Friday, November 30, 2007

Redhill Market Food Centre

What's good in the food centre next to the Redhill Market? As with any other eateries, the queue will (usually) provide a good indication. As I browsed through the many rows of stalls in this bustling hawker centre on a Friday evening, a few caught my attention (with the long queues, of course).

One of them was Redhill Curry Rice. Situated in the front row, facing the main road (Redhill Close), the queue seemed endless. Service was efficient despite the numbered workers. Who would have though that a simple stall with a simple name (and a worn out signboard) that serves mixed rice can attract such a huge crowd? It has to be the food, good food, I convinced myself as I joined in the queue. The array of dishes to complement the white rice seemed aplenty and diversed, ranging from stir-fried cabbage to braised pork belly to omelette. However, all looked rather simple to me.

I chose the pork in curry sauce, fried pork fillet and a sunny side up egg. The slices of pork in curry were smooth and tender. The onions added crunchiness and sweetness to the curry sauce. The breaded fried pork fillet was crispy as it came straight off the wok. There was no hint of marinate in the thinly sliced fillet but was still rather flavourful, perhaps due to the freshness of the fillet. Apparently, everyone orders this fillet. The main attraction was the extra curry gravy that topped the whole ensemble. Eventhough there was neither overwhelming amount of coconut milk nor pungent aroma of curry spices, it was still very interesting. The magic lies in the gooey texture of this Chinese-style curry, which complemented the fluffy white rice very well. However, to me, the best ingredient on my plate was the free-of-charge, tad spicy sambal or chili paste. It was the sweetness that aroused my palate. The sweetness came from the generous amount of finely chopped onions added to the sambal, which also gave it an extra crunch. For S$3.30, there was nothing that I could complain about.

Another stall that was generating a long queue was Bak Kee Teochew Satay Bee Hon. Now, this dish was something new to me. Eventhough they serve other dishes such as cuttlefish & kangkung, it’s the satay bee hoon that keeps the crowd thronging in. Feeling rather gastronomically adventurous that evening, I joined in the queue too. From the display, I could see the many ingredients that will be included in the satay bee hon such as cuttlefish, tau pok (fried beancurd), kangkung (water spinach), pork and my personal favourite, cockles! Two men were in-charged of poaching and assembling the ingredients while another man took orders. Service was efficient and without realising it, I was already second in line.

One sip of the sweet and mildly spiced gravy revealed an amazingly rich taste that made up of mainly sesame seeds and peanuts. Definitely pleasing, but personally, I would have preferred a less dense taste as I would also want to taste the other ingredients. Despite the many fresh ingredients thrown into the dish, I found some of them quite unnecessary such as pork liver and pork slices. The cuttlefish was also rather tough while the kangkung was so minimal, it was almost non-existent. I love the cockles as it was cooked just right. That explained the toughness/rawness of the cuttlefish as all the raw ingredients were poached simultaneously. Cuttlefish needs more time to cook. Despite the grouses, it was quite an interesting dish with lots of flavours and textures. By the way, I chose the large portion which cost S$3.00.

I could only afford to eat that much in a night. I even scrapped the plan to make my doughnut debut at Donut Factory (Raffles City) after that. The good news is, there are still many interesting unexplored stalls, which also generated long queues. Looking forward to the dessert, fried radish cake and fish ball noodles stalls!

Redhill Curry Rice
Redhill Lane Block 85 Food Centre
85, Redhill Lane (S)150085

Bak Kee Teochew Satay Bee Hon
Redhill Lane Block 85 Food Centre
85, Redhill Lane (S)150085

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Crystal Jade La Mian @ Lot 10

Of all the la mian (pulled handmade noodles) restaurants around, Crystal Jade is perhaps the one that I frequent the most, be it in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. There are many reasons to that, but the most important reason is the consistent quality of the la mian and certain pastries.

It all started in 2004 with a try-out session with a Japanese ex-colleague who was hooked on the chicken soup la mian. That surprised me as this guy has, afterall, consumed more ramen in his life than my fair share of salt (how much more can I exaggerate!). The la mian must be quite a "something", I told myself. When it opened its first outlet in the once-hip Lot 10, I brought my folks (the "Gordon Ramsay"s in the family) to sample the food. Again, I was surprised that even they acknowledged the la mian and the radish pastry.

Fast forward to two Sundays ago, I revisited Crystal Jade before a walk in the Pavilion, which by the way, is overflowing with lots of exciting restaurants. Silly me? Well, not a bad decision, I thought.

The la mians were as usual, al dente and refined, with a hint of flour fragrance. However, the soup for the Sichuan Style La Mian RM12) tasted slightly bitter and burnt, despite the generous amount of sesame and peanuts which provided an interesting texture. Perhaps the sesame and peanuts were over-toasted.

The soup for the Hot and Sour Soup La Mian (RM12) tasted tangy, with the right amount of heat (for me). Shredded pork and mushroom added extra flavour and texture to the ensemble. Appetising, as usual.

