Monday, December 31, 2007

A Very Retro Christmas @ My Elephant by Doodee

I was checking my mail... email from
Kak Serai?

An invitation to the Malaysian Floggers' year end party???

I was thrilled. Finally, a chance to meet all these wonderful people who foodspired me.

So, I filled up my leave card, changed the date of my bus ticket and started to imagine all the wonderful food and faces that I will meet later.

Fast forward to last Friday.

Music from the 80's filled the rather petite restaurant. Candles and white chrysanthemums added a touch of sophistication to the already interesting interior. There were handshakes, hugs and laughters everywhere. A lovely entree.

The entree was so engrossing that I almost forgot about the real food. My Elephant (no pun intended) has been the talk of the town. A few floggers gave it some rather positive remarks and KLUE rated it as one of the top 10 restaurants in 2007. I was quite sceptical at first as I always equate Thai food with tom yam, pandan wrapped chicken and kerabu. Nothing more, nothing less. After the Elephant experience, I realised I was wrong. Very.

One can't help but be charmed by the thoughtfully decorated glass, which was filled with a cooling pandan-flavoured syrup drink. Who would have thought that a piece of pandan (screwpine) leave and a dainty white chrysanthemum could go so well together? Lovely.

Lianne brought along a bottle of Umeshu (plum wine) from Choya, which was quite potent and sweet while Teckiee offered us a bottle of Italian white wine. Very nice of you gals!

Brown rice was served instead of Thai fragrant rice. Well-cooked and fluffy, it was.

First dish to arrive was the Pak Choop Pang Tod or Thai Style Vegetable Tempura which was basically long beans, carrots and lotus roots coated with tempura-like batter and deep-fried. The vegetables remained crisp and were not too oily. I wished the batter was more flavourful though. I'm not sure if this was an authentic Thai dish.

Next up was Kom's Chicken Wings with Mango-Kiwi Dressing. I never knew that kiwi could be incorporated into a savoury a dish. The chicken wings were flavourful but lacked in crispness. The wings blended very well with other Asian ingredients such as mango, sweet chili sauce and fried garlic bits. A dish that (I thought) could do without the kiwi.

Served in a bag-like shaped bread, the Choo Chee Goong (sounds like a Chinese name, doesn't it?) or Thai Yellow Curry With River Prawns was perhaps the most visually interesting dish of the night. The prawns were tender while the curry was rich and fragrant, thanks to the chopped kafir leaves. The bread was soft (with a slightly crisp skin) and was a good sponge for dipping the curry.

Salad for the night came in form of Som Tam Malakor or Green Papaya With Dried Prawns And Peanuts. The distinctively textured ingredients such as long beans, tomatoes, papaya strips and peanuts made this rather moist salad an enjoyable one. However, I thought the dressing was on the bland side.

How could a Thai meal be complete without a tom yam dish? Our Tom Klong (Northern Thai Tom Yam With Fish Cutlets) was fiery and optimally tangy. With every sip of the appetising soup, I had to wipe the sweatbeads off my forehead. A small price to pay for the flavourful concoction though. The flavouring ingredients for the soup included galangal, tomatoes, cilantro and dried chilies (instead of the bird eye ones). Enoki and oyster mushrooms provided extra texture and flavour to the soup. The fried tenggiri (Spanish Mackerel) was small but fresh.

If I had to choose one dish that best represents My Elephant (again, no pun), it has got to be the Red Curry Duck With Konnyaku, Avocadoes And Rambutan. A creative ensemble of colours, flavours and textures. I enjoyed the curry which was rich, aromatic and slightly spicy. The creamy texture of the avocado blended well with the curry while the rambutans added a slight crunch and sweetness. The downside being the slightly chewy duck meat and the undetectable konnyaku. Anyhow, an appetising dish that went well with rice.

The Chillied Lamb looked and tasted like a typical stir-fried padprik dish. The only difference was the choice of meat. There was a lesser variation of vegetables too. The julienned peppers and cashew nuts added flavours and textures to the dish. As with any padprik dish, this went well with rice.

