I Spent RM250 On Dessert & Drinks @ Mr Chew’s Chino Latino Bar, WOLO Kuala Lumpur

Yes. RM250. There are plenty of things that RM250 could get me. Two weeks of food. A month’s fuel expenses. Two months worth of phone / internet bills. A fancy All-You-Can-Eat buffet for two at a five-star hotel.  To be fair, it was a special occasion, so I’m not complaining. It’s just that I was rather taken aback by the bill when it came, lol.

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Tucked on the top floor of WOLO in Bukit Bintang, Mr Chew’s Chino Latino Bar is a popular drinking spot, boasting Instagrammable interiors and amazing views of the bustling Golden Triangle area. Spanning two floors, the main dining area is overseen by an extravagant floor-to-ceiling portrait of the Empress Dowager Cixi, as well as tall glass windows that offer excellent views of KL’s busiest district at night. The second floor is more of a private lounge area, suited for those who want a couple of drinks and quiet conversations with friends.

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Not sure if we came at a bad time but the service was not what I expected. There was no one at the concierge, and nobody bothered to even pay attention to us as we hovered about the foyer for a good 10 minutes, waiting to be seated. The one guy who finally came was warm and friendly, and led us upstairs but nobody came to take our orders for a good 15 minutes. As we were looking and pondering over the menu, Ate Noemi asked if we could sit downstairs instead, in one of the lounges. I went to look for the same guy and he said yes, so we moved downstairs.

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Again, no one paid us any heed or came to check on us – I guess we could’ve just lounged there without ordering anything. I don’t know why because the place was not crowded, nor did it seem very busy (it was about 10PM). I understand ‘service’ is always subjective because it’s the customer’s word against the establishment’s, but for such a high-end place with high-end prices, I was expecting more.

 

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View was stunning though. Feels like a metropolis – downtown LA, Tokyo, or NY.

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We had dinner earlier at Jalan Alor, so we came here just for desserts and drinks. The Banana Burrito with Tonka bean ice cream, Deep fried banana, shaved gula melaka and Coconut (RM35) came served in a wooden box. It was okay. Rather underwhelming to be honest.

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Dessert tacos (RM35) of Mango pomelo, strawberry and hazelnut chocolate were equally underwhelming. They weren’t bad, just not wow or anything. The presentation was nice though.

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Since it was Ate Noemi’s birthday, we surprised her with a box of Mr Chew’s Favourites (RM50). It’s basically what we ordered earlier, with the addition of Lychee Ice Kacang. I did not know or I would have ordered something else from the dessert menu like the Peanutbutter Parfait and the Mint Ice Kacang. Add this on to four drinks – three fresh juices and a soda – and that came up to RM250.

My overall impression of the place? I can see why people like going there because the ambience is great, but I was not too keen on the service nor the food and its prices. It was all kinda meh. This is not a professional review of any kind – you have all the high traffic websites for that. This is just an average person penning down their thoughts on their experience – which looks to be a one-off one.

Now if you want really good food in the area, I suggest this (mid-range price with excellent service – been here four times now!) and this. (cheap but hearty)

MR CHEW’S CHINO LATINO BAR 

The Penthouse, WOLO, Bukit Bintang Street, 55100 Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 11.30AM – 2.30PM, 5PM – 1AM

Reservations: mr-chew.com

 

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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Review: Durham @ FMS Ipoh – Breathing New Life To The Oldest Bar In Malaysia

Old-timers might recall FMS, possibly the oldest bar in Malaysia, with an air of nostalgia. Short for the Federal Malay States, it was first opened at Market Street in 1906 by a Hainanese immigrant, before taking up residence in a corner unit along a row of pre-war shoplots in 1923. The bar has served patrons for over a century, and was a popular haunt for British and European officers, miners and planters during the colonial era. Over the years, the bar fell into disrepair, and shuttered its doors 11 years ago. Until it was refurbished and reopened again earlier this year, as the Durbar @ FMS. 

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A passion project by the new owner who is an architect, Durbar @ FMS has tried its best to retain the old-world charm of its historic predecessor. Stepping into its interiors is like taking a step back into colonial Ipoh, and its almost easy to ignore the sounds of modern traffic when you’re within the restaurant’s walls. Timber furniture and counters, sleek marble tabletops, and elegant lighting are paired with whitewashed walls, adorned with old newspaper clippings and even a large portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth II.

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The large bar cabinet at the back is made from chengal and balau timber wood.

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The old FMS was known for its signature dishes such as Hainanese Chicken Chop, Baked Stuffed Crab, Classic Chicken Mornay, Classic Oxtail Soup and Enche Kabin –  which Durbar has kept. The food is, in fact, prepared by two experienced Hainanese chefs. The Hainanese were renowned for their excellent food, and many served as chefs for the British during the days of British Malaya. The result is a unique fusion of Chinese-style cooking tweaked to Western taste buds.

