Thursday, 28 June 2018

Curious Kitchen @ Tropicana Avenue

We were curious enough to try Curious Kitchen @ Tropicana Avenue where Iberico pork features prominently on the menu.  But since the place was so new (with barely any reviews on it) and not knowing what the menu was like (or, more specifically, what the prices were like), we decided to go elsewhere instead (to Lavo to be exact) only to find it closed for a private event when we arrived.  Ish....why didn't they announce it on their Facebook page?  In this day and age, when information is a mere click away, this is not acceptable.  Oh well, their loss.

And that's how we ended up back at Curious Kitchen since we were already in the area.  Straight up, it was interesting to note that the place is broken up into two separate spaces (with a third lot that's due to open later).  I'm not into their 'disconnected' ambience though.

One lot (the one above) is air-conditioned with tables and bar seating (but the bar seats doesn't surround a bar though, it looked more like a live cooking station!) while the other lot is what they term as alfresco though I wouldn't consider it a proper open air space since it had a roof over it and was covered on all three sides with glass wall panels (that can be opened up, of course)...haha! ;D

We didn't manage to secure a table at the air-conditioned lot as they were fully booked.  From the way the tables were set up, it looked like they were booked for one (maybe two) very large group gathering that evening.

We had to take a table in the so-called alfresco space which had the advantage of being at the heart of where the action is (ie. the live, open space kitchen) but also the disadvantage of having your meal in hot surroundings.  I can't even imagine how the kitchen crew can stand the heat and cook in such hot conditions. O_o  I guess this is a case where the term "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" can be applied literally! :D

As we were early and waiting for a friend and her family to show up...and the kitchen wasn't busy yet, the chefs obliged my friend with a photo.  

That's the charcoal-and-oak-fired grill...ready to flame your meats to sumptuous perfection! ^_~

As soon as our orders were made, we received two complimentary servings of fried anchovies to nibble on while we wait for our food to arrive.  By the way, this Fried Anchovies (RM8) with peanuts, Thai basil, shallots, cili padi and lime is available on the menu for order too.  We enjoyed the fresh taste of the nuts but the anchovies weren't of the best quality as they were a little hard.

From their Starters & Soups menu, we began with the East West Garlic Prawns @ RM32 featuring pan-seared prawns doused in a East West garlic sauce with spicy notes served with well toasted, crispy ciabatta bread. There were four good-sized, totally fresh prawns that were firm to the bite.  The sauce was like an intensely flavoured prawn bisque, with rich crustacean undertones, which you'd want to mop up every last bit of with the toasted bread slices.

Next, I ordered the Gazpacho @ RM15, a cold soup that's rarely seen on many menus here.  Blended with a mix of fresh garden vegetables and fruits, topped with jamon, egg bits and crispy croutons, the cold soup was a perfect choice taking into consideration the hot surroundings.  Besides, it tasted really good and was superbly refreshing if you're looking to start with something light. ^.^  Other more common classic alternatives include the onion or mushroom soup.

The Fried Chicken Wings (from the Bar Bites menu) @ RM20 featured five deep fried, fragrant chicken wings marinated with 5-spice powder.  The chicken wings arrived piping hot and absolutely crisp around the edges coupled with great flavours too.  This certainly makes it to my list of favourite chicken wings I've eaten this year. ^o^

For our mains, we started with the Iberico Chops @ RM70 (180g) as our first pick.  All mains are served with truffle mash, grilled red bell pepper and a fresh rocket salad.  All the Iberico pork dishes are recommended to be cooked to medium doneness as it results in the best flavour and texture.

The Iberico chops were served with romesco sauce, a nut and red bell pepper-based sauce, that was tasty enough.  The chops, with a decent amount of fat and cooked to medium, came still pink in the centre and was particularly tender.  Looks like my quest to find a tender pork chop has finally proved fruitful.

Next up was our order of Iberico Top Loin @ RM77 (200g) served with a green sauce which I thought was some kind of pesto sauce initially (it turned out to be wasabi!) >_<  You can go for the Iberico Tenderloin (RM55 for 200g) if you prefer a leaner cut.

The loin was both tender and juicy, even more tender than the chops.  It came with a nice sear on the outside though the meat of this one wasn't cooked as pink.  The mash, with a drizzle of truffle oil, was pretty smooth and fluffy.

