Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day One - Zespri ® Kiwi Challenge

I got unwittingly roped into this Zespri ® Kiwi (website here) Challenge by my nemesis, Awhiffoflemongrass.  In true spirit of competitiveness, I embraced the idea the way a lover embraces their returning spouse from the war.  We were told to meet Stella, at a secret location, where she would pass us a secret bag, and say, "listen carefully, I will seh zees only once"...

Armed with a bag of TWENTY FIVE Kiwi, (fruit, not birds), we were given 14 Herculean Tasks to complete over the next few days.

For day one, rise and shine people, to the sunny sunshine of the kiwi fruit.  Actually, we are supposed to have been given some gold Kiwi as well, but I can't find any in my bag that are distinguishably gold, so unless I chop them all open, and am left with none for the rest of the 13 days, I shall just stick to my green sun.

Meanwhile, do meet my mascot, Zekiwi, (the way Sylvester, who thought he saw a puddy tat, would pronounce Zachary) who will, if he survives the fourteen days without rotting, be the master of ceremonies for my own fourteen day journey.

Our task today is to describe the taste of Zespri ® Kiwifruit.  Well,...(Sung to the tune of Elton John's YOUR SONG)

It's a little bit funny, 
this feeling inside,
I'm not one of those who can easily hide,
I've had so much kiwi, and I'm glad I did, 
The bowels move so fast now, What a relief!!!! 

Okay, seriously though, the sweet tangy combination of the fruit, the gazillion seeds that give the crunch, that aromatic smell that assails the olfactory, what's not to like. 

If you enjoyed THIS instalment, stay tuned for the next thirteen days. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Kampachi At Jaya 33

To quote the words of owner, Donald Lim, "hardly anyone ever turns down an offer for a review at Kampachi".  I couldn't agree with him more.  So much so, when Alice of Jom Makan asked if I could make it, and I couldn't, on the first given date, I mentally had an image of loud sobs and thumping of chest, (me, not Alice), at this lost opportunity.  Sometimes, the cosmos is kind, and as it turned out, most of the others couldn't make it either, so the date was rescheduled, and I mentally did cartwheels.  If I physically did them, I'd end up in traction, and no amount of sake would be able to dull the pain.

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Located in the spanking new annex of Jaya 33, if previous Kampachis targetted the more matured and established crowd, this swanky outlet definitely targets the younger crowd, me, of course, with a very trendy looking bar, and little individual cocoons for privacy.

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These little private saloons can actually rotate, not unlike the teacup ride in Disneyland, except it would not be advisable to treat it LIKE a teacup ride, especially during happy hour.  

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Speaking of happy hour, it was indeed that, with lots of alcohol for the night.  To start, we were given this rather femininely coloured cocktails, called the Blushing Maiko (Trainee Geisha) that were deceptively potent (just like a geisha I guess), and to munch, some soba chips, which were so good, I actually carried around that little dish and finished it all.  And whatever other cocktails that were not finished.  Like a hoover vacuum cleaner.  

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They have a wide  array of alcohol, and stocks one of the largest varieties specialty Sake, as is evidenced by the Sake Ball (pic below), but before that, they explain to us one of the unique Cloudy (not Cloudy Bay) Sake.  Different from the usual clear stuff we're accustomed to, the Cloudy sake looks like skimmed milk, and is actually one process short of distillation from the usual sake. 

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The large Sugidama or Sake Ball takes pride of place at the entrance of Kampachi.  It's made out of cedar twigs, and is traditionally hung over the door of Sake Breweries to signal the arrival of sake.  A curious onlooker inelegantly sniffs the ball. 

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A closer look shows the twigginess of the cedars.  From a distance, even the world seems blue, so you can't really tell what it is.  In fact, from a distance, it looks like a big soft toy. 

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Fish so fresh, they probably were swimming off the Japanese coast the night before.  Tuesdays and Fridays are the arrival days of fresh fish from Japan, if you must know.

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We are ushered into a private room, which has its own little cubicle for the sushi chef to perform.  Sure beats a karaoke with bad singers singing in hokkien.  Anyway, the very affable Executive Chef Looi himself carves out the sushi, as our first dish...while we partake of more booze

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Cold sake is dispensed from this uber cool sake dispenser, which resembles the Udder of the Crystal Cow.  In the middle of the dispenser is the cooling shaft, which is filled with ice, hence ensuring the sake is not diluted, the way Chinese people add ice to their beer and red wines.

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Dinner is served, and to start with, Raw Striped Jack, or Shima Aji Sashimi. 

