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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Favourite 'Cheap Eats' of 2016

After my 2016 favourite 'nice eats' list, here comes another.  This year I didn't eat at many new coffee shops partially due to the fact that I tend to patronise the same stalls/shops.  Of the few new ones that I did try, (sadly) not many were worthy, so it wasn't very difficult to come up with some my favourite 'cheap eats' of 2016.



I was introduced to this place for its breakfast options not knowing that it was actually their lunch dishes that turned out to be the better choice.  Must try dishes include the chicken rendang, curry chicken, pork curry, sambal eggs, stewed pork with eggs and sambal okra.


But the best of the lot has to be the immensely fragrant Stuffed Ikan Cencaru.  It's worth every bit of effort to get through the bones to get at the well charred meat and chilli paste stuffing! ^o^



This stall was a gem of a find for the old lady makes a really excellent Penang Otak-Otak that's different from the norm, not the thin and tiny grilled ones we're accustomed to but a big parcel of fish (in a steamed version) that you can sink your teeth into.  

She also makes a very good Glutinous Rice and the best Yam Cake I've had.  Eat that with her kick-ass chilli dip that's unlike any I've tasted before...don't say I didn't tell ya! ;)


Get your wantan noodles, flying through the air for a bit of entertainment, served with Char Siew, Siew Yoke or even Poached Chicken.


The stand-out is definitely their nicely textured house-made noodles and melt-in-your-mouth char siew.  Finish with some freshly fried, piping hot Fried Dumplings.

Golden Sun @ Kuchai Lama


Dine in comfort with fast and efficient service, but not hectic like some coffee shop-style dim sum places, with down-to-earth prices.  Variety is endless but the Steamed Char Siew Buns, Steamed Glutinous Rice, Stir-Fried Radish Cake and Fried Yam Puffs deserve special mention. 

BBQ Soon Hing @ SS2 PJ


It's the best of both worlds here...noodles or rice with any roasted meat and dim sum under the same roof.  Roasted meats (like siew yoke, char siew, roast duck or even roasted sausages) are their primary pride which you can have with either wantan mee or rice.


Their secondary offering is their dim sum selection.  Though limited in variety, there's still enough to satisfy any dim sum cravings.

Suukee Coffee @ SS2 PJ


A good mee rebus is not easy to find, more so if it's in a Chinese coffee shop.  Try the two best things here...the Teluk Intan Mee Rebus, with an exquisite potato-based gravy and totally crispy fritters, and the Hainan Bread with kaya and an artery-clogging thick cut stick of frozen butter that's sinfully delicious! ^_*

K Intan @ Sec 17 PJ


Their scrumptious Hand-made Noodles, made fresh daily without preservatives, together with their plump and juicy Soup Dumplings, is what sets them apart from other wantan mee stalls, not their char siew or siew yoke though they're still decent.

Kukus Stim Habis! @ TTDI


Come very "lapar" (hungry) to devour the Set Kukus Master Dulang on your own or share between two not-so-greedy people.  Served with their fluffy triple steamed basmathi rice, crispy and fragrant whole chicken leg and a set of four different types of sambal that's enough to make you drool.

It's all about the Bacon by Five & Two Foods


Maybe not quite a cheap eat based on the portion size but how ingenious is it to make Bacon Jam and Candied Bacon Stix.  Munching will never be the same again once you get your hands on these! ^.^

my Toast & Roast @ SS2 PJ


Prime pleasure is undoubtedly the glorious, well caramelised, smoky and half-lean-half-fat Char Siew.  But, just in case you're feeling a wee bit guilty, then eat it in smaller portions with Hakka Noodles, Wantan Mee or Rice.

And that pretty much sums up my favourite 'cheap eats' of 2016.  Here's to finding more good cheap eats in 2017...in anticipation of a not-so-good year ahead and the need to tighten our belts! :'(

Friday, 13 January 2017

Two Chefs Lab @ Bandar Mahkota Cheras

I wasn't aware that my friend's housing area was home to a terrific neighbourhood Japanese restaurant (opened in the last quarter of 2016) until I stumbled upon it around the Christmas period.

The place I'm referring to is Two Chefs Lab @ Bandar Mahkota Cheras.  From the name and the initial impression of the decor, Japanese restaurant certainly doesn't come to mind.

Looking at the decor and ambience of the place, it exudes the vibe of a western brunch cafe but the words sushi.don.coffee imprinted on the glass panel clearly gave a glimpse of what to expect.

We started with a chef recommended side dish for sharing....Hamaguri (Clams) Ninniku (Garlic) @ RM16 featuring grilled clams with a creamy garlic sauce.

