Thursday, February 27, 2014

Memphis Bistro

A friend mentioned this place to me. I had no idea it existed even though it is quite near to where I live. It was my wife's birthday and we decided to give the place a go. A couple of days before that we drove around the area looking for the restaurant. It took us awhile to find it.

The Memphis Bistro is located in the Pusat Perdagangan Dana 1, on Jalan PJU 1A/46 in Petaling Jaya. The address can be just mumbo jumbo, for it is not easy to locate. If you drive along the Subang Airport road, in the direction away from the airport towards Subang Jaya, you would pass Citta Mall after going over the flyover at entrances into Ara Damansara and Saujana. Drive a couple of hundred meters from there and you would see PAWS (the dog sanctuary) on your left side. Just before PAWS, turn left. After several hundred meters, you would see some shop lots on your right side. That is Pusat Perdagangan Dana 1. Turn right into this quiet, almost dead commercial centre. The restaurant is in a remote corner of the centre.

Inside, it was quite vibrant and crowded. It is apparently a popular place. It was fortunate that I had made prior reservation. It was her birthday, and I had to ensure nothing went wrong.

However, our experience there was not without hitches. Soon after we settled down, a small cockroach crawled across our table. My wife and Crystal almost became hysterical. The boss lady came over and apologised profusely. By then the roach had been swept down to the floor. She took off her shoe and dully smashed it to smithereens. I do not know if she washed her hands. She certainly handled food and served the customers after that.

No Memphis would be without Elvis. And sure enough, he was there.

We made our menu selection. There was one thing good about birthday meals. There was no inhibitions. We went for the best. We started with half a dozen of garlic baked French escargots. It was served with 2 tiny slices of garlic bread. They could be more generous on that. The escargots were rather dry. They did not look very appetising but the flavour was not bad at all.

We asked for fresh oysters. The boss lady said sorry, they had just sold the last lot to the customers in another table. OK, never mind... A short while later, she rushed back to our table and excitedly told us she still had four more. Did we still want them? But of course. She said one of them was rather small and she would only charge us for 3. Why? Was that supposed to be compensation for the cockroach?

Anyway, the oysters were absolutely marvellous. They were super fresh and look at the size of them. I wondered where they had imported them from and how they manage to keep them so very fresh. These were some of the best fresh oysters I had in Malaysia. They were cold and felt so nice in the mouth. Brilliant.

This was a plate of crispy squid nuggets, served with salad and topped with remoulade dressing. It was supposed to come with jicama (sengkuang) slaw. But they were apparently out of sengkuang and substituted with salad. The squid nuggets were very good. They were crispy outside, yet not over-done inside. The squid were not at all rubbery. They were soft and succulent.

This large single grilled portobello mushroom stuffed with tomato, garlic, herbs and mozzarella cheese. I did not find it to be fantastic, but Crystal loved it.

We also had a plate of their house salad with a French dressing.

After finishing 5 starters, we were ready to share our entrees. The first one was a grilled chicken with "wild southern sauce". The southern thingy was actually chilli mustard paste and BBQ sauce. The thigh of the bird was rather overdone. The french fries accompaniment was somewhat basic. There should had been some salad to moisten this quite dry dish. Still it was quite tasty.

The spaghetti was very good. It was supposed to cooked with mussels. But they were also out of that and substituted with seafood - shrimps, squid and some pieces of fish. That aside, the pasta was really very nice. The texture was good. Perfect al dente. The flavour was chilli, herbs, garlic and olive oil.

Our final dish was a pan fried tooth fish. I really do not know what is tooth fish. This was the first time I had heard of and savoured it. I googled and found 2 different types of tooth fish - the Antarctic tooth fish and the Patagonian tooth fish. I have no idea what this was. In any case, the fish was very good. It was very fresh. The meat was sweet and tender. It was cooked in a white creamy sauce with some spinach as accompaniment - a very good combination indeed.

The fish and fresh oyster were not offered in the menu. They were the "Chef's specialties" - written on a wall board and subject to availability. I heard they serve a very goat soup. It wasn't available that day.

