Thursday, October 28, 2010

Love Your Street Food by Fried Chillies

my all time favourite steamed egg custard from Jalan Sayur, Pudu

I was once told in an interview (one of those rare ones I occasionally give) that I'm not a food snob. On hearing that statement, I started to reflect back on my food choices and I realised that the interviewer hit the bulls eye with her analysis. I don't judge the ambiance of a place, whether it is a nice luxe setting with top notch fine dining service, a fast food joint or even a back street alley. As long as the food is darn good, it works for me.

curry chee cheong fun with decadent pork rinds from Pudu's Jalan Sayur stalls

Hence, I was tickled pink when I heard about Fried Chillies' Love Your Street Food campaign. It's a gallant approach since all these street food stalls or hawkers (with nary an advertising dollar campaign to their name) definitely deserve a big thumbs up for their efforts.Fried Chillies first started these awards last year so kudos to them for getting the ball rolling. We tend to have so many restaurant awards that street food is often sidelined.

Hokkien Noodles from the stall next to Fei Por Chicken Rice Stall, Pudu

What's your role in all this? Just vote for your favourites (the nominees are on their website) but do it wisely by honouring those who are dedicated to their craft. These are the men and women who wake up early in the morning to start the tedious preparation work and will not compromise on quality of their food and most importantly the cleanliness of their food. You have until 30 November to cast your vote.

You can also join up with Fried Chillies as they're taking a step further for this year's awards with food crawls to the nominees so you get to sample the food and decide. Also check out their wickedly good advertisements for the love street food campaign. I love the Char Kuey Teow lover one, a man completely in lurve with his wok hei plate of noodles that he'll forgo an amorous night with his wife. Most of all have fun doing all this. Happy Voting!!!

Post Script: Check out their latest Burgerlympics video too! There's even an appearance from the Char Kuey Teow man.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Korean Food @ Hwangsil Garden, Neo Damansara, Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya

manduguk or dumplings

Life ain't always about fine dining and when it comes to the ultimate comfort food, I often reach out for some Korean food with loads of kimchi. Strangely enough, kimchi was also what we turned to for a quick satisfying meal on Sunday. To celebrate Formula One's first foray in South Korea on Sunday (even though the race was delayed because of the rain), I whipped up kimchi fried quinoa - a mix of minced lamb, Korean eryingi mushrooms, kimchi with fluffy black quinoa.

1Msia/1Korea, pork belly time, fans, grilling takes patience

Strangely enough, that all familiar staple Korean item is now scarce in Korea due to soaring cabbage prices following a bad harvest. Hopefully an effort by the government to bring in Chinese cabbage will save the day. Luckily for us, cabbage is in abundance hence there's no chance we'll suffer from a kimchi shortage.

pork belly slices

I was introduced to this place by my friend S who works round the corner from this small eatery. Located at a maze of shophouses called Neo Damansara, there's a demand for Korean food as the Korean community is growing around this neighbourhood.

grilled beef ribs

I liked how this place seems to serve not the usual run-of-the-mill Korean items. There was manduguk(RM22) or dumplings on the menu, hence I ordered it being keen to try the dumplings. I was not dissapointed as I loved the hearty meat stuffed dumplings coupled with the garlicky soup. After consulting the waitress, we ordered her highly recommended pork belly (daepae samgyob for RM25) that resembled pieces of bacon. It's not marinated hence each piece is lightly dipped in soy sauce before being grilled on the hot plate. While it was crispy, it did lack much taste since it was not marinated. Instead, we fell in love with the beef ribs (L.A. Yangnyom galbi for RM40) - marinated with a flavourful sauce with a fork-tender texture. Simply gorgeous especially when eaten with the crisp lettuce leaves.

banchan selection: spring onion pancake, radish, jellied pork and kimchi

I also liked the side dishes - the banchan since it was unusual compared to what is usually served in Korean restaurants. Pink coloured radish cools down the palate, while kimchi cabbage adds spice and the cuttlefish adds a dash of sweetness. They also serve tiny spring onion pancakes, crispy edged flat cakes with lots of chopped spring onions. Also on the table was an unusual cold pork dish you dip in a sauce that kinda reminds me of the fermented taste of cincalok. Service was quick and efficient. This place definitely warrants a second and even third visit to explore further their menu. Lunch sets are also available and per my friend, priced reasonably to not burn a hole in your pocket.

