Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Crystal bought a couple of Chicago pork rib meals from Groupon. As with all Groupon offers, it was supposed to be a good deal. So off we went to Chicago. They have only 3 outlets in Malaysia. One of them is in Penang and the other in Cheras. We picked the most logical one - in 1-Utama Shopping Centre, which is located on the 1st floor of the new wing.

One of our nieces from Sungei Petani was in town. So Crystal gathered a couple more of their local cousins and we had a party of 8 people. The restaurant did not allow advance booking. When we arrived there, there was already a waiting crowd outside.

After a considerable wait, they called Crystal on the phone and led us a joined wall-side table. The place was not all that big. It had a typical American diner decor - rather characterless.

Grilled pork ribs is apparently their speciality. They had big signages on their walls to declare so.

Their kitchen or grilling station looked hot and smoky. Inside, workers toiled to prepare our meals.

Crystal was in charge that evening. She did all the ordering. I sat back with my bottomless iced lemon  tea in anticipation of a good meal.

First on our table was this seafood spaghetti. The flavour was good. There were generous portions of shrimps and squid, and the herbs mixture was not bad at all. But the pasta was soggy and over cooked. It definitely lacked the al dente of a good pasta.

Likewise, the chilli pork bolognese. The sauce, herbs and minced pork were all flavourful. The spaghetti was soggy and disappointing.

Then they served the highlights - grilled pork ribs. To me it was a total disappointment. The ribs were served in half-racks. They were engulfed in an overwhelming red thick BBQ sauce which tasted too sweet and a little "artificial". The meat slipped off the rib bones like an oversized glove. It was too easy eating it. There was no "challenge" that required you to hold them in your fingers to nibble and to tear the meat off the bones with your teeth. The meat was soft and flaccid. It was like eating boiled ribs in BBQ sauce. The flavour of the meat was almost non-existent. It was all over powered and masked by the awful BBQ sauce. How could this ever be a signature dish?

The ribs came in 7 choices of side orders, of which you could select 2. We had 6 of them. None of them was great.

The grilled lamb rack was a much much better rib. Only we didn't get the a rack, just a couple of ribs. The ribs were very well done. Unlike the pork, it was not inundated with the sweet BBQ sauce. The meat was firm and well marinated. We tasted the full original flavour of the lamb. Why couldn't they grill the pork ribs the same way?

We shared 2 of these "oriental" salads. It was lettuce and tomato tossed with a silly mixture of almond and peanuts in a lime dressing. A good try, but it did not work.

This was bacon wrapped sausages, grilled in the same BBQ sauce. It was so-so. I thought the bacon was the saving grace.

And then we shared 2 pizzas. The first was the pork pizza. It was minced meat covered with Italian cheese. It was nothing to shout about but I liked it. I found the pizza bread crisp and nice. The meat was generous.

The seafood pizza was not as nice. Same pizza bread, but the flavour of the whole thing was not as good as the first.

The Chicago is not a great dining place. It is in the same league as Chilis, TFIG and Bubba Gump, which to me are all mediocre American style makan places. They are definitely not my choice for a good meal. Like all things American, I think they are simply over-rated.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Crazy Crabs

I had mentioned in a previous posting that I would be featuring more makan places in the Oasis Square in Ara Damansara. This is yet another one. The Crazy Crabs is apparently owned by the same proprietors as the nearby Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock. We were eating in Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock one day when a service guy told us not to miss Crazy Crabs. And so we went.

Crazy Crabs occupies a prime spot in the central court of the Oasis Square. It is a big restaurant, with tables spilling into the walkway.

And they have a dining area up the stairs on the upper floor of the building.

We decided to dine alfresco and picked a table with a view like this.

The menu was simple, with not a whole lot of selections. What you see in my picture below were all they had to offer. Surprisingly, in spite of this name, they only offered 4 different dishes of crab - salt baked, butter milk, steamed and kam heong (金香 - a Chinese spicy concoction). The other options in the menu were very common and ordinary, and nothing interesting to look forward to.

Like a lot of seafood restaurant, the aquarium display was obligatory.

We made our choice in a jiffy. There was not much to choose from anyway. With such an elaborate set up and in such a prime location, I would had thought they would be more imaginative in their menu.

We started with the siong tong lala (上汤拉拉 - lala in superior soup). The clams were of good size. They were fresh and the soup tasted very delicious. Eating lala anywhere is really quite a waste of time. The shells occupied 90% of the dish and the morsels were hardly anything. I guess we enjoyed the soup more.

