Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tell-A-Tale (Part 24): Chapter MMVIII

This chapter was an adventure-filled page turner.

With tales of victorious battles against injustice and prejudice.

Camaraderie and wine that warmed the heart.

Words of feasts dominating the pages.

And dances of fair maidens with their knights.

But above all, there was magic.

Towards the end, an unexpected storm came rushing from the west.

As the last page of MMVIII is read, we hope for the storm to calm. And let the magic unfolds again.


Here’s wishing everyone a good 2009.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fong Lye @ The Gardens

Both are famous. And of Taiwanese origin, of course.

I sometimes wonder if the queue to getting a Jay Chou concert ticket is as long as the waiting list at Fong Lye.

This is where oriental (well, partially) taste meets contemporary style. Where Mandarin lyrics are sung to the beat of rhythm & blues and traditional-looking ceramicwares shine to a neo-fluorescent glow from above. Throw in a generous serving, pleasant service and comfortable chairs, it's no wonder that Fong Lye has become a favourite dining choice for many, especially the young (and trendy-looking) crowd.

Gui Hua And Oolong Tea (RM12.00)

Hollow, starchy and sweet. No, I'm not talking about some popstars of today. Just the Sweet Potato Balls (RM5.30). Is it just me or has the days of powerful ballads and solid sweet potato balls rolled on with the times? As much as I enjoyed the crispy skin, there was something about them balls that didn't leave an impression, though recommended by many. Then again, I am no fan of Taiwanese boybands. Or boybands of any nationality, for that matter.

Three Varieties Of Supreme Diced Chicken Set, which included side dishes and a bowl of minced meat rice (RM19.80) was perhaps my favourite of that day. Sweet was everything, like Jolin Tsai.


The chicken, in dark soy sauce and mixed with some herbs was flavoursome and needed not the minced meat (which was also rather tasty) to complete the meal. Just the bowl of plain, white rice will do.

The side dishes, which included seasoned lotus roots, breaded, fried fritter and half an egg, though quite delectable in their own ways, were drowned by the flavourful chicken.

Watching some Taiwanese channels on cable television can be quite a draining experience. The endless political forums and parliamentary dramas always make me wish that life is simpler, like the voices of those cutesy teenage singers whom whisper (I believe it's called singing as well) about all things loverly.

But no, life's certainly more complicated than that, hence my very limited collection of that particular genre. Well, complexity is good sometimes and the Taiwan Braised Beef Noodle from the set meal at RM19.80 is a testament of that. The rich, complex taste of the broth, which comprised of five spice powder among other seasonings, was addictive. Coupled with tender pieces of beef and smooth strands of egg noodles, it was lovely. Not loverly but just lovely.

Perhaps not as distinctive as smoked bacon or salmon, the Tea Smoked Duck with Bee Hoon (RM15.80) was still delicious, thanks to the subtly salty and tender meat. The bee hoon has not much effect on the meat but added up to a rather substantial meal.

When I first heard Coldplay's Yellow, I thought it was a song Chris Martin wrote for his oriental girlfriend (way before the lovely Gwyneth Paltrow). But I was so wrong and wrong (about the dedication and the oriental girlfriend). Like how skeptical I was when stepping into Fong Lye for the first time as Taiwanese food to me was all about sweet food that has been blown out of mega commercial proportions.

Well, silly me as it is certainly good in its own way and I won't mind coming back for more.

Hmmm, now where is my Rainie Yang album? :D

I'm kidding lah. :D

Fong Lye
Lot T-208, 3rd Floor
The Gardens
Mid Valley City
Tel: (+603)2282 8699

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Billy Bombers @ Jurong Point

I definitely frequent the (Singapore) library more than the gym. A bookworm I’m not and I don’t really read much, except for the compulsory annual few from my favourite authors. What makes me go gaga over this place is its much updated collection of travel guides. Definitely a place to satisfy one’s wanderlust.

