Monday, November 30, 2009

Xan Ling Cafe

Porridge with 生骨 (pork ribs)

Tenderness versus taste. This was the dichotomy that got me pondering throughout lunch when my relatives enlightened me with the definition of 生骨 that literally means "live bone" in Cantonese. The execution of 生骨 involves cooking the raw pork ribs and well-simmered stock simultaneously in a claypot, with the intention to preserve the freshness and taste of the pork. This is quite different from the typical dishes like bak kut teh and soups that we are accustomed to, where the pork becomes part of the ingredients in flavouring the stock. This usual way of cooking allows the meat to soften and fall off the bone, given the sufficient amount of heat and duration in cooking. However, the taste of the pork, in my option, will be abbreviated as the juice, together with the bone marrow, has infused into the stock or soup instead. In the case of 生骨, theoretically speaking, should give a more "porky" taste with the juice still intact, given the shorter cooking duration. The next question to ask is, if the tenderness of the meat has been compromised. Now, imagine if the complexity level is raised by applying 生骨 to dishes involving porridge or noodles. There are definitely lots of skills and brainpower involved in the preparation of 生骨 dishes and here at Xan Ling was perhaps my first taste of it.

It was a major pork lunch with ribs both floating and hidden in the enormous claypots of porridge and noodles. There were also plates of soy sauce braised dishes of pork and chicken feet that came quite sweet and packed with the easily identifiable 5-spice flavour. In the case of the claypot dishes that we had, refinement doesn't apply to the presentation nor texture. Not that we care of course because more importantly, they were flavourful; from the savoury stock (while some thought it was salty - not to me though) to the subtly sweet ribs to the assembly of all other ingredients. Their homemade noodle was to me, an improved version of pan mee with a smoother and firmer texture, yet retaining the nice, fragrant scent of flour. Our request to purchase some raw homemade noodles was turned down. That was disappointing as I had already imagined the different ways of using them - dry-tossed with dark soy sauce, drowned in peanut-chilli soup and perhaps, eaten with tonkotsu stock! By the way, they are famous for their 生骨 bak kut teh as well.

Pork dishes are good with rice. Here, we had 2 amazing and distinctive types of rice - with preserved vegetable and ginger. I've never heard of rice cooked with soy sauce and preserved vegetable before. The cook must have gotten the idea when having a simple meal comprising of the 3 ingredients. Slightly moister than usual, the rice matched the crunchy preserved vegetable and soy sauce really well. I could have ordered another bowl if not for the equally good ginger rice. It looked ordinary but the first bite will guarantee you a second...bowl! It certainly didn't smell of ginger but the taste was perfect, with the perfect amount of heat and pungency. If we were to visit again, we'll order a few extra bowls in advance because it sells out fast.

I was told that the site where the restaurant (they called it 'cafe', i wonder why) is located used to serve as a showroom for some wooden furniture business. Not surprising as the chairs and tables are mostly made of solid, heavy wood. The al fresco concept gives a refreshing and comfortable feeling but once I took a look at the 'chaotic' floor, comfort was the last thing on my mind. Like any typical dai chow, the floor was not constantly 'maintained'. I don't blame them because this is afterall, not a place for a meal with a view or a book. Reservation is advised as walk-in customers usually have to wait for quite a while. Well, at least they have some good wooden furniture to sit on while waiting.

Who would have thought that somewhere along a highway and within the vicinity of a cluster of factories lies such an interesting restaurant. Good food is certainly everywhere, my friends.

Rice cooked with preserved vegetable

Soy sauce braised pork

Homemade noodles with 生骨 (pork ribs)

Braised chicken feet

Xan Ling Cafe
11A. Lorong Arfah 3
Jalan Segambut
51200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (+6012) 379 1549 or (+6016) 210 0826
(for the 生骨, please call in advance to order)

Interesting business hours:
Monday - Saturday: 0930 - 1500
Sunday & Public Holiday: 0800 - 1500
Tuesday: Off

Check out LIVE.LOVE.LAUGH's take on Xan Ling here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


As predicted, there was nothing bohemian, hallucinogenic nor waitresses with green dresses and wings of sorts. We've gotten instead, a charmingly green modern restaurant that displayed a classy interior with a nice touch of humour. Throughout the night, we were entertained by the very hospitable and informative restaurant manager, Phillipe Pau. It seemed to me that the girls were enjoying their little chat with Chef François Mermilliod too, while I indulged in the starters. Absinthe had definitely gotten my vote for their impeccable service.

