Monday, August 30, 2010

Bibo, Bibire, Bibi, Bibitus. Bibitus, Changkat Bukit Bintang, KL.

(no pork served)

Interior of Bibitus

No, I have not gone mad. All the words are the root verbs of to drink in Latin. Hence Imbibe, Bibatious and Bibacity (as opposed to Babe in the City) are all etymologically derived from Bibi. Housed within the Frangipani restaurant is Bibitus which actually a wine retail shop that serves only lunch. Those who are familiar with Frangipani's severe and almost intimidating Neo-Grecian interior with a reflecting pool inside will be surprised with the more spartan but very welcoming interior of Bibitus.

There are 3 normal dining tables and 2 high tables with high chairs making reservations highly recommended. I am doubtful that they allow seating in the main Frangipani dining area even if it is filled up.

Patrons who buy wine from Bibitus will not be charged corkage if it is consumed within it's premises. Drinkers at Frangipani will be charged RM 50. Although the range of Artisanal French wines is not extensive it is still fairly interesting, especially the ones from Rhone.

Creamy Mushroom served on Brioche Toast

There is a choice of 3 starters, mains and dessert. Bearing in mind that this is only their lunch menu, the choices are safe and rather pedestrian to facilitate faster turnover time. Nothing that would launch a foodie into the stratosphere. There are some rather innovative twists to the food and despite the apparent playing down of French influences of it's elder sister Frangipani, it was cleverly made up for by some Asian touches as a recurring theme.

Smoked Duck Salad with Lemon Ginger Dressing

Among all the starters we had, the one that displayed the French roots of Bibitus would be The Creamy Mushroom on Brioche Toast. The Brioche was richly buttered and the mushrooms caressed lovingly in creamy sauce. The ensemble was a worthy homage to the beautiful earthy savouriness of the mushrooms. The Smoked Duck Salad was drizzled with some slightly tart lemon ginger dressing. Besides the usual salad vegetables, capers were tossed with the salad and added a touch of finesse. The Leek Potato soup was slightly watery but exuded lively flavours and the crispy duck bacon were like little savoury croutons that dotted the surface which added exuberance to the soup.

Pan fried Sirloin Steak with Chips, Salad and Garlic Butter

The mains fared less well, as they tried to hard to prove it's worth in salt. My Chicken Escalope was buttery soft but came doused with cringe inducing salty Creamy Sauce. Even the Potatoes were extra salty and felt like they have been marinated in brine before roasting. The saltiness did not flatter the beautiful texture of both the potatoes and chicken. The Teriyaki Style snapper was less salty, probably tempered down by the sweetish Teriyaki Sauce. The best dish would have to be the Pan Fried Sirloin Steak which remained moist and succulent despite being pan fried. It was served with regular chips and not the multivaried double fried pommes frites. The melting slab of Garlic Butter on top of the steak was deliciously aromatic and suspiciously oriental.

Diners who are watching their Sodium intake would do better to order the dishes unsalted and DIY.

Creamy Chicken Escalope with Roast Potatoes and Mushroom.

Desserts were delightfully indulgent despite the Chocolate Mousse that was served at the wrong temperature rendering the consistency to be less airy/foamy but hard. It tasted much better after letting it thaw for a short while. The Creme Brulee had a beautiful burnt flavour to it despite it's firmness and the surprise of the day would be the Spiced Coconut Pudding.

Creme Brulee

The Coconut pudding came in brown, and tasted a bit jarring at the first bite as if something had gone horribly wrong, but once the palate was enveloped with the heady aroma Cinnamon, Cloves or maybe Star Anise (?), it became a heady concoction. Never cloying with balanced sweetness this beautiful pudding was both seductive and confidently arrogant, like a beautiful brown Princess from the Spice Islands. It was mesmerizing. One whinny grouse is that both the Creme Brulee and the beautiful Coconut Pudding were served in stainless steel bowls. I am sure there are more attractive ways to serve their dessert.

Random shots of Bibitus with one of the beautiful reflection pool of Frangipani during the day.

This little charming wine shop/bar cum restaurant is a welcome addition to the lunch scene in Central KL. Despite the heavy handedness with salt in the mains which is easily correctable, it has a rather attractive, down to earth menu. Lunch is priced at RM 55++. Other venues with the same price range would be Nerovivo which (I heard) has a great antipasti selection but comes with the inconvenience of a buffet set up. Lafite's 3 courses lunch costs RM78++ comes with more imaginative dishes, and would be posted here as soon as I go back there again for dinner.

