Friday, July 30, 2010

Moths to a Flame. Delectable Su at Pavilion, Thai Somtam Seafood at Changkat .

Details from Michael the Moth's wing. Canon 60mm f2.8

First of all, some really, really delectably wonderful news. Su's latest baby. Delectable is now open at Pavilion, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. If you are looking for something to make you smile and take away the stress of the day, do drop by there for some Kek Lapis (in loaves), Fruit Cake (Loaves and small "happy" packages) and her latest offering, the delectably light and flavouful Banana Cake (in loaves).

I loved her humongous cookies, sold together with a cookie tin. She has a couple of new desserts available in cups too, including the Trifle. The shop is located on the 6th Floor, next to Times Book Store. You can't miss it!

Delectable Su's Peach Treat, Strawberry Treat, Nutty Treat and Trifle plus the Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies in a Jar. Sigma 50mm f1.4

It had rained the night earlier. The glistening wet ground seemed to welcome the clarity of the sunny blue skies offered. It was a Saturday morning, my usual day for running errands and pick up good to stock up for the week, my chore day. This was slightly special because I wanted to pick up the highly rated Sigma 50mm f1.4 lens to try on my camera. By the time I had finished grocery shopping, it was close to 11am. The sun was near it's zenith and the evaporating vapour from the wet grounds made the air suffocatingly humid and thick. I almost had to make an effort to suck in the air.

Since my friend was at Maju Towers, I decided to take the monorail from Bukit Bintang. Just a few stops away, will be Medan Tunku. The station was relatively thankfully quiet. A couple of characterless people lined the sides of the track, waiting for the train to arrive. Banal characters with loud voices that fill up the void like the smiley emoticon in phone messages. I would notice them when they are there, but it will not be significantly missed if it weren't.

Part of the surviving skills in this city is to be aware of people getting close to you yet avoiding eye contact. Eye contact is trouble. Invariably it will mean getting involved in other people's problem, be it some street urchin who wants some money, some people asking for donations for orphanages or a confidence trickster trying to scam you. We live in a cruel world. I hate to be torn by moral obligation yet I do not want to part with my hard earned money just to enrich another undeserving person. Being Paranoid, I could never trust that the money I donated goes to charity. Moral Dilemmas and Happy Weekends just don't go well together.

KL Monorail at Bukit Bintang Station. Canon 50mm f1.8

The train ride was pretty uneventful. Cocooned in my own world of anticipating the rush of holding a nice lens and with Sandrine Piau's emotive rendition of mélodies de jeuness muffling the hum of the train, the city appeared calm and tranquil.

Empty high rises line both sides of the monorail track. They are our modern equivalent to the massive cathedrals of the past. Despite hundred of millions spent building them, they remain stark, obscene steel and glass monoliths, pointing to the sky in obeisance to Ba'al. Phallic symbols of the new Popes of the modern world, Politicians and their bastard offsprings: Business Bigwigs. These structures are the symbols of fertility that comes from the corruption of the mind and soul and nepotism. The new religion is Money, with the CEO as Cardinals and the laity administered by the middle management priests. From Mondays to Fridays, penitent worshipers congregate and bow in penitence for their financial transgressions, the expensive meals, the ill afforded holidays and luxury clothes. The confession boxes are our little work cubicles or office rooms and as penance for our sins we are made to sell our souls, sell our dreams and ideals for a few measly bucks that will embolden us to go deeper into debt.

The sleeping man on the overhead bridge. Sigma 50mm f1.4.
"The first moments of sleep are an image of death; a hazy torpor grips our thoughts and it is impossible the exact instance when the "I", under another form, continues the task of existence. " Gerard de Nerval, Aurelia.

3 train stops and a short walk led me to the pedestrian bridge that will bring me to my Canaan, the land of Cameras and Lens. I was mentally accosted by the sight that greeted me on a hot afternoon at the bridge. It left me frozen in my tracks. A man was sleeping on the bridge in the afternoon. He was in a deep slumber and a transistor radio was playing too. The black wire you see at the left side of the photo served as an antenna. And what I presume to be his life possessions were bundled in two large plastic bags on his side. At first I thought i had stumbled on a dead body, but he showed some signs of life. He snored.

He snored loudly and unabashedly. I was aware that in a sprawling metropolis like KL, there is is bound to be homeless people. This was the first time that I had seen one up close, sleeping on the hard cement, with some newspapers for a pillow. I turned away and started to walk to my destination. Just like a lot of people, I am averse to the sight of death, extreme poverty and suffering. Even politicians love to talk about happy subjects like development and distribution of equity, yet mumble and skim over discussions about homelessness, drugs and alcoholism, sort of a silent affirmation that they are in part, accountable for social problems in Malaysia.

On the return journey, I hesitated taking the pedestrian bridge again. I was partly ashamed for just walking by and doing nothing, yet am prepared to spend what is a princely sum by this homeless man's standards on some frivolous camera lens. I made a silent wish that he would have woken up and left and I will be spared the spectacle of a suffering fellow human who have to brave the forces of nature just to get some shut eye.

