Tuesday, February 18, 2014

KAMPAI TO KANSAI



For the less than the price of a low-cost flight ticket to Japan, passionate foodies can treat themselves to the best of what Kansai region has to offer at the Kampachi Pavilion KL. In conjunction with the All Kansai Food Promotion Committee and The Kansai Food Export Promotion Cooperative, Kampachi is having a special culinary promotion featuring the finest from Kansai region from 15 – 23 February 2014.

Japanese chef Koji Tamaru will showcase the purity of Kansai's ingredients in a specially composed nine course kaiseki menu (RM300++ per person) on that three consecutive nights on 19, 20 & 21 February. Only 30 seats are available per night so make sure you don't miss out.
According to Wikipedia, the Kansai region is the cultural and historical heart of Japan where several key cities: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kobe to name a few are located. From the culinary standpoint, Osaka boasts several sublime specialities to call its own; from the popular takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (Japanese-style pizza meets pancake) to the minimalist but oh-so-delicious kitsune udon (fat wheat noodles with deep-fried tofu pockets in broth) and kushikatsu (skewers of deep-fried meat or vegetables). Kyoto is also hailed as one of meccas of traditional Japanese cuisine while the famed Kobe and Matsusaka beef lend further credence to the Kansai region.
At the sneak media preview, the curtain-raiser is an oversized Fresh Hiroshima Oyster with a daub of Fresh Ponzu Vinegar Gelée served on half shell. It's comparable to a Botticelli muse - plump, pale and seductively creamy the minute you nip it; squirting salty-sweetness of the sea tinged with slight metallic tang onto the palate as it glides effortlessly down the throat. The experience stirs up some mixed feelings – that of ecstasy from the mollusc's unparalleled exquisiteness and a little regret at its swift disappearance.



Still, any residual melancholy is washed away by the Clear Soup with Clams, Japanese Mustard Spinach, Julienne Leek & Young Japanese Pepper Buds. Immersed in the delicate broth is no ordinary clam but another sizable hard shell denizen that tastes sublimely sweet with a delightful chewiness. The wispy threads of leek (from Kyoto) together with the attendant greens temper whatever fishy flavour there is.
 


Sashimi is the best way to demonstrate Kansai's best and the Slices of Raw Fish of Tuna, Ark Shell & Yellowtail comes up to scratch. Pristine fresh and faultlessly cut, theit bare naked simplicity leaves no cause for complaints.

Delicately flaky yet moist, making short work of the Grilled Yellowtail with Teriyaki Sauce garnished with Marinated Shishito Green Pepper doesn't take much effort. For the actual dinner, the star of the show will be buri or amberjack. Prized for its natural oil content, the seasonal deep-sea fish is a rarity hence its ramped up allure.


Another ample testament to the freshness of Kansai's seafood cachet comes from the Boxed Sushi with Sea Bream, Prawn & Conger Eel. For the uninitiated, boxed sushi originates from Osaka has vinegar-infused sushi rice is pressed into a box, layered with assorted slices of raw fish and cut into neat, dainty rectangular wedges in place of the more common hand-shaped clumps of seafood-topped rice balls.
Aesthetically, each piece looks too good to eat; a miniature work of art bearing a translucent, gelatinous and filmy piece of vinegar-marinated kelp seaweed atop the three sushi variants.


The All Kansai kaiseki experience will draw to a close with custardy-light Yuzu Mousse; an ethereal offering that leaves a effusive trail of whimsical citrusy notes on the tastebuds.

Cooking enthusiasts may wish to learn how to make takoyaki from Aizu-ya, the delicacy pioneer on 22 & 23 February in a special workshop. Grilled in a special cast-iron pan with half-spherical molds, the batter balls were firstly popularized in Osaka by a street vendor named Endo Tomekichi in 1935 who subsequently opened a takoyaki shop called Aizu-ya. Again places are limited. Price: RM150++ per person inclusive of a complimentary takoyaki pan

For enquiries, call Kampachi Pavilion KL, tel: 03-2148 9608


Friday, February 14, 2014

ALEXANDER THE GREAT




It's a silly cliché but The Restaurant is the restaurant that I'd love to be wined and dined at given a choice. Cosily ensconced in the plush serenity of The Club Saujana, its posh, clubby ambience keeps the hurly-burly of daily life at bay.


