Friday, 30 November 2012

Mien Xao Luon @ Mien Luon Kho, Hanoi

A few shops down from Bun Bo Nam Bo is another lovely place for some crispy Hanoi delicacy.  Serving only fried mini eels, Mien Luon Kho @ Old Quarters is definitely the place to sample this unique dish.

Mien Xao Luon is stir-fried glass noodles cooked with beansprouts and egg, served with crispy mini eels and topped with fresh cucumbers, fried shallots and purple perilla.

These crispy deep-fried mini eels, which tasted very much like those spicy ikan bilis snacks, are very nice.  I think I could eat a whole plate of these fried luon  as they are really very additive.  Highly recommended especially if you plan to stop for a Hanoi beer - a perfect snack.

The glass noodles were quite good too.  Stir-frying glass noodles can be quite difficult because of its texture, so they did quite a good job in making the dish work.  The only setback, as with any fried glass noodles, is that it was quite oily.  Towards the end, it became very difficult to continue eating the noodles as all the oil has dripped to the bottom of the plate.  Nevertheless, there was enough wok hei in the noodles and it complement well with the luon.

They have six different ways to enjoy the luon - with or without noodles/porridge or served dry or wet.  Locals (given a quick glance around the shop) seem to prefer the eel porridge and the clear vermicelli soup.

As shown on the menu on the wall, it is actually pretty easy to order - just point to the wall if your Vietnamese pronunciation is bad.  But for me, being a bit more kiasu, I decided to show the girl my scribbling as I can't seem to find the exact phrase on the menu (apparently Mien Xao Luon = Mien Xao).

Mien Luon Kho
87, Hang Dieu Street
Old Quarter

Salmon Steak in Miso Sauce @ Kotobuki Japanese Restaurant, Singapore

Situated right at the heart of Singapore's business district, Kotobuki Japanese Restaurant is indeed a cosy place for great business meal.  So, it was of no surprise this small restaurant is fully packed well before lunch hours.

As I had too much meat the day before, I decided to order some fish instead.  I ordered the Sake Miso Steak (SGD 22.00) which is actually a salmon steak coated with miso sauce, served on a sizzling hotplate.

The salmon was amazing, thanks to the flavourful miso sauce.  The miso sauce was really delicious and somehow, it did taste as though there was a hint of alcohol in it.  Serving it on a hotplate also allows the miso sauce to caramelize, bringing out the rich, sweet flavour of the miso.  Not to forget, the lovely crispy salmon skin at the bottom.  As the miso sauce only coats surface of the salmon, you still can taste the sweet salmon flesh.

This dish is a bit of a fusion as it comes with some mixed vegetables and potato wedges.  A bit disappointed as there were only two pieces because the wedges were quite nice and cooked until soft.

Kotobuki is a bit more upmarket, so the price can be quite pricey for a normal lunch, but I think it was worth it.

Kotobuki Restaurant
8 Shenton Way (AXA Tower)
068811 Singapore
Tel: (65) 68830525

Open Daily
Lunch: 11:30am - 2:30pm
Dinner: 5:30pm – 10:30pm

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Organic Vegetarian Meal @ Simple Life

If you are on a strict healthy diet, either due to health problems or just want to be health-conscious, you will love Simple Life.  Using only natural seasonings and organic ingredients, Simple Life emphasize on 4 core principles of healthy eating - low in salt, sugar and oil but high in fiber.  Despite that, their food is exceptionally flavourful and delicious.

If you think vegetarian meals are boring, think twice because Simple Life will definitely change the way you look at going meat-less.

First thing first, their dishes are very colourful and did not look like any typical vegetarian restaurant.  Boy, did all of the food look fantastic!  Looks aside, the taste was also superb.

1.  Set Meal – Beancurd Roll with Chinese Herbs
Homemade beancurd rolls with white fungus, broccoli, red dates, goji berries served in Chinese herbal soup.
Our first experience started with this dish (No photos, though), which was very pleasant.  The herbal taste is not very strong and is quite sweet.  Lovely soup to drink.  In my opinion, it would have been much better if the beancurd rolls had been lightly fried first, but KS loved it very much.

2.  Set Meal - Sweet & Sour Crispy Abalone
Deep fried abalone mushroom with pineapple, cashew nut, capsicum, cucumber and tomato served in a sweet and sour sauce.

