15.


Café Stelle by Raffles (pork-free)
Couture Pavilion, Level 2
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 2118 8822
www.cafestelle.com

Friday, July 31, 2009

A FINE FRENCH FEAST


New owner of Le Bouchon - Chef Jerome Carrouee

Le Bouchon – the little rustic restaurant tucked in a discreet corner of Changkat Bukit Bintang - recently underwent a change in ownership when its founder, Philippe Le Francois, decided to return to France and become a hotelier.

However, all is not lost for his outlet that has quietly built up a local following for its homely French fare. The eatery is now helmed by fellow countryman, Jerome Carrouee, a former chef who has spent 15 years in Malaysia. He has also worked in Taiwan, Penang, Mauritius and Bahrain before settling down in Kuala Lumpur.

Hence it is only appropriate that the menu is given a fresh makeover - to showcase the new owner’s culinary exploits and signature specialities. Otherwise, Le Bouchon has lost none of its charming trappings of a provincial French countryside restaurant.

Coming from a long family lineage of farmers, butchers and chefs, it is inevitable that Chef Carrouee became interested in food from childhood. As the new chef-owner, Carrouee has rightly chosen to return to his roots and decided to offer perennial delights that he grew up with.

“My family’s originally from Brittany but we also used to live in the Cognac region. So you’d find a mixture of traditional and modern specialities in the menu; with some dishes accentuated with touches of Provençe using fresh herbs and quality ingredients.”


While some people are up in arms over the consumption of foie gras (goose liver), I'd rather steer clear of mixing politics with food and am not about to pass up on the appetizer of Terrine de Foie Gras Maison (RM50++) or Homemade Goose Liver Terrine served with Fig Jam and Grilled Sourdough Bread. The huge slab of luxurious delicacy is simply out of this world! Spread generously on toasted sourdough, the rich and marble-smooth texture is guaranteed to hold you spellbound with its wickedly indulgent taste.


Balance your earlier extravagance with a mildly creamy yet tangy soup such as Soupe de Moules Noires au Safran et Légumes Aromatiques (RM20++). Suffused with the heady aroma and brilliant yellow of saffron (the world’s most expensive spice), the simplicity and delicate taste of the Black Mussels and Saffron Soup with Aromatique Vegetables are enough to warm the cockles of your heart.


Those with a penchant for fish will find Filet de Morue Rôti au Sirop d’érable et Piment, Asperges Vertes à l’ail, Beurre Blanc de Betterave (RM62++) a noteworthy catch. The Roast Cod with Chilli-Maple Glaze accompanied by Green Asparagus with Garlic and Beetroot Butter Cream Sauce veer dangerously close to being cloying but the piquant chilli-maple glaze helps tremendously to temper the overall richness. If you’re out on a dinner date, this dish’s baby pink sauce will certainly add to the romantic quotient.


Steak and potatoes lovers can relish Pavé de Bœuf Rôti , Sauce Bordelaise, Ratatouille et Pommes Sautées aux Lardons de Canard Fumé (RM98++) or Roast Beef Tenderloin with Bordeaux Wine Sauce, Ratatouille Vegetables and Sautéed Potatoes with Smoked Duck Bacon. Supremely tender and accompanied by an earthy red wine sauce, this speciality should give you no cause for complaint. Special mention must be made of the duck bacon which bears deliciously smoky and briny hints similar to that of real bacon.


Taste-wise, it is closely rivaled by the delectable Carre d’Agneau à la Croute de Fromage de Chèvre, Courgettes à la Fleur de Thyme, Pommes Dauphines épicées, Sauce au Cabernet Sauvignon (Rack of Lamb with Goat’s Cheese Crust, Roasted Zucchinis with Thyme flowers, Spiced Dauphine Potatoes and Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce, RM82++).


Cap off your dining jaunt here with the classic French dessert of Crème Brulée aux Framboises (Crème Brulée with Raspberries, RM18++). C'est magnifique!

Le Bouchon (pork-free)
14&16 Changkat Bukit Bintang
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603 2142 7633
www.lebouchonrestaurant.com

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

YAM CAKE'S YUMMY!



After such a looonnnggg silence I thot it's about time I reactive my own blog ;-p

Tired of trawling the malls over the weekend, I decided to spend some quality time with my girl - since she loves chocolate and messing around the kitchen as much as I do, we got our hands dirty and turned out a batch of chocolate chip muffins.