Hwangsil Garden
Block F (F-1-1)
Neo Damansara

No.1, Jalan PJU 8/1
Damansara Perdana
Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03-7724 2892

(Non Halal. Place is at the new shoplots opposite Metropolitan Condominums where Citibank is located. For more pictures, see my Flickr set)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here is entirely based on my personal tastebuds and may vary for others. This review is time sensitive; changes may occur to the place later on that can affect this opinion. The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from this place for writing the review.

Monday, October 25, 2010

World Cafe: Middle East with Bobby Chinn

Bobby Chinn with his fans, competition winner Jovin and Queenie

TLC (formerly Discovery Travel & Living) recently held a special dinner to introduce their latest foodie adventure, World Cafe: Middle East that hits our television screens (Astro Channel 707) today at 10pm. Hosted by Bobby Chinn, a man we're all familiar with for his gallivanting epicurean eats around in World Cafe Asia, the dinner was a small intimate affair with just Kyspeaks (with Haze) and a group of very lucky competition winners including Jovin who had flown in specially from Penang.

According to Bobby, the Middle East believe Adam & Eve ate a pomegranate (vs an apple) in Eden, the childhood cookie, rock candy with pencil lead - pictures are courtesy of TLC

Befitting the Middle East theme, dinner was at Al-Halabi Lounge located on the lower ground floor of JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur. The place which is run by the people who own Tarbush was packed with Middle Eastern tourists who loved the opulent design, easy lounging chairs and etc. While the food wasn't very enticing (only the bread and hummus was good while the rest was very ho hum), we were all there to hob nob with the infamous Mr. Chinn who has a larger than life personality.

dates, dates, and more dates, Bobby does his best Lawrence of Arabia impression - pictures are courtesy of TLC

The show is kinda personal to him, since he can trace his heritage to Egypt where he was born. For each episode in this third series of his show, he introduces recipes, history and delves deep into the culture. The Middle Eastern cuisine also covers a broad scope due to the climate and culture. Persian, Levantine, Turkish and North Africa has also influenced the Middle Eastern cuisine.

Hummus, fluffy bread, baklava, pretty roses from Al-Halabi Lounge, JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur

Bobby's travels cover Istanbul, Damascus & Aleppo, Jordan & The West Bank and finally Cairo & Alexandria. Each episode is one hour (versus 30 minutes like before) as Bobby wanted to highlight more interesting stories. He shared that they used to cut out so many interesting stories for the World Cafe Asia series due to the lack of time.

His journey starts in Istanbul, the crossroads with Eurupoe where he explores food like kebabs, pilafs, filo pies that all originated from the Ottoman Empire. Damascus & Aleppo is next, where Bobby breaks bread (with his head) to make breadcrumbs. Damascus is also the oldest city in the world. At Aleppo, this is the last part of the spice trail hence the abundance of spices there. Jordan & West Bank is next where Bobby dons the Lawrence of Arabia garb and gets up close and personal with a camel. He also visits date farms and olive groves and explore Palestinian food. Then comes Cairo & Alexandria, where he got some family time with his cousins. They were there during Prophet Muhammad's birthday, which the Egyptians celebrate by giving the kids candy. He is pictured with rock candy and a big frown as they had inked the eyebrows in with pencil lead that is poisonous! Bobby also gets to relieve childhood memories by trying a thin cookie from his young days. He also introduces ful medames (made from fava beans and garlic) and melokhia, a soup made wih Corete, a vegetable native to Egypt. Incidentally, I've eaten that vegetable as they sell it in Justlife under the name mulukhiya.

It was great fun dining with Bobby and meeting some new people like Jovin from Penang and Joelynn from Kuala Lumpur (who has read about the blog before!). Thanks to TLC and Compass Communications for making the arrangements.

Don't forget to tune into Channel 707 (TLC) tonight at 10pm for the first episode of World Cafe: Middle East. The show also repeats on Tuesdays, 4pm and Saturdays, 2pm. For more pictures, see the Flickr set.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Il Primo Restolounge @ Jalan Kia Peng, Kuala Lumpur

orechiette pasta with stewed rabbit

Il Primo (the first in Italian) is ideal for the indecisive. With a concept that promises a selection of three cuisines (Italian, Japanese, Chinese) under one roof, you will be spoiled for choice. For me, Il Primo strikes me a mish-mash of restaurants - there's a little of Shook! in here with the multiple cuisine offerings, a dash of Dish as there's the familiar looking bread basket made from brown paper, the small display deli of goods (yes, they only use Rustichella D'Abruzzo pasta) used in their cooking, and lastly a typical Chinese seafood restaurant since an emphasis is placed on fresh seafood you can order cooked various styles.