My personal favourite!  The mushrooms are seasoned well and are very nice to munch as snacks.  The sauce is just right and not too sour.  Depending on which outlet you go to, the amount of sauce could be a little different.  If you prefer very crispy mushrooms, then do visit the Sunway Pyramid outlet as they have less sauce.

3.  Set Meal - Mini Steamboat Set Meal (Shabu-shabu style)
A variety of vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, mushrooms, carrots, sweet corn, yam and pumpkin with tofu in your choice of different soup base (organic black bean, miso burdock soup or Tom Yam soup) served with multi-grain rice and a special BBQ sauce.

If steamboat is your thing, this is the one for you.  We went for the organic black bean soup and it was really sweet (vegetable sweet, obviously) especially towards the end of the meal.  The vegetables were fresh and pretty filling.  However, I strongly advise that you share this with another person, and maybe add some sides as snacks because both KS and I were pretty full to the brim with this set and a plate of snacks.

4.  Set Meal - Organic Lei Cha 
Kelantan brown rice accompanied with various condiments such as cabbage, coriander, French beans, beancurd, choy sum, lettuce, sweet dried radish and roasted peanuts served with special Lei Cha soup.

This is KS’s favourite (I still do not fancy the acquired taste of the Lei Cha soup).  The Lei Cha soup is lighter in taste, which is suitable for beginners who want to experience Lei Cha, i.e. the taste of the herbs are less intense.

1.  Toon Sprout Sauce with Soya Noodle 
Soya noodles accompanied with beancurd, vegetables, black fungus, bean sprouts, celery, shredded carrot and baby corns, topped with crispy bits of mushroom, organic toon sprout sauce and spicy carrot sambal.

Recently tried this and I totally love it.  The toon sprout sauce is very salty and goes well with the tasteless soya noodles.  To go with it is the delicious nice sambal and the crispy mushroom bits, yummy.  Word of advice, you may want to go easy on the sauce as it can be super salty after a while.

2.  Miso Ramen Soup 
Udon served in miso soup with sweet corn kernels, wakame, braised egg and sweet beancurd sheets.

3.  Malay-Style Fried Ramen 
Stir-fried ramen in homemade curry paste cooked with organic beancurd puff, bean sprouts, black fungus, mushrooms, vegetables, shredded carrots, tomatoes and baby corns.

Put in another way, this is mee mamak style.  Lovely and sweet, it is very appetizing.  There are quite a lot of gravy, so the noodles are not too dry.

1.  Brown Rice Nasi Lemak
Kelantan brown rice, drizzled with virgin coconut oil, accompanied by acar, rendang tempeh, crispy mushroom, fried egg, roasted peanuts, Japanese cucumbers and homemade spicy carrot sambal.

I am not a fan of tempeh, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.  But minus that out, the whole dish is delicious.  I love the sweet, spicy sambal and the crispy mushroom bits.  One of their  best-seller, this dish is really very beautifully presented.

1.  Beancurd Cake
Homemade deep fried beancurd cake served with homemade Thai sauce.

This is one snack that is always sold-out each time we wanted to order.  They may be deep-fried but inside, the mashed tofu is still soft and juicy.  Dipped with the sweet Thai sauce, it is very nice.

2.  Vegetarian Popcorn
Deep-fried vegetarian popcorn served with homemade Thai sauce

This was recommended as an alternative option to the Beancurd Cake.  It tasted different - more tough and hence, more chewy but equally as good.  Like popcorn, they are also quite addictive.

Organic Green Tea with Osmantus - supposedly to detox, reduces bad breath and wrinkles

Most of the time, we will order this because the taste is softer and the osmanthus gives a nice flowery flavour without too overwhelming.  Plus, it is refillable, so it is a good drink if you want to stay long.


I think this is one of the best vegetarian restaurants I have ever tried.  Basically, you can’t go wrong with any of the dishes in the menu – equally good.  Each time we visit it, we are bound to be surprised by the quality.  Surely, it has given me a very good reason to go meat-less.  Oh, I am drooling for the Sweet & Sour Mushroom now.

Do visit their website for a whole list of their menu.

