Thursday, August 30, 2007

Turning 40 In Cilantro

And I mean the restaurant, not the herb.

Both other half and I have been very err.."blessed", coz both of us had sponsors kind enough to buy us dinner at Cilantro, probably my favourite restaurant in town, the force feeding of Evian at RM20 per bottle notwithstanding.

The area surrounding Micasa seems to be one huge construction site. The old building that used to house Barn Thai, where many a flaming lamborghini were consumed by my friends, is now a dilapidated derelict shell. But, step into Micasa and you're in a different world. Tapas Bistro, (ah, such happy memories of a carefree bachelorhood now long gone), has undergone massive renovation and looks good, especially the "green house" portion that overlooks the pool. I noted that their famous margaritas are RM19++ per glass, or RM75 ++ per jug. Margaritas in Cilantro on the other hand, less than 50m away, are RM25++.

Anyway, Bro In Law ordered a bottle of very good red, (don't ask me which, I am a pleb when it comes to wine), which complemented the meal perfectly.

For starters, there was a complimentary caviar with carrot mousse in a shot glass.
The bread and truffle butter is a meal by itself, and theoretically, you could get very full for less than RM50 in a place like this. Just get the bread, and soup. Or salad.

This positively sinful butter would be the cause of many a cardiac arrest. Probably unsalted, but the hint of truffle oil and presumably truffle bits, are absolutely divine.

Wife had this gorgeous scallop salad for starters. The portions of scallop were actually quite generous.

Bro in law had the pan seared foie gras with some special grape from Japan. This dish was REALLY something. Almost better than err...... a three letter word beginning with S.

Sis In Law had this gloriously red slab of salmon, which is HUGE for a starter portion. It could easily pass of as a main. Garnished with a few sprigs of aragula, and with a herb crust, it looked rather attractive for a fish.

I had the something something soup, (seafood I think), which was very good. Oh dear, age is really catching up, because I suddenly have no recollection of its contents. All I remember is, it was good. The gratinated topping made it a tad rich, but the tomatoey contents complemented the wealth afforded by the cheese, and cream.

Surprisingly, there was no fancy sorbet in between starters and mains to wash de palate. Anyway, wife had this prawn ravioli thingie which resembled a giant wantan. I have never quite gotten the hang of large pasta sheets trying to pass of as gourmet. I remember a friend oohing and aahing in a restaurant in melbourne over the pasta sheets, and I unappreciatively said "taste like thick wantan skin".

Sister in law's lamb shank, which was again, a gargantuan portion. Considering she's as anorexic as Teri Hatcher, it must have quite a feat tucking in the salmon AND this lamb. Too much red in the picture, don't know how to adjust.

Bro In Law had the lamb cutlet, which was very good, although the waiter did warn him that RARE would be very bloody still. It wasn't too bad, and very tender.

The dissected giant wantan.

Oh, my oh my, my main was absolutely orgasmic. Ox tongue in some reduction sauce, topped with an extra serving of pan seared foie gras. Salivate. Ox tongue is absolutely one of my favourites, and I watched in hopeless despair as the salted tongue in Mr Ho's went from RM69.99 per kilo to RM129.99 per kilo. I guess there's only so much tongue in a cow. Meanwhile, I had the most hilarious sms exchange with dear IPOD. (International Prince of Divas).

Me: Omigod, the ox tongue is sooo good, better than wagyu beef cheek, its soooo tender.
Ipod: Hmmm, I must try new things next time. I never had tongue before.


Guffaw. Couldn't help chuckling to myself, and thinking woe betide me if that sms fell into the wrong hands.

Anyway, to the tongue virgins, I would highly recommend the ox tongue. If you are squirmish about eating non conventional parts of an animal, well, just picture it as a supremely tender cut of beef.

With an elevated uric acid and cholesterol count, we then proceeded with the difficult task of choosing a dessert. Brilliantly, Cilantro has a dessert platter, priced at RM90 something, for a choice of 4 desserts. Considering the desserts are all priced above RM30, it's a smart choice to opt for the platter, which we did.