fish and shellfish caciucco - Tuscany style soup

The setting though is quite different as it is housed in a standalone building right smack in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. It shares the same premises with The Conlay (a club as I've been told since I've yet to walk through those doors) with ample parking that can probably resolve all of Changkat Bukit Bintang's parking woes in a snap. One reckons, this could be just a temporary site since it's prime property that should instead sport a high rise condominium. Property savvy friends tell me, this plot could be leasehold hence it's not as attractive as the other parcels that have already been developed. Nevertheless, I reckon the owners are just biding their time at the moment.
grilled king crab legs served with lemon butter sauce and black pepper

Onwards to the food. While you're choosing what to eat, you will be served two selections of amuse bouche. For the first visit, we had a nice shot of mushroom cappuccino with a salmon tamago. On a revisit, it was salmon again, first in a maki form and the other was cucumber roll topped with minced salmon.
Vialonenanao squid ink risotto with seafood and prezzemolo, mural, amuse bouche

I'm more used to the words "Il Primo" as the first course in an Italian menu - kinda like the pasta course before you move onto the main course, which is how the pastas are labeled in the restaurant's menu. We managed to sample quite a few dishes in this category. I loved the orechiette (little ears) pasta with the stewed rabbit (RM42). A hearty dish of al dente pasta with soft stewed rabbit cooked in a tomato sauce, this was literally what an Italian nonna would have cooked up for her grandchildren in old Italy. For the homemade beef cheek agnolotti with porcini mushrooms (RM52), it had an irrestible dash of truffle oil but it was slightly overcooked and the filling wasn't abundant enough for us.

garoupa with spicy sauce, sashimi platter

I was interested in the squid ink risotto with seafood and prezzemolo (RM48), something I have yet to try before. This particular risotto uses a special type of risotto rice called Vialonenano from Verona hence the distinct small pearl-like grains you see in the picture. However, I felt it was a little undercooked and not as creamy as I liked it to be. On the side were fresh mussels, clams and prawns. Prezzemolo refers to parsley but I couldn't really get any distinct taste of the herb.  
homemade beef cheek agnolotti with porcini mushrooms

Seafood is definitely an emphasis here as even the soup, a Tuscany style caciucco or seafood stew (RM48) comes with an ocean's bounty of a marron, mussels and clams, that you won't get much soup out of it. The soup has a rich seafood taste but was just a tad too salty.
the open kitchen, lemon tart

For those who prefer their seafood pure and simple, the best way to enjoy it is the sashimi - thick pieces of salmon, tuna, yellowtail and sweet shrimp (selections start from RM95 to RM208). Everything is very super fresh for you to enjoy the seafood's sweet taste. If you're a little adventurous, they also do crudos - sashimi paired with olive oil and various kind of sauces like yuzu, balsamic reduction and even decadent truffle oil.

pistachio gelato

From the Chinese section, we sample a garoupa with spicy sauce (RM145) - deep fried and dressed in a sweet versus spicy sauce. They also do double boiled soups if you're looking for some comfort to your soul.

dessert time: macarons, vanilla bavarese with passion fruit, sacher torte and opera cake

For both of us, we thoroughly enjoyed the king crab legs about 200g portion (RM128) that was wood grilled in the open kitchen. There's powerful exhaust fans here working in the open kitchen that won't let you get smoke into your clothes. We savoured the each delicate and sweet bit of the crab legs, dipping it in the lemon butter sauce or just sprinkled with the saffron salt and a dash of lemon juice.

caramelised apple tart with vanilla gelato

Desserts here are pretty enjoyable especially the baci gelato (RM10) that comes laden with fruits and a piece of biscotti. I do like their lemon tart, a toothsome and not too sweet treat with a light pastry base. Other favourite was the vanilla bavarese with a tangy passionfruit heart. I wasn't too hot about the sacher torte, the opera cake and strawberry tart. On our revisit, we enjoyed the caramelised apple tart. Also available as part of desserts are a selection of pretty in pastel macarons. Tastewise, they ain't fantastic but they're awfully pretty though.

Overall, we thought the food was good even though it can cause you a hefty penny to dine here. The ambience though is a little strange as they have a band playing next to the dining area. If you like your meal in peace, this ain't the place as it can get a tad noisy. Service is good and attentive even though it can get a bit hectic especially when the wait staff are attending to a big party of people. For those who don't want seafood, they also serve wood charcoal grilled meat like lamb and beef.