I wondered what they had to offer for dessert. But we were too full. We decided to skip. In any case, there was a birthday cake at home. Perhaps next time. It most certainly will be a next time. In spite the various hitches - cockroach, being out of this and that - this was really a very satisfying meal. The food was good. The oysters were difficult to forget. And the price was decent. Once in a while, we find a good bargain like this.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Grand Kingdom

We came back from Sungei Petani in time for me to host a dinner for my siblings, cousin and nephews who were back from Australia for the CNY. The dinner coincided with another commemorative occasion. 

The restaurant we picked was the Grand Kingdom at the Tropicana City Mall in SS2, PJ. Because of the festive season, we had to make our reservation 3 weeks in advance. And when we went there before the CNY to make our menu selection, we discovered that because of the same reason, they had limited ala carte selection. They recommended 4 set menus priced between RM888 to RM2188. We settled for one in the middle.

This was my first time in this restaurant. It was tucked at one corner on the 1st floor of the mall. The common dining area was not very big, but they had individual dining rooms all around. I did not have the presence of mind to ask for a room and we ended up with a table in the noisy dining hall.

The place was pleasantly furnished with a very contemporary setting. It was rather congested, and I suspected that the acoustic of the dining hall could be better as it was really very noisy with a packed house. Service was prompt and efficient. A couple of guys who appeared to be foreign workers attended to our needs. Unlike some foreign workers in other establishments, they knew exactly what to do and seemed to be very well trained.

We sipped some wine and soon the dishes began to arrive at our table.

Being the CNY season, the starter was obviously the Yee Sang (魚生). It was served in a big round tray. The ingredients were varied and colourful.

Two types of seafood came with the Yee Sang - fresh salmon and the Muki Amaebi (Japanese fresh shrimps).

We were provided with long chopsticks for the toss. I was still harping on my jackpot. If indeed it is granted, there will be another feast in this restaurant, and a lot grander. But coming back to reality, the yee sang was very good. The flavour from the sauces and spices was just right. There was nothing to complain about the freshness of the ingredients.

The soup was individually served. It was a double boiled ginseng soup with fish maw. There was a choice of fish maw or shark fin. And of course, our option was against the fin. The soup was delicious. The flavour of the ginseng was distinct. Disappointedly, there was only a single piece of fish maw in the soup. Fish maw is really not that expensive. Instead, it was filled with chunks of chicken breast that most probably contributed to the main flavour of the soup. We were in no mood to eat the bland coarse breast meat. So we collected them all and got the waiter to tar pau (打包) them for Bob and Alex.

Next was a whole roasted suckling pig. It was presented in a golden platter and served with a sweet sauce and spring onions. What we got was just the thin layer of the piglet's skin - with the head and 4 legs as adornments. It was delightfully crispy and delicious. But where was the animal's meat? There was no trace of any. Naturally we did not touch the head and the legs. And without any request from us, the waiters promptly tar pau the head and leg for us. But shouldn't they also include the meat? After all, we had paid for the whole piglet.

The fish was superbly steamed. It was a giant tiger grouper (龍虎斑). It was very very fresh. The meat was soft and succulent and broke off in flakes. The sauce was light and did not mask the sweetness and flavour of the fish.

The stir fried fresh scallops with sea cucumber (海参) in XO sauce was another delightful dish. There was also some very nice crunchy green beans. The scallops were big and thick. The sea cucumbers, which are very expensive nowadays, were likewise thick and of very good quality. I tasted a tinge of chilli in the dish. It worked perfectly.

The was probably the highlight of the meal. It was braised whole abalone with Chinese mushrooms, dried oysters, and fatt choy (髮菜- black hair moss). The abalone were of decent sizes. They were marvellous. I also liked the big dried oysters. The fatt choy were sparse; they could had been a little more generous on that. Again the sauce was light and secondary to the original flavour of the various delicacies in the dish.

The last savoury course was the claypot Hongkong lap mei rice (腊味飯 - waxed meat rice). I was looking forward to this dish. We normally eat lap mei (腊味 - assorted waxed meat) only during CNY, and I had tasted some really nice lap mei rice. But the lap mei rice was not to expectations. It wasn't bad, but it did not turn out like how I expected it to be. I was actually surprised when this large plate of lap mei showed up on our table. It comprised delicious Chinese meat sausage (), Chinese liver sausage (肝肠), waxed duck (腊鸭) and waxed pork (腊肉). I had expected all these meats in the pot of rice.

