Food Review: SPG by Bijan

Discerning KL-ites will have dined at (or at least, heard of) Bijan, the grand dame of refined Malay cuisine in Kuala Lumpur. Tucked in the quiet, affluent neighbourhood of Bukit Ceylon, the cosy establishment is surrounded by lush greenery, with lots of wood and traditional elements like batik in a contemporary setting.

Now, the team has come up with an original venture: SPG by Bijan. A playful take on the colloquial term ‘Sarong Party Girl’ (Asian girl who prefers dating white men), the tapas bar and grill is housed in a bungalow, and is accessible from Bijan through an adjoining doorway.

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Where Bijan is elegant and refined, SPG is fun, chic and stylish. Floral motifs abound, as is the lush greenery of its sister eatery, alongside hand-printed tiles, batik motifs and mural walls that lend it a nostalgic feel.

 

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The menu is Malay / Asian with a twist, and the Asian-inspired cocktails offer something for both adventurous palates and lovers of classics. If you’re feeling brave, try their signature Stinkini (martini + dry vermouth + savoury notes of pickled petai) – we could literally smell it as soon as it came to the table. Other signatures include the cheekily named Yellow Fever (gin, turmeric, honey and tonic water), and Cocojito (lime, white rum, coconut water, mint leaves). There’s something for the teetotalers too, like Bluepea Tonic (honey, lemon, bluepea flower).

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It’s all about sharing with SPG’s range of ‘Malaysian tapas’. To start things off, a basket of fries celup – crispy thin cut fries served with anchovy mayo and salted egg yolk dip. They were extremely addictive, especially with the creamy, salty anchovy mayo.

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Keropok-kerepek: assortment of crackers with sambal dip

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One of the restaurant’s signature tapas is the Ah-Ran-Sini (after the Italian arancini). These deep fried golden balls of rice are stuffed with the flavours of nasi lemak, with a hearty sambal and anchovy centre.

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The Pais Barramundi grilled parcel of barramundi with banana leather, turmeric, spices and coconut – was a clever and modern interpretation of traditional flavours. I especially liked the banana leather, which had a beautiful texture, packed with the natural sweetness of banana. It went well with the light saltiness of the grilled barramundi.

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Presentation for the Ayam Limau Purut & Roti Jala Tiffin was exquisite, brought to the table in adorable tiffin carriers. The chicken curry was perfectly spiced – not too spicy but with just enough kick, and the fluffy roti jala (literally net bread – hence the shape) was great for soaking up the delicious curry.

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Jackfruit Rendang Bao is a perfect substitute for meat. The stringy texture of jackfruit is very similar to meat, and when cooked rendang-style, tastes almost like beef – all wrapped in pillowy-soft mantou buns.

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Lidah & Sambal – braised, tender ox tongue; pan-seared and served with sambal hitam. It was my first time having ox tongue. The texture was somewhat grainy and dense, but not unpleasant, and there was no offal-like taste.

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We were feeling pretty stuffed at this point, but there were still several dishes to go. The grilled calamari, served with sambal belacan, was simple but tasty, with a slight char. There was also flame-grilled duck and chicken skewers. 

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Pan-seared black pomfret with coconut and galangal sauce. I like how the fish was completely deboned for easy eating, so every bite was just fresh, juicy fish. The coconut and galangal sauce was like the Thai tom ka gai dish; creamy but not cloying.

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Grilled Lamb Loin

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And for dessert, Bananas Over Bananas – Homemade banana ice cream with smokey caramelised banana and dehydrated banana cone.

We were spoiled by the crew at SPG, so by the time we rolled (yes, rolled) out of the restaurant everyone was well and truly full and satisfied. The food, ambience and service were excellent, and the innovative approach to Malay cuisine is great.

SPG by BIJAN

3A, Jalan Ceylon, Bukit Ceylon, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 12pm – 12am (daily)

Reservations: 03-2022 3575

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Mamee Jonker House : All Things Mamee @ Jonker Street, Melaka

Fun fact: I’ve never been to Jonker Street in Melaka.

