Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sage. Gardens Midvalley. Lunch Menu, 28th Sept to 2nd Oct, 2009. Myth of a Controlled Dining Ambiance Shattered.

(no pork served)

At the entrance of Sage, there is a small little sign that says that there are certain rules that diners should abide by while enjoying their food at Sage. Children under 6 to be supervised by adults and phones in silent mode. Anybody with half a brain will be able to interpret that the Management of Sage places emphasis on the comfort of their diners. Being assaulted by high pitched, loud and animated conversation and loud laughter from a table of 8 is not comfortable. Rules are absolutely unnecessary if only people are considerate to the needs of others. There is a time or place for everything. I'm sure you wouldn't raise a toast and Yam Seng at a fine dining western restaurant.

Note to inconsiderate Diners. If you have a loud voice, tone it down. Use your larynx intelligently, it can be controlled to decrease the volume of your voice. Keep your conversation to your table. As interesting as the story may sound to you, I am not interested in your office politics and where your boss parks his private parts during leisure. Please respect the others around you, other diners might want a quiet and enjoyable meal. There is a place for everything. If you fellowship during meal means telling bawdy, off coloured jokes or loud conversation with 3 threads going on at the same time, book a table in a private room. Or dine in a loud Chinese restaurant. Plenty of dining options available. I know it is difficult for the serving staff to tell customers off without offending anyone, but the customers themselves should be considerate and have some respect for the other diners.

Before you throw a plate of Foie at me, and comment that I am a snobbish, snooty and grumpy old fool, just look back on your previous dining experiences and see if you have been appalled by the lack of consideration of ther diners? It was unbearably noisy when I dined there today. So loud, I could no hear what the waiter was saying to me when I wanted to select the Cheese. Sigh!

This weeks menu at Sage is:


1. Mousselline of Scallop with King prawns and Lily Bulb.

Lovely Scallops with springy consistency and seared just right, served with mousseline (sauce folded with egg whites and cream) which further enhanced the already rich Prawn Flavoured Sauce.


2. Warm Salad of Quail with Foie Gras and Asian Greens

Probably another crowd favourite at Sage. Beautifully seared Foie with tender Quail meat. Served with Balsamic Dressing.


1. Pan Fried Red Star Garoupa with Aubergine and Red Wine Reduction

Baurtifully Pan Fried Garoupa with an almost raw centre, served with 2 types of Sauces. Creamy and the Red Wine Reduction had a terriyaki like taste that was a bit strange.


2. Grilled Angus Beef, Sauteed Mushrooms and Taragon Butter.

Faultless beef that was served with some of the most incredible tasting stir fried mushrooms and potatoes.


1. Miile Feuille of Strawberry with Vanilla Ice Cream and Lime Zest.

A slightly more disappointing dessert from Sage when compared to the more illustrious offerings previously. The lime Zest could hardly be tasted at all but the Phyllo Pastry was well prepared.


2. French Farm Cheese

The cheese is at the bottom right and not the top, who are the lovely couple I met from FBB's Bangsar outing and the Hari Raya do. They displayed beautiful dining manners. Although there were later joined by friends for a bash, the level of conversation from their table was hardly audible. Compared with the din from the other tables half a restaurant away, they were god send! It does show that the young can be better behaved than the old.

View of KL from my table. Edited with GIMP for that toy town aka Godzilla town look. I will be taking a break from blogging about lunches at Sage as I think i have completed their Menu cycle rotation.

Gardens Hotel and Residences

Tel: +

This Year So Far. Good Reads from Jan 09 till Oct 09.

This post will probably bore the socks off your feet! But I just have to share with you what has been tickling me for the past 9 months.

Clockkwise from top left:

1. Samuel Beckett Reader. RM 61.83, Kinokuniya. Probably worth every penny. If you were to be given one Beckett to buy, this will be it. Waiting for Godot had been described as a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Bare, stripped down and gritty everybody had a different interpretation of that play. Also contains Dante and the lobster and other shorties. Wonderful cross-referencing.

2. Lovely literal translation of one of the monuments in Western Philosophy from Cornell Philosopher Alan Bloom. Accessible and readable and not as archaic as the signet edition. RM88.42. Kinokuniya.

3. How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas Foster. Really easy going in style but yet not entirely fluffy. Good pointers on reading between the line and often humorous. With a Chapter entitled "It's all about Sex", it serves as a good guide for novices and a good refresher for experienced readers. A gift from my BIL.