We also had the Iberico Ribs (Half Slab) @ RM98 (about 6 - 7 ribs) served with their house-made special Bourbon BBQ sauce.  The ribs were subtly seasoned with salt and black pepper to allow the flavour of the meat to shine.  I certainly enjoyed the taste (though some with robust tastebuds might want a bit more seasoning).

My friend thought the ribs were a bit lean (they were fine by me) and missing some of those juicy fatty bits that she likes.  I wasn't loving the Bourbon BBQ sauce as I found it to be a tad sweet and it didn't have any alcohol (Bourbon) taste.  Luckily, I didn't need any was good on its own. ^.^

If you're not into their speciality of Iberico pork, your choices may be limited (for now) as they only have one beef (Grain Fed Australian Wagyu Tenderloin, RM198 for 250g) and one chicken dish on the menu.  We ordered the Grilled Chicken Leg @ RM29.

Though the meat was tender with a slightly sweetish glaze, it was pretty standard fare and the least outstanding dish of the night for me.  It was lacking the smoky flavour that I hoped for.  Though the menu said it was to be complemented by a hot and spicy Thai BBQ sauce, we got the same sweetish Bourbon BBQ sauce from the earlier ribs dish.

Also available are four sides, all priced @ RM8, that you can order to accompany your mains starting with Ratatouille, a coarse vegetable stew topped with melted cheese.  Decent enough.

The second option was the Sauteed Mushrooms whick were cooked down with some caramelised onions. Always a crowd-pleasing side.

The third, the Sweet Potato Fries were nice and crisp but I'd prefer them to be cut slightly thicker in order to enjoy the soft texture of the sweet potatoes.  The fourth and final side was the Truffled Mash, the same ones you get served with all the mains.

And for families with children, you'll be happy to know that kids under 12 years old eat for free (limited to one order per child).  They can choose from Linguine Carbonara with Iberico pork, cream and truffle oil...

.....or the Linguine Bolognese with Iberico pork which tasted even better.  We were given three portions (since there were 3 kids in our midst) and each portion was substantial enough to feed a child.  But if that's insufficient, or the adults would like one too, they can have it at RM16 a serving.

There are three selections for dessert and we ordered two.  The first was the Chocolate Mousse @ RM16 with a nut crumble and cream.  The decadent chocolate was intensely rich and chocolaty.  Stunningly luscious, it hit our sweet spot (you need to order this if you're fan of anything chocolaty). ^o^

For our second dessert, we tucked into the Lemon Meringue Pie @ RM20.  This was just as successful as the chocolate mousse.  Loved the tangy lemon custard filling against the lightly torched and fluffy meringue with the tart raspberries and blueberries compote.  The third option available is the common Creme Brulee.

The drink selection that we opted for were fruit juices (with five flavours from the Smooshie brand) @ RM15 a bottle.  A friend had a glass of their house red (Merlot) @ RM26.

Enroute to the washroom, these lovely beauties were seen hanging in an enclosed glass partition...mmm, Jamon Iberico Marcial Plata! ;P  You can savour this with their Cold Board (full board for RM80 and half board for RM40) with cheeses, salted nuts and ciabatta bread.

And oh, did I mention that I love their cutlery and tableware too.

The gold-coloured cutlery reminded me of the ones from Mighty Monster....but these ones were a class above the rest as they went one step further to imprint the name of the restaurant on them.

Even the wine glasses were printed with the restaurant's name.  Can you see it? ^_~

I just love the simplicity of their plates and bowls, glossy white porcelain contrasted against a distinctive dark blue rim...simple yet elegant :)

My Personal Opinion

Though their menu is Iberico pork-focussed, their other dishes proved pretty successful too which I found myself enjoying even more.  All in all, their Iberico-centred dishes were satisfying and if Iberico pork is your preferred choice of meat, then you may want to check this place out.

May I suggest that you start with the immensely refreshing gazpacho, share some finger-lickin' good chicken wings and Iberico ribs with your dining companion and finish on a sweet note with the chocolate mousse on your own....hihihi! ^o^

Service was super attentive and proactive as they had more than enough servers on hand, so plates got changed, water got refilled, eaten dishes got cleared, all without the need to even raise a hand.

When it comes to my preferred dining space, I'd like to sit at the section where the open kitchen is but wished the section was air-conditioned (for a more comfortable dining experience).  That said, the food speaks louder than the humid surroundings and disconnected lots...haha! ;)

So, has Curious Kitchen piqued your curiosity enough?  Well, there's only one way to find out.

