Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Party Affair With Willin Low

To be honest, I had never heard of Willin Low, before I received the invitation to a special preview of "A Party Affair" – The Asian Food Channel’s Original Production which premiered on Wednesday, 20 November, 9pm.  Or at least I thought I'd never heard of him.  The venue was close enough for me not to hesitate if I should accept the invitation and brave traffic, for it was walking distance (if it was a nice chilly spring morning perhaps, I forgot that we live pretty much on the Equator, which is at times as hot as quote someone I know), and I'd always been curious what the place KITCHEN CULTURE was all about.

Located in the Bangsaria building along Jln Maarof, the sprawling demo kitchens of Kitchen Culture made it the ideal venue for a food demonstration by a celebrity chef.

Anyway, as I sat down and killed time surfing instagram and facebook, it SUDDENLY dawned on me, that I had been following Willin Low willinly all this time, on instagram, under the handle @willcookwilleat.  I quickly text Keropokman (thank God for whatsapp which has made international communication so much cheaper and accessible), and ask him, "Eh, Keropokman ah, is willcookwilleat WILLIN LOW?"

No prizes for guessing WHO the main sponsors are, but in case you missed it, the programme is presented by Del Monte Asia Pte Ltd, and co sponsored by Kitchen Culture and SCS (butter).

Chef Willin was named by the New York Times as one of three chefs to change the culinary scene in Singapore, with his "Modern Singapore Cuisine", and runs four bistros and a bar in Singapore, namely, WIld Rocket, Wild Oats, Relish, and Burger Bench & Bar, and some pop up store which I forget.

We are given an insight as to the type of cuisine that will be featured in the programme.  Basically, he blends our familiar Asian flavours with western "sensibility", whatever that means, in simple steps, so that basically, Anyone Can Host A Party.  Quite the AirAsia of the culinary world.  ie, making it accessible to all...not the budget aspect.

He actually seems very affable, and animated.  A lawyer by training, apparently the talking that lawyers are famous for, helps him maintain that effusive gregarious personality on screen.

The first dish of the day was Penang Laksa Pie Tee.  It basically combines the individual elements of traditional assam laksa, in a simple manner.  He chops up the individual ingredients, mashes up a can of sardines, plops on some tamarind juice to give it that tang, mixes it up.  For the sauce, the usual prawn paste black sauce, (Har Gou), diluted, and using pre made pie tee shells, which are available apparently in the Taman Tun market, he assembles a pie tee, without the hassle of preparing the turnip boiled for hours etc etc.
Chef Willin Low preparing the Penang Laksa Pie Tee ingredients.

Ta dah, Penang Laksa Pie Tee.  I do realise that in demos like these, one cannot really do anything very elaborate, given the time and space constraints.  But also, the very premise of the show is simplicity, without compromising on taste.

The second dish, Seared Scallops Guacamole & Salsa Pie Tee, where Mexican meets Nyonya, which we shall just call Mexiconya.  Or Nyoxican.  Think of the Pie Tee shell as a mini taco shell really.

Very attractive the myriad colors.

We then got to watch the preview of the pilot episode, where actually, he looks vastly different, though sounds the same.

During the Q&A, I ask him how he manages to stay so thin, and if we can trust a skinny chef.  Well, he works out a lot, he says.

A Party Affair airs on Astro's AFC Channel 703.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Heart of Cognac Experience By Remy Martin

Getting invited to any cognac related event has lately become something akin to music to my ears, because generally speaking, these cognac fellas know how to host a party.  And Remy Martin is really a name that I've grown up with, so it's almost like visiting with an old uncle you haven't seen in years.

The event was held at Maison Francaise, a lovely place for any event really, not to mention dinner.  I have had the pleasure of dining here before, as posted HERE.

The House of Remy Martin, since 1724, is the Heart of Cognac.  It is the only company that uses exclusively rare grapes from the most after vineyard of Grand & Petite Champagne, two of the best growth areas in the Cognac region.

The ageing process for a Remy Martin cognac is between 10-37 years, as opposed to most other brands, which is about 6 years.

The purpose of this event is to bring the feel and spirit of Cognac to KL, for many more consumers to experience.

As the event was in two shifts, the 2nd batch could warm up at the bar with the numerous Remy Martin cocktails, shaken by three rather expert mixers.  But, as with all cocktails, I found them all a bit on the sweet side, and would anytime prefer the un-adulterated taste of the nectar of the gods directly titillating my tongue.

We are ushered into a room, which kind of resembled a school laboratory, with beakers, graduated cylinders, Erienmeyer flasks, all very exciting.

The Remy Martin Brand Ambassador, Brandon, who hails from Singapore, very articulately and passionately explains the history of Remy Martin, and how cognacs are made, etc etc.  Actually, I never knew that it was THAT complex a process of mixing various eaux de vies, of various ages, to come up with the perfect blend.