Il Primo Restolounge
No. 26&28, Jalan Kia Peng
Kuala Lumpur

Tel:03-2143 2798

(Pork Free. Open for lunch and dinner daily. For more pictures, see my Flickr set. )

*Notice: The reviewer declares that part of this review was by invitation from the restaurant. Some items were paid for by the reviewer in the second visit to the restaurant.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lafite @ Shangri-la Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur

tart of Hokkaido scallops

Another picture laden post that I hope will not kill your network connection but hopefully pull you out from your post weekend coma. I've been biding my time with Lafite, very slowly and surely. After I had a taste of the new chef aka Georg Schroppel's culinary talents during a leisurely and extremely enjoyable lunch, I've been plotting to return for their night pleasures. This October proved to be the perfect excuse since Lafite was participating in MIGF this year (a rare occurence indeed and one that should be savoured completely) together with their sister outlets: Zipangu and Shang Palace.

Lafite menus look like albums, French Laundry inspired cornet of salmon, steamed duck egg custard

Lafite has always been on top of my list for those special occasion dinners. You know, the ones we celebrate with our loved ones whether it's an anniversary, birthday, a marriage proposal or just something meaningful. Most importantly for me, Lafite has been around since I was a young girl where as a family we'll gather to celebrate occasions like my parents' wedding anniversary. In those old days, Lafite was heavy wooden furniture, superplush carpets and etc. I remember tasting duck ala orange for the first time with pomp and ceremony as it was served with heavy round trays that were whooshed away by waiters. Even their dessert buffet (now renamed a showcase) was etched in my memory as I distinctively remember they once crafted a chess set in chocolate that I was so tempted to eat piece by piece (I didn't if you're curious).

four colour tomato salad: a melange of four colour tomatoes, tomato marmalade, white tomato mousse, tomato sherbet and honey-yuzu vinaigrette

Nowadays, the decor has now gone all modern casual with a more open setting where tables are placed in a circle around the dessert centrepiece with a fountain within. However, one thing never changes as people especially couples love to celebrate here (we spied a girl with a huge bouquet of flowers and a cake the night we dined here). I suspect all the wait staff are probably well trained in the art of romance especially the ever popular hiding the ring trick in the dessert.

Lunch appetisers: cucumber and dill soup, poached quail egg with asparagus spears

Georg's Luncheon (as it is called) for the weekdays is a steal in my opinion with its generous portions. You are given two choices: a "watch your waistline" choice by taking the appetiser and a main course for RM82++ or a "throw that diet out of the window" choice with two appetisers and a main course for RM108++. Both choices came with the dessert showcase and coffee or tea to help alleviate the food coma situation after lunch. I recommend that it is best you take the day off after the lunch unless you have perfected the art of keeping those eyes wide open minus the toothpicks (or just fake a meeting after lunch).

sturgeon with roe

The four colour tomato salad was my choice that day. I'm partial to tomatoes especially unique varieties ever since I first had my taste of heirloom tomatoes in the Corn Exchange at Rapid City, South Dakota. There seemed to be various dimensions of taste plus textures ranging from the smooth tomato sherbet to the white tomato mousse and the slightly piquant honey-yuzu vinagrette. The chilled cucumber soup with dill, scallop and smoked salmon was refreshing and weirdly enough, it gives you a clean tingly mouth feel that reminded me of toothpaste!! That day we dined here, there were two similar asparagus dishes - one came with a decadent poached egg and a Bernaise sauce while another was paired with a beautiful corn sherbet. The yellow fin tuna tartar is equally impressive as it comes stacked in layers for you to enjoy starting from a black sesame crisp, crushed avocado, cucumber salad, the tuna tartare and a ginger yuzu vinaigrette. A risotto made from duck bolognese and a divine homemade creamy tagliatelle pasta rounded up our appetisers. The risotto was creamy and portions were generous while the creaminess of the pasta was balanced with a tangy kumquat compote.

white truffle risotto

The mains that impressed us was the braised short ribs with its fork-tender texture served with crispy celeriac sticks, young broccoli, corn and thyme sauce. My other friend gave his thumbs up to the duck confit - crisp on the outside but tender - served with almond potatoes, red cabbage, Brussels sprout and green cardamom sauce. The golden brown seared Atlantic cod fillet is a large chunk with a gorgeous melt in the mouth texture that comes with baby potatoes, young carrots and truffle foam. I especially loved the soft roasted garlic nibs served with it as they were full of flavour. Everything paled in comparison with my choice of stuffed organic chicken breast with a young leek, chive sauce and king oyster mushroom ragout. Desserts was a hit and miss from the showcase. Some were way too sweet for us hence we picked the piquant ones like the light lemon curd tartlet and the passionfruit marshmallows. They also serve Shangri-la's own made chocolate bars in the showcase. My favourite is the caramel fleur de sel one, a divine combo of slight saltiness to uplift the sweet notes of the caramel. You can also purchase the bars from their cafe cum bakery Lemon2Go.