A few of the Simple Life outlets:

1.  Mont Kiara
11-G, Jalan Solaris 4
Solaris Mont Kiara
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Tel : 03-6203 0528

2.  Sunway Pyramid
LLG 2-126A, Blue Atrium,
Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall
46150 Petaling Jaya
Tel : 03-5611 8596

3.  SS2 Mall
LG55, SSTwo Mall
No. 40, Jalan SS2/72
47300 Petaling Jaya
Tel : 03-7960 4353

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Jia Chuan Noodles Haven @ Cheras

Before we headed to Viva Shopping Mall, we decided to stop by Jia Chuan Noodles Haven @ Taman Segar, Cheras for lunch.

As the weather was very hot, I was not keen for anything soupy, so I ordered the Dry Pork Noodles (RM 5.00).  This pork noodles was very good.  It was very fragrant with the pork lard.  The soup is very flavourful and is quite peppery - very nice to drink.

KS went for the Bitter-gourd Pork Noodles (RM 5.50).  Bitter-gourd are not bitter at all and has not affected the taste of the soup.  The soup, which tasted a bit different from the pork noodles, is very sweet and flavourful.

We also ordered the Yong Tofu - brinjal and beancurd sheet (RM 1.00 each).  The beancurd sheet was very nice and crispy while for the brinjal, the fish paste used was seasoned well and is bouncy.

Jia Chuan Noodles Haven is very clean and brightly lid - a good place for a meal at an affordable price especially since the portion is quite big.  The only problem is finding a parking as the area is very busy.

Jia Chuan Noodles Haven
No 40-G, Jalan Manis 1
Taman Segar, Cheras
56100 Kuala Lumpur 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Pho Bo @ Pho Gia Truyen, Hanoi

They say if there is a large crowd, the food there must be very delicious.  For Pho Gia Truyen @ Bat Dan Street, Hanoi, this is definitely the case.  Popular among both locals and tourists, this is one pho place you must not miss if you are in the Old Quarters.

Pho, a popular Vietnamese breakfast, is thin rice noodles served in clear beef broth, with thin cuts of beef.

Pho in different regions are prepared differently - the taste and presentation is heavily influenced by the richness of the local agricultural and economy.  The southern pho is usually more complex as more ingredients are used while the northern pho, on the other hand, uses less ingredients and is more simple, served without beansprouts and herbs.

Here at Pho Gia Truyen, the northern-style pho is sold.  There are three types of pho to choose from:
  1. Tai Nam:  Rare flank steak (45,000 VND)
  2. Tai:  Rare steak  (40,000 VND)
  3. Chin:  Well-done brisket (35,000 VND)
For the sake of lowering the chances of food poisoning (that means rare is out of the question), we opt for the pho chin.

The soup was "Wow!" - fantastic.  Do not be fool by the clearness of the soup because it is packed with a lot of flavours and spices, making it very fragrant and sweet.  Imagine how many beef bones they have used in making this flavourful broth.  It was so wholesome so much so that you will feel as though the adrenaline is pumping fast into your bloodstream.  No wonder even the Vietnamese are willing to queue up for a bowl of pho here.

One thing I like about their soup is that it does not have the strong beefy smell, that sometimes can be a little unpleasant.  It was so good that I finished every single drop of it.  In a way, it did tasted like keoy teow soup, except that the flavour is more intense and less oily.

The beef brisket, which has been thinly sliced, is very tender.  Plus, they were very generous with it.  Even towards the end, there are still a lot of beef in my bowl.  On top of that, the thin noodles are silky and not oily at all.

I did notice many people adding vinegar and hot chilli sauce.  Not sure what it tasted like, so didn't have the courage to add in any.

They also have another side dish that accompany this delicious street food, which is dau chao quay or fried bread stick that you can dip into the soup, just like how we do in bak kut teh.  We didn't have this unfortunately, as we initially didn't know what it is called in Vietnamese.  Pity.

Now, Pho Gia Truyen is a self-serve style eatery.  You need to queue up, order, pay and then collect your noodles before proceeding to the tables (if you are really lucky enough to find one).  The queue can be a little long, but the wait is definitely worth it.

