Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sometimes You've Gotta To Say Fuku. Fukuharu, Hock Choon Terrace, Lorong Nibong, KL.

(no pork served)

Details of a leaf from a plant outside Fukuharu
February. The dreaded month filled with loud Chinese New Year songs and the sickly sweet over commercialization and tackiness of Valentine's Day. The month where the eccentric Android who loves the solitariness of his existence is made to feel abnormal and uncomfortable for choosing to celebrate his life alone. Fortunately this dreary months sees a respite in the actual days of celebrating Chinese New Year, where the clogged traffic gives way to breezy zipping around in the streets and crowds only congregate in selected malls in the city center, whereas migrant workers group in  their favourite haunts often leaving visitors to KL wondering if there are only 3 major races in Malaysia.

Ampang is a delightful part of KL, with it's seductive greenery, trees swaying in the breeze lining the roads and it gets greener and cooler as you drive into the heart of Ampang. Compared to Bangsar, Ampang has a different character compared to the sense of noveaux riche feeling that permeates through Bangsar. Ampang behaves like a pedigreed Lady.

Interior of Fukuharu
I don't know what it was, maybe the traffic free road or the luxury of not having any work lined up for the next few days. I arrived in Fukuharu in a beautiful mood, sun doing pirouettes on the green foliage and rays of light shimmering in the pool at Hock Choon Terrace.  The exterior was tasteful, not overtly opulent but still lush.

The interior of Fukuharu is simple and functional. A beautiful wooden panel was mounted on the wall that faced the garden and the restaurant made full use of the sunlight. The sensibility of it's decor was also reflected by the chairs and the lovely ceramic table ware.

Ice Cube Floating on Green Tea
With the discordant notes of Bartok's Violin Sonata playing in my head, an imprint form the iPod playing in my car, the beautiful breeze tickled the plants in the Garden of Hock Choon Terrace swaying gently and sometimes forcefully. It felt as if the breeze could hear the delicious strains coaxed by Issabelle Faust's Mephistophelean interpretation of Bartok. Darkness and light played together, and when the ray of the sun caught on one of the leaves releasing it from the dark shadows, I quickly took a snap of the reticulated patterns.

A beautiful moment, captured and immortalized digitally and hopefully a reminder of the peacefulness the short walk in the garden brought. Peace and Nothingness. Clarity. My total being and consciousness enveloped by the sheer beauty of a simple leaf struck by the penetrating ray from the sun freeing it from the cold darkness. I was happy. Even some light caught by a cube of ice floating on some green tea appeared beautiful.

Boiled Vegetables
Chinese New Year does not bring happy memories. My dad passed away just before Chinese New Year in 1981 and my Mum, just after Chinese New Year in 2006. There was this air of nostalgic sadness that engulfs me during the festivities. I still keep the last ang pow my Mum gave me, unopened. It is as if I wanted to keep the blessings and her wishes for me intact. Another date I abhor in February will be the anniversary of my mum's passing. She was after all, the only person in the world who could love me despite my many failings and my non conformity.

Despite the tardiness of my dining companion, I was distracted by my own thoughts and reminisced about Chinese New Year, how it was celebrated. How our country was, and how it is now. One of the things I missed since last year was the lovely ads from Petronas directed by Yasmin Ahmad.

Prawn Tempura and Salmon and Seaweed Salad
Yasmin was a very talented director and she could play with my emotions like a putty. Even a 3 minute spot would leave me with a lump in the throat, a tear in my eye and a smile on my face simultaneously. Since the demise of my parents, her little ad spots filled the little vacuum in my heart, more so during Chinese New Year.

If there is a general theme in all her work, from her ad spots to full feature films it would be the universality of love and forgiveness. Her spots, especially for Chinese New Year, reminds me of the boundless love my parents had for me, and reassure me that despite being the little prissy prick that I am, despite all the disappointments they must have by me turning out to be what I am today, my Bah Pi and Lou Mah Chee would  have still loved me.

Jellied Tuna Cake and Herring with Herring Roe
There is a beautifully serene spirituality in Yasmin's work. Her love for fellow humans that transcends Race and Religion which is currently the most divisive factor in uniting Malaysians, is obvious. The Takbir prayers at the beginning of the "Burung Murai" ad, the Prostitute in "Gubra" who returns to the fold... She has done more to convince me, an atheist, that her faith in can bring about healing rather than division. Love more than hate. She achieved much, much more than any fire and brimstone preacher with myopic and often bigoted view of the world seen through blood crimson tinted glasses.

Jellied Seaweed Cake
As with any artist, her work had it's share of detractors. Not everybody enjoyed her work , which is understandable. After all, an artist reveals to us what we do not normally see and observe. I feel that her work is like a Roscharch Test for the soul. Burdened souls tainted by the weight of hate and obsessed by divisions along racial and religious lines will fail to appreciate the beauty of her work and fail to get the message. They will just see an ugly blot, and will be confronted and tormented by their own demons and devils. Others will see beauty and love in flawed lives.