A dish which I have not tried before was the Sliced Noodle In Beef Stew (RM13). The first impression of this dish was the generous amount of ingredients. The tendons were wonderfully smooth and soft. Personally, I would have preferred the tendons slightly overcooked to enjoy that melt-in-mouth collagen experience. The well-cooked slices of beef (I'm guessing it's flank) were soft and flaky. A sip of the stew revealed a rich beef stock with a faint hint of five spice herbs. The chopped scallion and cilantro added extra texture and a freshly contrasting taste to the soup. Let's not forget the al dente and consistently sized sliced noodle which reminded me of the thick pan mee (flour noodle), only shorter.

Next, dumplings galore. The Xiao Long Bao or pork dumpling with melted lard (RM 8 for 4 pieces) was well-flavoured, as usual. The "soup" was clear and sweet. The skin was thin, much to everyone's delight. I do not know how to explain this, but despite the good quality, I felt it still lacked in subtlety or refinement (in taste) as compared to Din Tai Fung's version. The Pork and Vegetable Wanton Soup (RM10) was pale in comparison with the Xiao Long Bao. It was rather bland but was compensated by the generous amount of minced pork, which was also quite fresh, by the way. The greens added texture and colour to the wantons. A pragmatic way to further enjoy the wanton (to me) was to eat it with the julienned ginger and black vinegar from the Xiao Long Bao.

Another interesting dish that made it's debut on my "tried-that" list was the Minced Pork With Rice Cracker (RM16) combination. The dish was called "ants climbing up the tree" in Chinese. I'm guessing it's due to the small bits of rice that resemble ants. Metaphor aside, it was basically crispy rice cracker with dipping. The dipping consisted of minced pork drenched in a sweet and sour sauce. Interesting idea despite an uninteresting taste.

The Radish Pastry (RM7 for 3 pieces) convinced us that the visit was worthwhile. The savoury and soft grated radish wrapped in crispy and aromatic pastry skin never failed to whip up our appetite. A word of caution: the filling is hot. What made it the champion among all the available versions is the refined taste and texture. Enough said.

The finale came in the form of Souffle of Egg White Ball (RM9 for 3 pieces). The warm red bean paste and banana slices filling was sweet with a hint of banana scent but was not evenly distributed when the souffle was halved. The souffle skin was soft and the icing sugar added extra sweetness to the dessert.

Chinese Tea cost RM2 per person (unlimited serving). The meal for 4 cost RM113.85 including an uninitiated towel costing RM1 each.

Another satisfying meal at Crystal Jade despite a few glitches. We were so full that an earlier plan to visit Bisou was postponed. Though I've been here a couple of times, I have yet to try the rice and stir-fried dishes. But for now, the grass looks greener on the other side.

Crystal Jade La Mian and Xiao Long Bao
R2, Lot 10
50, Jalan Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-2148 2338

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Baskin Robbins @ The Curve

A short post on the visit to Baskin Robbins (as suggested by KF and KFF) after our karaoke session at Red Box, The Curve.

I have not visited this ice cream joint in years! Though not an ice cream lover myself, I do enjoy a fruity gelato from Lecka Lecka once in a while, especially on a hot day.

Each of us had a single cup ice cream (4 oz) at RM6.90. Kim added chocolate chips topping at RM1.00.

My pumpkin and cheese (if I recall correctly) tasted rich (from the cream and cheese) but there was not even a faint taste of pumpkin despite the chewable pumpkin bits.

I must apologise for not remembering the names of the ice cream as we were busy chatting away. Goes to show that the conversation was more interesting than the dessert.

However, we did come to a unanimous conclusion.
The ice cream was VERY VERY sweet. Too sweet, in fact.

Baskin Robbins
Lot No. G51
Ground Floor, The Curve
Tel: +603-7710 9331

the apartment

Almost everyone talked about "the apartment" a few months back. An interesting concept, I must say. But the feedback on the food was not very encouraging, though. To confirm this, I paid this eatery a visit last Saturday afternoon, before another self-indulging session of karaoke at Red Box.

Together with Jason and Kim, we had lunch in the "bathroom" of "the apartment". The setting was really modern and smart. The cool sounds of the likes of Jamie Cullum filled the air. Great ambiance for those weekend catching-ups. The chairs left much to be desired though, as they were basically school chairs painted white. I certainly would not buy them for my apartment.

Settings aside, a glance at the clipboard menu revealed a wide range of starters, mains and desserts (mostly western and fusion fares). Quite impressive actually, judging from the descriptions of the dishes. Taste wise?

I ordered the Chicken In A Bag (RM18.90) without hesitation as it was one of the more well-known dishes offered here. A lazy man dish, I called it as it was basically chicken breast and vegetables cooked in cream. In a bag, of course. Despite the unfriendly comment, the dish turned out quite well, I must say. Once the aluminum foil bag was cut (done by the helpful waiter), steam unravelled. Though looked unorganised, a sip of the gravy revealed a rich tasting cream, decorated with whole grain mustard. A more generous amount of mustard would have been appreciated as the richness of the cream can be overwhelming at times. The vegetables, which included julienned leeks, cannelioni beans and new potato pieces added distinctive texture and flavour to the dish. I enjoyed the leek the most as it was not too pungent nor chewy. A very English dish (to me, at least). Bread for dipping the cream sauce would have been wonderful too.

Jason had Andrew's Pasta (RM14.90). A rather simple dish with linguine and pesto tossed together and mixed with sauteed new potatoes and asparagus. Despite the al dente linguine, Jason was rather displeased with the blandness of the pesto sauce. And I don't know who Andrew was.