The ambiance is highly conducive for conversation and the very civilized lunch crowd there rendered the conversational background to a murmur. Music was some modern chansons and light classical and I thought Debussy's "Devant le ciel d'ete, tiede et calme" being sung to a beautiful piano accompaniment makes a beautiful lunch companion. My lunch company was to convivial for me to remember the music correctly.

We were seated near the reception counter and I nearly jumped out of my skin when the phone rang because the ringing tone of the restaurant's phone at the counter was much too loud. Perhaps a good cordless phone would probably benefit both the customer and the serving staff.

Something that requires special mention would be the serving staff. There was only one on duty the day we went for lunch and he did an admirable job. He puts any window operating system to shame as he redefined the term multitasking. He remained efficient, calm, amiable and enthusiastic despite playing the role of waiter, receptionist and wine retail staff. Furthermore, he also received some goods for the kitchen at the same time he was serving lunch to 3 tables.

If this short post has inspired you to take up Latin (a very dead language but extremely useful if you want to sound like a posh snoot, and extremely invaluable if interested in Roman History and Philosophy) I have dug up a few selections for you. "Wheelock's Latin" is the authoritative text for college students doing Latin. The answer book to the exercises are sold separately. A beautiful primary reader would be MacMillian's "Beginning Latin Poetry Reader", with poetry by Ovid and Seneca. A different approach to learning Latin which in my opinion is fairly innovative would be the Latin via Ovid series which teaches the language by using texts from Ovid. Lazy bums who want to take a short cut will love "Latin for all occasions" which has a very useful list of rib tickling insults and curses.

Bibitus at Frangipani
25, Changkat Bukit Bintang
50200 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: + 60 3 21 44 30 01

Lunches 12 noon to 2.30PM. Closed on Mondays.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Hunter In The Suburbs. Restoran Richwell, Section 19, PJ.

(non halal)


Lucky life isn't one long string of horrors
and there are moments of peace, and pleasure, as I lie in between the blows. - Gerald Stern, Lucky Life.

Memories are amazing things. Fleeting, always changing, ever evolving, elusive, fickle. Sometimes we are unable to recall in detail what had been a good time for us and evoked so much happiness and laughter. What was the actual conversation about? We seem to amplify the memories of tragedies that befall us, but yet memories of good times are usually watered down with loss of details but just a warm, fuzzy memory associating a particular person or event with good memories.

"Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose." - The Wonder years

Perhaps one of the reasons why I continue to forage for food in the sprawling urban jungle of KL and very occasionally into the suburbs as well is most of the good memories I have are related to food. Being an intrinsic Asian thing, food is associated with happiness, companionship and love. Gustatory Memory comes second to olfactory memory in leaving lasting impressions in the brain. Restaurants and food are places that most people seek solace as thew rest in between life's blows.

Fatt Theu Cheong ~ Buddha Jumped Over The Wall

Unlike the hunters of yester-years, the modern foodie is equipped with a GPS, bankcards and credit cards, mobile phones as he makes his way through the urban jungle. Being a blogger, he too has to carry a camera as his hunting companion. I do not consider editing my pictures and a short write up to be a chore that comes with certain self entitlement and recognition, but just a chance to share with you what little gems my forays into the gastronomical world may unearth. Unfortunately, you have to bear the pain of suffering from my ramblings which usually is not related to food at all.

I had read about Richwell from other luminaries in the food blogging circle in Malaysia, and had been dying to try it out. My first impression of the place was that it was rather kitschy and the decor had a dated, sad feeling to it, despite it being open for less than a year. The Chef, Ah Yau, had a long and illustrious history with Teochew Restaurant in Pudu, which was the place for dim sum in the 80's and 90's. I was pleasantly surprised with the food.

Braised Chicken in Three Wines

I do not usually blog about Chinese food. Simple down too earth Chinese food with reasonable prices and above average taste and can be found in almost any neighbourhood in KL. As with simple western fare. It is the exceptionally good ones that demand attention and the effort put in to drive across town in heavy traffic and suffer the indignity of circling around looking for a parking space in the badly planned townships where town planners assume that humans are born with wings and can fly to their destination without any means of transportation.

Richwell is one of he exceptional ones. The Fatt Theu Cheong (Buddha Jumps Over The Wall) is a beautifully rich clear broth that probably has seen the superior stock sitting for many hours in the stock pot. Prepared in the traditional style, it contained dried abalone, dried scallops, fish stomach and black chicken as part of the ingredients. It was simply divine.

