Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tapas and Silencio, por favor, Pedro's Place, Desa Sri Hartamas

I had my eye set firmly on Pedro's Place since I read from Eat Drink KL a very distant September last year. Took me this long to get around to it, because I'm tragic like that.

Nevertheless, food blogs continue to compel me to eat and live better, albeit at a languid pace. Life seriously is waayyy too short to eat bad food or drink bad wine. Oh and not take care of our bodies too. Moderation moderation, yada yada. We arrived on a weekday night when all was quiet and impulses were under control.

We started with complimentary tortilla chips and salsa on the house. These were just what we needed to ply us through until we had the third member of the party in place.

More compliments from Pedro's - fresh bread dipped in a functional but perfectly forgettable oil and vinegar dressing. Service was enthusiastic for at any one time, one of the three floor staff would check in on us.

Pedro's has a separate menu for tapas from its mains, and we decided that we'd go that route.

Pickled anchovies in ginger and lemon. Crazy salty on its own but worked beautifully with bread.

Black olive pate, served with toasted bread. At this point, bread started to seem omnipresent so we refused a top-up indignantly. I was a fan of the pate - smooth and pungent, and the slightly grainy texture kept things interesting.

We also ordered the Stuffed mushrooms, with crab, on account of my bovine intolerance. We were extremely happy that said crab stuffing did not materialise as canned or crabstick. The fresh crabmeat was subtle and buttery, gorgeous with a squirt of lemon.

Jalapenos stuffed with three cheeses - Cheddar, Mozzarella, Leicester - battered and deep-fried. Didn't touch these but other members of the party were practically moaning in ecstasy.

Another dish I couldn't bring myself to partake in was the trio of Camembert parcels, served with fruit sauce and honey. They sounded stranger than they really were.

I couldn't do without the Flamenca Egg after I'd read about them on Sean's blog. Once we scraped the burnt edges clean, we discussed how easily we could emulate this in our own humble kitchens.

Nett nett, we loved Pedro's Place, for all its homeliness and comfort, both in food and service. However we didn't like the acoustics much, for one loud party basically kills it for anyone else in the restaurant remotely interested in conversation. We recommend basic insulation for Pedro's to contain the jarring echoes. We carried on to nearby Hartamas Square so we could carry on chatting after dinner.

Otherwise, I would totally go back for the Chimichangas. Oh and a pint of something something. Pedro's has a respectable beverages menu including some very alluring Happy Hour prices for Stout and Strongbow cider. Check it!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Osaka-fu Okonomiyaki: Why Don't You Love Me?

Osaka and Okonomiyaki are synonymous so as soon as we arrived, checked into the hotel and got ourselves orientated around Dotonburi, we hunted down the pancake. It required practically no effort as the main street and alleys running off it are teemed with outlets offering this sizzling treat.

It must be said though, that both of us, for some strange reason, didn't dig the idea of Okonomiyaki from our previous encounters. Neither of us can coherently explain why. Flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, meat and grease are all exceptional ingredients in our books, so mashing them all up together would be a shoo-in. Too much of a good thing, perhaps?

We ordered two versions - one featuring crabmeat & prawns and the other one tuna (my bad, I mistook the tuna in the picture for some exotic vegetable). The waitress turned up with the bowls of the ingredients, mixed them up good and slapped it on the grill built into the table.

The wait for the mixture to cook can be a tad agonizing, especially since we were both crazy starving.
Waitress came back about 10 minutes later, armed with more ammo. Kewpie mayo sputtering on the grill can only mean one thing = DANGER!

Once done, we helped ourselves to as much bonito flakes and ao-nori seaweed powder as we could handle. The result was a pretty formidable package.

Utter CHAOS! We were stuffed beyond repair by the time we were through. It was a pretty breathtaking meal, especially for new arrivals to Osaka but our reservations of Okonomiyaki remained. Too much love WILL kill you!

Yukari Group, serving Okonomiyaki since 1953.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Other Lorong Selamat (which does not involve CKT!)

While many have professed love for Lorong Selamat on account of its superstar Char Koay Teow resident, I remain firmly unconvinced of its merit and prefer to get my CKT fix elsewhere. However, there may be merit to this road's epicurean fame, beyond just that smug, goggled persona. On a recent trip, we stumbled upon not one but two noteworthy local bowls of finesse.

One was a hearty bowl of Fish Head noodles from Kedai Kopi Baru which sits isolated from the congregation of the food stalls on the Burma Road end.

A rather decent attempt at the less popular non-sour/milky variant of fish head noodles. Without the standard Chinese wine and preserved vegetables, it worked on the strength of fish stock alone and was overall a more subtle offering. Fish slices were so-so. Not mind-blowing but definitely commendable.

The next morning, we went back to Lorong Selamat, to the other end this time (Macalister Road end) to check out a shop we had passed by several times before, called T&T Prawn Mee Shop.
Ooh isn't that red car a gorgeous little machine?

We found out that it's actually the offspring of the old and beloved stall on Hong Kong Street, one that I had missed desperately so I was game to see if the younger generation made the cut. Choice toppings on offer included fish and meatballs, fresh prawns, spare ribs, pork knuckle and intestines.

