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Friday, 31 July 2015

The Little Nyonya Cuisine @ Pavilion

This restaurant reportedly has 3 outlets in Penang before venturing out of Penang to open its first outlet in KL...The Little Nyonya Cuisine @ Pavilion.  As you approach the restaurant, you'll be confronted with a cut up of Axian (Jason Yeoh) who happens to be the shop ambassador.
 
The décor of the place does have a traditional nyonya feel to it with its colourful ceiling, patterned floor tiles, marble tables and colourful wooden chairs.  I would soon find out that the design and décor of the place would end up to be the only things I would be impressed with.

We started with their Pie Tee @ RM7.50 (for 5 pcs) since it's a dish that's synonymous with nyonya food.  When the dish arrived, I was surprised at how tiny the pie tee cups were (RM1.50 a pop isn't exactly cheap).  The pie tee shells were just on the verge of being crispy but the filling (of julienned jicama and carrots topped with fried shallots and sesame seeds) was a bit scarce (you can see that it wasn't quite filled to the brim)....and there wasn't any chilli sauce in sight.  When I asked, the waiter said that it's in the pie tee already. 

Upon closer inspection, I realised that they had drizzled the chilli sauce into the pie tee shells...and, obviously, the drizzling wasn't quite even (with most of it landing inside one of the pie tie shells)!  Why couldn't they just serve the chilli sauce by the side and let us deal with how much chilli we want to put in >:(
 
Another signature dish of theirs is the Deep Fried Otak Bean Curd @ RM11.50 made up of 10 cubes of fried bean curd stuffed with an otak-otak filling.
 
The light coating on the bean curd cubes yielded a crispy exterior but it was the otak-otak filling that we weren't so ecstatic about.  It was unlike any of the otak-otak flavours we have come to love.  The mushy otak-otak filling and the bland soft bean curd didn't create a very pleasant texture.  It was mush on mush!
 
I went with a simple main of Nasi Lemak Special @ RM10.50 which came with a fried chicken drumstick and the usual condiments of half a hard-boiled egg, "ikan bilis" (dried anchovies), peanuts, cucumber, papadum and sambal.

The fried chicken had a decent enough flavour although the skin wasn't as crispy as I had hoped.  I wasn't liking the slightly mushy rice though which didn't have much of the coconut milk taste but instead had a strong lemongrass flavour going through it.

As for the sambal, it wasn't just plain sambal but had ikan bilis in it.  The taste was more savoury than sweet which I appreciated.
 
The other main we had was the Tom Yam Fried Rice with Pandan Chicken @ RM12.50 with three tiny pieces of pandan chicken, a fried egg (that was fried to death), papadum and a fresh sambal.  The rice was fried with corn, carrot and peas (those frozen type, I think), prawns, egg and shredded kaffir lime leaves.  It was just passable as it was a bit lacking in tom yam taste.

The pandan chicken wasn't anything close to those you'd find in Thai eateries.

The White House White Coffee @ RM4.60 (that was what was stated in the menu) didn't meet my expectations either....it was more like a "White House...Down"! :p

My Personal Opinion

Based on the fairly affordable prices (seeing this is a shopping mall), it would appeal to the office workers in the vicinity as a quick lunch but certainly not good enough for those looking for some good nyonya food.
 
They're probably leveraging on the name (and pull) of Axian (Jason Yeoh) who is the shop ambassador (I think he may just regret endorsing this place).  I was surprised to find the place rather quiet though for a weekend service. 
 
Okay-lah, maybe some of my choices wouldn't exactly qualify as nyonya food but the little I had wasn't good enough to entice me back to try more! ;)

The Little Nyonya Cuisine
Lot 1.59.00 - 1.66.00 Level 1
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
168 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2110 5546

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Just One Food - Pakora

I never fail to stop by to buy these Indian fried fritters each time I'm here.  I've been eating these fried snacks every year that I've come for the feast of St Anne in Port Klang.
 
