Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fresca Mexican Kitchen & Bar @ The Gardens, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur

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KL-lites have always had a fondness of Tex-Mex items that we are no longer strangers to tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and burritos (or what is described in this place's menu, a bit like our local popiah).

Recently joining the fold is Fresca Mexican Kitchen & Bar. It has the advantage of prime location, up front at the entrance to Gardens mall.

However, this is the run up to the most anticipated Mexican eatery will be La Mexicana that is slated to open early next month at The Terrace at Hock Choon. According to a little birdie, that particular place is own by a Mexican lady so hopefully she keeps things as genuine as possible.

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The place is gorgeous and during the daytime, the clear glass windows allow the sunlight to pour through to play shadows on the rustic tiles.

Splashes of colour such as a bright blue tiled wall at one corner of the kitchen and a colourful patterned tiled floor jazz up the otherwise dark bronze palette.

Seating choices are aplenty: small cafe tables at the front for you to watch passer-bys enter into the mall, banquet seats in the front, square tables on the side and teeny weeny tables for cosy dining for two.


The set up here reminds me a little of a Spanish tapas bar as they serve botanas, Mexican for small plates that are great for sharing. This is best shared with tequila and a tall jug of icy cool margaritas.

For something more substantial, there is platos principales, the main plates that is divided into tortilla based dishes such as enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas and burritos. Also included in this repertoire is traditional Mexican delicastessen choices.

Last but not least is postres or desserts to keep any sweet tooth lover happy.

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The kitchen is still slowly finding its own pulse as some items seem to have fared better in an earlier visit while others now boast a marked improvement such as the Albondigas en chile chipotle (RM16) that is filled with less stringy minced meat to give it a softer and more tender bite. Incidentally, those meatballs are simply gorgeous with the aromatic tomato based sauce you eat with the soft tortillas.

However, the Churros con chocolat (RM13) was a tad too crispy this time round. Would have been slightly better if the churros had a softer center.


While we wait for the food to arrive, it is Guacamole with chips (RM20). The mashed up avocado is a lovely creamy consistency and there is plenty to go around for generous amounts to top your crispy nachos.

Small bites as we found out makes tummies quite full after a while. The sopes, a roadside snack is essentially like a small pizza with different toppings. Instead of a crispy base, it uses a soft dough that has higher pinched sides. Our Sopes de Salpicon (RM13) is generously topped with lettuce, roast beef shreds and avocado. You drizzle the pico de gallo sauce on the side. It gives it a very mild kick to the Mexican street food.

The Enchilads Verdes (RM15) is stuffed with chicken shreds, baked with cheese and served with a bit of the piquant pico de gallo sauce. It is a comforting dish. I love the Tacos Alambre (RM18) as they use the softer corn tortillas to serve roast beef, poblano chiles and crispy bacon.

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For the main meal, I really enjoyed the Pescado a la Veracruzana (RM39), the fish fillet served with an aromatic sauce of onions, olives and Jalapeno chiles. The accompanying Mexican rice is aromatic with long fluffy grains and is served with a mixed salad. This is said to be a specialty from Veracruz, a Mexican coastal town.

Desserts is the Tequi-lime pie (RM15), a dense cheesecake based tart flavoured with a slight sourish tinge from just a hint of tequila and lime. This is followed by the crispy churros we dip in chocolate sauce.

The place is more ideal for eating with a big group of people since ordering more varieties means you end up hitting up a large hole in the pocket. For those who prefer to keep it safe, just order the main meals that start from RM26 onwards. In terms of flavours, the Mexican spices seem a little more subdued but it still makes pleasant dining especially if you are looking for a nice place to chill.

And if you are wondering, fresca means fresh in Mexican.

Fresca Mexican Kitchen & Bar
Lot G-242A, Ground Floor
The Gardens
Midvalley City
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-2201 2893

(Pork Free. For more pictures, see 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.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Chin Mee Chin (CMC) Confectionery @ Katong, Singapore


On the outside, Singapore may be all about glitz, glamour or fine dining.

Take some time and scratch beyond that faux facade.