Back at the gym, you’ll see me on the treadmill for 20 minutes and burning about 200 calories each time. Yes, a wholesome 200 calories followed by some iron pumping. Do no expect a beefy piece of meat here as the writer frequents the gym perhaps 8 times a year, at most. And that’s only when he’s really, really bored.

For me, a good game of badminton is always a better option. And on that note, congratulations to the Malaysian badminton team for grabbing three titles at the World Super Series Championship at Likas last weekend. Despite the missing Chinese players, our guys and girls did show a class above the rest in this tournament. Well done!

But badminton does not burn as much fat as on the treadmill, definitely. And that calls for a rather insignificant reason to binge after the workout.

So, the convenient truth reason to indulge after a workout at the gym is always, I BURNT BLARDY 200 CALORIES TODAY.

On one such 200-calories-lesser day, I checked out Billy Bombers, attracted by the credit card promotion and the big portions displayed.

Almost on every table are their infamous Buffalo Wings (S$13.90) where the deep-fried wings were apparently marinated with cayenne pepper and vinegar. Served with either the hot or the tangy sauce (we chose the former), the redness did look rather appetizing, complete with bits of chopped garlic. The wings were rather ordinary if you ask me, but pair it with the hot sauce, and you’ll get yourself an ang moh (mat salleh) version of sweet and sour pork or chicken, in this case. A cross between Madagascar and The Love Guru (hated Justin Timberlake’s acting though), it was pretty cutely yummy.

Billy's famous ribs (S$19.90 for 1/2 slab) with fries sounds like a more macho deal. The meat was flaky and tender while the sauce was dense and slightly sweet. Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones it was not but will pass as Jim Carrey’s more defining characters like in The Truman Show or Liar Liar, for example. No joke, the ribs were entertaining and quite impressive.

I would not have ordered the Sirloin Steak (S$20.90) had I been offered a discount on the wings with just ONE order of the mains. Well, turned out that the pepper sauce dressed sirloin was rather delicious at medium. But it was the creamed spinach that made my day. Slightly rich, the cream blended well with the soft (not soggy), chopped spinach. Afterall, one still needs some fibre after a heavy meal.

Did I say heavy? Ah, who cares. I BURNT BLARDY 200 CALORIES TODAY.

Billy Bombers
1 Jurong West Central 2
#02-24 Jurong Point
Tel: 67957690


After much contemplation, I feel that it’s best for me to visit the gym more often from now onwards. Not because I lost my traveling mojo but because the Johor-Singapore Causeway is already rather impossible to walk across. For the last 5 years, come rain or shine, I would walk across the causeway to catch my bus back to KL from Johor. Not unlike for the hundreds of thousands of other Malaysians, this is the fastest way to get home from Singapore, without having to wait endlessly for the bus to transport us to the Johor Bahru Immigration Office. The one kilometer walk has been a good workout and ensures a good sleep on the way back home, I’ve always consoled myself.

With the new Southern Integrated Gateway, or more specifically the Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex at Johor Bahru to replace the existing checkpoint, the distance between the two countries’ immigration complexes has doubled and quite impossible to reach on foot. Going through the facts on the building of this new gateway, I can’t help but wonder if this is for the best. On the positive side, it is definitely bigger (like all things Malaysian) and has integrated a few government administrations. It has also expanded the checkpoints which hopefully clears the usual traffic congestion.

On the other hand, walking across the causeway to avoid the long queues at the bus stops is now rather impossible and everyone will have to rely on the numbered public buses to transport them to the other side of the causeway. Detailing is very much needed to ensure that everyone gets to enjoy the benefits of this new gateway, not just car or motorcycle users. Queuing up for an hour and being pushed around at the complexes, especially during peak hours are no fun, I can assure you. Perhaps more allocation of shuttle buses? And there are already complaints of loss of businesses due to the closure of the old immigration office.

It is still quite early to say if this project is a success or not. But in the meantime, people like me will have to adjust to the new situation. All we ask for is a more efficient system for all, especially the public transport users. Some comfort will be nice too.

Did I just burn another 200 calories simply by writing this post? Hehehe...