Clockwise from left top, was the mango sorbet, a lovely concoction of freezing sorbet with a baked exterior. Or at least caramelised by some mechanism. The nougat something something was divine, with crunchy pieces of whatever that taste like very good biscuits (oh my goodness, I realise now how plebian I am sounding when describing gourmet food), sandwiching a lovely nougatish cream, complemented with more mango sorbet and an orange sauce. All I know is, coupled together, it was like when Remy was teaching Emile how combinations of different taste can really tantalise the palate. Partially hidden, but full view below, is the Souffle, but I can't for my life recall what flavour it is. Then there was the vanilla panna cotta with coffee jelly and sorbet. Also divine.

To end it all, there were these little truffle ball (what do you call small balls? Ballettes?) and also a little piece of toffee with a large pinch of coarse sea salt, giving that sweet salty feeling all at the same time. Coupled with water, I felt positively salty wet. (Translate to Cantonese)

Fabulous dinner at Cilantro as usual. Thanks for the gastronomic treat, BIL.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Whats Cooking At The Cooking House?

Salad, of all things.

What do normal people do on Sunday afternoons? Napping, sleeping, resting, massage, all come to mind, and after the previous day's hectic schedule of eating and eating, it took the propulsion of a rocket to release me from the gravity that was tying me down to the OSIM chair, to attend the cooking class at the cooking house. Organised by BabeinthecityKL, it was another feather in the cap for the social schedule of the food blogging fraternity. However, either Sundays are really rest days, coz the response of the floggers for a cooking class seem far less than those for free food, or food tasting. Let's see, there was Babe, Teckie, Foodielianne, Jackson, and Me. Five.

Both Jackson and I were exhausted, and were both saying we regretted signing up for the course, on the way there. He wasn't his usual ebullient self, so I guess the pot luck at Big Boy's (which I didn't get an invite to) must have sapped him of all his youth.

We arrived early, coz he insisted on picking me at 2pm, when I TOLD him that 2.15pm would be more than okay to get there on time. However, most people were there already. Located in Desa Sri Hartamas, in one of the clusters with easier parking, it's fairly easy to find.

We proceeded to the registration, and to my utter surprise, the lady manning the registration looked at me and asked, "what are YOU doing here?". Goodness, it turns out that she (the proprietor's sister) was my classmate of yore. And oddly enough, one of my earlier culinary idols. She is the kind of gal that every hungry man dreams of marrying. Ace-ing her home science classes, and exuding that domestic flair that eludes some other ladies who can't tell a wok from a fork..... Of course we got into light hearted banter, that removed my sleepiness faster than a double espresso could. Catching up over the last 15 years while other people were waiting to register wasn't a good idea though.

The "classroom" is really my dream kitchen. Large work tops, everything within handy reach, ....sigh, this is MY dream set up for a cooking school. [Have I turned a froggy shade of green?]

The instructing chef, Ryan Khang, I swear, evoked numerous giggles from the group of girls who were also attending the class.

He gave us an introduction to the 4 kinds of salads that he going to prepare, namely, Mango, Avocado and Prawns in Passion Fruit and Chardonnay dressing - served with radicchio, iceberg lettuce and rocket leaves and Pomelo; Duck Breast in Tangy Kaffir Lime and Palm Sugar Vinaigrette - served with lettuce, mint and coriander; and Thai Seafood Salad With Zesty Kasturi Lime, Lemon Grass, Extra Virgin Olive Oil Dressing - with tomato, onion and multi greens.

I shamelessly cut and pasted that entire menu from Babe's blog. Babe, you don't mind ya. Well, yes, like any chef, an explanation of ingredients and where to buy them was helpful, as some of the young lasses there looked like they've never stepped into a wet market in their entire blissful existence. An array of herbs and fruit were laid out, like words from a dictionary waiting to be weaved into an exotic poem, or music notes like taugeh, waiting to be composed into an emotion evoking opus.

Strangely, people were not tripping over themselves at first, to volunteer to be hands on. I guess everyone was a bit shy. Jackson said he had to take photos, and couldn't get his hands dirty. I then voluntereed to squeeze the limes, which needed brute male strength... so much so I accidentally squirted one of the girls.

I love that Ryan uses so many local ingredients, and probably the only imported stuff were the meats, (duck from France and tenderloin from Oz), extra VIRGIN olive oil, red wine vinegar and Maple Syrup. Even the passionfruit apparently are from Cameron Highlands. Oh, and the Chilean Chardonnay.

