Friday, May 28, 2010

Gasing Taugeh Chicken

After a not so great experience of Ipoh Lou Wong ngah choy kai (老黄芽菜雞), I was looking for a place where my appetite for ngah choy kai could be sated. I remember the Jalan Gasing place where I used to go for good pak cham kai (白切雞), taugeh, and chicken rice. I was pretty sure that the ngah choy kai (芽菜雞) there would be better than that of Ipoh Lou Wong. With my wife in tow, we headed for Jalan Gasing.

The makan joint is named New Restaurant Ipoh Chicken Rice. It is located along Jalan Gasing in PJ, across the road and not too far from the EPF building. The row of shops is on an inner road of Jalan Gasing and you enter the inner road near an Esso station next to the St. Francis Xavier catholic church. I have known this place since my early days in PJ more than 30 years ago. But it has also been a long long time since I last ate there.

The place was totally different from what I remembered of it. It had a complete make-over, fully air-conditioned downstairs and upstairs. There was a partitioned kitchen where professionally attired cooks prepared the food. The menu was much more comprehensive and they now serve a whole lot more than chicken, bean-sprouts, noodles and rice. Smartly uniformed waiters took orders with high tech hand-held devices that were wirelessly connected to the kitchen and cashier.

I was totally impressed. The place I remembered was rather messy and disorganized. Now it was like comparing heaven and earth. The place was as packed as it was that I remembered. I guess it is this popularity that brought them up to this level.

We ordered a plate of ayam kampung or free-range chicken (菜园鸡). Unlike Ipoh Lou Wong, they served free-range chicken. But free-range or otherwise, we could not tell the difference. The chicken did not have the firm texture of the ayam kampung. It was rather soft and ordinary. It might as well be ordinary chicken. At least I would not have to pay for the label.

The taugeh was not too bad. They were fat and stumpy, like how taugeh should be. The preparation was good, but the serving was rather small.

We had a plate of roast pork (烧肉). It was salty and quite ordinary.

The fish balls were a waste of time. These fish balls were stuffed with some pork meat and served in a soup. They were not nice. I did not enjoy them at all.

Finally, the sar hor fun (沙河粉) was mediocre. The noodles were a bit soggy. The soup was average - not tasty. I refrain from comparing it to Ipoh Lou Wong's because you really cannot compare any sar hor fun with Ipoh's. They are one class above the rest.

At the end of it, we had to make a judgement. How did Jalan Gasing measure up to Ipoh Lou Wong? Was it better? My wife and I were unanimous in our decisions. Ipoh Lou Wong won hands down. I was rather disappointed with Jalan Gasing. I used to enjoy the chicken there. I guess over the years, our taste and expectations changed. It really was not good. I now have to look elsewhere to justify what I had written about Ipoh Lou Wong.

Monday, May 24, 2010


It had been a while since we had a Japanese meal. Jap cuisine is very perplexing - simple, not elaborately cooked, small portions and definitely over-priced. Yet it is so sought-after. We have been to various Jap restaurants in KL, PJ and Subang Jaya. There was one that we wanted to return to. Rakuzen.

According to their website, Rakuzen is a chain of 4 or 5 restaurants in Sri Hartamas, Jalan Raja Chulan, Desa Park City and Subang Jaya. They added one more in the newly opened Empire shopping complex in Subang Jaya. Their first Subang Jaya outlet is located at Jalan SS15/5A. Along this road, there are 3 other Jap restaurants. When we arrived at the place, it was already jam packed with people waiting outside for their table. We registered ourselves and sat in a small waiting lounge.

The restaurant has 2 dining areas. The ground floor has a sushi bar, some cubicles and some dining tables. It was rather congested, noisy and not very conducive.

After about 15 minutes in the waiting lounge, we were led upstairs. The upper floor has a much better dining environment. It is bigger, less congested and more quiet. But we had to remove our shoes and sit on the floor. The whole floor is tatami dining - not my preferred manner to eat. Sitting on the floor is very taxing on my back (without support) and my legs.

Fortunately there were recesses under the tables where we could comfortably stretch our legs. And they had lockers for our shoes.

We settled down with tea and took our time with the menu. We ended up with a bento meal each.

The beef was very pleasant. The meat, sliced thin, was tender and was very nicely done with a good sauce.

The unagi don (eel on rice) was wonderful. The eel in terikayi sauce was most tender and almost melted in the mouth. The sauce seeped into the rice, making it very aromatic and delicious.

The grilled saba (mackerel) was another splendid fish. It was so very well done outside, yet the meat inside is soft and succulent. And it was very fresh. I always marvel on how they grill the fish in Japanese restaurants. I have tried several times and have not been able to get it the way they do.

The bentos came with several appetizers and side dishes....

Fried fish with a sweet and sour sauce.