I was not that lucky. He was still there. I did not know what to do, and decided to wake him up. he looked annoyed, but gave a smile when I waved 2 ten ringgit bills at him. I don't know what he was going to do with the money, whether he would buy himself a square meal or blow it all off getting sloshed on cheap liquor. I did not want to wrestle with morals and ethics. I was ashamed of just handing him the 20 ringgit and washing my hands clean of what I had just witnessed. I wanted to convince myself that I have done my part. As an underhanded way to justify my actions, I reminded myself of the ASEAN charter of non interference.

If the so called "Morally Upright" heads of Nations can allow and entire nation Burmese people to suffer from bad politics and allow the Legally elected Head of the Nation to remain imprisoned at home and just watch from the sidelines, so could I. After all, what is one man compared to a nation?

Mr. Michael Moth is dead. Canon 60mm f2.8

As it is, leaders of Nations do not make great Moral role models. Most of you would have come this conclusion long ago. I continued to grapple with the image of this unknown, homeless man. His eyes continued to haunt me as I made my way back home. Dark, large, lifeless eyes. Soulless and scary, like the eyes of the dead moth above. The eyes of a man who had obviously suffered much to the point of being indifferent to any more hard knocks in life. He was probably at the pits of his existence.

Many people are drawn to the bright light of the city like Moths to a Flame. The city beckons with lofty dreams and extravagant ambitions. Most people survive, some do very well and others fail miserably. Like the flame that consumes the moth, some die, swallowed by the fire of greed by indulging in crime. Others are burnt by the blue flames of alcohol or the slow flame of the cigarette lighters dissolving heroin or burning crystal meth. The city is not for everybody.

Some, like me, survive through hard work by grovelling at the feet of the Cardinal CEOs or Pope Politicians, working hard attempting to join their exclusive cloister. Their exclusive monastic order with the new opulent hedonism which takes on vows the exact opposite of the traditional vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience.

Chastity, Poverty and Obedience are reserved are for commoners like us, the nameless faceless entities. They will use their wiles and even coercion to ensure we observe those vows in subservience.

The delightfully refreshing Steamed Calamri with Lime from Thai Somtam Seafood, Changkat Bukit Bintang. Sigma 50mm f1.4

I started out this post by attempting to write about Distributive Justice and the Social Contract, by attempting to talk about Hobbes, John Rawls, Kant, Plato, Nussbaum and Amartya Sen. In the end, the post reminded me more of a dissertation on Political Justice than a light hearted post more suitable for a food blog. Despite the great minds and the good intentions of those elaborate minds, there is yet to be a solution that is amicable to all parties. Those interested can just google the names yourselves, or buy me some coffee for an x rated condensed version peppered liberally with F words.

Just like that plate of delicious Steamed Calamari, you can never distribute each mouthful with the equal amount of Garlic, Lime Juice and Chilli with the Calamari. By the time the tediousness pf the daunting task is completed, there would have been some evaporation and you would have to start all over again. The dish would have rotted by then, or I will play the role of a political despot and finish up that plate and leave you exactly one mouthful, sparing you the agony of dividing the morsels.

Duck in two styles with Foie Gras. The thigh confit was crumbly and soft and waiting to fall off the bone. Beautiful. From Sage. Canon 60mm f2.8

It amazes me that people are still attempting to equate equality solely by numbers and percentages. Isn't it equally important for the citizens of a country to be happy? One man's foie is another man's poison. Equality, Distributive Justice and big names mean nothing to a homeless man suffering in hunger. I am abhorred by the lack of shelters for the homeless in KL. I am abhorred by my own apathy to the plights of those around me.

Crispy Duck Salad from Thai Somtam Seafood. Although it was much cheaper than the Duck Confit from Sage, the pleasure derived from eating it was not lessened by it's price. Sigma 50mm f1.4

As a follow up to that homeless man's plight, I googled around and found a few soup kitchens around town that is still active.



(Munirah Abdul Hamid 012-2363639 Rohani Teh 03-78744203, 017-6413835)

4. Methodist Church Drop In Centre

1 Jalan 2/36 (PJ Old Town),
46000 Petaling Jaya
Tel : 603 7784 2519
Head of Ministry : Steve Yew (016 289 1603)

Caramelised Banana with Chocolate Fondant and Ice Cream from Sage. Perfectly halved bananas looks like smiley faces, no? Canon 60mm f2.8

As a parting note, just a book that caught my fancy this week. Gerard de Nerval's Aurelia. De Nerval was part of a French group known as the bousingos who were very rowdy and participated in orgies, naked poetry recitals and ate food of human skulls for shock value.

De Nerval himself had a pet lobster which he brought for walks in a public park, tied to a blue ribbon. He was a great translator well known for translating Goethe's Faust. He often wrote in a stream of consciousness style and had a profound influence on the surrealists and impressionists.

Unfortunately he had a mental breakdown and hanged himself, with the manuscript of Aurelia in his pocket, a story about his love for this imaginary woman and a documentation of his journey into insanity. Beautifully lyrical and dreamy and filled with prose that can elicit tears and laughter at the same time.

It is getting late, and i guess it shows by the hurried ending of this post and the numerous typos and mistakes. Will correct them later. Nice weekend!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

An Oasis to Rejuvenate Tired Palates. Nathalie's Gourmet Studio. Solaris Dutamas, KL.