We have above, our own Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson....

Ryan was very accommodating, answering lots of questions from the floor, and seemed to take everything in his stride, though initially expressing that he was stressed coz of the presence of food bloggers. Hey, we're bloggers, not chefs la, no need to be stressed. I think he realised that soon enough. Or perhaps the fumes from the chardonnay simmering on the pan calmed his nerves.

The wonderful thing about watching a cooking class is the tapestry of ingredients, under the magical guidance of the chef, that evolves into the final product that looks so absolutely delicious.


The Duck Breast salad - I agree with most, that I also would have preferred the duck a bit more cooked, or more thinly sliced. Twas hard to chew thru that fairly thick chunk, but it was well marinated, and tasted very good. The dressing was nice and tangy, and complemented the pomelo well.

Beef, mushroom and peaches, all my favourite stuff. However, this is one occasion where the parts on its own I felt were better than the sum of the parts. (Hmm, I think BAbe forgot to mention the beef one in her blog...I think she no eat Jackson). Good quality ingredients, and enough as a main meal actually, with all that meat.

This was my favourite salad. Prawns with avocado and mango and passionfruit. The dressing was just right, and complemented the combination the way good make up complements a bride. Were I to have to replicate one of the four, I'd choose this.

I don't have any decent photos of the last salad, (no, they're not indecent coz the salad was not dressed), but if a picture paints a thousand words, let me try with the 1000 words. Basically a seafood combination, prawns, squid, and crab, served in a large lettuce leaf.

More about the cooking school. They offer an impressive variety of classes, in a very pleasant and professional atmosphere. I love their set up and look forward to attending more classes here, especially of the baking sort. The price of courses are also very reasonable. The salad course was priced at RM80. Considering a 2 hour blind man massage would have cost this much, I think it was darn good value for money. Get to eat some more.

For more information, you can log on to their website. The url is

Monday, August 27, 2007

Max's Rite Bites

One of the perks (I am a pervert...the word perk or perky always reminds me of NJoe Who Is Constantly Craving) of being a so called food blogger is knowing someone who knows someone who is in a position to invite you to sample their wares and produce. Of course, one does not sell one's soul just for a donut, although some people of Facebook might have nominated me so. So, it is purely on the proviso that we are allowed brutal honesty, that I undertake some of oh so difficult tasks for traipsing from one restaurant to another on a delightful Saturday afternoon, sacrificing Body Combat and opting instead for Body Comefat.

The event, organised by MAX, the latest lifestyle card in town that offers F&B privileges in and around the Bangsar area, and beyond, was called RITE BITES, centred along that charming little row of shops along Jalan Bangkung, namely Fit For 2, Cava, Opus Bistro, Wine Cellar and The Attic.

The thing about going out to eat with food bloggers, they zoom in to shoot the food as if it were a national geographic documentary of some rare species of gazelle mating to preserve themselves from extinction. Make shift tripods on their fists, strobes from handphones, etc.... it is a veritable mini studio producing food porn.

Anyway, moving along, the first sight that greeted us, apart from the human beings, like the charming owner, Debbie, was of course, these.

A two tier tray of assorted cupcakes and brownies. Now, not intending to sound Male Chauvinistic here, I honestly think cupcakes, and anything dainty, are the ambit of the fairer sex. I honestly don't see what is the hysteria about, then again, I don't understand the hysteria about handbags, shoes .....or cars....oh dear, I must be a passionless soul. But ya, cupcakes. Okay, they look gorgeous and all, but in my book, anything that looks too pretty to eat, and can be consumed 100 times faster than it takes to make, hmmmm.....

There were 3 flavours of cupcakes, chocolate, peanut butter and a strawberry lemon. Of the three, my favourite was probably the chocolate. Overall, I personally find the icing on these things way too sweet, thus often rendering cupcakes as nice to look at but not to eat, for me.

These brownies were nice and chocolatey, and went well with the very nicely brewed coffee.

In between pictures, let's talk about the place. Fit for 2 is a cafe/studio that caters for expectant mothers. The owner, Debbie, runs pregnancy focused exercise classes in the studios. All her outlets seem very child friendly, for she also runs Bijou, Bisou and Bianco. I recall seeing disposable diapers available at the restroom of Bijou. However, since it is targetted at PREGNANT women, it's unlikely that I'll be a regular fixture there, for while I may have the silhouette of a pregnant woman, the similarity ends there. But IF I were a woman, and pregnant, of course you'd see me here all the time.