Friday, December 19, 2008

KISSATEN Coffee and Restaurant






Though I go to you
ceaselessly along dream paths,
the sum of those trysts
is less than a single glimpse
granted in the waking world.

No. 658 in the Kokin Wakashu by Ono no Komachi (小野 小町)



This kissaten is a good place to chill in the late afternoons.

The Mentaiko Spaghetti (RM18.90) was an interesting combination of bubbly mentaiko, olives and onions. Refreshing.

A Swissroll of pig’s skin, the Crunchy Stewed Pork Slice (RM6.90) tasted rather bland but was compensated by the gelatinous layers of skin (plus fat) and a drizzle of soy sauce. The crunchy alfalfa sprouts and scallion gave the dish a nice contrast.

Subtly sweet and mildly cheesed, the Japanese-styled Cheese Cake (RM6.90) was alright. The texture could have been softer.

Loved the Bittergourd and Cucumber blend (RM8.90) which was flavourful sans the bitterness and chlorophyll taste.

Tried the Azuki Pancake (RM 4.90) in another more chaotic visit and it was good.

The Garlic Mushroom Pizza (RM17.90), Tonkotsu Ramen (RM15.90) and Teppan Wafu Beef Burger (RM17.90) were just okay.

Check out the set meals which are more value-for-money and avoid the chaotic peak hours (if possible).

Absorb in the pale surrounding, relax and be inspired.

They play Astrud Gilberto.

KISSATEN Coffee and Restaurant
L12A-1-1, Palm Square
72A, Jalan Universiti
46200 Petaling Jaya
Selangor, Malaysia.
Tel: (+603) 7954 1990

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pick n' Brew @ 1 Utama

Has the world turned faster than I thought or has another year just passed me by, yet again?

It was around this time last year that I met these two foodies/bloggers/80's music lovers; Lyrical Lemongrass and WMW (among many other cool bloggers) for the very first time.

A year later, we met again. Here, at Pick n’ Brew.

I've always thought of this coffee haven as the Central Perk for food blogging Friends. This is where they catch up with one another while sipping a nice cup of coffee and in other more celebrative occasions, gather for a scrumptious meal, complete with endless jokes and laughters. And why shouldn't they? I asked myself as I tasted two of their interesting Christmas All Day Specials on my first visit to Pick 'n Brew.

The optimistic shade of grey spelt of a promising Soup Of The Day, the mushroom. And it was indeed flavourful and creamy. Definitely not your typical 4-minutes-to-save-the-world instant wonderbees.

What I liked about the Beef Escalope and Lobster Tail with Sautéed Mushroom and Grilled Potato was the ensemble of everything distinctively delicious. The beef was tender and drizzled with a fruity sauce while the lobster tail was sweet and juicy. Coupled with vegetables for colour and crunch, it was value-for-money indeed.

From the many good reviews, I notice that Pick n’ Brew aims to be aesthetically pleasing as well, while coming up with dishes of interesting tastes and usage of ingredients. The Oven Baked Stuffed Chicken on Soft Mushroom Polenta and Sautéed Vegetables is one such fine example. The combination of polenta (to replace the usual potato mash), cous cous and the sweet/savoury caramelized sauce was good. Let’s not forget the garlic-infused stuffed chicken which came with a nice herby hint.

In real life (and in no relation to Denise Richard’s Dr. Christmas Jones character), Christmas does come only once. And to engage in the festive spirit in style, spending a small amount on a glass of rich eggnog is money well-spent. Sweet and intoxicating, I thought I heard Karen Carpenter’s beautiful voice in the background.

Well, yes, it was her voice.

And what goes well with The Carpenter's rendition of good old Christmas songs in the background too? The mixed grain cookies. Light, crunchy and subtly sweet, it was nice.

This Central Perk is definitely a catch with all the adventurous dishes and good presentations to boost. Not many cafes have taste in more ways than one and Pick n’ Brew certainly has it lots. With time and direction, I’m sure it will stand tall among the good eateries in 1 Utama. Pick a recommended dish or drink from the menu n’ let the Brew take you over.