But what is a classy restaurant without good food? Fortunately, The Restaurant's leading man - chef Alexander Waschl - ensures every diner leaves with Cheshire cat-size smiles on their faces, coaxed by his wealth of culinary aces that leave discerning connoisseurs well-satisfied of course. Much-lauded since his arrival some three years ago, Alexander the Great (well, he has been winning all these awards hence the nickname) has proven that the way to people's hearts is indeed through their stomachs.


If your curiosity is piqued and you wonder what are his specialities that have everyone singing his praises, the wickedly luscious Foie Gras Ice Crème with a Smoked Duck Roll and Granny Smith Apple (RM100) is a surefire bet. I guaranteed your heart will melt after a taste of that cool, creamy yet mildly briny confection.

 
The Smoked Duck and Foie Gras with Baked Apple, Wantan and Cranberry Sauce – a tongue-teasing palette of textural and flavourful contrasts that will get you into a real flap. 
Even more devilishly delectable is the Truffle Duck Confit Ravioli with Onion Jam and White Port Wine Foam (RM50); an ethereal blend of heavy and light flavours, tender and slippery smooth textures, as well as dominant and subtle nuances on both the nose and tastebuds.



Drink in this 'garden' of sweet peas

Although I'm no soup lover, I really dig the Garden Peas Cream Soup with Oven-roasted Pine Nuts (RM34) for its bright, jade-green hue and velvety slickness. Earthier and brimming with woody robustness, the Mushroom Consommé with Mushroom Ravioli and Vegetable Brunoise (RM34) tastes reminiscent of heartwarming chicken essence – perfect comfort food for world-weary souls.


Similar succour can be sought in the Pot Au Feu (RM85) though the chef's version is strikingly different from the classic French one. The delicate pasta parcels of Grilled Scallops, Squids, and Lobster Tortellini bathed in some lush, voluptuous sauce that jolts the tongue with some startlingly zingy 'kick ass' sambal-laced emulsion.

Further evidence of Chef Alex's penchant for spicy food can be found in the outlet's signature Nasi Goreng Kampung (RM40). Before you freak out over the princely sum, let it be known that this ultra-luxe, top-selling rice platter is fit for a king and includes skewers of succulent prawn and chicken satay, crowned with a sunny-side up egg.
 
My personal show-stealing pick for an encore would be the Smoked Spring Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce, Fried Mushroom Bread Dumpling and Onion Jam (RM60). It's substantial serving for a warm appetiser but hey, who's complaining? This tender chook coupled with the various components is a culinary masterpiece that has to be savoured to be believed.
 
Minimalist fans would enjoy the Open Lasagna with Poached Scallop, Pepper, Leek and Saffron Sauce (RM60). The 'nude' pasta sheet adorned with poached sweet scallops and drenched in saffron-scented, leek and pepper-flecked sauce definitely makes no apologies for its plush richness.
 

Fish fans aren't bereft of choices either with temptations such as Grilled Salmon with Citrus Fruit Sabayon, Carrot Mousseline, Crabmeat Cannelloni & Sautéed Vegetable (RM85) or Fried Seabass with Bouillabaisse Sauce, Garlic Mousseline and Ratatouille Vegetable (RM85). Both fish are cooked to opaque, toothsome doneness and gently perked up by attendant sides that enliven their delicate sweetness.


Brace yourself for pin-drop silence when sampling the Roasted Rack of Lamb and Braised Lamb Shoulder with Eggplant, Potato Fondant & Baked Potato Strudel (RM150). Suffice to say long-winded description is unnecessary; the proof is completely is its eating.

The heftier serving of Wagyu Striploin and Braised Organic Beef Cheek (110g) with Celeriac Moussline, Baked Cepes Mushroom Ravioli (RM180) should leave even the most mighty appetite replete. Swaggering with irresistible juiciness, this is one piece of buttery-tender meat that will sear itself into your memory.
 