Salmon Sashimi
What saddens me was the general nastiness of some people and the hate and contempt they had for her. It wouldn't be disheartening if the critique was fair and unbiased, if her work was judged on it's merit as a film, as a work of art. Unfortunately most were below the belt swipes and worse, personal attacks on her private life. The attacks were most intense after she shot into the limelight when Sepet won several prestigious international awards.

Mentaiko Sushi
One can only question the sincerity of these critics. A Master's degree in film making does not automatically confer one authority as a moral guardian nor cultural custodian nor does it confer the ability to make a good film. Despite what others may say, I can only mourn her loss, and weep for a country who was never able to appreciate one of her daughters; whose vision of Malaysia was one of love and harmony, who viewed everybody as a human. She accepted that differences would forever plague mankind. She took diversity as a challenge and a source of curiosity and delight, to learn about what makes other people from different cultures tick.

What could be as mundane as a world inhabited by people with similar outlooks and beliefs, sharing the same kind of food?

Sashimi Octopus - Suckers and Lemons
It is probably the sheer embracing and desire to find out about other culture that drove me to Fukuharu. Expectations was high because it had won the Best Japanese Restaurant category in TOKL's awards in 2010.

Despite their beautiful exterior and minimalist interior which I love, initial impressions were disappointing. The servers (a mixture of locals and "expatriates") were not very enthusiastic and I found their knowledge about what they were serving dismally disappointing. Though friendly enough, they were not very helpful in suggesting or describing the menu. One waitress actually brought out the desserts when we have not even finished the mains and when they brought out the Yuzu Ice Cream again, it has partially melted and of course, served at the wrong temperature. Maybe Fukuharu was using some temps for the Lunar Year break.

Soba Noodles
Fortunately, like the sun hiding behind the leaves, things brightened up when they brought out the Mini Kaiseki Set that was complimentary when we ordered the Grilled Chicken with Yuzu. I have to admit that they probably serve one of the best Prawn Tempuras I have ever tasted in KL. Coated in a beautifully light and granular batter (it wasn't the rice coated version) it was resplendent as it was beautiful. The Prawn meat was just right and not overcooked.

Ebiko in Salad
The Herring and Herring Roe Cake was marvelously flavoured and light, with a slight bounce to bite that gave it a lovely texture and the Jellied seaweed burst with beautiful summer flavours. It had an intoxicating floral and lightly sweetened bouquet that lingered sensuously on the palate. The jellied tuna cake though not offensive,  failed to excite.

If you ordered the Kaiseiki Set a la carte, besides the Jellied Seaweed, it comes with a piece of luxuriously rich Menatiako Sushi as well. The Salmon seaweed (wakame) salad was rather pedestrian, as with the beautiful cuts of Salmon Sashimi. It has been flogged to death elsewhere.

More Sushi
A lot of the dishes comes as sets during lunch, making a lunch time excursion a better deal for your bucks. The Chawan Mushi is beautifully soft and smooth and interestingly topped with some slices of Yuzu beside the usual mushroom, ginko, kamaboko and chicken.

Unagi Claypot Rice
The grilled chicken appeared to be dry and uninteresting, but it's looks betray the beautifully succulent pieces of poultry perfection, livened up by the sourish tang of yuzu. The Sahimi Ocopus was very well behaved and sat neatly among slices of lemon.

Chawan Mushi with Yuzu Peels
The noodles however were less well behaved. Both the Soba and the Udon were a bit too flaccid, perhaps unexcited by the frigid broth and failed to rise to the occasion. The Claypot Rice with Unagi was probably a Sino Japanese Fusion, came with perfect, fluffy rice grains with a slight char at the bottom.

Terriyaki Chicken with Yuzu Sauce
Sushi. Sushi. Sushi. Presentable, 4 pieces was ok. One was a less than savoury yakuza, reincarnated from the Heian period.

I was tempted to rant about the Yakuza, but my lovely dining companion who accompanied me on the first visit reminded me that nothing is perfect. She set my mind straight again. Fukuharu is not perfect, but in terms of value for money, excellent. RM 38++ for their sets (only during lunch) can probably satisfy any hankering for Japanese food. In the absence of perfection, functionality suffices and Fukuharu is more than functional. It offers glimpses of perfection.

Cucumber and Daikon Pickle
We Malaysians are a docile lot. I am docile wimp. We whine and bitch about callous statements made by a few people amongst friends. We are perfect bitches to those who love us the most. But when it comes to confronting inflammatory statements made by the vocal minority, we retract like a tortoise into it's shell, cocooned by our perfect little lives in middle class comfort. I am ashamed because when someone mentioned to me that Yasmin Ahmad was divisive, all I could say was a wimpy, "Are you sure or not?".

Not that I know her personally, nor did she need any defending from me. But sometimes when confronted with idiocy and bigotry, perhaps the best thing to say is Fuku. Fuku, Fuku, Fuku.

Ceramic Tableware
Don't be alarmed. This four lettered word is just a reminder of the beautiful afternoon spent at the garden in front of Fukuharu. Where light and darkness co-existed and played with one another. Where I was able to lose myself to the beauty of ordinary things. Where the imperfect world did not matter because perfection exists harmoniously among imperfection. Where ordinary things appear extraordinary. (This was Yasmin's forte).