Presented with 8 pcs of (conveniently opened) clams topped with a torched creamy sauce that tasted of a combination of garlic and mentai sauce.  The sauce was rich, creamy and slightly salty...it was oh-so-de-li-cious...and the sprinkling of garlic chips on top gave it even more garlic flavour and that crunchy factor.

Next up, from their sushi menu, we tried their TCL Signature Maki @ RM38 that came with 6 pcs of maki sushi with different toppings...all fresh with a subtle clean taste.

Spicy Salmon (+ chilli threads) & Scallop (+ avocado) Sushi

Ebi (Prawn) & Ikura (Salmon Roe) Sushi

Unagi & Crab Meat Sushi

We also had the Salmon Sushi Fiesta @ RM11.80.  This was just 3 pcs of salmon sushi, two lightly seared and one sashimi style with slightly different toppings.

For our main meal, we went with two donburi dishes (both chef recommended, highlighted by a red dot on the menu), the first being the Ebi Mentai Don @ RM25.  Other choices include Gyu (beef, RM36), Unagi (RM33), Kakuni (braised pork, RM19) and Tori Karaage (deep-fried chicken, RM15) Don.

Oops...the pan-fried tiger prawns were buried under so much mentai mayo, you can't even see them.  Wouldn't mind a bit more charring on the mentai though.  Strictly for mentai lovers who say there's no such thing as too much mentai....hehe! ;D

The other donburi of choice was the Wagyu Don @ RM72.  How can I say no to wagyu?  I couldn't, of course ;) You can add on foie gras at RM25 for a bit more decadence if you want (though I didn't).

I requested for the Australian wagyu beef to be done medium rare and it was expertly executed to such.  Just look at the super tender slice of medium rare beef.  The lightly seasoned beef may come off as a tad subtle in taste for those looking for a more robust flavour...but not me....I'm super happy with it! ^o^

The donburi came topped with a perfectly cooked runny egg yolk that oozes out to coat the rice grains lovingly that has been lightly drizzled with sauce.  Mix everything together for a spoonful of yum.  I'd eat 5 servings of this anytime (not in one sitting, of course) than eat the dreadful Kobe beef I had previously that cost me RM360! >:(

I can't help but revel in the amazing knife skills of the chef.  Look at how evenly, perfectly each piece of beef has been sliced that 'disturbing' the handiwork felt like an injustice....but eat it I must! ^_*

Right after we made our orders, we were served complimentary water taken up a notch with some orange infusion (nice touch!).  Service was attentive and the servers also regularly filled up our glasses and brought us a refill.

I had sushi.  I had don.  Now, I should have coffee.  So, I ordered a Flat White @ RM8.50 just because I could (kekeke!)...in a Japanese eatery! :O  That probably wasn't a very wise move....let's just leave the coffee in the hands of coffee specialists, shall we? ;D

My Personal Opinion

I'm so envious....how I wish I have such a nice and affordably priced Japanese eatery a stone's throw away from where I live.  That way I don't really need to travel for a good Japanese meal.

Everything I had I enjoyed thoroughly but the Wagyu Don and Grilled Garlic Clams are two dishes not-to-be-missed here.  Hmmm, now what shall I have the next time?  Psst....check out discounts available through Upocket (*wink wink*)!

Two Chefs Lab
23-G Jalan Temenggung 27/9
Seksyen 9 Bandar Mahkota Cheras
43200 Kajang
Selangor
Tel: 03-9011 9910

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Qian Qian Little Kitchen @ Pandan Indah

Pan mee is typically a freshly (hand)made noodle from a simple flour-based dough.  My neighbourhood is flooded with numerous pan mee stalls (in coffee shops) and specialised pan mee eateries like Bao Bao Pan MeeKin Kin Chilli Pan MeeFace To Face Noodles and Mummy's Noodles House (this one I've yet to try).

The latest pan mee shop to join the already crowded list of pan mee places to eat is Qian Qian Little Kitchen @ Pandan Indah.  Opened in August last year, this is probably the cleanest, neatest and brightest looking place (by far) among them all with a white and red decor.  So, it might look a bit intimidating to diners who think the place could be expensive.

They offer six types of pan mee here...and the first one I tried was the Pan Mee Soup @ RM6.50 filled with minced  pork, fried anchovies, shredded Chinese mushrooms, pork ball, vegetables and fried shallots in an anchovy broth.  The green leafy vegetable is known by many names (mani cai or shu cai in Chinese, star gooseberry in English and sayur manis, pucuk manis, cekur manis or cangkuk manis in Malay).