Kim's Baked Fish (RM19.90) looked simple. Baked dory topped with cherry tomatoes with gratin of mozzarella and parmesan with saute new potatoes was how the menu described this dish. The taste was simple as well. The dory tasted fresh but the ensemble did not excite tastebuds. The sides of potatoes and arugula were, well, just sides.

We also ordered lemonade (RM6.50) and earl grey tea (RM6.50). No desserts for us though, as we didn't want to stuff ourselves before the karaoke session.

Serving of food was quite slow (more than the supposedly 15 minutes length) but the waiters/waitresses and their supervisors were quite friendly and attentive. By the way, this eatery is currently promoting their new weekend breakfast menu.

Perhaps expectations were too high. Perhaps only simplistic dishes are cooked in real apartments. Or perhaps the food was just rather plain in taste.

the apartment
Lot 72, 73 & 74
152 Ground Floor
Western Courtyard
The Curve.
Tel: +603-7727 8330

Friday, November 23, 2007

Choi Kee @ Kepong

Everything was a blur to me. A few minutes ago, I was still in dreamland, having an intimate moment with my maguro sashimi and I was about to devour it. Then, came the wake-up call! Talk about timing. It was a cloudy Saturday morning and I was brought to an old coffee shop in Kepong for breakfast.

Then, a whiff of cham (mixture of coffee and tea) immediately perked me up. Situated somewhere behind the old Selangor Omnibus Station, this place wouldn't have attracted anyone except the locals. You can see old folks chatting away, school childen having breakfast with their parents and working adults reading newspapers while sipping their coffee. I really enjoyed the atmosphere! A far cry from my usual mornings.

Choi Kee was the name of the only noodle stall (the only stall, in fact) in the coffee shop. My aunt told me that this was one of the better noodles stalls in the area and that we should give it a try.

Since we were having breakfast al fresco and the weather was cool, my folks decided to have the spicy curry noodles. For RM3.00, it was quite a steal as there was a generous amount of ingredients like char siew (sweet roasted pork), beansprouts, fried beancurd skin or fu chuk and the lovely cockles! The char siew was sweet and tender but there was nothing to shout about. As for the curry, the richness of the coconut milk and spiciness were well-controlled. Simple and hearty.

Next came my dry pork noodles (RM3). When it comes to the dry version, wanton noodles aside, I prefer the combination of bee hoon (rice vermicelli) and kuey teow (flat rice noodles). I guess I really like the contrasting taste between the blandness of these 2 types of noodles (with a hint of rice fragrance) and the sweet & savoury dark soya sauce. Choi Kee's version of pork noodles was simple. A bowl of noodles dressed in dark soya sauce with a dash of lard oil, garnished with scallion and fried onions. What made the dish so special was the addition of siu cheong (literally translated as roasted intestines) which was actually sausage filled with minced pork, marinated with a sweet sauce. Sweetness was well-controlled with a hint of smokiness to boost. The meat was tender and the tiny bits of lard added extra flavour and texture (not forgetting LDL). The sausage was definitely one of the best I have tasted in a long time as it was not bitter nor hard. The pork balls on the other hand, were not impressive as it tasted rather bland and soft.

The soup version (RM3) did not deviate too much from the dry type. Same ingredients were used. And again, the sausage outshone the rest.

A discovery worth waking up for but I would not recommend this place to those who are not residing in this area. I'm sure there are similar pork noodle stalls in your neighbourhood. But then again, I'm not too sure as the normal portion only cost RM3.00 here. All I can say is, lucky me!

Also, please note that I have paid for additional slices of sausage for both the dry and soup types (as shown in the pictures). The normal portion should have less slices. I'm a glutton.

Here's a map of the approximate whereabout. I can't be sure as this place is currently under rapid development (Metro Prima) and the map was not updated at streetdirectory at the time of post. Morning blurness didn't help much either. I'll try to get better bearings later.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wanton Noodles @ Jalan Gelugor, Klang

It was still very early after the meal at Teluk Pulai and would be such a waste if we just returned to KL without exploring other parts of Klang. Cousin Andy was quick to suggest a light meal at Jalan Gelugor, off Jalan Meru. This is where a plate of heavenly wanton noodles can be found, according to him.

Situated at the cross junction between Jalan Gelugor and Jalan Kepayang, this stall was as discreet as it could get. There was no signboard and the number of tables and chairs were visibly limited. I wouldn't have known that it serves wonderful wanton noodles if it was not for my cousin. No sign of customers yet. Perhaps it was still early, I thought. It was afterall, 11.00 am. We were told to come back at 11.30 am when the stall was ready for business. After a few directionless rounds within the vicinity, we made it back to the stall 30 minutes later.

To my surprise, all the tables were already occupied! There were even cars parked adjacent to the stall, waiting for their take out! This has got to be good! We managed to share a tiny table by the stove and quickly placed our order. Apparently, this stall only offers the dry type of wanton noodles and comes in 2 sizes: normal or large. The normal version cost RM3.90. I heard the large version costs a whopping RM9! Well, if it's worthwhile, why not?

While waiting for the noodles, we had sugar cane juice, which was quite refreshing and much needed as it was really hot that afternoon.

