Thursday, 28 September 2017

Birch @ Damansara City Mall

Opened a little over a month ago, Birch @ Damansara City Mall is supposedly by the same people who brought us Huckleberry Food & Fare, Huckleberry After Dark, Mezze and Skullduggery.

I was attracted by the photos of the place, so I googled their menu and saw that they offer inventive dishes and creative I chose this place for my next meet-up with friends.

The exterior of the place reminded me of Botanica + Co with its beautiful natural greenery that's both calming and picturesque.

Absolutely loved the lush greenery surrounding the restaurant and the interior with floor-to-ceiling glass walls.  Lots of charming photo-taking spots :)

We arrived around 7 pm without making any reservations (wrong move!) like we always do at any place coz my friends are never on time (so it's pointless to make any reservation).  Alhough I saw lots of empty tables, they were all our horror! O_o  They showed us a low table (which was available) but we felt that was more suited to having snacks and drinks than a proper dinner.

We were also asked if we'd like to sit at the bar which we graciously declined as well.  Our only hope was for a group of diners to finish their meal in the next one hour but that could be wishful thinking seeing that the lovely ambience beckons one to linger and stay.  So, we were put on a waiting list and that they'll call us as soon as something opens up.

So, we wandered off thinking we'd walk around the mall but soon realised that there's really nothing to see nor shop as the mall is extremely quiet at night + it's more of a dining hub than anything else.  We stopped by at Bila.Ba for some drinks (just some local coffee and tea) to wait it out.  I'm not sure if it was just that night but the drinks were horrible and undrinkable (so sweet it'll send you to diabetic heaven...and not in a good way)! :P

We finally got a table after about 1 1/2 hours...which is the longest time I've ever waited for seats.  Yeah, we could have gone elsewhere but we were already in the mall.  And yeah, we could have eaten elsewhere in the mall but the other potential places here are even more expensive, I think.  We had no choice but to wait since we didn't have a plan B.  The table we managed to secure was initially reserved...either the diners didn't turn up or were late in turning up...sorry, their loss, our gain! ;P  Let's hope the wait was worth our wait.

By the time we got our table, it was already dark and the restaurant had transformed into a rather intimate and romantic setting.  The interior and ambience of the restaurant was both alluring and stunning =)  My photos didn't do the place justice as there were many beautiful corners to photograph which I obviously couldn't coz it was just full of people.

Our weekend visit also happened to be just two days after they launched their full dinner menu (on 7 Sept), so I guess we were among the first few to try some their dinner dishes.

We started with a couple of small plates for sharing, the first was the Tempura Squid @ RM20 with Japanese vinegar salt and served with an Asian spicy sauce.

The squid was very tender and the batter crisp (but not super crunchy) and went well with Asian spicy sauce. Loved the addition of crispy, fragrant curry leaves in the mix...but the serving was pretty small.

The Oriental Duck Rilletes Tacos @ RM26 featured three soft tacos with shredded spice-marinated duck, finely shredded romaine lettuce, julienned Japanese cucumbers and a Mexican tomato salsa served with an Oriental thick sauce.

The sauce coated shredded duck was very tender and tasty.  The crunch of the cucumbers, the lovely tomato salsa and the freshness of the lime lifted up the flavours of the taco.  These were very good tacos! ^.^

Next, I ordered the Cornbread @ RM16 baked with fresh jalapenos and chillies served with truffle honey butter.  I've always seen fresh cornbread (in cooking shows) served with barbequed meats (but those meats usually come with a sauce).  Made in a cast iron skillet, it developed a slightly crispy crust at the bottom but I couldn't taste the jalapenos or chillies in the bread.  The butter was much needed to lubricate the cornbread. Made with cornmeal (ground, dried corn), let's just say the taste of it is not to everyone's liking.

Although the savoury taste of cornbread usually goes well with smoky flavours of barbequed meat, it's a bit dry eaten on its own.  I think it would have been much better with something like a chili, soup or stew.  I should have ordered the Pit Bean Stew (RM28) or Triple Chilli Con Carne (RM32), something to dip the cornbread in.

