Friday, September 19, 2014

Namoo Korean Fusion

On the 3rd day in Sungei Petani, we crossed over to Penang for a day trip. The drive to the island was just 30 minutes. When we arrived at Penang, we did not head for the beach or any of the many attractions there. We went to a shopping mall. Like there are not enough shopping places in KL, PJ and the Klang valley.

We wandered aimlessly (well at least to me it was of no purpose) for a couple of hours in the Gurney Plaza. Then our stomachs started to remind us that it was time to look for some food. We went down to the street level and window shopped the many makan places there. The youngsters selected the Namoo Korean place. I wasn't too eager initially. But in the course of the meal, I was glad we were there.

The actual name of this place was Namoo Korean Dessert Cafe n Bistro. They apparently have outlets in KL too.

They had a simple yet attractive decor. They made clever use of wood for their shelves, walls and ceiling. And they had a wonderful array of old items on display.

On of the items was this good old type writer. In our school days, we actually had typing classes when we learnt how to use this machine. I used to type letters, notes and even school work. I asked my nephew and nieces in our group if they had ever used a type writer. Blank faces.

I also asked them if they knew what this black disk was. Only one answered - "CD". Close enough. But LOL. Has anyone seen a CD this big and this black. I had to explain to them what a gramophone record does.

Hungry stomachs waiting for food.

As normal, the beverages arrived first. A smiley cup of hot chocolate.

The lemonade was actually quite strong and awakening.

A kimchi soup. I have no love for this soup so I better not make comment on it.

The chicken bibimbap was very good. It had minced chicken, various vege strips and seaweeds over hot steamed rice. We stir mixed the whole thing with the sauce provided. They also provided a small bowl of kimchi. It was delicious.

This was the bibi rice burger. The patty was a grilled chicken with an egg, cucumber and lettuce in a bibi sauce. The bun was brown rice. It was served with french fries and a small bowl of salad. You couldn't eat it like a normal burger because the rice bun would break off. The flavour of the chicken and the sauce was ok, not a wow. But the rice bun was interesting. It was quite good, even by itself. Strange concoction. I guess this was innovation.

We also shared a normal kimchi chicken burger. It was much the same as the first burger, only the bun was normal. In spite of its name, I could not taste any kimchi in it. Maybe they forgot the kimchi. Just as well. Imagine how a burger would taste like with kimchi in it. I don't think I would like it.

The Korean seafood pancake was much like a pizza. The crust was thin and crunchy. It was delicious.

Finally, we each had a small bite of this banana hottuk pancake. It was a sweet pancake topped with slices of banana. I liked it. I though it was unique and innovative.

The restaurant was a true Korean fusion that cleverly assimilate Korean tastes into local and western flavours. I liked it. But it was rather pricey. A simple meal like this set me back more than 150 bucks. I have yet to decide if this chain is worth a second visit.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Zhong Ma Seafood, Sungei Petani

It was the Raya festive long weekend, and time to balik kampung. Not my kampung for there is nary a reason to balik there; but to my wife's where an extended family of in-laws made up a happy but noisy mob.

In the evening of our arrival, the whole battalion drove out in a convoy for food. The restaurant selected was a new place in Sungei Petani know as the Zhong Ma Shi Seafood Restaurant  (中馬式). It occupied a large plot of land on Jalan Legenda 6 in Sungei Petani. Outside the restaurant was an even bigger plot, used as a car park. They sure have a lot of land in this part of town.

Inside, there were several dining areas including private rooms, The tables were spaciously arranged. Except for the rooms, the place was not air conditioned. Fortunately it as a cool evening. The advantage of such an environment was that the noise was not contained and we did not feel stifled in spite of the crowd.

In the middle was a large court yard with a water fountain, colourful lightings and a large projection screen. There were several tables for alfresco dining. Our crowd was split into 2 tables - basically kids in one and the old folks in another.