4. Ethics Toolkit by Baggini and Fosl. RM79.80. Borders. Short and concise refresher on Ethical Systems and thought.

5. Arabian Nights, translated by Hussain Haddawy. RM 65.90. Kinokuniya. The perfect toilet bowl book. It stops at the 271st night. Short chapters and the translation work was a breath of fresh air to famous tales. Buy it, and read it to your kids to prevent the Cancer of Nickelodeon's creeping into their impressionable brains.

Clockwise again, from top left.

1. and 2. The Man without Qualities by Rober Musil and translated by Sophie Wilkins. Painful read. But what a great storehouse of bizarre characters and satire. His dissection fo Pre WW1 Austria and analysis of the situation then plus of course his protagonist, who is devoid of moral ideals makes this book a big mental gym. Vol 1. RM 77.80, Vol 2. RM 96.52. Both from Kinokuniya.

3. A Dictionary of Philosophical Quotations by the Father of Logical Empiricism. An indispensable guide and survey of 330 philosophers. RM 119.80. Kinokuniya.

4. Shakespeare, The Invention of the Human, by Harold Bloom. RM 79.80. Kinokuniya. Loud, brash and opinionated, yet successful and popular in the US, many people do not take very kindly to Yale Critic Harold Bloom. His ideas are rich and in this book, controversial and passionate. It did leave me astounded and made me re-read some of the texts I read previously in a newer light.

Hope this did not bore you guys too much.

N.B. These books were not published in 2009. I read them in 2009.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Twenty One, Changkat Bukit Bintang, KL. Lazy Saturday Afternoon.

(no pork served)

Ever had one of those days when it is a big effort even to move your butt? Well, today was one of those days for me. Had a minor argument with someone, and that totally cheesed me off. I hate to go to bed in a bad mood. Hrmphhh! Woke up at noon, and completely missed the wet market at Imbi Road. Strolled down Changkat Bukit Bintang and the entire street was so quiet on a Saturday afternoon. I always thought that Twentyone was a club, because when I walked past it at night, it was always reverbrating with music. Thump! Thump! Strange to see it so quiet in the afternoon, a little melancholic even. Probably an after effect of watching "The Bicycle Thief" last night.

They do serve lunch here everyday! And the menuwas not too extensive, but reasonably priced. Mains between 10 to 22 and comes with a free drink. They serve illy coffee and desserts as well.

The complimentary bread platter came with Olive Oil and a plate of chopped nuts (Almonds, Pistachio and Walnut).

Spaghetti Alia Olio with Chili, Coriander and Beef Bacon Strips. Light and garlicky with a nice balance of Olive Oil.

Mango compote. Luscious Chopped Mango with perfectly light and crunchy phyllo pastry, served with a dollop of Vanilla Ice cream. I have to say that the place has a beautiful ambiance in the afternoon and the most surprising thing is that this little club bunny can cook as well. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about the meal is the price. The pasta came with a tall glass of iced lemon tea, the dessert plus a macchiato set me back by RM36.

After a short break at Low Yatt to hunt for some computer peripherals, I then went to Engka Portobello for some tapas, Smashed Peach Bourbon and Corretto (Grappa with Coffee). There. Lunch started from 12.30 till 2.45pm. Tea from 4.00pm to 6.30pm. A very lazy and self indulgent day.

Twentyone Kitchen and Bar
20-1 Changkat Bukit Bintang
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: +

Previous posts on Engka Portobello here and here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sage. Gardens, Midvalley. Lunch Menu, 23rd to 25th Sept, 2009. Welcome Home!

(no pork served)

Absence makes the heart grow fonder
. During my absence, I have been pining for Sage, for it's understated charm and the brilliant serving team that makes me feel welcome during my visits. This week's menu would showcase what I have been missing for the past 3 weeks. Some may complain about the almost Omakasen like austerity of choice (only 2 choices for each course), but I have yet to be disappointed.

Fedelini Pasta with Mushroom Ragout and Shaved Wagyu. Harmonious blend of woody and earthy mushrooms with soft and gently seared waygu slices makes this dish a perfect start for lunch. All the tastes were masterfully blended and accentuated in this faultless pasta with nary a discordant note. Heavenly.

Roasted Lamb with Ratatouille and Natural Jus. Lovingly grilled with all the natural flavours intact and gently coaxed to release it's natural jus, the Lamb meat remained so tender that an edentulous matron would be beaming for joy. The vegetable stew (Ratatouille) with Zucchini, Aubergines, Tomatoes, Onions and Garlic was flavoured subtly with Garden herbs and was slightly sourish. Sublime.

