Monday, June 29, 2009

Kafe Beriani Gam Putrajaya

There was a small stage on the extreme end of the shack. It had an amateurish feel to it, complete with colourful lightings that used to amaze us back in the eighties. You know, those orange and green and red tinted bulbs. The first thought that ran in my mind was that the stage serves as some sort of platform for budding artists to showchase their talents come lunch or dinner time. And I thought that was really cool.

We were having lunch at Kafe Beriani on the afternoon of the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix. A pretty good choice, relatively speaking, as I was sure food at the circuit would be jacked up beyond the decibels of the roaring engines. And to be honest, if not for the race, I wouldn't have found a good reason to travel all the way to this part of the world to gam with the beriani.

As we settled down to try what appeared to be a (huge) plate of rather mildly coloured grains and decorated with a handful of crackers, Zaiton Sameon was about to take the stage. If you have lived through the eighties in Malaysia (and Singapore, to an extend), you would have heard her name at least once. Or more specifically, her infamous song called Menaruh Harapan. As we saw her, it hadn't crossed our minds that she was to perform that afternoon. We simply thought she was there to buy some berianis.

Then, backed by a band of musicians, she began to sing. There were less than a dozen watching her perform but she kept on going, with the same poise we witnessed back in the days of Juara Lagu 1987. One has got to respect this artist for still choosing to do what she loved as the twenty over odd years after Menaruh Harapan had not been easy on her. I wish the best for her in the future, be it in her music career or in life.

Back on our table, the food looked appetising. Well, almost everything red do. There's a good selection of meat to complement the rice. We had the chicken and mutton, which both came in huge cuts. Taste-wise, rather mild if you ask me. And that's quite disappointing as the essentials to a good curry (regardless of culture and cooking styles) include just a simple, sufficient blend of spices. Definitely would have been better had a heavier dosage of flavouring spices been added to the curries. On the bright side, both meats were well-cooked and softly flaky. Served warm as well.

The free-flowing dalcar that came with the rice was a happy potion. Fatty, but definitely happy as it was really flavoursome. One could almost see the half centimetre thick of glistening oil covering the mutton and dhal stew. We have a better word for that. Yes, rich. Now, why can't the mutton and chicken curries be as tasty as this? I drenched the rice with one whole bowl of dalcar and that was really satisfying. No regrets as I burnt it all out walking around the circuit and dashing to the carpark as the rain began to pour, when the race came to a halt.

Tad expensive too, if you ask me. At RM13 for the mutton and RM11 for the chicken sets, I would've expected a more memorable (tastier) gam. I could only applaud the solid portions.

As for the trip down memory lane, now that was something else.

Something good.

Kafe Beriani Gam Putrajaya
Lot Sub 4
Jalan Kajang-Puchong
Mukim Dengkil
43000 Sepang

Click here for Bangsar-Babe's review.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Komala's @ Peninsula Plaza

A few firsts for me that night; curries served in plastic cups, Indian vegetarian fastfood chain in Singapore and two cheerful Chinese staffs greeting me at the collection counter. How fun!

Komala. Komala. Komala. Komala. Komala.

I don’t recall repeating a name for the longest time. The last was when I chanted to Kula Shaker’s brilliant, psychedelic Govinda. Anyway, Komala’s the name of the babe restaurant that kept running in my mind ever since I saw their signboard as I exited the neighbouring Inle, a Burmese restaurant. Besides Komala, I knew I’ll be back again, to the Basement 1 level of Peninsula Plaza for the good selection of interesting food. There’s even a little charp farn (mixed rice) restaurant serving Burmese dishes.

At S$7.70 each, the South Indian and Briyani Poori sets were the most expensive items on the menu. Both include a Coke but the real thing here has got to be a cup of masala chai, right? I had it replaced, of course.

