Monday, 28 January 2013

Fish and Chips @ London Town, Publika

As I was craving for some deep-fried stuff, we decided to head to London Town @ Solaris Dutamas for some good old British-style fish and chips right after work.

As London Town intends to bring a piece of Britain to KL, it is no surprise that their signature dish is none other than the London Town Fish & Chips (RM 24.90) - large breaded dory fillet and large chips with tartar sauce and mushy green peas.

The first thing that comes to my mind firstly was "Wow, such a big portion!" and then, it was "It looks and smell so good".  First impression has definitely scored a lot of points.

The deep-fried fish was fried with a nice golden-brown and it was very crispy on the outside - in fact, a little too crunchy until it was quite hard.  The first half was alright but after a while, my jaws started to ache and my attention has totally shifted from enjoying the fish to trying to scrap off the batter.

Otherwise, it would have been quite good as the fish was quite juicy although we felt that the freshness is somewhat lacking.

I love the tartar sauce as it was not overly creamy and fatty although I would prefer if they had put a bit more pickles into it.  Squeeze a bit of lemon juice into it and it is delicious.

Then there is the mushy green peas, a traditional accompaniment to fish and chips in England.  While I find it a bit drier and lumpy than expected, it was very nice and well-seasoned.  Wished they had been a bit more generous with it because it felt like only two tablespoons of it.

Overall, there are hits and misses with this dish.  The fish was slightly on the disappointing side, but the mushy green peas, tartar sauce and fries added a bit more points to it.  If you ask me, I don't think it is the best fish and chips you can get in town but it is still worthy to try it.

We also ordered Mushroom soup (RM 8.00) as starter.  The soup tasted a little bit like a straight-out-of-can soup but there were quite a lot of mushroom pieces in it.  Okay for me, but so-so for KS.

London Town, which is just right outside of Publika, is a small laid-back restaurant, with a large wall featuring one of London's iconic structure - the Big Ben alongside the Westminster Bridge.  Overall, it is quite a nice environment for some quiet meal.  Service was fantastic and serving is pretty fast.

London Town
D3-G3-1 Solaris Dutamas
No. 1, Jalan Dutamas 1
50480 Kuala Lumpur

Friday, 25 January 2013

Banh Cuon @ Banh Cuon Gia Truyen, Hanoi

Generally eaten as breakfast everywhere in the northern part of Vietnam, Banh Cuon or literally rolled savoury pastry is one of the lightest, but amazingly delicious, dish that can be found in the Vietnamese menu.

Banh Cuon is a plate of thin warm rice noodle rolls, made of steamed fermented rice batter, filled with seasoned ground pork and minced wood-ear mushrooms topped with crispy fried shallots and served with a warm, sweet dipping sauce.

On our very last night in Hanoi, we managed to slip in this light snack before we headed to Pho Gia Truyen for our pho.  It was so delicious that we took the effort to come back again for a take-away supper.

The rice rolls were very transparent and thin, with a smooth silky texture.  Dipped in the sweet broth-like dipping sauce, it was very flavourful.  The meat was well-seasoned and plentiful.  In a way, Banh Cuon resembles the Cantonese chee cheung fun, except that Banh Cuon has a lighter ans sweeter taste.

We also realized many locals ordering this side dish with some unidentifiable orange square pieces.  Well, turns out it was the gio lua (Northern)/cha lua (Southern) or Vietnamese ham made from grounded pork paste - apparently a must to go with Banh Cuon.  Maybe next time.

While we were waiting for our take-away supper to be ready, we observed how the ladies skillfully prepare Bahn Cuon by steaming a thin layer of rice batter on a cloth over a pot of boiling water before another lady fills the rice sheets with meat and mushrooms.  All done without breaking a hole on the delicate rice sheet.  Now that is skill.

This shop is open for breakfast and dinner/supper.

