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Monday, 29 April 2019

Dean & Deluca @ Pavilion

When The Press Room Bistro, one of the places I go to for Josper-oven specialities (occasionally) closed in 2017, I was sad and disappointed as I've always found my dining experiences there (since 2014) to be very satisfying (and couldn't understand why they weren't able to survive).  I had written three blogposts on the place in the past (how about a little recollection here, here and here).

So, out of sentimental reasons, I decided to follow the space to see what would take over in its place.  Some time later, I saw the space boarded up with the signage of Dean & Deluca but it took an eternity (about a year, I think) before it finally opened (and that was in August last year).

Based on the reviews I read, the one here is on a much smaller scale compared to their other international outlets with no gourmet food hall concept.  I did see some limited merchandise on sale.

let's begin with the Eggs Atlantic @ RM26, a popular brekkie choice with many (me included).  Well, who doesn't like smoked salmon and poached eggs, right?  It comes served on English muffin with sauteed vegetables, a fresh salad (with cherry tomatoes) and some peppery arugula as well.  Actually, this wasn't what I ordered initially (on my maiden visit) but more on that later.

It's been a while since I've had myself some good poached eggs.  My favourite way of having my poached eggs done is by the freestyle method (by swirling it in a pot of simmering water), not in cling film or a mould! I'm such a fusspot, aren't I?  The folding of the egg whites over the yolk freehand yields the fluffiest soft whites (I feel) with an absolutely runny yolk if cooked to perfection...and this was cooked perfectly.  And with that runny egg yolk oozing down onto the smoked salmon below and the bread soaking up all that lusciousness (you can't even tell the yolk apart from the sauce!) but who cares, it's just a mouthful of deliciousness! ^o^

Some hollandaise sauce can be cloyingly heavy....and I've had my fair share of those.  But not this one.  This was beautifully done...not too thick but with just the right consistency and acidity to bring that hint of freshness to the sauce.  The only thing I found peculiar was that I thought I tasted something sweet in the sauce.  That's when I realised that they must have sprinkled some sugar on top to get that bit of charring on the hollandaise sauce (coz I bit into some sugar crystals that hadn't melted completely).  You don't need to brulee the top if you ask me.

So, did I enjoy my breakfast of poached eggs?  What do you think?...with the plate wiped clean like that..haha! :D  Only the decorative curly-leaf parsley 'survived'...wuahahahaha! :P

When I was here another time with my sister-in-law, we had the Eggs Benedict @ RM20 which was similar to the earlier Eggs Atlantic I had in every sense of the word (and by that I meant it was beautifully cooked with the same good flavours) except this one had beef bacon instead of smoked salmon.

On another visit with yet another sister-in-law, we ordered the Eggs Florentine @ RM18 (with add-on sauteed mushrooms @ RM5) to share as I simply love sauteed spinach.  Again, the poached eggs were expertly executed.  And I did spot one difference with the one from a week before...there was no bruleed thingy on top of the hollandaise sauce but a sprinkle of black pepper instead which I much prefer (a different cook must have been manning the kitchen).

What really surprised me (on both occasions) was how good the sauteed vegetables tasted...especially the potatoes (wished there were more of it than just 2 cubes).  There were cubes of carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes and finely diced onions.  Usually, the vegetable component is an afterthought (sometimes they would just throw some salad leaves together and call that a salad!)...but not here.  Here, they took the extra effort to make sure they were equally worthy on the plate.

Our other dish for sharing was the Bacon & Eggs @ RM16 which consisted of eggs done any style and beef bacon on toast served with a fresh salsa.  I thought I should give the scrambled eggs a chance (finally!) and they were cooked well, not too stiff nor too runny.  Though I did enjoy the scrambled eggs, it isn't going to pip the poached eggs to first place anytime soon. :P

I thought the beef bacon was tasty and of a good quality...and the fresh salsa turned out to be a fresh tomato salsa with diced onions and parsley.  This would be the choice for smaller eaters looking for a lighter breakfast.  Otherwise, there's always the option to add on toast @ RM2, English muffin @ RM5, eggs @ RM5, beef bacon or chicken sausage @ RM6 and smoked salmon @ RM10 to make it a more substantial meal.

No breakfast is complete without a good cup of coffee as companion.  I really enjoyed the Hot Hazelnut Latte @ RM12.

Aiks, why is the latte art facing the other way (away from the cafe's name printed on the cup)?  Left-handed barista?  Or I am supposed to hold the cup with my right hand and the printed name should rightly face outwards for others to see?...heheh! ;D

The Hot Cappuccino @ RM14 was equally good.