They're sold by the few street vendors that set up shop outside Church of St Anne taking advantage of the large pilgrimage of Catholics who throng the church for the annual feast celebration.  There are many stalls selling all sorts of Indian snacks and nuts but I'm not sure if all these stalls are here on other (normal) days.
 
After years of eating this snack, I still didn't know what they're called until last Sunday when I stopped by to buy some.  I asked the vendor and he told me that they're called "pakoras". 
 
On googling, I came to know that pakora is a generic term used for these Indian deep fried fritters.  I also gathered that these small fritters are made with gram flour (otherwise known as chickpea flour).  A number of things can go into the chickpea batter such as onions, curry leaves, green chillies, spring onions, coriander, curry leaves (not sure if there's any dhal in it) and some Indian spices, of course (possibly garam masala, turmeric, cumin and/or chilli powder).  I've also seen these fritters referred to as "pakodi" or "pakoda".
 
It's quite interesting to see them make it.  They have this unusual contraption (self-made, I assume) that has many circular holes in it) which they place over a "kuali" (wok) of hot oil.  They then scoop some batter onto the metal sheet and scrape it with a wooden spatula until bits of the batter fall into the oil...how ingenious! 
 
These bits of batter are then stirred and fried...and scooped up with a perforated ladle once they're nice and golden brown.
 
These are the freshly fried crisp snacks waiting to be bought....and devoured! ;D  These immensely aromatic fritters are rather small in size compared to some I've seen.

They're sold at RM3 a packet (packed in a plastic bag)....and one packet is never enough!
 
I also understand that there are a number of different types of pakora depending on the vegetables or a combination of vegetables used.  They can be made with onions, potato, aubergine, cauliflower, spinach, etc.
 
Since I noticed that there's quite a bit of onions in them, I assume this is an onion pakora (I may be wrong).  I also detected the taste of curry leaves, spring onions, coriander and maybe some green chillies.
 
Eating them hot and freshly fried there and then is absolutely amazing!  The best parts are those tiny little bits of batter that fall off from the pakoras...those bits.....incredibly crispy and crunchy (and they stay crispy for quite a long while too).  Just sensational! :)
 
Even when the leftovers and taken home, they still have this wonderful fragrant aroma (especially from the curry leaves) and flavour to them that it's still a joy to eat them later.  But if you want to crunch them up again, just put them into a toaster oven for about 3 minutes.

Of course I'm not asking you to go all the way to Port Klang just to savour these snacks but if you do come across Indian vendors selling these little nuggets of crunchiness, be sure to get some as they're truly addictive...you just can't stop popping them into your mouth!
 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Win Heng Seng (Pork Noodles) @ Jalan Imbi

I used to come to Restoran Win Heng Seng @ Jalan Imbi to eat the pork ball noodles but that was a long time ago.  I remember a blogger friend @ muntalksfood asking me to try the other pork noodles stall here.
 
So, one Sunday morning, I came here with the specific intention to try the pork noodles (which I didn't notice on my previous visits).

When my bowl of Pork Noodles @ RM8 arrived, I immediately thought it was more expensive than usual although the portion did seem to be slightly bigger.  I then checked out the stall and saw the price clearly stated as RM8 for small and RM10 for big....definitely not the cheapest pork noodles around! :(

The pork noodles broth was more than decent and the crispy "chee yau char" (pork lard) is always a plus.  This bowl of pork noodles had lean pork slices, minced pork, pork liver, intestines and kidney....well, all the porky goodies you'd come to expect.  This is an equally good contender to the other pork noodle stall in the vicinity @ Mei Sin...but the standout of that one would be the thicker and barely cooked pork liver slices and the less fatty minced pork balls compared to the one here (and the cheaper price, of course).

My spouse decided to have the Wantan Mee @ RM6.50 with "char siew" (barbequed pork) and wantans.  Although the char siew looks lean, it was still very tender and not as sticky sweet.  The noodles were not the springy type, soft with a bit of a bite, which I preferred.  The sauce is not as flavourful but also not as oily as others.