Majority of the seatings are tiny wooden stools by the side-walk.  If you're very lucky, you may get a normal table inside the shop.  Otherwise, you may have to stand while eating.
As for us, KS was in charge of ordering, while I "hunt" around for seats.  Sitting on tiny stools by the side-walk with lots of used tissues strewn on the floor below the tables, was not so bad after all.  Like they say, be like a local and enjoy the experience.

Pho Gia Truyen
49, Bat Dan Street
Old Quarters

Open in morning and night

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Dinner @ Sizzlers, Damansara Heights

Getting to Sizzlers @ Damansara Heights can a bit difficult especially if you are coming from Petaling Jaya.  But if you do make the effort to come here for a meal, it is actually quite a nice place to dine as the restaurant is beautifully decorated and quiet.  But, in terms of the food, I felt it was just normal.

I ordered the Sizzlers Fettuccine Carbonara, which was quite disappointing.  The cream sauce is lacking flavour, making the dish a bit tasteless.  The accompanying toasted garlic bread was good, though.

On the other hand, the Sizzlers Signature Chicken Chop was relatively much better.  This fried crumbed chicken with melted cheese on top, is served with mushroom sauce, grilled vegetables and potato.  The sauce is okay, although I find the sauce insufficient because the dish is very dry.  The grilled vegetables are delicious as they have been sauteed with herbs, and they add a nice touch to the dish.

Overall, the experience is just so-so, nothing fantastic but still okay.  Also, the portion is slightly on the smaller side especially the chicken chop.

 B-0-3, Semantan Suites,
Block B, No.10. Jalan Semantan,
Damansara Heights,
50490 Kuala Lumpur

Organic Meal @ Medifoods, Subang Jaya

Last weekend, I brought my parents for a dinner at Medifoods @ Subang Jaya a very nice, quiet and relaxing restaurant.  Medifoods, which have its own farm, serves mainly organic produce.  But, if you decide to go meat-less, they do have a dedicated section in the menu that is purely for the vegetarians.

We ordered the 1/2 free-range roasted chicken as the main dish.  The chicken is very succulent and the skin is roasted until crispy - the crispiness is very similar to the Peking Duck.  It is well-marinated with just enough spices and dipped with some of the not-so-hot chilli and ginger scallion sauce, it is truly delicious.  I like the chilli sauce because the acidity gives a very refreshing and appetizing feel.

Next is the organic kailan, which is blanched and served with soy sauce and shallot oil.  The vegetables are cooked very well and presented beautifully.  The vegetables are not too hard until you need to chew a lot.  But despite the softness, the vegetables still look very green and fresh.  The soy sauce is just nice - not too salty.

The handmade pan-fried organic tofu is very smooth and soft.   You can taste the soybean, so you know it is made of the real thing.  The gravy is actually sweetened soy sauce, and goes quite well with the tofu.  Although quite plain, but the tofu is quite flavourful.

It also comes with a bowl of superior chicken stock soup with lots of mixed organic vegetables.  The soup of the day was salted vegetables soup with tofu.  The soup is quite sweet with all the vegetables, although it is slightly salty (well, salted vegetables, what do you expect).

To go with the roasted chicken is the chicken rice.  Cooked using unpolished green rice and chicken broth, the rice is very tasty and not oily at all.  Eating the rice alone is very nice.

For drinks, we ordered the pot of mixed floral tea to share.

After the meal, we felt it was a little not very filling, so my parents decided to order another dish - the vegetarian claypot yee mee, served with a lot of mixed vegetables and beancurd puffs.  The gravy is very light, and even without the use of meat-based stock, it is very sweet.  But I find the noodles a bit overcooked.

One thing we like about Medifoods is that the owner has grown a lot of plants in the restaurant.  It's like stepping into a garden - very cosy and cooling.  There's both outdoor and indoor seating, and beside the restaurant, is the shop area selling organic goods.

59-61, Jalan SS18/6
47500 Subang Jaya

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Steamed Tilapia @ Kedai Makan Lan Je, Rawang

When it comes to steamed fish, it can’t be denied that Lan Je has become a common household name.  It became so popular that there are at least three other branches around Klang Valley.  So, I convinced KS to bring me to the place where Lan Je first started the famous steamed fish – Kedai Makan Lan Je @ Rawang.

You don’t get a lot of choice here – only one type of fish cooked in one style.  The only thing you can customize is whether to have it spicy or not.

