Friday, September 30, 2016

VIET'S GOOD TO EAT AT AN VIET


I have yet to visit Vietnam but it hasn't stopped me from liking or enjoying wonderful Vietnamese food through the years, either at Vietnamese restaurants in the Klang Valley or on my travels abroad where large population of Vietnamese folks live and work. After recent visit to my friend Caren Poon's restaurant - An Viet at The Gardens mall, the good Vietnamese specialities worth trying include:

XOI CHIEN PHONG (RM13.90) - the fried crispy glutinous rice puff ensures a ball of a time once you cut into it. Accompanied by lemongrass chicken salad on the side, the golden brown orb is hollow inside which left us awed by the cook's skill in making it.

Just cut the puff into nacho-size pieces to scoop some of the salad up. The spongier base tasted like appam; the remainder, a toastier version of its crisp edges. Tangy-briny with hints of herbal freshness, we relished how the salad added to the textural mêlée.
BANH TRANG NUONG (RM8.90) - crisp and fragrant grilled rice paper stuffed with minced pork, quail's egg and dried shrimp. A delicate envelope of multiple textures and irresistibly hearty flavours that left us wishing for repeat helpings.
CANH CHUA NUOC DUA (RM13.90) - a soulful rendition of fresh clams and coconut water broth. We marvelled at the varying sweet nuances of the key ingredients; a soupy symphony tinged with the punchy sourish notes of cherry tomatoes and mild accents of lemongrass, dill and chilli.
NOM HOA CHUOI (RM13.90) - a raveworthy medley of banana blossom, cucumber and carrots. Tossed in a house dressing which uses pure fish sauce and supporting cohorts of blanched tiger prawns and chopped roasted peanuts, the simple, crunchy salad made loading up on greens fun and flighty.
GOI CUON (RM8.90) - fresh Vietnamese spring rolls of gossamer thin rice paper stuffed with fresh tiger prawns, Vietnamese vermicelli, shredded carrot and cucumber, coral lettuce and herbs. We were too busy dipping the yummy rolls into the pure fish sauce and chilli concoction which left no room for complaints.
BUN CHA (RM17.90) - delectable grilled sliced pork belly and minced pork patties doused in a tantalising sauce of pure fish sauce with pickled green papaya and carrot, and chopped chilli. Fresh lettuce leaves became edible parcels lined with basil and filled with Vietnamese rice vermicelli then meat. Dunked into the tantalising sauce, our mouths were suffused with a riot of palate-pleasing flavours and textures.
PHO BO (RM18.90) - this perennial noodle dish hailed from North Vietnam, featuring a clear 12-hour simmered beef marrow broth as the base. Served with tender slices of Australian tenderloin and brisket, the slippery smooth flat rice noodles were a comforting delight to savour. Fresh basil, beansprouts, fresh lime wedges and housemade Sriracha chilli sauce came on the side for us to customise according to preference. We polished everything off, down to the last drop of soup.
Special mention must be made of An Viet's social consciousness of preventing food wastage. Diners are encouraged to choose their serving portions, between 80g to 200g, for noodles and rice so that no noodle or rice grain is left uneaten. An Viet also donates 10 sen for every meal finished on its premises to a social enterprise in Vietnam to train disadvantaged youths with vocational skill development.
GRILLED LEMONGRASS CHICKEN (RM15.90) - a notable signature which has boneless chicken thigh marinated in lemongrass and chilli then grilled to golden brown perfection. The chicken's fragrantly smoky aroma coupled with juicy, mouth-watering tenderness almost had us crowing with pleasure. Aptly supported by a trio of rice, pickles and a sunny side-up egg, the dish left us sighing with contentment.
BANH MI - a popular bready delight of crusty baguette sandiwch. The delicious filling consists of grilled boneless chicken fillet layered with fresh lettuce as well as cucumber and papaya pickles. Ideal for those who want a quick bite without feeling too stuffed.
VIET-FFOGATO (RM9.90) - a twist to the usual Vietnamese drip coffee thanks to the presence of condensed milk ice cream and coconut milk. A delightful amusement to perk up the tastebuds with the rich creaminess of milk and coconut milk amplifying the robust coffee profile.
BANH BIA (RM8.90) WITH/WITHOUT CONDENSED MILK ICE CREAM (RM12.90) - for a sampling of Vietnamese traditional pastry, try the durian flavoured 'mooncake'. The lotus pasta is fine and smooth with the durian nuance pleasantly discernible, tempered by the salted egg yolk at the pastry core. We suggest savouring it with a scoop of condensed milk ice cream for that indulgence finish.
The range of Vietnamese beverages available are also worth checking out. For our humid weather, quench your thirst with XA GUNG (RM7.90 hot, RM8.90 cold) - house-brewed lemongrass and ginger drink. This folk tea remedy offers much touted benefits: helping with weight loss, boosting the immune system, balancing blood acidity and detoxing impurities from our body.
 