Banh Cuon Gia Truyen
14, Hang Ga Street
Old Quarter

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Ca Phe Trung @ Cafe Pho Co, Hanoi

First introduced by the Western traders in 1857 and popularized by French colonists, Vietnam has become the world’s second-largest coffee producer.  What started out as an aspiration by the Vietnamese people to mimic the French coffee culture, it eventually became rooted deep into the local Vietnamese culture – whether young or old, poor or rich – it’s in every corner of the streets of Vietnam.

Given that, it was definitely not an excuse for us to pass the chance to experience the unique flavours of Vietnamese coffee - a drink that will never be forgotten.

Along the street famous for its silk and hand-painted drawings, lies a hidden gem.  The hunt for this cafe is worth every effort as you will be rewarded for not only a good cup of Vietnamese coffee but one fantastic view of the Old Quarter's famed tourist spot.

This is Cafe Pho Co, or Lake View Cafe - a simple cafe that is well-hidden and easily missed by any passing pedestrian.  If you have not heard of this well beforehand, you're most likely going to miss this hangout spot.

For us, getting into the cafe was quite an interesting journey.

When we first walked into the dimmed corridor, we kept assuring ourselves "It's ok, don't worry, just go straight in, it's in there".

Seriously, it didn't looked very right at first.  But once we saw the light at the end of the corridor and being greeted at the courtyard, we felt so relieved.  But the "adventure" was not over.

Once we had made our order at the courtyard, we were asked to find our own way up to the open air rooftop.  It started with a small, narrow staircase to the second level where the family shrine is located.  I was starting to panic as it didn't look like any cafe, as though we were trespassing into someone's house.  

But then, we continued up an old spiral staircase until we reached a space that looked more familiar - plastic chairs and aluminium tables with people chatting and drinking coffee.  We have arrived.

While we waited for our drink, we sat back on our chairs and relaxed while we enjoyed the beautiful view of Hoan Kiem Lake.

The coffee we ordered is Ca Phe Trung, which stands for coffee (ca phe) and egg (trung).  It is a cup of Vietnamese coffee topped with raw egg that has been whisked with milk and sugar, creating a consistent foamy texture.

Many people recommended to have cha phe trung hot instead but because we were super hot and tired from all the walking, that we decided to have the cold version.  Still a good choice as long as you don't wait until the ice to completely melt before you finish the drink.

The coffee was fantastic - intense flavour with some bitterness at the end.  The egg mixture was like whipped cream, except that it is more airy and light, giving the coffee a nice smooth texture.  Plus, it really did taste like a very good chilled tiramisu dessert.  Boy, I should have ordered more of this.

Highly recommended if you're at Hanoi.

Looking for this place is actually not that difficult as commented by many.  Shops are numbered well, and all you need is to go to Hang Gai Street, and look out for Lot 11.  The entrance into Cafe Pho Co is sandwiched between a silk shop and an art shop.  And yes, it is a bit suspicious at the start but persevere and you'll be rewarded.

Come to think about it now, being the "trespasser" is pretty fun!

Cafe Pho Co
11P Hang Gai
Old Quarters

Sunday, 13 January 2013

High Tea @ House, G Tower

We started our first afternoon tea experience for 2013 at House @ G Tower, Jalan Tun Razak.  Having seen the nice, cosy environment that House presents, we headed there for a late high tea set (or should I say, early dinner).

First, we started with the open-face sandwiches, of which looked superbly beautiful and appetizing.  There were two choices:  Chunky Tuna Mayonnaise with sliced hard boiled eggs on a multi-grain bread and Smoked Chicken Ham with sun-dried tomatoes and avocado on focaccia bread.

Both choices were equally nice.  As the name suggests, the tuna were quite chunky, with generous amount of mayonnaise and seasoned with pepper.  On the other hand, the sun-dried tomatoes added a little surprise to the taste with some buttery texture from the avocado.  Topped with lots of vegetables, they are very delicious, especially the toasted multi-grain bread.  For me, the tuna sandwich was my favourite while KS preferred the chicken sandwich.