Sauteed Lotus Root and Celery

The braised chicken in three wines was lifted out of mediocrity by the beautifully fragrant rice wine and the epiphanic inclusion of Mint Leaves. It is a very clever innovation by the chef because it added an extra dimension of fragrance which will greet you the moment the lid is lifted from the claypot.

The Sauteed Lotus Root with Celery was delectably crunchy, especially with the addition of water chestnuts, leek, french peas and asparagus which was lightly sauteed and then starched. Some almond flakes sprinkled on top for some textural contrast. How all these crunchy yet usually bland ingredients can be rendered flavourful bears testament the skill of the chef.

Sang Har Meen ~ Prawn Noodles

The Sang Har Meen or Prawn Noodles came with mutant prawns the size of a baby's fist, swimming in delectably rich roe which anchored the flavour of the slightly crunchy "made in house" noodles. The sauce was slightly starchy and satiating, but did not adversely affect this dish.

Roasted Pigeon

The Roasted pigeon was meaty and beautifully succulent after being marinated in wine and the flesh tender and smokey. The miraculous thing about the pigeon was the skin was beautifully crunchy as well. It was served as an appetizer and I felt it rivaled the Roast Pigeon at Shatin amd Dai Wai in Hong Kong. No time for formalities and untensils here, as a finger bowl was provided.

Fish Maw

The fish maw used in the Braised fish maw with dried beancurd was excellent. Unlike the insipid, low quality fish maw, this one was beautifully soft and retained some fish flavours. We devoured each morsel with pleasure and sighs of contentment.

Tung Po Pork

The Tung Po Pork was soft enough to put a grin on an edentulous octogenarian. It came soaked in a thick caramely sauce and was served with some rice crackers. I am not a big fan of Pork, especially park with lard. But my dining companions seemed to enjoy it very much.

Fruit Platter

We also had the Thai Style Pak Choi which came lightly sauteed with onions and chillis and drizzled with squeezed lemon. It was too tart and sour, rather unlike the Thai Style Salads which I am accustomed to.

Clockwise from top left: 1. Marian 2. Signboard 3. Ciki 4. Cumi

Dessert wasn't too spectacular, a yam paste mooncake with salted egg yolks. On another occasion, I tried the fried waterchestnut with corn which fared much better. But then again, desserts are usually an afterthought in Chinese restaurants.

If you happen to be there, do try their Lo Hon Go juice which was really beautiful flavoured (their lo hon go is imported from Taiwan) or the Pomelo Juice which was refreshing.

Clockwise from top left: 1. Patin Fish 2. Signboard 3. Mooncake with Yam 4. Thai Style Bak Choy

Be prepared to spen about RM70 to RM100 if you are goung to splurge on Prawns and maybe more if you are ordering some fancy fish. Otherwise, RM 50 to 70 will buy you an excellent dinner. Service is is extremely pleasant and the staff very helpful. The menu comes translated in English and I found the Chef to be very affable and friendly, which is rather rare in a Chinese restaurant.

Restaurant Richwell
24G & 26G, Jalan 19/3
Petaling Jaya

Tel: 03-7955 5855

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Wisdom of My Grandmother. Restoran Kari Kepala Ikan Pudu, Jalan Cerapu, Cheras, KL.

(non halal)

Firstly some hilarious news. PAS Youth Wing head, Nasrudin Hassan has commented that New Year Celebrations and Valentine's Day celebrations are contributing to the high rates of baby dumping during the months of July to September. He has mentioned that "Western" celebrations expose the youths to alcohol and indecent sexual behaviour. All I gotta say to him is to look at the gestational calendar below, and Google which public holiday season it was at the end of September, 2009 in Malaysia. He is definitely not MENSA material and I am sure that somewhere in Religious Texts, there should be something about bearing false witness. I am not sure how he came to this correlation, and do not expect him to have attended courses in Basic Epistemology. Scary isn't it, that this kind of people might actually govern us one day.

My grandmother would have said "Opening your mouth to bite your own tongue". Sometimes it is better to keep quiet.

She was neither a leader in the geriatric wing of a Political Party nor well versed in any religious text, just a simple FOB from China.

Gestational Calendar.

Leong Yik. I have only seen my paternal grandmother write two words in her life, when she needs to sign some forms. Written in a squiggly, childish scrawl, in Chinese characters. She was unschooled, unable to speak any other languages except for Cantonese and a very "kampung form of Cantonese" known as Sei Yap. I have never met my paternal grandfather before. He died young, and left grandma a widow with 9 kids. My father dropped out of school to help take care of his younger siblings.