Fresh coconut water and flesh are put to imaginative use to create SINH TO DUA (RM10.90), a cool mocktail blended with milk and ice. Superbly refreshing, it's a drink to go nuts over.

For reservations at An Viet, call tel: 03-2201 1181. Address: Lot LG 203B, The Gardens, Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, September 22, 2016

MAGNIFICENT 7 SUNDAY INDULGENCES FROM SERENA BRASSERIE

Hic, hic, hooray! Let the good wine, champagne, beer, soft drinks and juices flow when you sit down to InterContinental KL's Sunday Indulgence Brunch (RM150 nett per adult) at Serene Brasserie from now until 27 November 2016.


Drinks package priced between RM30 and RM250 nett per head will be available for those wishing to inject some sparkling spirit into their dining experience. A Mimosa Bar alongside bottles of Laurent-Perrier champagne, beer and wine as well as soft drinks and juices will leave you amply shaken, stirred and cheerily intoxicated.
Come, grab a glass of bubbly (Laurent-Perrier anyone?) in hand and let us guide you through the magnificent 7 options we highly recommend you savour from the extensive spread laid out.

Served with roasted whole garlic, French beans, crisp beef bacon bits and rosemary jus, this jaw-dropping show-stealer came encased in layers of buttery, flaky puff pastry. Once the chef sliced up this classic speciality, the juicy pink roast beef at its core transported us to seventh heaven. Accompanied by sips of chilled champagne, all we managed to say was 'Oh La La!'
Serena Brasserie is famed its seafood on ice selection from day one and rightfully, this remains a perennial lure for the Sunday brunch buffet. However, do allow us to suggest you go salmon fishing instead.
 No. 2 Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Mille Feuille with Scallops & Prawns

True to its Sunday Indulgence tag, this colourful and Instagrammable creation proffers an explosion of textures and flavours. Strewn with edible flowers, cherry tomato halves and fresh sprouts, the mille feuille layers of smoked salmon and cream cheese partnered with succulent seared scallops and springy prawns form a fab visual and palatable feast.
 No. 3 Gratinated Oyster Rockefeller

These cheese-topped beauties should leave you happily shell-syiok. Smothered in the lightly scorched, melty cheese topping, nothing beats savouring the lil' mollusk's squirt of briny, flinty jus and tender succulent flesh. So good!
 
 No. 4 Spiced Bagel with Truffled Egg Mayo (top)


Even the Earl of Sandwich would give his thumbs up to this delicious permutation bearing his erstwhile name. Rest assured the rich, creamy egg-mayo filling spiked with truffle oil amidst spice dusted mini bagel is noteworthy enough to spare tummy space for.  

 No. 5 Poppyseed Buns with Beef Pepperoni


Remember the minor kerfuffle over getting high on poppyseeds? Now, these scrumptiously diminutive poppyseed flecked buns stacked with beef pepperoni, tomato and gherkin slices and fresh lettuce should boost your mood for food. Suffice to say it's impossible to stop at just one.
No. 6 Har Lok 

Keep your eyes peeled for these irresistible prawn 'stars'. Savoury yet naturally sweet, the stir-fried crustaceans are worth the bother of getting hands-on, to enjoy the full extent of their finger-licking goodness.
 No. 7 Mixed Fruit Pavlova

Packed with so much fresh fruit especially colourful berries, these tiny cloud-like treats are literally guilt-free for the sweet toothed. Relish them with a cup of coffee or tea for that picture-perfect conclusion to your Sunday Indulgence brunch affair.
We have merely scratched the surface of the entire line-up but the magnificent 7 choices should serve as an apt teaser on what to expect. Diners can expect a plethora of appetisers and salads, main courses prepared Western and Asian-style, pastries and dessert in addition to kid-friendly offerings: fish fingers, cookies, sandwiches and candies.
Clown entertainment and cupcake decoration will be among the activities available to keep little tykes occupied.