While waiting for Ciki to make her trip here from her day of cardio-shopping workout at Orchard, we started off with some pata negra. As I'm typing this, I wondered why I didn't sandwich them between the sourdough, which I should add, was served warm and soft. Perhaps it didn't feel appropriate at that time. Well, that's not going to stop me from doing it on my next visit.

Somewhere between champagne, Iberian pork and salivation while breezing through the menu, Ciki made a grand entrance (as always) and we wasted no time in placing our order. Secretly, I've made my order weeks ago. You see, I was already planning for a visit and had eyed on the rather attractive degustation menu before suggesting it to Ciki, who wanted something swanky this time round. I guess the name of the restaurant did play a part in her decision.

The degustation menu comes with 3 starters, a main and a dessert. Of the starters, my favourite was the tartare of Hokkaido scallops, which I thought was the amuse bouche. It worked well with the citrus dressing and to have a tartare served warm was interesting. Oh, it came with apportions of caviar as well. The second starter was a very French terrine of foie gras and smoked duck. I like the rich, sort of buttery taste of the foie gras here but the condiment of caramelized fruits could have been more flavourful for a good contrast. I've heard a lot about their kurobuta pork belly (and foie gras too) and was really looking forward to some pork action. It smelled and tasted similar to the Chinese version of roasted pork belly except that here, the meat was much softer, with fats almost melting in the mouth. Is it just me or do I see nothing French in this dish? Still, it was delicious. While I had the grilled grain-fed beef tenderloin, Ciki and XLB shared a fish and seafood bouillabaisse that was full of flavours from the sea. Some thought it was too briny but to me, it was just nice. Again, being the inappropriate one, I thought some noodles in it would be great. If they sell the saffron aioli by the jars at the counter, I would have gladly bought some as dip for those couch potato nights. Back to my beef, although cooked to my preference and moist, it was definitely not as memorable as the kurobuta. A first for me was the parsnips mash and it was well complemented with the black truffle sauce. We all shared my dessert of coconut panacotta that got everyone smiling. I believe they had incorporated vanilla into the panacotta, hence creating a uniquely fusion taste. A sourish coulis of berries provided some balance to the dessert. We ended the night with some Valhorna chocolate and...absinthe! To quote Phillipe, it wouldn't be complete without it.

I did mention somewhere up there about my next visit. When I do, it'll be for their famous pan-fried foie gras. Checking their website a couple of hours ago, I realised that they had changed many items on the menu, including the foie gras where the wild hibiscus flower compote has been replaced with morello cherries. Well, still sounds good to me. The degustation menu differs as well, so do check out their website for updates.

It's only right that Shrek Hairy should take this shot.

Pata Negra


Tartare of Hokkaido Scallops with Citrus, Wakame and Seaweed Tuile

Terrine of Foie Gras and Smoked Duck Breast with Herb Salad and Toasts

Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly, Shimeji and Fennel Salad, Star Anise Scented Jus

Fish and Seafood Bouillabaisse Scented with Absinthe, Saffron Aioli & Croutons

Grilled Grain-Fed Beef Tenderloin Served with Parsnips Mash & Black Truffle Sauce

Coconut Panacotta with Jubilee of Fresh Berries

48 Bukit Pasoh Road
Singapore 089858
Tel: (+65) 6222 9068

Check out Ciki's detailed post here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nippy Noodle Restaurant

Just order the cheapest, plainest noodle dish on the menu! That’s what I intend to do next time. Why? Because the noodle here is so good, you don’t really need any extra topping. Seriously. And what do I mean by good? Springy, non-starchy and smooth. It’s a wonder how the repetitious compressing of the dough using a huge bamboo pole can produce such fantastic texture. And I respect the guy who’s commanding the whole compression mechanism by riding the pole between the groin. This must be the next most hazardous job for men after professional cycling! The strands were so fine, I could almost call it the capellini of all egg noodles. No hint of lye as well. The restaurant proclaims that they use omega-3 eggs, which means nothing to me because it’s not about how healthy the eggs are but how the noodle tastes. If salmon or any other omega-3 rich fish is used, then I'll be impressed. Having said that, the noodle was still very much tasty lah. Wish I could say the same about the braised ribs and trio cuts toppings though.