Despite being uneducated, she is adamant that her children get educated. Among my Uncles and Aunts, the youngest few are the luckiest because they were able to secure tertiary education. The eldest 5 could just completed high school. Scholarship was traditional Chinese style, brother sister scholarship.

My grandmother did not head any big business conglomerate, she held 0.00% equity in Malaysia's economic pie. When she passed away at the age of 96, all she had were a pair of diamond ear rings her children gave her, some jade bangles, some gold chains and a hoard of children and grandchildren spread across the continents to mourn her loss. She was a contented woman, and wanted nothing more than to see her children and grandchildren happy and contented as well.

Restoran Kari Kepala Ikan Pudu whips up very traditional home cooked like Chinese dishes filled with "wok hei". Simple Kailan fried with Garlic. Grandma would have loved this, but would need her false teeth to chew this.

Grandma was a simple woman. It took very little to make her happy. Her edentulous, beaming smile was always a beautiful sight to behold. She was frugal and made do with what she has without complaining. She would often scrape the bottom of the rice pot so as not to waste the rice. With some eggs, dried cuttlefish and veges, she would be able to whip up a beautiful meal. She cooked with love and with passion. Nothing satisfy her more than to see her grandchildren finishing up the dishes and rice and grow up to be healthy and strong.

She wasn't a Michelin Chef.

Taugeh Fried with Salted Fish. Another simple dish that is cooked at home but beautifully executed here. Not too salty and lightly peppered. Grandma loved Salted fish and calls int "Ham-Ngooi". She took it only occasionally.

She always loved cooking simple dishes, and a meal for her must include some soup, vegetables, and some lean meat or fish. Cooked simply and healthily. She indulges in "rich" food once a week on Sundays when our family has a "cook in session" where Aunts will gather in the kitchen to cook some Curry Noodles, Curried Chicken or Fried Meat. She avoids all form of red meat. Despite suffering from Diabetes and TB in the later years of life, she remained healthy until she was about 90, when she broke her hip after a fall.

Throughout her life until her final few years, she got treatment from the Government Hospital and took her medications religiously. Neighbours and relatives will often pester her to take some supplements or herbal cure but she never succumbed to their entreatments that "Western Medication" and the treatment that Junior Doctors of various races in the hospital offer low quality medical care that will harm her more than cure her. After they leave, she will cackle and say to me, "Quacks! Just because they know a few more words than me, they think they are doctors. If all the diseases in the world were cured by some mushrooms, the hospitals would have closed down. Government doctors are paid to help sick people. These supplements peddlers get paid when they sell me stuff."

She never studied predicate logic.

Their "Koo Lou Yoke" is good here too. Sweet and Sour Pork. The Batter is crispy and the sauce has a delightful tinge of sourness. Grandma's favourite when she got to dine outside.

When my Sam Sook (Third Uncle) made some money from a night job, he bought a Television set for grandma. Those days TV sets are a rarity in the East Coast. Only one other house had a TV within the cluster of 7 homes where we used to live. In the evenings, a few of the neighborhood children would come to our house to watch TV. My third aunt is rather concerned about having strange children in the house and often locked the doors before switching on the TV.

My grandmother stopped her from doing that. "People will get jealous and hate us for not sharing especially if they are from a different from us," she said. "It does not matter that your brother had to keep two jobs to buy me the TV, but other people will say that we have a TV and they don't. If we don't share, they will make up a lot of excuses hate us. Such is the nature of humans."

She was never a Yale Law Professor that is admired by some loud rightist group with limited vocabulary.

"Fu Yee Yau Mak". Fu yee is fermented bean curd. Another favourite of my grandma, who liked to take Fu Yee with porridge.

I have never understood the obsession about Amy Chua. Maybe a quote from the book lifted from wiki will help put things into perspective. Also, "overnight democracy will empower the poor, indigenous majority. What happens is that under those circumstances, democracy doesn't do what we expect it to do -- that is, reinforce markets. [Instead,] democracy leads to the emergence of manipulative politicians and demagogues who find that the best way to get votes is by scapegoating the minorities."

In other words, the threat is actually from the politicians and not from the income disparity alone. Racism.

Ethnic clashes may have arisen due to uneven distribution of wealth, but governments have been overthrown when they were perceived to be unjust and oppressive. Especially there is a great disparity of income between those in power and yet the citizens were living in hardship. French and Russian revolution are examples.

Steamed Range Fed Chicken. My Grandma used to cook this during feast days and New Year. The chicken had to be slaughtered at home. No frozen Chicken for her.