The Steamed Fish or Plah Nung Manow was well presented and the clear fish gravy was rather flavourful, with a blend of ingredients such as lime, lemongrass, cilantro, chilies and garlic. The fish (siakap or Barramundi, if I'm not wrong) was well-cooked, judging from the flakiness of the flesh.

For dessert, Sago Pudding With Thai Mangoes was served. Neither warm nor cold, the intended temperature was questionable. The plus side being the ripe and rather sweet mangoes. I could also sense a hint of jackfruit in this dish but did not confirm this with the staff.

Overall, the dishes were commendable but could have been better. I will return for the duck curry.

After the dinner, an award presentation ceremony was held. Similar to the MTV Movie Awards, categories where rather unconventional, ranging from "blogger with the most kissable lips" to "most flirtatious blogger" to "most enlightened blogger". It was a very good way to introduce all the bloggers, especially to the new floggers like myself. I was bestowed the "most poetic blogger" award, probably due to my shiok sendiri (self-indulging)
Tell-A-Tale series. The award was a set of stationaries for me to construct my poems. How thoughtful!

A birthday cake was also presented to
SC and Chris (Christine's boyfriend). It was a durian cheese cake from FatBoyBakes.

The party ended with exchange of telephone numbers, hugs and a post-party party at Pirates. It was a shame that I could not join them at Pirates as I had other plans.

The night wouldn't have been realized without the hardwork put in by the organizers, namely;
Lyrical Lemongrass (Celebrity Blogger Of The Year + Photography Extraordinaire + Luscious Cover Girl), Precious Pea (My Majesty, Her Royal Highness The Queen To King Crab) and WMW (Human Tripod Blogger With The Funkiest Psychedelic Flower Power T-Shirt). I could not thank you gals enough.

Kudos to Jackson for driving the "Sharity for Charity" campaign where each blogger contributes a present which will be placed under a Christmas tree to be given to children from a selected orphanage. Check out this
link for more details.

And thank you fellow floggers/bloggers for all the words, smiles and laughters that made the night a memorable one.

Here's wishing everyone a new year of good health, happiness and above all, love!

For more information on the the restaurant (map and contacts) and the party (including the complete winners list), do check out the following sites:

Brought Up 2 Share
Cari Makan Di PJ

My Elephant
Block C-G4, Happy Mansion,
Jalan 17/13, Section 17,
46400 Petaling Jaya.

Winter Solstice Festival Dinner now, I should have blogged about the Retro Party but I think it's more auspicious to post my Winter Solstice Dinner experience first. The Chinese always say, "Starts with the head and ends with the tail". So, here goes....

I used to frown when I was forced to attend family dinners. As a kid, I would bring along my much beloved M.A.S.K. vehicles to keep myself occupied while the adults prepare the dishes. As a teenager, I would bring my Tetris or my Walkman. These days, besides taking photos, I participate more in conversations too. As I grow older, I begin to enjoy family dinners.

Perhaps distance DOES make the heart grow fonder.

As this year’s Winter Solstice Festival fell on a Saturday, I was able to join some close relatives for a wonderful dinner. Dishes were prepared by an aunt of mine.

We had a hearty Fish Curry In Claypot. The ingredients included fish, prawns and tomatoes. All the ingredients were absolutely fresh as aunt bought them from the wet market before the break of dawn. The thick curry sauce was aromatic and rich in texture sans coconut milk. Tamarind juice added tanginess to the curry while cilantro added crispness and freshness. A plethora of flavours! I had 2 bowls of rice.

The traditional Stir-Fried Chinese Arrowheads With Siew Yoke was also served. The sweet and savoury soya sauce-based gravy went well with the rather bland arrowheads. Siew Yoke (roasted pork belly) added saltiness and texture to the dish. It was also rather aromatic, thanks to the fatty layer of the belly. A touch of cilantro gave the dish a hint of freshness.

