Saturday, October 29, 2011

Loong Foong at Paramount Garden

It was a family get together for no particular reason. Just a makan makan and to catch up. The place was selected by SP, and since it was my first time there I thought it would be a good subject for another blog posting. Loong Foong Seafood Restaurant is located at the cross junction between Jalan 20/13 and 20/14 in Paramount Gardens, PJ.

There are 2 Loong Foongs in Petaling Jaya. The other is in Taman Mayang beside the St. Ignatius Catholic church. I do not know if they are related. In any case, this Loong Foong appeared to have a makeover not too long ago. It has a large nice air conditioned dining hall and a equally large but more humble unconditioned area outside. I have passed by the place many times and noted that it was always very busily packed. That night was no exception.

The restaurant is apparently famous for its roast duck. They have a stall outside with 2 or 3 workers busily chopping up the birds. As I took their pictures, I saw quite a numbers of customers ordering and waiting to tar pau (打包 - take away) the ducks.

So the duck was naturally in our order. And it turn out to be very good. We had half a bird. It was freshly roasted and for this reason, the meat was soft and succulent. The skin was nice and crispy. The half bird was not much to go around the 7 of us. I was not sated and nearly ordered another half but resisted.

The duck stall also had some boxes of Chinese acar meant to be taken away. I am a great fan of this spicy pickled vegetable mixture, and could resist picking up a couple of boxes to eat there and take home. But sadly, it did not turn out to be nice. Chinese acar is flavored with generous sprinklings of grounded peanuts. The problem with this acar was that they pre-mixed this grounded nuts into the vegetables. And they became soft and soggy. The sauce was also not great.

This was an uniquely silly seafood dish. It was braised seafood in a pumpkin. In it were generous portions of fresh and dried scallops, fish maw, clams, sea cucumber, mushroom, etc. I do not know why they put everything into the pumpkin. The flavor of the seafood was quite ordinary. I do not mean that it did not taste good. Just that I did not think the pumpkin added any additional flavor to the dish. Also, I disliked the way they wrote the number 28 on the skin of the pumpkin with a whiteboard marker. Not that we would eat the skin of the pumpkin. But it was still food. To me, the possibility of marker ink permeating into the seafood was a real turn-off.

The yam ring (佛砵 or fatt put) was very ordinary. I cannot think of any thing good or bad to write about it. It had a number stir fried ingredients (chicken, prawn, mushroom, etc) and some crunchy cashew nuts in it.

This was the claypot tofu. It was the local tofu with an assortment of vegetables and some pork in a thick gravy. Again, it was ordinary. Nothing noteworthy. Another yawn.

The vege dish we had was a stir fried "chen long choy" (青龙菜). It is a new type of green that is popping up at restaurants recently. I quite liked the texture and enjoyed this simple dish.

The final dish was the steamed fish. It was a "leen fish" (鱼). This is a fresh water fish that is becoming popular in restaurants. It is also expensive. The fish was split into 2 halves and steamed in a simple light soy sauce. I did not find it fantastic. There were too much fine bones and eating it was a chore.

The meal was mediocre. Except perhaps the roast duck, none of the other dishes had any wow factor. It was ok for a simple dinner but the cost was not that simple. At the end of it, Peter got up and quickly went to the cashier to pay the bill. We got a shock when we asked him about the damage. It was nearly RM350 for such a mediocrity. The fish was at an unreal RM120. We very strongly suspected that because Peter is mat-salleh (white), they had jacked up the price. Because of this, I do not think we will return. Good bye Loong Foong.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ichiban Boshi

Ichiban Boshi is apparently a part of a Japanese chain that started in Singapore. Besides Malaysia, they have outlets in Vietnam and (curiously) Russia. In Malaysia, they are found in the Pavilion in Bukit Bintang in KL and the Sunway Giza Mall in PJ. They also have a sister restaurant, the Kuriya at the Bangsar Shopping Complex in KL.

We chanced into their outlet in the Sunway Giza Mall. We actually drove to Tropicana for Korean to satisfy my wife's craving for her favorite foreign food. But the place was closed - perhaps permanently in spite of their signboard that still hung lighted outside. Then I remembered a friend told me about a Korean place in nearby Kota Damansara that according to him was very good. It turned out to be a Daorae which we have tried a number of times and were not too eager to revisit. So we drove into the Sunway Giza Mall to look for a Korean. There wasn't any, and Japanese in the Ichiban Boshi was the next best alternative.

There was a long queue when we got there. Normally we would had moved on but for some reason, my family was willing to wait. And so we did. We were attended to by a very pleasant waitress who politely asked us for the number of diners and assured us a table in a short while. Still we waited for about 15 minutes. They should have some chairs outside to make waiting a little more bearable.