Curious Kitchen
P-02-01 2nd Floor Tropicana Avenue
12 Persiaran Tropicana
47410 Petaling Jaya
Tel: 010-666 1048

Monday, 25 June 2018

#ewew tries Vit's Penang Hokkien Mee

There's been little time to eat out...cook....or write blogposts since the FIFA World Cup descended upon us (in mid-June)....and it'll stay that way for the next three weeks...kekeke! :D

Well, that brings me to the subject of this blog post which couldn't have come at a more opportune time since it's something I think will be eaten rather often during this period when hunger pangs strike at midnight or in the early hours of the morning.

Recently, while out grocery shopping, I found this version of Penang Hokkien Mee (by Vit's) @ RM6.50 a packet...with ramen noodles instead of the usual instant egg noodles.  Curious, I bought one to try.  After all, I do love prawn mee (my no. 2 favourite noodle after curry laksa) so much so that even instant-version ones will do.

Inside each packet, there are two separate vacuum-packed ramen noodles and two packets of seasoning paste.

The seasoning paste looks like the real McCoy....a cooked chilli paste with chilli oil and all.

Remove the ramen noodles from the vacuum pack and rinse the noodles under running water to loosen it.

Follow the instructions and measurement (for water) to cook the chilli paste.  Once the paste is well incorporated, add in the noodles to's looking good! ;)

My bowl of Penang Hokkien Mee is ready....albeit looking a bit sad.

What is prawn mee without the necessary key ingredients, right? ;)

Of fresh, succulent, sweet-tasting prawns....and these were fairly large-sized ones too.

And hard-boiled eggs.....sliced, not quartered.

With kangkung and freshly fried, crispy shallots that I love! ^.^

Now, that's a complete, proper bowl of prawn mee....if I do say so myself.

I really enjoy a good bowl of prawn mee with fresh prawns and crispy shallots in a deliciously robust prawn stock.  I have to say my quality ingredients gave this bowl of instant Penang Hokkien Mee a huge uplift! ^o^

As for the ramen noodles, I didn't like it one bit.  I can't put my finger to it but it had this off-putting taste (like the noodles weren't fresh...but no, it hasn't expired).  They claim the ramen noodles are pre-cooked and vacuum-sealed to retain moisture and stay fresh without refrigeration.

The prawn broth, on the other hand, was pretty alright, although the taste of it could have been slightly 'tainted' by the noodles.

How did I know?  Coz I discarded the ramen noodles and made it again another time (with the balance packet of seasoning) using meehoon instead (from my own pantry stock).  It tasted so much better.

It's a shame the prawn stock of this instant version was pretty good, certainly better than some of the instant versions out there.

But I simply can't pay RM6.50 just for the paste (even if there are two sachets) and use my own noodles, can I?  One, it'll be a waste to throw away the ramen noodles and two, paying RM3.25 for just the paste isn't worth it when I can get a bowl of real prawn mee (with noodles and all) for RM6.50! >_<  Oh well, my search for a good instant prawn mee continues.....

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Ho Chiak Dim Sum @ Pandan Indah

Since the one and only dedicated dim sum restaurant, One Nite Dim Sum, relocated to Taman Bukit Beratai in Ampang some three years ago (though they've since returned to my neighbourhood albeit to a smaller lot less than a year later), their previously occupied two lots were taken over by another dim sum restaurant.

Actually, I've no idea what the place is called since there's only a Chinese signboard but from their receipt, I gathered that it's known as Ho Chiak Dim Sum @ Pandan Indah.  You must be wondering what took me so long before I even ventured into this dim sum place.  Well, that's because I noticed that they're barely crowded each time I passed by...and I know that a good dim sum place, especially if it's the one and only dim sum place, will be packed to the brim in my neighbourhood.

Oh well, better late than never, I finally ventured in one fine day.  Right off the bat, I noticed that the steamed items here are steamed to order when I was presented with a tray of yet-to-be-steamed dim sum for my selection.  All the dim sum items are priced between RM2 - RM7.50.

"Siew Mai" (Steamed Pork Dumpling) @ RM5.50

Another type of siew mai (I find their siew mai filling isn't chopped finely enough).

It seems their steamed beancurd rolls come in three variations...this is the one with minced pork & prawns @ RM5 (you get one roll filled with minced pork and one filled with prawns).