It was a wise choice to select two different sets as both came with distinctive dips and curries. With the South Indian set, I got my usual rasam, thairu, chutney and payasam as dessert. The Briyani Poori set came with chickpeas and dhal curries. A mix and match of the sauces with both the white and spiced rice was a complete meal by itself. A flavourful and complementary one at that, although the briyani could do better with a more generous dash of salt and spices. Pooris (yes, they came in twos!) were served hot and fragrant. Colourful, cooked vegetables lined the side of the South Indian set and I found the carrot/pumpkin stir-fry the most interesting as it was mostly sweet. Oh, there was even a cabbage salad which I almost mistaken for a coleslaw! That was good too.

Being fastfood means it is mass produced and that taste will be generic. But it’s another story when it’s generically good. Ahhh.....

Look at it this way; how many times have we been unhappy with the same favourite burgers from the same favourite fastfood chains? Almost never, right? Ok, let’s not get into the shrinkage issue lah.

Komala’s cool simply because the food is nice and comforting, especially the South Indian Set. With a menu that boosts a few staple snacks and pulaos, I think I might just be back here again soon.

Ok, right after I try the Burmese charp farn.

Komala's Restaurant
111 North Bridge Road
# B1-07C Peninsula Plaza,
Singapore 179098,
Telephone: (+65) 63335644.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Madras Café

We love our Italian (more specifically, Porto Romano at Mont Kiara). And Chinese as well. You can say that we are a gluttonous family. But we do have disagreements come dinner time. With momma around, Indian food is out of the question (although she wouldn’t mind a piece of roti canai with dhal curry or thosai for supper) while dad will avoid the famous fried chicken like the plague. And they can count me out with everything durian. Pretty much dysfunctional, aren’t we? Now, pass us the quattro stagioni pizza.

There came last Sunday when momma had dinner plans.

Indian rice!

We jubilated, in Cantonese.

The initial plan was to check out Indian Kitchen at Bangsar but traffic can get really congested at dinner time. Instead, dad suggested our usual stall next to St. James Kindergarten along Jalan Ipoh, not far from the Sentul police station. As much as I love the food there, I thought we would be better off checking out a more special place since we don’t get to do this often. So, came my idea of revisiting Madras Café, which is a few hundred metres away from St. James.

Just the location itself brought back some good old memories. As kids, my friends and I would peek into the Sri Dhandayuthanapani temple right across the café, from the overhead bridge. Between the grills, we were able to an interesting variety of birds, including peacocks, housed in temple’s garden. Most of my childhood friends got their primary education from the school (of the same name) next to the temple. I was one of the rare ones to have gained admission into a missionary school. And when the first air-conditioned minimarket starting running somewhere behind the café, we would be there everyday. Just the purchase of some cheap ice cream sticks or chewing gum would make us happy. It’s the LED and beeping of the cashier machine that intrigued us more (until the day we discovered barcode scanners). I can go on and on about this place but well, let’s just focus on the café for now.

It’s one of the oldest Indian restaurants in this area. According to dad, it was a favourite lunch spot among the workers at the KTM station in Sentul. As the years progressed, the restaurant was upgraded and had even installed an air-conditioning system. The façade we see today is rather classy, with the erection of a stall selling Indian snacks and mee goreng. Somehow, the bright and loud Mathura’s (a large Indian convenience store) had silenced the presence of Madras Café.

Ask any of my Indian classmates and they’ll rave about this restaurant. The poor students that we were could only afford to dine here on special occasions. Ever hungry, our arm-length banana leaves were often topped with a mountain of white rice. And we would flood it with free flowing curried gravies. But now that we’ve started making a decent living, we can’t afford the time. Nor the occasion.

I’ve noticed changes on the night of our visit. It was quieter, as compared to a decade ago where the streets would be filled with small eateries and loud Tamil or Hindi music. Instead of locals, there are now groups of foreign workers mingling around the area.