Here’s to another year of friends, food and fun.

The best Fs ever! :)

Pick n’ Brew
F233, 1 Utama Shopping Centre
Bandar Utama City Centre
Bandar Utama
47800 Petaling Jaya
Tel: (+603) 7726 0102


1. The Christmas All Day Specials are available daily from 11 am to 9.30 pm at RM28, which includes the soup of the day, a main and a drink (Christmas Carol or Minty Christmas).

2. Add another RM10 for a glass of wine or the eggnog latte to go with the Christmas All Day Special. RM15 if ordered separately.

3. The mixed grain cookies are part of the Take A Break set at RM12, which includes a set of Pick n’ Brew coffee or organic tea. You can substitute the mixed grain cookies with a piece of chocolate log cake or chocolate chip cookies.

4. Other festive delights include a Christmas log cake at RM80, strawberry banana frappelicious at RM10 and Christmas roast turkey at RM220.

Check out KampungBoyCityGal’s thorough review here.

Kenny Mah’s golden brew experience here.

Lyrical Lemongrass’ Christmas All Day Special makan-makan here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh @ New Bridge Road

In the days of primary five, a teacher once told us that certain bacterium in pork causes the skin to develop mole-like black spots as one ages. And for that, we should try to abstain from consuming this piece of pink meat. While other friends started to plan for a reshuffle in their choice of meat (in fear of turning into one of those reptile aliens from V), I knew he was just teasing. The teacher’s statement traumatized many to a point where my breakfast (which usually consisted of bak kwa or dried meat, sandwiched between slices of white bread and filled with pork/chicken floss) was labeled as poisonous and became the laughing stock of the class.

Yes, the kids were mean but I didn’t blame my friends for they were afterall, just kids. But this incident did make me think for quite a few recesses and here are some interesting thoughts that came out of an eleven years-old during that time of mental turmoil.

1. I am a babitarian (think pork as what greens are to vegetarians).
2. I must excel in Science to prove the teacher wrong.
3. I should respect my friends of different beliefs.
4. Should my next pork belly be braised or roasted?

Versatility should be the porcine’s middle name. From stew to grill and smoke to roast, the subtly pinkish meat does it all, provided it’s fresh. I wouldn’t recommend raw though as that perhaps, will lead to those black spots. Or other more lethal diseases for that matter.

And Bak Kut Teh is definitely one of sunshine meat’s greatest hits. It has evolved from the very fundamental Chinese tea/meat soup to now, an avant garde pot of everything possible including abalone.

I was glad that Song Fa kept the menu simple and rather conservative. All the basic needs for a pleasant Bak Kut Teh experience.

We started with a dip of the cut dough fritters (S$2.00) into the herbal soup. Could they have imposed corkage charge on the dough fritters, I would have gladly brought my own from the infamous yaw char kway stall at Rochor Road. Then again, the ones they offered were not bad, just ordinary.

Fat and lean pork run together perfectly along the beach at sunset, provided they are well-cooked. Sensuous Romantic and delicious. Same goes to the braised pig’s trotter (S$8.00). Although the fatty part could have been softer, it was smooth enough to slide well into the throat, hand in hand with the flaky lean portion of the meat. The dense, glistening soy sauce-based braise went well with the white rice too.

There’s something about intestines that make them irresistable. To me, it’s the soft, slightly chewy texture of the linings. Think not what it contains and you’ll be off a happy diner. Superficiality has its merits sometimes. Song Fa’s braised intestines (S$5.50) were not too bad, given the soft texture and the nice braise (which was almost identical to the trotters’). A while longer under the heat would have softened the intestines even more.

Bak Kut Teh can never do without pork ribs, claypot or not. Here, the ribs come in a rather huge portion, at S$7.50. The highlight was definitely the soft, flaky meat with bits of fats still kept intact. Slightly tea-like, the soup base was mildly herbed and sweet. Certainly lacked that something that raises an eyebrow. A missing herb, perhaps?