A glimpse at the condiments revealed a simple choice of preserved green chilies besides the must-have soya sauce. Unlike the generic withered-green type, the chilies here were fresh and sweet, with the right amount of tanginess.

It took quite awhile for the food to arrive as there was only one cook and he seemed to be in charge of the whole cooking process. The noodles finally arrived looking rather simple. Was it worth the wait? Well, the char siew (roasted pork) was visually uninteresting and tasted bland too. Texture-wise, it was quiet tender. The wanton came in the size of a slightly larger 10 cents coin! The taste was good though and reminded me of miniature siu mai (pork dumpling-dim sum style). The wanton skin was smooth and thin. It could have been better if flatfish was added to the minced meat. I guess the dainty size was a strategy used by the boss to tease his customers so that they'll eventually return to satisfy their craving. The noodles, well, the noodles was definitely one of the best I've had in a very long time! Fine, silky smooth, aromatic and cooked al dente, it was almost perfect! There was also no hint of alkaline water in the noodles. We wanted to buy some home but was told the noodle was not for sale. On the other hand, the sauce was a total letdown as it was basically a mixture of dark & light soya sauce and oil. Bring on some lard or sesame oil, I'd say!

A pleasant visit, nonetheless. The noodle was really impressive! The crowd (mainly locals) can't be wrong.

Here's the location of the stall.

Teluk Pulai Bak Kut Teh

How would I describe a PERFECT Sunday morning? Laying in bed until 11 am (tired from the usual Saturday night out) and start off the day (half, actually) with a good brunch, read the newspaper for awhile, and head back to dreamland once more. But then again, that’s just wishful thinking. When I’m back in KL, Sunday mornings are spent packing for the later trip back to Singapore.

Last Sunday, there was a slight change in plan though. Due to the overwhelmingly lack of bus tickets these few months (we all know why) and the end of the long weekend, bus tickets to Singapore were sold out the week before and the only available resort was the midnight bus. That means I’ll be going back to work on Monday with a “cooler than thou” junkie look while proclaiming that panda eyes are the next IN thing after doughnuts.

Pathetic stories aside, it was a blessing in disguise as I was able to join Cousin Andy for Bak Kut Teh (pork in herbal soup) in Klang! According to him, Teluk Pulai is one of the most celebrated Bak Kut Teh restaurants in the area. So, we had to get up quite early (there goes one half of my PERFECT Sunday) as it was quite a distance from our residence in KL and the fact that this place gets very crowded with meat worshippers, especially on weekends.

By the time we arrived around 9.45 am, the restaurant was already packed to the brim. Despite the chaos, service was attentive and the courteous lady boss (I presumed) assured us that we will be seated as soon as a table is available. About 20 minutes later, we managed to secure our seats at a rather cosy corner in the restaurant.

Since we came with empty stomachs, orders were quickly placed. The typical yau char gwai (deep fried dough) was served, as a starter. Though not too oily, the skin was not crispy and the fried dough was not aromatic. On the other hand, the herbal soup to soak the fried dough was rather flavourful. There was a burst of flavours from the five-spice powder, Chinese angelica and soya sauce.

While waiting for the rest of the dishes, we brewed ourselves a pot of warm and soothing Chinese Tea with tea leaves courtesy of an aunt of mine. I could only identify the tea as a superior "high mountain" breed from China.

It didn't take long before 2 bowls of spare ribs were served. The meat was tender and I must say it came in quite a generous portion. The soup tasted rich and was similar to the one served with the fried dough, only sweeter, thanks to the juice from the meat and the bone marrow. The fluffy rice went well with the soup.

We also had the braised chicken feet. The succulent feet were firm with a touch of elasticity, thanks to the collagen content. The deep fried layer of skin was quite aromatic and tasted sweet, most probably due to the infusion of the braising herbal stock. Though a good choice, I personally preferred the soft, almost overcooked type of chicken feet.

Last came the signature Claypot Bak Kut Teh, which was served pipping and topped with crisphead. Being a Hokkien-styled Bak Kut Teh, the sweet, refreshing dark brown coloured soup was again, rich with five-spice powder, Chinese angelica and soya sauce. Where's the cilantro, by the way? But the star of the dish has got to be the parts of the unfortunate pig, each part contributing a different texture and taste to the dish. The pork belly was soft and (for the daring ones) the layer of fat was aromatic and slightly springy. The stomach was smooth and tender, much to everyone's delight. The soya sauce soaked bird eye chilies complemented the bland stomach well. I personally enjoyed the intestines the most. Honestly, I have not had such huge intestines in a very long time. The well-cooked pieces were soft and flavourful. It was also quite aromatic and did not leave an unpleasant smell that most intestines exhibit. Since I was quite excited about this dish, I didn't snap as much photo as I should. In fact, I only took 1 shot.

The breakfast cost us RM78.70 (for 6 pax). A commendable price considering the generous portions and the fact that each of us had 2 plates of rice! I should also note that the pork used was very fresh too.

All the dishes were flavourful and we didn't suffer one of those after-meal-MSG-thirst effect. As much as I enjoyed the meal, I thought it lacked in subtlety. It could have tasted even better with the addition of cilantro, black peppercorn and cloves of garlic. Well, at least I have enjoyed the other half of a PERFECT Sunday with a good brunch!