You will be surprised to discover old school places beautifully preserved like Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, this Hainanese stalwart in the heart of Katong.


One Saturday morning, we dropped by here for breakfast. 

Started in 1925, this bakery-cum-cafe was packed with people jostling for a space at the few marble topped tables. Usually Sundays is even more packed since it is right next to a church.

Customers would walk in and pick up cream cornets, tarts, cream puffs, plain butter cupcakes and hot cross buns (it was the day just before Easter Sunday) from trays.


Space is scarce here so sharing the table with strangers is de rigueur. 

Once we get our table, they take our orders. 

We enjoy bread rolls lightly toasted on a charcoal stove that are slathered with creamy kaya and a thick slice of butter.

You can also ask for soft boiled eggs to dip the bread.


The corner shop has an open concept that lets you spy on what they are tinkering with in the kitchen or when the bakes come out fresh from the oven.

Even though its acronym CMC sounds like a mix of C&C Factory, the place is all about old school cool. Expect to tap your feet on an iconic green and white mosaic floor, plant your fanny on smooth wooden chairs and of course, dine off the marble topped tables. Unlike the ones we get in Malaysia, these tables have curved legs.

Drop by for a slice of nostalgia and maybe the best kaya and butter buns in Singapore to be washed down with a cup of rich aromatic coffee.

Chin Mee Chin Confectionery
204, East Coast Road


(Open from 7.30am to 4.30pm. Closed on Monday. For more pictures, see 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.

Friday, May 04, 2012

A Touch of Nonya Influence with Debbie Teoh 2012 @ Chatz Brasserie, Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur


Save these dates.

From 11 May to 10 June, Debbie Teoh's Nonya food promotion is back at Chatz Brasserie, Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur. Famed for her Nonya dishes, this is the best opportunity to sample her repertoire at a restaurant since she does mostly catering.

Last year's (see the previous blogpost) promotion received an overwhelming response that she's back with a bigger repertoire of dishes. If you are lucky, you may catch such old fashioned goodies like this version of Seri Muka that combines the creamy pandan rice flour layer with a taro layer. Simple but darn satisfying.


Our tasting session started with Nasi Ulam, a dish much favoured by Debbie herself as she ate loads of this dish after giving birth to her kids. Nonya mothers will often prepare this dish for their daughters to restore their body to a balanced yin-yang state.

The preparation of this aromatic dish is often used by Nonya matriarchs to test their daughter-in-laws in the fine art of cutting the herbs as finely as possible. You will find finely sliced turmeric root, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, turmeric leaf, cekur leaf and torch ginger flower.


Next it was the Itek tim, the savoury duck soup with salted mustard vegetables or kiam chai. Onions and shiitake mushrooms are also added in the soup. Not overly salty, this dish is boiled with spices such as nutmeg, peppercorns, ginger and garlic.

For the buffet spread, Debbie will be alternating this soup with last year's Hu Pioh T'ng (fish maw soup).


One of the biggest treats is the Ayam buah keluak, that uses the dark Indonesian black nuts. These hardy nuts take time to prepare since it needs to be soaked for overnight before it can be cracked open. Its deep dark brown filling has a meaty earthy taste that resemble mushrooms and chocolate. The nuts are cooked in a chicken curry. As Debbie shares, the trick of getting it to taste so good is to keep it for two days for the flavours to develop.


Aubergine fans will love this Terung served with sambal udang kering that uses one of the Nonya's must-have ingredients, dried prawns. It is a simple dish with the aubergines that is fried and topped with the fragrant sambal to give it flavour.


The Ulam platter is an assortment of fresh mint leaves, cucumbers and four angle beans that is served with a slightly piquant sambal dip that has dried prawns and chillies. Great excuse to eat your greens with the delicious dip. My favourite was the fragrant mint leaves with a generous dose of the sambal dip.

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I was a bit slow in opening up my Otak Otak parcel and was surprised to find the aromatic coconut milk based custard to be filled with chunks of seafood such as fish fillet, prawns and squid. The aromatic daun kadok (wild pepper or betel leaf) is also added to each parcel. Eat this with rice but it is best eaten with bread that you can mop up all the sweet juices.