For a Josper oven speciality, we decided to have the Spatchcock @ RM50, a spring chicken marinated in ancho chile, chipotle powder, jalapeno powder, smoked paprika and orange juice.  Spatchcock is just a term used to refer to butterflied poultry.

The grilled spatchcock was so good on every level....smoky, juicy, tender, delicious.  Just look at that supreme charring on the chicken...charcoal-grilled to perfection in the Josper oven! ^o^

The spring chicken was topped with a bit of what I believe was chimichurri sauce and served with grilled pineapples, cherry tomatoes, green zucchini, romaine lettuce and a dipping sauce (that I didn't even taste) as I didn't need the dip.  The spatchcock was great just as it was.

Other Josper items include grilled seabream (RM65), ribeye (RM110) and Josperised skewers of beef (RM10), lamb (RM10), chicken (RM7) and mussels (RM11), prices are per stick.

For our other main, I went with the Vermicelli Paella @ RM105 coz I was intrigued by how a paella will taste like with vermicelli instead of the usual traditional recipe made with rice.

The paella pan came fully loaded with chicken wings, prawns, mussels, pipis, squid and long beans with vermicelli cooked in a seafood saffron broth.  There were three fairly large-sized prawns but the slightly spicy chicken wings (two wingettes and two drumettes) were the best tasting items in the paella (for me).

The vermicelli at the bottom of the pan, though tasty and slightly crusty, were all broken up in short strands (not something I was expecting).  The paella is probably good for sharing between two not-very-hungry people as the portion of vermicelli wasn't very substantial (I would have appreciated a bit more vermicelli actually).  It was something different but I think I prefer rice (over vermicelli) for a fuller meal and that crusty rice bottom + they're a better vehicle to absorb all the flavours of the broth.  Having said that, this was still a very enjoyable paella...a vermicelli paella, that is. ^_^

The Huckleberry Burnt Cheesecake @ RM18 (a slice) looked ever so inviting in the cake counter to my friends, so they wanted that.  Made with French cream cheese and organic eggs, with a burnt sugar crust, my friends absolutely loved good, they gasped!  Even I (a non-cheese eater) was convinced to try...and I was surprised I didn't dislike it (yay to that!).  In fact, it tasted rather good...and coming from a non-cheese lover, it must be pretty awesome.

I must say it did look very similar to that cheesecake by Tokyo Restaurant (in Isetan, Lot 10, which also costs RM18 a slice) that many people are saying is the best cheesecake in KL.  But I wouldn't know since I'm no authority on cheesecake by virtue I don't eat them.  Perhaps you can try this one out to see if it can compare to that excellent one in Isetan.  There was a table that was having some sort of birthday celebration and they went for the whole cheesecake (the server mentioned it was RM200 for the whole cake).  Whoa...that's like half our total bill already! O_o

If you're a sucker for cakes and cupcakes, there's a cake counter at the entrance of the restaurant (of course, where else could it be) that'll certainly entice you and make you go gaga with the choices.

Only after our meal did we order our drinks as the lovely ambience of the place beckons you to linger...and sip! ;)  So, my friends had wine, a glass of Sottano Malbec 2014 @ RM27.

And a glass of Chateau Saillans AOC Bordeaux 2015 @ RM28.  Why are there tiny bubbles in my friend's wine? Is that a wine flaw or a flawed pouring?  I don't know about these things, I'm a noob when it comes to drinking since I'm a non-drinker.

We also had two mocktails, Twisting My Melon @ RM15 (of watermelon, burdock, lemon, aloe vera & soda) and Tickle My Bell @ RM15 (of yellow bell pepper, orange, sweet corn & lemon).

My Personal Opinion

The fabulous ambience, innovative menu with lots of vegetarian options, coupled with attentive and great service, will attract a legion of fans in the foreseeable future.  Perfect for a date night with its dim setting or simply great for that special celebration with family or friends.

