Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hello Ha Noi....Vestiges of Vietnam Part 2

Ha Noi, apparently means city at the river bend. Now, lest you think me some food snob, who only eats in aircond places, I would like to clarify that we did partake, with no ill effects, of the roadside PHO, sitting on very low stools and tables, and it was EXCELLENT. I am quite surprised by the pricing though, it was VD15,000. (= RM3.75). I mean, we can get a bowl of noodles here at that price without having to squat by the road. And like it or not, Ha Noi is light years behind us in terms of developed status. So, I dunno if we kena ketuked royally, OR, the cost of a bowl of PHO IS really that expensive.

Anyway, one of our travelling companions, who is accustomed to the life of royalty, (speaking of royalty, I bumped into Sultan Azlan Shah and Tunku Bainun at a Silk Shop in Han Gai, the shopping area of Ha was the row of S classes parked on the street that made me peer in with nose pressed up against the glass), was getting very "3rd world out", so insisted I followed him to the Sofitel Metropole, while the ladies continued their shopping spree of lacquer and stuff. So, we entered the Sofitel, me a tad sloppy, having just spilt my fruit smoothie all over my shirt... where we were veered away from the ladida French restaurant, and directed to the Vietnamese Restaurant. To my pleasant surprise, I didn't have to sell my soul, and whatever other sellable commodity on me, to afford a meal there. Anyway, the King (my friend) was paying. It was USD 15 for a Sudu KL Hilton like buffet. Buffet starters and dessert, and a choice of mains.

These handcrafted spring rolls were absolutely deevine. Its a bit like making hong kong chee cheong fun....the covers freshly made from a batter, over a steamer. The meat filling was yummy.

A scent of green papaya? Funny how I used to think such titles of movies or books sounded so exotic. Now, I am inclined to think that the gwai lows seem to be so gullible, that everything with a dash of coriander, lemongrass, basil, fish sauce, ...sounds exotic. Probably explains the proliferation of fusion cuisines abroad, and its dismal failure here.

Dainty little starters, wrapped in exotic sounding leaves.... rather delicious though, I have to say.

For the mains, I opted for the traditional vietnamese fish balls with rice and vegetables...which was a mistake...they accidentally brought another main, prawns with noodles, which looked a whole lot more delectable.

Sponsor had the bamboo chicken....which was very good. They are very generous with their greens.

Desserts were pretty interesting. The thing in the urine sample bottle is creme caramel. Lovely mangoes they have. The opera cake was like a local musical, ie, forgettable.

Our next culinary treat was dinner at BOBBY CHINN'S. I've honestly never heard of him, though all my western educated friends did. A trendy restaurant located at one corner of the something something lake, the interior is lavishly decorated with spools of red cloth, and rose petals that makes wedding confetti look like a balding man.

The restaurant itself is very dark, and for old folk like us, they even provided illuminated magnifying glasses to read the menu. I kid you not. It did help though. Without it, I read the foie gras terrine as POLE GRASS URINE in the dark light...

Honestly, I can find NO FAULT at all, at this place, from the service, to the ambience, to the quality of food and to the fabulous owner, Bobby Chinn himself. No airs, this man has.

Seared scallops on edamame beans.

Seafood Salad with White Bean and Truffle Oil - mine, and absolutely fabulous.

Wifey's crabmeat salad on green papaya. Absolutely divine.

Fish cakes? My memory (and lips) is like a goldfish these days. Anything longer than 10 seconds, I go, "huh?"

My meat craving, after all that Pho, resulted in me ordering this piece of cow, Fillet Mignon. Excellent stuff. Creamy mash that slid down the throat like lubricants down a engine.

Seared Salmon on wasabi mash. Perfect.

Lamb shank with apple risotto

Seared prawns with a semi glutinous rice which was absolutely sublime. The rice was a bit sweetish, and went together like rama rama lap dingie ga dingie dong...

Wife's platter of signature dishes. Okay, prize for whoever can guess what that thing is at 3 oclock. I actually blogged earlier, but the autosave didnt seem to be working at the time, and I lost half my post.

The inimitable Bobby Chinn himself. Half Chinese, Half Egyptian, and credentials long enough to reach the moon. Great fella. One of our party was throwing herself shamelessly on him.

Complimentary glutinous rice pudding dessert from the man himself.

A La Carte Lemongrass Creme Brulee.