The highlight of any high tea is nonetheless the scones.  For House, they were raisin scones.  Although a bit small in size, the scones are very good as they are warm, moist and quite fluffy.  The thing about raisins are that they burn easily, leaving them bitter and unpleasant to eat, but here at House, the raisins are still sweet.  Eaten together with butter and jam, it was heavenly.  Did I mention that they provide four different flavours of Heinz jam - marmalade, raspberry, strawberry and apricot?  Endless mix-and-match.

Next up, their crunchy Macadamia & Chocolate Chip cookies (5 pieces) were super delicious.  If you taste hard enough, you’ll be able to taste a hint of the sweet, fragrant honey.

The Chocolate Almond Praline with sesame seeds was also another crunchy  addictive treat.  It’s almost finger licking good when the chocolate melts on your fingers.  The almond and the sesame seeds have been lightly roasted, so it smells so good.

As for the chocolate-coated strawberries, they were slightly too sour for my liking.

We selected the Marble Cheesecake to go with our high tea set.  About the cake, it's a mixture of the original cheese with chocolate cheese.  The original cheesecake part is not very spectacular, but it is the chocolate cheese part that makes the cake, overall, so delicious.  The chocolate cheese was so rich and gooey like fudge.  Luckily, the chocolate cheese took more than 50% of the cake slice!

Overall, it was a very good experience as the quality and taste of the food is good.  In my opinion, this could be even better than Delicious’ afternoon tea (maybe not in entirety, especially given their chocolate brownie).  Definitely will visit House again for another high tea treat.

House offers two options of high tea set for 2 person – without (RM 49.90) or with (RM 70) with unlimited refill of Americano coffee or tea.

Personally, I felt the unlimited refill is a bit expensive, but hey, if you’re going to be there for the whole high tea period (2.30 - 6 pm), then probably the extra RM 20 is worth every cent.  Otherwise, in my opinion, it may be better off to order the drinks from the menu if you needed more.

The place is pretty quiet on a Saturday evening and so, it was very peaceful and relaxing.  In fact, it was so quiet that it can pretty hard to find any waitress to get our coffee/tea refilled.  Otherwise, love this place.

House @ G Tower
G02 & LG02-04
G Tower
No 199, Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Tel:  03-21644424

Open daily except Sunday
11am - 1 am

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

DIY: Tea-Infused Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Tofu

To celebrate a brand new year, I decided to cook a simple Chinese dish for lunch.  As I wanted to make our lunch a bit more flavourful and nourishing than usual, I had incorporated tea as the base for the gravy – to be more specific, pu-er tea although any other types of black tea would be suitable.

Pu-er tea has quite many beneficial properties such as aiding digestion, lower cholesterol levels, blood cleansing properties and facilitating weight loss.  The only setback is that pu-er tea has quite a unique earthy aroma that may not be very pleasant to many.  But by combining the more aromatic ingredients together, the flavour of pu-er can be soften.

The dish is actually modified from the Braised Pork in Soy Sauce (Tau Yu Bak) recipe.  Depending on the kind of tea used, it gives a totally different taste.  The end result - the gravy is sweet and fragrant, with a tinge of pungent aroma.  So good, that we ended drinking it as soup.

As much as I wanted it to be a pork dish, the nearest supermarket doesn't sell pork and so I had to change it to chicken instead.  Nevertheless, the result is still good.

Tea-Infused Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Tofu
(Serving size: 2 person)

2 chicken thighs (or 400g chicken/pork)
Dried mushrooms, soaked and cut
Hard tofu, cut
2 stalks spring onion
5 garlic cloves
2 shallots
1 cinnamon
2-3 star anise
1 cup black tea (pu-er) – depend how much sauce you want, you can adjust this

Other possible items to add:  Hard-boiled eggs, braised peanuts, fried chicken feet.