We used to have Chinese language lessons on Saturdays in School. The teachers from Chinese schools are as alien to me as a Masai Warrior in my school. Coming from a background in Malay medium school, I found my Chinese Language teacher, Mrs. Ding to be a humourless, anal retentive old fart who was very liberal with the measuring ruler. Learning was by rote, and the writing had to follow prescribed strokes. For a scatter brained and playful child that I was, it was two hours of hell every week. We chanted the same pages from the textbook the whole year (to her credit, I can still chant the first few pages). I played hookie after a few months and refused to attend the Chinese Language classes. My Mother raised a big ruckus.

Claypot Curry. Despite the name of the Restaurant, this was my least favourite dish. Lovers of the sourish tamarind laced curry with traditional Bunga Kantan and Daun Kesom will not apprecaite this heavy version with Coconut Milk.

It was Grandma who rescued my ass from being splayed by the whipping cane. My hysterical Mum was going on and on about how I will not be Chinese by not knowing Chinese Characters and Mandarin. My Grandma retorted that she does not know how to read and write, and can only speak Cantonese. And how dare her daughter in law imply that she is not Chinese? Case closed.

A few afternoons later she said to me, "You are now Malaysian, and the most important thing is to learn things that will equip you with skills and languages that will help you survive in this country and be a useful man. Being Chinese is not being able to recite Confucius by memory like an ancient scholar and show it off occasionally. There is nothing great about being a parrot. Being Chinese is the ability to weather any storm unscathed and being resilient. Throughout history the Chinese has been oppressed by the Chinese, the Mongols, the Manchus and the Caucasians but somehow survived and manage to do well."

She was never a Chinese Educationist.

Sambal Prawns. Malaysian Chinese Fusion Dish. How I wished our leaders work hard and unite against Racism. Their silence in this matter is deafening. We seem to have more breakers than makers.

There you are, a little snippet about my grandma. An uneducated woman from China, widowed at a very young age, with a child like logic and very strong disposition. If I were asked to give up all my meals at Fine Dining restaurants to be able to go back in time to taste her cooking one more time, I will do it. To chat with her for an afternoon while she sits on her Lazy chair listening to her Cantonese Opera (her entire collection was about 15 vinyls) would placate my restless spirit. I would love listen to her reminding me of frugality and hard work again, to be modest and considerate, with random tales from the China she grew up in and the hardships she had to endure. She used to say how life was so much better here compared to China, and how we should grow up to be useful citizens. How we should be patient even through tough times.

How it is so difficult to make something and how easy it is to break things.

I cannot boast of a Grandmother who flies to London and Hong Kong to have meals in the poshest restaurants. Neither did she stay in Million Dollar Mansions with drivers and posh object d'art in the house bearing expensive gifts. The most expensive gift she gave me were her little pearls of child like wisdom. I wished I appreciated her more and followed her advice to the letter. It would have saved me a lot of distress.

Thank you Sky, for reminding me that a great chef can whip up a beautiful dish with just an egg and some rice, because I immediately thought of my Grandma who fed me during those lean years.

Restoran Kari Kepala Ikan Pudu,
9G, Jalan Cerapu,
Off Jalan Cheras,
Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lunching in the City for less than RM 30. Max@iHaus, Jalan Imbi, KL.

(no pork served)

It is still possible to get tasty and good food in KL for less than RM30 for lunch. Max offers a free drink (iced lemon tea) a choice of Starters and Mains for RM 25++

I was looking back at my previous posts and discovered that I have only started blogging just over a year ago. This means I have known my regular makan kakis for just over a year. It is strange that time flies so fast I feel that I have known them forever. Ciki plucked me out of the unknown and from then on, she and her friends have become almost a permanent fixture in my life.

I am shy, painfully shy. Introverted. I sometime imagine myself to be a XY version of Amelie from Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain, stuck in my little cloistered make believe world and amusing myself with tall stories weaved out of fantasy. Some of the readers here would have caught glimpses of my mad musings from some previous posts.

Choose between this Marinated Feta Cheese Salad with Olives and raspberry Vinaigrette or Pumpkin Soup with Caneloni Beans

I am actually intrigued by the current 1 Malaysia campaign. I have always thought that there is only 1 Malaysia, because as far as I and my friends are concerned we do not go about our daily activities thinking that we belong to any particular race. Nor do we go around classifying our friends according to their races. The only time the subject of race or rather, religion pops up is when we have to choose a place to dine when we have to be sensitive to the restrictions certain religions impose.

Probably I am shielded from the harsh realities of racism by the urbane milleu that I often keep, but my best friend is a Malay. Both of us share a resentment of the polemics of race, especially used by an oppressive Government who remains to stay in power by constantly satisfying the lust for money and obscene wealth by it's power base. If the lazy mind is the playground of the devil, it is exemplified by the proponents of racial superiority.