I have always been delightfully surprised by the Desserts and sage and today was no different. Apples baked with cheese and then folded with Calvados (Apple Brandy) Sabayon that was light, fluffy and airy. Topped with sinfully fragrant Honey Ice Cream (Gratinated Fuji Apples with Calvados Sabayon and Honey Ice Cream). Great ending.

My favourite table at Sage. Another beautiful lunch.

Other choices

1. Tartare of Smoked Salmon with Hokkaido Scallop and Asparagus for Starters

2. Steamed Seabass with Piqued of Anchovy and Spinach Puree for Mains.

Gardens Hotel and Residences

Tel: +

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Le Bouchon. Changkat Bukit Bintang, KL. Return Visit, Mixed Feelings.

(no pork served)

Le Bouchon has 2 "gourmet" set menus. During the previous visit here, I tried the RM148 menu and for this visit, I chose the RM 88 menu. The frontage of the restaurant has undergone a change and it now houses a pub called l'armitage at the entrance.

For starters I was served with Escargot de Bourgogne which was Burgundy Snails baked with fresh herbs. garlic and pastis butter. Not particularly remarkable, it was bland and the anise based pastis did not glimmer through the oily, buttery sauce. The herbs were slightly discordant and garlic overpowered the whole dish.

Next was the Terrine the legumés provençal au basilic or Provencal Vegetables Terrine, scented with Basil served with a raosted tomato vinigeraitte. This was fresh and lively sourish dish and filled with the right cadences to make this a lovely summer dish. Their terrine was a cold terrine, not baked and the dressing was a refreshing change.

I tried their chicken which was poulette grillé aux morilles, risotto aux herbs fraische et carottes caramélisées. The chicken was freshly succulent and well grilled with lovely mushrooms, and the carrots divine. But the Risotto was not of the correct consistency and overpoweringly salty and the chef was a bit heavy handed with the herbs. The taste is not unlike salty mushroom soup mixed with partially cooked rice.

Desserts was Tarte aux fraises et glaice à la cannelle, or fresh strawberry tart with cinnamon ice cream. Desserts heve never been a forte at Le Bouchon. The Pastry was slightly taut through still crunchy but the cinnamon was overpowering.

Overall dining experience was good, with attentive service. Maybe I caught them on an "off" day as the cooking lacked enthusiasm and the chef lent too heavy a hand in the herbs and salt. I would recommend the RM148 menu over the RM88 based on today's experience.

Le Bouchon
14 and 16 Changkat Bukit Bintang
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
+603 2142 7633

Chef: Jerome Carrouee

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pacifica. Mandarin Oriental, KL. Midnight Underwater Dining.

(no pork served)

I have never found a compelling reason to dine frequently at any hotels in KL until now, except for Sage at Gardens. The opening hours of Pacifica has always attracted me but I have to brave the really horrible underground car park in order to dine there and after musterring some fortitude, I proceeded there after waking up at 10.30 PM, attacked by hunger pangs.

The theme of the restaurant is the sea, and 80% of the menu comprises of seafood. The decor is a bit tacky and designed to give diners an under the sea kind of ambiance and the blue circles you see on the orange walls are actually aquariums (total of 350) but the tanks are filled with freshwater fishes. ??

The amuse bouche did bring a smile on my face. I was totally famished by the time I got there and the Oatmeal oyster, oyster with citrus dressing and mango salad filled me up as a prelude.

Mussels mariniere for starters. The celery and onion based broth with white wine was slightly wimpy and lacked the herbal punch it requires for vibrancy. A few mussels did not taste too fresh. Adequate, but hardly a revealing dish.

The pan seared Gindara (black cod/butterfish) Prince Murat was served with cherry tomatoes, small crystal wax onions, artichokes and baby potatoes. The fish was fresh and creamy, but bland and would have benefited from a more generous portion of Parsley Jus. Not a particularly outstanding dish.

The star of the show must be the beautiful Praline Soufflé. The choice of desserts are limited. But the soufflé was really lovely. Beautiful airy consistency that did not fall flat, filled with the rich taste of nutty praline. I broke the top a bit to pour n the sauce. One of the best soufflés I have ever tasted!

For the wines, both whites, to match the food and both almost the same straw colour. To the right is the Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2007 which I paired with the Mussels. It was clean, slightly citrusy and acidic. Fresh and light bodied and youthful. And on the left is the 2008 Macon Villages Borgogne Blanc (Chardonnay). The menu stated 2006. This was a slightly more elegant white, but I don't think there was enough time for the malolactic degradation to produce the desired creaminess yet. It had a nose of peaches/nectarines and was light bodied as well, with a very balanced acidity that matched well with the butter fish. Perhaps next year would be a better time to taste it.