Since there's still one yam sitting in the fridge which I had bought from the market a few days ago, my maid and I made a pan of yam cake out of it. Doesn't it look good?



It was relatively easy too...and definitely tastes way better than those sold outside where you can hardly taste any yam! My home-made version is chockful of it!



For those of you who want to try making this at home - here's the recipe below. Trust me it's quite easy :-)

YAM CAKE

800g yam
6 shallots
2 tbsp dried prawns
2 tsp salt
2 tsp five-spice powder
1 tsp white pepper powder
200g rice flour
5 tbsp tapioca flour
800 ml water
1/2 tsp alkali water

Garnishing
5 tbsp fried shallot
1 tbsp fried dried prawn
3 stalks spring onion (chopped)
2 red chilli (sliced)
1 tbsp choy poh (sweet preserved vegetable)

Sweet & Savoury Bean Sauce
2 tbsp taucheo (salted soya bean paste)
2 tbsp sugar
100 ml water
1/2 tbsp oil

Peel skin from yam and cut into dices. Steam yam dices over boiling heat for 20-30 minutes until soft. Once ready, remove and set aside.

Slice shallot and saute with dried prawns until shallot turns slightly brown. Add in yam dices and stir-fry quickly. Add salt, five-spice and pepper powder. Stir evenly and remove from heat.

Mix rice flour, tapioca flour and water in a pot until mixture is lump-free. Add in alkali water and stir evenly. Cook mixture over low heat, stirring frequently until batter thickens into custard-like consistency.

Add in yam dices into the batter and mix everything thoroughly. Pour into a metal cake pan and even out the surface. Steam yam cake over high heat for 30 minutes until cooked.

Once ready, turn off heat and remove yam cake from steamer to cool. Sprinkle garnishing ingredients on top of yam cake once it has cooled down completely. Cut into diamond-shaped squares to serve.

To make sauce, mix taucheo with sugar and water. Heat a little oil in pan and pour in mixture. Bring to boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved and remove from heat. Serve with yam cake.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tea for Two





Can't remember the last time I had afternoon tea in a hotel. So when my best friend said we should have a belated birthday celebration for me, both of us were pondering where to go. After chancing upon Le Meridien's promo, we both agree the Conservatory would be worth checking out.

We were there before the witching hour but the waitstaff offered to serve us tea as the food was still being prepared. So I ordered Super Sencha while my friend opted for mochacino. The ambience in the Conservatory certainly didn't live up to its name - overall it was a tad gloomy and we were mystified how come the area nearest to a row of tall French windows were considered prime seats in the house.

The tea menu consists of two separate sets, cheekily named This and That.


Besides the raisin and apple scones (still can't beat those from Delicious or The Tea Pot Cafe), there was a square of hazelnut mousse-type cake (delicious!), a mini tartlet and another square of phyllo pastry filled with mixed nuts (both tasted a tad dry), a mini sliver of vanilla and sour cherry roulade (passable) and a square chocolate case filled with vanilla mousse and raspberry sauce (good).

Honestly, we had a hard time recalling the various savoury and sweet morsels for both sets as the waitstaff kept taking away our menu. Perhaps they're afraid of it falling into competitors' hands?!!


The above selection shows a skewer of chicken satay in Thai red curry sauce, an oyster shooter in zingy tom yam, half a mini burger with grilled lamb and caramelised onion and green tea soba with two slivers of Wagyu beef. Personally I think some of the tidbits would have been tastier had they been served piping hot. Alas it was not to be but we still devoured everything anyway.

This set comprises the popular Indian sweet - gulab jamun, an unexpectedly fudgy chocolate cake, a pink raspberry macaroon (yummy!), an interesting macha (green tea) slice with crumbed almond base and another dainty square of cake that tasted like a cross between coffee and chocolate.

All in all, the afternoon was a hit-and-miss affair. Service was inconsistent at first - we tried hard to catch the staff's attention but after we had called for a second round of tea, they finally caught on and conscientiously refilled our percolators without being asked.

This was another bone of contention for me as I recall the Regent KL had the best tea service with proper Royal Doulton tea pots and cups no less. There were other little touches too that made their afternoon tea a truly classy affair - white starched linen napkins, a fine tea strainer on the side, tea brewed from real tea leaves and classic English-style morsels like cucumber sandwiches and rich fruit cake reminiscent of Enid Blyton's delightful stories. Ah, those were the days.