Don't fool yourself into believing you'd never be able to tackle dessert (RM30-RM34 each). Not when sinfully decadent creations such as the Ultimate Chocolate Brownie with Iced Milk Mousse, Nougat Ice Cream and Berries, Iced Champagne Mousse with Chocolate Chilli Bonbon and House-made Coffee Ice Cream with Amaretti beckon. Just succumb and revel in the sheer sweet bliss!



The Restaurant, The Club Saujana Resort, Jalan Lapangan Terbang SAAS, Shah Alam, Selangor. Tel: 03-7806 7000

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

XIN-FULLY HORSE-PICIOUS EATS




Traditions are hard to break when it comes to Chinese New Year but Chef Wong Pak Seng and his team have no intention of putting the cart before the horse when it comes to dishing up festive specialities.

The Xin team left no stone unturned in setting the pace and giving us a galloping start to the Wooden Horse Year, starting with the ubiquitous yee sang (raw fish salad). With six variations available (RM68++ to RM198++ depending on serving size), the Prosperity Salmon Yee Sang is a perennial fave with the restaurant's die-hard regulars and CNY revellers.

Freshly shredded vegetables, frisky tangy pickles, frilly jellyfish and crispy flour crackers go into this terrific toss-up of a salad that is neither too dry or moist even after the dressing has been added. We give it our full stomp of approval.
Although I'm not the 'chicken soup for soul' kinda person, I'm akin to the proverbial horse that's led to water, to drink from the heartwarming bowl of Double-boiled Chicken Soup with Wolfberries. Clear and delicately sweet, I daresay soup fiends will lap up this up with gusto to the very last drop.
Upping the ante on this year's festive feast race, the Xin team jockeys for top position with a stunning show-stopper - Roast Goose with Special Sauce. Mildly gamey yet lusciously juicy, the firm, tender goose has us chomping on the bit. Surprisingly it wasn't fatty at all and we relish every delectable mouthful.
 
 
A huge, tissue-thin egg-based pouch ringed by broccoli florets impresses from the get-go. The fillings turn out to be a gastronome's dream: a braised hodge-podge of sumptuous sea cucumber, plump black mushrooms and alluring abalones. Aptly listed as Bountiful Abalones in Golden Pouch, this is a dish that grabs the limelight the minute the eggy pouch is cut open to reveal its deluxe contents.

According to chef Wong, there are a handful of new creations to mark the CNY but timeless classics such as Steamed Pomfret with Soya Sauce & Garlic Oil will never fall out of favour. The fish flesh is fine and smooth and barely needs much tricking up so trusty condiments like superior soya sauce, aromatic garlic oil, freshly chopped Chinese parsley and spring onion are preferred to jazz it up.
Horsing around with fruits resulted in a tempting creation of Wok-fried Prawns with Fresh Fruits & Sesame Sauce. A boon for those too lazy to bother with prawn shells, the crustaceans slicked with creamy, nutty sesame sauce are sublime; their bouncy texture likely to put a spring in your step after devouring them.


Another consistent best-seller for the Lunar New Year period is the 'xin-ful' treat of Waxed Meat Rice in Claypot. Most chefs have their own closely guarded trade tricks to ensure this cherished offering command a loyal following year after year and Xin's has remained consistently sought-after since the restaurant opened. Suffice to say the rice tastes so good that one bowl is never enough.

To sweeten up the celebrations, diners will find tong sui (dessert broth) such as Double-boiled Honeydew to wrap up their meal nicely.

There's no horse play when it comes to rustling up new nian gao (steamed sweet glutinous rice cake) dessert. This year, they turn to the dark side of chocolate...boldly blending bewitching cacao with earthy green tea for the Chocolate Paste Green Tea Nian Gao.

Our vote goes to the Deep-fried Hazelnut Paste Nian Gao which has sticky nian gao crusted with a crumbly, toasty batter coating and stuffed with some nutella-flavoured paste. Subtly sweet, the chewy cake releases the distinct hazelnut fragrance the longer one chews on it.

Special CNY dishes from the a la carte festive menu are priced from RM13++ to RM318++ per order. Families and groups of friends may prefer the Prosperity Set Menus that start from RM1,388++ to RM1,588++ per table of 10 persons.

Xin Cuisine, Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur, 2 Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03 2144 8750