A large claypot of rice did arrive and in it were more lap mei meats. They served the rice into individual bowls. The large plate of meats were the extras. There was a lot of meats - so much so, there were leftovers to tar pau back. The rice did not taste as good as I had experienced before. It some how lacked the flavour of the lap mei. Still I enjoyed it thoroughly.

They even scrapped up the rice crusts at the bottom of the claypot. The crusts were aromatic and crispy. Hard to believe we paid so much money to eat rice crusts.

Dessert was wonderful. There was this large bowl of chilled snow fungus with aloe vera. It was deliciously refreshing.

And we also had a plate of 2 different desserts. On the left were the lemon puffs. They were absolutely gorgeous. The pastry was soft and fluffy. Inside was a lemony sweet creamy filling. It was very very good.

On the right were the Nein Kuo (年糕 - traditional CNY rice cake). It was deep fried in a yam pastry - much like Woo Kok (芋角- yam puff), only the filling was not meat but Nein Kuo. It was very innovative. This was the first time I had Nein Kuo this way, and I enjoyed both the flavour and innovation.

It was a most satisfactory quality meal. But pricey. Grand Kingdom is apparently known to be an expensive place to dine. The meal costed me a small fortune - made worse perhaps by the festive season. I would like to return to try out their ala carte. Such places need to have an occasion to be there.

Perhaps I need to wager more into 4Ds.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Jade Garden, Sungei Petani

Our CNY makan spree went north - to my wife's hometown in Sungei Petani. It was a gruelling 7 hours there on the first day of the new year - on a journey that normally takes 4 hours. The traffic to Ipoh was bumper to bumper. After that, it was thankfully OK. Had it been as jammed, it would had easily taken us 10 hours or more. In any case, we arrived at SP at about 9.00pm. I was bushed. I had a simple dinner, a shower and then bed.

There was plenty of food at my in-laws. Still we decided on a restaurant meal on the second day of new year. The place we picked was the Jade Garden. This restaurant is located in the Eupe food court at the northern end of Sungei Petani.

It wasn't a great place. Still it did a roaring business during the festivities. There were 2 dining sessions - the earlier session was at 6.00pm and the second session at 8. We decided on the later session. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was somewhat chaotic. The earlier diners were leaving and the later diners were going in.

My in-laws are a big extended family. We needed 3 tables. The young nieces ganged merrily together in one..

The elders, including Grandpa and Grandma, were more subdued.

There was the mandatory tossing of yee sang (鱼生- fresh fish). The dish was not bad at all. The ingredients were fresh and the sauce was good. We tossed for a good year. I hoped for a 4-D jackpot.

Next came the soup. Thank god it was not shark fin. After all that I have seen, I have sworn off shark fin. It was a thick fish maw soup with sea food. The flavour of the soup was good. But I did like the artificial seafood like crab sticks.

The chicken was very ordinary. It was deboned and deep fried and served in a sweet sauce. It really was quite tasty.

But I didn't like the prawns. They were most unimaginatively deep fried with the shells. They were rather over-cooked. The prawns were big and fresh. What a waste of nice prawns to cook them this way.

This was a dish was braised mushrooms in small pak choy (小白菜). I actually enjoyed this simple dish.

I did not touch this red snapper steamed in chilli sauce. I thought it was another unimaginative dish. And it was not properly steamed. The meat was somewhat raw. We had to send it back to the kitchen. When it finally reappeared, I had lost my appetite for it.

The final dish was rice. And I am really not sure what concoction this was. It was rice mixed or cooked in soy sauce. In it was small pieces of Chinese sausages and lap mei (腊味- wax meats). The taste was very bland. They did not put enough flavour into the rice.

Dessert was rushed through. It was a cold sea coconut and longan. By then, people were starting to leave. The waiters were starting to clear our tables. Some of us, me included, were simply not too interested in the dessert.

It wasn't a great meal. Perhaps it was the wrong time to expect one. But it really did not matter. We were there to celebrate the new year. To my in-laws, it was a yearly second reunion. And it was our presence that mattered more.