Smilingly, the staff who attended to us offered to reheat the some of the dishes. We cook it hot-hot again, he said. Indeed, the cabbage and potato cubes looked steaming hot on our banana leaves. We started off with our favourite amuse bouche of all time, rasam. Then, small plates of pre-ordered dishes started filling up the table. They should have refried the peria and cauliflower as well because the batter was already rather soggy, despite the good taste. I should compliment the mutton varuval for its spiciness. And when served with a slight smoky taste (which I have no idea where it came from), was ambrosia personified. Wish I could say the same about the chicken varuval though. When the white rice stopped pouring, came a big splash of chicken curry to bind them all with a spicy, aromatic flavour.

They said it was a special cup of masala chai. Well, perhaps they thought that I had never tasted masala chai before. Nevertheless, it was a good cup of tea, with just the right proportion of cardamon, ginger and sugar.

On a Saturday night, it was rather empty. But business can't be bad, judging from the generously wide range of dishes on display. The café must be catering more to the lunch crowd, I guess. The meal cost us about RM28, which was more expensive that our usual banana leaf rice set. Then again, with ambiance of nothing less than of a café (complete with air-conditioning), it was worth the revisit. Think of it this way; just a plate of spaghetti carbonara will cost one more than RM10 these days.

If it's all about bonding over good food, then we had celebrated this year's Father's Day at Madras Café.

Happy Father's Day.

Madras Café
(Next to Mathura's, before turning into Jalan Kovil Hilir at the traffic light)
Jalan Ipoh
Batu 3
51200 Kuala Lumpur.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 42): Where Lunch Is Lunches

Did I just smell truffle?

Japanese tomato, vanilla bean foam and fava beans.

Cold angel hair pasta, topped with Oscietra caviar.

Poached white asparagus, Bouchot mussels and dressed in Hollandaise sauce.

Oven roasted Côte de Boeuf with Bordelaise sauce.

Fine apple tart a la dragées, rum raisin ice-cream.

It was love at first scent, the cold pasta. The truffle oil coat was invigorating, to say the least. And when served with caviar for that tinge of salt and bubbly texture, it was gorgeousness with every bite. I think I wiped the plate clean with some bread. This will be the dish to come back for. Take away the Bordelaise sauce and the Côte de Boeuf will still be good. A sprinkling of salt enhanced the flavour of the roast, complete with slight aromatic char.

Chef Gunther had prepared a 4-course menu for this event, the annual food bloggers lunch. At S$45 nett, it was a good deal. Just look at their online menu and you'll know what I mean. A privilege indeed, especially when signature dishes were served, like the cold pasta and tart.

Lunch was fun, to say the least. I got to meet many new faces whom I've came to know through blogs and spent some good time catching up with my usual eating kakis. Oh, I should not forget the endless talks on photography as well.

Thank you very much, LadyIronChef and Haute Stuff for the wonderful time. It takes a lot of effort and time to organize an event of this scale. Great lucky draw gifts as well!

It would've been a waste to not check out other eateries along Purvis Street. We were such slutty gluttons. Haha! Hence, the second lunch of the lunches with Camemberu, KeropokMan and Momo, HungryCow and Ivan.

We decided on chicken rice as it was a more substantial choice and Chin Chin is, afterall, a restaurant with history. So, that's very cool.

Half black, half white, said the aunty in Hokkien which literally translated to roasted and poached chicken in half, each. I enjoyed the black as it was more flavourful. The winner has got to be the mutton stew in claypot. Tender pieces of meat cooked in a reduction that came with a hint of five-spice powder. The only disappointment for me was the Hokkien Mee which seemed confusing and very much salty. Neither the prawn version nor KL-style, it really reminded me of Hainanese noodle!

I think we spent a good hour or two at Chin Chin, talking about good (and bad) food and well, food-related subjects. Like geography. It was a great second lunch of lunches, definitely.

Good times like these should be made more often.

36 Purvis Street #01-03
Singapore 188613
Tel: (+65) 63388955

19 Purvis Street
Singapore 188598
Tel: (+65) 63374640

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 41): And Forever More, That's How You'll Stay...