Here are a few more shots of Hanoi. At the bottom is the opera house and Hanoi Hilton, where my friend was looking to recreate the scene from the Quiet American, but couldnt locate the spot where Michael Caine had his daily drink.

And you wont be getting anymore food reviews from me from awhile, as my colleague just walked in and said, "wah, sudah tembam la".

Hello Hoi An.... Part 1 of Vestiges of Vietnam

In case anyone did miss me, (I seem to have missed out on numerous gatherings, ie, Ninja Jones, impromptu meetings with Unkaleong and the rest of the gang), I was in Vietnam, celebrating a dear friend's 40th birthday. The birthday itself was in Hoi An, supposedly a UNESCO world heritage site, though why that is, I'm not entirely sure. I recall it was one of the wish list places that Rasa Malaysia wants to visit. Well, dear, don't do it in May, coz it's hot as hell. Makes our KL weather feel like we're on perpetual airconditioning.

Hoi An is supposed to be the guormand paradise of Vietnam. (again, I am not entirely sure why that is). But just to highlight some of the stuff we had there, that was kinda memorable:

Squid with Lemon Grass

1 litre mojitos

Fish in banana leaf, the house specialty. Rather good, lots of lemon grass. Excuse my ineloquence in the description, as my memory had been erased by the litre bucket of mojitos, and half a bucket of snowball that followed.

Chicken with Sesame Seed.

This rather palatable meal was had at Hong Phuc, one of the restaurants by the Hoi An riverside. Of course, for me the highlight was the 1 litre cocktails served in buckets. Careful not to kick it, (the bucket), I tried to stick to my mojito. I forget now the price of the poison, but it was something absurdly cheap, which begs the question, was it rum FLAVOURED alcohol that went into that mojito, OR, real rum. The Long Island Tea that one of the guests had looked positively toxic, and well, if you're using bootleg booze, or generic booze, LIT is NOT an advisable drink to have.

The birthday dinner itself will warrant a separate post, in the other blog, as I need to update the absent friends on the goings on (what little I can remember), at the birthday party.

Another rather delectable item we had was this WHITE ROSE thingie. It's like a gow chi, but lighter, and sprinkled with something similar to dried shallots.

These spring rolls (not spring pocket)... were nice, but a tad oily.

This was our resort, the Life Resort with its Wellness Spa. Apparently the Wellness Spa treatments were not up to scratch.

A view of Hoi An waterfront from the river. I think if you fell in, you'd have to disinfect your entire body with the strongest disinfectants, as there was raw sewerage in its full glory floating around.

One of the charming little streets of Hoi An.

One of Hoi An's attractions is My Son, (Mee Sohn), relics of an ancient Champa civilisation. Discovered and suppressed by the French in the 1800s, it was rediscovered during the war and partially destroyed by the american bombs. Hailed as a "mini angkor wat", those who had seen the real AW rolled their eyes in scorn. Well, if it wasn't so hot, I might have enjoyed it more.

And yes, that is a LINGAM, on the first picture on the left.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Radio Silence

Hi all, I will be away from Tomorrow 24th May till Wed 30th May, so its radio silence until then.

Meanwhile, guess which of our famous flogger appeared in today's star metro?!!!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Healthy Lunch According To UnkaLeong

I've nothing much to blog about in the culinary avenue. Well, actually, I did have lunch at Chynna on Tuesday with fellow food blogger, Jackson, but I wasn't armed with camera, etc, (I am definitely not a hardcore food blogger in that respect), so I shall rely on his review and pics. And on Wednesday, I lunched at Delicious with legendary Boolicious, and that lunch complete with pics has already been posted by Ms Efficient herself.

Having had two consecutive days of unhealthy filling lunches, yesterday, I thought I'd go healthy (ier) and actually, intended to skip lunch altogether, and hoped that my eggs and toast at breakfast would see me through dinner. Now, if food is the coal that keeps the furnace going, then well, this is one big fat furnace here, so it stands to reason that the eggs and toast had vanished by about 2pm. ( yes, I have a slow metabolic rate). Unkaleong was online, and WHO better to get healthy food tips from than the guy who can display a six pack on his blog page for all and sundry to see, ogle, admire or go EUGH. I asked him what would be a good, non fattening, filling, low calorie snack .....and his brilliant reply, "Fruit". I coulda told you that. Anyway, of course, being in BANGSAR, there are no fruit stalls that sell cut fruit..... so I had to track all the way to the nearest supermarket, Village Grocer, where they sell cut fruit, probably fruit that's about to go bad. I was quite pleased to note that they had my two favourites. Rockmelon (which I normally can't afford) and Mango, both at RM1.80 per tub. (those disposable round tubs).