Chicken Marinade:  Light soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar and pepper

Seasonings:  Light soy sauce, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar and pepper

  1. Wash the thighs and cut into reasonable sizes.  Marinade them for at least 30 mins, preferably overnight.
  2. Steep the black tea leaves in hot water for at least 5 minutes, longer if you want the brewed tea to be darker and stronger.
  3. Pan-fry the tofu until brown.  Set aside.
  4. Heat the wok with oil and for extra fragrance, I added sesame oil.
  5. Stir-fry the spring onions, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, cinnamon stick and star anise until fragrant.  If you want some heat, you can add some dried chilies (which I eventually forgotten to put in).
  6. Add in the chicken and stir-fry until it is slightly brown.
  7. Add in the tofu.
  8. Add in the brewed tea and the seasonings.
  9. Let it simmer for 30 mins.  Or if you decide to use the thermal cooker to do the slow-cooking part, then just simmer it for 5-10 mins.
  10. Before serving, you may want to thicken the sauce a bit with some cornflour mixture.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Christmas Eve Dinner @ Ah Yat Abalone Forum Restaurant, Jalan Kemajuan

Christmas.  When thinking about celebrating Christmas, one would automatically associate it with Western food and probably roasted turkey, and ending with a slice of the Christmas log.  But this year, my family decided to welcome Christmas the Oriental-style with abalone and Peking duck set at Ah Yat Abalone Forum Restaurant, Jalan Kemajuan.

The last time we came here was during my brother's wedding many years ago when Ah Yat just opened its door to business in Petaling Jaya.  Coming back here again bring back some memories we never could really remember except for rushing around hosting the party and making sure everything is going smoothly.  This time, it is much quieter as we slowly enjoyed our dinner experience.

The appetizer that kick-started the meal was the Roasted Pork Belly rolled with shredded chicken and yam, topped with some mayonnaise and sweet barbecue-like sauce, along-side some crisp lettuce.  The pork belly was so fragrant as if it was bacon, and it complement well with the creamy yam pieces.

Personally, I wished there were more of it as it was so delicious - one of the best dish for this dinner set.  The only thing was, I could barely taste the shredded chicken as the pork was too overwhelming.

The next item that came was the roasted Peking Duck.  Prized for its thin, crispy skin, we watched as the captain carefully sliced the skin before serving the duck skin with the egg sheet, cucumber and hoisin sauce.    Well, it is missing an important ingredient - spring onions - but that's fine with me as I usually don't eat it with the greens.  We opted to DIY with the wrapping part instead, as that's the fun part to eating Peking duck, but if you don't want to get your hands dirty, feel free to get the captain to serve it wrapped.

The duck skin is very crispy and flavourful - not too oily.  Rolled in the thin egg sheet with generous amount of the sauce, it was so good.  I love the warm egg sheet in particular as it is nice to eat on its own.

Then, it was the Double-boiled Chicken Soup with fish maw and vegetables.  The clear chicken soup is very flavourful and nourishing, with every drop tasting like those bottled chicken essence.

The highlight of the set dinner is nonetheless the BBQ abalone stick with chicken chop served with black pepper sauce, which unfortunately was quite disappointing.  Served on a hot sizzling plate, the chicken chop looked very pathetic as it was very small, about the size of my fist - maybe smaller.  Plus, the dish looked very bare.  At least they could put some chopped cabbages on the side to make it more presentable.

But the abalone are worth mentioning.  They were cooked until very tender and are not too chewy, although I must admit that the original flavour of the abalone is not very outstanding.  Looked like abalone, but didn't really taste like one.

The second-last item on the menu is the Ah Yat-style Fried Rice.  A very simple fried rice with dried scallops, but sadly, the rice is quite tasteless, mainly contributed by the strong flavours leftover from the previous dish.

For desserts, it was the Double-boiled Bird's Nests with almond juice.  Despite the ups and downs throughout the dinner, this bird's nests dessert saved the meal.  The almond juice is very pleasant and I enjoyed it very much (although, not everyone is able to stand the acquired taste of almond).  Bird's nest wise, there was a whole spoonful, so it's quite worth it.