Cousin bought the famous roasted duck from PJ (which apparently sold out within a few hours). The meat was soft, with a hint of Chinese herbs while the crisp skin was sweet and slightly savoury. A dish that never fails in whipping up our appetite. If fat is not of a concern, do indulge a little for that rich and aromatic experience.

The humble Steamed Chicken was not well-received as it was less flavourful compared to the rest of the dishes. A rather “yellow” or fat chicken. The juice was sweet and went well with white rice. What I enjoyed most was the “chicken” taste that is rare in the days of frozen and processed chicks. A soya sauce-based dipping with minced shallots/cilantro provided a burst of freshness.

Soup du jour was Pig Stomach Soup, which comprised of mushrooms, ginkgo nuts, pork belly and smooth, soft layers of stomach. Peppercorns and chopped cilantro added flavours to the already sweet pork soup base.

For dessert, red bean soup was served with glutinous rice balls. The rice balls, which symbolized togetherness, were filled with 2 different fillings; black sesame and peanut pastes. Both distinctively rich and tasty. We bought the balls from the frozen food section in the supermarket, by the way.

Perhaps we will never experience winter in this part of the world. Perhaps rice balls are just rice balls. But let us continue to celebrate this festival that provides us with good food, not just for the stomach, but also for the soul.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Restoran Famous Seremban Favourites

"Blogger ar?" asked the boss as I was happily snapping away the humble-looking bowl of Hakka Mee. I was dumbfounded. Yeaaah, I said. Awkwardly, I described my humble blog a little and how I discovered his restaurant.

A few good reviews from fellow floggers and a small feature in the KLUE magazine triggered my interesting in this restaurant, eventhough char siew (sweet roasted pork) is not a must-have for me. Since I'm only back on weekends, I have asked my Gordon Ramsays (my folks) to check out this place first. Review was mixed, mostly good. With that, I proceeded to phase 2: my visit.

It was a sunny Sunday morning. Arriving around 11.00 (considered late - char siew timing), we were afraid that it was going to be packed with char siew worshippers. And we were not wrong. Only 2 more tables were left unoccupied.

First to arrive was the Hakka Mee, a bowl of al dente noodles topped with ground pork and scallions. A slight resemblance to Sarawak's Kolo Mee. The broad flat noodle was fresh with a hint of egg and the much-dreaded alkaline water taste was nowhere to be found. The bits of pork were tender. Despite the absence of dark soya sauce, the noodle was kept moist with the sweet and savoury juice from the ground pork. The addition of pickled green chilies elevated the taste of the ensemble. Simple yet flavoursome.

With a dark brown-coloured soup, the Cuttlefish Bee Hoon could easily be mistaken for a bowl of Bak Kut Teh (pork in herbal soup) with bee hoon (vermicelli). Taste-wise, the soup was basically soya sauce-based with a hint of sweetness. What I found interesting was the slightly charred scent or wok hei of the bee hoon which I assumed to be stir-fried prior to assembly of the dish. Other ingredients in the dish included cuttlefish, lean/fat pork cuts and flowering cabbage greens.

Though not the best that I have tasted, the fishballs were fresh, judging from the firm texture and the absence of the fishy smell. The solidness of the balls was a good indication of the generous amount of fish meat used.

The meat version of M&M candies, the char siew really did melt in the mouth (and not in hand, of course), thanks to the softness of the fatty layer of the pork belly. The lean part was very soft too. The glistening and sweet outer layer of the pork suggested a glazing of maltose syrup. Combined with slightly charred aroma, the char siew was an appetising creation that satisfied even a non-char siew fan like myself. Personally, I think the pork itself was sufficiently flavoured and could do without the dipping sauce. What made the pork so soft? We assumed that the pork was not roasted but braised (with a sweet sauce until the outer layer is slightly charred) as liquid helps to soften the meat. Technicals aside, this was definitely one of the most interesting yet flavourful char siew I had in a long time.

Though the char siew is the main attraction here, I actually find myself drawn to the Hakka Mee instead for its simplicity and flavour. Perhaps it's something new to me. An interesting eatery that's worth revisiting.