Water is foc but is served only if you ask for it.  Hey, the glass is imprinted with the cafe's name too....nice. What wasn't as nice?  My sister-in-law's fresh orange juice served in a single-use plastic cup....tsk...tsk! >_<

Looks like all iced drinks are served that way...so was my Iced Hazelnut Latte @ RM13 on one visit.  I can understand if it's for take-away, but not dine-in.  They can have printed glasses for water, but don't have glasses for iced drinks?  That's not acceptable and I hope to see an improvement in that aspect.

Service is always pleasant but they need work at being a little bit more attentive to what the customer orders (or says).  In one visit, the add-on mushrooms were supposed to be on the plate of Bacon & Eggs but they ended up on our other dish of Eggs Florentine.  On my first visit, I ordered Eggs Florentine but got Eggs Atlantic instead.  I didn't make a fuss since they were predominantly the same, poached eggs with hollandaise sauce, except one had spinach and the other smoked salmon (+ I had already dug in before realising that I had gotten the wrong dish).  And then I was billed for Eggs Florentine Atlantic Ah, I guess this is one time that having snapshots of the menu and food (finally) paid off....hehe!  I checked the menu pic and realised that Eggs Florentine Atlantic was supposed to come with both smoked salmon and spinach (+ it was pretty obvious from the name of the dish too).  I showed them the pic of my dish which only had smoked salmon (not that I thought they wouldn't believe me) and they were quickly apologetic and amended my bill.

My Personal Opinion

It took me a while before I made my first visit because I've been influenced by the not-so-favourable reviews I've been reading of the place.  People started to compare them to their other outlets in Thailand and Singapore and felt that this one wasn't of the same standard in terms of...well, just about everything...food, service, ambience, size (of the place), menu choices, merchandise and no gourmet food or groceries for sale.

Well, I've not been to any of their other outlets elsewhere, so I'm privileged in that sense I have no comparisons to make...haha! :D  So what if it's smaller and have a slightly different concept.  People just need to evaluate it based on whether they like the food or not...and I'm glad to say that I did.  It was one of the better poached eggs I've had in a long time with care and effort put into the making of the side vegetables (and not just some lettuce leaves thrown together on a plate).

From eggs atlantic to benedict to florentine (and almost florentice atlantic...kekeke), I've tried them all!  If you love poached eggs as much as I do, you should give the ones here a chance to impress you.

A breakfast with poached eggs here is a meal that's instantly easy to love...and at these prices (around RM20) at Pavilion, just take my money already. ^.^  

Dean & Deluca
C3.10.02 Level 3
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
168 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2110 0140

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Just One Food - Irvins Salted Egg Snacks

There seems to be no stopping the salted egg craze, is there? ;)  It's used to flavour anything and everything...even crickets (eww)!  And for people who love salted egg, we say.....bring it...with the exception of crickets-lah! O_o

Perhaps the most addictive couch potato snack is this made-in-Singapore Irvins Salted Egg Potato Chips. They're #AbsolutelyGood and #DangerouslyAddictive but also #ExorbitantlyExpensive at S$16 (big, 230g) or S$8 (small, 105g).  Will you be willing to pay about RM25 for a small bag of potato chips? ;)  Certainly the best salted egg potato chips I've had so far...we literally finished it in seconds! ^.^  After all, it was such a small packet.  That pretty much explains why there are no photos to show for it..oops!

After falling in love with Irvins Salted Egg Potato Chips, we just had to get Irvins Salted Egg Fish Skin too which retail at similar prices (S$16 for big & S$8 for small).

And just like the Salted Egg Potato Chips, you can smell the salted egg as soon as you open the packaging.  And you can definitely taste the salted egg flavour.....without it being too salty! ^o^

The fried fish skin was super crispy and the fragrant fried curry leaves provided even more flavour to the snack.  I actually preferred to get at the smaller pieces of fish skin as they were crispier and seemed to somehow trap more salted egg flavour in them.

If there was just one thing I didn't appreciate as much was that I detected sweetness in the fish skin as the sprinkling of sugar crystals was quite obvious to see.  I guess it can't be helped as the sugar is needed to relieve the otherwise too salty taste of the salted egg.

So, I'm probably in the minority that doesn't appreciate the sweetness...and those who need to watch their sugar intake may have to refrain from consuming too much of this awesome snack.

