Friday, July 30, 2010

Sage at the Garden Residences

New blog layout! Needed to redesign to fit the Foodbuzz buttons & banners. I don't actually know what I can win (or if there even is anything at stake, lol), but in any case vote for me anyway!

Been thinking about Sage for quite a while, but never been able to go in the past. Part lack of financial power, part lack of a special person to go with, part lack of occassion. Because as much as I'd like to, I don't have the wallet muscle to go fine dining for no reason :)

Anyway on occasion of our, well, anniversary, the darling and I *finally* visited Sage. The original Chef, Takashi Kimura (who's supposed to be some sort of celebrity around here, I guess), has moved on to uh ... other pastures, leaving Chef Daniel to helm the kitchen.

Stepping in ... Sage decoration seems to be quite minimalist. It's not as cozy / romantic as, say, Cafe Cafe KL. Here's the view from the outside - there's a mini-hallway to walk through before getting to the dining area.

Semi-open kitchen! The dining area was full, impressive for a weekday night. Definitely need to make prior reservations if you're planning a trip.

Our dining area overlooks part of KL ~ no wine for us though, because neither of us can hold any alcohol. At all.

Sage's menu is pretty straightforward. It's MYR60.00 (nett) for the Starters, MYR95.00 for the mains, and MYR30.00 for desserts. Or you can go for the Sage Dinner (starter, main + dessert, MYR150.00) or the Gourmet Dinner (chef's daily special starter, starter, main + dessert, MYR170.00).

Now ... a slight tangent to the food review is that I simply must comment on the service. One of the captains was taking our order, and I asked her what the chef's daily special starter was, to which she answered "fish." That was it. One word. What, do I look like a psychic? I asked for more detail and she answered "flying fish." Cooked? Raw? Fried? Curry? Inexcusable.

Coming back to the food, we're served with free-flow bread throughout the night, with what seems to be basil in olive oil dip. The dip is nice, but the bread is nothing special - perhaps we're spoilt by the superb breads served in other places like Prime or Favola.

The meal starts off with this ... starter. Not too sure what it is as the waiter didn't actually tell us, but as far as we can tell it's Prawn Tempura on a bed of some sort of tomato salad/dressing. Quite nice!

The aforementioned "flying fish" turns out to be sashimi-style. I'm not entirely sure what the black stuff on top is - definitely not caviar, and (if memory serves right) not flying fish roe either. Come to think of it I'm not sure what the white stuff is either, ha ha.

Our first chosen starter is the Seared Foie Gras with Dark Grapes and Red Wine Reduction. The Red Wine reduction sauce is nice, and the sweetness of the grapes is a good companion to the delicious, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth Foie Gras.

Next up: Carpaccio of Wagyu with Plum Infused Konbu Sauce. Top marks for this as well - the Wagyu is deliciously melt-in-your-mouth as well, and the sauce compliments it nicely.

* (From Wikipedia) Carpaccio is a dish of raw meat or fish (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna) generally thinly sliced or pounded thin and served as an appetizer.

Moving on to the mains, is the Smoked Duck Breast with Foie Gras and Red Wine Sauce. Foie Gras again?!? I know, right? Ha ha. The sauce is again, top notch, but overall the darling and I agree that the one we had at Cafe Cafe KL was overall a bit better. And two servings of foie gras in a meal is a tad bit overkill.

Roasted Cod Fish with Scallop, Miso Sauce. The cod comes with thinly sliced lotus roots, which goes surprisingly well with the overall dish. I'm not quite sure if the thing in front is really a scallop, though. Was a bit tough and had a fishy taste. Never tasted anything quite like it, but I'll put that down to just being inexperienced in this fine dining world.

For desserts, we first share a Baked Fuji Apple Phyllo Pastry and Caramel Ice Cream. It's nice, like an apple pie in crispy puffy pastry, but not outstandingly so. Caramel ice cream was nice too, although the scoop size was perhaps a tad bit kiam siap.

To finish: Chocolate Fondant with Earl Grey Ice Cream. Cutting through the chocolate cake with a spoon reveals that it's almost entirely filled with semi-melted semi-dark chocolate. Delicious, with just the perfect amount of sweetness.

Coffee and Tea are included in the Dinner (no need pictures for that ... right?).