Indian red orange sherbet

On our second visit, we both decided to do a face off challenge between the MIGF menu and the brand new (and seasonal) white truffle menu. There's almost the same number of dishes except the white truffle menu has one extra dish. There seem to be more items in the MIGF menu versus the published one on the Net and the guidebook. In terms of looks and taste, the MIGF's cold starter of Hokkaido scallops tart won hands down. Scallop tartare mixed with a little yuzu shallot cream is sandwiched between lime squid ink polenta and topped with reddish globules of caviar. Lovely contrast of colours. My French Laundry inspired cornet of salmon tartar with cream cheese was lovely and light but felt a little lacking. Even the MIGF steamed duck egg custard was gorgeous and smooth when paired with the sweet Maple cream with salty bursts from the caviar and a fried sage leaf.

grilled beef with black truffle

I guess I should have opted for the MIGF menu but never mind, I did get to eat wafer thin shavings of white truffles from Alba. They're tossed in my salad leaves and shaved over a creamy zvi cohen hen egg omelette served with black trumpet mushrooms. Keeping it in balance is a small creamy risotto that uses carnaroli risotto rice for a creamier texture and abundantly covered with shavings of white truffles. I thoroughly enjoyed each spoonful of the risotto. My truffle fix even comes in a form of a lollipop d'alba - white chocolate paired with the truffle. The white chocolate seems a little too overpowering and sweet compared to my truffle. There's a pretty heavy influence of French Laundry in my white truffle menu probably because the chef used to work there before. For my mains, the grilled beef (to perfection) is served with a black truffle sauce on the side and a salad with a Bernaise sauce.

glowing ball of flowers...they're everywhere in Lafite as you get purple ones and even box shaped ones

While the white truffle menu was decadent, we both felt that the MIGF menu won hands down in the shoot out in terms of looks and etc. There's a few similarities also with both menus: the sturgeon served and the dessert of a warm Valrhona chocolate souffle.

sous vide lamb encased in parsley mousse

Following the creamy steamed egg custard, it was the warm starter that highlighted Brittany ingredients like the butter poached lobster paired with foie gras, cherry tomato confit and white truffle foam. I've had a taste of this in MIGF's Gala Launch and it is wonderful rich pairing. The sturgeon was also interesting as it came with sauteed yabbies, pea mousse, chanterelle mushrooms scattered around with marinated baby fennel and sturgeon roe. My sturgeon dish bore a strong resemblance to this dish except I felt my fish had a strong fishy smell. After the first bite, I ate it with my ginger carrot emulsion and that unpleasant taste dissapeared.

lightly grilled cheese with quail egg brioche and pine nuts

To cleanse our palates, we were both given a tart Indian red blood orange sherbet that came drizzled with whipped creme fraiche and crispy rosemary. Each spoonful of sherbet was topped with a dark chocolate piece to make it go down better.

Just before desserts, it is our main courses. My grilled beef even done to perfection was no match to the MIGF's spectacular parsley mousse encased lamb. The lamb was cooked sous vide to tender perfection. It was surrounded by a micro ratatouille, capers and a black olive gnocchi with a thyme sauce.

Lunch dessert showcase: light and tart lemon curd tartlets, passionfruit marshmallows and the artistic multi-layered dessert showcase layout

Last but not least was dessert served ceremoniously together - a black slate platter of individual treats such as the warm Valrhona chocolate souffle and a cup of Tahiti Vanilla cappuccino. Scattered around the blackness was an avocado puree, verbena ice cream (just like my L'Occitane soap!), a not too tangy pineapple ragout. I loved picking up the cocoa nibs crisps scattered all over with a bit of chilli powder to add a tingling sensation to my tongue.