For mains last week, there was a choice of Charbroiled Chicken Chop with Chardonnay Rosemary Sauce

If there is one thing that I have learnt from my blogging friends is acceptance. I have to admit I am probably slightly eccentric, and may not be the best company for a meal. I can hardly recall how many sentences I uttered during my first encounter with the bloggers at Sri Nirwana Bangsar. Despite my awkwardness and shyness, Ciki, with her big and open heart persisted in asking me out for meals with her friends.

I never had to hide the fact that I am an atheist, I have never got to be embarrassed about being a total moron when it comes to directions or the fact that I read the most inane and boring books ever written. And they respect my fear of being photographed and my dislike for big crowds and loud noises. I could just be my own morbid, neurotic self.

or, Oven Baked Butterfish with Thyme Jus and Sauteed Potatoes.

There is no time for the Germanic tradition of differentiating between friends of acquaintances. I had to leave formalities aside and not worry about using Du or Sie. I can hardly believe that we have only known each other for about a year or so. Food sessions are greeted with warm hugs and absence from twitter are peppered with "I miss you" or "are you still alive?" messages. And again, the absence of discussion about race during our meet ups.

or, Smoked ducked Breast with Olio Spaghetti.

We live in a country that is filled with ambiguities and paradoxes. A PhD holder which in any other country in the world be considered an ethnic Chinese who professes the Islamic faith has jumped into the racial polemics of asking immigrants to go home. The funny thing about this country is that I am constantly reminded of my ethnicity in my homeland. In Germany I will be known as an Auslander, in Thailand a Malaysian but in Malaysia, I am a Chinese. Ethnicity and Nationality are two different things.

You will have to add another RM 14 to 22 for dessert, and pay extra for coffee.

But thankfully, among the food bloggers, I am known as the Paranoid Android, not the Chinese Android, but an eccentric Malaysian who loves food.

These bloggers are priceless and not for sale.

Thank you, dear friends for your acceptance and for you friendships. Missing for lunch are @llemongrass, @nigelskelchy, @minchow, @boo_licious, @j_chocoholic, @unkaleong, @wackybecky, @lotsofcravings, @seanyoong

Lot No 32 Jalan Jati
Off Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur

TEL 603 2142 9720

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pâté en Croûte.

(no pork served)

Things have been a little crazy lately, and after a relatively leisurely week it is madness again. Just a quick post on Sage's lunch menu this week. You may say I am obsessed with Sage's lunch. I am. Unlike a lot of other places in town, Sage's lunch menu is not an afterthought. Sometimes I question the rationality of some restaurants who limit the chef's creativity for lunch, citing turnover time as a reason. With a carefully thought out menu, lunch can be very exciting and fast. I have enough pictures for another 15 posts for lunch, but never got around posting it because the menu is just average. Some day, I may get around doing it, maybe do a comparative post or something.

I try to avoid heavy dinners for health reasons, unless I am out entertaining or be entertained. Dinners at home are usually bland rabbit food or occasionally, dai chow with lots of veges. Lunches are usually more indulgent and this week's menu at Sage was just that.

Their Konbu Bavarois with Hokkaido Scallops was a piece of dream in the form of wobbly jelly. The humble kelp that is used for dashi soup base is transformed into a piece of gelatinous blob that epitomized smoothness and creativity. Served with lightly seared scallops, caviar, a dash of soya and mirin, now you can eat your soup and get transported to heaven during the brief lunch hour.

Grilled River Prawn Tagliolini was opulent. The head of the prawn is swimming in Roe. A dish that is probably inspired by Sang Har Meen, served with perfectly al dente pasta. It was a beautiful piece of gustatory dream as it was arresting visually. Loved the "butterfly" which is a piece of tempura.

When I read about the Pâté en Croûte, I knew I had to rush of to try it. The worse thing about the Rotating Menu at Sage is once you miss the week, you will have to wait for yonks again before it appears again. Traditionally, the Pâté en Croûte is served as an appetizer. The center is from minced pork, beef or even a foie terrine. Sage has decided to serve this as a main.

But Oh La la! The version at Sage is duck Pâté en Croûte. Duck lovers rejoice. This is duck heaven. Minced duck meat wrapped around a heart of Duck Foie, baked in Pastry dough and frangranced with some corriander and served with a side of Mesculun and Foie. My heart was doing the tango while taking photos of this. What a beautiful creation in contrast to last week's stodgy grilled Angus.