Service was excellent and friendly, but food fuss free, but unenthusiastic. They will be changing their menu next month. It would be interesting to note that they serve a variety of caviars here. Many cuts of Kobe steaks are also available in their grill. Dining there was a tad expensive and the cost of my indiscretion with the wines, a macchiato and a small bottle of Perrier was RM 386 which made it one of the most expensive but unfortunately except for the excellent dessert, unmemorable suppers I've ever had.

Read Curiosity Feeds the Cat's post here, and Cumi and Ciki's post here.

Ground Floor
Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur
50088 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: +

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Schokolart. SohoKL, Solaris Mont Kiara, KL. Willie Wonka's Factory in KL.

(No Pork Served)

Selamat Hari Raya to all Muslim Friends and Maaf Zahir Batin!

Chocolate... The sticky gooey, sweet glob that had the ancient Aztecs driven to frenzy and lust. A dirty word to Matronly Chinese Aunts who have blamed it for rotten tooth, sore throat, pimples and cough adding guilt when indulging in this intriguing blend of cocoa and milk. When I read about it from LL's blog, I groaned to myself. Not another Max Brenner clone with cocoa powder on fries i hope? One fine Sunday, I hopped from work early and punched in my GPS and surprisingly got there in a jiffy! Anyway, I loved the catchphrase in their website. Hedonism is Schokolart! 

The place was surprisingly quiet for a weekend and I sat at the patio, which had a great view of the new DUKE highway and a view of the infamous Matrade Building. The evening breeze was lulled me and I felt like taking a snooze there! They had a lot of varieties of chocolates there, from curry to sesame and the pastry selection drove my heart aflutter. It seemed Willie Wonka had found KL and had a free hand in making this place his factory.

My fear was unfounded and they were not over the top with their chocolatey concoctions a la Brenner. No cocoa dusted fries here! The Roesti seemed to be featured prominently here but Carbs are getting a bad hype and I chose the Chocolate Satay instead. It was the most exotic item in the menu and was recommended by Sean.  Other items are Roesti, Lucerne Pie, Deep Fried Chicken with Chocolate Dip and De La Mer.

The chicken pieces were marinated in Chocolate and the Satay Sauce was kind of like a peanut butter blend which was spicy as well. I was a bit skeptical because Satay is kind of like a National Institution here. But it was not too bad at all! Very hard to describe the taste, but the chocolate did not overpower the still moist and succulent meat... And it came with the Man Tou thingy. I was surprised it. Ha ha... Something new everyday! Will go back there to indulge in some hedonistic gastronomic orgy aka to stuff my face...


Block K-01-05, Soho KL @ Solaris Mont Kiara
2 Jalan Solaris
50480 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: +

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sri Ayutthaya. USJ 11/3, PJ. Thai Odyssey In The Suburban Sprawl.

(no pork served)

Ayutthaya was at one time the Capital of Thailand. The kingdom Ayutthaya was in power for about 400 years, from 1350 until 1766 AD. One of the paintings or murals that you will surely encounter while in Bangkok will be of the war being fought by King Naresuan (from Ayutthaya) and the Crown Prince of Burma on elephant backs, resulting in the death of the Burmese crown prince. Until today, part of Thailand's Royal Regalia still consists of relics from the Ayutthayan Period, being King Naresuan's musket, sabre and hat.

This was the most tumultuous time in Thailand's history and continues to inspire the imagination of script writers. The epic movies "Suriyothai", "Naresuan" and "Bangrajan" are all based on the history of Thailand during this period which saw a lot of attacks from the Burmese and also some onslaught from the Vietnamese until the Kingdom fell after a successful full scale incursion by the Burmese army in which the whole city was razed and looted. This occurred while Thailand was under the reign of King Ekkatat and the Burmese was under the control of Aulungpaya. Until today, the sacking of Ayutthaya remains a sore point for the Thai's national pride.

I first dined at Restoran Sri Ayutthaya at USJ 2 years ago, after being brought there by some friends. Although the flagship restaurant under the Sri Ayutthaya chain is located at Damansara Heights, I prefer the USJ branch because I felt that the service here is better and being smaller, it is also cozier and less grand. And the noise levels here are lower. The owners took particular care to design the restaurant to replicate an ancient Thai house with a pond and a decorative Spirit house greeting diners upon entering the restaurant. The the lighting is muted and comfortably dim and the interior filled with faux antique replicas of a bas relief, ceramic and wood carvings.