The wantans, with minced pork and carrots, were ok but that cannot be said of the soup the wantans came in though.  Overall, the wantan mee wasn't among the best we've had but it wasn't half bad either.

We also ordered a plate of Teochew Char Kway Teow @ RM6 (small) to share.  But, we were in for a surprise at just how small the 'small' was!  It was so small it only occupied half the plate (the shot I took was more flattering than what it truly was as I had turned the dish around for an up close picture).  The positives...it had good "wok hei" (breath of the wok) and the fatter than norm flat noodles were well charred for that smoky flavour.  The negatives...I think I found only two tiny prawns and probably three (maybe four) fresh cockles (plus no chee yau char).  Overall, it could have been a better plate of char kway teow had it not been for the paltry ingredients! :'(

Of course, the post wouldn't be complete without including the "Sam Kan Chong" (or Pork Ball Noodles) @ RM8 which is probably the most famous stall here.  I only noticed one price on the wall and that is RM8, so I'm assuming that's the price for small since I requested for small.  The smooth "hor fun" (flat rice noodles) are cut thinner here and the dry version comes with minced pork in dark soy sauce, sprinkled with lots of chopped spring onions.  I used to eat this a lot in the past and it's still good, just not quite as good as I remembered.

For the steep price of RM8 a bowl, it had only two pieces of "siew cheong" (roasted pork sausages) but, at least, there were six pieces of pork balls.  The homemade pork balls and siew cheong were nice although I wouldn't mind a bit more Chinese rice wine flavour in the siew cheong.  The soup it came in was better than some that I've had...it was savoury, slightly sweet and peppery (hope it wasn't loaded with MSG) and I like that it was again sprinkled with a generous amount of spring onions.

To round up our meal, I ordered a small portion of Chee Cheong Fun @ RM3 just to try.  It was one piece of chee cheong fun (rice noodles) and fu chuk (bean curd sheet) with two fish balls.  It tasted decent, with a homemade taste, and the chilli (with a bit of a kick) and sweet sauce was what made this dish enjoyable.

My Personal Opinion

This coffee shop is insanely popular with locals and tourists alike (from the many hotels in the area) although the overall prices may be higher compared to the other coffee shops in the vicinity.

It's a good place with plenty of choices to satisfy any cravings.  My favourites...the sam kan chong and pork noodles...and that's probably why both these stalls charge outrageous prices of RM8 (for small) and RM10 (for big) since they know they're so popular...tsk....tsk!

Restoran Win Heng Seng
183 Jalan Imbi
55100 Kuala Lumpur
 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Ohla Tapas & Cocktails @ The Intermark

Ever since I read raving reviews online by my favourite food blogs, The Yum List and eatdrinkkl, I've been wanting to try Ohla Tapas & Cocktails @ The Intermark for a while now and I'm glad I finally did one Saturday evening. 

Ohla is a modern contemporary Spanish restaurant and bar, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, serving tapas and drinks (wine, cocktails and beer).  As you approach the main entrance of Ohla from the sidewalk, you can catch a twinkling night scene of Barcelona city on its glass doors. 

Push open the door and you'll be greeted with a narrow but cosy dining area in a black-and-red theme with dim lighting.   There's one long bar counter with high chairs (that can probably sit about a dozen people) facing an open kitchen.  This would seem like the choice seats if you want to interact with and watch the chef in action but I think the majority of us prefer a more intimate space and sit at smaller tables and, luckily, there's an option for that now (replacing the previous long communal dining table).  These tables are just enough to fit another dozen diners or so.  As we were early, we managed to get a table for two (since only one other group of diners were there).  As the evening progressed and more diners came in, I noticed that their first choice was also the table seats (until they were all taken up).