Teluk Pulai Claypot Bak Kut Teh
32, Jalan Batai Laut 5, Kaw. 16
Taman Intan, 41300 Klang
Tel: +603-33445196, +6012-2389806, +6012-6571236 (Mr. Ng)

Basil Leaf Restaurant

It was getting late and we were hungry and slightly lost. Eventhough Anthony had been to this restaurant recently, we still required some time to get our bearings right. The dark and empty roads were not very helpful either. Personally, I wouldn't have thought that there are clusters of restaurants in this quiet part of Ampang. As we turned into Jalan Damai, we began to see dimly lit bungalows with signboards. Those must be restaurants, we reassured ourselves.

Call me artistically-declined, but for whatever reason there was, the Basil Leaf Restaurant signboard was so poorly lit, we passed by once without noticing it. A sigh of relief when we found the place. Ample parking spaces were available and I was surprised to see how quiet this place was on a Saturday night.

As we entered the facade, soothing sounds of flowing water and beautifully landscaped IndoChine-inspired garden welcomed our arrival. The al-fresco dining area was even more impressively decorated with zen-inspired statues, stones and colourful lotuses. The Chinaman in me was reluctant to dine al-fresco at first, as we do pay for the air-conditioning afterall. Since the majority wanted to enjoy the humid and exotic outdoor ambiance, I had to give in.

The beverage menu was quite extensive, ranging from generic soft drinks to exotic concoctions to wine. We had the Orange Juice (RM12), Coconut Juice (RM8), Lemongrass Juice (RM7) and a bottle of 1.5 litre Eau Claire (RM6!).

As for the food, this Siam/IndoChine themed restaurant boosted a diversed array of dishes, ranging from the typical Thai dishes such as Tom Yam and Pineapple Fried Rice to rarer delicacies such as Grilled Beef with Laotian Sauce.

We started off with the Mieng Kam (RM16), a do-it-yourself Thai snack where flavourful ingredients such as minced garlic & shallots, chopped bird eye chili and lemongrass, diced lime, crushed peanuts and dried shrimps are wrapped with betel leaves and topped with a special chili paste. The ingredients were quite fresh but I expected crunchy dried shrimps instead of the soft type and toasted peanuts too. The chili paste was a tad too sweet for my palate, perhaps due to the overuse of brown sugar. There was also a slight hint of dried prawn paste.

Next came the Prawn and Crabmeat Cake (RM18). The breaded and deep-fried cakes were springy and sweet. I'm not sure how they managed to mince the meat to such refined texture, but it sure tasted rather artificial, somehow. I would have preferred the cake with bits of prawn flesh thrown in, for the extra texture. The complementing sauce was optimally sweet with a touch of savouriness. I'm guessing it's honey with a dash of soya sauce or nam pla (fish sauce). Not impressive.

The Thai Pineapple Fried Rice was rather bland, despite the generous amount of ingredients such as chili, scallion and pineapple. The pineapple was also quite raw, hence the lack of sweetness and fragrance in the fried rice. A letdown.

Our last main for the night was the Saigon Fresh Crystal Rolls with Fresh Prawns (RM16). This dish scored high with its presentation but merely passed the taste test. The skin was too thick while the overall ensemble tasted rather uninteresting, despite the freshness of the prawns, leading to the overbearing taste of the peppermint. The dipping chili sauce, which was savoury with a hint of dried seafood aroma, couldn't enhance the taste of the rolls.

We were looking forward to the desserts after the rather unimpressive mains. The Thai Mango with Sticky Rice (RM12) was perhaps the saving grace for the night. The hearty glutinous rice was soft and blended well with optimally ripe mango. A dressing of rich coconut milk added extra smoothness and aroma to the dessert.

The Water Chestnut and Jackfruit Concoction (RM10) was rather simple and unimpressive, despite the sweet and aromatic jackfruit used. Basically, It was just a combination of jackfruit, water chesnut, coconut milk and ruby & emerald coloured jellies. Nothing more, nothing less.

Last on the dessert list was the warm Vietnamese Tapioca Pearls with Honey Dew served in Coconut Milk. The dense and fragrant coconut milk absolutely empowered the overall taste. The honey dew, which came in a green puree-like form, was very mild (almost non-existent) in flavour. The tapioca pearls added extra texture but were basically tasteless.

The dinner cost us RM147.20 (3 pax). If you enjoy dining in an exotic contemporary setting with good service sans good food (really average at most), this is the place for you.

Basil Leaf Restaurant
35, Jalan Damai
Off Jalan Tun Razak
55000 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-2166 1689

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Marmalade Kafe (again!) @ Bangsar Village 2

Theory of relativity, law of attraction, chemistry, the black hole, karma, destiny, Chumbawamba, Kawabunga or whatever you call it, I am always drawn to Marmalade Kafe whenever I’m in Bangsar Village 2, even when I'm not looking for healthy, comfort food. It happens so naturally. This is my 5th visit to Bangsar Village 2 and 4th visit to Marmalade. Goosebumps? Personally, I have nothing against this lovely cafe and actually find some of the dishes like the Moroccan Lamb Shank and Carrot Cake very delicious. Ranked among the best in town (in my books, at least), if I have to be more specific. But no matter how great it is, I wouldn’t intentionally spend so many weekends visiting the same cafe and neglect other potentially great eateries, right?