Had the Classic Oxtail Soup, and it did not disappoint. Could have been better with an additional piece of garlic bread, but otherwise the soup was hearty, warm and full of delicious meaty flavour, with generous chunks of oxtail to nibble on swimming within.

 

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The Crab fried rice had a simple presentation but surprised everyone with its astonishing depth of flavour and wok hei (breath of the wok) – something that can only be achieved by cooking the ingredients over high heat, sealing in all the flavours. It boasted just the right amount of seasoning – not too bland nor salty – and the sambal chilli sauce gave it a spicy kick.

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Pops had the Mee Hailam, which was one of the more affordably priced items on the menu. It was tasty but since wet noodles aren’t my thing, it was not my favourite.

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DURBAR @ FMS 

2, Jalan Sultan Idris Shah, 30000 Ipoh, Negeri Perak

Business hours: 11AM – 10PM (Closed Wednesdays)

facebook.com/DurbarAtFMS

 

The Merchant Bar @ Hotel Armada Celebrates Its 22nd Anniversary

Turning 22 is always a big thing: and The Merchant Bar marked this milestone by inviting friends and media to celebrate at its premises within Hotel Armada PJ.

Despite my office being so close to the hotel, I’ve never actually been here. The interiors are a bit dated, but it is still popular with business travellers and the older crowd.

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Located on the first floor, the Merchant Bar underwent a facelift in 2015, and now sports a spacious interior, complete with a ‘bar island’ in the centre, a small stage for live music performances, a games corner with pool tables and dart machines at the back, and a private lounge area. Lighting is cosy and intimate, with chandelier-shaped lamps casting a warm yellow glow. Patrons should note that smoking IS allowed in the bar, so if you’re a non-smoker, this might be something to consider before you pay a visit.

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For the anniversary party, guests were invited to partake in some of the hotel’s offerings. While the buffet spread was not fancy, I was impressed by the quality of the food, including Malaysian favourites such as crispy sang har mee with tiger prawns, steamed chicken dumplings, fried chicken, smoked duck and salmon appetisers, as well as a variety of cakes and desserts. The noodles were especially tasty, and had me going back for seconds (and thirds) !

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The highlight of the night was a set by legendary Malaysian pop-rock band, The Alleycats, who played some of their greatest hits as well as song covers.

THE MERCHANT BAR 

Hotel Armada, Lorong Utara C, Pjs 52, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Woo Bar @ W Hotel Kuala Lumpur

One of the latest 5-star hotels to grace the Kuala Lumpur skyline, W Hotel  is a cool and edgy establishment, designed for those with a rebellious streak and creative individuals who thrive on non-conformity. Don’t expect to find chandeliers or dated-looking leather couches here!

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I was visiting for a food review at their Cantonese restaurant, Yen, recently – and couldn’t resist going on a tour of the other parts of the hotel. The pool deck was my favourite, the cabana/bar area with its high ceilings giving it a lofty sense of space.

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W Hotel KL probably has one of the best pool views in town: you can swim with a full view of the magnificent Petronas Twin Towers

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True to their edgy concept, the lobby is called the “Living Room”, and the Concierge, the “Whatever/Whenever” counter. Dangling from the ceiling are rows of colourful neon threads, reminiscent of a cascading waterfall.

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The ‘waterfall’ booths make for cosy meeting spaces

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Flock, W Hotel KL’s all-day dining restaurant, is a warm and inviting space with quirky bird-themed touches, including seats shaped like bird cages.

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Breaking once more from tradition, the restaurant boasts an open kitchen concept where you can watch the chefs in action. It almost feels like being in someone’s home!

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Tiffin carriers – a staple in many households – are the Malaysian equivalent of Japanese bento boxes. At Flock, the colourful containers are used to serve freshly baked bread.

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Next, we adjourned to Woo Bar on the Living Room level, where friendly mixologists whipped up several cocktails. Rows of liquor and ingredients line the shelves, as well as unique cups and glasses for serving.

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  • (From left) Nut This Time – Dark Rum, Nuts insued Camparini, Blood Orange, Lime and Simple Syrup
  • High Five – gin, lime, mint, Tualang Honey and pomegranate
  • Bouquet – Gin, macadamia bourbon, Tualang Royal Black Honey, mint and Floral Spray

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Not a big fan of alcohol because I get migraines whenever I have them, even in small amounts, but taste wise, these were not bad at all. I especially liked the High Five as it only had a faint taste of gin, with a stronger hint of honey.

WOO BAR 

W Kuala Lumpur, 121, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, 50450 Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia.

Tel: 03-2786-8888

Penang: From Sandy Beaches to Skyscraper Rooftops

We continue our gastronomic adventures in Penang – this time at the Hao You (Good Friend) Seafood restaurant at the coastal area of Teluk Kumbar.Located in a somewhat rickety wooden shack just at the edge of the beach, the place serves fresh catch straight from the sea and has gained popularity among locals and tourists alike after a famous food show host featured the stall.