Lianne was one of the earliest people I met at my first gathering of bloggers back in December 2007. Together with a few other foodies, the excited we just kept on talking about food until the organizers had kindly requested us to take our seats. I remember her speaking of her boyfriend, whom was still accustoming to the Asian palate and their plan to drop by Singapore the year after. And what was I to do when I hear the word Singapore? I gave her a list of my favourite restaurants in town, of course. We didn’t meet up though, as I was back in Kuala Lumpur for the Lunar New Year celebration.

In between potlucks and gatherings, I’ve read about her travels to Germany to meet her boyfriend and their wonderful trips across Europe. One can only be happy and envious at the same time. Haha! News of an engagement and subsequently, a marriage, came not long after.

On the way to their wedding dinner at Hilton KL Sentral, I jokingly told Lyrical Lemongrass of my expectation of weddings these days. The presentations, songs, themes and food. How interesting it will be to have an Indian lunch reception and Malay cuisine for dinner, I suggested. Well, if there is ever one such, please invite me.

At the Munich table (yes, they named the tables after some of the most famous cities in Germany), there were jokes, pokes and everything fun. Well, one can or should expect nothing less than that at a table full of food-loving bloggers. It was definitely a good reunion of friends, some whom I’ve not seen in a long time.

And there was music. No, nothing boyband nor Celine Dion. Katie Melua’s cool Nine Million Bicycles kicked off the wedding while Nat King Cole’s serenading L.O.V.E. and David Tao’s soulful 月亮代表谁的心 accompanied the video presentations.

The dishes that night were exquisite. I can still remember the deep-fried chicken with lemon sauce/sesame seeds and the fragrant fried rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaf. The sticky rice tasted even more interesting when Nigel told us to coat it with chopped scallion. In between, there were beers (which Fatboybakes and I totally dug), proseccos and reds. As the dinner came to an end, Lianne supplied us with some delicious stroopwafels. To have the sweet Dutch snack with prosecco was awesome.

Ah, it’s everywhere, this thing called love. It brought about a deep sense of appreciation towards food and through it all, gathered those who share the same affection for deliciousness, before flourishing into a something special called friendship. And transcending oceans via fibre-optic cables, has united this wonderful couple whom used to live thousands of miles apart.

Congratulations, Lianne and Jürgen. Here’s wishing you both a blessed marriage and a wonderful life ahead.

Let there be you, let there be me
Let there be oysters under the sea
Let there be wind, an occasional rain
Chile con care, sparkling champagne.

Let there be birds to sing in the trees
Someone to bless me whenever I sneeze
Let there be cuckoos, a lark and a dove
But first of all, please let there be love.

- Let There Be Love, Nat King Cole -

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 40): A Slice Of Heaven

Go towards the light.....

.....where the clouds shine bright.

A blue invite.....

.....with a delicious tree in sight.

Just heavenly, you recite.....

.....and yearn for a big, big bite.

Of heaven.....

.....that comes in a slice.

A Slice of Heaven
(by Just Heavenly)
Jaya One
Blk E, B2
No. 72A Jalan Universiti
46200, Petaling Jaya

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tanjong Pagar Plaza (Food Market)

Back in March, I had the privilege of taking a few Fridays off work. And what better way to enjoy the days than to absorb in some lunchtime madness in a bustling hawker centre in the city area. Crazy? Maybe not. You see, it has always been my dream to work in the city and have good lunches like these. Yes, the confession of a factory worker from an industrial park that’s miles away from convenience and food...good food, that is.

Chaos and humidity rule hawker centres come lunchtime. Despite all that, the corporate figures queuing up for a bowl of fish soup still look stunning, complete with scented cosmetics and super heels. Did I just find myself another reason to move to the city?

Lunching with the professionals is quite cool. It’s just like some scenes in Grey’s Anatomy or The Practice (I think it has ended its run on television...what a pity). They talk of numbers and terms that are almost as strange to me as Spock. Yet, it’s engaging. And again, so cool.

Perhaps the only uncool part was me in my slippers and shorts. Oh, and a disfigured plastic bag (I call it my camera bag) that my friends absolutely loathed.