It looks like a mooncake with duck liver in the centre instead of duck yolk, duck meat instead of lotus paste!

Cilantro serves this (entree portion) only at RM78++. Grab the full portion this week at Sage as part of the RM100 set lunch.

Their dessert of Spanish Melon, with Honeydew Sorbet and White Wine Jelly was nothing to go crazy about, but still a lovely end to another perfect lunch.

By the way, I am not paid by Sage to do their promotions. Even if they decide to "enggage" a blogger, it wouldn't be a nobody like me. I just love their effort in making lunch so lovely, a welcome break from the tedium work. And of course the food there is almost pornographic. The ultimate erotica imagery for me would be Marion Cotillard in a Cat Suit with Sage's Tuna Carpaccio still stuck on her whiskers.

Ta's and remember, this is only until Friday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fusion or Confusion? Fusion Cuisine in Perspective.

First of all, apologies for not being totally forthright with my previous post. Being a food blogger is rather perilous nowadays. Not only do we have to be careful of the sensitivities of the Restaurant owner and the Chef. We also have a responsibility to our fellow bloggers, giving everybody a bad rap may bring a wave of repercussions which includes banning of photography in restaurants or just simply being bad mouthed. That is why in most food blogs, the comments on the food tend to be a little bit restrained. Maybe years of living under the benevolence if an Omnipotent and Omniscient Government has subjugated us into docility. I practice rigorous self censorship, of which I am never proud of.

Well, here goes. To me, the Wagyu Beef Carpaccio doused in mayo, was a complete disaster. I am unable to comprehend why a perfectly good cut of meat, beautifully seared and succulent must have it's beautifully natural taste obscured by some cheap MSG tinged mayonnaise? Can you ever imagine having Foie with Chilli Sauce? It just does not make sense to me. It's like getting to boink Angelina Jolie and insist that she remains clothed all the time in some Sungai Wang Trollop's attire. Reeks of some cheap obsession with polyester.

One of the passages from Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook states: "Another source of pleasure in cooking is respect for food. To under-cook a lobster, and send it to a customer, and have him send it back, is not only a waste of the lobster and all those involved in it's life, it is a waste of the potential of pleasing that customer. Respect for food is a respect for life, for who we are and what we do." What a beautiful passage. To think of food as a funeral rite for the animal, an elaborate ceremony that ends up satisfying our lust for delicious food. It does put things into perspective.

I know it is hard to imagine an altruistic Wagyu Cattle which chose to sacrifice it's own life for the sake of nourishing humans after a relatively short existence in luxury compared to it's more plebeian cousins. What ever it is, a life was still sacrificed and in this case, in vain. Ditto with the Yellowtail Carpaccio. The natural taste of the fish had been obscured by the over powering garlic and they have just discovered a new way of desecrating dead oysters.

Capraccio of Hiramasa with Smoked Ikura Roe and Herbs, Sage.
At the risk of sounding like a pompous prick, this worked. Simple reason. No mayonnaise, the white stuff is light sour cream foam with lime, lightly drizzled with Oba Vinaigrette. All complementing faultlessly to the beautiful cut of Hiramasa, and never overpowering it.

I am not a purist. Two of my favourite restaurants serve French-Japanese Fusion. So, am I being a hypocritical, two faced elitist when I lambasted the food at the previous eatery? Some things have no reason to be together. Like Ibrahim Ali and Nobel Prize winners for instance. Or Expensive, beautiful cuts with ingredients that overwhelm rather than to enhance the enjoyment. The resulting gustatory nightmare can never be pleasant.

Good Fusion Cooking is the masterful and propitious blending of different ingredients and cooking techniques from different parts of the world. It is not throwing together ingredients like confetti at a wedding and hoping for the best.

Parmesan Coated Asparagus with Egg Mollet, Sage.
An obvious play on Tempura. Imagine a thin, light coat of Tempura flour, slightly seasoned with cheese. Beautifully fried till crispy and not oil sogged. A side of Truffle Sauce, thickened with semi cooked egg white with a wobbly half cooked yolk. Genius.

I love Thomas Keller's philosophy of cooking and food. The opening passage of his "French Laundry Cookbook" begins with, "When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: To make people happy. That's what cooking is all about."

I know it is impossible to satisfy everybody, and most restaurants will take the shortcut to success by jumping into the fray and serving the same kind of crowd pleasing food (probably pleases the prepubescent teen hooked on J-pop and Manga more than their parents), "fusion" and soulless food. That is exactly the problem with Japanese food in KL. Try to name me a good Omakase joint? If my schedule allows, I will hopefully be able to make it to Sushi Dokoro Maeshima's reincarnation, Kapoh Muneharu at Federal Hotel soon. I hope I will be able spin a happier post from the experience.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fusion Japanese. Kin Shui Tei, Tropicana Golf Resort, PJ.