Gotta love the restaurant's perky name too.

With trio of char siew, roasted belly and liver sausage that I could do without.

Nippy Noodle Restaurant
No. 25, Jalan Kuchai Maju 7
Entrepreneur Park, Off Jalan Kuchai Lama
58200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel : (+603) 7982 1781

Click here for Masak-Masak's detailed post on Nippy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ming Kee Live Seafood

Deep-fried eel skin

What I thought would be a typical Chinese surrounding of loud yum sengs and Hokkien pop tunes turned out to be a lavish dinner, complete with Victorian-like chairs and chandelier instead. We had the best table that night, all thanks to one Mr. Chen who made a reservation earlier. I was also informed by fellow diners that the restaurant is a favourite of the current prime minister of Singapore. The table next to ours was reserved for a certain Datuk whom we, the commoners, were eager to see. He was late though, and I assumed that it was due to the crawl at the Johor checkpoint.

All the glitz aside, what I really remembered were the impeccable dishes. Here, in this Chinese restaurant, the emphasis is not on a lengthy menu or designing names of dishes that promise a thousand years of fortune and prosperity...but more of what really matters - fresh “live” seafood, flavourful ingredients and signatures that make customers come back for more. After a few days, we were still talking about some of the outstanding dishes. Let me just say that despite the impressive clientele, service here was equally attentive to all and prices were reasonable too.

They seem to enjoy using garlic here. Be it minced and buttered as a topping for the steamed gigantic bamboo clams or fried and drizzled onto the flower shell clams, every dish screamed for a bowl of white rice. I was told that customers flock here for the dish that’s synonymous with Ming Kee – crab beehoon. The first bite was not much of a tease and some might even find it bland. I call it subtle. With each subsequent slurp, the umami taste progressively unraveled as opposed to MSG-laden type that hits the tastebuds in an instance, leaving the taster screaming for a glass of water. What really did it for me was the fact that they used yellow garlic chive, which is considered a novelty among Chinese restaurants, simply because of the price. Well, it’s still very much cheaper that white winter truffles, of course. I’ve loved it since I was a kid and that lingering, pungent, almost mushroom-y taste is really appetizing. And there was the unfamiliar smoked duck that found itself pairing nicely with a syrupy Guinness stout sauce dressed pork ribs. I would gladly have the duck with some lettuce, mustard and wholemeal bread for breakfast. For the past few months, I lamented on the scarcity of good orh nee (yam paste) after being disappointed by one restaurant’s version after another. That night, I had a good one. Mildly sweet and adequately salty, it was well executed. And how thoughtful of them to perfume the dessert with some fried onion oil! I really liked it.

What’s more fun than incessant talks of food with fellow foodies, only to be interrupted by the serving of some really delectable dishes, may I ask?

Flower shell clams

Relatively larger than the usual type

Crab beehoon

Best eaten with the flesh

Steamed bamboo clams with buttered garlic

Vegetable with tofu

Smoked duck breast

Orh nee

556 Macpherson Road
Singapore 368231
Tel: (+65) 6747 4075

Check out Camemberu’s post for all the dishes we had that night and links to other foodie friends whom were equally satisfied with the food at Ming Kee that night. Thanks for making the reservation and the wine, Mr. Chen.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Friends always ask of how I'm able to recall where and what I ate. There's no answer to it, really. If the food is good, it will just stick with you for a very long time.

Ham Bone Ambila

Nasi Lemak Goreng With Lap Cheong, Bacon And Omelette

Burger With Pork Patty, Chili Con Carne And Petai

Chocolate Banana Crepe

Take this for example. Lyrical Lemongrass suggested stink bean pork burger at the then relatively new restaurant called Cristang way back in July. With chopped petai in a burger, who really needs feta or cheddar? It was to me, a burger of multiple layers of savouriness and textures that could have been eaten with plain rice alone. The ambila coalesced the robustness of flavours of a curry, smokiness of grills and embellished with flaky soft cuts of ham. Delicious. As far as I'm concerned, nasi lemak goreng is nothing new but to have sweet waxed Chinese sausages and bacon thrown in, I think it's great. Can't wait to try this at home!