(Pork Free)

What could be more magical than starting your day with the smell of freshly baked bread?

It finally happened, that dreaded moment for every foodie. I was dining with @agentcikay at a fancy joint one day when she passed me her unfinished piece of Foie. She just could not eat it. There was nothing wrong with the Foie. It was perfectly fried, unctuous and creamy, slightly charred on the outside, with a few crystal of squarish sea salt on top. A beautiful piece of Foie, I could not finish it for either. Somewhere in the Holy Texts of Gastronomy, it has been written that Man should not live on Foie and Wagyu alone.

Nathalie's Gourmet Studio is nestled in Solaris Dutamas, a convergence point of the Middle Income Diaspora in the city. Where it's denizens are more than willing to flaunt their new found wealth. Nathalie's is not only a restaurant, it also houses a culinary school as well. It houses 2 kitchens. The kitchen where cooking classes are held is a real beauty. Sexy, with lots of natural light streaming in through the large windows. The other kitchen is for the restaurant. A small slit separates the dining area from the kitchen, you can see Nathalie and her little elves working their magic intently and diligently, with coordinated movements like clockwork.

Clockwise, from top left: 1. Salted Butter 2. The Breakfast Platter 3. Feathery light Brioche à tête 4. A Boo-esque impression of canelé.

Nathalie's is open at 9 am. If you happen to drop by there for breakfast, do not let their fairly limited breakfast menu disappoint you. Be prepared for a Carbo Feast. The French are very particular about their bread. Baguette Dough is actually defined under French Law. If you opt for their typical French Breakfast, you will be served a variety of freshly baked bread on a board. The Brioche à tête was a beautiful golden brown on the outside, with a flaky and feather light interior. The dough was amazing, eggy and buttery and the smell, the smell, the smell. Lovely.

The canelé is a French Pastry which is a specialty of the Bordeaux region. It is brown in colour, with a caramelized, crunchy crust, but a soft and light centre that is vanilla-custard-like. It is made using specialized, beautiful copper canelé moulds. There are many variations in the sizes of canelé. The ones at Nathalie's are petite and packs a very strong flavour at the soft centre.

Tuna Mille-Feullie with Black Olive Dressing

Nathalie's reminded why I started to blog about food. Discovering small little gems in far out places that serve outstanding food. Mouthwatering food. Food that makes you smile and shake your head at the first bite. Beautiful food that makes you gasp in surprise. Take for example the Norwegian Poached Eggs with Chive Emulsion which comes in an oval, egg like shape. A Faberge Egg, wrapped in Smoked Salmon, unraveling the succulent pieces of fish reveals a perfectly poached eggs with runny yolks sitting on a small bowl artichokes, prompting squeals of delight from my fellow diners.

Or the suprisingly light Tuna Mille-Feullie with Black Olive Dressing, with a thin layer of Puff Pastry for that added textural and taste contrast to otherwise a classic tuna salad. These little tweaks and twists serve to affirm that you do not need posh and expensive ingredients to make a great meal. And the Revised Momotaro Tomato Mozarella, which turned out beautifully refreshing with a gelatin like layer of tomato reduction at the bottom. Perfect for the hot sweltering weather we are experiencing.

The Ricotta and Herb Ravioli in Carrot and Ginger Broth

The culinary adventure at this quaint little French Restaurant continues into the main courses. The Ricotta and Herb Ravioli in Carrot and Ginger Broth was as beautiful as it was delicious. Filled with Ricotta chopped chives and and Basil in some beautifully sweet and aromatic broth came an orange coloured pureed carrot and ginger at the bottom that was as sweet as nectar. The Ginger obliterated any satiety caused by the cheese. I could only grin like a fool while savouring it.

The Oven Baked Cod Fish, with Creamy Asparagus with Old Parmesan, Balsamic Reduction was also tasted. The fish was perfectly baked, with all the sweetness and moisture retained, but the sauce was a little bit too creamy. Some Asian influences can be detected in the Chicken and King Prawns with Fennel Ragout and Bisque Sauce. A roulade like dish, with chicken meat wrapped around the prawn and a delicately aromatic spice infused bisque that reminded me of marjoram. My breath smelled beautifully fresh for hours after that meal.

Revised Apple Tartin with Caramel Ice cream

Desserts are a high point here. This must be THE place for the best desserts in KL. The Strawberry and Raspberry Surprise bowled me over. Again, a beautiful egg shaped sorbet came shaped like an egg in a meringue egg cup, hiding a heart of strawberry and raspberry compote. Cold, sourish, sweet and tart. Genius. The Revised Apple Tartin with Caramel Ice cream was also a source of amazement. The apple was not over cooked in a soggy mess, but still retained a bit of crunchiness, with balanced spices and a smoky caramel ice cream on top.

The Pineapple and Lime Crumble with virgin Pina Colada Ice cream was good, but lacked the wow factor.

Clockwise, from top left: 1. Pineapple and Lime Crumble with virgin Pina Colada Ice cream 2. Chicken and King Prawns, Fennel Ragout with Cream Bisque 3. Norwegian Poached Egg with Chive Emulsion. 4. Strawberry and Raspberry Surprise

Dining at Nathalie's was a very unique experience. It was contemporary French Cuisine, minus the fuss, rituals, ceremony and pomposity commonly associated with French Haute Cuisine. The emphasis here is on fresh ingredients, with a careful balancing of spices or condiments to enhance the flavours. The ambiance is excellent, I felt I have been invited to the home of a very good cook and given a showcase of her skills.

