Monday, May 26, 2008

Xotic, 245 Mt Albert Road, Auckland

The $12 buffet is back on, start-time 7pm in the evenings. Go Hungry and Pace Yourself.

Bottomless Naan, Fresh, Fluffy, Bitefuls of Doughy Goodness

Lydia's plate, much the same except there is more of that yummy nutty carrot? dessert.

Buffet Counter, with aesthetic not too different rom Pizza Hut all you can eat counters circa 1995? There are also other pizza takeaway references, note the logo on your yellow plate for the buffet; vaguely reminiscent of that other pizza franchise giant Domino's yes?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Chicken Chop at CRC

It was late and we were hungry, in need of a quick, fuss-free fix so off we went to Chinese Recreation Club (CRC) off Burma Road. The cafe overlooking the field provides reprieve from the heat and it serves up cheap, simple local fare.

I was recommended the CRC Chicken Chop by Fat Tulip. At RM9 a pop, I didn't think it was terribly cheap but it was a good-sized, hearty feed.
It was a nice change to have brown gravy instead of the usual tomato-based gravy favoured elsewhere. Ooh and they threw in a sausage! Who says no to a sausage? Fat Tulip ordered the Black Pepper Hor Fun which sounded and looked utterly boring. Poor Fat Tulip! I gave him some sausage and onions from my chicken chop, which made him a happy boy.

We also ordered the Roti Ayam. It was good roti, and the filling was tasty enough but I tasted no ayam. Where the ayam?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Potato and Leek Soup

Now I know it look like stodge. There is no disguising stodge. Stodge is stodge. However, this was rather fine stodge - my cooking in general leaves very much unimpressed and uninspired. For some reason, I was seized with the compulsion to make potato and leek soup, and to make it well. But y'know, you really can't go too far wrong with this much butter and cream. I mean, come on...

Glorify Stodge!

I derived the recipe mainly from the BBC recipe but took pointers from the second link which definitely elevated the soup beyond ordinary stodge, ie bake potatoes beforehand, with skins and all. I pureed 3/4 of the soup and left the rest, it was a good balance texture-wise. This is probably undeserving of an entire post, but well, I don't think I will make something this good again.

Oriental Seafood, Gurney Drive, Penang

Oriental Seafood overlooking the marshy swampland that is Gurney Drive has always been synonymous with overpriced seafood and tourist trapping so I was surprised when my friend suggested lunch on a sleepy Wednesday afternoon there.
Curious to see how it's come along since the family last paid a visit years and years ago, I got there, parked my car with a slight hint of trepidation as two tour buses deposited a large group of tourists in front of me.
The lunch menu for regular non-tourist folk was a simple one laminated pager, mostly noodles and unassuming dishes like oyster omelette and fried chicken to share.

We started off with the Or Chien (Oyster Omelette). We liked that it was done differently than the usual local version, sans rice flour and tapioca starch. It was fluffier and felt somewhat lighter, although I am sure it was still executed with a ton of oil.
I got the Char Hor Fun, which came steaming in a small claypot. The portion was extremely generous for the price of RM4.50 and could've easily fed two. It was very tasty and very filling, and my afternoon nosedived into sluggish torpor after this, despite having to waste a good portion of it.
Mei Shean ordered the beehoon in spicy and sour soup, kinda like what was served up at Wang Zhao Jun. Again, this was a massive serving for one.

I spied some other tables with the tomyam which looked yummy, as well as the fondly-remembered fried rice. I shall have to return for those some time. Good place for a relatively cheap, quick local noodle fix in air-conditioning, if you don't mind the hordes of tourists and the grouchy aunties serving.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Restoran Kapitan, Chulia St, Penang

While our love for Penang food has been staunch and unquestionable, somehow, my dear sisters and I have managed to remain mutedly neutral for the longest time over one famed quarter, Nasi Kandar. I'm not quite sure why. A case of not having it properly programmed into our neural receptors? Or just that we've simply not had the good fortune of a remarkable encounter with this much-loved spice and rice extravaganza?

So when Fat Tulip suggested Nasi Kandar today at Restoran Kapitan, I was hesitant at first but decided to be agreeable for a change. As we walked into the shop, the gorgeous aroma of freshly grilled meat and spices hit us and pretty much turned me into an instant Nasi Kandar convert.

My plate consisted of (from right, clockwise) curry chicken, long beans, potato & shrimp stew on rice (nasi kurang) doused in gravy, one gallon.

Fat Tulip had more greens and fat, scary-looking fish roe (left). He also ordered the A+ star dish of the day, the freshly grilled Chicken Biryani.

Ooh la la. This was good chicken. Moist, tender with plenty of lime and spices to boot.