It was evening of food in reverse, for we started with dessert, and ended with soup. It was a pumpkin soup, which Nigel(la Lawson) said was probably roasted first to give it that lovely sweetish tinge. Sweet soup isnt everyone's cup of tea, but this sweetness was fairly natural, and I loved the soup. The tuna sandwiches accompanying the soup I found a tad dry.

Having run half an hour late as per schedule, we trotted over, already quite full, to the next stop. Cava. It means cellar in Catalan. (don't ask me what is Catalan. Probably the Spanish equivalent of Cantonese) I was greeted by my old buddy, Param, the manager.

A buffet spread lay before us, at 5pm. Gosh, and I had a dinner that night as well. The spread comprised Prawn Pil Pil, Sauteed Baby Octopus, Spanish Lamb Boulette, Cauteed Black Pepper Beef, Spanish Omelette, Patata Bravas, Paella Mariscos (Seafood).

I love the ambience at Cava. It's elegant yet laid back setting has been the backdrop for many a happy drink.

The seafood paella was served with generous portions of sea food. However, I found the rice a bit too wet for my liking. Not a paella expert, and not having a golden standard by which to compare, I had to just base my conclusions on my own taste buds. Too too wet.

These testicular looking things are actually not the anatomy of any animal, but are spanish lamb boulette. I presume boulette was derived from bulat, and means balls. Interesting flavour, but way too heavy for tea time.

The cosy bar ambience that I was talking about.

Everyone knows who this superstarlet is.

Ah, the highlight of the Cava Stop. The absolutely Sensational Sanguine Sangria. One lady mentioned, "oh good, it doesn't have that annoying fruit pieces to deal with". Everything had been blended together, thus ensuring your don't choke on pieces of orange or apple. Well chilled, and smooth, it really elevated the entire mood. Highly recommended.

We then adjourned to Cava's sister, Opus. They basically have the same parents. Again, many many a happy moment has been spent here at Opus, so I was no stranger to the place, though having not been there for awhile, the cast and crew had changed, and sigh, no one knew me anymore.

One of the highlights I daresay, for the fairer sex, was ahem, the French Sommelier. Aiyo, all that shameless ogling. When I mentioned whores, Lyrical Lemongrass perkily said, Oooh, yes, call me Scarlet O Whore-A. Bravo LL!!! What a brilliant name. Nigel then lead the conversation to the murkier grounds of "what is your striptease name".

Whatever their designs may have been on the lad, I have to say that his wine choice was very good. I forget the name now, but it had a slight eucalyptus flavour, and went very well with this lovely piece of roasted cod fish with lemon caper sauce.

This mini carbonara pasta was superb, despite the beef bacon. Also, that tiny portion was perfect, for I doubt I can actually wade through an entire plate of this, no, not even for dinner. It is so rich, that it makes Bill & Melinda look like paupers. That's the thing about carbonaras. I love the first few bites, but beyond that, it's like drowning in a vat of fat.

Opus also serves a selection of cakes supplied by our dear master bakers from Just Heavenly. The key lime pie looks sinfully delicious.

Alas, because I had to rush home and prepare dinner for 15, I could not stay on for the rest of the show. I missed out on the serving of Lemoncello, at Opus, tour of the Wine Cellar, (a wine cellar next door that stocks a wide range of wines, and very reasonably priced, I'm told), and the last stop at the Attic, where there was more booze and desserts from Just Heavenly. I shall rely on my fellow food bloggers and read their reviews.

A big thank you again to Nigel, Kyan and Alex for organising a wonderful Saturday evening. Cheers!!! Special thanks to Boolicious of Masak Masak who tahpau-ed some of Just Heavenly's debut desserts, ie, the mango upside down cake, madeira and lemon cheesecake for me.

Delia Smith's Molten Chocolate Puddings - Take 2

I blogged about my attempt to make these a few weeks back, but that first attempt was a bit of a failure, coz I got the temperature wrong (had brought the batter to friend's place and forgot to bring the recipe book, so didn't know what temperature to bake it at), and the entire pudding was cooked, so no molten centres. Very embarrasing, especially when you have announced that these are Molten Centres.