This time around (last Saturday afternoon), I intended to pay SuChan a visit as I wanted to confirm if the Tiramisu is really the same as Alexis’, a thought that has been haunting me for awhile now. But as I entered the restaurant, I could feel a bad vibe and the waiter confirmed that by saying that they ran out of Tiramisu. Feeling rather disappointed (to put it mildly), I came out of the restaurant, wandered about the rather quiet mall and actually stopped right in front of Marmalade!

I surrendered to fate, but promised to make full use of my visit this time around. That means having other specialties besides the lamb shank.

I’ve tried the Sounds of Havana Salad (RM14-light portion) before but since I brought along a first-timer, I thought it was only appropriate to introduce this popular item. The salad, which consisted of mainly freshly cubed juicy red & yellow capsicums, pineapple & coconut salsa, tender chicken meat, haloumi (grilled cheese) and crisphead, was visually appetizing. Lets not forget the signature alfalfa sprouts topping too. A dressing of mustard vinaigrette was almost inconspicuous, an indication of the right amount of dressing applied to the salad. A dressing drenched salad can be a nightmare. A spoonful of the colourful mixture revealed an explosion of taste, including sweetness from the vegetables and pineapple, slight richness from the dressing and savouriness of the haloumi. Textures were also aplenty, thanks to the vegetables, grated coconut and chicken meat.

Next up was the Turkey Mushroom Quiche (RM16). I have heard so much about the quiche but somehow, never tried it before. The portion was quite huge, I must say. It was warm and filled with a generous serving of mushrooms and turkey ham. Though some might find it slightly bland due to the addition of milk in the egg mixture, I actually thought the savouriness was well-maintained, with a touch of freshness (from the milk) to boost. The only thing lacking, I thought, was a dash of freshly ground black pepper. The side greens, lightly dressed in balsamic vinegar, were commendably fresh.

Consistency was well-maintained in terms of the quality of the Carrot Cake (RM9 per slice). The generous amount of ingredients such as shredded carrots and walnuts contributed their distinctive aromas and textures to the cake. I can't be sure if butter was used, but the moistness of the cake (which was just right, by the way) suggested the replacement of butter with oil. The layer of cream cheese coating on the cake was rich and slightly tangy, a good contrast to the sweet cake. Decorations or not, the crushed nuts and pumpkin seeds gave the cake even more texture and flavour. The candied orange zest was a nice touch as it exhibited a totally contrasting taste and scent to the cake. A pleasurable dessert.

I must confess that despite all the hype about cupcakes (which is now so passe, due to the emergence of donuts), I have never had one before. Since I planned to order the right dishes at Marmalade this time around, I had myself my very first cupcake (with vanilla icing) at RM5.00. At first, I scraped away all the icing (how silly of me) and directly attacked the cake, which crumbled slightly as I took my first bite. Sensing the inappropriateness of the taste (bland, I guess), my sensible mind told me to apply the icing on the cake and eat it. And I was glad I did because it tasted so much better. The icing was not too sweet nor overpowered by the vanilla flavouring. Overall, the cupcake was alright for me, but not a dessert that I would have preferred.

The ladies seemed to have enjoyed their Homemade Tea at RM7 each. The Chrysanthemum Orange Tea was richly flavoured with both the ingredients while the Chamomile Lavender Tea was rather soothing. The unadventurous me had the Ice Lemon Tea (RM6). Sad to say, that was the only beverage I managed to take a snapshot.

We also bought a piece of Strawberry Friand (RM4) for supper. I didn't have a chance to taste it as Dad snacked on it a few hours later.

The bill came up to RM88.55 for 3 pax, including the friand.

Quiche, checked. Carrot Cake, checked. Sounds of Havana, checked. Cupcake, checked. Lamb shank, checked. Lamb kofta, checked. Other non-specialties, checked. Despite the healthy, comforting yet delicious dishes, I really hope that "fate" will lead me to other eateries when I visit Bangsar Village 2 again.

Do check out my first (more optimistic and obliviousness to "fate") review on Marmalade here.

Marmalade Kafe
Lot 1F-18, 1st Floor,Bangsar Village II,
2, Jalan Telawi 1, Bangsar Baru,
59100 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-22828301

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Paulaner Bräuhaus German Micro-Brewery Bar

Just a quick pre-Spageddies post.

Straight after dinner, we headed to Paulaner Bräuhaus for a quick beer fix before calling it a night. A good lager is always welcomed.

Ah Yew had the golden Munich Lager (S$ 14.50 - 0.5 litre), which was light and smooth with 4.7% alcohol content. A great finish for the night.

The rest, including myself, went for the more adventurous Munich Dark (S$12.50 - 0.3 litre), which like the name suggested, came in a golden dark brown hue. Apparently a Munich specialty, it was rich in malt flavour and creamy as well. Alcohol content: 4.8%. A lighter version of Guinness Stout but still a good brew, nonetheless.

Personally, I still prefer Asahi's super dry beer for its smoothness and taste.

This bar also serves other interesting beverages and food. Perhaps we should pay an official visit in the future.

Paulaner Bräuhaus Singapore
9 Raffles Boulevard,
Time² @ Millenia Walk,
Singapore 039596
For more information, visit:

Spageddies Italian Kitchen @ Marina Square

We were spoilt for choice.