Clockwise from top left: 1. Details of the Bread Basket 2. Napkin 3. Revised Momotaro Tomato Mozarella 4. Cod with Creamy Asparagus

Nathalie's is especially known for her Macarons. They have a dizzying selection of flavours and colours. I found them not as chewy and a little too crumbly compared to the ones I have had. And the ganache, although intensely flavoured, was a little too sweet for me.

Service is still excellent, although they do admit they lack waiting staff for the moment. Benoit, the Manager is very friendly and is able to answer any queries about the food. Prices are very reasonable, be prepared to spend only about RM100 for 3 courses of excellent food plus drinks and coffee.

Interior shots and Macarons.

We live in a world that wallows on decadence and excess. If there is proof that less is more, this is it. The deconstruction of French Cuisine and reconstructing it back to a very modern, accesible cuisine. I found the food too be exciting, with a sense of humour, beautifully cooked with exacting technique and left the restaurant with a smile on my face. And something that is probably more rare and warmed up my heart, I have partaken in a meal cooked with love by somebody who obviously loves food, who has thought a lot about food and is obviously very pleased to share her passion for food.

More Info at :

Nathalie's Gourmet Studio
Unit 4-1-5
Solaris Dutamas
Jalan Dutamas
50480 Kuala Lumpur

Tel : +603 62 07 95 72

They are open from 9am to 6pm, but try to make it for lunch by 3.30pm. Closed on Sundays. Reservations recommended.

PS: Do forgive this hurried post, done in between naps. I was just too excited about the food and just had to share it with you guys.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Olfactory Memory. Second week at Cilantro.

(no pork served)

For the life of me, don't ask me my address. I do remember my unit number. I don't write letters to myself and the only mode of public transportation I take is the train. Don't ask me for my postcode either, for I don't have an inkling of what it is. . Ditto my office number. Why would I give myself a call? I am totally dependent on my mobile devices. I can give you my 5 email addresses with ease, or my mobile device numbers.

Poached Lobster a la minute with Kyuri and Avruga. Perfection in a mini cocktail glass. A cold starter with some Japanese Cucumber Puree adding a new dimension of freshness to the beautifully poached lobster, drizzled with caviar.

Years ago, there was a French Philosopher and Mathematician by the name of Descartes (who by the way is the same brainy chap who invented Cartesian Points) who doubted his own existence and wrote a book titled Meditations on First Philosophy which contains 6 meditations. He tried to postulate his own existence and the existence of God logically. Descartes validated his own existence with his famous "Je penser, donc je suis". Or in Latin Cogito, Ergo Sum. I think, therefore I am. An updated version of Meditations on First Philosophy v 2.1.0 is I charge my Blackberry, therefore I am. My mobile devices are a sort of validation of my life. My entire life is in my mobile phones. Photos of people that mean a lot to me, my favourite tunes, contact information, encouraging emails from friends and of course, my own address. If I doubt i really exist, I can always call my friends up. The invention of Mobile telephones have negated the Cartesian dilemma of self.

30 minutes of separation from a working mobile network, I start showing separating anxiety. 2 hours without mobile internet service, I will fidget and sweat. Try going to Myanmar for 2 weeks. Upon arrival at Bangkok Airport after the trip, when my mobile showed connectivity to the AIS network, I kissed my phone and wept tears of joy. My happiness was short lived, as a deluge of emails and messages that needed replying left me with regret. I had been idle time at the Burmese capital while indulging in the fragrant yet diabetes inducing tea at the tea shops. I should have been punching my blackberry with vengeance as I was accustomed to if I had been in another country.

Parpadelle Pasta with Crispy Duck and Foie Gras. Very generous portion, and very rich. A very safe pairing of flavours and the Pasta was served in Red Wine Reduction.

There is something about Nations run by crazy despots that make them averse to mobile communications, mobile internet, and criticism. Ever tried data roaming in Burma or North Korea both countries run by self glorifying dictators before? It does not exist. Maybe our Government should take note of that before being too overzealous about internet censorship. But I digress.

We were talking about memory. The only memories that one can recall vividly, without any effort at all would be olfactory memory. Ever notice how certain smells trigger off certain emotions and how we can equate places and people with certain smells? I was asked to send a child to school last week, and when I was there I was hit by a blast of acrid earth, cut grass, stale socks, exercise books, wood and varnish. Unconsciously, the smell of school has been etched deeply into my brain, which the passage of time and space has left greatly intact. I inhaled deeply, and suddenly from the recesses of my mind, forgotten names and faces appeared, my old teachers and classmates whom I have relegated to the deepest part of my psyche refreshed itself without effort. It gave me a sense of calmness and well being plus a yearning to return to a period in my life when I was truly contented and happy.

