Friday, January 28, 2011

Take on Time, the Tramp, at Cilantro KL

How do we upend this losing battle to time? At some point, we're risking expiry, aren't we, being harangued by our constant defeat, running out of time, not knowing what to do with what little time we have left to ourselves even when we do find it?

Truffle Butter

Too simplistic to point to work being the culprit of this perpetual massacre, burying ourselves under the days and hours lost to the demands of dry rosters of duties and this and that? Hmm, a lot of problems could probably be solved by the materialisation of this.

Cold Capellini with Panaché of Seafood and Mentaiko

I said probably. Imagine, once we start having more time off work, the value of personal time would become even more brutally apparent, lead to the question of why the hell do we even work anyway, and the same franchise of angst and resentment would persist in a downward spiral, probably at greater speed!

So here's this thing I tried recently, to some pretty amazing results - the ultimate victory isn't in being able to wrangle as much off the to-do list in a short space of time, but in the exact opposite. Pick just one day, anyday, to stop and sink for an inordinate amount of time and drop, just drop whatever you're doing, drop your shoulders, drop your calls, drop the time-keeping and drop, while the rest of the world is grunting and heaving.

It is a painfully rare occasion when I dare pull away from the masters, to slip in with some disarming company over lunch, at Cilantro, no less. The ceremonious beginnings of truffle butter on warm fresh bread and dainty cold pasta starter assure me that I'm in very good hands.

Hokkaido Scallop with Artichoke Soup and Truffles

The second course mirrors the conversation at the table as we tuck into Cilantro's resplendent brand of escapism, frothing in bite and mellifluous anecdotes.

Fricassée of Free Range Chicken with Maine Lobster

Chicken makes a rare appearance on Cilantro's lunch menu, and it tones down the heart-stopping violation of the schoolday Subway-and-chap-fan palate. A shade more pedestrian but at this point, the fun's shifted from the food to stories shared around the table.

Pan Fried French Rouget Fillet with Baby Squid and Rouille

The others found the fish main underwhelming and muted, compared to the glorious starters.

Roasted Plum with Vanilla Ice Cream

Sweet and tart ending, which while simple to the point of rustic, somehow spurred lunch on until around 3.15PM, when the staff had to apologetically shoo us out back to the hours.

And whaddya know? The world didn't end because of one decadent lunch, work still got done that evening, and yes, the internal time-keeper in me sulked for a bit for being ignored for those few hours, but the tramp eventually got over it. So the next chance you get, consider flipping time the bird and hit Cilantro's Friday lunch, which springs new surprises every week.

Cilantro Restaurant & Wine Bar
MiCasa All Suite Hotel
Jalan Tun Razak
50400 KL
Tel: +603 2179 8082

Sunday, January 23, 2011

An Identity Crisis, Dimsum at Taman Danau Desa

No one ever gets away operating within a single persona no more.

Not even a neighbourhood dimsum joint.

One One Cafe to some and Toms Dim Sum to others. We are all fragments of different things to different people, like it or not. The friend, the sister, the colleague, the lover, the neighbour, the audience - navigating around the varying expectations can be unnerving and cause more than a few slips and mishaps.

Your roots may start out in the Guangdong province, where the Teochew dumpling originated...

...traversing to the east where Shanghai gave birth to the soupy pockets of Xiu Long Bao...

...diving then into the ocean for the har in the har gau...

... and in subsequent remakes, getting itself upholstered in different variations, such as One One's Spinach & Prawn dumpling...

...and settling into universally embraced grease traps in the pan-fried goodness of the Fried Carrot Cake...

... and getting itself wrapped up in lotus leaf for a meat-and-carbo packed agenda.

Home too gets redefined as humankind continues to cross borders and barriers to get somewhere, anywhere, who knows where.

But right now, what is working for me is the porridge here at this dimsum joint, undecided of its own identity. The century egg & pork porridge features chunks of egg and lumpy pork meatballs in stodgy goodness.

Another version starring spare ribs & preserved vegetables brings a sigh of temporary relief from having to be different persuasions to different people.

Lucky me, it seems, that current reprieve is so close and accessible.

One One Dimsum/ Toms Dimsum
Taman Danau Desa 2
58100 Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Hearty Change at The Han Room

Things on the food front are starting out refreshingly different this year, I am glad to report. A heightened sense of chutzpah towards the appreciation of diverse schools of nourishment, as if I'd just woken up from a drawn out slumber of indifference and lethargy. Things I'd previously been oblivious to, or hastily dismissed upon one lousy experience or another, are suddenly offensively irresistible. Like tiresome steamboat. Or messy Ramly mystery meat burgers. Or the seasonal icon nga ku beng.

My previous eating incarnation would never have dreamed of making a beeline for new Oriental Group joint the Han Room at the Gardens mid-week. I mean, Chinese banquet-type dinners have been ingrained from childhood as purely extended family territory and all its connotations.

But on this feasting occasion in work vicinity, nothing else came close to remotely exciting birthday girl Vicky W as the Han Room. A wise choice, as so laid an evening before us of fine, happy feasting.

Crispy cod fish roll with chicken floss. None of us were big fans of chicken floss on well, anything, but this was a delightful savoury start.

Why not mix the starter up a little and throw in something sweet? The thousand layered cake was fine but rather one-dimensional, certainly didn't do its name justice.