Their menu with quite a selection of small plates are ideal bar snacks for drinkers with a glass of wine or cocktail in hand.  I'd recommend the duck tacos and you won't go wrong with anything from the Josper oven for that smoky, charred deliciousness.  Oh, and don't forget the burnt cheesecake if you're a die-hard cheesecake fan! ^o^

But, please don't attempt to walk-in without reservations (at least not for now) or you might end up having to wait longer than you would have wanted.

Though prices may be at the higher end (at least for the dinner menu), their breakfast and lunch options seem similarly priced to places like Wild Honey, Common Man Coffee Roasters or Breakfast Thieves.  Some say Birch may be the next hottest brunch place.  With creative dishes, superb ambience, attentive service....they may very well be just that but I'd have to check out the brunch menu for myself, won't I? ^_~

G-10, G-10B & G11 Ground Floor
Damansara City Mall
Jalan Damanlela
50490 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2011 5966


Monday, 25 September 2017

Kofix Cafe @ Pandan Indah

I wasn't even aware that Question Mark Cafe was no more (and I live in Pandan Indah!) and in its place Kofix Cafe @ Pandan Indah has taken over since the middle of the year (my visit was in July).

If you've been to Question Mark Cafe before, you'd realise that the interior of the cafe is exactly the same. The only thing that has changed is the name.  I mentioned that to the server manning the counter and was told that it's under a different management but the team is the same.  That meant the kitchen team is the same and that sounded alarm bells in my head!  And that's because I wasn't crazy about their food before and questioned their ability to be sustainable in the long run (with the prices and taste of their food).

I see some differences in the menu of this one compared to the previous defunct one but the cafe was almost deserted on a weekday dinner (when I was there) which didn't bode well for them.  In fact, we were the only table there (besides another gentleman who was enjoying a cup of coffee) and we were still the only table when we left! O_o

So, I was already not expecting much when I got down to ordering.  I went with one of their recommended dishes, Hot Chicken Waffles @ RM18.90 which consisted of fried chicken (I can't remember but I think it was breast) and Belgian waffles served with sunny side up egg, apple pickle and honey.

Although the crumb was crispy, the batter was oily (look at the sheen on the batter) and the chicken dry. Perhaps a runny yolk would have offered a solution to the dryness of the chicken somewhat but the yolk was overcooked and the whites rubbery.  The Belgian waffles were crisp too but (again) I couldn't get over the dryness of the whole dish.  I did drizzle some of the honey over the waffles but (unfortunately) even the taste of their choice of honey (brand) was off.  The only thing I enjoyed was the apple slaw that offered a bit of freshness to the whole dish.  As I kept eating, I couldn't help but feel that the overall dish was just too dry! :(

Our other dish was the Fish N' Chippery @ RM20.90 featuring tempura fish with fries and tartar sauce. Though the menu mentioned tempura, the batter was far from the light tempura batter I've come to know.

The shiny surface of the fried fish also tells me that the oil held on to the fish.  This could only mean the frying temperature wasn't optimum when the fish was fried (just like the fried chicken).  The micro greens also looked past its prime.  I certainly expected better since they only had one table to serve and should be more focussed on cooking it right.

The Iced Cafe Latte @ RM10.70 tasted tasted like before....I still didn't care for them.

I also decided to try one of their signature lattes, Black Sesame Latte @ RM11.70, just because I love black sesame...but somehow not quite in a latte!  To be fair, I've not had a black sesame latte before (and I'm not sure if it was supposed to taste like that) which turned out to be horrible tasting and totally undrinkable (for me).

It may look picture-perfect but it only took two sips before I abandoned the drink altogether. >_<

My Personal Opinion

Though the menu is a bit more creative compared to the last place, they still need to nail the cooking and the combination of flavours but (sadly) the food has not changed my perception of the taste, so I doubt I'll be returning to try more.  Only saving grace is at least prices seem to be a fraction lower than what Question Mark Cafe used to charge.

Just two dishes (and two coffees) later, I can't get past the fact that it's the same kitchen team running the show...albeit with a different name.  I just don't have enough faith in their cooking nor their coffees.

It goes without saying that some things still need fixing at Kofix! :(

Kofix Cafe
No 1-G Jalan Perubatan 2
Pandan Indah 
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-4285 4285

Thursday, 21 September 2017

TR Fire Grill @ Pavilion

TR Fire Grill is an American bistro operated by the same people who owns another American casual dining chain restaurant brand, Tony Roma's (an obvious clue in the name itself).  And TR Fire Grill @ Pavilion, which opened more than a month ago, is their first international location.

Situated next to Din Tai Fung, I was taken aback by the size of the place when I stepped in.  It's more than 5,000 sq ft and can seat more than 180 guests (when I googled later).  It certainly wasn't bistro-sized and its stylish, elegant ambience was miles away from its diner-like sister restaurant, Tony Roma's.

There's even a full bar ready to churn out crafted cocktails and beverages, with wine and beer offerings too, for the enjoyment of guests.

Aware of its relationship with Tony Roma's and remembering the same dish we enjoyed there, we started with something familiar, the Zing Zing Shrimp @ RM30.

The generous portion of good-sized succulent shrimps, fried to a crisp golden-brown on the outside and doused in a not-too-spicy red pepper sauce (made in-house) sat on a bed of shredded greens.  Finished with a sprinkling of white and black sesame seeds, they were as good as the ones I remembered from their sister restaurant.

We also had another shareable side, the Jalapeno Potato Tots @ RM12 featuring a dozen large-sized rather cheesy potato croquettes (fans of cheese...rejoice!), with a nice crisp on the outside, served with jalapeno ketchup.  A bit too cheesy for me, so I had to dunk it into the jalapeno ketchup to take away some of the cheesiness! ^_*

The potato tots were too filling for two to finish (well, the menu did say the serving is meant for 3 - 4 pax).  I guess I underestimated their 'teeny tots' which turned out to be 'big balls' instead...kekeke! :D

There are two soups on the menu and I went with the Smoked Chicken & Tortilla Soup @ RM10.  This was a light tomato-based soup with chicken cubes, onions, tomatoes and avocado served with some crispy tortilla strips.

It was a forgettable soup, the chicken cubes didn't carry any smoky aftertaste and finding avocados in a soup was a first for me though I've seen it some Mexican soup recipes.

We had only one main (since we had three starters), the Shrimp Po' Boy @ RM37...and yes, we were kinda having a shrimp fest!  The crisp shrimps were smothered in a house-made spicy relish sauce with lettuce, tomatoes and onions.

The fries served with the shrimp po' boy were freshly fried and nicely crisp...loved it! ^.^

The sauce-coated shrimps in the shrimp po' boy were definitely spicier (than the zing zing shrimps) but nothing we couldn't handle.  I wasn't liking the bread as much as I'd prefer a softer, pillowy bread.  The bread also tasted a tad too dry...perhaps some butter (and some grill marks) would have made a difference.

They were very quick to fill up our glasses with complimentary water (as soon as we sat down) and even brought another whole bottle to the table.  Well, how nice...luckily there's more than enough to quench our thirst since prices of handcrafted (alcohol-free) drinks here start from RM17...hihihi....not so great for the budget-conscious, eh?

When we couldn't finish the potato tots and shrimp po' boy, we requested for take-away and they came neatly packed in two environment-friendly, separate paper boxes even though the unfinished food could easily fit into one...we were impressed! ^_~

My Personal Opinion

Overall, the food seems promising and what I did manage to try fared pretty ok.  I'd probably return at some point although I'm not too thrilled with the common occurrence of cheese in many of their dishes (for non-cheese fans like me).  I guess I'll just have to narrow my choices to the balance 50% of the menu.

If you're one of those who like to dine in a spacious yet splendid environment, TR Fire Grill probably has one of the largest dining spaces I've seen in Pavilion.  Overly positive or over ambitious?  Only time will tell.

TR Fire Grill
Lot 6.01.06 Level 6 
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
168 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2113 0048

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Just One Food - Furikake

What is "furikake"?  Well, it's like the salt and pepper of Japan.  It's a dry Japanese seasoning that typically consists of roasted sesame seeds, chopped dried nori (seaweed) and bonito fish flakes along with salt and sugar.  It comes in a variety of flavours including salmon, shrimp, wasabi, powdered egg granules, shisho, kimchi and powdered miso.

I can't believe I discovered furikake so late in life! ^_~  This flavour-packed seasoning is great sprinkled on cooked rice, noodles, fish, chicken, vegetables, tofu...or, well, just about anything.

I was first introduced to this when I found this salty, fragrant condiment sprinkled on top of the poke bowl I ordered at Eatomo.  Maybe I had already eaten it earlier but just didn't notice.

I also found it sprinkled on another dish that night.....on the fried Kuruma prawn head!  It was like an umami bomb of flavours.  At that time, I didn't know what it was.

A few weeks later, this familiar condiment showed up in a sushi roll we ordered at Burger & Sushi that has been rolled in furikake for a tasty outer coating.  It was then that I enquired about this seasoning and was told that it's furikake.

We loved it so much that we asked for our sushi roll to be encrusted entirely with furikake the next time we had it again (forget about rolling it in ebiko, we said).

And as luck would have it, I was gifted a packet of furikake from Japan.  Judging from the pictures of what looks like salmon and shrimp, I guess that's the flavour of this furikake did have that fishy (but not in an unpleasant way) oceanic flavours.

Let me show you up close and personal the contents of this furikake...I can definitely see the nori and sesame seeds...and what I think are dried egg omelette pieces.  Now that I know what furikake tastes like, I can think of many ways to use this seasoning.

The simplest way would be sprinkled over plain rice (or sushi rice) where it turns a plain bowl of rice into something so delicious by giving it that savoury flavour boost.  One spoonful of the rice (flavoured with furikake) and you'd probably not want to eat rice ever again without it.

Or over egg-coated rice! ^_^  Just crack one egg (for one portion of rice) over steamed rice (when it's done), stir thoroughly and steam for a further 2 - 3 minutes (but if you're using a Japanese pasteurised egg, then all you have to do is stir it in).  You can do it in a rice cooker too by adding the eggs just when the rice is cooked and leave it in the rice cooker until you're ready to eat.

If you're trying to cut down on the amount of rice you eat, don't sprinkle furikake on top! ;P  It makes it so delicious, you'll end up eating a few more bowls of rice.  In the same context, it should work great with onigiri rice balls as well.

Sprinkle it on teriyaki chicken.

It's egg-cellent on top of a fried egg! ^.^

Or over instant noodles...dry-style.  

I even put it on soup noodles.  Should be great with soba noodles too.

Scattered over fried rice.

Try it with chilled tofu...drizzled with a little garlic oil and a few drops of sesame oil.  Very refreshing with the benefit of a savoury lift from the furikake...this is probably my favourite way of using the seasoning. ^o^

Sprinkled on blanched sugar snap peas, they're transformed from bland to tasty.  It should work just as well with edamame or, even simpler, sprinkle them on sliced Japanese cucumbers.

Other suggestions (from the internet)....use it on buttered popcorn, French fries, spaghetti, scrambled eggs, salads, roasted veggies, baked fish or even as a crust for seared tuna.

Just imagine the things you can use with this to amp up the flavours of anything you can think of.  But heed the warning: You might not be able to resist it once you've tried!

It's a staple in many Japanese restaurants everywhere...and it's now a staple in my home too...a little goes a long way.  Great with anything that you want to add an incredible amount of savoury umami flavours to. What a seasoning!  Time to restock. ^_~ 

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