Thursday, May 28, 2015

Diageo Reserve WORLD CLASS™ Mixology Competition

Events held on Monday nights are usually dismissed in my mind as affairs that will be as wholesome as an oatmeal cookie, so no precautions are taken, lulled into a false sense of "security", much like the rhythm method.

Even the words Diageo, and this entire sentence in the invite, "WORLD CLASS™ is excited to announce that Kuala Lumpur will play host to the Diageo Reserve WORLD CLASS™, the industry’s most prestigious and respected mixology competition" didn't seem to raise any alarm bells...all because it was a Monday night, and WHO, I ask you, above 40, parties on a Monday night.

Nevertheless, I dutifully make my way through the crawling Sprint highway, towards HYDE at 53M, Damansara Utama, venue of the event.  The Sprint is anything BUT SPRINT, at that hour.

Miraculously, I arrive on time, ahead of anyone else, and fortunately spotted a familiar famous face, that of Kelly Siew.  Who was drinking this pretty lil cocktail, that looked far too pretty for me. The cocktail, I mean.

Basically, the event is one of the industry's most prestigious mixology competitions, whereby Diageo Reserve WORLD CLASS™ has trained over 15,000 bartenders worldwide, and for this particular event, 15 of the best bartenders in Malaysia are vying for the prize which will bring them to the Regional Finals in Bangkok and onwards to the Global Finals in South Africa.  Needless to say, cocktails are made using the fine quality spirits from the Diageo Reserve Luxury Collection.  The drink du jour was the Tanqueray Ten, and the theme was A HISTORY OF LONDON.

Technicalities aside, we were introduced to three of the fifteen bartenders for the night,




Location is everything, and by virtue of the fact that we parked ourselves in front of him, Osmund became my favourite bartender for the night.  But that aside, he's always so smiley, and I loved his Grapefruit Rickey cocktail, which was a concoction of Tanqueray No 10, grapefruit juice and lime juice.  The problem as with most cocktails, it is deceptively innocuous, but actually deadly potent.  The Tanqueray No 10 has 47% alcohol per volume.

When I heard Robin Serchan of Restaurant Nepal was going to be there, I knew it was going to be a good night.

Osmund doing his thang.

Insan's cocktail was a Southside, a refreshing combination of Tanqueray No 10, Mint, Lime and syrup, which actually is the same composition as a Mojito, but using Gin instead of rum. Again deceptively harmless, and delightfully easy to down.

Shawn's Perfect Martini, made from Tanqueray No 10 and French Vermouth.  Perfect for me because it wasn't sweet, as some tend to be, especially those made by ladies.  The use of orange peel instead of olive also added a nice twist.  Literally, as the peel twists up.

There you have it, the Grapefruit Rickey, the Perfect Martini, and The Southside.

After we were like cocktailed out, Osmund very kindly fixed us a traditional Gin & Tonic, using grapefruit instead of lemon. It was delightfully thirst quenching, back to basics kind of of drink!!!


The Fifteen Bartenders in the competition are:

1. Arsenio Mariano Jr. - Nobu
2. Daniel Eman- Las Caretas
3. Dedi Pranata - Souled Out
4. Edward Tang - Skybar
5. Hafiz Hisham - Chamber’s Bar
6. M.Hanafi - Qba
7. Insan Sharily - Tate
8. Jeffri  Sulaiman - Mr. Brooks
9. Joel  Timis - The View
10. John Yap - Majestic
11. Khir  Johari - CuBen
12. Naresh Kumar - Qba
13. Osmund Illah - Hubba Hubba
14. Samuel Mesol - Hubba Hubba
15. Shawn Chong - Omakase & Appreciate

Wishing them all the best, and hoping they make it to the finals and make Malaysia proud, or at leat the drinking section of Malaysia.