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The flesh looks like Kampachi (Yellow Tail), and the freshness, incredible.  It was as if the fish took a business class flight over just to be eaten.  Firm yet tender flesh with a taste so fresh, which makes you wonder HOW you will ever settle for the buffet line type sashimis ever again.  The hazards of the "job", I tell you. 

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Shake Kawa Salad, Crispy Salmon Skin With Roe.  Who would have thought that salmon skin could be so delicious.  It almost makes me want to go out and buy a whole salmon, just for the skin and attempt to deep fry it to this level of crispiness.  It really is perfect.  No hint of oiliness, the tangy accompanying salad dressing, and those lovely gobules of fish roe popping in the mouth. 

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One of the highlights of the night, truffle oil with soy sauce.  A lovely dipping sauce, which was to accompany the Wagyu Teppanyaki.  While I reckon it is quite hard to go wrong with wagyu, it is even harder to enhance the meat, and what this combination does is just that.  Again, after partaking such bovine beauty, how can I ever eat indian buffalo again? 
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Melt in the mouth Grilled Wagyu, done to perfection, with crispy garlic chips.  We had to restrain ourselves from begging for more. 

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After finishing the cold sake from the udder thing, we now were given the milky one (hmm, actually this should be served from the udders come to think of it) which is best served warm.  It has a smooth taste about it, and well, blindfolded, I would not be able to tell that it was murky white. 

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Ankimo Beko An, or Pan Seared Angle Fish Liver With Simmered Radish.  Talk about lost in translation, the Japanese words are only three...Okay, to be absolutely honest, I am sure this is a very expensive delicacy, but it had a distinct liver oil flavour about it, reminiscent of cod liver oil, which brings back childhood memory of a spoonful of scots emulsion being force fed down my throat like a goose reared for foie gras.  The accompaniment, the radish and the sauce, fabulous, but the liver, I would opt for something else in an omasake menu.  Afterall, it is a waste to waste such goodies on a plebian like me. 

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Aburi Sushi, with Anago (Conger Eel), Shake Harasu, (Salmon Belly), and Hotate (Scallop).  For the raw food averse, this would be suitable as the fish and scallops are lightly seared, oh, and hence the name, Seared Sushi.  The freshness of everything is really a theme that ran through the vein of the night's selection.  I was wondering if I would be able to afford such a dinner ordinarily, this kind of OMASAKE menu must cost a bomb.  To my pleasant surprise, the lovely Sarah Chong, Marketing Exec for Kampachi, told us that the meal we were partaking would cost RM220.  Considering the fish flew in just for the occasion, AND there was that rare angler fish liver, and that succulent melt in the mouth wagyu, I'd say it was a steal. 

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Nothing goes to waste, and the remains of the Striped Jack is served with miso.  Ordinarily I am not a miso fan, mainly because it must be lousy miso I've been having all this while, and the MSG seizes my throat like a serial killer, but this miso, totally different kettle of fish.  Not salty, and that clean taste of the fresh Striped Jack permeates every spoonful.

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Just to ensure that no one goes for Hokkien Mee after, we were filled up with a teppanyaki garlic fried rice, and who doesn't love fried rice.  Even CIKI that anti carbo queen, finished hers, saying she had run 21km that morning, (all that training for the Standchart Marathon which has now been postponed coz of the haze, buwahahahah). 

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And for dessert, ...well, if you refer to my other Kampachi post at Troika, I mentioned how exorbitantly priced the honeydew melon was, at RM75 a SLICE.  Well, this MOMO (Japanese Peach) doesn't tail far behind, at a princely RM66 per peach, so I think you're looking at RM22 worth of peach in that little glass.  But wow, the taste, it really is something very different.  A gorgeous fragrance with the lightest and subtlest of flavours, concentrated peachiness in those slices.  A real treat to the palate.

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We drink a toast, with what appears to be a green tea mixture with Hakushu Single Malt Whisky, making it resemble a Japanese Baileys. 

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And for the FINALE and piece de resistance, something I've never seen before, SAKE BOMBES.  Shot glasses of sake are lined atop a row of beer glasses...

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And using the domino effect, one knock sends all the shot glasses tumbling into their various beer glasses.  Amazing.... who thinks of these things!

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And it appears to fall into the glass correctly too. How the heck!

Amongst its many accolades, Kampachi whas been voted TIME OUT KL as best Japanese Restaurant for two consecutive years, and also in the Miele Guide as best Japanese in 2011/2012.