Our nervous system is built on a series of cells known as neurons which communicate to one another by synapses, without any physical contact at all. One of the characteristics of the neuron is it's inability to regenerate. That is why neurological injuries seldom recover. Paraplegics and Stroke victims are left with permanent residual damage. The only exception to this is the olfactory epithelial cells. These group of neurons regenerates. An old man may lose the sense of sight and smell, but seldom complains of losing the sense of smell.

Sea Bream with Scallop and Zucchini Flower. Perfect for a lunch. The scallop was hidden inside the zucchini flower which was deep fried in batter. An innovative twist, and complimented the fish very well.

Our breathing apparatus directs air to the top of the nose, where our olfactory cells are located. Small tendril like projection of the cells travel up to the base of the brain via sieve like perforations and connect to the olfactory bulb. which connects to different parts of the brain. One of the more interesting connection is the close, two synapse relationship with the Amygdala.

The Amygdala the center of the brain which preforms the function of storing memories related to emotional event, stores long term memory (life long) and deep, primal emotional responses including sex. The confluence of smell, memory and emotion at the Amygdala explains why smell is often an intense trigger for distinct memories and potent emotions.

Slow Roasted Grain Fed Lamb, served with Delphinoise Potatoes and Summer Truffles. If you have to sink in carbs, let the potatoes be the weight. Rich and flavoured with Truffle, it almost overshadowed the beautifully roasted lamb. Cilantro has maintained it's standards so stringently that is ia very rare that you can order a dud item from it's menu.

Who can forget the sensations evoked by The First Kiss? Where desire is culminated by the sensation of warm lips meeting warm lips, with the sword fight of two moist tongues, the grating sensation of teeth sliding over the tongue, like a knife spreading truffle butter over bread. The sensation of warm air blowing out of the nostrils nearby intensifies the long, lingering kiss together with a steady throbbing of an elevated heartbeat....

The missing ingredient is the smell. Metallic, salty, paraffin from the lipstick, a slightly malodorous after note from the putrefaction of food particles stuck between teeth, spearmint from the chewing gum with a waft of musk, the smell of desire.

What was the smell of your first kiss?

The fact is, smell complements a lot of experiences. Try to eat with a blocked nose. Suddenly the food becomes tasteless. Even carnal pleasures are associated with smell. Describing it would render this blog x rated.

Warm Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream. Their version of the classic. The pie was light as air and fluffy as down pillow.

A very clever perfumer by the name of Antoine Lie has created a perfume for Etat Libre de Orange has created sex in a bottle fragrance called "Secretions Magnifique". It is available on line or at Galleries Lafayette, Paris. It has the accord of blood, iris, coconut, sandalwood, adrenaline and smells like cum. Now, why would anybody like to smell as if he ejaculated all over himself in bloody cum defies reason, but if you are interested, you can order it here and read their description of the perfume.

I love perfumes. Fragrances complements certain memories that I kept stored inside my brains. Certain perfumes remind me of places. I don't know why, but Terre by Hermes always reminds me of Seville. Other perfumes remind me of people. Opium by YSL always reminds me of my late mother. And the perfume that reminds me of Cilantro is Comme des Garçons 2. An intriguing scent of Ink, Cedarwood, Cumin, Iris and Angelica Wood among others. A mixture of occidental and orient. A French-Japanese Fusion. Just like Cilantro is.

CDG 2. Unfortunately, unavailable in Malaysia. You might have to source it overseas.

And when you smell a rat all over town, don't worry. You are not alone. With the latest political developments, the smell is pervasive. Only rats cannot smell their own filth and continue to scrummage the last bits of filth from the garbage pile and hoard it. As we wait for a Pied Piper to lead the rats to drown, let us be cautious too, as the Piper might steal our children away.

Have a nice week ahead, folks! Will be away for a week. Ciao!

(all shots taken with my Canon 50mm f1.8 lens)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sage vs Cilantro. Lunching and Throwing Out The Baby With The Hatch.

(no pork served)

The lonely man's dining table at home. Kiwis, Kafka and Murakami.

If you have had the chance to visit Genting Highlands, try to catch a view of KL from Starbucks at night. KL wrapped in glowing amber from the smog, sometimes even lighting up some low lying clouds. The city is like a foetus nurtured by the warm, nutrient rich amniotic fluid in his mother's womb. Would you be shocked to know that a city shrouded in this beautiful amber phosphorescence houses a lot of wickedness? Selfish unthinking people who would sell their mother's soul to the devil for material gain, power and to satisfy their lust?

A City infested by Pimps and Crooks right from the sordid back lanes of Chow Kit to the hallowed halls of the Parliament, where bigots walk tall and speak proudly. A City where a father sells his daughter to settle debts, where helpless migrant workers are fleeced so that their bosses can buy their million dollar SUVs. Where the average time spent traveling to work daily exceeds 2 hours, which is precious time which can be spent exercising or bonding with family due to greed and lust for material wealth? A city where I am still thankful to be alive, after 3 years of horror on the roads and crime in the streets.

My home is my cocoon here. A place to insulate myself from the prevailing evil outside. My sanctuary from participating in the endless drivel of mindless droning of madmen. I abhor crowds. I embrace solitude. After a day where I have to put on a front and interact with my fellow humans I find it comforting to be able to wear comfortable clothes, play Souvlaki and settle down with a book which will transport me to another realm. A kinder world, a more rational world. Sometimes this self imposed isolation gets too stiffling, I will head out to my favourite restaurant usually alone and sometimes with a small group of close friends, foraging the city of madness for a piece of calmness in this otherwise hostile and aggressive city.