Even though dinner was great with a few hiccups (plating does look a bit different from some other pictures I have seen) and I would definitely highly recommend it to friends, I'm quite appalled with the service here and don't think it fits their "fine dining" moniker. Last week, we have been bandying around what was the definition of fine dining and one such reference was Michelin's for their own guides. For them a fine dining restaurant was service good enough for the king with silverware and an ambiance to give them a royal treat. Sadly, for Lafite this seems to be completely lacking even from the front of their door. First, we got ignored when we walked in (they were busy ushering in an imporant man I often seen grace the newspapers' business section), then we were not served any bread (we didn't ask since we were quite filled up with our lunch) but I thought it was weird they had the aioli on the table but no bread (maybe they ran out?). More misdemeanours followed, they got our main courses mixed up and no explaination was given for our dishes. The straw that broke the camel's back was when we paid the bill, they even forgot to bring the pen. Tsk tsk tsk...I hope they do buck up. I vaguely remember my lunch service was efficient but not very warm and kinda impersonal. I guess I have been spoiled with Cilantro, Sage, Senses and Mandarin Grill.

Nevertheless, do go experience the MIGF menu if you have the opportunity and hopefully someone from the hotel reads this and service bucks up or else it's going to be one painful occasion.

Shangri-la Hotel
Jalan Sultan Ismail
Kuala Lumpur

Tel:03-2074 3900

(Pork free. Booking is advisable. The MIGF menu is RM380++ per person without wine and RM580++per person with wine pairing. Full detailed menu is here. Note that Lafite serves additional items also that were not listed. The white truffle menu is RM450++ for an 8 course set menu and additional white truffle is charged at RM25 per gramme. For more pictures, see my Flickr set.)

 Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here is entirely based on my personal tastebuds and may vary for others. This review is time sensitive; changes may occur to the place later on that can affect this opinion. The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from this place for writing the review.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

MIGF Festival Menu 2010 @ Senses, Hilton Kuala Lumpur

organic flower pot

MIGF seems to be the buzz word this whole week (and probably the whole month). At Senses Hilton Kuala Lumpur, their festival menu is a bag of surprises that contains organic produce, whimsical visuals to bring out the child within us and bursts of umami. It is also a menu based on seasonal produce i.e. Autumn mushrooms and truffles hence the umami levels of a few dishes are heightened. The place was packed the night we dined there and I spotted a blogger I've read about before but never spoken to before aka That's the thing, I can recognise people from their blogs but I'm still a little shy to go up and say hi to them. I reckon I'm still very shy and don't want to be known as a blog stalker!

edible menu (and how to eat it), canapes: savoury macaron, black sesame sponge and scrambled egg espuma

When the festival menu said we'll start out with an edible menu, a welcome drink and canapes, I expected some bites put together for us. Hence when I was served a menu, a shooter glass of my pink fizzy drink and a row of canapes, my eyebrows shot up a little. Hold on, you mean my menu is edible?? This brings new meaning to literally eating the menu! As Michael explained, the menu is specially printed on a potato based starch with edible ink. You are meant to tear it and dip it in the pink cod roe. The flavours aren't very distinct with the paper (it tastes like an undersalted potato crisp but with an oily feel to the paper) hence you're meant to eat it with the cod roe. Once I digested my "menu", I also had my row of canapes - an unusual duck foie gras filled macaron, black sesame with miso sponge and a scrambled egg espuma. The light and frothy espuma is presented in an egg shell with a little smoked cod in it to add a touch of flavour, while the sponge leaves a light taste of black sesame on my tongue.

golden tea

Next is the organic flower pot. Not a new concept in the world of fine dining, these organic gardens served in a flower pot is said to be inspired by Noma's genius chef Rene Redzepi's cuisine which has an intimate connection with the Earth. It's my second garden within a month - first one was the Alvin Leung's glass garden with vacuum dried enoki mushrooms, porcini soil and a pungent green spring onion mousse. While Alvin's one looked strangely like a dead garden with no green buds, this flower pot of mine was pretty and brimming with fresh vegetables and edible flowers. Hidden underneath are black stones to keep the vegetables upright and a soil made from nuts and a mild tasting dill mayonnaise. Within my asparagus and purple carrot spears, I find foie gras shavings and a chanterelle mushroom. Michael's rationale of the garden was to create something out of the ordinary with a touch of zen.

