Friday, November 28, 2008

Sri Nirwana Maju, Bangsar

This place needs little introduction - it's an institution on its own, based purely on the power of word-of-mouth generated by the heat and awesomeness of the food here. Situated directly opposite Bangsar Village (the Delicious end), I found myself staring at the hordes of people traffic moving in and out of Sri Nirwana Maju one sleepy Sunday afternoon. And when joined by friend later, we decided banana leaf rice for lunch it was then.
There are so very few ways you can go wrong with banana leaf rice. Rice, soaked with aromatic curry, dressed with an assortment of tasty sides all on a fresh leaf... Sri Nirwana Maju is doing something very right to stay at the top of a very competitive game!

Poppadums in a basket... can you hear CRUNCH any louder?

We didn't want to overdo sides, as we wanted to remain conscious that afternoon. I had the honour of choosing one to share and I ended up with this, which didn't turn out as good as it looked - a peppery, tumeric-ky, curry-leafy, chicken dish. Still, it's only one wrong in a sea of rights, so Sri Nirwana still gets a nod!

And the cream of the banana leaf experience - fried bitter gourd!! This is heavenly, crispy and soft at the same time, with a wonderful balance of spices. And upon seeing our expression of unmasked delight when it was served, the wait staff piled on a larger than usual mound on our leaves.

Our meal for two, including one drink, came up to about RM17. Not too bad at all, considering the neighbourhood!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A pint, or five, Online Pub and Brussels Beer Cafe

Some evenings, you just need that solid, no-frills pint, when dressy cocktails and uniformed wait staff just won't do. I was fortunate to have a friend point me in the right direction one night after work, to Online pub at Damansara Kim.

This is really back-to-basics pubbing - a working man's neighbourhood watering hole, where the beer's always cold, the satisfied "aaahhh" after your first sip always guaranteed.

The central bar counter area, lined with old rickety bar stools. In fact, the place itself seemed a bit rickety as a whole, which is part of its charm. There is definitely a sense of having left that weight on your shoulders once you enter. No pretenses, no confusion over what the place is for - you come here for a few quiet pints after work before you bugger off home.

Apologise for this nasty piece of photography but by this time, I think I was well into my third pint :-P Online has a simple, sufficient menu and they serve up a mean lard-laden Hokkien mee. I think the intent is to make sure any inhibitions are shot, or as long as you're at Online - have a pint, have five! Fill up on lard, it doesn't count if it's consumed while intoxicated!

The exterior of Online pub, spartan and understated. Plenty of parking around in the evenings too.

Two days later, on a fine Sunday afternoon, we felt compelled to visit the famed Brussels Beer Cafe at Jaya One for some European ales. While I enjoy draft Hoegaarden as much as the next drinker, I am partial towards Stella.

Mmmmm.... Sunday afternoon beer buzzes... the pints were drained before one could say "beer belly". We probably went a bit overboard that afternoon. Pints at Brussels, while tasty and worthwhile enough, are hardly in the same $$ bracket as Online pub, and we were abit taken aback by our own indulgence, when the bill was presented to us 3 hours later :-S

Drinking on an empty stomach is a no-no, as anyone with half an appreciation of the wonders of inebriation, would tell you. We were delighted to find that Brussels serves pork but the kitchen was closed, it being the after lunch lull when we were there, but they rustled up a bacon and egg sandwich for us to share. It was a modest affair, garnished with very wilted lettuce but redeemed itself with fat, fat fries, which were polished off as quickly as our early pints!

There's great joy in discovering nooks and corners for a cold one, or several. Where's your favourite pub?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Souled Out, Desa Sri Hartamas

It’s not often that we bother with weekday evening traffic after work to catch up with friends but when we do manage, it makes me wonder why we don’t do it more often. One such unusual evening, we ended up at trusty, ever-dependable Souled Out in Desa Sri Hartamas.
Idle chit-chat and beer poured, gulped and set aside, we got down to the serious task of making our individual selections from the extensive yet thoroughly familiar menu.

Beef ribs – one friend ordered this stupendous dish. I don’t eat beef but even so, I couldn’t help desiring some of that smoky bovine goodness.

Mama Mia – another ordered the pizza topped with anchovies, beef bacon, black olives, garlic, tomatoes & cheese.

Roasted chicken fajita – I was trying to eat light, having consumed a massive lunch. Love the combination of jalapeno and guacamole in this, and it’s the best portion for a snack. Leaves plenty of space for merry drinks!

Chilli con carne – Massive serving of fresh corn chips, sour cream, avocado, minced meat and beans. This particular friend tends to stick very close to his tried-and-tested favourites; this never fails to bring on that big toothy grin.

Mango prawn salad – This looked too pretty to not be photographed. There’s just something about succulent pink prawns nestled among fresh greens, don’t you think?