I think I've probably eaten in one or two Spanish restaurants before this, so this could be my (and my friend's) very first introduction to authentic Spanish food.  We had our concerns at first, thinking we would be like 'a fish out of water' as we knew next to nothing about Spanish food or Spanish wines or whether we would even like the cuisine.  But all our concerns were laid to rest as soon as we sat down when a rather debonair gentleman (*blush blush*) came to our table with menus and introduced himself as the manager (we later learnt that he's Gustavo, Ohla's manager and sommelier).  He was so helpful, introducing and explaining to us the food and drinks that we immediately felt at ease (so no worries if you don't understand anything Spanish...kekeke)! ;)  He was also very friendly and engaged us in a light banter (when the restaurant wasn't as busy yet) and even introduced us to another equally suave gentleman (*wink wink*), the head chef, Toni.

Once we have placed our orders, a complimentary plate of marinated olives in aromatised extra virgin olive oil arrived at our table.  This is available in their Small Bites menu as a starter, so I was pleasantly surprised to get it complimentary.  On the plate were green and red olives, chilli peppers and gherkins that have been aromatised with spices of cinnamon, star anise, lemon, orange and black pepper.  I'm sure it's good for those who love olives but I've never been a fan (and neither was my friend), so we'll just politely say "no thanks" the next time we're served these.

We kicked off with an order of 'Boquerones' @ RM17.50 which are white anchovies pickled in vinegar, steeped in parsley oil and garlic, and served with some square breadsticks (almost biscuit-like textured) called reganas.

It was fresh and briny, but not strongly salty or garlicky, and went very well with the hard textured biscuit.

To eat, simply assemble a piece (or half a piece) of boquerone and some tiny greens on top of the biscuit.  We didn't think we would like it so much but it was so, so good...if this is a taste of things to come, I can't wait! :)

The first tapas to arrive was the Spanish Grilled Octopus @ RM34.50.  I don't know how Toni treated it but it was cooked to tender perfection before finishing off in the Josper oven!  The octopus was so tender, but not overly soft until it was mushy, with a slight bouncy texture still.  You can taste the freshness of the ocean in the octopus as I read somewhere that he brings in a whole fresh octopus and not the pre-cooked versions.

The grilled Mediterranean octopus was served on a bed of the smoothest potato mash and finished with a sprinkle of Pimentón de la Vera, a type of sweet-smoky Spanish paprika.  You would want to drink up every last drop of the sweet juices released from the octopus....and we did...with a spoon! :D  It was divine....but savour slowly as there are just six pieces! ;-)

Our next tapas was the Pan-Seared Foie Gras @ RM48 with a 62-degree sous-vide egg with black truffle shavings (actually just two pieces) on a bed of the silkiest potato puree.  The sous-vide egg was perfectly cooked with oozing goodness.  The soft and runny egg, the intense earthy mushroom flavour of the truffles (wished there were more) and the richness of the foie gras all blent together to make one heavenly bite!  Just when I thought how great it would be if I had some bread to mop up the very last bit of the oozy egg, Gustavo came over with some charcoal toasted bread slices...that's service for you!  What can I say....even the simple piece of bread was top notch with nice charred marks and a delicious smoky aroma from the bread being grilled in a charcoal (Josper) oven.

This was my first taste of foie gras and it was everything I imagined it to be.  It ticked all the right boxes...perfectly seared, rich, delicate, buttery and creamy all at once with a melt-in-the-mouth feel.  Awesome can't begin to describe how good it was!  I had left it so late to try foie gras because the dish is so expensive and I would want to be sure that it will be executed perfectly...and, at Ohla, it will.

Our final dish was a bit of a surprise in that it's not on their regular menu.  Gustavo brought to our table this beautiful looking pigeon (from Bresse, France) and asked if we would like to have it.  As I was planning to order the black rice cooked in squid ink with grilled langoustines, I asked him which was better.  He said that I could always return to try the squid ink rice but probably not the pigeon....hmmm...true...and when he mentioned rabbit was involved, I was sold.

