Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sweet Inn

Sweet Inn is quite an unusual name for a Chinese restaurant. To me, it is a little silly. It is a brand new makan place in Damansara Kim, Petaling Jaya located on Jalan SS20/10 on the same road and not too far from the even sillier name - Extra Super Tanker.

This restaurant is operated by Ah Lian, who was from Chyniis and earlier from Green View. She together with the chef apparently broke away from Chyniis and started Sweet Inn. My experience in Chyniis had been great. With the same chef guy, I entered Sweet Inn with certain not-unjustified expectations.

There were nine of us for dinner that evening. SP was buying for our old friends from down under. The restaurant was rather small - just one shop lot. It was brightly lighted up, but unlike Chyniis' contemporary setting, it had a rather typical Chinese decor - with red table cloths, plastic cutleries, a large mirror and some oddball pictures on the wall.

The menu selection was pre-ordered. We were allocated a large table at the back of the shop. Service was prompt but the food was agonisingly slow.

The first dish arrived not long after we settled down. It was only to be expected since SP had long earlier called Ah Lian to order the dishes. It was simmering pork belly in a hot pot with dry chillis in a thick sauce. It was very aromatic and tasted quite good. But the portion was rather small.

Then it was the sea cucumber stir fried with spring onion and ginger (蔥海参). To me it was a 2T (TWO T - Total Waste Of Time). Sea cucumber is such an expensive commodity nowadays. It is relished more for its texture than its taste. In the dish, the sea cumber was sliced into thin pieces and then stir fried with spring onion, ginger and slices of carrot. In the process, the sea cucumber became mushy, almost melting into a mess. There was no semblance of sea cucumber. It was like eating spring onion and ginger stir fried in flour paste.

Rice was served. Nine of us picked on these two small dishes and then we waited and waited and waited. For nearly 45 minutes (no exaggeration), nothing else arrive at the table. Our rice bowls were nearly empty in anticipation of the next dish. Fortunately, the company was fantastic and our conversation made our wait a little more bearable. Even then, we finally lost our patience and summoned Ah Lian. "Oh, the dishes did not come?" she said, "Let me check the kitchen."

Perhaps with her intervention, things then began to move. The first to do so was this lamb chop. It was pan fried rack of lamb. The meat was very well marinated. The flavour was rich and aromatic. I found the meat a little tough. It was not amazingly great. The plate was absolutely just meat. There was no garnish or accompaniment. Some salad or greens would probably had given the dish a little more variety and flavour.

This crab was cooked with tong fun (冬粉) or glass noodles. It easily was the best dish of the night. The crabs were big, fresh and full. The meat was firm and sweet. The noodles absorbed the flavour of the crabs and was wonderfully delicious.

The chicken was cooked in 2 ways. Half of it was deep fried to a crisp. Nothing extraordinary, but it was tasty.

The other half was similarly deep fried and then stirred in a sweet grape sauce. Some halves of grapes lingered with the meat. It was original, perhaps even innovative; but I think I liked the former better.

The vege dish was pak choy (白菜) stir fried in yam sauce, flavoured with some dried shrimps. 

We didn't quite had enough. So two noodle dishes were ordered to supplement. They were very very ordinary. 

Dessert was equally mundane. Cold sea coconut and the usual stuff.

Sweet Inn is a break-away from Chyniis at the SSTwo Mall. The chef is from there. So how did it compare to the mother-ship - in taste, originality and innovation? To me, there was no comparison. Sweet Inn was no where near Chyniis. Perhaps one chef does not make a good restaurant. And the place was not cheap. The meal that evening costed nearly 600 bucks! My perception of Sweet Inn is that of an ordinary restaurant where one goes for an ordinary (not a special) meal. But the prices there were by no means ordinary. It was like a small time player charging big time money. 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Kampung Baiduri

I met up with some good old friends for lunch. People from mat-saleh land... what do they miss most? I think banana leaf is probably at the top of the list. So we arranged to meet in an Indian restaurant in PJ. I told Eddy to go to the Krishna Curry House in Jalan 222. Somehow, there was a miscommunication and we ended up at the Kampung Baiduri instead.

After more than 40 years living in PJ, I did not even know this place existed. The reason was probably because it is located in a remote corner of the city - on Jalan 235/51A. To get there, drive along Jalan 222 from the Federal Highway, until you come to a tiny (perhaps the world's smallest) round-about. Go straight (12 o'clock) at the round-about. Not far from the round-about, turn left. The restaurant is there about.

It is really quite a nice mamak place. There is an air-conditioned dining hall and an more relaxing fan-cooled area. They had a good lunch time crowd.

Like all mamak makan places, there was a long food counter. The usual nasi kandar stuffs were on display. They all looked very yummy.

On this day it was the company that mattered more to me than the food. It was a surprise and was really to see Appu again. It had been more than 5 years since we last met.

And the food did not disappoint. The first dish we shared was this mutton curry. It was spicy, gamey and exactly how mutton should be. The curry was rich and flavourful. The serving of meat was generous.

The fried chicken was very well done. Crispy and aromatic.

So was the sotong (squid). In spite of being deep fried, it was not over done and was not rubbery. The squid was soft and succulent, in a crispy batter.

This was beef in a thick, rich kichap sauce. I thought the mutton tasted better.

A lot of Indian restaurants make very nice deep fried bitter gourds. They cut the bitter gourds into thin slices, sun dry and deep fry them to a nice crisp. The bitter gourds in this place were different. They were fresh gourds deep fried in a batter. But I liked it. It tasted good too.

Also, a lot of Indian restaurants murder their vegetables. They over-cook them. The bean sprouts (taugeh) in this place were different. It was refreshing to see taugeh so mercifully spared.

Some ordinary omelet.

Finally the curry fish head. It was the head of a large snapper. This shop trumpets itself as a fish head specialist. Well, I don't know which fish head school they went to. I did not find the fish head curry here spectacular. The fish was reasonably fresh. But the cooking was just ordinary. It was just a head floating in very ordinary curry, with a few miserable and aged okras (ladies fingers). No other vegetables accompany the lonely head.

Oh yes, the rasam. I love rasam and I never fail to order them whenever available. And they are always free - FOC. The rasam here did not disappoint. It was spicy, sour and had the full oomph. You have to stir it and drink it warm to get the kick.

Like all Indian lunches, the meal that day was heavy. We definitely ate too much. The food was OK. Not spectacular. I would perhaps go back again. My next Indian stop - Krishna Curry House....