The menu is a mixture of Thai and Chinese, with an emphasis on seafood. The wine menu is visibly lacking and budding oenologists may be disappointed here.

One of the most compelling reason to dine here would be the oysters. Delicious, plump, fresh oysters flown in from New Zealand. My favourite oyster dish at Sri Ayutthaya would be Kerabu Oyster, but unfortunately my dining companion has an irrational fear of raw food. So, we ordered the New Zealand Oysters Baked Thai Style, and in this case, the performance of the Soloist was overshadowed by the accompaniment. The oysters came baked with some cheese with garlic and then topped with corriander, chilli and some lime juice. Although still succulent, the subtle briney flavour of the oyster was overpowered. If you are here and have the stomach for raw oysters, try their Kerabu Oyster. A tantalising dish, where a bed of corriander, garlic, onion and bird's eye chilli lay on top of the oysters in their shell and then slathered with lime juice. The textural and taste contrast is absolutely amazing!

Next we had the Baby Octopus Fried with Dried Chilli, which was a very lively and vivacious. The Octopus was crunchy and aromatic and the sauce was not too spicy and piquant.

The Rambutan Kerabu was basically the normal Thai sweet and our salad, but interestingly they added some canned rambutans to the mix of salad veges and black fungus. The version I had in South Thailand was fresh rambutans. Still, and interesting dish if you are itred of the usual kerabu mangga or mango salad.

The next dish is more interesting. Roast Thai Chicken wrapped in Lotus Leaf. They used free range chicken for this dish, and the chicken was roasted before being steamed in some lotus sead paste and some chinese herbs. The resulting chicken was bursting with flavour and the lotus seed paste imparted a slightly sweetish tinge to this otherwise savoury dish. The herbs very balanced and not overpowering. I have not had this chicken anywhere else before.

Overall, the dining experience was good. Beautiful ambiance, very attentive service. The food was above par when compared to the other Thai Restaurants in KL but they should look into their wine list and dessert menu, which was rather run of the mill.

Sri Ayutthaya
22, Jalan USJ 11/3J
UEP Subang Jaya

Tel: +

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dish. Dua Annexe, Jalan Tun Razak, KL. The Pedigree Shows.

(no pork served)

How many of you use Aesop to wash your hands and the same brand again to moisturize your hand after going to the little boy's or little girl's room? No prizes for guessing which restaurant's washroom this pair came from? And this picture sort of summarizes what Dish is. 

Located along Jalan Tun Razak's posh Embassy row, Dish is housed in the ground floor of Dua Residency. An offspring from the famous Delicious group, and obviously born with a siver spoon in the mouth, Dish exudes a simple charm as you enter the restaurant. But underneath the charm, you can just smell posh, old, sophisticated money. Not the nouveau riche Christmas Trees dripping with Jewelery types, screaming for attention with their loud voices and greeting one another as Datuk and Tan Sri. But the polished, unassuming kind with a pedigree and an illustrious resume of finishing schools and country houses. You'll feel very comfortable here dressed in your Timberlands and Polo T's. The restaurant was quite full when I dined there, but the noise level was bearable even though the tables are very close to one another. A rare encounter in KL.

The interior is charming and rustic and Dish shares the Dining floor with a boulangerie selling freshly baked loaves and cakes and also a store selling some gourmet items as well. Service from the sleekly trained staff was impeccable. Polished and confident, they squeeze every charm of this small little restaurant and the Restaurant Manager was cheerful and managed to put me at ease immediately.

The Menu was not very extensive but filled with crowd favourites and Carnivores will be delighted to know that they serve steaks with a large variety of quality cuts. The pouring wines that were available were from a list of about 10 each for the reds and whites, mainly New World. The menu was a very safe, Marketing plan menu which will not offend anybody. Pastas, Potato Gnocchi, mussels and oysters.

I started off with the Lobster Omelet served with  Lobster Bisque. Be forewarned that the portions here are humongous. This could easily be a main course by itself! This dish is rich and very satisfying. Think of Sang Har Meen soup, quadruple the intensity and that's how rich the soup tasted. Otherwise the omelet was perfect and light, with lobster meat inside.

This was followed by Pan Fried Duck Breast served with Foie Gras. No complaints here either. The duck was pan fired to medium and served with rich and decadent piece of Foie. The smokey juice was sweet and aromatic.

The Pavlova was marvelous. Deliciously sinful layers of meringue on some crispy pastries topped by luscious cherries and some chocolate flakes. Each time I bit into the meringue, I felt myself floating up to the clouds!