Since it's not on their menu, I wouldn't know everything that's gone into the dish and, although they did explain how the dish was cooked, most of it was simply 'lost in translation' :D  But Toni was gracious enough to reply my email, so I'm going to describe it as best I can and hope I do the dish justice.  The pigeon dish @ RM85 featured two pieces of rare pigeon breast on a bed of Bomba rice (from la Albufera in Valencia) cooked with rabbit meat and caramelised onions and capsicum with some garlic and parsley.  When Gustavo delivered it to our table, he explained how best to eat it.  We were so excited and dived straight in and then realised we didn't take a photo of it! T_T  So, this is one half of the dish that has already been apportioned.  I guess I didn't do justice to the superb pigeon in terms of the presentation though.

The pigeon breast was pan fried to crisp up the skin and finished in the Josper oven.  The meat of the pigeon was a little raw but warm inside (as that's how it should be served...rare) as an overcooked pigeon would have been a definite 'no-no'!  I've actually eaten a piece of the pigeon breast and started cutting into the next piece before realising that I have still not taken a picture of it >.<  The meat is very lean, with a silky texture, but absolutely tender, moist and rich in taste....it was spectacular!  We were surprised that we loved it so much.  Prior to this, I've only eaten pigeon cooked Chinese style and it's usually fried or roasted (obviously a different type of pigeon).

This was the other portion.  As for the rice, Toni used the carcass of the pigeon to make a strong and reduced stock to capture the wild flavours of the bird in the rice.  The broth was so intensely flavoured that a spoonful of it...and it's an explosion of flavours in your mouth!  We mopped up every grain of that rice....it was excellente!
 
The meal ended on a high with a luscious dessert of caramelised bananas with brandy, house-made banana ice cream and popping dark chocolate candies @ RM20.50. 

I could definitely taste the brandy that coated the caramelised bananas as I'm not a drinker and any trace of liquor, however little, will show up on my taste buds.

This beautifully quenelled banana ice cream, I loved, as the intense flavour of the banana came through distinctively with a textural contrast provided by the chocolate candies...delicioso!

Of course you can't leave Ohla without sampling at least one drink from their extensive menu (it's even longer than the food) ;D  Since I don't drink, I was definitely 'a fish out of water' when it came to their drinks. 
 
But, luckily, Gustavo is ever ready to help and suggested the Rosado (Rose) to my friend.  Note that you can always taste the wine first to see if you like it and you're more than welcome to change if you don't.  This is Gustavo pouring out a sample for a taste test.
 
My friend liked it, so this is the Rosado 2014 @ RM25 a glass.  It's described as intense, fresh and red fruits and floral scents wine made by Garnacha (Navarra).
 
As for me, I obviously had to go with their mocktails (there are only four on the menu) and Gustavo recommended the Birjina Berdea @ RM17 (citrus, herbal and healthy mix of kiwi and basil).  Great recommendation...I loved this one, the kiwi and basil mix was very refreshing....truly a thirst quenching sensation!
 
I also had the Vermell @ RM15 (sweet and sour with strawberry and orange juice), my own choice, which I wasn't liking as much as the first one.  I detected a hint of bitterness through the drink.

We spent a good two hours plus here for our dinner.  You won't want to rush through a meal like this, one that you've paid top dollar for, you might as well enjoy the experience.  So, be sure to "stop and smell the roses" ;)

My Personal Opinion

There were so many things I loved about this place that I don't know where to begin.  First of all, I loved the intimate setting of the place...it's not your quintessential tapas bar as they serve food of fine dining standard in an environment that's less flashy and snobbish.  It's great for an intimate dinner for two or a relaxed dinner for four (there's only three tables for 2 - 3 and one for four, the rest are bar seatings).

Secondly, Gustavo's service is stellar!  You'll be well taken care of here and you'll feel like you're the most important person in the room.  And, finally, of course, it goes without saying that the food that Toni puts out is spectacular...from the phenomenal octopus to the remarkably exquisite foie gras to the extremely impressive pigeon to the stunning dessert.  You can feel that it's done with love and passion to make your dining experience an awesome one.

I'm aware that prices may be above the average spending of the working class (on a regular basis), but it should be fine for special occasions.  After all, we should give ourselves (or our loved ones) a nice treat every now and then.  It's perfect for a night out for two (but not suitable for children though)...and be ready to spend north of (or at least) RM150 per person (or you could try their more affordable lunch specials).