An afternoon reminiscing about a brave lady who was able to make a cynic reflect on spirituality, and reassured him of his departed parent's unconditional love.

To all the cowards who vilified her and continue to do so after she has passed on, Fuku.

Terrace@Hock Choon,
241-B Lorong Nibong,
off Jalan Ampang
Kuala Lumpur

Tel : +


Michelle Chin said...

I have to say, being able to listen to Bartok is an acquired taste. I can only manage up to Satie.

J said...

A big fat Fuku to those who deserve it.

(On another note: *hugs*)

AugustDiners said...

KL has only handful places that i LOVE to hangout in, and terrace hock choon is one of them.

How can i not revisit fukuharu after the tempting photos of yours :)

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

Beautifully written. I miss Yasmin's works too. As for Fukuharu, the mentaiko sushi is likely to be the highlight of any meal, but sadly, some of the other dishes are lacking. Ah well. Be grateful for the company we dine in.

CUMI & CIKI said...

Yasmin rocked. Cumi knew her. We totally stand by everything she believed in! "Because only the good die young!"
Not impressed with Fukuharu.. that's why we never blogged it:P

J2Kfm said...

Haha... what a good piece. Yeah, her ads would be missed dearly, her movies too. Sepet was my first Malay movie watched at the cinema. And that was also the last.

thule a.k.a leo said...

Fuku :P remind me of some vulgar words

xo said...

detractors to yasmin's work can be likened to the unhappy wife in Mukhsin, releasing the bitterness in their own lives by gossiping about her neighbours.

what a beautifully written post (I was tempted to write 'piece'). a reminder that food is not just for the nourishment of the body.

i thank our mutual friend for recommending me to your blog :)

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

well im missing CNY this year too..havent got much of a festive mood down south here.

love the pictures and the approach to the food and the mellow writing that ties everything together.

Paranoid Android said...

@Michelle: Just lose yourself and surrender your self to Bartok. Get the Isabelle Strauss. It's a good place to start exploring his interpretation of Folk Music.

J: You are a blogger with a BIG heart. *hugs*.

Paranoid Android said...

@AugustDiners: Hehe.. Maybe we can get to meet there some day.

@LL: Thaks, dear. The Mentaiko rocks.

@Ciki: The food is unpretentious and I thought some of the items are way better than the sad fare offered elsewhere.

Paranoid Android said...

@J2Kfm: Oh yes. Her ads...

@Leo: I love tongue in cheek. Hehehe...

@xo: I have to sadly admit that I have not watched Mukhsin. I think I will have to source it from our mutual friend.

@Joe: Thanks... You must write something about celebrating CNY at Oz!

Sean said...

but that's the part of human nature that will always plague us, right? the desire to find fault in others and to drag them down if we feel they've risen too high. thank goodness for our mothers, for their selfless devotion to us. and while i don't know you well, and i've never had the privilege of meeting your mother, i do truly believe she would have been proud of the thoughtful, compassionate person that you became.

babe_kl said...

Beautiful photos with beautiful writings as always ;-)

UnkaLeong said...

A riveting and heartfelt post. *hugs*

Thailand Club said...

another photo exhibition on food, beautiful pictures though the food not be the kind i like .. :-)

cina.fong said...

Your blog is like a good book, captivating with its first few lines and you just want to continue to the last page.

fatboybakes said...

HOLY COW, PA, your pictures are SOOOOOOOO BLARDY STUNNNING LA, it literally took my breath away. BOW BOW BOW...

CUMI & CIKI said...

I hate chu! ur fotos are SOOOO nais! TEACH ME PA!!!! :P

GFAD said...

That octopus sashimi photo is FANTASTIC! I love it!

Some people take the easy way out and aim for easy targets. Villifying the day dedicated to love, criticising the increasing use of social media, stoking the fires of racial discrimination, maligning works of those who don't conform to their narrow view. Why is nothing said of the leader who left in disgrace after an adulterous sex scandal only to return triumphantly as the head of the second most important national party? Why is there hardly a whisper of deaths of 2 particular individuals strongly linked to the upper echelons of power? Why is nothing mentioned of the increasing statistics of street crimes, rape and incest?

Apparently we should just b*tch about it quietly among ourselves and be grateful to our current administration for nurturing us into successful citizens and that we can continue peacefully to enjoy our siu yoke, nasi lemak and teh tarik in the company of family and close friends.

Paranoid Android's Spec Sheet

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Unless stated otherwise, all the posts and food here is paid for by the Paranoid Android. He dose not receive any financial compensation for posting in this blog. The views expressed here are an opinion and as usual, taste is subjective and varies among people, time and mood as well! Please feel free to contact me at humanist dot philo at gmail dot com. Unless otherwise stated, the photos here belong to the owner of this blog. You are free to use it for any non commercial purpose. As courtesy, just drop me an email and credit the photo to the blog. Thanks for dropping by!

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