I can hear the incredulous gasps. That’s like saying I went to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t that I wilfully ignored the place – I simply couldn’t fit it into my itinerary the last two times I was in Melaka. Well as the saying goes, third time’s the charm – and on my most recent trip to the Historical City, I finally booked a place within the Jonker Street area itself. No excuses now!

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Driving into Melaka, I saw many billboards and posters featuring the iconic blue Mamee Monster (most Malaysians who grew up eating the crunchy noodle snack will know him!). I later learned that it was because Melaka is home to Mamee, the brand that carries the Mamee Monster snack as well as MAMEE Chef instant noodles. All this advertising made me crave for Mamee and lo’ and behold – while hunting for places to eat when we arrived, we stumbled upon Mamee Jonker House  – it must have been a sign! In we went.

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Mamee’s first ‘concept store’, Mamee Jonker House features a nice cafe (where they serve dishes made from Mamee, of course!), a shop selling Mamee goods ,a mini museum on the upper floor as well as a kitchen where you can customise your own noodles! It was 2PM and we were starving so we made a beeline for the cafe before anything else.

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Mamee-inspired wall decor 

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The Mamee Cafe has a good selection of creative dishes. You can have rice and burgers, but the star here is, of course, the Mamee noodles. N had a nasi-lemak inspired Mamee dish which came with all the trimmings – kerepek (crackers), fried egg, peanuts, anchovies, fried chicken drumstick and sambal.

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I had the Mamee in Kuah Lodeh, which is the creamy, coconut-rich gravy that is usually served with lontong (compressed rice) – only they replaced it with noodles, of course! Portions were generous; there was plenty of shrimp and tofu to soak up the delicious broth, topped with half a boiled egg. The noodles were springy with a slight bite.

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All fed and watered, we ventured upstairs to where there was a small Mamee museum of sorts and a Lil Monster Kitchen where they teach kids (with the help of their parents) how to roll the dough and shape them into noodles. You can also personalise your own Mamee instant noodle cup and customise the flavours to take home!

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MAMEE JONKER HOUSE 

No 46 & 48, Jalan Hang Jebat (Jonker Street), 75200 Melaka.

Phone: +606 – 2867 666

Opening hours: 10AM to 5PM (Mons – Thurs), 10AM – 7PM (Fri – Sun)

 

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Review: Tuck Kee @ Ipoh

Ipoh is a foodie haven, and there are many decades-old institutions in town – like Tuck Kee, a famous noodle house along Jalan Yau Tet Shin, which has been in operation since 1963 (Not to be confused with Sun Tuck Kee a couple of doors away, and also the Tuck Kee in Taman Hoover which serves roasties).

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Basic and no-frills, the resto’s decor is typical of Chinese kopitiams – very much a dine-and-dash kind of place. Specialising in wat tarn hor (stir-fried flat noodles in an egg drop sauce/soup) and moonlight kuey teow (same but topped with an egg), it is a popular dinner spot with local families as much as tourists. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the wat tarn hor, but it was tasty – full of wok hei (breath of fire) and well flavoured. Can’t say I’m a big fan though, but that’s just me.

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Another one of their popular dishes is the boiled baby octopus (RM18). The price is pretty steep, and the portion is not that big either, but you’ll be rewarded with springy, chewy pieces of baby octopi, drizzled in a light soy sauce and fragrant fried shallots.

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Giant pork balls are among the new offerings on the menu. Had a nice bite to it, and no overwhelmingly porky smell.

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Another new offering – featuring the same egg drop sauce, but with fish paste shaped into ‘noodle’ strands.

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You can also order fried gyoza from the stall across the road !

TUCK KEE 

61, Jalan Yau Tet Shin, Taman Jubilee, 30300 Ipoh, Negeri Perak

Opening hours: 5PM – 2AM (Daily)

Visiting Tsukiji Honganji: Why Is There An Indian-Looking Temple In Tokyo?