Anyway, ya, that was suitably filling, though it did occur to me, calorie wise, it CANT possibly have been low calorie. All that sugar...a diabetic certainly would not have been allowed to consume those fruits. Sigh, why has mother nature made it so hard for us.

On a separate note, this morning, after breakfast, I was approached by this lady, who asked me if I was so and so.....turns out she's Sam from Eat Drink Man Woman, and she said she recognised me from the chin. Is that even possible? HAHAHA. Turns out she also saw my pics in the Wilton Alma Mater, in ICCA.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lemon Garden Cafe, Shangrila, for Ah Ma Yat

Somehow the name Lemon Garden always triggers of that song, Lemon Tree, in my head. I remember in 1995-96, when that hit song by Fools Garden was played everywhere, and in every conceivable dialect. On a dive trip in Redang, it was playing like a broken record in Hokkien, in the resort, shattering (like the sound of glass breaking at the beginning of the song) the peace and tranquil of that entire island.

Anyway, the quest for a suitable venue for Mother's Day started last Monday, (I like to plan in advance, and not call on the day itself or risk being turned away), and our first choice was Sudu, at KL Hilton, since my mother has never been. However Sudu doesnt offer the membership discount for mother's day, which I thought was a bit of a bummer. Talk about commercialising a random day. So I also did a back up booking for Lemon Garden, and put forth the various proposals at the next family business meeting, and it was unaimously voted that "go for the discounted place, can always go back to sudu when we CAN get discount". Made sense, actually, for the saving was about RM120.

Ya, so, all the adults, sans kids, headed for the buffet spread. I think it's a waste of money to bring kids to the buffet, UNLESS its free. Jogoya, which has fallen out of favour with us, charges the kids by HEIGHT, and my 8 year old girl has to pay full price coz she happens to be tall. How ridiculous is that. Lemon Garden is far more reasonably, they charge by age, and I think 6-12 is 50% off. But even then.....doesnt make sense to pay RM50 for the kids to eat what? pasta and ice cream?

As usual, Lemon Garden was PACKED PACKED PACKED. In STARK contrast to that unnameable shockingly bad buffet I went to last weekend. (I have to clarify, I am NOT a buffet fan at all, soooo happens..., in fact, on Saturday night I had a delightful ala carte at Zipangu, but forgot to take pics as we go there quite often, and it didnt occur to me to take pics, until the foie gras assailed my visual senses, then I kicked myself for forgetting the camera).

Being fairly kiasu, of course I made sure I did the 5km kiara hill (running part of the way) before dinner, and expelled any left lover stuff lingering in the intestines. Also, I usually avoid any carbo fillers, ie, rice, pasta, but I do have a weakness for noodles though, especially the curry mee at this particular buffet.

My homing device usually zeroes in on any of these items at buffets. Sashimi, (actually the KL Hilton one even has yellowtail, my favourite), prawns, oysters, scallops, abalone (bleh, they served this stuff supposedly canned abalone, but hallo, me thinks not...), then followed by other stuff la. Yesterday, I had the usual seafood platter to start,

followed by curry mee, (I like their chicken char siew, though it would have been much better with raw kerang), the gravy which was nice and thick. My bro in law had two bowls.

I love the fancy way with which these condiments are displayed.

The indian/ middle eastern fare seemed the least popular. Throughout the night, there was an entire curry fish that seemed untouched. YOu could tell, coz it was a whole fish. While it looked good, I had no desire to poke into this tandoori.

Ah, dried scallops in abundance. I love this food, coz ever since I was a child, my late grandmother used to give it to us sooo sparingly, like it was gold. Of course, the rarer something is, the more delicious the brain makes it out to be.

I did have some rojak, and queued like an illegal immigrant in the indonesian embassy, for the shoft sell crab (am I slurring oridi in the morning) tempura, which was really, not worth the queue. It was okay la. Oh another thing, I actually am very shy when it comes to asking food to pose for pictures. I usually surreptitiously whip out the camera, and click, hence the poor quality. (apart from no skill). But once they're on my plate, and on my own table, I guess I don't mind asking them to pose for awhile.