Although the menu disappointed me initially with the lack of imagination, it was all made up for by the quality of the food served. They came in generous portions, filled with quality ingredients and of course the immaculate service earned Dish a few brownie points as well. Why did I compare it to the Aesop in the washroom? Like Aesop, the presentation is simple and fuss free, it's expensive, it's got quality, it's elegant and understated. 

As for the wines, it too reflects the philosophy behind the concept of dish very well. No surprises, elegant and dependable quality. The Grant Burge Reserve Chardonnay 2007 was straw coloured, creamy and smooth. Unoaked and medium length, it exhibited a slight floral nose with melons and apricots and had just a touch of acidity. It paired well, but not perfectly with the lobster. The Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2007 was a good, albeit unremarkable but expensive Pinot Noir. Velvety smooth with a tinge of smokiness, the plum and berry notes was very prominent and the chewy tannins very balanced and proportionate. It matched the Duck perfectly.

And the surprise happened after I paid my bill. As if they have read my mind they served me some complimentary chocolate truffles, to make up for my disappointment about the Tartufo. Their version was made from soft chocolate instead of gelato, but the chocolate was pure delight  and the truffle was heavenly.

Although it has not sold itself as an upmarket, fine dining restaurant, but a casual, upmarket  restaurant cum steak house, the food did not disappoint. If you take it as that, then the less adventurous menu does make a bit of sense. Reservations are recommended because when I was there, it was quite full.

Dua Annexe
Jalan Tun Razak
Kuala Lumpur


Monday, September 7, 2009

Max@iHaus. Jalan Jati, KL. Maximum Enjoyment, Minimum Fuss.

Soups. Having a Cantonese Paternal grandmother would mean that I have been stuffed with soup at a very early age. It's supposed to be a panacea to ward of diseases and also a cure for diseases as well. Every meal is not complete without a soup, be it just a simple anchovy based vegetable soup. Despite being a Hokkien, my mother embraced the Cantonese Soups totally, to the point of obsession. There is the Old Cucumber soup with Chicken Stock, Dried Oyster, Red Dates and Dried Cuttlefish for hot weathers. American Ginseng Chicken soup for Cold weather and a plethora of everything in between. All the soups that I had were served tongue scalding HOT.

The starter i had at Max's place would probably knock my grandma out. Peekytoe Crab Timbale with herbed cucumber tomato salad with caper berries on chilled gazpacho. What a mouthful, I know. Let's try to translate this into non foodie language! I have to admit i needed about 10 minutes to figure out what I was supposed to order for starter alone. The menu at Max's is really filled with foodie language.

Gazpacho is a chilled soup, or maybe a better way to describe it would be pureed salad. Not the typical kind of soup Grandma makes. When Eliza Doolitle (Audrey Hepburn) sang that "The rain in Spain stay mainly in the plains", she probably was not referring to the Andalucian Plains in Spain, the birthplace of Gazpacho. Long, dry acrid summers in Seville and Cordoba are the norm with temperatures hitting the 40's in Summer. The Andalucians are located in south of Spain, and this explain the Moorish influences in the food. Traditionally, the Gazpacho was thought to have originated from Arabia and was traditionally made from soaked rancid bread, garlic, olive oil, salt and vinegar. It slowly evolved and there are many variations of the soup, from the Malagan Ajo Blanco, where milk soaked almonds are added with chicken broth and the rarer Green Gazpacho which is based on lettuce and spinach and thickened with sour cream. The one served at Max's was the traditional tomato based Gazpacho, made from pureed tomato, onion, garlic, cumin, peppers and cucumber, vinegar,water and salt. See? You can make a soup without boiling anything. Cool and refreshing, it sure took away the thirst caused by the hot, sultry heat in KL very well.

Peekytoe crabs are the rage in NY this summer. Initially, there was very low regard for this crustacean, a rock crab which is harvested accidentally together with lobster. Never hardy enough to withstand any journey, the crabs are never shipped alive but the meat is harvested after blanching (typically in the homes of the fisherman from Maine) and shipped by the suppliers. The crabs are softer, briny and sweeter than our local crabs.

So, cut away the foodie talk would mean that the dish will be described as Peekytoe crab mixed with herbed cucumber and tomato salad, served after inverting it in a bowl (timbale) on top of a cold tomato puree soup. Not very elegant isn't it? Ha ha... So, we need some foodie jargon to enhance the name! Call it anything you like, but Max dished up a marvelous starter that day with all the right flavours locked into the right place. No need to travel to NY to taste the hottest flavours for this Summer.