Butter chicken – Souled Out has a more than decent Indian section in its menu and on this occasion, two in the group went for the big, value-for-money portions. One had Butter Chicken, the other Chicken Vindaloo (of which I took a bad photo of). They’re RM22 each but big enough to last you a couple of meals at least!

There were also desserts, including one sexy looking Lava Cake but by then, we were all so caught up with the business of catching up that the cameras were elbowed out. I remember many happy hours spent here years ago but it got too crowded and too much of a hassle. Also, prices have gone up all around but if it’s consistency and hearty fare you’re after, there are not many ways you can go wrong here. Recommend coming here early Sunday evenings and trying the Sake-san pizza!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Breakfast noodles in the 'hood

On certain Sundays of the week, I like to throw all the caution to the wind and fill up for breakfast, despite knowing that it'll render me sluggish and spend the remaining hours of my weekend in mental and physical torpor. And during these Sundays, I like to stay in the neighbourhood, which offers more than a few choices that do the trick.

First up is Kopitiam Mr. Pau, which actually has an uncle operating a stall selling pau & dimsum who goes by the moniker Mr. Pau. It's located along Jalan Desa Bakti in the old part of Taman Desa, on the same row as Secret Recipe. The stall on the right offers Nyonya nasi lemak (with wild boar curry!) and Nyonya cakes that draw queues on lazy Sunday mornings. This visit, however, we didn't do nasi lemak.

Super thick kopi O... one sip and it made me thankful to be alive this Sunday morning...

Fat Tulip's Pan Mee - this stall isn't your average neighbourhood Pan Mee stall... each bowl comes with a pile of ingredients - minced pork meat and/or fish balls, crunchy anchovies, greens and wood ear fungus. Sure, it's no Kung Fu but it holds its own, as the queues in the morning firmly attest.

My Hakka mee - somehow my Hakka roots have been nagging my tastebuds of late, demanding for some ancestral attention so when I saw the stall here, I immediately made an effort to set things right. It was OK but it didn't really hit the spot, not even with unrestrained heaping of fried pork lard.

On another such morning, we headed to U Like It, on the corner of the Faber row of shophouse, on Jalan Desa Bakti.

Wantan mee with char siu - broad noodles, nice fat slices of char siu... made me happy enough!

He had the wantan mee with beef brisket - whined that the noodles were a little overdone, but otherwise fine.

The wantans that came in side bowls were a little pitiful though. Each of us got three of these wantans, filled with nothingness.

The well-frequented wantan mee stall at U Like It. Pity about the wantans though. The shop also has other stalls, which I intend to try in good time. Oh, I do like my Sundays!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bubba Gump Shrimp , The Curve

Obama's victory this week made me hanker for something American, even though my narrow and uneducated interpretation of American cuisine isn't always entirely favourable. Still, I wouldn't let the industrious spirit of offshore American commerce dampen my anticipation of Bubba Gump Shrimp, not this significant week anyway!

We arrived early, barely 11.30AM, ravenous from having gone without breakfast.

There's been plenty said about the gimmicky service system - show the "Run Forrest Run" sign if you want to be left alone and the "Stop Forrest Stop" if you want service. I don't know how well this works as we waited a good 5 minutes before anyone noticed our Stop sign, and the place was close to empty.

The condiment bucket was a welcome change though - no need to bug wait staff to dig into their precious rationed reserves as each table is well stocked with a huge bottle of Heinz ketchup, Tabasco sauce, vinegar, paper towels and Lingham's (!) chilli sauce.

Each table is also provided with Jacob's crackers to kill the munchies while waiting for the food. We enjoyed ours with a Mango sparkler - it tasted like watered-down Orangina, but it sure was pretty to look at!

The Disney-fied woody interior of Bubba Gump Shrimp, plastered with all sorts of faux-vintage paraphernalia... cute, if one is into that sort of thing.

Our first order was the Shrimp Po' boy - basically a sandwich with battered 8 (yes I counted!) mid-sized shrimps. It came with a heaping of fries, coleslaw, a slice of pickle and standard garnishing. It wasn't bad, but as always, I struggled with eating messily constructed open-faced sandwiches in a restaurant - they're too big to eat with both your hands, and using cutlery just seems plain moronic. Bubba Gump also serves this on newsprint-type paper on a light steel plate, which doesn't have a grip on the table and squirms and moves when you attempt to slice the hard bread with your knife. So you end up sawing through the bread on the moving surface for about 5 minutes for every mouthful of sandwich. OK if you're into working for your food... like steamboat, and fondue.

Like all good American joints, this one comes with redeeming features. And today, it was the Bourbon Street Barramundi - generous fillets of barramundi lightly pan fried, drowned in a heady, rich, buttery sauce with shrimps on a mash base.

It really was very good - each mouthful of tender flakes of fish, mash and sauce went down easily and quickly. But don't go thinking this is light by any standards just because it's white fish - I could barely heave myself out of the booth at the end of the meal.

Total damage was RM74.40 for two, without alcohol or dessert. Eating out sure is getting more and more painful these days!