We finally got a nice table with a view of the outside mall. I would had preferred one next to their conveyor-belt sushi bar. But it was OK. I didn't mind. We were just hungry. We browsed the menu and made our orders.

While waiting for our food, I moved around to get some pictures. The place wasn't big. It had a nice contemporary decor. But soon the same pleasant waitress came to me to tell me that they did not allow photography in the restaurant. I wondered why. I wasn't using a flash and I wasn't disturbing anybody. And it was not as if they were a high security place that had anything to hide. By then I had enough shots of the restaurant and later ignored her instructions to take shots of our food.

My wife had this sukiyaki gozen. It was a set meal. She opted for chicken over the beef. It was served with rice, a mushroom appetizer, some udon noddles, a raw egg, water melon as dessert and curiously a bowl of miso soup. I wondered why they bothered with the miso since the sukiyaki is already a soup. They could had given something else. Perhaps a cawan mushi would had been more appropriate.

My set was a soba & teridon gozen. I opted for the green tea soba, and it was served with the same mushroom appetizer,  a bowl of chicken terriyaki rice and water melon dessert. I enjoyed the green tea soba. The noddle was very nice dipped into the soy sauce. The portion of soba was generous and adequate.

Crystal had this bowl of white soup half udon. It was udon in a milky soup. I wondered why they call it "half udon". I had a taste of the soup and to me it was rather odd. Yet Crystal seemed to enjoy it.

We ordered a number of side dishes. This is a salmon tataki. It was half grilled salmon in a soy sauce. It was good. Only the serving was rather small. Not quite enough to sate our craving.

This unagi juice roll was very good. It was eel rolled with sushi rice and in it were egg, crab stick and cucumber. The roll was generously covered with a mayo sauce. The unagi was delicious and combined very well with the other ingredients in the roll. Yummy.

This was a cream croquette. It was a deep fried croquette with cheese and crab meat. It was not OK. The taste was rather flat and I was not too crazy about it.

The gyoza was deep fried and served in a hot plate. Curious. This is the rarely seen in a Japanese restaurant. The Japs normally do not deep fried their gyoza. In any case, it was quite good. The skin of the gyoza was crispy which I like.

Dessert was tempura ice cream. It was vanilla ice cream deep fried inside a batter and topped with a strawberry sauce. I found the batter rather thick - in fact so thick that there wasn't very much ice cream in it. It was for this reason that I did not find it to be good. I have tasted fried ice creams that were a lot better.

Overall, the Ichiban Boshi is not a bad place at all for a Japanese meal. It is quite authentic and the prices are also reasonable. The positive reasons for wanting to go back outnumber the negative. So I think my family will be gunning for more of this place.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ole Ole Bali

The Empire Gallery shopping centre in Subang Jaya is apparently not a great shopping place. But I really cannot tell for I dislike shopping. The idea of walking the whole day into shops after shops does not at all appeal to me. My department is food. I know the Empire Gallery offers a good selection of it. And we have been eating there a lot. We were there again not long ago before it went boom. The place we randomly popped into was a Indonesian place called Ole Ole Bali.

We didn't realize it then, but we had eaten the food there before - although not in the same restaurant. Had we been aware of it, we probably would had gone somewhere else.

The place was very nicely furnished. The atmosphere was elegant, elaborate and distinctly Balinese with numerous artifacts that authenticated this aura.

Particularly impressive was a huge painting that was so intricately and artistically done.

They have 2 dining areas - a comfortable conventional indoor place...

And a relaxing alfresco (outdoor) area for smokers.

It was when we browsed the menu that deja vu crept in. Crystal commented that the menu was the same as that at the Waterlily. The listed food certainly looked the same. But we doubtful. That was Waterlily. This was Ole Ole. Could they be the same? We asked the waitress who took our orders. She confirmed that we were indeed in the same restaurant chain.

Somewhat disappointed because I wanted to taste a different Balinese place, we made sure not to order the same dishes we had at the Waterlily. Our first was the "Sop Buntut" - the oxtail soup. The soup was light. The beef (tail) in it was adequate. There were some nasi impit (rice cake). It was served with a piece of garlic bread, some deep fried shallots, fresh coriander and a slice of lime. I had tried "soup buntut" in Jakarta and I had liked its rich and spicy flavor. The soup here paled in comparison.

The next dish we shared was the "Tipat Cantuk". It was like the Indonesian gado-gado (a salad) with some veges, tofu, boiled egg and a piece of grilled chicken. It was served with a peanut sauce. It was pleasant. The sauce was very nice. But I would prefer a little more veges.