For Mains, I ordered the Thyme Braised Duck Leg and Smoked Duck Breast with Persillade Sauce and Cannelini Bean Casserole which was absolutely divine. The succulent duck leg was braised to perfection while retaining all it's flavour and the thyme lent the duck a lavish aroma which permeated the dining hall, inviting jealous stares from the ladies dining at the next table. Ha ha. Persillade sauce is basically Parsley with garlic which enhanced the smoked duck breasts beautifully. The duck breasts were sitting on a bed of mashed potatoes.

Valrhona Bitter sweet Chocolate souffle with seasonal fruits and cafe latte ice cream. It's been a long time since I've had a decent souffle and the one at Max was decent, not excellent. It fell flat while I was taking the photo, which is not too bad. Made from decadent Valhorna Chocolate, the souffle was not as light as I would have preferred. It was rich and had just the right balance of sweetness and bitterness and the latte ice cream was decadent and the contrasting temperature in this dish alone was astounding. Scalding fresh and hot souffle, cool fruits and ice cold ice cream.

The lovely yet frugal RM22 set lunches are still available at Max. But I just had to order a la carte that day to try their menu out. My post about Max's set lunch here.

Lot No. 32 Jalan Jati
Off Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel. No: +

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hakka Republic. Redux. Menara Hap Seng, KL. A Restauranteur, A Chef and A Blogger Doing The Hungarian Dance.

(no pork served)

Sue Lim is one of the co-owners of Hakka Republic. An amazing, energetic woman, she packs one megaton of energy in her petite figure. She used to be a wine supplier fo a long, long time and along the way she has developed her own idea of what a good wine should taste like (mainly old world wines) and she hopes that she would be able to cater to the slightly more niche market of discerning wine lovers who are tired of all the new worlds and their clones at the supermarkets.

I was invited by Sue to have lunch at their establishment recently and was surprised to discover that the birth of Hakka Republic was a mixture of chance, opportunity and luck. Apparently Sue had toyed with the idea of opening a small wine bistro in Central KL for quite some time. And you can't have good wine without good food and vice versa. Before long, one thing led to another and a chance discovery of a chef waiting to come back home to Malaysia after spending a lot of time in Tokyo lad to the birth of the now larger setup at it's present location. I could hardly believe that what she had in mind originally was a 1000+ square feet set up.

The concept of Hakka Republic is to provide an extensive range of good wines personally vetted by Sue herself to be served with simple, good food in a friendly and casual environment. Believe me, the wine list is extensive. From Aszus to Zinfandels and everything in between, varietal or blended, New World boutique wines to Stately Chateau Wines. All budgets and all tastes. The Italians are particularly prominent here, reflecting Sue's personal preference. Most of the wines here are imported by Sue herself, and there is an allocation per vintage which makes some of her wines rarer still. Fortunately the prices of the wines here are pretty reasonable and the enomatic machines makes it easy for you to taste all the wines without burning a hole in your pocket.

During lunch, Chef Adi dropped by for a chat. With over 10 years experience cooking in Tokyo which is renowned for it's high density of Michelin Star restaurants and the fussiness of it's residents about food, it's a high pressure job being a chef in Tokyo. Married to a Japanese, his reason for coming back to KL is to familiarize his son to the Malay Language and Culture. Hailing from Johor Baru, this Cherubic and friendly Chef is the creator of the wonderful menu that graces the Haaka Republic.

Sue's concept was deviously simple. Match good wine with good simple food. One thing that's noticeably missing here is a dress code. This is because Sue wants to make this place fuss free. Anybody who is dressed decently although casually are allowed into the dining area. What's more important is that the customers come with an open mind in order to fully appreciate good wine and good food.

Although the emphasis is not on Fine Dining, but rather good, simple food that will go well with the wine, Chef Adi has done an admirable job. But both Adi and Sue would be surprised to know that Angus Beef Burger (which is offered in the Hakka Republi Menu) is actually offered at RH at Andaz (old Hollywood Hyatt) LA too. With Michelin Chef Archambault heading the kitchen, they had introduced Angus Burger as part of it's fine dining menu. And RH opened almost simultaneously with Hakka.

Although back home for only 8 months, Chef Adi has already shown flashes of brilliance, with the steamed Wagyu Beef with Ponzu Sauce gaining an almost legendary status among the foodie circle in KL who were and are still waxing lyrical about it. Undeniably, there are traces of Japanese influence in his cooking, due to his long working experience in Tokyo. And his approach to the menu is creating tasty, fuss free food with emphasis on natural tastes and then let food copulate with the wine and work it's magic. I am sure in time to come, he too will mature to be a potent chef to be reckoned with in KL.