Fish soup and yam rice from #02-37

Char Kway Teow from #02-52

Claypot Rice from #02-28

Hokkien Prawn Mee from #02-49

Wanton Mee from #02-33

Simply delicious. That’s how I'd describe the food here, in general. My favourite has got to be the fish soup served and more importantly, cooked in a claypot where the broth spoke of clarity and sweetness. And to have it with a bowl of yam rice, good lunch indeed. Surprisingly, we came to like char kway teow as well. Almost glowing simultaneously, we believed we’ve found yet another stall that offers the savoury and dry type of stir-fried rice noodles. A charfully delicious one, at that.

If you ever have extra time to spare after lunching at the food market, drop by Dessert Hut (a few shops away from the market) for some good sweets before heading back to the office. I came in with the highest degree of skepticism but left a convert. And all it took was a bowl of yam paste with black glutinous rice. Optimally sweet and mostly smooth, the bowl of goodness (complete with ginkgo nuts) got me initiating a visit on my second trip to the food market.

Back in the workplace, the post-lunch hours can get rather dreamy. So, this is when the second cup of coffee kicks in, I guess.

Click here for the map.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 39): The Season Of Love (For Bak Zhang)

Without fail, a colleague would place a bak zhang or rice dumpling on my desk come a few days before the Duan Wu Festival. For those of us who feed on the Gregorian calendar, her bak zhangs serve as a reminder of yet another approaching Chinese celebration.

This year, there was none. I guess the weather must have taken a toll on her health. And for obvious reasons, I didn’t approach her on this matter. Therefore, the arrival of my favourite Chinese festival came almost unnoticed. At the time of realization, I was already ten bak zhangs late, according to my calendar of gluttony.

So, what did I do to make it up to myself? I rushed to get a foie gras rice dumpling from Pine Court, Meritus Mandarin Hotel. Alas, despite my willingness to splurge and clog my arteries with fat, they were sold out for the day. At the counter, the apologetic staff recommended their new creation, the Dong Po Pork Rice Dumpling instead. Okay, that sounded pretty good too. Nothing can go wrong with a slab of pork belly. Not even ice cream! Just kidding, folks.

The exterior itself was pretty interesting. The layers of lotus and bamboo leaves wrap provided both protection and extra fragrance.

The look of love.

Whether it’s served with white rice or steamed buns or glutinous rice, the keyword to good dong po pork is a flavourful marinate. Personally, I like mine salty, with a dash of Chinese rice wine. This one was on the sweet side, but tasty still. The pretty slab of belly gave good feeling with every bite of the fatty layer. Chestnuts added extra sweetness while mushroom cuts gave some complementing woodsy aroma. I’ve not had such smooth glutinous rice in a long time. Rather substantial and I would equate this to perhaps a plate of chicken rice (with an extra bowl of rice). Satisfied but could have been better had the dumpling been saltier and loaded with more ingredients.

On a lighter note, ever wondered why no love ballad was written about rice dumplings or the Duan Wu Festival? I guess it’s just not as romantic as the cool, mid-autumn nights or the bright, full moon lah.

Homemade dumplings rule. The ingredients used are personalised to suit the tastebuds of one. Scout around and you might just find one that can satisfy your specific needs of a rice dumpling. I found mine (okay, mum did, actually). Though not a perfect match, it was sufficiently good. Literally homemade and more importantly, salty! The meat was on the lean side (hence the slight imperfection) but the hours of steaming had melted the lard, making the pyramidal construction rather aromatic and oily smooth. Extra salt came from the fried, dried shrimps and salted egg while pasty mung beans gave it a slight sweetness.

I had this for breakfast last Saturday. With a bowl of homemade, sweet red bean soup; cooked with ginkgo nuts and lotus seeds. A fantastic combination that made the humid heat slightly more bearable.

And I haven’t talked about those dainty alkaline dumplings dipped in kaya yet!

A season of love indeed.