Despite the countless restaurants/cafes/bistros/foodcourts in the City Hall/Marina Square/Suntec City areas, we found it hard to decide on THE perfect eatery on the night of Deepavali. Readers might be anticipating THE perfect eatery that we have chosen, but disappointingly, THE perfect one was finally decided based on the nearest walking distance from our point of exhaustion.

Perfect or not, Spageddies at Marina Square instantly greeted us with it's cosy Italian setting and smiling staff. I have been to the Paragon (Orchard) branch before and was not amused by the food at all. Despite the reassurance from my friends, I was prepared for the worst. Luckily I had Bak Chor Mee an hour ago, I told myself.

Browsing through the menu, Mikey was fast to order half a dozen of baked escargot or French Snails (S$8.50). I was surprised with the order and didn't expect much from it. This is afterall, an Italian restaurant. The relatively large snails turned out quite flavourful, albeit the slightly overcooked meat. The melted cheese, combined with finely chopped garlic provided a rich and aromatic flavour. Addition of herbs would have accentuated the taste and scent.

Next on the list was the Grilled Chicken Primavera (S$16.50). According to the menu (which included Katakana characters), this dish was voted by Excellent food Award on exceptional culinary skill and consistency in 2001 & 2002. Recognition aside, this dish was again, quite flavourful. The al dente spaghetti, was stir-fried with olive oil, heaps of garlic and chili flakes, I appreciate the well controlled usage of salt and the pungency of the garlic chopped. The addition of vegetables (including broccoli, cherry tomato, and carrot) and slices of tender wood-grilled chicken added texture and flavour to the spaghetti.

As the Seafood Sizzlelini (S$46.50, serves 2 persons) was served, I was reminded of a paella as the spaghetti was basically covered by a generous amount of seafood including mussels, prawns and crayfish. The densely flavoured neapolitan sauce was very appetising and tasted rather sweet, perhaps to due to the juices from the fresh seafood. It also complemented the naturally bland spaghetti very well. I enjoyed the bell peppers and onions the most as they were surprisingly fresh and sweet.

We also had a bottle of 2005 Chardonnay from Folonari (Soave, Italy) at S$39. Tasted rather mild and fruity, it went well with the dishes. Other beverages consumed included soft drinks (S$3.90 each), iced lemon tea (S$3.90) and Italian Margarita (S$8.50).

With a little room left for dessert, we shared a Tiramisu (S$5.95).Credit must be given to the creatively designed top (cocoa powder dusting resembling the restaurant's name), Aesthetics aside, it was just alright for me. Definition of alright: well-controlled sweetness, soft sponge and generous portion of mascarpone. To me, the taste of kahlua was almost non-existence. Perhaps I was still in love with Alexis' version. The unripe strawberry and kiwi slices were also unnecessary, in my opinion.

The bill summed up to S$156.25 for 4 persons.

The food at Spageddies was quite decent and definitely a far cry from the experience I had at Paragon. With cosy ambiance to boost too.

Spageddies Italian Kitchen
No. 6, Raffles Boulevard
#02-138, F&G Marina Square
Tel: 6337 9156

Bak Chor Mee @ Sim Lim Square

When it comes to shopping, people often cite Orchard Road/VivoCity (Singapore) or Mid Valley/One Utama (KL) as their favourite places to shop. As for me, Sim Lim Square at Bugis is a great place to hunt for bargains on electronic goods (especially computer hardware) and to update myself on the latest gadgets available. Don't get me wrong, I do have my fair share of love for my Tommys and Calvins but somehow, only sale items excite me. And when the place you love to shop includes a fantastic foodcourt (or that's what you've been told), you just know that you have to make time to pay a visit.

That's exactly what I did on Deepavali. Knowing how bad the traffic congestion can be on the North-South Highway during the holiday season, I stayed put in Singapore and had myself a little feast with a group of friends. Prior to that, I was at Sim Lim to check out the Micro-SD cards and bought myself a 2GB Kingston-type for S$31.50 (which I thought was a good buy). After the satisfying purchase, it was time for food.

I've never really paid attention to the foodcourt at Sim Lim Square until I heard that there's a famous Bak Chor Mee (Minced Meat Noodle) store at the foodcourt. This TeoChew delicacy is the best hawker food I've ever tasted in Singapore and I do try to make an effort to track down the best ones in town. So far, it's a tie between Ah Kow's (at Hong Lim Food Centre) and Tai Hwa's (at Crawford Lane). So, how did this version fare compared to the two giants?

For S$4.50 (large), the portion came rather huge for food court's standard. The mee kia (thin egg noodles), which was lightly seasoned with lard oil and soya sauce, came al dente. A dollop of chili paste was added to provide extra kick to the otherwise bland noodle. Side ingredients came aplenty and diversed, including fishballs, poached pork, stewed mushroom, fish cake, dumplings, chinese lettuce and scallion (as topping). Free flow of fried lard (a must!), Chinese black vinegar (a must too) and chili paste are also available, at your disposal. The crispy lard literally exploded in the mouth, releasing exceptionally aromatic flavour that complemented the noodles very well. Black vinegar and the mushroom added an interestingly contrasting and refreshing taste to the noodles. I wished they'd included a slice of dried flatfish, which would have added certain savouriness and aroma to the dish.