If this post seems like an advertorial, rest assured that I paid for my lunch there. It is so rare to meet somebody so unwavering in her quest and the concept of enjoying fine wine together with dining is so under-exploited in Malaysia that makes me so impressed with Hakka Republic. Even though this establishment is only 8 months old and Sue has no previous experience running a restaurant or bistro, she actually takes the trouble to seek out comments from her customers and the menu is always being improved and revised. And of course Chef Adi and his talent in the kitchen is complimentary to the wine bistro concept and together, they make a formidable and welcome team to the dining scene in KL.

Amuse boouche is a fairly new introducion at Hakka. An oyster shooter together with a tomato and avocado salad topped with caviar in petit sizes to whet up my appetite for lunch. Light and lovely.

The Shrimp Bisque Shooter was marvelously creamy and was very balanced and aromatic. It was rich enough to leave a cloying after taste, but not too rich to the point of being overpowering. The mirepoix blend was smooth and the resulting soup was suave and concentrated.

The foie gras with miso was also an unsual twist. Pan fried and lightly drizzled with Miso sauce, the sauce did not overwhelm the taste of the liver, but lent it a slightly more savoury taste which made the liver taste sublime.

Comfort food for the tired soul. Beef Wellington with Yorkshire pudding. Simple and classical, but extremely well presented. Taste this dish with the Chianti that was paired with it, and you immediately understand what Sue was talking about when she mentioned simple but great tasting food matching the wines and bring out the best of both. Like a good marriage. (More about the wines below).

Slow-Baked Meringue with Crème Anglaise And Bittersweet Chocolate was the dessert i had for lunch. Light and fluffy Meringue with a filling of bitter chocolates and slightly sourish strawberries was a lovely way to end a wonderful meal.

Now, the wines. Old world wines seem to have more life compared to the new world fruit bombs. The taste changes with every sip and to me, that is almost like an organic life form itself. It can even sense your moods!

The Kelleske Clarry's Semillon Chenin Blanc 2007 (top left) was paired with the Prawn Bisque. Kelleske is a small and organically farmed grapes Barrosa Valley winery and this version is a blended wine. Light and medium bodied, it was crisp and acidic with notes of summer melons. Very easy to drink but slightly overwhelmed by the rich Bisque. I would have preferred a Pouilly Fumé instead which is slightly musky and smokey.

The wine on the top right corner was the Disznókő Late Harvest Tokaji 2003. Tokaji Aszu is Hungarian sweet wine which had been left to desiccate with Botrytis or noble rot to enhance the sweetness of the grapes. Left to abandon during the communist control of Hungary which meant that impeccable fermentation could not take place as it should, it enjoyed a revival recently due to investments from the big French houses. The one i had that that was the least concentrated Tokaji, which is the Late Harvest. With Tokajis puttony numbers indicate the strngth, the sugar and sugar free residue in the wine. The higher, the more concentrated (and more expensive). The late harvest was already lovely, with a nose of honey and apricots and exhibiting a lovely golden hue. Although it is a sweet wine, there is a balanced acidity which meant that the after taste is slightly sourish. This wine has a happy mood. I suddenly felt the sunshine and wind and the beautiful summer and Liszt's Ungarische Rhapsodien was playing in my brain. I wanted to do the jig on the table! This was a wonderful match for the foie, it was a match made in heaven.

Bottom left was the 2006 Zind Humbrecht Gerwutz which had been tasted here.

And the Red at the bottom right was a Chianti. I have to admit I am not very exposed to Chiantis. I love the Bordeauxs and Paulliacs and the Rhones. But the one Sue paired was so different from the Chiantis I've had before and I was floored. This palish Sangiovese based Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2005 was just opening up by the time i took a first sip and with another swirl, evolved again. On it's own, the nose is smokey with plums and in the mouth it was full bodied and chewy with some leathers. Very parchy and tannic at first, but when paired with the Beef Wellington, it was amazingly fresh. I guess this was what Sue was getting at. Good food, good wines and a wonderful experience.

Lovely pairings and an eye opening experience. Thanks for the lesson on the Italian reds and lovely company, Sue and I wish you every success.

N.B. FBB, LL and Frat... This was what you guys missed. :p

Hakka Republic is having lunch with wine pairings every Friday and the cost is RM 120++, which is a pretty good deal by any standards

Hakka Republic
Lot 2.05, Level 2
Menara Hap Seng
Jalan P.Ramlee
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: +

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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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