Lastly, we had a plate of chicken and fish combo. Both the meats were grilled. It was served with half a cob of corn and a bowl of slaw. The gravy was thick and peppery which was quite good. The essence of this dish was really the gravy.

I really cannot pin point the reasons but somehow the experience here was not as good as that in Waterlily. Perhaps it was the disappointment that this was the same restaurant and not being able to try something different. And when we scanned the menu again for dessert, we were not in the mood to remain there and decided to go elsewhere.

We moved one floor up to this place named 'T forty two'. It is a combined boutique and a tea/coffee place. They offered a tantalizing selection of  over-priced cakes and pastries. We made our orders and proceeded to their sitting area outside the shop.

Their sitting area in a barricaded foyer of the first floor is rather chic. It had elegant furniture. But because they were so over-priced, the place was largely vacant - save the 3 of us.

The coffee was served in quaint small cups and saucers...

So were the macarons and tiramisu that Crystal picked...

Fanciful place and crockery alright. And so was the money we had to pay....

At the time of this blog posting, the Empire Galley is still recovering from the boom. They have not yet re-opened. When they do, I wonder if the place would be the same. The boom was quite devastating. And I am sure there would be major make-overs in some of the places. I am looking forward to go back there again. Not for the shopping - but for the food.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Restoran Nyonya

This nyonya restaurant has been around for a long long time. Simply named Restoran Nyonya, it is located on Jalan SS2/24, in the heart of Petaling Jaya. They claim to be have started business in 1974. That makes them well over 30 years old - approaching 40.

I remembered eating there many times and was there again recently. What I did not remember was its new decor. It did not look the same. I later found out from their website that they are a makeover in 2007. So it must had been at least 4 years since I last ate there. The place now looks bright and cheerful. It used to be rather drab.

Our meal started with the ikan assam pedas. I could not tell what kind of fish we were served. I think it was either pieces of a snapper or a grouper. Whatever it was, the fish was fresh. The assam gravy was very savory, with pieces of okra (ladies' fingers) topped with mint, basil and chopped lemon grass (serai).

Next was the sambal prawns with petai. Petai (parkia speciosa), the strong stinky seeds that are gathered from the forest, is one of my favorite idiosyncratic delicacies. It makes the mouth stink, the breath foul and the toilet unbearable. Yet unexplainably, like a lot of other Malaysians, I love it. The sambal prawn petai in Nyonya was not the best. There wasn't enough petai. It was also a little too oily. But I enjoyed it nevertheless.

I believe sayur paku is a nyonya vegetable. So appropriately, we ordered it. This vegetable which is a fern, used to be very cheap. I believed they used to be gathered from the wild. It is best fried with sambal, which was exactly how we had it. It was good. I think Nyonya did a good job with this humble green. The sambal and some pieces of prawns made the paku very delicious.

The inchi kabin is a nyonya deep fried chicken. It was very well done - crispy and well marinated. I liked the aroma. My only complaint was the serving was too small. There was hardly enough to go round the table. Chicken like this - there should be at least 2 pieces per person.

This gado-gado, a kind of rojak that originated from Indonesia, should had been our starter. But it arrived at our table in the middle of the meal. It was various veges, tofu, boiled egg, etc, blanketed with a peanut sauce. The flavor of this dish is totally in the sauce. And it was not great. I felt it was too sweet. And I would prefer more crushed peanuts in it.

I do not know why nyonya folks are so crazy about their perut ikan (fish stomach or air bladder). This was our final dish. It was a meshed-up, soggy potpourri of various veges. And in it was supposedly some fresh fish maw (or air bladder). It tasted spicy and sour with a weird kind of fishy taste. I could not find any fish maw in it - they had been so thoroughly cooked that they had dissolved into the mess. I did not find it good at all - not then and not at all previous occasions that I had perut ikan.

And then we enjoyed our desserts. My wife had this bowl of ABC (ais batu campur). It looked very nice. The taste certainly did not disappoint. It had a good mixture of what ABC should be. I tasted it and I agreed with her choice.

I did not try this cendol though. It did not look as good as the ABC.

My hot bowl of bubur cha cha was the jewel of the dessert crown. It was one of the best bubur cha cha I had. There were 2 different types of sweet potatoes, yam, cendol, jelly and beans. The santan broth was rich and so very creamy. The taste was fantastic.

The tag line of this restaurant is "Yesterday's taste. Today". After more than 4 years since my last visit, it is impossible to tell if they had maintained their "yesterday's" consistency. But going by our latest experience, their "today's" taste is definitely good enough to go there again when we next have our craving for nyonya food.