My love affair with Sage started about a year ago, and Cilantro has just recently reopened. It is hard to describe these two places without affection. It is like my oyster, a place where nothing bad will ever happen to me. A place to shield me while the City self destructs in evil, immorality and greed. While Nero fiddled and danced to a burning Rome the Paranoid Android wined and dined to the destruction of humanity in KL.

An unhealthy obsession. A fool's delusion?

Sage: Tataki of Hon Maguro (Blue Fin Tuna) with Green Asparagus and Baby Cress. Each morsel a delight, bursting with flavour and the natural sweetness of the wonderfully fresh Tuna.
Despite how vehemently we try to deny it, all of us are attracted to beauty. It is a human thing. Name me an animal species which garnishes the food to make it aesthetically pleasing before consuming it?

Discussing Morality and Ethics here would be opening up a can of worms. A discussion on Plato's Eudaimonistic Virtue Ethics (and it's resurrection by Elizabeth Anscombe) is beyond the scope of this blog and probably put disinterested parties to sleep. Suffice to say, that a lot of thinkers since the Dawn of Greek Philosophy to the Present day has given Ethics and Morality a lot of thought. Terms that most people would have encountered would be Utilatarianism and Consequentialism and Moral Relativism. All have it's strength and virtues but there is no single, perfect Moral System. In the case of Ethics, sometimes the journey itself is more important.

Cilantro: Salad of Summer Seafod with Ohba Vinaigrette. A dish that is visually appealing, filled with choice fish, iidako, tsubagai and shizuoka tomatoes. Lightly drizzled with Ohba vinaigrette. Perfection in a plate.

Malaysia is a haven for Paleontologists. Or if ever morons get rounded up like stray dogs, our Moron pounds will be full. But of course, it will be dependent on who orders the rounding up. Rationality is important even in Ethics. We have been far dependent on the Metaphysical realm, where Morality is based on a Divine being and the reason for us observing the rules is for a self serving and selfish reward of being safe from eternal damnation. After we are dead.

What happens to now. How about telling the story of Ethics and Morality from a human point of view, how it is best to behave morally for the common interest and the well being of the individual and society?

Sage: Tagliolini Pasta with Pacific clams and Parmesan Cheese. Perfectly al dente, with huge clams that tasted suspiciously like oyster. A joy to savour with a beautifully flavoured broth.

"Thou shalt not kill".

Everybody agrees that Murder is bad. Reckless driving causes death, "Rempeting" causes death. Making substandard national cars with negligible safety features causes death. Driving after drinking Alcohol causes death. Bad roads causes death. Lead in colour pencils causes death. All of which is abhorent to any rational agent. Has it been emphasised enough?

What about Capital Punishment and War? How do we reconcile that commandment?

Cilantro: Poached Grain Fed Chicken with Foie Gras in Mushroom Jus. An unsusal pairing, with Japanese and Continental mushrooms. The Foie as usual, was perfect.

The issue of Baby Hatchets comes to mind, when I think about Rational Thinking Agents. Recently there has been a spate of news reports of babies being abandoned in Dustbins, empty fields and isolated places. Some were found alive, but alas some were discovered dead. Horrifying and unimaginable. Orphancare Malaysia, is a NGO that is working with the Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development in Malaysia to introduce Baby Hatches. Babies born to unwed Mums, who cannot afford to look after the babies due to social or financial constraints can be left in a safe incubator like hatch anonymously. Hopefully, mothers who are afraid of being persecuted will be encouraged to leave their babies in the hatch and unnecessary infant deaths are avoided. I may be an ultra leftist liberal, but happen to have very strong views against Abortion or Termination of Pregnancy unless it is for a Medical reason, think that this is indeed a brilliant move. A humane move.

Sage: Slow Cooked Free Range Chicken with Foie Gras, Blue Shell Crab Sauce. I have a natural dislike for chicken skin, and this was chicken roulade. The sauce was slightly weak, but the roasted foie was deliciously creamy.

To my dismay, I read Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye's reply to the critics of the baby hatch in the papers. Some people do not want baby hatches. Ta da! They say it encourages premarital sex! I don't know, but try to imagine this scenario:

Boy: Let's have sex tonight!
Girl: Yeah... We don't have to worry about anything. They have baby hatch now. I can get pregnant, endure nine months carrying an extra 12 kg around, get backache, get dizzy, puke like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, and hide in my room for nine months so that nobody knows I am pregnant! How cool is that?
Boy: Awesome! At the end of the nine months, after you have gone through an excruciating childbirth, we can both put the baby in a hatch! Sounds like fun! Yay!
Girl: I love it when you talk dirty. Let's make a baby for some childless couple.

Duh? Conceivable? (pun intended)

If even one baby's life is saved a year, it is still worth the effort, Your Holiness. Let the hatches mushroom. You can go preach to the unconverted until the statistics of children born to unwed mothers become zero, then take away the hatch. And good luck with the undertaking, because I can bet that zero babies born out of wedlock is never going to happen. But be reminded that if you prevent the hatch programme from taking off, even if one baby dies, the blood of the baby is in your hands. Effectively making you a MURDERER.