The diverse cultures infused into the Cristang way of life are well expressed in their choice of ingredients, I feel. Certainly a good Eurasian cuisine experience.

See, I do remember the good stuff without really trying.

But of course, there will be things that cling for the wrong reasons. Like their overpriced beers. Let me know if the prices are okay because we felt that they weren't the case on our visit.

B-G-19, 8 Avenue
Jalan Sungei Jernih (8/1)
46050 Petaling Jaya
Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: (+603) 7956 7877

Check out Masak-Masak's post for links to more food from Cristang.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Double Bay Restaurant & Bar

We were at City Hall and just wanted to chill before a crab feast at Macpherson Road. In a moment of absurdity, we decided to do it with style (and flip-flops). Tea at Swissôtel The Stamford or Raffles Hotel came to mind but the unbearable heat deliquesced our unusually lushful itch with each step and as we stood in front of a glass-walled façade displaying a simplistic, cooling interior that felt like a welcoming oasis, we knew we needed to walk no further. Good choice, actually. We still had a view of the Raffles Hotel...and the silhouette of a tree for company.

Double Bay Bread Board

Caesar Salad of Baby Romaine Hearts with Sous Vide Egg & Prosciutto Di Parma

Carpaccio of Pacific Tuna

with Lemon Vinaigrette, Micro Herbs & Ikura

Pavlova with Lemon Curd, Fresh Wild Berries & Forest Berry Sorbet.

Except for the location (which I thought would have been more appropriate had it been located at the Esplanade or Sentosa), there’s no reason to fault the restaurant. Everything was nice - the service, the fashionable music and the Australian food. A good option on those nonchalant weekends away from the maddening hordes at the chic and celebrated cafes in town. The menu, though simple, is substantial and mouth-watering.

To have a real taste of Double Bay, I guess I’ll have to be back for the signature mains like pies and fish & chips. And I will, definitely.

Double Bay Restaurant & Bar
252 North Bridge Road
#01-22A Raffles City Shopping Centre
Singapore 179103
Tel: (+65) 6334 6530

Friday, November 6, 2009

MM Café

Barbican non-alcoholic beer, peach-flavoured – the dude of the couple ordered this.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I had lunch with the “anywhere also can lah” couple. Despite the fact that one half of them had been residing in PJ for a few years, they’ve only dined once in Section 17. And it took them forever to remember the name of that particular restaurant. Such an adorable couple, this.

Since we were in that area, might as well visit a relatively new café (to me, at least) that I’ve read about. The couple obviously agreed - “anywhere also can lahmah. We explored without an address and at one point, I was so convinced that we’d end up getting lost and be done with Food Foundry instead. We eventually found it, which was, taaadaaa, metres away from the mille crepe hall of fame.

It’s no swanky Delicious by Miss Read. No chic Café Del Mar tunes nor foie gras pate too. MM is a neighbourhood café that’s as cozy as it can get. I liked it, especially when it comes with free WiFi. There’s a banner that screamed best brownie in Malaysia or something like that. Oooh, this I have to try.

Lamb chop? You are ordering LAMB CHOP?? How unadventurous! Shouldn’t you be ordering beef stroganoff or something that I can’t even pronounce instead???

I was prepared to strangle her.

As it turned out, the lamb chop was good. Take away the sauce and we’ve got pieces of tender meat that were distant from the gamey distraction. It made me wonder the last time I had lamb chop, which was considered a luxury when I was a kid. You must be anticipating my choice of main. I had chicken pie. Oooh, how adventurous of HairyBerry, eh? Again, good stuff, despite the tiny portion. Equate it to the shrinking size of our beloved filet-o-fish. It must be the soft, slightly chewy skin and lacing of hearty cream sauce that made the pie so engaging. And then, we had desserts. A sort of powdery and bland tiramisu is not something I’ll order the next round. But I will have the brownies though. They prided themselves fairly well, for the brownies were delicious. Rich in chocolaty taste (why does phrase sound so familiar?), soft and nicely paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But…ahem, best? They should try our Ah Pa’s version also.