Next it was the Gulai Tumis Ikan Pari that uses stingray fish pieces that is cooked in a thick hot and sour curry broth. This definitely meant lots of rice to pair with the wonderful curry.


This was my favourite that I could have eaten bowls of rice with just the rich curry. The Lemak Nenas Ikan Sepat has pineapple chunks inside the creamy curry. Salted fish gives the curry a slight edge to alleviate its rich taste.


Bonus dish of the day was fried fish served with a tangy mango acar.

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It has been a hot day with the sun blazing so it was nice to have the refreshing cendol.

Unlike those commercial versions, the cendol strands are made from green pea flour mixed with fresh pandan leaves. That's why these strands have a deep jade green colour versus those pale green ones we usually get from the factories.


Last but not least, it was tiny nonya kueh in the form of banana leaf wrapped glutinous rice rolls with rempah udang. The slightly sweet dried prawns filling has candied winter melon and toasted kerisik to give it lots of flavour. We also get to take away Nonya bak chang since the rice dumpling festival is just round the corner on June 23.

From Monday to Friday, the Nonya buffet promotion is RM62++ per person for lunch. Dinner is RM82++ per person and available daily. During weekends, it is only available for Hi-Tea for RM59++ per person. For Mother's Day, there will be a special brunch for RM68++ per adult and RM34++ per child. For an extra RM10, fathers and their kids can join in for a cooking session for mothers. Senior citizens get 50% discount. Parkroyal guests for the hotel and serviced suites enjoy 20% discount. Even Standard Chartered and UOB Bank credit card holders enjoy special offers

Chatz Brasserie
Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Sultan Ismail
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-21470088

(Pork Free. Promotion runs from May 11 to June 10 only. For more pictures, see my Flickr set)

*Note: This was a review based on an invitation by Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur

** The background of the dishes is the beautiful Nonya batik with its many motifs and patterns.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Steve Allen at Dish @ Dua Annexe, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur

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Four times to Dish and I reckon it's not the last visit.

I peeked back at my archives. Way back in 2009, Dish (Delicious Ingredients Steak House) blazed into the city's dining scene. At that time, it was the decadent bone marrow and caveman portions of steaks that got everyone's tongues wagging. Unfortunately I didn't warm up to the place even after a few visits as I could not fathom eating my steak well charred on the outside. Means too much carbon that will slowly kill me off.

Fast forward to 2012. KL's fickle dining crowd have moved on to shiny new places. Enter Steve Allen and the ball game changes for Dish.

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Who is this Steve chap you must be asking?

Well, he is a friendly English bloke looking to explore our Asian shores. Most importantly, he brings with him the experience of working with Gordon Ramsay. Most couch potatoes will know of Ramsay from channel surfing through Hell's Kitchen or even Masterchef USA. Ramsay may be loud and rude (it's all television people!) but he is a talented chef who groomed many young chefs such as Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton, Steve and the list goes on.

Before Steve joined the Delicious Group, he was the head honcho in Ramsay's outpost in the prestigious Claridges Hotel. He is enjoying his stint here, exploring our local fare with gusto.

The other day he tried guava and next thing we know, it is on this week's lunch menu - a cool rendition with white chocolate ice cream that we slurp down to counteract these hot humid days.

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For those unsure about Steve and his menu, we recommend an easy way to get acquainted with his food....try his lunch menu that is available daily including weekends.

Prices won't cripple your wallet but it's definitely way above that usual budget meal you have at the food court. For the quality of food you get, we reckon it is a good deal. Two courses are priced at RM65, while three courses (how can one miss dessert!) is at RM75. Both choices come with a cup of coffee or tea, and petit fours (marshmallow and chocolate truffle).

