Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Merriest Raya Ever!

Raya break this year (plus the couple of weeks prior) was a bit of an epiphany. True, I went on an excessive binge of all things good and groovy. But I was also re-acquainted to the great Abe Lincoln saying "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." For the longest time, I was passively positive at best, quite moodily content to recalibrate my expectations to quotidian apathy.

But for one reason or another, this interval offered me a dramatic shift in conscious and subconscious conversations and became quite simply, the merriest Raya for me ever!

The evening of Raya Open House at Nahri's was one such occasion. His grandmother had fixed us such a generous, heartwarming meal that I was sorry the grand dame didn't stick around for us to thank her properly.

Fried spiced chicken. We set about trying to figure out the flavours and I tasted turmeric, five spice and charred soy enveloping tender chicken thigh.

The composition of the Prawn Puffs - prawn doused in unsweetened custard cream nestled in choux pastry - was near perfection. Why we hadn't thought of that for the endless finger food parties will forever torment me.

Dry beef rendang provoked obligatory comparison to the wetter version. My no-beef policy remained so I had to rely on others' reactions. Some felt it was too dry but others thought it a welcome, flavour-packed change.

The Sayur Lodeh was easy on the spice, lavish on the root.

Glorious carbs - cubes of Ketupat...

... and Lemang that Nahri had purchased in the Pantai area before stopping off to meet us at Sid's, from an entrepreneurial fella impatient to get to the Black Eyed Peas concert.

Sashi brought forth his Kajang residency prowess - two different types of equally good satay. This one came from a place called Restoran Malaysia, which roughed it out with the other version from unnamed stall, for best satay ever!

Other unnamed place presented the win sauce for the day though. Creamy, mild yet passionately peanutty.

The gorgeous, festive meal set the stage for more misbehaviour for the rest of the evening as we proceeded to celebrate a couple of September birthdays.

Drinks followed drinks, followed by an unprecedented, zealous night of dancing until my feet gave way. I woke up the next morning, quite exhausted, a wee bit remorseful but ultimately smitten by this extraordinary profusion of good faith and indulgence. More, more and more!

Happy Q4 Everyone!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Michelin Chef (and nice guy) Daniel Boulud: One Night in Singapore

Food on film and television is pretty hard to beat. Let's face it, what other prop is easily accessible to the audience, regardless of language and demographics and theme? Similarly, the entertainment value of people behind food as an art is great fodder for televsion content, and for couch potatoes who love food like me, a near-perfect lazy afternoon.

Pic lifted liberally from Asian Food Channel because I'm a gangster like that

Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud and his adventure in Singapore is the subject of the Asian Food Channel (AFC)'s second original production. AFC invited Daniel to whip up his signature cuisine for one night only at the Fullerton Hotel and the hour-long feature captures the intense rigeur leading up to the evening of this meal.

The premier was held at the spanking Neo, perched atop Jalan Sultan Ismail next to Tamarind Hill which became dramatically more ravishing as night fell upon us. It set the stage for the documentary itself, a rapid fire dramatized study of the man himself during his trip, punctuated with plenty of tension, humour and frenzy.

We got to chat a little to our affable host Hian Goh, Managing Director of AFC to try see if there was dirt behind the decorous depiction of Chef Daniel, having heard of horror stories of other celebrity chefs. But Hian assured us that Chef Daniel was a genuinely nice, gracious personality, incredibly passionate and meticulous. Besides, he shared, AFC only works with nice guys!

Neo's aqua theme offered a lovely ambience for the gathering which was also for me personally a wonderful first-time meeting with folks whose words I were familiar with. Also it was great to meet again some bloggers from Penang I'd first met almost two years ago.

The parting shot of the magnificent dining room with its water wall backdrop left me awed. Just look at it... enough drama and trepidation to behold the appearance of Count Dracula. Or failing that, Chef Daniel Boulud himself!

'Daniel Bould: One Night in Singapore' will premier on AFC (Astro Channel 703) on Tuesday 29th September 2009 at 9PM. Caution: Do not watch hungry!

Big thanks to Asian Food Channel as well as Alice George Communication for hosting such a great evening! We look forward to seeing more homegrown productions in the future!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Feel-Good Jap at Akane, Hartamas

How great was the long Raya weekend? Hands up all those who think we should have a four-day weekend every month??!

After three days of reckless indulgence, we decided to revisit our inspiration from moderation and hit for similar contemporary Western cuisine turned Japanese at Akane in Desa Sri Hartamas for a meeting that wouldn't involve alcohol.

Over thirst-quenching iced Mugi-cha, we discussed this rare, exceptional influx of positive vibes clouding what was affirmatively one of the best times of our little lives. Despite some broad concerns about the danger of slipping back into our excessive tendencies, we were delightfully smothered by the energy, possibilities and conviction that this interval offered.

Akane was peopled by Japanese patrons and staff, their delicate brand of service a gust of fresh air from lame Malaysian standards. We started with the Akane Salad, because we were being good girls. The slices of grilled unagi provided the punch to an otherwise scanty salad made up of mostly iceberg lettuce.