My Prawn Mee with velvety, fall-of-the-bone spare ribs. Superb!! Obviously they'd stuck very close to the aged-old but not yet over-the-hill stock recipe. Drank it like beer at happy hour!

Fat Tulip's glorious mess of porcine love, starring a hefty pork knuckle and pork intestines. A beaut!

T&T also has Hokkien/Prawn mee steamboat with the delicious prawn stock, great for upcoming CNY season when your relatives gather to insinuate and interrogate. This stock could be the start of a different world for me altogether, one in which I don't abhor the concept of steamboat in what is arguably the hottest, stickiest month of the year.

Kedai Kopi Baru
6A Lorong Selamat
10400 Penang
Tel: 016-427 3717

T&T Prawn Mee Shop
127, Lorong Selamat
10400 Penang
Tel: 04-2263407/ 016 414 3369

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Church of Japanese Curry, Cocoichi

Barely two weeks of work into the year, I am already struggling to remember things that took place in December. All that drinking (which persists "because it's still January and if you even think about starting resolutions before Chinese New Year, you're just passive-aggressive setting yourself up for failure") is probably counter-productive but then again, since when did January and productivity make any sense together?

I wanted to make sure I documented at least this meal, our first stop fresh off the plane, to the church of Japanese curry, Cocoichi. I have been in love with Cocoichi for a long, long time.

Cocoichi is practically everywhere in the Kansai region. It is THAT well-loved. In freezing December temperature, the heat that the curries here pack makes even more sense.

They were featuring some nifty winter specials when we visited. We had the very delightful Gobo salad (burdock root chips). The root's subtle earthy flavour did nicely when sliced and fried to a bewitching crunch.

Also on the seasonal menu were these seductive beauties. Kaki furai (deep-fried oysters), courtesy of oyster harvesting season across various regions in Japan. Fat, slinky oysters captured and crumbed - these were gone in 10 seconds flat!

The main star curry finally arrived, glowing like the good red earth that bears the human race many fruit. My choice topping: Hire pork katsu and ebi curry, Spice level 4. Even though I've long held the aspiration to hit the max level of 10, I think 4's about the highest I'm ever going to go. Any higher and it would've killed my enjoyment of how the tenderness of the pork cutlet dissolved sublimely in the flaming stew.

Pickles galore on each table, as much as you can stomach - absolutely essential pairing with your curry rice!

We all had the Hire Katsu on rice with different sides. Memo went for the vegetable curry on the side - not a tiny bit healthier!
The meal was one of the heaviest I had in a while and we had to abort any other plans we had lined up for our first day. No one minded one bit - first of many overeating milestones!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Who Wants to Live Forever?

For the longest time, there's been a preoccupation across traditional and contemporary cultures with human mortality and the finiteness of life. Longevity, or a long life, is a highly coveted aspiration from Utopian ideology to Japanese traditional culture, as this delicious bowl of toshikoshisoba, handmade buckwheat noodles in hot tsuyu that was served in my older sister's home on New Year's Eve, symbolised.

Who Wants to Live Forever, went Queen. Quite apt for the following day. With weather in the Kansai region of central Japan getting oppressively colder over the New Year, retail and commerce coming to a grinding halt for a few days as the nation celebrated, who the hell would want to?? Despite my misgivings, I couldn't bring myself to discount the good faith and intent of the season. It did allow me to catch up on some serious drinking, interspersed with the hunt for the scarcity of food joints that stayed open. One such was the local branch of the popular Hanamaru udon chain.

Memo went for a bowl of Negi Udon (udon with spring onions), so simple yet so swiftly gratifying after a short an effective self-service queue. While waiting to reach the server to your order, you are accosted by a dazzling array of sides and add-ons - steaming oden, onigiri, tempura EVERYTHING (chicken, sliced lotus root, prawn, fish, even an egg, yes a battered whole boiled egg!) to dunk into the soup and tempt our fortune.

Mag had Niku Udon (beef slices). Other of our top choices were Wakame Udon (seaweed) and Onsen Tamago Udon (half boiled egg, served hot or cold). The bowls of noodles on their own were fairly spartan and would have made wise choices for a long life, but topped with all the deep fried goodies that we piled on our side plates, a longer life was probably not a serious aspiration.

Neither would have this Dan Dan Ramen contributed to upping our life expectancy, from a packed ramen stop at Nagoya main train station. Memo thoroughly enjoyed the thicker strand of egg noodles submerged in a massive cauldron of heavy stock underscored by ground peanut and minced pork. Made even the typically lavish and salty miso ramen or chasumen stock seem diluted in comparison.

While the question remains if extending life is natural or necessarily laudable and modern science continues its onslaught into the study of reversing the aging process, the Japanese has been ahead of the game, living longer than their counterparts elsewhere. Eating right, minus the super-sizing or the add-ons, is one way to expire later.

Ise Udon, served only in Ise, city of the most sacred Shinto shrine in Japan, encapsulates no-frills eating. The appreciation of the dish of thick handmade noodles served in a black broth made from soy sauce and sake, garnished only with spring onions, requires a radical shift from our habitual need for nourishing sides and indulgent extras.
Rather than harbouring absurd expectations of how much longer I can stretch my physical existence here, I'd translate longevity to be an aspiration for a life long and extended on fulfilment and happiness, short on restraint and remorse!

On that note, Eat and Drink on!