Today's foray has piqued my interest in mamak cuisine and I intend to come back for more. I hear that it's important to go to the right places (plenty to choose from) as there are just as many, if not more, places serving diabolical nasi kandar as good ones. Restoran Kapitan seems dependable enough. The Chicken Biryani (with rice) and the Tandoori Chicken look especially interesting. It is located at the corner of Lorong Pitt and Chulia Street.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Wang Zhao Jun Restaurant, Rangoon Road, Penang

Wang Zhao Jun is a bit of an institution in Penang and one of which I have managed to remain clumsily ignorant up until now. This is my second visit there, Fat Tulip and a curious Papa Chow in tow.
We arrived no later than 12.15pm and already, the place was packed to the brim, with tables spilling out over to the premises' neighbours.

Stir fried leek with shrimps. They had run out of tau kua, which usually makes up one of their signature dishes. Again, I stress my dislike for leek but Papa Chow was rejoicing.

Stir-fried kai lan with abalone mushrooms. We ordered this in an attempt to add some greens to our meal but it came swimming with more mushrooms than kai lan. Oh well.

Beehoon (rice vermicelli) in spicy and sour clear soup. Noodles in clear soup do not maketh good food porn. But believe you me, this was a clear winner from the get go. The beehoon used was of the thicker, sturdier variety so it didn't fall apart and disintegrate in the steaming soup. The soup was flavoured with lemongrass, tomatoes, coriander, cili padi and slices of fresh fish.

Steamed horfun and beehoon with fish. It kinda sounded like patient food to me. But the fat oodles of hor fun, mixed in with the simple garlicky soy dressing and steamed fish garnished with token greens and lots of ginger would do the trick on any hale and hearty day. We ordered too much though for the three of us, so had to leave a mound of hor fun unfinished at the end.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Stewed Pork at Home

Papa Chow who's been missing Mama Chow got busy in the kitchen yesterday and presented the good old home-cooked favourite, Mui Choy Kau Yok (Stewed Pork with Preserved Vegetables). Papa favours the extreme excess style of cooking, always over the top, never under-seasoning and none of that health check crap. Very necessary when preparing traditional fattening, comforting food. Slurpalicious!

Unearthing hidden treasures in the slow cooker pot

Flash-frenzy! Pork and mui choy blink in unison, bewildered.

This is how I consumed my share of glorious pork dish, on fat udon noodles. Needless to say, it was fuppin' awesome!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Kissa-Koyotei, Hutton Lane, Penang

We were wandering around the vicinity of New World Park for a decidedly late lunch and decided to give Kissa-Koyotei on Hutton Lane a go.

The place was empty, save for the friendly waitresses in cosplay-like uniforms and their chain-smoking teenaged boyfriends seated by the bar, looking quite ill at ease with their avant-garde hairdos. Fat Tulip and I grudgingly acknowledged that the place felt nouveau Japanese, though we're not quite sure why. I think the blaring J-pop as well as the strictly Japanese spelling "Ara carte" on the menu may have something to do with it.
I was prepared for the food to be mediocre at best for we saw no one in the vicinity of the kitchen apart from the waitresses and one other very young looking chap. So I was pleasantly surprised when the grub delivered. I must refrain from my baseless assumptions on youth's culinary abilities. I remember what it was like to be young and dismissed once.

Chawan Mushi
Extremely silken smooth and tasted of superior dashi (fish stock). I love uncovering the treasures hidden within a well-executed chawan mushi and this one came up with chicken, mushrooms and shrimps. Very palatable and texture comparable to Mama Chow's arms and Ollie's mochi cheeks.

Buta Salad with Goma Dressing
We shared this because neither of us felt like we were getting enough greens of late. I find it difficult to give credit to salads that rely on iceberg lettuce for body but this one somehow worked. It came with generous slices of fatty pork and drenched (but not overly so) in a heavier, nuttier goma dressing.

Katsu Curry Rice
As some of the family's in Yokohama, no doubt digging into the famed Cocoichibanya curry house, I felt I should also indulge in some. This came with a generous amount of curry with more tender pork and did not taste a bit like the supermarket-brand prepared curry stock cube. While it's no Cocoichi, I am happy to report that this is as close to it as I've ever tasted here.
Fat Tulip ordered a steaming pot of Sukiyaki and it came a thick broth of beef, mushrooms and tofu. He seemed reasonably pleased with it.
The bill was slightly over RM70 for 2 pax, which is more than what I'd usually pay for lunch, but it was better quality overall so we didn't grumble much.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Chicken pies from KSB Specialist Bakery & Cafe, Macalister Road, Penang

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about longing for pies minus the puff pastry. So imagine my utter delight when I chanced upon exactly some of those today.

Disgruntled and soured after the lunch at Lynn's, I decided to hang out with Mei Shean while she waited for an appointment on Macalister Road. We had about 20 minutes to kill and thought we could really use a seat and some coffee and voila, about ten feet away from us stood the highly inconspicuous KSB Specialist Bakery & Cafe. We wandered in and ordered ourselves two cups of freshly brewed coffee at RM3.60 each. They came in steaming mugs, so strong and virile they more or less made up for the disgrace that was Lynn's coffee earlier.