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We arrived just as the sun was setting. Fishing boats docked at the water’s edge rocked gently back and forth with the waves, while the light of the dying sun cast long orange shadows across the water amidst a backdrop of dark forest-covered hills. Very picturesque.

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Place was packed to the brim with dinner crowd.

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While waiting for the food to be served, my brother and I stood at the beach to enjoy the sea breeze and the sand in our toes.

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For starters, we had grilled chicken satay from a small shop just outside the main restaurant. They still cook these skewered barbecue meat over a charcoal fire, giving it a slightly charred, smokey taste. It is special because Malaysian satay tends to come served with a side of peanut sauce, but the version here already has the peanut/marinade slathered OVER the meat before cooking. The result is a soft and tender texture with the juices all sealed on the inside. Definitely one of the best satays I’ve had! The spice level is quite high though, so cool off with chunks of accompanying cucumber.

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Steamed kerang (cockles) – fat, bloody and juicy. The shellfish was much fatter than the small, shriveled ones you get in your char kuey teow, so biting into the meaty portions were oh-so-satisfying. Eating cockles is supposed to be good for replenishing iron for anemics, but is also reported to have lots of bacteria. Once in awhile is okay I suppose.

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Very simply done steamed octopi. Some of my family members complained that it was too chewy, but I like chewy stuff so this tasted just fine. It was rather bland  – could have done with a dash of chopped garlic, sesame oil and soy sauce to bring out the octopi’s freshness.

We also had stir-fried vegetables, pork trotters with mushrooms in a dark soy sauce, steamed fish and oyster omelette (oh chien).. while decent, nothing to shout about.

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The real star of the night was the mud crabs cooked in kam heong style. The spicy sauce oozing over the crab shell and in between the fresh, juicy sweet meat is made from garlic (prevalent in Chinese cooking), curry leaves, bird’s eye chilli and other herbs/spices. The resulting concoction is a savoury hot sauce that can help you mop up a couple of bowls of rice in one go.

The crabs were just the right size – not to small or large – and had a bunch of sweet flesh on the inside. Cracking the shells was a pain though.

Hao You Seafood restaurant,

84, Mukim 9
Teluk Kumbar
11920 Penang, Malaysia

Operating hours:  daily except Tuesday (5.30pm till 10pm)

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We were really tired out after a long day out, but still managed to drop by our hotel’s rooftop Skybar for a quick drink. Dubbed THREE-SIXTY@Bayview Hotel, it also has a revolving restaurant next to the open-air rooftop area where a small bar laid out with tall stools gives visitors a panoramic view of the Penang skyline at night. All around the patio are smaller wooden tables and chairs in booth-like settings, comfy and quiet for those wanting a more private chat. The lighting is low, colourful and intimate.

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Since I don’t drink alcohol, I had a Sweet Eighteen mocktail of fruit (strawberry, lychee, pineapple.. and I forgot what else). It was very sweet, but pretty good.

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Three Sixty Sky Bar
Bayview Hotel Georgetown
25-A Lebuh Farquhar
George Town, Penang
Malaysia
+604 263 3161 ext. 226
Open daily 4pm-1am, 3am on weekends.

1980s Music Bar and Cafe, Kluang, Johor

I admit that I was a little up on my high horse when I was in Kluang, thinking that a small town (not that small these days) would be boring and devoid of a night life.

I was wrong.

I met up with my ex-university mate, Evelyn, who is a local girl and fellow journalist – and she brought me to the commercial hub of Kluang town, where chic bars and pubs have sprouted up all along the square. This is apparently one of the favourite night hangout spots for the younger crowd.

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Located on the second floor above a Western-style bakery-cafe, the 1980s Music Bar and Cafe is heavily influenced by music, pop culture and all things vintage. It reminded me of places like Hard Rock Cafe, with band posters, musical paraphernalia, a small stage for musicians to perform and other cool stuff like old radios and colourful beer cans. There were tall bar stools and tables on one side, while the other side was lined with cosy sofas and pouffes.

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The menu featured faces of music legends, like Bob Marley.

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Chocolate milkshake. It was one of the better milkshakes I’ve had – smooth, thick and creamy with just the right amount of sweetness and creaminess.

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We also ordered a large curly fries, which was crispy and well-seasoned. The fries were gone in a flash as we caught up with stuff over the food and drinks. They serve mainly Western fare, such as pasta and burgers.

Overall, I think this was a real gem of a cafe – rivaling the ones we have in KL. The service is also much friendlier.

1980s MUSIC BAR & CAFE

2nd Floor, No. 36 & 38, Jalan Duku, 86000, Kluang, Johor.

(+6) 07-776 7980