Cilantro: Steamed Seabass with King crabs and Spinach Broth. This came wrapped in Chinese Foo Chook or Soya Gluten which serves as a soaking agent for the spinach broth. The fish was wonderfully flaky and beautiful. It deserved a standing ovation.

I googled around and there are actually some blogs who promote this sort of mentality. I am not going to dignify them by posting a link here. One of the blog is written by a lady, a mother of three. She mentioned premarital sex and her next argument is that hatches will "Increasing the number of Non-Marital Children." Lifted Verbatim from her blog. I think she meant increasing number of Single Mothers who have children born out of wedlock. Love this feminist. Judgmental, judgmental. These are the people who makes mothers abandon their babies. They think they are better than you and I, or anybody else. I too, wish that all babies born in this world will have a perfect nuclear family. But that is not possible. Many women who are married to polygamous rascals, gamblers, drunkards and addicts wish they could be single and not tortured by a bad marriage and a bad role model for their children. Divorces happen. Death happens. The child is innocent. Promote marriage counseling and road safety. More children lose their fathers due to accidents and divorces compared to being born out of the wedlock.

Another point made was that Baby Hatches promote westernization! Point taken. Everything bad that is happening in this country is because of people aping their western counterparts. You hate the west. That's why you write in bad, broken English. Bah! Humbug!

Sage: Cherry Fruit with Almond Tartlet and Milk Ice Cream. If I had to run an extra 10kms to burn off the extra calories from this dish, it was still worth it. A perfect example of what can be done with the warm and cold, instead of that usual chocolate fondant or brownies with ice cream.

In case you think that this Android is Anti-Religion, he is not. I have accepted (a far better word than tolerance, which I learned is a basis for race relations in Malaysia during General Paper class in Form Six. Tolerance. Like I tolerate an Ah Beng Playing Modern Talking loudly and blasting it from his stationary car. I felt like strangulating him, but tolerated him) that some people seek solace and moral compass from it. All I ask for is a bit of rationality. After all, the heart of any religion is Peace and Love, and the majority of the followers can attest to that. Do not let the minority of Hatemongers make the loudest voice and get away with murder.

The philosophical rationalization of Morality can never be perfect. Let me try to illustrate this with an example.

What do you do when you 7 year old child utters the F word? How do you explain to him that it is wrong?

Kant's Categorical imperative is of no use here. To put this very, very, simply (but is actually more complicated than this), the Categorical Imperative is like asking the question what if everybody does it? Everybody does use the F word, rappers, comedians, Hollywwood Stars and Uncle Gregory is a big fan. And the world did not destruct in a ball of flame. Yet. So, that does not apply here.

Mill's Utilitarianism, might be helpful. And again in a nutshell, an action is moral because it produces the greatest amount of pleasure for the most number of people. In this case, Daddy will not get angry and the child don't get whacked. Everybody happy. But still, it still does not explain why uttering the F word is wrong.

Well, the easiest way is to say that God does not like children who use the F word. End of story. No brain racking, no thinking necessary. A slight problem here. Uncle Gregory is an atheist.

Don't look at me for answers because I have none. Until a child is born with remote controlled mufflers or silencers or I can explain to them why uttering the F word is wrong, I will just sleep with my Murakami, thank you very much.

Mascarpone Ice Cream with Espresso jelly and Tuille. Rather lacklustre when compared to Sage's Dessert this week, but not at all bad. Less adventurous and a "safe" offering on the menu.

Now, comes the hardest part. How can you compare the lunches at Sage and Cilantro. I have been asked this a few times since last Friday. The answer is you can't. Cilantro is more opulent, the emphasis is on the ingredients and it comes at a slightly higher price. Sage is more accessible, but the items in the lunch menu is still wonderful and is still a bargain.

Both places are still overseen by Chef Takashi, but the day to day operations at Sage is helmed by the wonderful and friendly Chef Daniel.

The Poster Girl for Cilantro, the ever graceful and elegant international food and travel blogger, Ciki.

This post was inspired by some twittering between me and Fatboybakes about The Haiti Quake Relief. If you wish to help, info can be obtained here.

This post was created with the hope of stimulating some thoughts about ethics and how it affects our day to day life, how everything we do affects other people as well, and how it may be possible to marry metaphysical elements in ethics with some form rationality. Nothing is ever so simple as a yes or no or a good or bad.

Spread the Message of love, empower yourself with reason and hope for a better world.


Ciki was the first to note the Kafka and Murakami picture above and link it to this post. The book, Kafka on the shore is a modern day Oedipal Greek Tragedy in which a 15 year old boy, Kafka Tamura finds comfort and shelter in a library and the story runs parallel with the life of Sotoru Nakata, a boy wakes up from a long coma with loss of his higher intellectual faculty which was replaced by an ability to speak to cats.

Of course Franz Kafka himself with his existentialist angst, the story of an individual's absurd struggle against an unknown,powerful yet oppressive force. His novels and Kant's philosophical writings were the inspiration for me to learn the German language. Kafka is a disturbing read and the claustrophobia and language play enthrall for hours and puts me in a sombre mood for days.