We deduced that it's the same bakery that started at the lobby of Loh Guan Lye Specialist Centre and it's branched out to a stand-alone outlet now. Apart from the usual array of preservative-free health bread and buns, they also sold toasted sandwiches, mushroom soup and gasp! a variety of pies with short crust pastry! The selections include chicken, curry chicken, black pepper, sheperd and vegetarian. They also accept bulk pre-orders for a rather impressive-looking Yorkshire pie. We both took away two pies each - I took home chicken and sheperd (which we learned was also chicken).

And the verdict, come dinnertime?

Apart from the crust, a noteworthy and welcomed change from the puff pastry madness which has enveloped our deluded nation of pie makers, I have to say the filling was.... more of the same. At RM3 each, they were still very tasty treats but I was kinda expecting the filling to be some gooey, gravy explosion and they turned out to be the rather standard potato-chicken-egg variety.

Sheperd's Pie - potatoes, chicken, hard boiled egg, peas, carrots, corn

Chicken Pie - essentially the same thing as Sheperd's Pie, but of lighter colouring?

A closer look at the filling contrast - Sheperd's on the left, Chicken on the right. They really did taste the same, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Lynn's Boutique & Cafe, Burmah Road, Penang

We'd been a fan of Lynn's for some time now, regularly returning for one of the lovely set lunches and daily specials. That is why it pains me (but only a wee bit) to have to post about this particular visit today, surely one of the least pleasant experiences we've had there.

Wednesdays are Roast Pork days and I duly ordered one as main course for the set lunch. We started with Cream of Leek soup. Now, leek is probably my least favourite vegetable in the whole world. I managed to stomach this incarnation though, so they must have done something impossibly right with the vegetable.

Next came the mother of all main courses, the lip-smacking, fat-oozing slab of pork, done to tender perfection, its skin roasted to a thick, crunchy golden brown crust, served with sides of vegetables and potatoes. Unlike everything else that followed, this did not disappoint.

Dessert was vanilla ice cream, one scoop. Now, normally, having just been fed that gorgeous piece of meat laced with all that fat, I would not even dare suggest that this did not live up to the rest of the meal or our reasonable expectations. However, we had spied earlier another lady, obviously a regular, finishing off her set lunch with a generous slice of cheesecake. I had assumed that knowledge by informing the lady who waited on us that I would do without the cheesecake but my two dining companions would be fine with it. She returned, after having conferred with her boss (who obviously did not hold us in the same regard of the other regular, despite our almost-weekly visit) brandishing three humble scoops of ice cream and announced apologetically that for us, "Dessert is ice cream." Perhaps, we should have argued. Bulldozed our way through, kicked and screamed so we'd get that damn cheesecake we deserved. But I honestly believe they should've had better sense to recognize returning regulars and not impose clearly visible double standards, regardless of whether they are tai-tais or not.

To add salt to the injury, the oft-inspiring cup of coffee at the end of each meal became an inspid, diluted affair. I have no idea if this is another inevitable casualty of all those rising food prices but there is nothing sadder than crossing a favourite eating haunt off the list. The picture here depicts the ever-lovely tableware that still lifts the spirits, not the pishwater that came inside. A reminder of the Lynn's that we once knew and loved.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Breakfast, Kwai Lock Cafe & surrounds, Burmah Road

Leisurely Sunday mornings tend to make my body react with a violent craving for a hot, nourishing breakfast. Since I have adopted the habit of only fruit and coffee in the mornings, I tend to abuse the Sunday breakfast allowance and go overboard.
We arrived at Kwai Lock Coffee Shop, located right next to the Pulau Tikus wet market enclave. Memo has written about this place here and she's had a crush on the fine-looking older gentleman who also whips up a mean Chee Cheong Fun for as long as I can remember.

Koay Chiap. A terrible version, I am afraid to say. Fat Tulip, an ardent fan of koay chiap, solemnly concedes. The broth was plain and dull as dishwater. The only redeeming point was the egg. It's hard to go wrong with the sight of a halved hard-boiled egg for breakfast. Nevertheless, it did not make me feel good enough to finish this bowl of nothingness.

Char Koay Teow. Ahhhh, greasy wonder of the mystical East, now we're talking. Or eating, rather.

Prompted by an elderly couple chomping on what looked like chicken pie next to us, we followed their lead and popped across the narrow street to find a makeshift stall outside a bakery. Sure enough, they had chicken pie, both in regular and small sizes.

"Is it any good?" I asked Fat Tulip suspiciously and loudly, my tactlessness clearly heightened by calorific overdose, to which the man behind the counter replied jovially, "Yes, very good. If you wait any longer, they'll all be sold out." We took two of the small sizes and saved them for later, see below.

Further up the road, we chanced upon this smiling man hawking three types of crackers - fish, prawn and tapioca. Now I don't know about you, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to get hold of good, wholesome ready-made crackers at regular supermarkets. We each bought ourselves some fish crackers.

Some hours later at home, I dug into the chicken pie. I've never been a fan of puff pastry and I long for a decent pie made with short crust pastry. But for what it was, this was lovely, with generous chunks of chicken meat, half boiled egg (more egg!), potatoes and peas, carrots, corn. I liked it enough to polish both pies! Oh I do like my Sundays!