I had some trouble deciphering the rather perplexing menu (which included modular options of sets) but settled for Katsu Pork spicy curry rice, on account of my very long journey to trip to Japan end of the year.

I had pooh-poohed the spice level when the Jap wait staff warned, "It's very spicy" but upon first taste, understood. The spice from Japanese curry hit only a few seconds after settling on the tongue and once it did, out poured the sweat and the tissues! Halfway through meal, nose was dripping, sweat was pouring, I was a mess!!

Omu Raisu (Omelette Rice) with Tomato Sauce. Akane offered a choice of either Tomato, Curry or Demi Glace (Beef stock sauce).

The rice had been fried liberally in butter and a wealth of various types of mushrooms, scallops, shrimps and squid. This plate was cleaned!

And to part, before we embarked on a walking tour of Hartamas commerce, Akane had these table standees of messages which baffled and bettered us at the same time. I have control of neither my thoughts or actions so if someone can show me the way, that would be great!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Triumphant Tomyam at Khun Thai, PJ

The search for great tomyam in the Klang Valley brought us to the heartland of PJ and Khun Thai, which requires little introduction. We struggled a little with orientation but Masak-masak's directions on mobile web got us there relatively unscathed.

It was nearly 2PM when we arrived but the place was still brisk and booming.

Very refreshing ambarella at a whopping RM3.20 per glass! Are ambarellas going out of supply? I am considering farming as a career after I am done with current one. I was thinking of harvesting some kind of fruit to make wine with, but I am very open to suggestions as to what to farm.

The Som Tum was a ravishing abundance of fruit and roasted peanuts. This was a rendition most befitting this beautiful Thai gift to the world. Definitely better than my last encounter at Sirarom.

And one of the undisputed reasons for being, for which we came here for... clear the table, here comes Tomyam! We ordered the Clear Tomyam because we are rebels like that!

Copious seafood for just the two of us! A sour, sordid, splendid affair!!

The very helpful and cheerful staff also recommended the Nameless Fried Chicken. It featured Nam Yue (fermented red bean curd) and was deep-fried to the point that even the bones were crunchy! We enjoyed this very much but could have done with the deep-fried shallots garnishing.

The chicken was plenty fine on its own but Khun Thai served it with this chilli sauce, which added bonus sweetness and spice.

We rounded off with Petai with prawns. The beans were profuse but the prawns were probably a day or two past their use-by date. An unsuspected let-down.

Despite the petai incident, we left happy with plenty good faith for Khun Thai, especially that tomyam and the friendly Hokkien-speaking crew. Will be back!

Selamat Hari Raya and Happy Holidays folks!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wah Cheong, Section 17

Previous night at the first Twestival KL, while a whole lotta fun, had taken its toll on the morning after. Needed sustenance urgently immediately after rolling out of bed and headed over to Wah Cheong at Section 17. The morning wet market mob was not easy on worn and wearied temperaments but we managed to find a park.

I had zoomed in on the Pan Mee, on account of having read about it at the very fantastic EatingAsia. It did not disappoint. The noodles were of remarkable consistency and texture and made me reconsider my persistent "pinched" noodle preference.

We had also spied the Hakka Mee stall facing the street, and I simply had to have it. The auntie operating alone took some time understandably to keep up with the healthy flow of orders but when it finally got here...

...behold! The delicate flavour of Hakka Mee is difficult to get right but this stall delivered a more than decent version. The main ingredients are lard, vinegar, white pepper and ummm... more lard, I think. The serving was just right too, perfect size for those who are looking to sample more than one type of breakfast noodles.

The infamous Florence's Nyonya goodies stall, which I had recalled from UGWUG's post was briskly selling out so I secured myself a Curry Puff to keep things interesting while waiting for the next order. The pastry was light, fresh and crunchy and the filling offered a hefty curry chicken & potato paste.

On my way back, I managed to chance the back of cool t-shirt potential. Clothes do not make the man, yes, but cool t-shirts certainly make a statement about the wearer and weed out real eye candies!

The final breakfast noodle dish finally arrived, after patiently waiting in line behind the stall's frenetic traffic of orders. And it is this rather spectacular Wantan Mee topped with decorous slices of charsiew.

The allure of this order lied in the lithe and supple egg noodles as well as the smoky perfume from the char siew juices, mixed in with soy & oyster sauces. Scent-sational!

The wantans, served separately, were not the usual drippy bambino variations either - these packed flavour and dumpling pride.

Wah Cheong had a few more tricks up its sleeves that we couldn't possibly stomach in one sitting so a return visit was guaranteed. We wiped our greasy lips, slapped our protruding guts and staggered out to nurse the fresh hangover from noodle comfort and bask in the rest of the Sunday sunshine underneath ruminating clouds.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Meat of Merrymaking, Bavarian Bierhaus, The Curve

CAUTION: Some baaad photos ahead! The lighting was particularly bad and I had to contend with a bunch of hungry and impatient folks.

The bride-to-be had picked the Curve for some pre-wedding fun and frolics.