EPILOGUE: For a Monday night, let's put it this way, .... the following Tuesday was a total write off for me.  Thanks muchly Evonne!!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Svago Cucina E Musica At KLCC

My recent experience at Svago Cucina E Musica At KLL

You can read the full review here... on Findit

I will not regurgitate what was written about Svago in, but basically, I found the place on the pricey side, and the fact that only serve imported bottled water, without even the option of a cheaper local brand, was really off putting.  It's one thing to pay for good food, but seriously, we're not in the middle of the sahara, and it's a pet peeve of mine to feel slaughtered because of water.  Nor did they have the house sauvignon blanc that I wanted, so had to settle for the Pinot Grig, which was more expensive, ...marginally, but that's not the point.  One would expect an establishment as this NOT to run out of your house wine, surely.  How difficult can it be to stock a house wine.

The buns and butter were the best things about this place.

Soft shell crab salad.  It was passable, but nothing to shout about.  (RM44.50 net)

The Clam Chowder (RM32.50) was excellent, though not hot enough, but I suspect it's only the chinks who like to scald their tongues whilst drinking soup.  Creamy but not chokingly so, and small but fresh clams which were succulent and went well with the lovely crusty buns.

King Scallops with Charred Corn, RM103 (prices are net, inclusive of the oppresive mandatory taxes).  From the sample given to me by the wife, it was rather tough and leathery, which is a pity because it LOOKED so promising.  Actually I am not sure if it's the genus of scallop that imparts the various textures, but I personally like the texture of scallops in chinese restaurants, which are served with stir fried vegetables.  The flavours are retained, there's a sweet succulentness about the whole thing.

My Black Angus Ribeye with a hint of watercress (the mains do not include sides, which start at RM14  per side), at RM150 net ...well, to put it mildly, was spectacularly average.

There's a lovely bar area overlooking the KLCC park and fountains, which actually, our window side table should have the same view, but the windows hadn't been cleaned for awhile I gather, so it was like staring into a THICK FOG, where you pray you don't hit an iceberg.

Located at the corner of Suria KLCC on the Mandarin Oriental side, on the first floor above Limoncello.

Again, read the full review HERE.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Guest Chef Wang at Chynna, Hilton Kuala Lumpur - Hankering for Hunan?

Hunan, Yunnan, Henan, Hainan,  they all sound the same to me, these Chinese places.  But whilst Yunnan is famous for ham, Hainan for its chicken rice, Hunan is famous for it's chili and spicy dishes, amongst other things.

Chef Wang Cheng Chun, who hails from Changsha of the Xiang River region is China is collaborating with Hilton Kuala Lumpur's Executive Chef for Chynna, Lam Hock Hin, from 25th May to 7th June, to bring diners on a Hunanese culinary adventure.

Before dinner is served, we are served the welcome tea, by an artisan tea pourer who uses a plethora of acrobatic stances to shoot from his spout with precision aim into the cup.

To start, steeped white radish slice and stewed beef shank in chili sauce.  The pieces of white radish which had been marinated in oils, and chili, certainly have lost their whiteness, but retain their crunchiness and enhanced flavours with all the marinade.  The shank's taste is actually embellished by the sauces, and we were forewarned about the potency of the Hunan chillies, but whilst it did kick a pack, it really wasn't overly hot to the point of killing your tastebuds.

When Chef Lam removed his chef's toque, everyone gasped and remarked, wow, he looks like Chow Yuen Fatt.  Although this is not the first time I'm meeting Mr Chow, ..oops, Mr Lam, it is one of the rare occasions I've seen him without his headgear, and with a stretch of the imagination, yeah, I can see the resemblance, hence the shameless posing with the star.

Deep Fried Duck With White Sesame Seed, and Sauteed lamb shoulder with romaine lettuce.

The deep fried duck, a specialty dish, that is becoming rarer amongst young chefs due to the tedious cooking process, is a treat to the palate.  An interesting combination of textures and flavours.  The duck is seasoned, steamed, dried, coated with egg white, fried with sesame seeds, resulting in something rather unique that we do not often see.

