Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kuala Selangor Revisited

This was our second visit to Kuala Selangor. Our first experience was for lunch and some fresh fish. We were back for the same reasons. We took the same route and ended in the same locality - at Pasir Penambang. We went back to the same fishing settlement by the Kuala Selangor river, to the same row of restaurants built at the bank of the river. 

The restaurant we picked this time was right next to the one we ate in during the previous visit. It was the second shop in the row. Makanan Laut Hai Ung (海鮮樓) is also a big set up. Like its neighbor, it is partly built on stilts into the the bank of the river. 

We picked a table at the water edge. It was a very pleasant feeling sitting by the nice clean river for a relaxing lunch. The place was cool in spite of the noon sun. There was a constant breeze from river.

The coconut prelude to the meal was most refreshing. 

Our first dish was the steamed pomfret. Rather unusual, considering that steaming of fish normally take a bit of time and would not usually be the first to be served. The fish was good-sized and steamed in a light soy sauce. It was fresh to the superlative - like it was just scooped from the sea. Absolutely delicious and worthwhile.

Next came the fried mee hoon. It was done with fresh crabs. The noodles were very flavorful with the freshness of the crabs to match. 

The oyster omelet was served in a hot dish. This is not one of my favorite dishes. Still I had a good serving of it. The oysters, like the fish and crabs, were very fresh. It made the dish a lot more pleasant for me.

This was la-la (clams) in superior soup. Again, no problem with freshness. The la-las were of reasonably good size. The soup was very sweet with lots and ginger for flavor.

Then, a plate of mundane obligatory green.

The mantis prawns were perhaps the highlight of the meal. They were steamed  in a clear sauce with the normal egg white as the base. I more or less acquired the art of eating mantis prawns, peeling the bottom shell to get to the meat. We each had 2 of the shrimps. That was definitely was not enough for me. 

The nice breeze perhaps fanned our hunger. We wanted more. So we ordered 2 additional dishes. But they did not turn out to be great. The first of these two was the seafood noodles, which was mediocre at best. Very unspectacular.

So was the prawns. They were blanched. Blanching of prawns should never be over done. If done right, these very fresh prawns would be juicy and succulent. But they were not. I think they were rather over-boiled and turned out a little hard and rubbery. 

Still, all in all it was a great meal. The environment was pleasant. The seafoods were super fresh. The cooking was reasonable. There was nothing much else we could ask for in that hot Sunday afternoon.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Carcosa Seri Negara

If it was not for Crystal, we probably would not had ever thought of dining at this place. Our dear daughter returned from Melbourne and promptly gave us a RedRibbon Days gift voucher for a belated Parents Day dining experience at the Carcosa Seri Negara. We were flabbergasted. We did not expect to receive such a wonderful present. 

She did all the arrangements and made our reservation for a leisurely Saturday evening. We had never been to this place and needed the help of our Garmin. We drove towards the Lake Gardens and turned up an isolated hill. There are 2 buildings in this complex. The place we went to was Seri Negara. The other building Carcosa is apparently temporary closed. 

The splendor of the place greeted us as we walked up the road to the main entrance. The entrance was modest but no less impressive. It was so typically colonial. As we opened the door, it was almost like we were intruding into somebody's palace.

We were immediately greeted by a couple of staff as we entered the lobby. The place was a sight to behold. To say that it was posh and exclusive was a gross understatement. The elegance was astounding. 

A grand staircase led to 5 exclusive suites above. But we did not get to see any of them.

We were led to the dining room. There were 2 dining areas. Both were exquisitely furnished. 

Our table was at a really nice isolated corner. The waiter lit the candle and presented us the menu.

We took our time perusing the options. We carefully made our selections for an unforgettable meal. This was our evening. We went for the full works.

Dinner started with the salad. My wife had the Lobster Salad with Organic Quinoa. It was served with a black caviar cream and truffle dressing. It was wonderfully presented. The taste was fabulous. The caviar sauce and truffle dressing was lovely. However, the lobster was somewhat lacking. It was not totally succulent and sweet. I suspect it was not totally fresh.

Mine was the Carcosa Salad with Parmesan and Smoked Duck. The greens were fresh and delightfully dressed. The slices of smoked duck were separately presented. The meat was great. It was smokey, slightly salty and simply delicious.