The sprouting of cafés is amazing, especially in new townships and malls. But the cynical part of me has always been associating them with menus filled with DIYs like spaghetti bolognaise, fries and burgers. You know, science projects that cost a bomb. What’s more when the taste is average at best. Definitely a waste of money, I think. It’s a different story here. So far, I enjoyed the honesty of the preparation and will not hesitate to return for other dishes. Hopefully they are good too.

MM fits into my “anywhere also can lah” relaxing weekend lunch list.

MM Café (an acronym for Mastermind?)
AG-1. Ground Floor
Block A, Happy Mansion
Jalan 17/13
Petaling Jaya, 46400 Selangor
Tel: (+603) 7958 8728

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Old Mother Hen Traditional Herbal Soup (十全老母鸡小吃店)

She who stirred us with her mellow voice.

Her style was exemplary of when J-pop meets K-wave; blonde curls matched with stylishly colourful pieces. She might be wearing platforms and not know the customers by their names but her grace was comparable to the maître d’ of some reputable fine dines. Seriously. Her voice, my oh my, gentle as breezing whispers with lightness of fluffy cotton candy.

Just because it’s Geylang doesn’t mean that good service is solely conformed to the more explicitly entertaining lanes. It can be found in many restaurants in this vibrant district as well. The lady boss (or so, I assume) was amazing. Despite a small table of just two diners, she took time to describe the signatures and reasoned the plan of when each dish would be served. I should add affordable prices too. When friends asked of my Old Mother Hen experience, I’d never failed to include a few words of praise for the lady boss. She was the absolute highlight of our dinner.

For the sake of convenience, I could have gone to the Jurong branch but it was a dish served exclusively here that got me taking the MRT all the way to Kallang from my ghetto in the west, pushing my way into a bus to Sims Avenue and braving (I held my breath for as long as I could) a few fruit stalls displaying a frightening amount of durians.

Only, and only for the love of KL-style Hokkien Mee.

Honestly, I was just hoping for an average taste to satisfy my craving for comfort food. I mean, just when authentic Hokkien Mee is on the verge of extinction in KL, what are the chances of me discovering a good one in an island majoring in Teochew cuisine? Like most dai chow (tze char) stalls, it lacked origin/identity. To simply put it – typical construction of fried noodles with soy sauce, squid, prawns and pork. Don’t get me wrong. It’s tasty, especially when greased and glistened with an impressive amount of lard. I walloped the whole plate, almost. The gravy was nicely reduced too, unlike many that left it awfully soupy. But to call it KL-style would be like seeing Mickey Mouse dresses up as Minnie Mouse. Kind of misrepresented, I thought, especially in the absence of the quintessential elements of the charring aroma (wok hei) and ground dried flatfish. Then again, most Hokkien Mee stalls in KL have already forgotten these 2 elements anyway. How sad.

Old Mother Hen is famous for her claypot rice. In terms of ingredients, they scored. There was a nice mixture of flavourful ingredients like waxed sausages and salted fish to whip up the appetite. Liked the well-cooked rice too. I’m not much of a claypot rice fan, so I really can’t distinguish the good from the average. Maybe it’s all about the ensemble of everything, including the condiment of chopped cili padi soaked in soy sauce and the choice of dark, semi-sweet soy sauce because rice by itself, is bland. I still don’t get the idea of the use of charcoal for cooking rice. Does a claypot, which has higher heat capacity, render a better texture of the rice? Perhaps I will find out when I visit the famous stall in Clementi, which I’ve been wanting to visit since forever!

Among other dishes that we had were the perfect ten (十全) herbal soup and the signature deep-fried tofu with a topping of overwhelming oyster sauce taste. I liked the soup because it was dense - an indication of a good, prolonged simmer.

There are many other unexplored dishes on the menu including stir-fried fallopian tubes of sows and steamed freshwater fish. Too many choices, too little brainpower after a day at work. But I’m sure the lady boss is more than willing to lend a hand on that.

Old Mother Hen Traditional Herbal Soup (十全老母鸡小吃店)
136 Sims Ave
(between Lorong 17 and 19)
Tel: (+65) 9128 2793 (Jimmy)