The Teochew-styled salted vegetable (S$2.00) was crunchy and of course, salty. Not too oily as well.

Here’s a rather paradoxical question; do we need a larger shopping mall or a taller tower? That aside, how about a larger piece of rib? Yes, yes, yes. From the loins, the ribs at S$6.50 were huge and looked promising. It was not too bad but would have been better had the meat came without a tad undercooked taste.

A pleasant experience with affordable prices. Okay lah.

I wonder if my teacher is still telling his students the same old tale. One thing’s for sure; he must be very disappointed in me. Vice-versa, I guess.

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh
11, New Bridge Road
(Upper Circular Road)
Tel: (+65) 65336128

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Porto Romano @ Mon't Kiara

About twelve hours earlier, a very much Chinese family was sailing on an armada, a culinary one, to be exact. The word armada itself was inspired by the restaurant’s logo. I still can’t decipher the existence of the dolphin in that logo though.

We had a good time going through the Mediterranean-based menu and joked about the names of some of the dishes. It was really fun.

The Eagles was playing in the background and there were only two occupied tables that afternoon. Well, it was afterall, almost 2.15 pm. While waiting for the food, we talked about everything; holidays, family affairs and mostly, nonsensical (yet humorous) tales of others.

Having burnt much calories by laughing at the silly times and certain unnecessary table etiquettes, we were happy to see the garlic bread (RM8) in all it’s regal yellow. Covered with a substantial amount of melted butter and flavoured with chopped garlic and herbs, it was good. The spongy focaccia bread, however, reminded us of a certain worshipping delicacy the Cantonese called fatt gou.

I never believe that pasta can be fiery hot, eventhough it’s ala arrabbiata. But this time, it was hot! Simple yet tasty, the Spaghetti Arrabbiata (RM19.00) was a good choice despite the slightly less al dente spaghetti strands. A closer look revealed a red sauce full of softened tomatoes and paprika powder. It made us sweat, curse and laugh at the same time. I was glad the waiters were not of Chinese origin because some of our curses were quite lethal.

A conversation piece, the Quattro Stagioni Pizza (RM29.00) or four seasons pizza in English, was also a very good choice. The main ingredient for every season was fresh and very much flavoursome. The ham was soft and nicely salted while the sausages had a nice hint of smokiness. Even semi-bland ingredients like olives and mushrooms complemented the tomato-based, crispy/soft crust well. When an elderly gives thumbs-up and exclaims ho jiak, you know this piece of “gwai lou ham jin peang” (westerner’s fried pastry) is worth the money.

Digging deep into the Tiramisu (RM15.00), we discovered the infusion of coffee and almond liqueur. It was momentarily nauseating (in a good way). The generous amount of mascarpone and cocoa powder made the head even lighter. Perhaps this is what they call climaxing. I would have peaked if not for the faces of the folks sitting right across myself, as I hold the object of orgasm in my right hand.

We loved Porto Romano and had already planned for another family’s birthday here. Well, that's just an excuse to try the lambshank!

Ristorante Porto Romano
No. 28, Jalan Kiara
Banyan, Mon't Kiara
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (+603) 62078171

Twelve hours later, another landslide took place. This time, at Bukit Antarabangsa. Lives were sacrificed as hills erode due to the constant rainfall. Metaphysically, it’s called fate but technically, the piece of land was already considered unsafe, as was reported in the dailies. It’s sad to know that despite the advancement in science and technology, we still depend on the lost of lives as a siren for the becoming of catastrophes. And of course, there’s the human negligence factor to balance the tragic equation. The blame game started rolling but I feel the pointlessness of this charade as hills will keep eroding and lives will still be taken. To say that it’ll never happen again is too idealistic, but if precautions are taken more seriously, perhaps more lives will be spared.

Our dinner that following night was on a rather minor note as compared to the boisterous lunch at Porto Romano. We were saddened by the tragedy. But most of all, we were quietly counting our blessing that we were still able to have a dinner, together.