And don't be fooled by their large packaging, 230g isn't very much...you can finish it in one sitting if you really wanted to...no problemo!  I think their large packaging is simply to try to camouflage the small portion in relation to the expensive price...haha! :D

Looks like not even the recent news of a dead lizard (!) found in a packet of their salted egg fish skin will deter consumers from giving it up completely (maybe in the short term) but it'll be quickly forgotten as the snack will prove too hard to resist....wuahahahahaha! :D

Other than potato chips and fish skin, their third crispy snack would be their Salted Egg Cassava Chips and there's also a Hot Boom (aka spicy) version of all three snacks.

Besides these salted egg crispy snacks, I also see that they offer for sale Salted Egg Crunchy Roll and Salted Egg Pineapple Tarts in their website.  They even sell Salted Egg Essence @ RM19.90 a bottle....what?!...for those who can't get enough of that salted egg flavour (and want even more to dip their crunchy snacks in)! :O

So, the next time you find yourself in Singapore (or Hong Kong and Philippines where there are physical shops), you might want to cart a few bags home for friends and family (they'll love you for it).  Those of us here can still get our hands on them through online stores, just that we have to pay a heck lot more for them (it could be anything between RM40 - RM75 for the 105g or 230g)...ouch! :'(

If you have not had Irvins Salted Egg Potato Chips and Fish Skin snacks before, do get some (or hope someone gifts them to you) coz they're just......Simply Amazing! ^o^

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Little Wonders by That Latte Place @ Subang Jaya

This cafe is quite the nomad, I tell you.  Let me give you the rundown.  It all started from a quaint little outdoor garden cafe in 2012 called That Latte Place @ Persiaran Ritchie, Ampang.

My first introduction to them was through their second outlet, Map's @ Bandar Sunway in 2014.  We loved the food and became instant fans...and that, of course, led to a couple more visits.  

And that led to the opening of their third cafe, Tulip by That Latte Place @ Sunway Pyramid in 2015 with a very porky menu.  We followed them there even though the place was a bit far out for us.

In the meantime, That Latte Place uprooted from Persiaran Ritchie and moved to Ikon Connaught, Cheras, in 2014.  Being a fan of Map's, we couldn't be happier than to have one conveniently located nearer to where we stay.  That led to more visits though we weren't thrilled initially that they took pork off the menu (in our earlier visits) but was happy when they decided to reinstate it back to their menu (in our later visits).

And then That Latte Place in Ikon Connaught closed in June 2017 and they relocated back to the Ampang area in Lorong Nibong (behind Hock Choon) about 6 months later.

Three months later, Tulip by That Latte Place also closed permanently in 2017.

Some time in 2017, Map's was renamed (or rebranded) to The Coffee & Bar (not sure if it was still under the same management) but they finally called it a day too in 2018.

I thought of visiting That Latte Place @ Nibong Tebal since the place was near me but wasn't in a rush to do so when I found out that they decided to make this one pork-free as well.  When we finally got round to visiting, we realised that they had already called it quits at the end of December 2018 (after just a year of operation at this site).

And that was what brought us to Little Wonders by That Latte Place @ Subang Jaya, the fourth cafe of their creation and sixth in terms of location, one Sunday morning.  First impression when I got there was that the street (where the cafe is located) seems rather deserted.  You have to look out for a blueish building as there is no signboard of the cafe's name (they're now partnering with a ballet & fitness school by the name Dancer's Dream Academy, so that should be the name you should look out for).

Walking in, the place will have a sense of deja vu to those of us who have frequented one of their cafes before as the furniture and decor will look familiar (with recycled fixtures and fittings from their past cafes). Just take a look at their rather familiar coffee machine which have travelled with them from place to place. And, as usual, there is always a corner for the little ones.

Looking at the menu, they seem to have retained some menu items from their days in Nibong Tebal.  Going through the menu in detail, I couldn't help but notice that they seem to have gone the healthy concept route this time with words like multigrain brown rice, chicken breast, sweet potatoes instead of potatoes, mash instead of fries, yogurt, etc. jumping at me.

So, let's start with the Big Breakfast Plate @ RM18 with sunny side up eggs, chicken tenders, sweet potato wedges, pumpkin chunks, toast and side salad.  The chicken tenders weren't really chicken tenders, they looked more like slices of chicken breast and were dry.

But the most glaring thing was that every single item tasted bland.  I mean I know that the sweet potato and pumpkin were obviously baked to keep with the healthy eating concept...but surely you can at least season them with salt and black pepper, right? :P

I had the Hearty Pan-Seared Sea Bass @ RM24 with green pea puree, marinara sauce, sweet potato mash and garlic toast.  I'm not sure why the sea bass was served skin side down which didn't do it any favours in terms of visual presentation.