There are plenty of beautiful traditional Buddhist and Shinto temples around Tokyo – but one, in particular, piqued my curiosity as I was Googling for places to explore around Tsukiji. Located not too far from where Tsukiji Market used to stand, Tsukiji Honganji is a Buddhist temple of the Jodo Shinsu sect, the largest in Japan, with a history dating back to the 16th century. What is notable, however, is the temple’s appearance, which is modelled after ancient Hindu / Buddhist temples from India.

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Physically, there’s nothing left of the ‘original’ temple, which was totalled in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. The current building was completed in 1934, and features many elements common to Hindu temples in India. Rather than the usual red typical of many Japanese temples, the Hongan-ji has a granite-brown hue; as well as dome-like shapes, elaborate carvings and even a pair of stone lions guarding the staircase to the main hall.

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The main hall, aka Hondo.

Japan is known to be more culturally homogenous than many other countries around the world, so it was amazing to see the blend of different cultural elements at the temple. While the interior features many Japanese elements, it also had foreign touches as well, such as a towering 2,000-pipe organ from Germany, and stained glass windows. I also felt it quite unusual to be in a temple with so little red – an auspicious colour for many East Asian cultures – but instead has lots of elegant black and gold.

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The main altar, with a Buddha at its centre. The temple also houses several important artifacts, making it a popular pilgrimage site.

 

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Getting There 

The temple is a 2-minute walk from Tsukiji Metro station.

HONGAN-JI 

3 Chome-15-1 Tsukiji, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan

Opening hours: 6AM – 5PM

One Night In Ginza, Tokyo

With its bespoke boutiques, branded luxury stores, glitzy malls and chic eateries, Ginza is widely considered to be one of Japan’s (if not the world’s) most luxurious and elegant shopping districts. Today, it’s hard to imagine it as anything other than classy and upscale – but did you know that Ginza was actually built over a filled-in swamp in the 167th century? Together with two other districts – Nihonbashi and Kanda – they formed the original downtown centre of Edo-era Tokyo.

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During my stay in Tokyo, I was based in a quiet street just behind the main shopping thoroughfare, which made it very convenient to access the area. Unfortunately due to work and time constraints, I only got one full night to explore what Ginza had to offer; barely a tiny glimpse. It was an interesting glimpse, nevertheless. While the rest of the group took the train to Shinjuku, I wandered around Ginza poking my nose into random shops and department stores.

(Above) The Wako Store, housed in an art deco building that dates back to the 1930s. You’d know Wako now as Seiko, the jewellery and watches brand. The clocktower plays the Westminster Chimes tune every hour.

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The Nissan showroom at the eponymously-named Nissan Crossing, where pedestrians can ogle at the latest high-tech vehicles from the car-manufacturing giant through a glass window.

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As the sun sets over Tokyo, Ginza comes to life, like a magical wonderland of lights filled with a sea of people. Couples stroll hand in hand down the pavement, loud Chinese tourists flaunt their bags of luxury goods, businessmen with sweaty foreheads and crisp suits congregate for a beer and some after-hours socialising, and impeccably-dressed women with the air of rich tai tais push their baby strollers forward.

(Above) Tokyu Plaza, where tourists can enjoy duty free shopping.

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Popped into UNIQLO’s flagship store – which spans a mind-boggling 12 floors. Most of the floors had a display section in the middle with mannequins dressed in the latest fashion pieces. Not big on shopping tbh so I did not spend too much time here, but this will probably be a pilgrimage site for Uniqlo fans.

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One of the peeps I was travelling with was going on about Ginza Six, one of the newest shopping complexes in the area, so I went to see what the hype was all about. It was nice, but again, malls aren’t really my thing (excluding the grocery store + restaurants). What I really liked, though, was the bookstore on the top floor, and the rooftop garden which had an open concept an several interesting art installations. If you’re into branded things, then the flagship stores for Fendi, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent can be found within the building. There is also a Noh theatre, and banquet hall facilities.