Basically a lamb sang choy bao (lettuce wrap), except I am PRETTY sure it wasn't romaine lettuce as per the menu.  Iceberg la.  Anyway, I am usually not a lamb fan, but I honestly couldn't tell it was lamb, ...I thought it was beef.  Any lamby smell is masked by the strong flavoured vegetables, like capsicums, ionions, and of course, the chillies which seemed spicier in this dish.  I wolfed this down in two bites.

My favourite dish for the night, the Hunan Style Hot and Sour soup.  According to Chef Wang, the origins of hot sour soup are rather pedestrian, and it's meant to be a simple peasant soup, with the most basic of ingredients, like beancurd, a few strands of bamboo shoot, etc.  Of course it has evolved and certainly in a 5 star dining venue like Chynna, it's almost a meal by itself.  Mushrooms, Bamboo Shoots, Salted Vegetable, (cha choy), fried chicken, tofu, in a LAVALLY (since it was hot and spicy) broth, (credit to instagrammer friend for that inspired word).

We are accustomed to the Szechuan style of the namesake soup, which is oilier and hotter.  I prefer this Hunan version, which despite the heat, has a certain serenity in its clearness.  According to Chef Wang, the Hunan chillies are meant to enhance flavour, and open up the palate, rather than burning and numbing the senses.

 Steamed Turbot with Chilli Sauce.

Now, Chef Wang brought along three ingredients with him from Hunan, Fermented Laba Beans, Chopped Fermented Chilli, and Pickled Chilli Padi (obviously it's not called that).

The reason turbot is the chosen fish is because it's quite rarely available, is in a league worthy of a restaurant like Chynna, (I mean, you can't jolly well serve kembung regardless of how delicious it is), and its firm flesh (say opposed to a Marble Goby or Soon Hock) makes it perfect for presentation and well as texture.  And indeed, the sweet flesh of the turbot, with that hot imported chillis, was good to the last bone.  The sauce on its own is a tad salty, but with the fish, perfect.

My second most favourite dish was the fried rice with laba beans and chicken.  Laba beans look like our small fermented beans (tou choo? ) but the texture is firmer, and not as salty.  They added a lovely dimension to the already delicious fried rice.  I love fried rice when the grains are individuals, (you see, I'm an introvert), not grouping together but yet complementing each other in the wider scheme of things.  Paired with this FANTASTIC chilli the Chef Wang brought from Hunan, divine!!!!  I shamelessly had two helpings of the fried rice.  #fatdieme

Chopped Chilli From Hunan

Fermented Laba Beans from Hunan

So privileged for us to be dining with two acclaimed chefs, on the same table. 

Meanwhile Chef Lam, who had to act as a translator, since most of us useless chinese flers can't speak Mandarin, did a sterling job in communicating Chef Wang's intentions, and commentaries.  On the issue of chilli, Chef Lam had this to say....

Their's can grow very big ......

Our Malaysian ones ah, very small only ....

Worried that we still looked hungry, Ee Laine, the Marcomm Exec who was the loveliest host, ordered Chef Lam's signature lamb with cumin dish for us to try.  That certainly filled us up,  Crispy battered lamb with a crown of alfalfa and herbs that tasted rather middle eastern, like tabbouleh, and a distinct cumin flavour.

Fried Potato Cakes with lotus seeds and assorted fruit platter, as dessert.  Ok, honestly, it looked rather ordinary, two battered pikelets, but it did not belie the actual contents.

Fabulous texture and taste. I loved this dessert, as it wasn't too sweet, and was really quite unique.  The texture was chewy yet tender, and the flavours subtle.  I reckon it would pair with another wam sweet soupy dessert, like honey sea coconut or any tong shui, but maybe it's not the Hunan way.

Chef Wang oversees the Chinese kitchen at Hilton Shenzhen Shekou Nanhai.  Hunan or Xiang Cuisine comes from a province that has an age old reputation as a land of fish and rice and is one of the "EIGHT GREAT TRADITIONS" of Chinese gastronomy.

The Hunan Cuisine Promotion with Chef Wang STARTS ON 25th MAY TILL 7th JUNE 2015.

Chynna Restaurant
Hilton Kuala Lumpur
Reservations:  +603 2264 2596