We are given the chance of mixing our own Eaux De Vies, comprising 4 year old, 8 year old and 14 year old.  The 8 year old is the base for VSOP (which I learnt stands for Very Special Old Pale...who'd have thought, I expected it to be some fancy unpronouncable French term) .  My mix was 17 ml of 4 YO, 25 Ml of 8 YO and 8ml of  14 YO.  The correct blend however, according to the Brand Ambassador, is 10 ml of the 4 YO, 35 ml of the 8, and 5 ml of the 14.  To yield 50 ml.

Rows and rows of the various Eaux De Vies

After that fascinating experience we move to the next room, which is a replica of a section of a typical cellar in the Remy Martin House.  Well, with a fertile imagination, one can smell the dampness of the centuries and the mustiness of the barrels...

We are given a sample of the Remy Martin XO, and the Remy Martin Club, both of which are delectably smooth, and when swirled around the glass, leave a curtain of tears, like a viscous fluid.

Brandon demonstrates how the Cognac is extracted from the barrel, using a pipette.  Unfortunately we did not get to sample the Louis XIII, which is a few thousand ringgit.  Well, looking at it optimistically, HAD we tried it, there would be nowhere to go but further up...and that might render us bankrupt by the time we're 70.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Watami At 1 Utama

Watami is the quintessential "Casual Restaurant", and according to their website, they have even trademarked the term "Casual Restaurant" in Japan to be synonymous with their brand.  Wow, I didn't know that was even possible.

In Malaysia, they have a few outlets, namely in Pavilion, Paradigm Mall and 1 Utama.  The outlet in 1U where we dined is on the first floor next to the Starbucks in the New Wing.  I state this here because I was clearly given the wrong information by organizer Ah Bok, who told me it was on the SECOND floor.  Fortunately, with age, I have mellowed, and it no longer hurts the ego to ASK for directions.

The place looks inviting enough, pretty standard kind of Japanese quick dining decor, with the cubicle salons, a nice bar, and private dining areas.  The menu is shockingly extensive, and if you do not know what to order, you'll have a field day deciding on the myriad choices.

To start, Tokujo Irodori Sushi Moriawase, RM25.  I love the way the smooth raw fish dance on my tongue and tickle my palate, whilst being plated so beautifully.

A hot pot of Asari Ishinabe Soup, ..Oooh Lala, lovely fresh clams all opened up to reveal their succulent flesh, in a pot of steamy hot and salty soup.  RM19.90

My favourite for the night, and have actually brought the kids back to sample this.  Gyuniku Sukiyaki Nabe, RM28.  Tender pieces of beef in that soy stock, with the option of additional ramen or udon for those who need their carbo fix, athough   RM9.90 per set of plain noodles seems on the steep side.

The cooked pot of Sukiyaki

Everyone loves Ramen,.... there's even a sitcom to this effect.  I found the stock to be inordinately salty, but according to the guys there, Japanese usually don't drink the soup for the ramen, so it's meant to be salty.  Hmmm, not sure about that.  But I did like the texture of the noodles.  Nagasaki Chanpon Fu ramen, RM26.90.  Actually it's even STATED on the menu that it might be a bit salty as they follow a traditional Japanese recipe.

Hiroshima Fu Okonomiyaki - RM19.90, with pork and shrimp.  An okonomiyaki is like a big err...omelette meets pizza kinda thing.  Not my favourite dish, personally, as I found it a bit too stodgy, and too many flavours to confuse the palate.

Rice ball skewers with miso paste, RM 9.90.  As I was kinda like the latest to arrive, I didn't manage to try this particular dish.

The creme brulee was actually not bad, but then again, since the Japanese are such experts at chawan mushi, you'd think a sweet version of it wouldn't be too mean a feat.

Their house pouring Watami sake, at RM47.90 for a ...300ml bottle, if I'm not mistaken.  Well, it was enough for all of us to get a try.  Love the cute lil blue bottle.
A variety of virgin mocktails, like Passion Fruit Green Tea, Kiwi mojitos and mango mojitos. 

Overall, I'd say the place is reasonable value for money.  I went back again with my brood of kids, who loved the Sukiyaki, and the bill came up to just under RM200 for the 6 of us, eating mainly noodles and two portions of Sukiyaki.

Outlets are at:

Watami Malaysia @ Pavilion KL
C4.04.00, Level 4, Pavilion KL Shopping Mall,
168, Jalan Bukit Bintang,
55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
T: +603-2141 6671

Watami Malaysia @ 1 Utama
1st Floor, Rainforest, 1 Utama Shopping Centre,
1 Lebuh Bandar Utama,
47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
T: +603-7727 1399

Watami Malaysia @ Paradigm Mall
Lot 07, Level 1, Paradigm Mall,
1, Jalan SS7/ 26A, Kelana Jaya,
47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
T: +603-7886 9661