The famous Kampachi buffet will also be making its comeback ...or rather, has already made its comeback, but be warned, it is VERY popular and you have to book weeks in advance.

p1-02, First Floor
Plaza @Jaya 22
Jalan Kemajuan, Seksyen 13
Petaling Jaya.
12-3pm  for lunch,
6-11pm for dinner. 
Tel : 03-79316938

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sho Naganuma, One Night In Langkawi

If you own a BMW 7 series, or intend to, then you will have the privilege of being invited to ladida events at the Four Seasons Langkawi, and be feted by celebrity chefs like Sho Naganuma, who slaved over the stoves for a week to produce a different menu for a week for all the well heeled.  If you do NOT own a BMW or can't afford to, then you gotta be content to be invited for a preview of the AFC TV Show featuring Sho Naganuma.

Last Monday night, on 17th June, AFC premiered its newest addition to the One Night Series.  The members of the media & bloggers were invited to Serai, Life Centre for a preview of the show, as well as as for an opportunity to meet the Chef in real life.  He cuts a very dashing figure, almost like the likeable "bad guy" in a movie, with his macho and rugged exterior.  It was interesting to hear certain aspects of his life, like how his father found him impossible to manage, and finally exiled him to America, from Japan.  I wouldn't mind that kind of exile.

The show highlights how he is commissioned for this Herculean task, (although it's only 7 days, and not 12) and how his first step is to meet with his mentor and sifu, Hide Yamamoto, who highlights and questions where his source of ingredients would be from, and how he would preserve freshness etc .  In a nutshell, all the fresh sushi ingredients are flown in from Japan, ...afterall, if you can fly in BMW owners to Langkawi, I am sure flying in a few fish wouldn't be a problem.

Other aspects of the show, show Sho showing his anxiety caused by forces of nature, when a sudden thunderstorm forces the entire dinner to be moved indoors, causing havoc on the logistics of the entire operation.  At the end of the day, of course the final outcome is good.  It's nice to live vicariously and see the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

 The BMW fellow, Mr Owen, gives his speech, and introduces Chef Sho.  He's actually quite a soft spoken gentleman, and doesn't look like the sort who would be screaming and going ballistic in the kitchen.  (As in Chef Sho). 

We get an insight into the pensive side of the Chef, ... well, he certainly seemed to have a good time in Langkawi, and managed to try the cable car, went into the mangroves, went swimming, skiing, jetskiing, and an amazing looking spa, which he describes as the best he had.  

So tune in to AFC for more of ONE NIGHT IN LANGAWI - SHO NAGANUMA, Channel 703 Astro.  Although it has already premiered, there will be re-runs. 

The Three Lankan-teers Strikes - Suria Cafe, Saujana Hotel

For a limited time, that is from now till 27th June, Suria Cafe at Saujana Hotel is having a "Celebrating the Flavours of Sri Lanka" promotion.  Three Sri Lankan (hence the pun on the title, copy-written by Azhar Ahmad, the PR Exec of Saujana Hotels), Chefs hailing from the Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo (and in an exchange program, 3 chefs from Malaysia have gone over there), are here to cook up a wonderful Colombo-an Culinary Cacophony....

Executive Sous Chef Dodangodage Clifford Nisantha Perea, Senior Sous Chef Liyana Arachchige Anura Wijesiri, and Commis I Udaramba Gamaralage Chandana Jayanath Gunathilake ...did I just develop a finger cramp typing all that? .. are the three featured chefs for this adventure.

Actually, after having sampled the dinner, I can't really say it's all that much different from our local Southern Indian Cuisine, perhaps a little emphasis on some particular spices, like cumin, but the spiciness level is highly compatible with our palate, and I loved their deep fried dried chillies. Definitely a spread that would appeal to Malaysians. 

Cashew and drumstick meat mitikirata.  The cashews weren't crunchy, but rather stewed to almost bean like consistency, which is something different. 

Fish stew, which was my favourite for the night, it had a very "pure" taste, ie, the sauces did not overpower the fish, and it all melded very well.

Festive yellow rice - I can never resist yellow rice, for some bizarre reason. I assume the yellow is from tumeric, but the fluffy grains of basmati with a slightly aromatic flavour of oil I'm guessing is ghee, makes it totally yummy and must have with the array of curries.

Prawn baduma - The problem with these kind of dishes is that it cries out to be accompanied with that lovely yellow festive rice.  Not good if you are trying to avoid carbs at night.  But a match made in heaven for sure.

Lamb black pepper curry - forgot to try this, mainly because I am not a lamb fan.  But it looks delectable enough.