What a clever girl and a sharp eye!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Spectacular, Figuliar Lunch at Prego, Westin. Jalan Bukit Bintang, KL.

(no pork served, but be prepared for some Porn and Cheekiness below)

Left: Olive Oil (sans popeye) dispenser Right: The glorious roasted figs, drenched in Gorgonzola.

It has been a long time since I blogged properly about food, and had been driveling about boring little things that occupy my mind. Since the beginning of this year, I have been trying to be more objective about food and restaurants, and have tried to visit an establishment at least twice before offering my thoughts about that joint. Hence, an unhealthy backlog of photos and restaurants that are to be posted in this blog.

I am going to bend the rules a bit this time. I have been to Prego once, and it has impressed me. I have been avoiding Italian food for a bit of time, because, invariably I would be served some banal copy of Italian food. I shall not go into the details of how deceptively simple Italian cuisine is and how dependent it is on proper ingredients to bring out it's regional nuances, from the richer Northern cuisine to the more spartan, yet earthy Southern brothers. You guys probably know more about Italian Food than I do.

From Top left: 1. Bread and Tomato based dip. 2. The excellent Ravioli flying off the plate into my mouth. 3. What's a Fig without a cork? 4. The Corkless Roasted Fig, in blooming detail. 5. The Stage with it's wood fired oven.

When I first read about the new menu at Prego's from EatDrinkKL Sean's blog, I knew I had to try it at Prego. My last visit to Prego was menu moons ago, a previous reincarnation of the restaurant with a different chef. It did not impress me much and I did not return. I was a little bit skeptical about what I was going to be served there, and roped in 2 other friends as well.

Located directly opposite Pavilion (Prada enterance) means that it is a breeze to find. The ambient noise level is quite high and they have an open kitchen and two levels. Decor is modern and chic.

What the fig? The Paranoid Android is mad about this dissected Roasted Fig.

What do you get when you marry juicy, succulent and sweet figs from Brazil with salty, pungent Gorgonzola cheese? A match made in heaven. The figs had been roasted in a wood fired oven and the smokiness gave the figs a beautiful heady aroma that persisted and played with the beautifully pungent goat cheese. If there is a reason to visit Prego, it would be for this alone. We ordered two plates. If you never gave a fig about figs, it's time you did. Forget about the Fig Newtony Figs with that cloying stickiness. Fig the Crystallized Figs. Fresh Figs are the way to go, and hopefully, for here to stay.

The Beetroot Ravioli with the latest lip colours from Chanel and two feet on the ground. A sensible one, I say.

The Ravioli con Barbabietola e Ricotta was amazingly palatable as well. It differs from the version at Nerovivo which is boiled and served with beef cheeks. This was plain, the beetroot retaining it's granularity and blended in with Ricotta and probably some parmesan as well. The texture was commendable with a slightly crunchy Ravioli skin. It was served with some Poppy Seeds and pepper sprinkled on top, and some fried basil. The smoked Ricotta was firm, slightly "elastic" and very, very milky and rich. A very beautiful variation and departure from the usual run of the mill and soggy Ravioli.

Playing peek a boo with Cornelia the Calzone showing her knickers. Hardly La Senza. Zucchinis and Artichokes are already bland and humourless characters. Perhaps some adjustment to the seasoning is required to spice up their life?

The Calzone Bomba smelled lie a dream when it arrived at our table. This foldable/portable Pizza had a wood fired thin pizza skin like inflated crust which was slightly chewy, yet crisp. It was stuffed with Turkey Ham, Artichokes, Zucchini, Pesto Sauce, Tomatoes, Basil and Mozarella. Unfortunately the filling was a little bit too bland, and the Pesto/Basil was almost undetectable. Don't get me wrong, it was still a good Calzone, but being an old fusspot, it was just not spectacular.

The Banfi Estate is actually owned by American Itailans. This is good, but my favourites are still Poggio Antico and Il Poggione. Have not tasted the legendary Biondi Santi before.

Special mention must be made on the wine we tasted (we had a Long Creek Merlot). The Castello Banfi 2004 Brunello di Montalcino. Unlike the Chiantis or Super Tuscans, it is made from 100% Sangiovese grown in Montalcino (which is a DOCG district in wine snooty talk). The Banfi we tasted had a dark cherry red colour, with an opening nose of currants and berries. This crisp tasting wine has medium longevity and besides the usual notes tasted slightly herbacious which may be off putting to new world wine lovers. The notes can be slightly elusive and furtive due to it's relative youth and the tanins are well controlled.

From Top Left: 1. The poor fig after a botched boob job by me. 2. The Calzone puffing up in self importance like a dratted politician. 3. Miss Ravioli before Chanel 4. I am crafty. Posting here hoping that nobody will read it, but I need to have an outlet for emotional catharsis. The weakest link in the meal was the dessert. This Tiramisu was ahem... 5. The Gelato with Biscotti was ahem ahem ahem... Maybe they need to look into dessert menu.

Overall, it was a good lunch with the food exceeding my expectations. Service is efficient but hardly stellar until the arrival of the Restaurant Manager whose hospitality and efficiency immediately put us at ease. Prices were reasonable taking into account the food they served.

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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