Now, of course, dessert is always a treat in the Shang. Even if you do not like cakes, they have an assortment of fruits, ice cream, ice kachang, all of which are rather delectable. Malaysians obviously know their prices, coz rock melons came and went like shares traded during Repco Low's day.
On my little plate were a strawberry mousse, passion fruit and longan jelly, a raspberry tartlet a the back, and a small slice of opera, which was forgettable.

Don't be shocked by 3 scoops of icecream, as they're the size of pingpong balls. Chocolate, strawberry and tiramisu. I love homemade strawberry ice cream, and movenpicks. ..and haagen daz.

Well, it was an unnecessarily filling meal, but overall, quite worth it la. With the discount card, the bill came up to RM90 per person net. Can't complain, for that kind of quality of food. (The night before, our total Zipangu bill was RM80 for the two of us though....its really worth it when you use the discount card for two people).

Friday, May 11, 2007

Announcement of New Businesses

Congratulations to our dear fellow flogger, Nigel Skelchy (and partner Allan Yap) on the opening of their new outlet, JUST HEAVENLY PLEASURES, in Plaza Damansara, opposite the Chef and Brew. We must all flock there soon.

Also, some of my gym friends have opened a maternity wear outlet in Bangsar Village 1, called Belle Belly. Check out this post for pictures. You can buy accessories used by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, (diaper bags, etc).... and other interesting maternity accessories. I personally am thankful that the factory is shut.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Siu Siu, At The End of The Runway

Years ago, Godma Jean introduced us to this quaint little "shack", located in the innards of Robson Heights, on a road that leads to the Chinese Cemetery, which can look really spooky at night, that serves rather good and reasonably priced food. The place, Siu Siu. Eating there, you could literally forget you're in KL, as you're surrounded by the lush greenery and sounds of crickets making love. It's like eating in a rainforest.

Anyway, like my waistline, they have obviously expanded, and now have a spanking new premise at the end of the runway, of the old airport (now the TUDM Sg Besi Base), along the SMART/ KL Seremban highway. As you descend the flyover that brings you down to the left turn that leads to Jln Istana, you feel like an aeroplane yourself, as you can see the runway, from an almost aerial view, and the restaurant Siu Siu at the end of it. There's something about restaurants at the end of a runway. Like Subang. There are rows of seafood places at the end of that runway. Weird right? What's the correlation between runways and seafood?

Well, last Monday, (goodness, my updates seem to have a 1 week time lag), some friends and us went to check out the new Siu Siu at the end of the runway. The set up is nice and airy, alas, cant smell any aeroplane fuel. (see 6 weird things about me post). Well, since it was a week ago, I can hardly recall what we had now. Okay, there was a fish, very very large one, (Free Willy comes to mind), that was deep fried. The texture was good, and I love the crispy bits associated with fried fish.

The pork knuckle was rather delectable with its crispy skin. This pig probably went to the gym, coz there wasn't much fat in its arms. How is that possible!!! That's a minus point, when it comes to pigs. Thin pigs are like 38C bras for men.... completely useless. However, I recall the taste was good, and the crackling divine.

I remember loathing brinjal and lady's finger as a child. But they are my favourites now. Throw in some petai, and this simple dish is just heavenly. And I don't mean in a cake sense. It's just wholesome goodness on a plate, and tastes delicious too. Reminds me of a lame joke: How do you tenderise meat? Ans: Papaya. How do you harden meat? Ans: Lady's finger.

Taufu with chee yoke soi. Well, tofu is tofu. Would take a real dungu to screw this dish up.

Another okra brinjal combo, in a curry claypot. I honestly have NOOOO recollection of this taste.....maybe the single malt whiskies I was imbibing had deleted some brain cells.

The piece the resistance, crabbies. Yummy. I lurve crabs. We had two varieties, butter crab in claypot and the salted egg crab, which seems to be the rage these days. I swear, there's a conspiracy afoot by major drug companies selling lipitor and zocor (cholesterol medication), to come up with the MOST UNHEALTHY food combos. Salted egg yolks and crab. How much worse can it get. Butter and crabs? It's a conspiracy, I tell you. Why not just shoot us and save us the misery?

The total bill, for 8 of us, came up to approximately RM320. I only remember coz it was RM40 per head. Quite reasonable, considering the amount of food we had.

Meanwhile, last Saturday, I had the most shockingly bad bad bad buffet dinner ever. I am still wondering if I should write about it, lest I be sued for defamation.