The signature dish, obviously, is the Steamed Tilapia fish, steamed with a lot of minced garlic and ginger, served in soy sauce.  If you opt for the spicy version, then chopped cili padi will be added.

Here at Lan Je, the policy is that one person gets one fish and so, the fish is not very big.  If you want to solely eat fish, then it is advisable to order one for each person.  Otherwise, one is sufficient for two person.

The fish is very juicy and fresh, which I believed is because they have maintained the quality by rearing the fish themselves.  The minced garlic and ginger are also very helpful in removing the fishy smell, making the dish nice and addictive.

Besides the signature dish, there were other side dishes, but KS warned me that these other side dishes may not be very interesting to shout about.  In fact, I beg to differ because the other two side dishes that we ordered – Stir-fried Yau Mak & Minced Meat Tofu – were also quite tasty.  Presentation-wise, they may look a bit unappetizing, but it is flavourful (confirmed it is not because of MSG).

Of course, if you were expecting variety of dishes, then you will be disappointed because choices are pretty limited.  The good side is you do not need to stress your brain to decide what to order.

The stall is pretty clean and they have installed cooler fans in the premises, so you don’t need to worry on a hot weather.

Now, I have heard of horror stories about how long the wait (for a table) can be.  So, do be prepared if you intend to dine here because tables are very limited and the serving time can be a little slow.

As for us, we were pretty lucky as we came after the peak lunch hours and so, waiting was not that bad.  Would definitely come back for a meal again.

Kedai Makan Lan Je
27-28, Block C
Jalan Rawang
Gerai MPS, Batu 16

GPS: 3.305728, 101.591931

Monday, 5 November 2012

Coffee Time @ Coffee Famille, Kota Damansara

If you have a thing for coffee, then you definitely should drop by Coffee Famille @ Kota Damansara.  You know their coffee is good because the moment you pushed the door open, you will immediately be greeted by a very strong but lovely aroma of freshly roasted, brewed coffee.  Boy, does it make me feel excited with the smell.

Looking at the menu, only did we realize that there's so many types of coffee to choose from.  Not knowing what to drink, we requested the waiter to recommend, who is superbly helpful as he took the time to explain which coffee would be suitable to our liking (he knows his stuff).

For KS, who prefer strong black coffee, he recommended the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (RM 16), which according to him, has a distinct fruity (citrus) and flowery taste that will leave a very unique aftertaste.  Beware, because it is very very bitter at the start.  But, if you take the time to let the coffee gently travel across your tongue (as though you are drinking wine), you will be able to taste the fruitiness of the coffee behind that bitterness.  KS loved it very much.  I love the homemade biscotti - sweet and cruncy.

As for me, I prefer the coffee with milk, so Homey Cafe Latte (RM 12) was recommended to me.  It is coffee latte with gula melaka.  However, the taste of the gula melaka was not very distinct.  But, it is nevertheless a very nice cup of smooth, fragrant latte.

We also ordered the Famille Sandwich (RM 15) - their house-baked rosemary bread sandwiches filled with chicken ham, mushrooms, vegetables and cheese, accompanied by a refreshing salad.  The bread is super fragrant and because it has been lightly toasted, it was warm and crispy.  The bread is not too dry and tasted very good.

For desserts, we ordered the Tiramisu (RM 12), a must-have coffee dessert.  This beautiful dessert is well-presented and you can know how much effort they have put into this dessert.  It's like a piece of art that you  would stare forever.  I also love how much espresso taste it has.  All the flavours of the tiramisu, - espresso, mascarpone cheese - blended perfectly well without overwhelming each other.  Not too sweet, but not too bitter.

We love the whole setup of this cute, little cafe because it is very relaxing, just like home.  If you need a quiet spot for some private time, or hangout with friends for some small chat, this is a very nice place to visit because it will leave you feeling totally recharged (of course, there's the caffeine kicking in).

By the way, if you are a cyclist, you get 10% discount.  What a good way to encourage me to start picking up cycling.

You can visit their website or their Facebook page for more info.

Coffee Famille
6-G, Garden Wing
Sunsuria Avenue
Persiaran Mahogani
PJU5 Kota Damansara
47810 Petaling Jaya
(near Tune Hotel)