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.

Sushi
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.

Udon
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.

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

Tel : +6.01.72.09.84.77

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Trip To The Confessional Booth at The Church of Immaculate Arteries. My CookBook, Sunway Giza, Kota Damansara.

  (no pork served)

Black Eye Pea Cake, with Salted Egg Yolks served with CookBook Chilli
The survival of mankind is hinged on it's ability to adapt to averse environments. This amazing resilience has allowed us to become what we are, surviving the bitter cold weather of the Arctic to the acrid dryness of the Sahara. We survive on challenge, and being a firm advocate of Free Market Economy, I believe that humans thrive on challenges. A market that is devoid of competition will see less innovations and attempts to bringing about beneficial changes that will eventually benefit consumers. Subsidies and protectionism are just short term measures that would bring about complacency and rot if left unreviewed and only has a very limited shelf life.

This holds true for every aspect in our life.

45 minutes Poached Egg, served on a Toast with Dried Scallops and Black Sauce
Once in a while in my forages to fulfil the satisfaction of my cravings, I do stumble on little treasures. Food that is so simple, yet innovative and satisfying that it leaves a gasp and a smile simultaneously on the face. Local cuisine served with a twist - deconstructed and reassembled creatively and luxuriously, beautifully plated and served with passion and served by attentive servers. Welcome to My CookBook.

Prawn and Scallop Kataifi served with Lemongrass Mayo Potato Salad

Take for instance, their 45 minutes poached egg which came wobbling, nestled on a piece of toast with bits of dried scallop and a savoury black sauce. It was probably sous vide egg, with the slightly runny egg white that manages to hold it's shape and the yolks barely set. That was the most perfect egg I have tasted in a long time, smooth and soft with the flavours intact and pristine. Coupled with the toast and condiments, the orgasmic rhapsody of taste and texture was breathtakingly and achingly perfect. This was our Malaysian version of a dry Onsen Tamago.

Pandan and Barley Rice, served with Chicken Thigh Curry
Another example of a beautifully de-constructed dish will be the Black-eyed Pea cake with it's silky smooth texture with the rich savouriness of salted egg yolks. Ingeniously garnished with some lightly spiced piquant shreds of fried dried prawns, it reminded me of the philosophy of destruction and rebirth in Vedic traditions. The often lard soaked and greasy Chinese glutinous rice dumpling has been destroyed, and in it's place is a pork free version, with all the important components of it's flavour intact. Rebirth of this ubiquitous street dumpling came in the form of it's transformation into petite square slabs of perfection.

Giant Wonton
Not all of the appetizers were examples of gastronomic perfection. The Kataifi was fried to perfection with exemplary lightness and crispiness, but I found the shrimp and scallop paste to be lacking in flavour and over compensated with saltiness. It came nestled on top of a bed of beautiful potato salad with a lovely, light and aromatic mayonnaise invigorated with the scent of lemon grass, which was it's saving grace.

Fried Kuey Teow
I fail to remember how the Giant Wonton tasted. As far as I am concerned, it behaved like any licentious wanton I have encountered. Pretty and attractive enough to entice me for a tryst but realized later that it was insipid and totally devoid of personality. It could not captivate me.

Luscious seafood patties was sampled, but the economist in me balked at the price (RM11.90) I had to cough out for two slightly larger than 50 cent coins sized albeit satisfying delights.


The Star of the mains has to be the Prawn noodles, with it's heady aroma and it's beautiful broth drenched in Crimson, the colour of Chinese New Year. Served with some velvety smooth noddles noodles and half a large prawn filled with roe, the soup was like a bisque without the white wine. Slurp it indulgently. Cholesterol never tasted so good. A perfectly poached egg accompanied the dish and added to the burden of guilt.

MY King Prawn Noddle in Prawn Bisque served with 45 Minutes poached Egg
My CookBook attempted to make the traditional Nasi Lemak healthier by replacing the coconut milk rice with Pandan and Barley flavoured rice. The attempt was successful with perfectly fluffy rice, each grain perfectly cooked and fragrant. Served with some not too spicy Chicken Thigh Rendang and Half a boiled egg, it was satisfying without being too cloying.

The Chicken Rice came with some silky soft demure chicken roulade which covered it's modesty with crispy chicken skin. The presentation of this dish was lovely and a beautiful clear chicken broth with some congealed egg white came as a side.

Black Glutinous Rice with Coconut Ice Cream and Homemade Peanut Beancurd

The Char Kuey teow with duck's eggs was charred chinese style (wok hei). It came fried with clams (la la) instead of cockles. It was a pedantic dish that failed to dazzle due to it's oiliness.

The Avocado Cream was dreamy, light concoction and went very well with the yam ice cream and the interesting Black Sesame Bean curd. The Black Glutinous Rice porridge again was given a modern interpretation, with coconut ice cream replacing the traditional coconut milk and pieces of peanut flavoured bean curd and peanut bean curd for contrast. Both desserts were clever and light, with perfect sweetness.

Chilled Avocado Puree with Yam Ice Cream and Homemade Black Sesame Beancurd
Fortunately, food is the least politicized aspect of our lives. Without the interference of Politicians to point out our differences, most Malaysians embrace food from other races readily and the best examples of national unity and integration is best seen in restaurants more than anywhere else. A place where politics are frequently debated without the embarrassing shenanigans of the parliament. No name callings, no charges of biased speakers and no fist fights. Where the spirit of multiparty co-operation exists, from atheist liberal lefts to ultraconservative rights can agree to disagree and have a meal together. Hardly surprising, since individuals do behave better when disassociated with rabid packs.

Free market and competitiveness also encourages innovation from pragmatic restaurant owners to create and modify dishes and work around cultural food taboos to recreate imaginative dishes. Maybe not for the altruistic reason of national unity, but rather to increase the marketability of the products and maximize profitability. After all, humans are pragmatic and adaptable.

Happy Lunar Year to everybody!

Sorry for digressing. A meal like that would deserve a visit to the Church of Immaculate Arteries. At the confessional booth, I confessed to Father Kardio about my lustful afternoon filled with eggs, prawn roe and more eggs. How I was seduced by the pleasure of the senses. He ultimately prescribed a penance of treadmill and temperance at the dining table and banished me to a dreary nicotine free world thankfully devoid of statins for now. It was a penance without contrition.

It was small inconvenience to pay in order to continue to enjoy more delights at My CookBook.


My Cookbook
A-12 Sunway Giza,
2 Jalan PJU 5/14
Kota Damansara
PJ

Tel: +6.03.61.40.61.13

Price: Expect to pay about RM 50 to 70 for a 3 course meal.

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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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