golden tea with beef consomme

Don't worry, this is one dish that you can forgo your manners. You're encouraged to slowly pick through your individual flower pot to nibble on each piece of vegetable dipped in the soil and the mayonnaise to give it flavour. Next up is the interesting named golden tea. Here you're presented with a gold leaf tea bag on top of an assortment of mushrooms, truffle, stewed lamb tongue and baby spinach leaves. A deft pour of hot beef consomme into the ensemble sees your gold leaf melting away into bits. Michael explains this soup was inspired by Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck restaurant, where he spent 1 month working there. The soup has a strong umami taste and like my fellow diner said it reminded her a bit of Marmite. The bits of mushroom and truffle also work their magic to pack the soup with lots of flavour but my favourite bit was the soft stewed lamb tongue within. On the gold leaves, there's not much taste to it but a bit of gritty texture to it.

crystals, smoked jade tiger abalone

We move on to the smoked jade tiger abalone. The salad leaves, slices of abalone and mushrooms is uniquely presented on a flattish stone. Under the stone is a cedarwood paper, slightly burnt to give us a hint of the smoky aroma it produces when it is placed in front of us. This is the same type of wood used to cold smoke the braised abalone that had spent some time in a konbu sake broth. There's a little Asian in this since it uses abalone, a revered ingredient in Chinese cuisine while the cold smoking technique is inspired by Michael's Swedish roots. It was a little hard to eat my leaves and my silvers of abalone together since it seemed to slide down the rock. Again, there was a strong umami taste to the whole dish with the konbu infused abalone and mushrooms.

cracking it to get fork tender beef and a visual of the dorper lamb rack

I'm already groaning from the food before my main course started as all those small bites are beginning to overwhelm me. The waiter rolls in a trolley with two plates that are each covered with a white clay. A crack of the clay with the back of his spoon reveals a hidden treasure - slow braised beef encased in a cedarwood paper cocoon.  The beef is meltingly soft and Michael reveals that it has been slowly braised for 5 hours in a low temperature oven. It's inspired by another of Senses dishes that he makes with giant steaks big enough for 2-3 people.  Also on the plate was a potato pave topped with truffle shavings and a bonus in the form of a large fresh porcini mushroom. My first time trying a fresh porcini and it has a lovely strong woody aroma. We didn't get to try the other selection of main course, the Dorper lamb rack but Michael explianed that the lamb is coated in a stock that adheres to it like glue which is then rolled in truffle bits. Hmmmm, one can imagine the burst of flavours from the whole combo.

frost that is made from Tasminian Leatherwood Honey

We're almost at the end but before we move on to the sweet from the savoury, a little palate cleanser is served to us called Frost. Michael explains that the frost is made from a mixture of Tasminian leatherwood honey (we get a taste of that divine honey later on!) and Bombay Sapphire Gin, which he paco jets to create a frosty appearance. This he says reminds him of Sweden where the snow melts. Nestled within the white frost are blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries and broken bits of violet meringue. It's a little sharp but refreshing to clear up our tongue from the strong umami flavours.

visuals from the gala launch - the large garden they made, macarons and Michael Elfwing goofing for the MIGF promotions

We move on to the last item on the menu i.e. the dessert that is presented like a child's drawing of a simple flower arising from its chocolate soil. Named red poppy, we were wondering if we'll break any rules for indulging in this mind inducing flower but we were told portions of the poppy are too small for us to go "high". The pink flower petals are made from an unusual emulsion of Valrhona Ivoire white chocolate, water and red poppy extract. This is based on Michael's other famous dessert they serve at Senses, his Manjari emulsion. To mimick the flower, a sprinkle of poppy seeds is put in the middle. Savour each petal as it is smooth and a little sweet from the use of white chocolate and the specially French imported red poppy extract.

red poppy

Eat it with a scoop of the chocolate soil and a little of the banana sorbet, a child like flavour. The whole display is meant to jolt you back to your childhood days with the familiar flavours and kindergarden drawing.

Overall, I felt the menu was very strong visually as it was too pretty for words starting from my organic flower pot to my red poppy dessert. The flavours were inspired by a lot of autumn ingredients hence it was very umami laden and a little too rich for my palate especially when I reached the main course. A last word on service, it was impeccable as always especially when the place was heaving with people since they had a large group of diners to attend to.

Senses Restaurant
Mezzanine Flour
Hilton Kuala Lumpur
3 Jalan Stesen Sentral
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-2264 2264

(Pork Free. The menu is priced at RM398++ with wine pairing and RM318++ without wine pairing. Available for the month of October only. For more information on the MIGF menu, see this link. Note that Hilton Kuala Lumpur's other restaurants Chynna and Iketeru are also participating in MIGF. Love the duck sushi from Iketeru and the steamed cod from Chynna. More pictures of Senses are also available in the Flickr set.)