I decided to flip the fish over just to see if it had a crispy skin.  The skin was slightly crispy but just around the edges.  Luckily, the fish was quite fresh and although I did see some dried herbs sprinkled on the fish, it was screaming for some salt! >.<

The sweet potato mash was alright but, again, it needed salt.  The pea puree was a little grainy and had a green taste to it.  Perhaps it needed some butter and cream...and it was also pretty much underseasoned.

The tastiest thing on the plate was perhaps the toast (!)...at least they were well buttered and toasted to a crisp.  Luckily, there were salt and pepper shakers available (which my husband brought to our table) and we were literally sprinkling them all over our food.

The final dish we ordered was the Spicy Aglio Olio with Chicken Tenders @ RM17 (a pulled beef variation is also available) with poached egg, chicken tenders, mushrooms and chilli flakes.

As you can see, the poached egg was overcooked and the chicken tenders were like the first dish, tasteless and dry.  If this is supposed to be a spicy aglio-olio, where the heck are the chilli flakes? >_<

The only thing that has stayed constant are their coffees like this Iced Milk Coffee @ RM11 from the days in their earlier cafes as their trusted coffee machine has travelled with them to every place they've been.  Free and self-serve water is available too.

My Personal Opinion

I appreciate that they want to go the healthy route but there's no shortcut to making healthy food tasty, you need to build layers of flavour, either through seasoning, marination, sauces or cooking method...and it didn't happen here.  We got plates of insipid food instead.

If you don't mind bland food (with hardly any oil or basic seasoning like salt and black pepper) that's healthy, perhaps this could be an option you.  For me, the things that first endeared me to them were their juicy porkballs in brown gravy...and bacon, but (sadly) this is far from what they offer now.  I wouldn't mind coming for a cup of coffee if I live nearby but I don't.

After 4 cafes and 6 destinations from That Latte Place (once in Cheras and twice in Ampang) to Map's to Tulip by That Latte Place and now Little Wonders by That Latte Place, I'm thinking we've come to our journey's end (at least on my part).  I'm wondering if there's going to be another destination...I think there will be....and maybe they should call it The Nomad Cafe by That Latte Place...hihihi!  They need to rediscover their form...and I wish them well. ^_~

Little Wonders by That Latte Place
No 51 Jalan SS18/6
Subang Jaya
47500 Petaling Jaya
Selangor
Tel: 016-850 3546

Monday, 15 April 2019

#ewew cooks 3 Types of Porridge (with Chicken, Pork or Fish)

Since my mother-in-law's frequent hospitalisation from late last year till now (and subsequent recuperation), I've learned (or more liked honed my skills) to make porridge....and have gotten better at it over time.

If I have to make them fast and often, I had to cook simpler versions of it that still yields the same good taste, certainly not this 10-ingredient porridge (for which I've no such luxury of time).  And along the way, I realised that the taste could be improved by just making some minor adjustments to a few key ingredients. Here are the three types of porridge I  frequently make with just three key ingredients in each rendition.

Let's start with chicken porridge.  Everyone knows how to make this and would usually make it by boiling chicken bones (or chicken parts) together with the porridge.  I do that too but have since changed a key ingredient...and that's by using choy yin kai (kampong chicken) bones instead as it tastes better than the usual broiler chicken.

For the shredded chicken, boil the chicken tenders for just 5 minutes...that's all it takes (do not overcook the chicken by boiling the heck out of it).

Take it out to cool before shredding (I shred it with my fingers).

The other key ingredient is to include some form of sweet potato which brings sweetness to the porridge. Here, I'm using purple sweet potatoes.  When your porridge is about 10 minutes from being done, that's the time to add in the sweet potatoes as it takes only about 10 minutes to soften.  I season my congee with a combination of salt, light soy and white pepper + a little chicken powder too for more flavour (this is optional, of course).

Discard the chicken bones and put in the shredded chicken.  Finally, the addition of condiments (like finely sliced ginger and chopped spring onions in the last minute just before your porridge is ready) should not be overlooked.  They just need to be warmed through and mixed in with the porridge.

I feel the inclusion of ginger lifts up the flavours of the porridge with its freshness.  But if you don't like ginger (like my mother-in-law which I only found out of late when I noticed her fishing out the shredded ginger from her bowl of porridge), substitute by putting thick slices of ginger to flavour the porridge and take them out when they've done their job.