For more details on this restaurant do check out these links (that also triggered my char-siewism):
Lyrical Lemongrass

Restoran Famous Seremban Favourites
80-1 Ground Floor, Jalan PJU 1/3B,
Sunway Mas Commercial Centre,
47301 Petaling Jaya.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Tell-A-Tale (Part 4): City Lights...Quiet Night

Of bustling cities and colourful lights,
Of laughters and Christmas delights,
Alone in his room he writes,
Missing home, a song he cites.

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me

Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams

I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me

Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams

I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year.
May love and peace be dawned upon us.

I'll Be Home for Christmas
One-Utama Shopping Center (Kuala Lumpur), Mid-Valley Megamall (Kuala Lumpur), Orchard Road (Singapore).
X'mas Fruit Cake:
Four Leaves (IMM, Singapore)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Regal House Restaurant

I have found my fetish du jour.

Dining in Kepong, that is.

This old neighbourhood has been the playground for most of my childhood and is often the place for traditional, no-frills Chinese fare, be it in under the zinc roof of the wet market or nearby family restaurants. With so much development within the vicinity, such as Metro Prima, Bandar Manjalara and DesaCity Park, people (myself included) seemed to be only interested in the burgeoning eatery scene in those areas.

So, kudos I say, to Regal House for braving the stereotype by opening a restaurant in the now defunct Parkson Ria shopping center in Kepong Baru. In fact, it’s now occupying the whole building itself. Wet market by day, hawker center by night, this is one of the busiest areas in the whole of Kepong Baru. Not forgetting night markets on Sundays too.

I chanced upon this restaurant while driving around the neighbourhood after getting some egg tarts and kaya rolls from Tong Kee. The size of the restaurant itself spelt confidence and with that, I knew I had to give it a try. At least once.

Dining was comfortable on a Saturday, perhaps due to the large area (2 floors, by the way). We assumed that the locals are still unaware of this place as only half of the tables were filled.

We started off with the Stir-Fried Kuay Teow With Egg Gravy (RM12). The kuay teow was aromatic, thanks to the frying process while the egg gravy was not too starchy nor bland. Other ingredients in this dish included mustard cabbage leaves, prawns and pork slices. A simple yet appetising starter.

Next came the sinful-looking Braised Pork Belly (RM28). How much more luscious can that cut be? The meat was flaky while the fatty portion was soft. A great combination. The braising sauce, however, was quite a letdown. Sweet was the only adjective that I could find to describe it. I could not sense even a hint of herbs like star anise, cinnamon or peppercorn. A sliced mantou or steamed bun was included for dipping.

The Claypot Fish (RM35) was perhaps the most interesting dish of the night. It was basically fried fish cooked in a sweet sauce. With ingredients such as wood ear fungus, enoki or golden needle mushroom and ginger, I thought it was a close resemblance to Wong Zhao Gai (chicken cooked in Chinese wine). The thinly-sliced fish was well-cooked and tasted slightly sweet, thanks to the infusion of the sweet sauce.

Greens for the night came in form of Stir-Fried Chive Buds With Garlic (RM12). Quite a generic tasting dish, which I wished the stems were softer.

Probably the most photogenic dish of the night, the Tofu With Mushroom (RM10) was quite an interesting dish. The fried tofu was topped with finely chopped bo choi (spinach), cooked in oyster sauce and decorated with brown beech mushrooms. The tofu was very soft with a taste of egg while both the mushroom and spinach added interesting textures and tastes (mildly) to the tofu. I enjoyed the subtlety of it.

Wrapping up the night was a complimentary fresh fruit platter, consisted of watermelon, papaya and mango.

The dinner cost RM110.50 for 5 pax. Inexpensive, I'd say, as the ambiance, quality of food and service were on par with those typical air-conditioned, plate-changing restaurants in town. No government tax nor service charge were imposed to the bill too. Service was commendable at best and the staff seemed rushing to clear our table. What's the hurry?