*Notice: The reviewer declares that this review was by invitation from the restaurant.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

F Concept Dining by Buffalo Kitchens @ Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur

pan seared tuna salad with miso mustard sauce

It's nice to stumble on surprises....kinda like discovering a forgotten Xmas present or a wad of cash you forgot you had stashed away for safekeeping. Last Saturday night, we both felt like kids discovering a hidden treasure as we spied the words "F" from afar as we walked towards Bangsar Village. To set the picture correctly, we were both arguing as usual on what to eat since both of us was tired from a road trip far far away (but that's another story)....he wanted his usual comfort food aka Country Farm Organics while I was batting for Mizu Bangsar since it served my all-time favourite Japanese food. "What's this?" we both chorus when we spied people and lights on top of that a new eatery, we both echo. Throwing wind to the caution, we pushed through the frosted glass doors and discovered wonderland....

vegetable terrine with porcini jelly

It had only started business on Friday night but the place was bursting with happy people and sizzling from the open cooking stations. Luckily tables were available and with a warning by the friendly waitress that the wait may be long since they just started out, we waited in anticipation. The menu is simple, just a few items penned on a piece of paper while the drinks list is handwritten in a book that looked like my old school notebook.

open kitchen concept akin like your home

Service is a little crazy but the wait staff are all friendly and helpful. It's a little noisy with the bar next to us (we could hear the clunking of their non stop juicer whirring away) but it's bearable. Instead I'll put it down to atmosphere - the warm sizzling sounds of the open cooking stations (that reminded me of being in a party or even my own home) and the happy chatter of people waiting for their food.

sesame steak with fennel salad

Expectations were marked down since new eateries often need some time to "warm up" as the people learn how to work with each other. I was rather impressed with what we were served. First, it was a simple amuse bouche of couscous with an olive. Nice tart appetizer to whet the tummy juices for our appetizers. The menu is a mix of Western with a touch of Japanese as the Edwin Yau from Changkat Bukit Bintang's Daikanyama has a hand in it too. 

duck soba

Splashie Boy insisted on the vegetable terrine with porcini jelly (RM18) and he loved the mix of vegetables encased in the jelly. I was hankering for Japanese hence my choices all had a Japanese slant like the pan seared tuna with miso mustard sauce (RM15). The sauce was a little weak but I enjoyed it with my fresh tuna, lettuce and enoki mushrooms.

eton mess

Our mains came quickly after that, my generously topped duck soba (RM25) and his sesame steak with a fennel salad (RM35). I enjoyed the sauce tossed with my soba noodles making each strand slurplicious while the duck was meaty and tender. Splashie Boy enjoyed his steak that was fork tender. So unlike another meat place in Solaris Mont Kiara that served us bloody steak (obviously someone forgot to rest it!).

dark chocolate espresso mousse

What I liked about this place was the portions are just nice as we had room for dessert. We ordered the recommended ones: the dessert of the day (RM10) which they told us had meringue and the dark chocolate espresso mousse. We had some mix up with our order but once it was spotted, they quickly addressed our complains. We didn't know what to expect with our dessert of the day but it tasted good since it wasn't too sweet with the tangy layer of fruits. Not much meringue taste though and later we found out it was an Eton Mess (i.e. crushed meringues with fruits). I also enjoyed the rich taste of the dark chocolate mousse (RM12) topped with fresh raspberries.

Overall it was an above expectations meal under the circumstances they had just opened their doors on Friday! We'll definitely be back for more. At the moment, they're only open for dinnertime but hopefully once things run smoothly, they hope to open for lunch. There'll be cooking classes held in the kitchen in the near future. As it is rather too new  and things will always be in the flux for sometime, expectations should always be low for this place until things run smoothly after some time.

F Concept Dining by Buffalo Kitchens
69-1, Jalan Telawi 3
Bangsar Baru
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-22011710

(Pork Free. Closed on Mondays. Open for lunch and dinner. Place is on top of Chawan Kopitiam and faces Bangsar Village. Note that the kitchen uses induction cookers. Join their Facebook group for more information. More pictures can be found in the Flickr set.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here is entirely based on my personal tastebuds and may vary for others. This review is time sensitive; changes may occur to the place later on that can affect this opinion. The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from this place for writing the review.

Other review:

The Life of Brian

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