For the pork porridge, I would usually use minced pork only but was recently taught (by a pork vendor) to use yuk ngan to flavour the congee instead.

This cut of pork, according to him, lends more sweetness to the broth but the meat has to be discarded as it cannot be eaten (after cooking with the congee) as it'll be very tough.  So, I tried that and found the flavour of the porridge much improved.

Again, sweet potatoes is a must (here I chose to use yellow sweet potatoes).  I actually introduced this ingredient into my porridge when I wanted to include some form of vegetable for my mother-in-law to have in her diet.  I then realised that the inclusion of sweet potatoes brought the congee even more flavour and sweetness.

Just remember to skim off the impurities that float to the top when boiling the porridge with chicken bones or pork.  There isn't as much scum if lean pork is used (than chicken bones) though.  Discard the nyuk ngan pieces after they've done their job of flavouring the congee.

Add in the minced pork (that has been seasoned with light soy and white pepper) and sweet potatoes 10 minutes before your porridge is ready.  I also discovered that substituting chopped spring onions with chopped yin sai or Chinese coriander (which is unorthodox) made the porridge even more fragrant...but only if you like the taste of yin sai as I know some people don't.  Those who don't can stick with spring onions but those who do, I urge you to make this change.

We shouldn't disregard the importance of drizzling some garlic oil and crispy fried garlic (or shallot oil and fried shallots) into the porridge to amp up flavours even further (+ a little on top just before serving won't hurt either).

Finally, for the fish porridge, I used to cook it with a piece of fish steak directly with the congee before taking it out to flake.  Although this is still an accepted way of making fish porridge, it only works if you bought yourself a very fresh piece of fish otherwise the congee will taste somewhat fishy.

Unfortunately, we are not always that lucky to get really fresh fish, so there was one time when I experimented with frying the fish first before flaking it.  If you intend to fry the fish first, you can use a cheaper fish like kau yee (Spanish mackerel).  And if you're using a whole fish (like kau yee), you can fry the bones and off-cuts (like the head, tail & fins) first as well before adding that to flavour the porridge base.

Sek pan (grouper) or ma yau (threadfin) will be better choices if you intend to boil it with the porridge (but they also taste great fried).  You can use any other fish to your liking really (but just make sure you choose the ones without too many bones and where removing the flesh will be a cinch).

Don't forget to add sweet potatoes to your porridge 10 minutes from time (I went with orange sweet potatoes this time).  Besides fish being difficult to identify from one type to another, the other that is difficult to differentiate (for me) are sweet potatoes.

See what I mean! :P  They look almost identical from the colour of the skin.  Can you tell them apart? Starting from the left, these are purple, orange and yellow potatoes.  If not for the identification tags (at supermarkets) that state the colour of the sweet potatoes, I would have to ask the vendor at the market as they can be quite difficult to differentiate (with same coloured skins yielding different coloured flesh inside).  Take for example a Japanese sweet potato, the skin is purple but the flesh is yellow. ;P

I added back the flaked fish and chopped Chinese coriander to the congee in the last minute.  I found that the pre-fried fish tastes more fragrant in the porridge without any of that fishy smell.

You can also use a combination of sweet potatoes if you like.  There are many types of sweet potatoes in the market, different ones from different areas/countries may taste different.  Depending on the type you buy, don't be alarmed if your porridge turns out purplish (that happens if you've gotten yourself a Japanese purple sweet potato)! :O

Besides sweet potatoes, the use of sweetcorn, as its name suggests, adds sweetness to the porridge as well. Sweetcorn takes a good half hour to soften (unlike sweet potatoes), so put it in earlier in your congee making process.

So, through some experimenting with a few minor changes to some key ingredients, I was able to improve the taste of my porridge.  To recap:

Step 1 - Use the right meat to extract the flavour for your porridge base (from choi yin kai bones to pork nyuk ngan to frying the fish and fish bones first).

Step 2 - Include some kind of sweet potatoes (of any colour, be it yellow, orange or purple) or sweetcorn as it lends further sweetness to the congee. 

Step 3 - Don't forget (or underestimate) the importance of condiments (like spring onion, yin sai, fried garlic & shallots) to amp up flavours even more.

To congee lovers out there, try experimenting with these changes to see if it makes a difference in your congee...and hopefully it'll transform your porridge by making it better as it did mine! ;)  It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to boil about 1/2 cup of rice that yields 3 - 4 bowls of porridge.  It's worth the effort and it's one of my one-pot wonders.  I love to eat congee as it's something that's light and easy to digest, not to mention healthy too.

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