Soup was the next course. The Lobster Bisque was perhaps a little too salty. But the flavor and aroma was superb. It was very creamy with small pieces of lobster meat. 

The Morel Soup was a kind of mushroom. It was as creamy as the Lobster Bisque. It was smooth and delicious. We exchanged our soup bowls as we went along. I felt the Morel tasted better than the Lobster.

I particularly liked the breads that were served with the salads and the soups. They were hot and fresh - like they were just out of the oven. Perhaps they were. The crust was crispy and the inside was nice and soft.

For the entree, my wife had the Oven Baked Spring Chicken. It was served with a jacketed mashed potato and a chili espalate sauce. It was a whole small chick. It was very well done. The taste was not bad at all. She enjoyed the dish. She liked the mashed potato. It was soft and very fine.

I had the Roasted Organic Lamb Rack. It was served with a mint potato cannelloni (a stuffed pasta), a stalk of rosemary and black olives in lamb jus. I had not regrets with my selection. It was a real good lamb dish. The meat was tender and juicy. The mint flavored cannelloni complemented the lamb beautifully. I liked the olives too. They tasted really good in the sauce. 

Dessert was a shared tiramisu, together with coffee. The tiramisu was very elegantly done - with a walnut wafer, strawberry and a chocolate stick. The cake was very fine, almost melting in our mouth. It was a fitting finish to a great meal.

Dining at the Carcosa Seri Negara was an experience. The food was great. The ambiance was fantastic. The service was good. We enjoyed our evening fabulously. But it was at a price. Just an indication of what it was - the lobster salad was priced at RM95, the soup at RM40 and my lamb rack was RM170. But I thought it was worth the experience.

Thanks Wan. You made it happen.

Sunday, July 08, 2012


This was our second visit to Gourmandis. Our first visit was impromptu and I did not have a camera. This time around, even though we did not initially intended to be there, I was better prepared. Our previous experience was pleasant enough to make us want to return.

Gourmandis is located at the Citta Mall, on Jalan PJU 1A/48 in Ara Damansara. It is our neighborhood mall that is fast gaining popularity, mainly I think, because there are many good food outlets there. Gourmandis is on Lot G-46, on the ground floor, very near to Mac Donalds. 

It has a large bar which at most time that I had observed, was mainly empty. I think the place does a better business on food.

We got to know Ben on our first visit. He came to our table to chat with us. Ben is the executive chef there. He told us they have another outlet - I forgot where. On this second visit, he again greeted us at our table and personally took our orders.

Dinner started with the drinks. My wife had her boring mango juice. Crystal was  a little more adventurous and had this margarita wannabe - a non-alcoholic cocktail, complete with salt around the rim. I had a sip and it was like the real thing, minus the tequila.

Dinner was soon served. My wife's choice was this Crispy Seafood Aglio Olio. It was spaghetti cooked with a couple of good-size mussels, clams and prawns, in olive oil, chili flakes, cilantro and roasted garlic. The pasta was very well prepared. The flavor was good. My wife enjoyed it. According to Ben, this was one of their top sellers.

Crystal had the Gourmandis Lamb Combo. It was grilled lamb shoulder with 2 types of potatoes - roasted and mashed, roasted pumpkin and semi-dried tomatoes. It was served with honey mustard sauce. The lamb was very well done. It was tender and juicy. I had this at our first visit and I absolutely liked it.

My choice was the duck confit. However, they did not have it that night. Ben said he did have a breast of duck in the kitchen and offered to cooked in a different manner. It turned out to be good. The duck breast had a stuffing of mushroom, and pan fried to a golden brown. It was served with a potato and pumpkin topping, and a very nice sweet sauce, which I cannot identify. The meat was a little tough, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

Then our Grill Zucchini finally arrived at our table. This was supposed to be our starter. It arrived when we had almost finished our main meal. I thought Ben had forgotten about it. It was thick slices of zucchini with a piece of shrimp on top, grilled in a béarnaise and red wine sauce. The preparation and flavor was good. But I really did not fancy grilled zucchini. So the dish was not just so-so for me.