Two cold beverages were served. There was the nutmeg juice, and the haw (山楂 - fruit of hawthorn) juice. I didn't like both. They were far too sweet. This was the first time I had seen haw juice. Naturally I was curious. It like a concentrated blackcurrant (Ribena). It was too strong in flavour and far too sweet.

I stuck with my favourite Chinese tea.

Rice was served in a large pot. We helped ourselves to hearts content.

First on the table was the green. It was a lightly stir fried green sprouts. Nothing to write about.

The fish curry in a clay pot was very good. The curry was rich and the flavour was very pleasant with an unique flavour. There were the usual accompanying veges - long bean, brinjal, okra, cabbage, etc. The fish was chunky and fresh. I enjoyed this pot of curry. I think they really got the recipe right.

The mantis prawn was deep fried in a batter. It was too well done. We could not savour the mantis. I would preferred a steamed mantis dish any time. Still the flavour was not too bad. The curry leaves added to the good taste.

This pork ribs was apparently ordered for the benefit of the kids. It was deep fried and doused in a thick soya sauce. It wasn't bad at all.

The other vege dish was this plate of cauliflower and broccoli stir fried with mushroom and baby corn. It was a good respite from the meaty dishes.

This was a chicken dish. It was also deep fried and then stirred in a sauce with onion and chilli. I honestly have no recollection how this chicken recipe tasted like.

The final dish was this deep fried siakap (barramundi) in a spicy soya sauce. When the plate was put on the table, my first reaction was "still got some more?". I hardly touch it. I was already filled by then and there was one too many deep fried dishes that evening.

It was a big meal. Over all, the dishes were good. I had no complaint.

And the prices were reasonable too. There were more than 20 diners - young and old, big and small. The total damage for double servings of all the dishes amounted to just over 300 bucks.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

J & D Espresso

All day breakfast joints are apparently quite in vogue. This is my 5th western breakfast features after Antipodean, Mr & Ms, Three Little Pigs, and Nutmeg. Last weekend, we were at the Empire Shopping Gallery in Subang Jaya. As we parked our car in the open air parking lots, I noticed this cafe Jibby & Co., which was packed with a breakfast crowd with people queueing outside to go in. Are people really that crazy about western brekkies? Apparently I am. With 5 brekkie features, I have to be.

J & D Espresso is located in the Oasis Business Centre (not to be mistaken with Oasis Square in Ara Damansara), at the T-junction of Lebuh Bandar Utama and Persiaran Tropicana, in Bandar Utama, PJ. The business centre was initially meant to be a food court. They had a big signboard to that effect. However, they apparently did not have enough food vendors. So they took down the signboard and converted it into a business centre.

The place was very quiet and listless. There were a few stores selling I-don't-know-what. Hardly any patrons. The J & D Espresso was the only makan place. It added some life into the otherwise near-dead business centre and put some cars into the car park. Like I mentioned many times, when there is food there is life.

As we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by a large coffee bar. The sweet young thing there was rather shy to have her picture taken. A couple of baristas were busy with their chores

The dining area was rather small. Every single table was taken up. That bespoke the popularity of western brekkies. Besides all day breakfasts, they served all day lunches, pastas and pizzas.

We started our day with some beverages. The usual latte for my wife.

And the usual long black for me.

Health conscious Crystal stuck to her earl grey without sugar and cream.

This was the French omelette. It was 3 eggs stuffed with mushrooms and cheese, served with salad and herb croutons. You can imagine a 3 eggs omelette would be rather big. It was. A real full breakfast.

The pancake stack was 3 fluffy pancakes, with mixed berries and Anzac crumbs, topped with a fruit compote and salted butter. I have never fancied pancakes for breakfast, But Crystal seemed to like it.

The big Aussie brekkie was a real treat. It was choice of 2 eggs (I opted for sunny side) on toast, a big garlic sausage, pork bacon, baked beans, grilled cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and a crispy croquetas. It was good. In all the brekkie places that I had been to, I had ordered their big breakfasts. This was one of the better ones. I particularly like the sausage and bacon - genuine porky stuffs.

Next stop has to be Jibby & Co in the Empire Shopping Gallery.

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.