Overall, considering the price ($320.00 for both of us), and considering the huge reputation that Sage has among Food Bloggers, we're a little underwhelmed. The food is good, but not great or outstanding - the service is a little lacking, and the lack of sound dampening materials anywhere means that it's relatively noisy. If the dinner cost ~$100 we wouldn't hesitate to give it 5-stars; but for this price range the dinner really does need to be a bit more special

Saturday, July 24, 2010

KKK event at EEST at the Westin KL

Firstly no, this isn't some racist post about white supremacy (or yellow). KKK stands for King's Kitchen Klub, and is a ~2 hour session where the Westin KL chefs guide you through cooking/preparing a couple of dishes, followed by brunch/lunch at the restaurant. It's an interesting concept, and the darling and I attend a session at EEST - Westin's Chinese restaurant.

We arrive a few minutes early, and first impressions are that EEST is one of the most nicely decorated restaurants we've been in. The open dining area is adorned with these ... rock pools?

No idea what they're called, but they add a very serene and calm air. Here's a shot of a bigger pool in the center:

View of the dining area:

On to the cooking class! We're introduced to Chef Lai (Chef de Cuisine) and Chef Chong (Dimsum Chef). They start off with standing behind the kitchen counter, with us on the other side, and tell us we'll be learning 3 dimsum dishes - Steamed Chicken Wings with Black Bean Sauce, Shrimp Wanton in Chili Oil and Crystal Dumpling with Crab Roe and Crabmeat.

No fear though, we soon end up on the other side of the counter and inside the kitchen. After all we're decked out in King's Kitchen Klub aprons and chef hats!

Classes are kept down to around 12 people so the chefs can keep an eye on all of us.

After the teaching, it's practical time! Some of the participants hard at work wrapping Shrimp Wanton - the darling being an ex-chef is already done and posing for the camera instead :)

Some photos of our respective creations. I've got a Crystal Dumpling and two siew mai's in my bamboo steamer. Doesn't look like much from this distance, but I assure you it's super professional and looks like what a chef in a 5-star restaurant would have cooked. Ahem. :P

After we're done with the class, we're let loose on the buffet-style eat-all-you-can Dimsum brunch. Here are the rows/stacks of steaming dimsum:

Here's the porridge condiments counter.

At this point our camera ran out of battery (oops), so excuse the picture quality as these were taken with my iPhone :)

The porridge is available in two flavours - normal and with crab roe. You choose your choice of fresh seafood - cod fish, salmon, shrimp, etc, and the chef cooks up the porridge and has it sent to your table.

Here's the 'meats' corner. Assortment of roasted/fried Chicken, duck, lamb, and beef are available and chopped by the chef upon request.

Desserts! The desserts corner has some nice variety - from malay kuih, fresh cold chrysanthemum tea, tau foo fah, mochi, and assorted chocolates and pastries.

Graduates of the class posing for the camera with our two chef hosts.

King's Kitchen Klub, the cooking academy in The Westin Kuala Lumpur is the brainchild of Chef David King, Director - Kitchens. King’s Kitchen Klub offers cooking classes that encourage you to ‘Come as you are’ and ‘Cook as you like’ in The Westin’s innovative restaurants.

It's actually a pretty great concept, and considering that lunch at Westin's restaurants is already almost MYR100/pax, the price is pretty good. If you've got a group of 10-ish people they'll even set up a session according to your preference. (the darling and I paid $100/person for the session plus lunch, courtesy of Starwood Privilege).

As for the EEST restaurant - food was overall above average. The dimsum is good considering the dual handicaps of no pork and no ajinomoto, with some gems like the portugese egg tarts which were super nice. There are a few mis-hits though, most noticeably being the porridge which was bland, and in my opinion the natural fishy taste of the cod doesn't quite go well with the porridge.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Half-Day Melaka Look, See, Eat trip!

I've only been to Melaka once in my life - back when I was five. And even then I don't remember anything about it - only that I've got some photographs of me playing around some cannons, or something. Anyway the darling and I, and a visitor from HK, took a half-day trip to look, see, and eat!