For reservations, please call Serene Brasserie, tel: 03-27826228 or visit: kualalumpur.intercontinental.com 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

WHOOPING GOOD EATS AT HOOPLA

The only type of bone I enjoy picking is that of pork ribs. Especially in Klang Valley when pigging out on Western-style pork ribs used to be as rare as Michelin-starred dining. Now the scenario is changing as more restos are letting things rib. One recent eatery to jump onto the piggy bandwagon is Hoopla Lounge.
Our host and managing director of Hoopla Lounge/Chapter One Bar & Bistro, Ernest Chin informed us the signature Connor's Rib Slab is marinated in Connor's Stout Porter before it hits the grill with a basting of Connor's infused BBQ sauce. Unlike most ribs in town that lack textural meaty resistance, Hoopla's stood up to our taste test. Price at RM85++ per serving with two glasses of Connor's, all the luscious ribs needed was a squeeze of fresh lime juice to make its rip-roaring presence felt.
Tucked away in a corner of Sri Hartamas, this new-ish, dark and sultry wine lounge is above Chapter One (its more boisterous 'sibling' hangout). Conceived as a cool yet cosy space where urban folks can enjoy fine wine and some nibbles post-work with friends, Hoopla artfully blends clubby chic with bistro minimalism.
As an oenophile (wine enthusiast), Ernest plied us Réserve St Martin for the review. Both wines were easy on the palate; the dry, medium-bodied Merlot bore pleasant acidity and supple tannins while the Chardonnay's fruity crispness was edged with muted nutty overtones.
With over a hundred labels in its cellar, Hoopla's stockpile is sourced mainly from boutique wineries and small producers to pique fellow drinkers. Prices are also easier on the wallet (phew!) compared to the princely sum charged by leading hotels and fine-dining restos. Ernest's ethos is to induce Hoopla's patrons appreciate their chosen tipples in comfort and as an accompaniment to good food.
The menu stays in comfort food territory and pub-style offerings with an occasional quirky side or two as exemplified by the appetiser of Lady's Fingers (RM6) - a Japanese izakaya inspiration perhaps? Laced with garlic oil, mentsuyu (Japanese noodle soup base) and sesame oil, the tender fingerlings of okra was a nice way of loading up on one's green intake whilst lining the tummy agreeably.
Crunchy with deep-seated flavour reminiscent of Chinese nam yue (red fermented beancurd), the classic pub grup fave of Chicken Wings (RM22) hit a high note with us. Adding to the wings' allure was a zingy-hot chilli dip with crudites. 
Moreish finger-licking goodness emerged in the subsequent bite-size pieces of Cracklin' Chicken Karaage (RM38++). Again marinated in creamy Connor's Porter Stout, the juicy chunks of Japanese-style boneless fried chicken drizzled with bright orangey, sweet-spicy sauce had us wiping the plate clean within minutes.
Hot on the heels of such positive show-openers, we were floored by the generous platter of Pork Platter (RM104). Rubbed with cinnamon, onion and ginger, the hearty deliciousness of the crackling roasted pork skin and scrumptious meat made a slurp-worthy impression. Although I'm not big on the so-called pork bangers (can't beat the real English ones), the supporting cast of potato wedges, salad and dips ensured a favourable experience.
Knowing the Malaysian penchant for local fare, Hoopla includes a handful of typical Malaysian faves to appease customers. Ernest was quick to clarify the servings can never rival those dished up by hawkers but after a heavy night of drinking and partying, we doubt if anyone would whinge about forking RM19 for a plate of hot-off-the-wok Hokkien Mee. Taste-wise it was decent and apparently, so is the Mee Mamak.


Personally, I prefer chomping into the wickedly tender BBQ Chicken Thigh (RM40++) which had been basted with Connor's infused BBQ sauce. Complemented by roasted potatoes and spicy vinaigrette, the chook's slick, sweetish and subtly smoky lacquer-like skin and juicy meat was worth returning for.
Perked up with aromatics such as dried prawn sambal, ginger flower and coriander, we was reeled in by the Fried Seabass (RM13) with red onion salad. Imagine crisp skin yielding to sweet, flaky meat with the sharp freshness of onion blunting discernible greasy accent.
We skipped dessert but my reliable source tipped us off on the wicked decadence of Hoopla's Chocolate Brownies (RM15). Served warm with lashings of chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream, she enthused the splendid treat was spot on and should melt hearts. Now, I'd have to return for the proof of the pudding won't I?
For reservations at HOOPLA LOUNGE, call tel: 03-62116484. Address: 1st Floor, 72-1 Jalan 27/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur.

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