The lunch menu changes every fortnight. We sampled the current menu and love the mild tasting curried carrot soup with the crispy squid served on the side. The chargrilled mussels are perfectly cooked and not too rubbery with an apple and garlic broth that you wipe up with the toasted ciabatta bread. The chargrilled sirloin is a nice portion for lunch (too much would mean food coma!) that is topped with the lobster butter. A must is the triple cooked potato chips - crispy on the outside with a fluffy centre. Even the pan fried salmon fillet is beautifully cooked with a crispy skin and soft pink flesh. We end with a cooling guava soup and a toothsome almond financier (hot from the oven) with roasted pineapple and creamy mascarpone ice cream.

We had sampled the seared duck breast from the last lunch menu and loved the accompanying ginger carrots with braised duck leg broth. Such a comforting dish that had us all wishing there was more of that fortifying broth.

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Once you are convinced, head towards here for the dinner menu. You start with eggplant fritters studded with black sesame seeds with a sour cream dip. They are good and even the eggplant hater loves them. We also love the decadent herb butter with bits of red pepper and herbs so be careful to not over indulge on bread. It is hard but more good things are coming.

For those seeking utter decadence, go for the ballotine of foie gras and smoked duck (RM46). The creamy melt-in-the-mouth foie gras is wrapped in smoked duck slices and served with the toasted brioche. Spiced pineapple on its side helps alleviate the richness of this dish.

For something way much lighter, go for the seared and marinated tuna (RM42). Shaped like a "D", the fish is paired with a piquant pickled radish, decadent crispy quail eggs and french beans. There is an Asian slant to this dish with its soy sauce and ginger flavours. Another light choice is the classic Italian vitello tonnata (RM36), thin slices of marinated veal topped with tuna mayonnaise and served with argula leaves and croutons.

My favourite is their signature sauteed scallops (RM48) as I've eaten this for three times. The curry powder dusted succulent scallops are served with a creamy cauliflower puree (mash without the carbs!) and crispy turkey bacon and almond crumbs. Thin apple slices and apple vinegar caramel sauce dotting its sides help cut through the rich taste.


My first introduction to the mains yielded one firm favourite, the salt baked cod (RM69). Encased in a salt dough crust embedded with lemon slices, the fish is juicy and succulent. It is paired with a red pepper and lemon sauce that is delicious. Eat each piece of the zucchini and peppers as they all have a beautiful natural sweetness.

Steak of course is a must. My first visit, I tried a tenderloin that was perfectly cooked with beautiful chargrilled marks and a juicy red centre. You get choices of different sauces, such as truffle beef jus lobster butter, their bernaise sauce and etc but I love eating my steak plain. In subsequent visits, we sampled smaller sizes for the lunch set that was equally good.

Depending on your mood, go for the sides (RM18 each) such as the creamy potato puree, triple cooked chips, truffled mac and cheese or my big favourite, the charred Brussels sprouts with chillies and anchovies (RM18). Love these vegetables that were so fragrant and delicious.

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Last but not least...desserts that are so good.

I often find restaurants always end with rather ho-hum desserts but here, I find the endings to be spectacular to make me want to return again and again.

Hard to narrow down my favourite dessert as I love them all. There's the strawberry mousse, granita and jelly with olive oil ice cream sprinkled with black pepper (RM21). I like the light flavours of this combination that makes it easy to finish it by yourself with not much guilt. Equally less guilty is the pineapple carpaccio, coconut sorbet and tuille (RM21), a refreshing treat that reminds me of pina coladas in the sunshine beach.

For truly decadence, go for the cold chocolate fondant, poached mango and yoghurt sorbet (RM21). This is akin to a chocolate mousse with a creamy flowing centre that is topped with a crunchy nut biscuit. Poached mango cubes cut through the richness. Unfortunately this is overshadowed by the brilliant caramel chocolate delice, lime ice cream and raspberries (RM21). Voted the big favourite, the rich chocolate taste is wonderful paired with the tangy lime ice cream and the lime rind that dots the ruby red raspberries. A must for chocolate lovers!

Dua Annexe
213, Jalan Tun Razak
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-2164 1286

(Pork Free. Open for lunch from 12-3pm and for dinner. For the full set of pictures, see the Flickr set. For weekly updates and the full menu details, see this link to Dish's website. )

*Disclaimer: Most meals were paid by the reviewer except for one blogger tasting session.
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