We arrive at Jonker street at 10 and promptly head to Jonker 88 cafe. Their specialty food is apparently the laksa, but as none of us are laksa fans we try the Chicken Curry Rendang Noodles (not too sure the exact name) instead. Great taste, but the curry is thick, and combined with the natural starchiness of the yellow noodles, brings on the jelak feeling super quick. The darling and Mr. HK also found it too spicy. Was OK for me though.

Of course we also have to try the Cendol. We go for the EPC (Eight Precious Cendol). It's a Cendol with a bunch of different things inside - peanuts, nutmeg, attap chi, etc, and drizzled with the thickest gula melaka syrup I've ever seen. Personally I feel the regular cendol is better; the addition of all the ingredients makes it too 'campur.' I also think the Penang Road cendol is better :P

We then take a walk around the museum areas. Found an interesting mural of ... well I guess he's Admiral Cheng Ho ... somewhere near Mahkota Parade.

Of course, no first-timers trip to Melaka would be complete without visiting the A Famosa fort. I could've sworn A Famosa was much bigger, but I guess when you're five years old, everything seems bigger in comparison :). Here's the darling posing with one of the cannons, with St Paul's cathedral in the background.

Taking a breather after walking up to St. Paul's - the view of the sea is nice!

Sitting in the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Melaka's heritage area must have the highest density of museums in the world. There's literally more than 10 small ones all within 10 minutes walking distance. None of us have particular interests in history though, so we skip most of them - except this one: I'll go out on a limb and assume it used to be a real 19th century ship - how not to go in?

Anyway, time for lunch after the tour, and we want to try Melaka's Chicken Rice Ball. Unfortunately, we were starving, and Chung Wah and Hoe Kee had 50 people queue'ing outside, so we settle for A Famosa Chicken Rice Ball, also along Jonker Street.

In a nutshell: we are unimpressed. And a little disappointed, truth be told. Maybe we went to the wrong shop, but the chicken was only average, and the chicken rice balls were bland and dry. Mr HK commented that eating them was "like eating flour."

Needing to rush off for Bon Odori, we leave back to KL after lunch. Was a nice trip, and pretty fun. Will definitely be back another day - if for nothing else other than to eat Chung Wah chicken rice ball.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tsim Tung Restaurant - char chan teng (HK-style cafe)

Over the weekend the gang was in Pandan Indah area, and wanting a drink and some food we stumble across Tsim Tung Restaurant.

From the outside it looks remarkably like a fairly up-market "dai chou" (big fry) Chinese restaurant, but it's a char chan teng (HK-style cafe) through-and-through.

French Toast (of some sort - MYR4.20). I sort of remember this being the peanut butter variety. I've got the receipt with me like a good little food blogger - but I can't properly read it cos it's in Chinese :P

I do know what this is though - it's the Pork Chop Nissin Noodle (MYR6.90). You'd think that Nissin noodles would be standard everywhere, but I find the soup served here less tasty than in the other char chan teng's such as Wong Kok or Kim Gary.

Chu Zhai Pao ("Piglet bun" - MYR3.50). Amusing that a bun with 'piglet' in the name is neither shaped like a pig, nor does it have any pork in it. It's just a plain bun with condensed milk :).

Overall, and in comparison to the average char chan teng, I find Tsim Tung to be below average in terms of quality of food, decoration, and service. OK for a quick bite if you're hungry and are in the area, but otherwise there isn't much point.

Tsim Tung Restaurant
22-28, Jalan Pandan Indah 4/6,
55100 Kuala Lumpur‎

Monday, July 12, 2010

Blackmore Wagyu Special at Prime (Le Meridien KL).

OK I know, I haven't reviewed that many restaurants & eating places, and here I am posting about Prime for a *third* time. This time is special, though! Prime's July special is Blackmore Wagyu - in their own words:


Highly demanded and only sold to the best restaurants worldwide, the Blackmore Wagyu Beef is finally here! For the very first time, it is available in Malaysia only at Prime. Directly airflown from Australia, this premier beef is intensely sweet, delicate and persistent in flavour. You have never experienced 'melt in the mouth' goodness until you try this 100% fullblood Japanese Wagyu.

Be the first to discover perfection..."

How to resist after reading that? Hehe. Anyway, having learned that ordering two mains usually results in us over-stuffed, the darling and I decide to share. We add on a Diced Kobe beef and porcini ragoût in twice baked Idaho potato (MYR45.00), one of the house specialty starters. It's delicious - tastes not unlike a Shepard's Pie, only more tasty. I think the Crab Cakes are the better choice, though.