For an additional S$1.00, you can get a bowl of soup with 3 pieces of dumpling. I found the dumplings a tad too bland and lacked in ingredients (for the filling). To me, a good filling should include wood ear fungus, waterchestnut and again, flatfish. Then again, there's a limit as to what S$1.00 can offer.

It was generic Bak Chor Mee at it's best. Generously portioned with lots of side ingredients but lacked in subtly (taste-wise), as displayed by Ah Kow's and Tai Hwa's more traditional versions. Perhaps it was the control over usage of vinegar and soya sauce.

Minced Meat Noodles
Food Court @ Sim Lim Square
1 Rochor Canal Road
Singapore 188504

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sage - The Restaurant

Exactly 7 days ago, I was privileged enough to be invited to join a monthly dinner at Sage (Robertson Walk) hosted by Kelvin from TimelessFacade (one of my Foodspirations). I must say I was thrilled as it was my first food outing since starting my blog 2 months back. It was not just a opportunity to savour some delicacies but also a chance to interact with other floggers (and bloggers) as well as to learn a thing or two about blogging from them.

As I entered the restaurant, I was greeted with a minimalistic-styled interior, which in my opinion, represented the type of cuisine Sage serves, which was modern European (particularly French). An opulent interior would have suggested a more traditional approach to the dishes, I presumed.

Despite tasting rather bland, the petitely cut herbed bread was rather fluffy. Similarly, the complementing butter also tasted bland. Salted butter would have heightened the flavour of the bread.

The complimentary amuse bouche (which literally means mouth amuser in French) was served next and looked rather interesting, thanks to the very contrasting colours of the layers in the shot glass. The cream-coloured lower layer of the glass consisted of compressed cooked pork and was covered by a layer of burgundy-coloured jellied tomato paste. The slight tanginess of the tomato paste complemented the richly flavoured ground pork very well. Once sandwiched between bread, it could be turned into a main dish instantly. An interesting opening for the night.

Next on the list was the first entreé for the night, the Seared King Scallops on a Salad of Homemade Squid Ink Capellini, Marinated Ocean Trout and Avruga Caviar, Braised Scallop Lips and Leek & Potato Vichyssoise. The scallop was well cooked and tasted very fresh. The al dente capellini complemented the savoury trout and caviar very well too, with its blandness. The caviar was also not too savoury nor tasted "fishy" and provided an interesting texture to the dish. The rich vichyssoise was flavourful but not overwhelming. A great dip for the bland herbed bread earlier. However, I wished the vichyssoise was served cold as it would provide an interesting contrast to the warm seared scallop.

The second and last entreé for the night was the Pan-Seared Duck Foie Gras with Pistachio Crust and Fig Compote, Granny Smith Apple Puree and a Dressing of Red Grape Mustard Vinegar. The sinfully rich and creamy liver was well seared (complete with a layer of crisp skin) and went well with the crushed pistachio coating, in terms of texture. The foie gras basically melted in the mouth, releasing an aromatic flavour, leaving everyone with a smile on the face. The chef must have contemplated on presenting a well-balanced creation in terms of taste as the compote, apple puree and mustard vinegar (each with its own distinctive taste) provided optimal tartness, which complemented the foie gras very well. Tres bon!

My main dish was the Caramelized Black Angus Beef Cheek Topped with Melted Foie Gras Mousse and a Fricassee of Mushrooms, Compote of Butternut Squash and White Onions. Despite the wonderful presentation, the ensemble tasted rather bitter, presumably due to the caramel sauce (slightly burnt, perhaps). The foie gras mousse did not provide much hindrance to the bitterness as it was by itself, a rich and bitter-prone ingredient. The compote on the other hand, tasted rather bland. Albeit the disappointment in taste, the beef cheek was actually very well cooked as it was flaky and soft at the same time.

Those who chose the Cod and Bouillabaisse seemed to have enjoyed the flavourful stew very much. The dish consisted of an Effeullie of Cod and Grey Prawns in a Seafood Bouillabaisse with Ratte Potatoes and Garden Vegetables Accompanied With Rouille on Toast.

No one chose the Lamb Loin for their main. A short description of the dish would be an Australian Grain Fed Lamb Short Loin with a Cassoulet of Summer Beans Scented with Garlic, Rosemary and Lardons, Crispy Parmigiano Reggiano and Roma Tomato Coulis.

Dessert consisted of Lavender Créme Brulée with Blood Orange Sorbet on Redcurrant Jelly and Navel Orange Meringue. The Créme Brulée was creamy in texture with good control of sweetness but I could not detect the scent of the lavender. Perhaps overpowered by the vanilla flavour. The meringue was light and crispy but did not ignite any amusement. The sweet sorbet and tangy jelly complemented each other well in terms of taste and texture as well, thanks to the creaminess of the sorbet and the firmness of the jelly.

Throughout the night, we also had a bottle of Pinot Noir (2005) from Huia (Marlborough, New Zealand) to complement the dishes.

The bill came up to approximately S$1000 (for 10 pax). A tad high for a dinner but I must say that most of the dishes were noteworthy and memorable, especially the scallop and foie gras. A great culinary adventure nonetheless, with great company to boost.

The taste of the excellent foie gras lingered on my mind until the next morning.

For more on Sage, check out this website: