Sunday, August 17, 2014

Charcoal in Saujana

We were guests of the Saujana Hotel at the Jalan Lapangan Terbang Subang. Six of us from the office were invited to lunch by the hotel. We arrived at the lobby and were greeted by a most pleasant marketing/sale lady.

She showed us around the hotel which had a beautiful resort environment and facilities. We walked through the rooms including some exclusive suites, one of which even had a private gym and spa.

Lunch was at their new dining facility - the Charcoal. The restaurant was a makeover of the old Suria Restaurant, which was one floor below the main lobby. The Charcoal had opened only about a month before our visit.

Another very pleasant lady greeted us at the restaurant.

The made-over Charcoal was basically very much the same as the previous Suria in terms of its lay-out. The furnishing, decor and furnitures might had changed, but they had kept the same dining and service areas. I did not see very much difference between the new and the old. Perhaps it was because I don't frequent the place. The last time I was there was perhaps 5 years ago.

They have several indoor dining areas which were uncrowded with very conducive ambiance.

And a L shape non air-conditioned "veranda" with comfortable and equally conducive sofas. Only, it was rather warm in the dry hot season when we were there. They had some ceiling fans but I doubt they helped much.

I saw major changes in the service area. In the middle was a big BBQ grill where they did the meats. Beside the grill were stacks of firewood - apparently used to fire their grill. That made me wonder. Was this a charcoal (as the name implies) or a firewood place?

On display were various meats for your order. They had steaks, chicken and lamb...

And various seafood including king fish and pomfrets. They all looked very fresh and of good quality.

Beside the giant grill, there was a smaller grill at the counter. The guy manning the grill was busy doing the various meats. So what was the different between the big grill and this small one? At the time we were there, the big grill was left idle. All the BBQing was done on this small grill. 

Besides the meats, there was a very good spread of other goodies. This was the starter/appetiser section with the various mouth-watering Malaysian preparations.

There were also a salad selection for the less adventurous.

Soups and breads.

The entrees were both local and westerns - meats and vegetables for rice and pastas.

And finally desserts. Fruits...

Pastries and cakes, and local kuehs.

My meal that day was this oxtail soup with a sesame bun and butter.

The main meal was a combination of starters, grilled meat, fish, rice and some curried mutton.

Desserts were shared with fellow makan mates.

Ending with a satisfying long black.

The buffet at the Charcoal was a comprehensive spread. The foods offered were fresh and of good quality. The Saujana charges RM99++ per pax for buffet lunch and dinner. The meal I ate that day was definitely worth much less. Fortunately I didn't need to pay for it.

Unless you are a big eater, buffets most often are not very value for money. It is really a 2-way sword. The restaurant prepares more food than required to satisfy its customers. Nobody wants to dine on a depleted buffet spread. The diner, on the other hand pays more than he/she actually eats. So it is wastages all round. I wonder what the restaurants do with the excess food.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Las Carretas Mexican

I betted on Germany, and I got a free dinner. My wife picked Argentina, so it was square one. After the World Cup final, the makan group re-gathered for the 2nd wager dinner. This time around, the winners outnumbered the losers three to one. Germany was a popular choice.

Las Carretas in Subang Jaya is located on Jalan USJ10/1F (Tai Pan). I remembered this restaurant. I was there many years ago. It used to be on Jalan USJ10/1E. It was a small restaurant with limited seating. Several years ago it moved one street away to this more spacious locale. It has 2 floors of dining. Beside this Subang Jaya branch, Las Carretas has outlets in Ampang and Bukit Damansara.

Inside, the restaurant was vibrant and colourful. The owners took pains to furnish the place with multi coloured lights, arts, artefacts and pseudo palm trees to reflect the boisterous Mexican culture.

The well stocked bar at the ground floor which I am sure will not be short on tequila selection.

A staff greeted us at the door, and at the mention of  our reservation, led us to the back and up an interesting flight of stairs to the upper dining floor.

Up there, the scene was no less colourful and flamboyant. It was less crowded and noisy. Definitely a more conducive dining area compared to below.

Our table was next to a colourful wall mural depicting Mexicans dancers and musicians.

Even the cutleries we dined from were no less colourful.

We were the last to arrive and by then, the rest of the dining party had already finished the complimentary tortilla chips. Not to be outdone, I asked for an additional serving. The sweet young waitress willingly obliged. The chips came with a bowl of salsa dip. It was indeed a superb appetiser.

After a short chat, the dishes began to arrive the poppers. These were deep fried battered jalapeño chillis stuffed with cheese. As we bit on the jalapeños, the melted cheese oozed out. The poppers were served with a bowl of capsicum salsa. The dish was interesting but not great. The flowing cheese did not have much of a flavour.

The third appetiser was the nachos. It was a plate of tortilla chips, with minced beef, baked with  cheese, jalapeños chilli, bell pepper relish and enchilada sauce - topped with a scoop of sour cream. It was delicious. I liked the melted cheese on the tortilla chips. The meat added to the flavour.

The first entrée was this charbroiled beef back ribs. It was marinated with jalapeños and chilli, and covered with a rather sweet BBQ sauce which I didn't quite like. The meat was perfectly done. The texture was just right and wasn't too soggy or soft. The meat did not just slip off the rib bone and needed a little effort with the fingers. I like meat this way. The ribs was served with some salad and a jacket potato.

The fajitas is one of the popular Mexican dishes. And we did not miss it. We had a mix of cajun chicken and beef steak, both of which were cut in strips and served in a hot plate. The condiments came in a separate plate - comprising some salads, grated cheese, rice and beans, salsa sauce, sour cream and guacamole (an avocado sauce). All these were wrapped and eaten in tortillas. The fajitas here was not great. I had had much better fajitas. The condiments were not enough. I would had preferred a lot more guacamole. Even the tortilla wraps were limited. At the end of it, there was leftover meats for want of more wraps and condiments.

Our final dish was an added on. It was a tortilla wrap. It basically was a pre-wrapped fajita. The fillings were the same - cajun chicken, rice, beans, topped with guacamole and sour cream and served with some salad and salsa sauce. The cajun chicken in this wrap tasted better than that that came with the fajita.

The meal was great. Again, like the first one in My Elephant, I enjoyed the company more. I am no Mexican gourmet. I had tried a few in the U.S. Somehow I felt the Mexican dishes here lacked authenticity. But that is only to be expected, just as much as I expect getting authentic Malaysian food in Acapulco.

We are already looking forward to the next World Cup.

Monday, July 28, 2014

My (2nd) Elephant

It was reported that the recent World Cup generated billions of dollars in illegal gambling's throughout the world. This dinner was part of these billions. At an earlier dinner in the midst of the football fever, the conversation inevitably drifted to the World Cup. To make things interesting, we decided on a small wager. A paper was passed round and each of us was to list down the 2 teams that we thought would make to the finals. The losers would buy dinner for the winners. When Germany and Argentina won their respective semi-finals, the group duly re-gathered for the dinner. I wasn't lucky. I predicted Germany and Nederland. 

The restaurant picked was a Thai in Aman Suria, Petaling Jaya. When this place was suggested, I immediately remembered My (Thai) Elephant that I had featured in my blog way back in 2010. That Elephant was in Section 17, PJ. I did not know that the restaurant had prospered and expanded - with branches, not only in Aman Suria but also in Sri Hartamas, K.L. 

The Elephant in Aman Suria occupied 2 shop lots with 2 dining areas. It was simple but tastefully furnished. White, blue and grey was the featured decor. Our reserved table was in the inner sanctum.

When we arrived there, SP had already ordered the dishes. The waiter was still around taking orders for drinks. The popular selection was this pandan juice with lime and mint. It looked very green.

I believed the more refreshing drink was this serai (lemon grass) juice which I opted for. It was cold and fragrant and thirst quenching. The biji selasih (basil seeds) added colour and flavour to it.

We started the meal with this miaeng kum. It was a Thai appetiser comprising various raw ingredients - chilli padi, diced lime, garlic, shallot, peanut, dry shrimp and sesame. It came with a sweet sauce. All these wrapped and eaten in daun kaduk - wild betel leaves.

The papaya salad had shredded unripe papaya with garlic, chilli padi, peanuts and the usual Thai stuffs in a sweet and sour sauce. And if it was not sour enough, they provided a slice of lime. The serving of very small. There were about a dozen of us with a couple of big eaters. Fortunately SP had presence of mind to order double servings for all the dishes.

The seafood tom yam was rather strong - hot, spicy and sour. There were prawns, squids and fish slices.

The waiters dished the 2 servings into small individuals bowls.

Gai tod is a Thai style fried chicken. Again, the serving was dismally small and even the 2 servings were not quite enough to go around. I could taste a strong herby marinade. The flavour was good. Wished there was more.

This was a platter of fish cake, tofu, and fried and fresh spring rolls. I only managed to taste the fish cake and the fried spring roll. I liked them both. But why couldn't they serve at least one piece of each for every diner? Moan.

Without sounding like a broken record, just look at the serving of the grilled squid. I had a bite of it. It was succulent and flavourful. Very nice.

The panaang gai or chicken curry was very nice. Like all Thai curries, it was thick and rich in santan (coconut milk). It went very well with rice.

Steamed siakap (barramundi) in Thai sauce. This was the only decent size serving of the meal. I didn't quite like the dish. Firstly, siakap is not my favourite fish. And the preparation was not fantastic.

This was kia jiao tofu. Kia jiao in Thai means omelet. So this had to be a tofu omelet. Honestly, this was a first for me. I had never heard, let alone tasted a tofu omelet. I did not taste any tofu in it. It was like one thick plain omelet. I guess they blended the tofu into the egg and then fried it into an omelet. I liked it. The texture was soft and nice. I think I will try making this one day. Tofu omelet - quite a novelty, isn't it?

Stir fried kai lan. Very mundane. Still it was a good choice of green.

We had a choice of white of brown rice. I was glad SP opted for the brown. 

With the small servings, I guess we all still had ample stomach space in spite of the many dishes. Each of us ordered our own individual desserts. Their was no suggestion of sharing. I believe this was a cheese cake. It looked like one with a thin layer of crust at the bottom. The reason I wasn't sure was the way they served it, with sticks on each piece of them.

My wife had this cold sago with nangka (jack fruit) and other goodies in it. I had a taste of it. It was very good. The coconut milk was rich and very fresh. The sago was plentiful and the nangka went very well with the whole thing.

The most popular dessert that evening was the red ruby (water chestnut). It was topped with diced mango.

My choice was the Thai classic - mango with glutinous rice. The serving was quite large. The glutinous rice was a mixture of white and brown, which was quite good. But the whole thing was not up to my expectation. The mango was rather soggy and the coconut milk was not quite enough. I wished I had ordered the sago instead.

The dinner was very enjoyable. I liked the company more than the food. And it was not going to end there. During the meal, another piece of paper was passed around to predict the champion. Like the tournament, there again would be winners and losers. And we would re-gather one more time.