Then there's the Herbal Soup Pan Mee @ RM8 which had similar ingredients to the pan mee soup except this one had dried goji berries (or wolfberries) in the soup base.  The herbal taste was very light, hardly noticeable, great for those who don't like a strong herbal taste in their soup.

They also offer a dry version, the Dry Chilli Pan Mee @ RM6.90 served with minced pork, fried anchovies, shredded Sichuan preserved vegetables ("cha choy"), fried shallots and topped with a poached egg and calamansi lime.

For those who don't like "white-looking" noodles, you can opt for it to be done with black sauce.  Just tell them you want it that way and they'll gladly oblige.

The dry chilli pan mee is served with a separate bowl of soup but the vegetable is "yin choy" (amaranth greens) and not mani cai.  You have to eat the noodle with their dried chilli mix and a good squeeze of lime. Toss everything together for a more rounded flavour in one bite.  All things said, I think the dry version is the best bet here.

The Loh Pan Mee/Yee Mee @ RM7 (I chose yee mee) does not taste like the dark version of loh mee with its starchy sauce and egg strands.  This one just just seem to have a thicker soya-based sauce that's robust in flavour...not my favourite though.

The fifth and last one we tried was the Curry Pan Mee @ RM7 that came with chicken, potatoes, long beans and hard-boiled egg.  Probably our least favourite with a thin and light curry broth.  P/S: The sixth and final one is just a vegetarian option with mushroom.

You can choose to add on extra stuff to your bowl of pan mee with additional egg, minced pork, anchovies, mushrooms, dumpling, wantan and pork ball all costing between RM1 - RM3.

Besides their speciality of pan mee, they also offer some side dishes to provide more munching opportunities for their diners.

Soup Dumplings @ RM1.50 each, nice & plump

Fried Dumplings @ RM1.50 each, nice & crisp


Fried Wantan @ RM2 (for 3 pcs)...this plate had 9 pcs.  They were super crispy :)

The Otak-Otak @ RM5 (for 5 pcs) is a great choice.  Unlike the usual grilled version, the ground fish paste of this one, wrapped in banana leaves, was deep-fried rendering an outside that's fragrant and crisp (almost like pandan leaf chicken).  The inside soft fish paste, although slightly lacking in spices in terms of taste, was still very addictive and a good eat overall.

On another occasion, we got 6 pcs instead....maybe they like me and gave me an extra piece (blowing own trumpet) or maybe these were just smaller pieces!  And I can tell you one serving is never enough...for me, the best snack here....a must-order! ^.^

The Fish Cake @ RM6 on the other had the feel of a strip of commercially produced fish cake with its bouncy texture.  It looked like one I could buy from the market (albeit a slightly better quality one), right down to the shape and the way it was cut.  In the end, I just had to ask the proprietor and I was right, it wasn't house-made.

What they called Salted Pork Ball @ RM7.90 on their menu is actually deep-fried "nam yue" (fermented bean curd) pork.  Probably the least successful of all the snacks here as this one wasn't great.  I found the pork to be on the dry side and the taste of nam yue not distinctive enough.

On a recent visit, we had this again and I have to say that there was some improvement as it was a lot better this time.  As you can see from the pic, the pork doesn't look so hard and dry...and it tasted a lot more tender.

Some of our drinks over a few visits (all just passable, some diluted, nothing stood out:

Passion Fruit Juice @ RM3.50
Honey Lime Jelly @ RM3.50/Soya Bean with Grass Jelly @ RM3.50
Sour Plum Lime @ RM3.50
Fresh Juice (Apple+Orange+Carrot) @ RM4/Honey Kasturi Lime @ RM3.50

My Personal Opinion

I know a lot of people like Kin Kin Chilli Pan Mee but I ate it so often at one time that I kinda grew tired of it. And Qian Qian is definitely better than Bao Bao and Face To Face.

Even so, during the many times I ate there, I found the place to be almost deserted.  I'm not sure if it's because nobody knows about the place (as they're in the quieter part of Pandan Indah) or they dare not walk in thinking the place could be expensive from the looks.  Yeah, maybe you can say it's a wee bit more expensive than the usual ones but I like it for the taste of the food and cleanliness of the place.

I do hope they can survive the competition as it's my go-to place (in my neighbourhood) for pan mee these days.  Psst...discounts are available through Upocket!

Qian Qian Little Kitchen
81G Jalan Pandan Indah 4/6B
Pandan Indah
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-4287 7333

Monday, 9 January 2017

Favourite 'Nice Eats' of 2016

I think I've had fewer good eats in 2016...and that's probably due to the fact that I revisited many old places (that I thoroughly enjoyed dining in) and visited fewer new places as a result of that.