So, I was rather pleased with my 2nd attempt. As you can see, the centres are molten, and thes are so deliciously easy to make, and quite a visual treat to see them rising in the oven. I guess the principle is that you bake it in a really hot oven, so the outsides are baked quickly, before the insides realise that they are also in a hot oven, and have time to cook.

The batter takes all of 8 minutes to whip up, okay, maybe 15 la, including sifting, measuring, and folding..... anyone looking for one piece de resistance dessert to whip up in a short time should really memorise this recipe.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hong Kee Dim Sum With Food Bloggers, Iketeru With Wife

Food at the expense of sleep. I wondered at 7.45am, on Saturday, when precious pea called me, if it was really worth it to haul my ass out of bed....especially after 4 beers, 3 single malt whiskies and 3 glasses of white wine the night before, for Dim Sum. Images of that loh mai fan in Lemongrass's, WMW and PP's blog flashed thru my mind the way your life flashes before you as you're about to die, (like I'd know the feeling), .....and next thing I know, I was on my way there. Good thing I asked where the place was, coz I was under the impression it was in Damansar Uptown. Twas nice to see all those familiar faces again, Jacskon Kah, Lemongrass, Precious Pea, Kenny, the heavenly master baker, Teckiee, ....WMW FFK.

Well, my photos dont do it justice, but the rice was darn good. Nothing like oil and grease to compound the nausea accumulated from a hangover. But that aside, it was yummy.

The egg tarts were good too. Flaky pastry, and not too sweet. I reckon they'd even be better if it were hot from the oven.

Hmmm, to finish of the greasy oily category....

I spent the rest of the day wearing off the effects of alcohol poisoning (my resistance is getting damn low these days), and promptly came up with severe diarrhoea and fever. However, that did not deter me from being the good spouse (unlike Lemongrass, and by the way, check out my durian cheesecake while you're at her blogpost) and bring the wife dating dating on Saturday night, at Iketeru, KL Hilton. If it were not for hotel discount cards, you can FORGGGETTTTT about me dating.

Spider maki roll. Yummy. Despite the runny tummy.

Grilled cod in teriyaki sauce. Nice generous slice of cod, which according to wife, would cost RM20 -ish anyway raw, from the supermarket. Oh in the name of Cod, who do these fish think they are. Just cos their livers produce good oil.

I usually LURVE a good sukiyaki....there's something savage about mindless hodge podge of beef, vegetables, , mushrooms, rice vermicelli, bean curd thrown together....much like an angry cook.... alas, the version in Iketeru was a tad too salty. I often wonder what the feedback process is like in our service industry. When I told our waiter (granted that it was after the meal) that our sukiyaki stock was saltier than the Dead Sea, he merely nodded acknowledgement as if I was telling him, "oh, merdeka day is on 31st august". Not a rectifying word, not an a whiff of an apology, let alone lemongrass, nothing. Zilch. And this is the KL hilton we're talking about, not some non descript shack in sungai buloh.

To combat the saltine invasion in a palate macha, I ordered the macha ice cream with red beans. No matter how I tried, even with flash, somehow the red bean didnt seem very red. But it was decent quality ice cream, definitely not Kings or something, and was quite alright. Wife had black sesame, but only coz I told her to.

The total damage (Aiyo, they charge RM8 per head for Ocha!!!! ACHOOO! I am allergic already) came up to RM145 after discount. Not exactly peasant fare.

Now, I have been on this long quest over the years for the recipe of this favourite childhood food of mine, that can ONLY be found as far as I know, in one of KL's oldest and most prestigious golf clubs, the ROYAL SELANGOR GOLF CLUB. Caterers have come and gone, but this recipe seems to be a prerequisite that is handed down through the generations.

These little gems are called Welsh Rarebits. While recipes abound for Welsh Rarebits, none of them seem to lead to those of this form. Delia's and Nigella's are more like melted cheese on toast...whereas these little darlings form some kind of cheesy puff over deep fried bread. Gloriously unhealthy I'm sure, but hey, whoever can crack this davinci code of Welsh Rarebits, I would be perpetually indebted. I can't even tell if its baked or fried.