Bean Curd Roll with Minced Pork only (the third one comes with minced chicken).

Another steamed item @ RM5 with some sort of a fish (+ pork?) filling on top of pan-fried tofu slices in a sweet and spicy sauce.

The "Char Siew Pau" (Steamed Barbecue Pork Buns) @ RM2 was acceptable but the bun could be a tad more fluffy in texture.  Though the char siew filling had the right colour and texture, it wasn't particularly my favourite as I've had some awesome ones before.

After trying a couple of steamed items, I'd say they were fairly average and none stood out memorably.

But that does not include the "Lor Mai Kai" (steamed glutinous rice with chicken) @ RM4.80 which was undeniably one of the better ones I've eaten thus far.

The glutinous rice was not only tasty but steamed till really soft (and that's how I like it) and coupled with a flavoursome minced pork filling too.  So good! ^o^

If there's just one item I could pick from here, it'd be this.  I'd be happy with just this lor mai kai for breakfast.  Each time we're here, we must order this! ;)

Between the steamed items, the fried ones undoubtedly fared better.  Starting with the Fried Prawn Beancurd Roll @ RM6, this one is at its best, utterly crispy, when freshly fried.

But if they happen to give you one that's already fried and sitting in the glass cabinet, the bean curd sheet may not be as crispy.  The prawn filling of this is minced, you don't get whole prawns like the ones from Loong Seng (which is still the one to beat).

There's also another type of Fried Beancurd Roll @ RM6 with a filling of minced pork, prawns and vegetables.

This one is rather value-for-money as you can see just how jam-packed and generously plump the filling is.

The Fried Wantans are as they should be...crispy.

The "Fried Wu Kok" (Yam Puffs) @ RM6 had a brilliantly super light and crispy crust (very much like the ones I love) but the char siew filling was more or less like the same ones from the char siew pau.  Though I've had better ones before, this filling still fared much better than some of the char siew fillings in other dim sum shops.

The "Char Siew Sou" (BBQ Pork Puff) pastry, topped with pork or chicken floss, wasn't particularly flaky with the same tasting char siew filling again.

Of course, Stuffed Eggplant @ RM5 is always a must-order for us since we love to eat eggplant and this one has our approval.  I liked the sauce that the eggplant was braised in which had a gingery taste to it.

The char siew-filled Steamed "Chee Cheong Fun" (Rice Noodle Rolls) @ RM5.50 with "ma lai chan lat chiew" (cooked sambal belacan) was just ok.  There's also a version with prawns.

The Fried "Lor Bak Gou" (Radish Cake) @ RM7, one of the more pricey dim sum items on the menu, delivered in terms of taste and was nicely fried with lots of crunchy bean sprouts and Chinese chives.  So delish! ^.^

If you like the plain pan-fried version, they have that too.  The Fried Radish Cake @ RM5.50, crisp and fragrant on the outside and soft on the inside, was just as good.

The Porridge @ RM5 with bits of century egg, salted egg and minced pork, topped with a few crunchy slices of "yaw char kwai" (Chinese crullers), had just the right texture and consistency.  I like how fresh and finely julienned the ginger was too that added freshness to the mild-tasting porridge (some might feel the flavour is a tad too light).

My Personal Opinion

If you're expecting trays after trays of dim sum steaming and fried dim sum items filling the cabinet for your immediate selection, that's not the case here.  All the steamed items are steamed to order while most of the fried items are fried to order.  I reckon that's how they keep things fresh and wastage to the minimum when they don't have a high turnover.

That may be one of the reasons why they don't seem crowded (the other would be that their prices may be a little higher than norm) as I, too, passed them by when I found their cabinet devoid of dim sum items.  I guess one shouldn't "judge a book by its cover" which, unfortunately, I was guilty of and that's why it took me so long before I tried! >.<  If you enjoy other dim sum items more than the steamed ones, then you should not overlook this place.

I actually found those items to be better tasting than its predecessor, One Nite (Dim Sum)which occupied the space previously.  Since trying this place, I've been back regularly for their lor mai kai, fried lor bak gou, stuffed eggplant, yam puffs and the various fried beancurd rolls.  At least now I have a not-to-say fantastic but certainly decent dim sum venue in my neighbourhood (after all, the place is called ho chiak for a reason...kekeke!).

Ho Chiak Dim Sum
17-19 Jalan Pandan Indah 1/22
Pandan Indah
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9134 8131

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