Labelled as Red Chicken, I initially thought it's similar to our Ayam Masak Merah, but actually, it wasn't, and is more like our curry chicken, with a little more spice and kick.

Chicken and vegetable kottu- freshly fried, KY (of KY Speaks) commented it reminded him of the chinese Ju Hu Char.  Well, not really, but it's a very tasty combination of shredded chicken and shredded cabbage, carrots, etc.

Plain and egg hoppers.  This definitely reminds us of our apam, (the thin kind, not the fat one), except you put some very delicious sambal into it. 

An array of desserts.  Like their Southern Indian counterparts, these really are for the very sweet toothed.  Sego, Rice pudding with juggery,Wattalappan, Curd & trickle, Sri Lankan sweet meats


The Sri Lankan food promo is until 27th June, and is priced at RM90++ for the buffet dinner, and RM70++ for the buffet lunch.

For reservations, call 03-78431234 ext 6122 /4717
or email or visit their website, HERE.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Starhill Culinary Studio - The "Very Atas" Cooking School, At the Top of Starhill

A few months back, when I attended the launch of the book A Perennial Feast, the very gorgeous Paula Conway, Operations & Marketing Manager of Starhill Culinary Studio, was telling us about the setting up of the Starhill Culinary Studio, which occupies the entire upper floor of Starhill Gallery.  That was in March.  And in the blink of an eye, a quarter of the year has zoomed by, and lo and behold, the Starhill Culinary Studio is now officially opened, with loads of interesting culinary classes as well, in an environment that is quite simply my dream kitchen.

12,000 sq ft, imagine, in the heart of KL, (one wonders what the rental would be like), dedicated to different teaching kitchens, dining rooms, wine cellars. 

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There was free flow wine as we mingled at chatted, I was relieved to see a familiar face, the Makan Fairy Godmother (writer and author of a cookbook herself, Marian Eu Hooi Khaw).  The "party packs" had two bottles of gourmet sauces, courtesy of the Starhill Culinary Studio.  In the bag, were a toque, and apron, and unbeknownst to us at the time, the toques bore the names of the kitchens which we were allocated.  Some were assigned the Pastry Kitchen, some the wine studio, some with Chef Wai himself, ...the Executive Chef at SCS. 

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The keynote speaker at the launch was Jeremiah Tan, Director of Starhill Culinary Studio and Autodome Sdn Bhd.  "An inspiring experience is what epicureans will discover when they attend Starhill Culinary Studio's classes.  In house and external experts will lend their expertise on how to enrich their daily lives and will get creative juices flowing with fun, engaging classes". 

The Chefs are introduced as they descend the escalator into the Syook at the Feast Village, where the audience is congregated.  After the introductions, we are beamed up (by lifts) to the uppermost floor, to our respective kitchens, as determined by our toques. 

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Sights like these greet us at the pastry kitchen. 

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Those of us allocated to Pastry are taught how to make a simple chocolate mousse.  The ingredients used at the school are top notch, and that is already half the battle won, in most cases.

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There is an atmosphere of gaiety and anticipation, as the teaching chefs explain the various methodologies. 

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Chef here is explaining how we should never use raw egg yolks in mousses, and it's best to whip them up into a sabayon, ...which personally I find terribly tedious. 

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I sneak out while the cream is whipping, and explore the premises, and think drat, I wish I had drawn the lot for the wine studio rather than the pastry kitchen.  Looked fun.  I can imagine swirling and smelling and sipping... how very ladidah. 

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The main chef, Chef Wai, who says, "We use the freshest of ingredients to create magic in each class where an insight into a whole world of different cuisines is delivered in one place.  Starhill Culinary Studio goes beyond making dishes, it is also an environment that creates friendships".

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There's a hive of activity going on.  I continue my self tour, while imbibing more of the free flow wine. 

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Chef demonstrates how to pipe mini eclairs. I should have paid attention to this class, because my choux always fails. The choux never fits

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Very good ingredients, as you can see. 

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Eclairs and cream puffs rising nicely in the oven.

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Dato Yeoh Soo Min of YTL Corp holds up her freshly fried curry puff.  Actually, those puffs were delicious.  It wasn't a curry filling, it was some creamy seafood, but the pastry was superb.  Drat, I want that recipe.

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There's also a dining area for Wai's Kitchen.

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Chef Wai poses in front of his kitchen.

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Hooi Khaw, Jeremiah and Datuk Yeoh Soo Min....

For more information on Starhill Culinary Studio, contact Angela Chan at 03-2782-3831 or