The luscious Peking Duck invoked latter unprecedented cravings. I am at this very minute, physically fighting off a craving for that crispy yet juicy skin wrapped in pancake, accentuated by hoisin sauce. The leftover meat, however, was a bit too lean and dry for us but the kitchen worked with what they had with the second course of fried rice from the same dish.

The braised beancurd in crab roe sauce sounded so commonplace I would have glazed over it in a heartbeat, had my dining companions not called attention to it. The crabby sauce lifted every cynical Chinese preconception. Delicious.

With the consistent quality so far, there was no way late arrival Hong Kong Kai Lan "2 ways" could have failed us.

Regular programming all out the window by the time we wrapped up the dishes, I agreed over-enthusiastically to desserts, which again, is way out in left field for me. Some years ago, I lost my sweet tooth, I suspect to growing fondness of the drink, never to have seen more than a rare, superficial revival. But I am starting to see a possibility of a real change this year!

The star dessert of the day was the thoroughly refreshing Summer Breeze Coconut Jelly. Provided thoughtful balance to a meal too entirely heavy for a Tuesday evening.

Birthday girl's double boiled sea coconut with snow pear. A-OK.

And to cap it all off, I had the sweetened yin yang avocado & mango. I liked that it wasn't crazy heavy or sweet, despite my earlier reservations. Considering I was bursting at the seams at this point, I managed to mop this up to the last drop and still wished there'd been a spoonful more.

Service remained top-notch well into closing time. We sat around for hours, drunk on duck, dessert and conversation and only realised much later that our table was the last one keeping them from pulling the shutters down, because the staff kept diligently pouring tea and keeping out of our way.

The Han Room
Ground Floor, The Gardens Mall,
Mid Valley
Tel: 03-2284 8833

Friday, January 14, 2011

Post-Vacation at Bangkok Wasabe

Ever get the feeling while on holiday that it's not actually happening? That you're not actually away from your stinky work cubicle, that you're not actually having your first beer at 10AM, or having the day stretch before you to read on the beach and eat seven meals a day and do nothing else? All that disbelief and caution of getting too used to the idea messes with your head good and keeps you from fully living it.

And then before you know it, you're back at the grisly mob scene that is the low-cost carrier terminal, back at work, crushed by deadlines and people and all the horrible things that made you want to pack up and get away in the first place, bemoaning how you let yourself be disengaged during your time on the beach for even one second.

Koh Lipe, December 2010

Koh Lipe's a terribly easy getaway for city folks in Malaysia. Just a short flight to Langkawi, and from there a 1-hour speedboat ferry ride. The waters are still clear, the beaches are still relatively clean and snorkelling's still great, barring the current in certain hotspots.

The tiny island is heaving under over-development but for now, it's still a pretty chilled scene, back-to-basics style. Unfortunately, the food options too were fairly rudimentary.

So, upon return to good old KL, propelled by a case of major post-vacay blues, we hit up Bangkok Wasabe, a pocket-friendly alternative within the Kota Damansara commercial maze.

The restaurant interior is air-conditioned contemporary comfort, nothing like the mozzie-infested eating & drinking joints of Lipe. Dark wooden booths, check! I may consider installing one of these babies in my new digs.

The easy-win Som Tam (RM7) - hit all the right notes! Raw crab was missing though.

Also recommended by friendly server was the Tamarind River Prawns (RM25), off the menu. This turned out better than expected - prawns were chunky and flavourful and while I'm not exactly crazy about sweet sauces, this struck a sound balance with the ground peanuts and dried chillies.

The Tom Yam Seafood (RM15) was decent - more sour than spice, which works just fine with me. The Tom Yam available on Lipe didn't come close to this.

And to cap it all off, not quite dessert but the Pad Thai (RM8) was a tad sweeter than I'd like.

It's no Thai beach but the meal at Bangkok Wasabe was simplicty well-executed and took the bite out of the gruesome return to routine. And more importantly, it served the reminder that there is no time to overthink the holiday when on holiday. Every second of bliss counts!

Bangkok Wasabe
16-1 Jalan PJU 5/15
Dataran Sunway
Kota Damansara
Tel: 03-6156 7079

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thirsty? Come to Cool & Fresh country!

Happy 2011 Folks!

Rather than bore you with an insipid sob story about how and why the hiatus, let me get right into sharing something of actual value :-)

Dae Jang Gum, Taman Danau Desa. Yup, another token Korean mom-&-pop in the hood. Nothing extraordinary as far as the eye can see...

...its panchan spread is fairly generous...

...its Bibimbap gets a nonchalant nod...

...and even the somewhat boring Haemul Pajeon (seafood pancake) gets a tick, charred scallion bits and all.

But what gets us really excited about Dae Jang Gum is this little beauty here, amidst the dodge-and-dodgier pub scene of Taman Desa.

They run a wicked promotion of the very guzzle-friendly Hite beer, from RM7 for a 330ml bottle to the very delightful RM25 1600ml pitcher. A godsend, especially when the thirst hits and you can't really be arsed to drive out or patronise any of the questionable watering holes mushrooming all over Taman Desa.

The use of inappropriate, albeit frosty mugs overlooked. Cool & Fresh, says the label. It's no lie! Check it!

Dae Jang Gum (a few doors down from Little Jakarta)
Jalan 4/109F
Taman Danau Desa
58100 KL