(no pork served)

Exterior of Kin Shui Tei. It is located at the Clubhouse of Tropicana Golf Resort.

I came to know about Kin Shui Tei after reading FBB's blog. I have a natural aversion to PJ. It is a nightmare for me to navigate around, because the residents are housed in similar looking houses and a perfunctory playground in the middle of a few houses. The similarity is confusing and scares me. I have only started staying in KL since July 2007 and it took me this long to grasp my way around and to learn the acronyms of the numerous highways which serve a rather redundant purpose of hastening my arrival to another bigger jam.

Thanks to SatNav, I have ventured infrequently to PJ, and am able to drive to IKEA without any incidences like hammering my GPS unit into smithereens. Or tearing out my hair in frustration. As usual, I opted to start out early in order to arrive at Tropicana Golf Resort to avoid being a pain in the neck to the rest of my dining companions.

Jumbo Salmon Skin Roll

The journey there was incident free, except for 2 wrong turns along the way. Big bungalows dot the road that lead to the Clubhouse of the Golf Resort. A few were tastefully designed, but some were a vulgar display of wealth. It felt like a competition in the schoolyard and trying to shock your friends with who can say the most obscene word and hence gain the scout's badge for being the most foul mouthed.

Maybe a different set of aesthetic principles apply to those who can afford to squander a few million Ringgits to built palatial homes. Who am I to judge anyway? But this was not the PJ I imagined to be and made a mental note to try to venture to the suburbia more often.

Fried Gingko, Picture courtesy of Splashie Boy.

The menu at Kin Shui Tei is extensive. Very ambitious and a little too comprehensive for comfort. I am usually very wary of restaurants that have a very extensive menu. Some form of sacrifice usually has to be made in order to produce an extensive menu. The interior of the Restaurant is fairly pleasant, with a view of a small Japanese inspired garden with a small fountain.

Spider Maki that was accidentally delivered to our table by mistake

The restaurant is large, with a common dining area that is sensibly partitioned for privacy. There are some private tatami rooms available too. They are well stocked with Sake and some wines. The Captains of the restaurant were fairly knowledgeable and service was prompt and efficient.

Wagyu Carpaccio

Our lunch started off with some Deep Fried Gingko. The slightly bitter sweet tasting nuts were a bit on the hard side and came lightly salted. It is very hard to go wrong with this simple dish. The next to arrive was the clear and simple Dobin Mushi, which is basically Dashi Soup, with some seafood and mushrooms thrown inside for flavour. The soup was served inside a little Dobin Pot and with a squeeze lime, the union was perfect bliss.

Oyster Teppanyaki

Absolute Japanese Cuisine Purist should stop reading at this juncture. The Jumbo Salmon Skin Maki was pleasant enough and came with a dollop of bean paste on top. The Salmon Skin was flavourful and crunchy. The Golden Roll Maki was filled with Unagi and the outer layer wrapped in Mango and Black Tobiko Roe. Both Makis were palatable enough and not offensive, but struck a rather discordant note in terms of purity of taste.

Dobin Mushi

Like wise with the Carpaccios. The Kanpachi fillets were raw and fresh, while the succulent Wagyu was lightly seared. It was served with Avocados, Mayonnaise and some oil browned garlic. A tad overwhelming, but should please for lovers of comfort food.

Golden Roll

The oysters were fresh and succulent, and came deep fried with garlic. However, the Uni Tofu was too watery and did not do justice the creaminess of Urchin Roe.

Uni Tofu

One dish that was unanimously unfavourable was the Hotategai Shuto Cream. It was an overdone, mushy, unidentifiable mess smothered in cream.

Kanpachi Carpaccio

I think we just ordered the wrong dishes here, and went overboard with the noveaux, "fusion" dishes. The ingredients were obviously fresh and well prepared in it's own way. It would be a charming place to meet and mull over business, the food is beautifully presented and is probably pleasantly palatable enough for everybody and not too obtrusive.

Hotate Gai Shotu Cream

I know I am not my usual verbose and effusive self. I would certainly give this place another go, but will stick to the Classics instead. Lunch for 4 was approximately RM400 after taxes.

Kin Shui Tei
Jalan Kelab Tropicana,
47410 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Tel: 03-78042079 / 03-78804437 ext 315

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