For the remaining meat from the Peking duck, we decided to make it into the Salt and Pepper Stir-fried Duck.  Well, was kind of a bad decision to cook in this manner as it turns out to be pretty dry and the meat has lost its juiciness and tenderness.  Should have ordered to cook with ginger and spring onions - at least it would be a bit moist.

While the set meal did taste good with a variety of quality servings, I strongly feel it is not worth it because the portion is too small for the price it charged.  Pay the same price, but go for the ala-carte instead.

Service was not very good.  Towards the end, it was slow and pretty difficult to get any waiter/waitress to attend to us and dessert didn't come until very late.  But we were all kept occupied with photo-taking and chasing after the small kids, so the wait was not that bad for us after all.

Ah Yat Abalone Forum Restaurant
Lot 9B, Jalan Kemajuan
Section 13
46200 Petaling Jaya

Tel:  03-7960 4988

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Afternoon Tea @ Ten28ight Boutique Cafe, Desa Sri Hartamas

The craze for afternoon tea is back again.  This time, we came across this lovely cafe, Ten28ight @ Desa Sri Hartamas, which, serves really delicious afternoon tea.  While the portion is not large, each piece of treats is carefully handcrafted with lots of love.

When we arrived around 4.30 pm, the small cafe was already packed to the max.  So, we were ushered to the 2nd floor instead.  Although managed by the same owner, the one upstairs was more for private parties and functions, and is rarely open for walk-ins.

This place, which is very cosy and homey, was decorated with cute, stylish little items (mostly for sale).  Plus, their tables are made with recycled wooden crates - vintage feel to it.  To add, it was very quiet.  KS joked that it feels like having the whole place to ourselves – so much privacy.

Back to the topic.  The afternoon tea was beautifully laid out on a nice old-fashioned European tableware and boy, did they look fantastic and smell good.

First to sample are the mushroom cheese quiches slices.  The pastry base was a bit soggy but the cheese topping was good.  The egg mixture was just slightly lacking some flavour, but there were a lot of mushrooms and onions.

Then, my two favourite, the curry puffs and samosas.  At each bite, you can feel the flavours and spices bursting in your mouth.  Filled with spiced potatoes, they are not hot and not oily.

KS, in particular, liked the crispy samosa very much.  As for me, I loved both but I do agree the samosas have a more intense, memorable flavour then the curry puffs.  Pity there were only one piece each per person.

The butter cake slices were just normal, although I find it quite dry.

Then, there are the blueberry cheese tart and fruit custard tart.  Between the two, I less preferred the cheese tart as the texture of the cheese was not very creamy and the cheese taste was too strong.  The fruit tart, on the other hand, is more balanced with the smooth custard and the chocolate-based tart.

Finally on the plate are the mixed fruits parfaits in pastry puffs.  The parfaits, a kind of creamy frozen dessert made from whipping cream, were quite fluffy and cold.  Topped with a combination of cut blueberries, raspberries and kiwi, it was very delicious.  Not too sweet or too creamy.  However, eating this parfait puff can a bit difficult and messy as the pastry keeps falling apart.

The tea set also comes with a slice of cake, of which we selected the chilled blueberry cheesecake, which was just freshly made.  The cheesecake has a very smooth, fluffy and rich texture, and right in the middle of it are the huge chunks of sweet blueberries.  I love the cheesecake base, which I think is made from Digestive biscuits.  Overall, the cake was good.

To finish, we have a cup of Cappuccino and Earl Grey tea.  Nothing fantastic about the coffee/tea.

A good place to spend the afternoon chatting away about almost anything over a cup of tea or coffee while slowly munching the sweet and savoury treats (before heading off to the nearest gym :P)

Trying to figure out where this place was quite difficult because somehow, Google Maps couldn't find it based on the given address.  Luckily, I managed to pull out the map from one of the blogs and searched for the nearest street, which turned out to be the row of shops facing the Sprint highway, where True Fitness is.