There'll be people who will ask....why spend so much for such a small quantity of food, but my answer to them is......it's the quality of the ingredients and the great dining experience you get that will be all worth it. 

If you've never had authentic Spanish cuisine, Ohla will be a great introduction and one that will leave you wanting more!  Give it a try and you'll truly appreciate what they have to offer.  Come for the food....and stay for a drink...or two, maybe three? =)
 
I've never been more eager to return to a restaurant....until Ohla!  It was an unforgettable experience.....and a revisit is definitely on the cards!
 
Ohla Tapas & Cocktails
Lot G-18 Ground Floor
The Intermark
No 348 Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 012-663 2651
 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

#ewew cooks Chargrilled Calamari Salad

After lots of 'sinful' eating binges during the Ramadhan period, I think I need to dial it down a notch and eat something a little healthier.....like a salad!  Anyway, I love salads....but not just plain greens, I like mine with a protein in it! ;)

And one that's pretty easy to whip up is my Chargrilled Calamari Salad.....for a more "atas" (high class) name or (otherwise) simply known as Squid Salad...kekeke ;)

Ever since I discovered Genting Garden's Classic Mixed Salad and used it in my previous Mixed Salad Recipe, it has been my 'go to' greens coz I get a variety of different salad leaves plus it's tripled washed...yay!

The previous bag of Classic Mixed Salad had about 6 types of greens and then I saw this one when I was at the supermarket the other day...it's a bag of Four Seasons Mix (also by Genting Garden).

This bag supposedly contains 12 types of greens (baby batavia, yellow frissee, red mignoiette, radicchio, red oak, red coral, red veined sorrel, wild rocket, lemon sorrel, land cress, red frills mustard and mizuna)....and it's triple washed (of course)!

Just out of curiosity, I checked the leaves to see if they did contain a minimum of 8 types of leaf (as claimed)...I think I managed to identify at least 7 types of salad greens in the bag (although I couldn't tell some of them apart)...anyway, it was quite a fun exercise to learn and link the different salad leaves to their names ;)

Enough of playing around with the greens...let's get down to making the salad, shall we?

Ingredients:

1/2 a 125g bag of mixed salad leaves
3 medium-sized squid
1 clove of garlic
1/4 of a small onion
Zest of 1/2 a lemon & a squeeze of lemon juice
A pinch of dried oregano
Virgin & extra virgin olive oil
Salt & black pepper

Preparation:

Clean and prep your squid.  You can leave the skin on (it's totally edible + it'll give your squid a nice presentation when cooked).  I usually do a combination of both, some with skin on and some without.  Score the underside of your squid in a criss-cross manner and cut each squid into 3 or 4 pieces.
 
Finely dice 1 clove of garlic and 1/4 of a small onion.  Zest 1/2 a lemon.

Marinate your squid with diced garlic and onion and the zest of half a lemon.  Add a pinch of dried oregano and a glug of virgin olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Put your marinated squid into the fridge for at least half an hour to let the flavours amalgamate.

Method:

Pan fry your squid slices in some olive oil in a fairly hot pan to get a nice char.  Just sear the squid very quickly.  It'll take only a couple of seconds or a minute at most coz you don't want to overcook the squid or burn the garlic.  The worst thing is overcooking your squid.  Perfectly cooked squid should have a slightly firm yet tender flesh with a bouncy texture...and not rubbery.  Once the squid curls up, it's a sign that it's ready to be plated up.

Make a quick and simple vinaigrette with extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and black pepper for the salad.

Empty half a pack of the salad greens into a bowl and toss the salad with the dressing.

To serve, put your dressed salad onto a plate and top with the chargrilled squid.

And that's my simple Chargrilled Calamari Salad which makes a nice and healthy light meal for a change.

It also makes for a nice starter to a 3-course dinner party.  Or you can serve it as a side salad to your main course component.
 
Serves 1 (as a main meal) or 2 - 3 (as a starter or side salad)
 
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