The seafood koay teow (Cantonese style) was very good. There was ample pieces of shrimps, squids and fish. The gravy was thick and tasty. I enjoyed this noodle. If I return, this would be the top of my list.

This was the 四大天王 -  a mixture of 4 vegetables fried in chilli and dried shrimps. In the plate were long beans, okra, brinjal and petai. It was not bad. Not too spicy and the fragrance of the dried shrimps was distinct.

We ordered the satay after we saw it delivered to a nearby table. It looked so good - big and juicy. But only the looks. The taste turned out disappointing. The satay tasted very curried and did not have the roast flavour. It was not authentic. The meat tasted like it was marinated with curry powder. The sauce likewise was not authentic. It lacked the peanut flavour. To me, this was a satay fail.

The finale was, but of course, the crab. We picked steamed for the original crab flavour. It was 2 huge crabs of about 600 gms each. The crab was super fresh. The flesh was sweet and firm. We took our time to relish the dish with our fingers. They provided a plate of chilli sauce. There really was no need for it. The crab tasted good by itself.

This restaurant has a nice lavish set up in a very well appointed location. But it did not have the food offerings to build up a reputation. I don't mean that the food was bad. In fact it was credible and worth a revisit. But the menu was so mundane and unexciting. They could certainly be more innovative. And where were the crab dishes?

Yet the crowd packed in. By nightfall, the place was almost full. Perhaps they enjoyed the ambiance more.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Tasty Porridge

We were in the mood for some porridge. Honkee immediately came to mind. But we could not find them any more. Their outlet in PJ Uptown was no longer there. So was their branch in USJ10, Subang Jaya. Both had closed shop. We wondered if Honkee, Klang Valley wide, had finally called it a day. While we cruised USJ10 with blank minds, wondering what to have for dinner, we stumbled on this place - Tasty Porridge.

The place is located on Jalan USJ10/1C, opposite the car park complex in USJ10. It was just our luck, our crave for porridge was not to be in vain. But the place was packed. This apparently was a popular makan place. We were going to find out if their food was that good to attract all these people.

Porridge was obviously the mainstay of what they had to offer. But they also served rice. And there were quite a number of dishes that went with rice - including, of all things in a porridge shop, fish head curry.

We came for porridge and we stuck with that. I ordered a bowl of my favourite - the pork innards porridge (chu chap chok - 猪杂粥). It was good. The porridge was typically Cantonese (Hongkong style), boiled to a gruel. In my bowl were adequate variety of pork innards. On top were pieces of deep fried pork intestine. These fried intestines are absolutely my favourite - one of the reasons why I love this pork innards porridge. But I found the fried intestine insufficient. I wish they had been more generous on that. Still I enjoyed the porridge. It did not disappoint.

My wife's choice was rather unique - minced pork and salted egg. I had a taste of it. It was good. The salted egg blended very well with the minced pork and the porridge was flavourful. She liked it enough to order it again on a subsequent visit.

The yew char kueh (油炸鬼) to go with the porridge was surprisingly good. It appeared freshly fried, still crispy and not at all soft or flaccid. Dipped into the porridge, the crispy YCK tasted very good indeed. I was impressed that the shop serves such fresh YCK. I think they made their own YCK as against buying them off the street which by then would be limp and totally not the same.

On the table were various condiments - sesame oil, pepper, fried shallots in oil and soy sauce - to complement our porridge.

We liked the porridge so much that we re-visited the restaurant a couple more times. And each time we ordered one or two side dishes. This salty chicken dish had a thumb-up in the menu. And indeed, it tasted very good. It was served piping hot in a claypot. The aroma was mouth-watering. The sauce was salty and tasty - with some goji (wolfberries). And the chicken meat was tender.

This mui choy stewed pork (梅菜肉) also had a thumb-up. And it too was served hot in a claypot. It was a very well done. The flavour was really good. They blended the mui choy (梅菜) very well with the meat. It was not at all salty. The belly meat had some layers of fat in it - sinful but what good meat is without some fat?

This soft tofu (水豆腐) is more suited for rice. But we had it anyway. It was quite ordinary. 

So was the blanched vege. There was a good amount of deep fried shallots. Certainly made a difference to the flavour.

This place is a porridge haven. Besides the pork innards, and the salted egg and mince meat, they have a good variety of other porridge flavours. And if your dining partner is not in the mood or dislike porridge, there is always rice and dishes for him or her.