Moving on to the main "star" of the night - the Blackmore Wagyu Set Menu ($528.00). We choose the 80g Thinly Sliced of Blackmore Wagyu Oyster Blade, Double Beef Consommé Flavored with Asian Spices, Sesame Sauce (MYR60.00 ala-carte).

This. Dish. Is. AWESOME. The thinly-sliced wagyu is served raw in a bowl before the servers pour in the beef consommé which cooks the meat. Using chopsticks, we pick out pieces of beef, dip it in the soy sauce-based sauce, and add noodles, tofu and mushrooms to taste. The slices of meat are exquisitely tender and are full of melt-in-the-mouth goodness. Was so good we contemplated ordering a second helping.

* Oyster Blade is derived from the blade or chuck and is the wedge shape muscle remaining after removal of the bolar blade from the whole blade.

The alternate starter is Inter Costal 140g Blackmore Wagyu Braised in Homemade BBQ Sauce, Soft Mascarpone Polenta with Truffle Oil (MYR58.00 ala-carte).

Moving on to the main: Here's the Charcoal Grilled 170g Blackmore Wagyu Cube Roll - Medium Rare (MYR488.00 ala-carte). I'm a little disappointed that the steak doesn't look anything like the advertisement, and I do feel it could've been served a little more warm, but no complaints on the taste. It's an awesome cut of meat - supremely tender, exceedingly tasty and with a buttery & fatty goodness. You could probably eat this steak even if you had no teeth.

The set comes with sides of Truffle Mashed Potato and Grilled Mediterranean Vegetables. The Mashed Potato is superb as usual - creamy and light with the great taste & smell of truffle oil (though I wouldn't know if the chefs used an Olive Oil substitute instead). The vegetables were a bit on the oily side though.

The dessert of Fresh Wild Berries, Light Whipped Cream, Evian Water (MYR40.00 ala-carte) was a bit of a miss though. For starters, of the 6 different berries here I can only name the Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries. No idea what the other 3 are. In any case these berries are sour! Not able to say if they are supposed to be sour, but the darling and I had a lot of trouble finishing this off.

Final damage was about MYR330 after charges and tax and the 50% Starwood Privilege discount. Was most definitely worth it; though in hindsight we would have probably given the baked potato a miss and added on an additional Blackmore Wagyu starter instead.

Previous posts:
Prime at Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur
Prime at Le Meridien KL - Trip #2

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fong Keow Bak Kut Teh - Klang

Yet another non-halal post - sorry! Hehe. Couple of days before my brother ended his 3-week holiday and had to go back to slog it out pulling 35-hour weeks at his cushy GLC in the you-kay, we all take a trip to Klang for Bak Kut Teh! Many people say the Teluk Pulai Bak Kut Teh shop is nicer but I personally prefer Fong Keow which is just next door.

Judging from the nice decorations in their 'new wing' expansion, I'd say they're doing pretty good. Pretty damn good.

Of course, the focus is on bak kut teh - Fong Keow serves the claypot style where all the kinds of meat you order is mixed into a large claypot. I love the soup here which is nice and thick and strong, but still liquid enough to classify as "soup" (some places it's more like gravy).

Yam rice here is nice as well; thing is that I feel yam rice makes me full quicker, which means I can't eat as much Bak Kut Teh as with normal rice.

Give the Assam Fish a miss, though. It's not a bad dish; just that it's nothing special and rather non-descript. Plus, the actual fish is a sting-ray (which may be a plus point for you if you were a crocodile hunter fan), but to me stingray doesn't go well with Assam.

I don't remember what this was called (hehehe), but it was pretty good too. Some sort of Loh Bak.

And of course, some vege to make us feel a little less guilty about eating so much meat :)

To get here, drive up the Federal Highway towards Klang/Shah Alam. After passing Sunway/Subang area there'll be one toll - drive another 15 minutes and pass the next toll, and immediately exit left. The shophouses around here house at least 5, or even more, bak kut teh stalls which are all quite full at lunchtime - speaks of how much the Klang peeps love their meat.

About MYR15 per person.