Ten28ight Boutique Cafe
10, Ground Floor
Crystal Villa 2, Desa Sri Hartamas
Jalan 22B/70A
50480 Kuala Lumpur

GPS:  3.162166,101.652074
(same row as True Fitness)

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Italian meal @ Favola, Le Meridien

Stepping into this fine-dining Italian restaurant is like stepping into an era of the long forgotten past, with its beautiful and rustic Italian setting especially the wall decorated with various Venetian masquerade masks.  With such good reviews about the food and ambiance, we decided to celebrate our anniversary here at Favola @ Le Meridien Hotel.

Served complimentary is their selection of freshly-baked breads, accompanied with three different dipping - balsamic vinegar with olive oil, spicy carrot truffle oil and sweet guacamole.  The bread were crispy on the outside and warm and fluffy on the inside.  Each with a different flavour, they smell so good.  In particular, I loved the bread with the sun-dried tomatoes - fragrant and so flavourful.  

Be gentle on them, because they are really good and you'll most likely end up finishing them (which may probably not be a very good idea since these are supposed to be just snacks).

For starters or antipasto (the before-the-meal), we ordered the Rucola e Salsiccia Anatra (RM 35), which was recommended in a few blogs I read.  

This antipasto is arugula/salad rocket served with chunks of pear, gorgonzola cheese, duck sausage and toasted walnut, drizzled with some balsamic dressing.

While this is quite a refreshing starter with a few distinct flavours kicking in at the same time, I find this so-so only because somehow, the dish seemed to be missing a link to connect all these different ingredients together.  Put in another way, eating them separately tasted with more sense.  Not really my cup of tea.

Next is the Zuppa di Fungi Calabrese (RM 35), which is mushroom soup, served with garlic & Swiss cheese bread.  Every spoon of it is bursting with the rich flavours of various mushrooms.

The mushrooms were not blended until very fine, so you can still feel small bits of mushrooms swimming in your mouth.  As they have used milk instead of cream, the texture is lighter and smoother - not overly creamy.  Really a delicious bowl of soup.  It is quite a big portion but luckily, I have KS to share it with me - it would be totally a bummer if I am already full to the brim at the appetizer stage.

As I was drooling for some cheesy pizza (a must in every Italian cuisine), I had the house special Favola Pizza (RM 40).  This 10-inch pizza is topped with slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, olive oil and basil pesto.

It may looked very simple, but the ingredients combined very well to give a flavourful bite.  The cheese was not too strong and overwhelming, which I kinda preferred   Only the thin-crust pizza base was a bit too dry and charcoal-taste for my liking.

KS selected the Lasagna al Forno (RM 55) for mains.  Served in a small ceramic dishware, this traditional beef bolognese with chunky Wagyu beef cheek layered with fresh homemade pasta, golden-brown cheese crust and truffle oil looks very appetizing.  The beef bolognese was cooked in a very rich, flavourful tomato-based sauce, with a hint of herby flavour.  Each spoon of this lovely pasta was heavenly, especially the juicy melt-in-the-mouth meat.

To end, we ordered the Doppio Espresso Crostata (RM 30), which is a rich double espresso tart with fresh Chantilly cream, accompanied by raspberry fruit sauce and fresh mixed berries.  The tart is so adorable and super delicious.  For espresso lovers, this dessert is definitely a must.  Combined with the sweet raspberry sauce and acidic berries, it soften the pungent and bitter taste of the espresso, creating a beautiful balance of flavours.

We also ordered a cup of freshly brewed Illy Cappucino (RM 18) served with a piece of crunchy almond biscotti to complete the Italian experience.

While it may be a pricey experience, it is totally worth it to enjoy a delicious meal in a lovely, quiet setting.  Service was quite good, until when it became very packed after 7, of which it became a bit difficult to catch their attention.  Otherwise, a fantastic, memorable dinner.

Level 8
Le Meridien Hotel
2, Jalan Stesen Sentral 
50470 Kuala Lumpur