Chicken cutlet.

A salmon thingy.

Cawan mushi, which was rather ordinary.

Miso soup. Again ordinary.

And some pickles.

For desserts, we ordered a frozen strawberries with cream. The strawberries were too cold. I fumbled with them in my mouth and did not really get to enjoy its goodness. Freezing strawberries were perhaps a mere novelty, and in my mind, was not a very practical dessert.

We also had my favorite green tea ice cream with red bean paste. That was a more reasonable dessert. Very enjoyable.

During the meal I noticed a hole at the bottom of a nearby cabinet with a mesh over it. I joked that the resident rodent has a grille gate. While paying our bill, we casually asked the waitress why they had a mesh over the hole. She nonchalantly said it was to keep away the mice.

They had rats in this Japanese restaurant?!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Newcastle Kelantanese

The owner of this makan place is perhaps an ardent fan of an English football team. But the food here is anything but English. It is Kelantanese. The name of the place is Newcastle Kafe & Restoran Ayam Kampung.

The place is located in my neighbourhood on Jalan PJU 1A/20C, in Dataran Ara Damansara in the new township of Ara Damansara, PJ.

I was quite curious when I first saw the place. I have eaten ayam kampung (village chicken or free range chicken) for sure. But the free range chicken I ate were cooked the Chinese way - mostly pak cham kai (白切雞). I never had ayam kampung cooked the Malay Kelantanese style. So it was definitely one to visit.

The place is a typical Malay makan joint. It is nice, clean and spacious; staffed by a few pleasant young people. Like most Malay eateries, it is self-served. It offers a good selection of dishes and most of them look and taste good.

The ayam kampung or free range chicken are deep fried. Initially it seemed sacrilegious to me to deep fry good ayam kampung meat. To me, the good meat should be mildly cooked to enjoy its fine taste and texture. However on tasting, I quickly changed my mindset. The fried ayam kampung is actually quite good. It is lean and fried without the skin. The meat retains its fine texture and does not look like the usual oily over-fried chicken that we find in most other places. I enjoyed it.

There is one other dish that I also enjoy very much in this place - perhaps even more than the ayam kampung. It is sup tulang (beef bone soup). The soup is so very delicious. It is clear, aromatic, slightly spicy and very flavourful. It is cooked with a variety of spices. The tulang (bones) have generous amount of meat on it. The meat is cooked just nice - not tough and not flaccid. If you ever in Newcastle, this soup is a must try.

Here are some visuals of some of the Kelantan dishes they serve. 


 Kacang & ikan bilis...


 Sayur paku...

And ulam, nice and fresh...

I go there every now and again for my fill of good Malay food. Sometimes I just enjoy their simple offerings. The fried cat fish is delicious. The meat is so very tender.

Newcastle is opened only for lunch. Try to be there early. I normally get there before noon, well before the lunch crowd from the neighbouring offices and from Subang airport. Their popular dishes run out very quickly with the crowd.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Country Barn

We were there for some drinks, music and good food. And we got them all.

The place was the Country Barn pub in Subang Jaya on Jalan USJ 11/3. I have known this place for quite some time. The proprietor is an old home town friend.

The place is basically a pub. It has different live bands playing of different days of the week. The theme is always oldies and country, and it attracts a mature crowd.

And it serves good food too. Good Portuguese food. We started the evening with some drinks and progressed on to dinner.

Our first dish was the devil curry. They labeled it as 'Debel Curry' in the menu. Although small in portion, it was rich and delicious. Contrary to the devil's reputation, it wasn't too hot. I enjoyed it.

The cincalok (a Malacca shrimp paste) omelet was also good and tasty. I have tried cincalok omelets in other restaurants in Malacca and I did not like them. They were too salty. Country Barn got their omelet just right.

We also enjoyed the brinjal (egg plant) cooked with onion and chili in a dark soya sauce.

Our order for a humble plate of cabbage turned out to be very pleasant. It was stir fried with chicken meat, Chinese fungus (耳) and carrot. Good.

The prawn fritters came out piping hot and crispy. Very suitable with beer.

We also ordered a plate of fried mee-hoon. It was with some chicken, shrimp and adequate vegetables. Great.

As you can probably see, dinner was sumptuous. After an hefty meal, we settled down to enjoy the music. The group that evening comprised 2 ladies and a guy. I did not catch the group's name. They were not bad. But I have heard better singing in Country Barn. 

Our daughter was curious about margaritas. And as it turned out, she didn't like it and it was pushed to me. It was actually quite good. Very refreshing. But at RM20, it was a rather expensive curiosity.

We enjoyed our evening at the Country Barn and will be back for many more. The food they serve is not just Portuguese and local stuff. They also serve some western makan and the usual pub tit-bits. You can visit their rather poor website that has been under construction for quite a long time.