Bavarian Bierhaus was packing the crowds in so good thing to make reservations ahead on a Friday evening, particularly if you're coming with a large group.

Bavarian Bierhaus' beverage menu featured the usual bevvy of Belgian beers. I had been wrongly informed beforehand (or I'd imagined this myself) that they served the rather rare Apple lambic here and I'd gotten the rest of the troop rather excited. Having been told that no, Apple lambic was in fact, NOT available, I ate humble pie while the whole table threw me accusing stares. I settled for Stella, which did not get anywhere near the lambic promise.

Some orders the Bierhaus Salad to balance out the inevitable meaty blowout. This was very well-received, the lightness of the balsamic dressing working harmoniously with the crisp greens and the seared seasoned pork loin.

The Sausage Platter arrived an impressive composition of eight sausages with sauerkrat and potato salad. A killer of a meal for one person, but works out nicely when shared between two hungry sausage fiends. When asked to pick which one was best, the black (lamb) came out the favourite.

Another goes for the Sausage & Lamb platter and did a superb job wiping her plate clean, enjoying it thoroughly in the process.

The pasta princess ordered Vongole, al dente linguine with fresh clams and generous shavings of streaky bacon. I am liking this pervasive use of pork in everything... almost like every dish is an excuse for a porcine experiment.

There were a couple of dishes here and there that didn't have pork. The Tuna Penne also scored high points with the meal owner. She had ordered this following a more-ish soup starter, not expecting this to be anything more than an unremarkable filler but was surprised by how simple, yet delightful it was.

I decided to do chicken, because I liked the sound of the Pistachio Crusted Chicken. It came two generous slices of chicken breast with a coating of roughly chopped pistachio nuts on a pool of mushroom stew. I could've done with thigh meat instead of breast, and the stew could've gone a little easier on the sodium content but overall, I was pretty happy with it.

Latecomers including the bride-to-be ordered the Lamb Sausage and another salad to share. All good, they said.

We carried on to Library for more misbehaviour. While the location had potential, we were unfortunately subjected to an evening of DREADFUL service. Orders took about 40 mins to arrive, and we were treated to profuse eye-rolling by waitresses with too much attitude. Equally wretched was the showcase by the live band, murdering every song ever known to Top 40 pop-rock history.

I'm game for merrymaking as much as the next person, but come on, for those drink prices and all that hassle, the joint should at least involve either a) live performance that's a notch more inspiring than cover bands in hotel lounges or b) a decent DJ on the decks AND a dancefloor! And it goes without saying that they need to exterminate staff who don't understand service - i.e. no, you don't get to roll your eyes when you get told off for screwing up the customer's orders. OUT!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happiness is a State of Mind... or a really great pizza at Kissaten, Jaya One

For a long time , my bud Hui and I had been a tag team of severe discontentment and apathy. We got together and drank. A LOT. We commiserated about the choices we made, the choices we didn't think we had and the choices we had but didn't know how to exercise. We were basically two very bloated, disoriented and unhappy crones.

But then in recent months, the universe shifted. Or rather, we changed. Hui made a departure from the unsettling elements in her life while I got a second wind and made a huge readjustment to my perspective on mine. We came to a full revelation, that we were actually in a good place, and that we're unequivocally HAPPY, this delightful evening at Kissaten at Jaya One.

Kissaten had personally been the source of great excitement for some time now, especially following the melodic accounts of it by Lyrical Lemongrass and Hairy Berry.

We arrived on a Saturday night to a near-full house, every table eating up a storm. The interior was understated yet comfortable, perfect for an evening when we weren't bothered with the eyelash curler or colour coordination.

We started with the Just Vege Salad. It came with a weird mayo like dressing which Hui suspected to be cheesy and asked for an alternative from the helpful waiter, who happened to speak strictly only Mandarin. Now at that point, we wondered about the virtue of having a waitperson who responded only to Mandarin at a joint like Kissaten, which surely attracted more than a purely Chinese demographic. Nevertheless, we made do and carried on, unruffled.

We had been drooling over the menu for a few days, in consideration for a meal with MS, the other member of the Merry Trinity and we were sold on the pizzas. The Garlic Mushroom Pizza arrived to raised eyebrows because let's face it, the crust looked a wee bit thicker than what was shown on the menu. Nevertheless, it didn't prove to be too disappointing.

Cheesy and cheerful, even to a schizo dairy-hater.

We had our eye set on the Onsen tamago chicken teriyaki pizza from the moment we clicked on the Slide menu. How do you say no to the pornography that is one fine wobbly, poached egg? The toppings were generous and even though I shall forever resent the sweetness of teriyaki, this one was top-drawer happy food!

We enjoyed a bottle of Chilean Santa Helena's Cabernet Sauvignon. Once upon a time, we would have needed at least two, three bottles of this between the two of us to seal the evening but moderation, it seems, is by-product of Happiness and begets even more!

Things are only as bad as they seem and most of us are fortunate enough to always have choices that we can use, exploit even. The only thing stopping us from being happy is our irresolute selves! So Happy being Happy Folks!