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As much as I love sushi, raw fish doesn’t sit well in my stomach these days (getting old and shit). For some inexplicable reason, I also found myself craving a burger lol. Now, fast food isn’t big in Japan because they’ve got all these healthy, delicious and wholesome restaurants to choose from, but they do have a brand called Lotteria, which was originally from South Korea. I found one hidden in an underground nook (you have to descend a staircase into the basement). It seemed largely frequented by locals – I mean, what tourist comes to Ginza and eats fast food, amirite? Oh, wait…

(Above) The setting is catered more towards single diners. After placing your order, they give you a pink slip which you have to clip on the top of the divider, and they’ll send your food to the table.

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Shrimp burger isn’t something we see much in KL (God I miss the ones at Wendy’s before they took it off the menu), so I had to get that. It was close to a 1,000 yen for the set, ie about RM40 lol probably the most I’ve paid for fast food, apart from that Burger King I got at the Hong Kong airport a couple of years ago. I wasn’t expecting it to be American-sized, but boy was the portion paltry. This is why you don’t see fat people in Japan…

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All things considered, I loved the shrimp burger. The patty was fried and breaded well, and was chock full of shrimp rather than flour or filler. Add to that tangy mayonnaise, a slice of cheese, some cabbage to cut through the grease and plain, soft buns.

There are many things to see in Ginza, and it carries well its moniker as a shopper’s paradise. Even for non-shoppers, it is close enough to several attractions such as the Hamarikyu Gardens (will detail in another post), art galleries and museums, making it a great base for travellers.

Where would you visit if you had one night in Ginza?

 

 

 

Join The Subtle Asian Dating Group On FB To Completely Ruin Your Self Confidence

If you’ve been somewhere in the stratosphere and/or spend much of your time on the Internet, then you’ve probably heard of the Subtle Asian Traits Group on Facebook (they’ve even got their own Wiki page), which has over 1.6 million members who share content, memes and have discussions on the Asian experience in the West. An offshoot of this, which I recently heard about, is the Subtle Asian Dating Group.

The most notable thing about the SAD group (haha!) is the ‘auction’ series, where friends of members (and sometimes the members themselves) post photos and a bio on why you should date them, usually accompanied by social media plugs so you can ‘slide into their DMs’. A majority of the members are young and in their early 20s.

As I scroll through the auction posts, all I can say is..  WTF? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE AND WHY DO THEY LOOK SO GODDAMN ATTRACTIVE? And it also seems that everyone has a 4.0 CGPA and/or is studying to be a doctor/computer scientist/data scientist/geologist/economist and/or has some sort of talent like being a cellist and performing at Carnegie Hall (actual profile), being an animal rescuer, national athletes, or some shit. That, on top of six packs and anime-like / Korean-oppa faces.

WHY THEN ARE THEY SINGLE? 

The more I go through the posts, the more I feel like a potato. It’s no wonder people have this stereotype of Asians as being overachievers, because they are lol.

That being said, I like looking at pretty people (who doesn’t?) so perhaps I’ll stay in the group for just a bit longer That’s not creepy at all

While we’re on the topic, I thought of doing an auction post for the Hubs. So here goes:

🔴🔴🔴 CHRISTMAS SALE 🔴🔴🔴

😍 HE’S OFF THE MARKET BUT I HAVE TO FOLLOW THE FORMAT SO HERE GOES. PRESENTING: 

  • Name: Neil GM
  • IG: nimbus.neil
  • Location: MNL
  • Age: 33 years young, can also be 10, 20, or 50 depending on hour of the day and mood
  • Ethnicity: 🇵🇭 Filipino (with a spot of Spanish. Like 10%. Which he is very adamant on mentioning)

PROS:

💙 don’t be fooled by the one pack – there’s a six pack underneath

💙 soft belly is perfect as a pillow

💙 Loves cuddles and will shower you with kisses

💙 gamer boi, will understand your need to game and give you space

💙 Will spend six hours in a museum with you and is basically a culture nerd

💙 Infinitely cute boyo, fluffy hair

💙 Cat lover, will meow at random street cats and they will usually come to him (cat overlord)

💙 Gives great massages and hugs

💙 Photo enthusiast; will take great photos of you for socmed

💙 Foodie; will act as your garbage disposal when you can’t finish your food

CONS:

📍 talks and giggles a lot when drunk
📍 can be stubborn (tiger baby)
📍 style still stuck in the 90s, won’t let me dress him up properly
📍 takes forever to decide on what to eat at restaurants + lame jokes that only I laugh at

DO NOT SLIDE INTO HIS DMS BECAUSE HE IS MINE

The end

 

 

 

Suzukien X Nanaya @ Asakusa, Tokyo – The World’s Strongest Matcha Ice-Cream

What do you get when you marry a venerable tea house with over 150 years of history, with a popular confectionery chain? If your answer is the world’s most intensely flavoured matcha ice cream, then you’d be right.

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Suzukien, located in the Asakusa neighbourhood of Tokyo (just across the road from Sensoji Temple), prides itself in serving Premium No.7, aka a gelato so packed with the flavours of matcha, your tastebuds will do a stop, drop and roll.

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There are seven ‘degrees’ of matcha flavoured gelato served here, each more intense than the last. You can tell by the colouration itself, with the no.7 boasting a rich, almost dark green hue. The store can get pretty crowded, but they do have a small space at the back where you can indulge in your ice cream for a bit (standing room only).

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I was a little apprehensive to go all the way, so I picked something in between – probably a 2 or a 3. The matcha flavour was pretty pronounced, but mildly sweet, cool and refreshing – perfect for the summer heat.

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Aside from ice cream, you can find a variety of matcha products and tea souvenirs for sale here.

Suzukien @ Asakusa

3 Chome-4-3 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan

Opening hours: 10AM – 5PM (daily)

 

2D Cafe @ Sunway Geo, Bandar Sunway

Hey guys!

I was reading an article recently about how ‘selfie culture’ has changed the landscape of travel and lifestyle offerings. Now, it’s no longer about travel for the sake of experiencing things, but documenting and snapping photos of ourselves all along the way; a journey of narcissism and self-validation through likes and follows. Perhaps that sounds cynical, but its the nature of how things are today.

One of these purpose-built places is 2D Cafe @ Sunway Ge. Modeled after the 2D-cafe trend in South Korea and Japan, the cafe’s entire interior has been designed to look like the pages of a black and white comic book, with bold black lines creating an illusion of ‘flatness’ against the all-white furnishings. The result is eye-catching and certainly unique, as subjects pop against the backdrop.

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The cafe itself is a bit hard to find, as it is located on the 3rd floor, away from all the other restos and cafes clustered on the ground floor. Once you get there, the entrance is a little confusing as well. The seating area is shielded from sight, and patrons enter through a narrow corridor. The theme for the cafe is European x Japanese, and you see the European portion of it at this section which features famous works of art such as the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, Edward Munch’s Scream and Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, cheekily holding up bubble teas (the shop’s specialty).

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Once inside, the Japanese elements are apparent, with geishas, darumas, maneki nekos and vending machine murals aplenty – and even a drawing of the Great Wave of Kanagawa adorning one side of the wall. All of the furniture and deco is handpainted and took the artist (who is also a share holder) two months to complete.

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Me taking photo of a dood taking a photo of me #photoception

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A section of the cafe made to look like a classroom.

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Another section with a bath ‘tub’ / ball pit (not pictured), made to look like a traditional Japanese public bath.

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Counter where they take your orders. You will find about five different types of bubble tea here, although prices are above average (RM14.90). To match the cafe’s aesthetics, the bottles are also packaged in the same ‘comic’ art vein.

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Picture courtesy of 2D Cafe. 

I did not try their drinks because I thought they were too pricey, but there have been reviews on Google which are less than stellar. Let me know what you think if you’ve tried it!

Only time will tell if these Instagram ‘concept’ cafes will last, because personally, no matter how attractive you spruce a place up, if the food/drinks aren’t great and the price point is expensive, most people will probably only go once. That being said, from an arts perspective, I think it’s pretty creative, even if it’s not original.

2D CAFE 

F-03, 10, Jalan Lagoon Selatan, SUNWAY GEO AVENUE, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor

Opening hours: 12PM – 9PM (Closed on Wednesday).