And, like the year before, I'd like to recap a personal list of my favourite 'nice eats' of 2016 (and some may be repeats) I've had the privilege of eating last year with friends and family (which are within the price affordability range).  Of course, there are plenty more better eats out there to be explored but these were just a few I managed to sample and blog about last year.  I enjoy compiling (and writing) these lists and I hope you'll enjoy reading (and trying) them too.

Putien @ Subang Jaya

For seekers of subtle flavours, but not necessarily bland, savour the divine broth of the Claypot Fish Soup with utterly fresh and sweet tasting fish.  A 'must order' is the Drunken Cockles with juicy cockles in a fragrant wine marinade that won't get you tipsy! ^.^

Ekkamai @ Damansara Heights


Enjoy a cocktail or mocktail...or three with some Thai light bites in a Play-Thaim Platter that offers a glimpse of what the restaurant is capable of.


Follow that up with some old favourites to satisfy your sweet tooth like Mango Sticky RiceRed Ruby and Thai-Style Bubur Cha Cha that's bound to appeal to lovers of fragrant and oh-so-thick coconut milk.

WhupWhup @ Subang Jaya


Quirky names for both its food and coffee, fans of salmon will welcome the sexy Salmon Hayek Pasta or the cool Mohawk Salmon with its crispy skin and great sear on the outside but still pink, tender and moist on the inside.

Press Room Bistro @ Pavilion


Slow cooked for depth of flavour, the meltingly tender Beef Cheeks was both a surprise and a revelation.  Absolutely fork tender, no knife needed....not even teeth! ;D  For those who have always sidestepped this cut (like me until 2016), give this a try...you'll be glad you did =)

Superthai @ Damansara Uptown


Super appethaizing cuisine is what they aim to deliver in their charred and juicy Grilled Pork Neck or the fresh and flaky, well balanced sweet and sour, with extra 'brownie points' awarded for already deboned Dancing Fish.  Or who can resist the simple but puffy and fluffy Crispy Thai Omelette?  Plus you get to eat everything with an amazing dip that'll knock your socks off...so good! :) 

Steaks & Lobsters @ Desa Sri Hartamas

Start with their Loaded Potato Skins with homemade minced steak chili con carne...the tastiest version I've had the pleasure of eating thus far.


Fulfill your meat lust with with a gorgeous hunk of Wagyu Ribeye...a real showstopper that's beautifully marbled, stunningly succulent.....and simply perfect eaten on its own.  Heaven-sent for meat worshippers...and I worship it among my top steak haunts! ^o^

Burger & Sushi @ G Village, Desa Pandan


Sushi rolls and teppanyaki is high on the must-try list...though their steaks don't play second fiddle either.  Choose from their teppanyaki choices of either chicken, seafood, beef or cod though the Seafood Teppanyaki is a standout with good-sized prawns, fresh salmon, tender squid and succulent scallops.


Or go with any of their expertly assembled Sushi Rolls....and you should be in for a real treat.

Botanica + Co @ Bangsar South

Dine amidst lush greenery in a tropical garden...only this one is in the comfort and luxury of an air-conditioned space....and free of pesky mosquitoes! ;)  They have everything you want under one roof from lovely salads to mouth-watering laksa, hearty soups, crisp thin-crust pizzas and desserts to satisfy your sweet cravings.

Eatomo Food Co @ Taman Desa

Three words....fresh imported seafood!  Get your hands on undeniable fresh seafood like kuruma ebi, salmon sashimi and oysters...or get a bit of everything in a bowl of goodness, the Poke Bowl.


Don't like sashimi, no problem, get them fried or grilled...shrimps, oysters, unagi, salmon (sashimi-grade!), salmon head....you want more?  They've got more! ^_*

Skillet At 163 @ Fraser Place, KL


Finally, for a bit of casual fine dining for those special moments, showcasing a tantalising menu and captivating flavours, start with a truly refreshing Crispy Whitebait & Avocado Salad and move on to the harmoniously balanced dish of Pan-Seared Norwegian Salmon.


And end with the not-to-be-missed, admittedly a little over-the-top, Texture of Chocolate for some drama and entertainment!  A visual feast for our eyes as well as our palates ^o^

And there you have it....my personal list of favourite 'nice eats' of 2016 from the few places I had the privilege of eating and tasting last year.  You can check out my 2015 list too (though it's sad to see that some have since moved on...which only goes to show that the food business is extremely competitive...and you're only as good as the last meal you serve!).

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