For all the good points mentioned above and the convenience of getting a parking space, I'm sure I'll be back to savour more dishes.

Regal House Restaurant
Lot 491, Jalan 77 (Jalan Bangau),
Kepong Baru,
52100 Kepong,
Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-6280 2119

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

La Noce

I had my second monthly outing with Kelvin (thanks for the invite!) and friends last Friday night, after the wonderful dinner at Sage. Expectations were high as I have read some rather good reviews about this restaurant on the internet.

We started off with the complimentary bread which was served warm and a crusty skin. The taste was rather unremarkable. Instead of the typical balsamic vinegar, a red wine vinagerette-like dipping (with olive oil) was served as condiment.

For my antipasto, I've chosen the Prosciutto e melone (S$18) which consisted of sweet melon (I'm not sure if it's cantaloupe) wrapped with strips of 18 month parma ham and topped with rockets (and balsamic vinegar). I enjoyed the soft texture of the ham lacing the melon but thought the taste was not contrasting enough to tantalise the tastebuds. The fruity garlic dressing was interesting but was, again, not distinctively sharp.

Next came the Ossobuco a la Milanese (S$34), the dish that got me excited over La Noce in the first place as I have seen some pictures of this dish (with good reviews to boost too). But to be sent back to the kitchen 3 times due to the toughness of the veal shank, I have to say disappointment was an understatement. The meat was way off the supposedly flaky texture that literally peels off from the bone. The apologetic Chef Salvatore explained that the veal shank was imported in bulk and the quality varies. The saffron-coloured risotto was soft but personally, I would have preferred the fluffy version.

After the unsuccessful third attempt, we had to let go. It was already quite late and we just don't see the how the fourth, fifth or sixth shank would make a significant difference. So, we opted for the grilled beef tenderloin (S$36) instead. Although not remarkably interesting, it was a much better alternative to the veal shank. The medium-rare cooked tenderloin was fresh and succulent while the mash potatoes complimented the meat well. A rather huge portion too.

The Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons) Pizza arrived looking rather huge. Toppings included halved black olives, artichoke hearts, ham and button mushrooms. This pizza burst with natural flavours from the toppings, which overshadowed the tangy tomato base. Not a fan of olives and artichoke, the pizza was just alright for me.

Thanks to LiquidShadow, I had a piece of the Ravioli with White Truffle Stuffing. There was definitely a hint of white truffle in the stuffing and the cream but to think that the stuffing was completely filled with truffles (as explained by the staff) was only wishful thinking.

I also had a taste of Newbie Foodie 's bruschetta which was quite generic, with a hint of tanginess and pungent garlic scent.

Here are some of the other dishes ordered that night.

For desserts, a sampler (S$30) was shared. It consisted of four different types of dolci. The panna cotta was smooth but lacked in subtlety while the raspberry sauce provided a tangy flavour to the milky gelatin. The relatively large profiterole (choux pastry coated with chocolate sauce and filled with cream) tasted rather generic. The pine nut pie was rather interesting as I never knew pine nuts could be used in desserts. Taste-wise, it was rather bland. The non-alcoholic Tiramisu was sweet with layers of coffee soaked sponge & mascarporne cream and dusted with a layer of cocoa powder. I wished it was more moist.

For the finale, a complimentary lemon shot (consisted of vodka (25% alcohol), lemoncello and sugar) was served. The friendly staff explained that this shot helps to ease digestion. I definitely needed this as I sampled quite some risotto that night. A rather strong tasting drink with a sweet layer at the bottom.

Apart from the extremely hospitable staff and chef, I thought the food was rather unimpressive. There were moderate hits like the parma ham and grilled tenderloin but major misses dominated the night, especially the Ossobuco. Bad luck perhaps but it will certainly take more than just good reviews to convince me to return.

Am disappointed with myself too as the pictures turned out quite bad.

La Noce
3, Chu Lin Road
Singapore 669890.
Tel: +65 6811 1986