I was dying for a good dessert. But they only had one - chocolate and ice cream. Kind of an anti-climax. What kind of dessert is that in a swanky western restaurant? We decided to give it a skip. But a western meal without a dessert is really not complete. So we walked around the mall looking for one. Unfortunately Citta is a dessert desert. We went home unsweetened and not absolutely sated.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Ampang Yong Tau Fu

In the Klang Valley, Ampang and yong tau fu (釀豆腐are synonymous. Mention one, the other immediately comes in mind. I have this arduous frequent requirements to drive to Ampang over the past few weeks. And while there, I took the opportunity to re-visit the YTF eateries that the place is so famed.

There are 3 well-known YTF makan places in Ampang. The shops are located side-by-side in the same somewhat chaotic neighborhood along Jalan Merdeka in the Ampang township. To get there, you drive along Jalan Ampang, pass all the embassies, up the flyover at Ampang Point. About 2 km from Ampang Point, you come to a big police station on your right. At the first traffic lights after the police station, make a right turn. Pass another traffic light and you have a Giant hyper-mart, also on your right. At the end of this road, make another right turn and voila, the 3 YTF shops are there on the left.

The first shop we re-visited was Restoran Foong Foong (鴻鴻). I believe this is the original YTF place in Ampang. I remembered coming to this place 20 to 30 years ago, and nothing seemed to have changed. There were the same parking  lots and the same stalls selling fruits, cookies and biscuits outside the shop. I distinctly remembered the shop owners using the same noisy microphones to convey customers' orders to the kitchen. But I didn't remember the other 2 shops beside it. 

The place was jam packed on a Saturday noon. We were lucky to get a table. People were eating YTF by the dozens, like they had never tasted YTF before. We had to place our orders at the counter. This was in turn conveyed by loudspeakers to the kitchen. You just need to imagine the noise and mayhem.

The kitchen, at the side of the shop, was a hive of activities. There was like a thousand workers - all doing their thing. Some were making the raw material. Some were doing the cooking. Others were dishing out the servings. I really do not know how they keep track of the orders. It was an organized chaos.

The shop serves nothing but YTF and rice and blanched vege. No noodles and no other dishes. Our orders came in 2 servings. The wet dish comprised of white soft tofu, fish balls, brinjal, okra (ladies' fingers), bitter gourd and chilis. The dry dish were fried fu chuk (腐竹) and fried sui kow (). 

The food was good but not exceptional. The fish stuffings were generous and had the nice springy texture. I enjoyed that. But I didn't think it was anything to go gaga over. I had YTF in other places that were just as good. I don't understand what was so special about the Ampang label.

On another Saturday, we visited the second shop. Orchard View (甜園) is in the middle of the 3 shops.

It is no less chaotic than the first. Again, we struggled to get a table. We sat there for awhile looking for someone to take our orders. A passing waitress sternly told us to wait. Later an elderly lady threw 2 menus on our table.

This shop is more diverse in their food selection. Besides YTF, they serve a variety of Chinese dishes. They also offer noodles beside rice. But on this particular day, the lady told us they were too busy to prepare the noodles and asked us to go for the rice instead.

We had some obligatory YTF - just some fried fu chuk (腐竹) and brinjal, stuffed yew char kueh (油炸鬼) and bitter gourd. Of the lot, I liked the yew char kueh most. Again the YTF here were not exceptional. I found the quality in this shop a little lacking. Somehow, I enjoyed the YTF more in Foong Foong - the first shop.

Beside the YTF, we had a dish of - a vegetarian dish. This was superb. It was absolutely one of the best  we had. It looked messy and mushy. But it was meant to be like that. The taste was just nice - not too salty - great flavor.

The waitress lady recommended this curry tilapia. The fish was cooked in a thick curry with brinjal, okra and other good vegetables. The dish was nice. But the curry was a little too rich and oily. It was somewhat surfeiting and you can't take too much of that. The fish was very fresh though.

Finally, the 3rd and last shop is Ampang Homeland. This shop has branches in PJ SS2 and Subang Jaya Tai-pan. I had tried both the branches and see no need to visit it again. My impressions in both the branches were just so-so.

Ampang yong tau fu.... Seriously, I think the whole thing is over-rated. I like YTF. I have lots of it in food stalls and coffee shops. Ampang's is not any better than the rest.