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Celebrate the Festive Season at Hilton Kuala Lumpur With Scrumptious Feasts

Christmas is a time for friends and family – and although the pandemic might have changed the way we celebrate, that doesn’t mean we can’t keep the spirit alive, or show thoughtfulness, gratitude and love to the ones that matter in our lives. 

This festive season, Hilton Kuala Lumpur presents the Joy of Giving with heart-warming feasts and gift boxes. All of the festive menus are designed to be shared and savoured together – because more than the usual fixtures of the holiday season (delicious food, beautiful decorations, gifts) it’s the people you experience it with that make the occasion truly memorable.  

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Hilton KL’s Festive Gift Boxes make an ideal surprise for friends, family and business associates. Starting from RM180 nett, the gift box comes with delectable homemade treats like fruit cake, chocolate pralines, chocolate Santa, cookies and Stollen, alongside spa and F&B vouchers to complement the personalised touch. There is the option to takeaway and dine in the comfort of your home on selected items with Bring Hilton Home. 

For those who are able to travel and are keen on experiencing a Hilton Christmas first hand, Hilton KL will be hosting a 20-foot-tall Christmas tree at the Lobby, adorned with ribbons and ornaments to celebrate the festive season in style. Plenty of gastronomic pleasures also await, with a dedicated culinary team keen to bring to guests the world on a plate – all while keeping strictly to SOPs to ensure a safe dining experience. 

Christmas Lunch & Dinner at Vasco’s

Take your taste buds on a gastronomic journey with a curated selection of local and international feasts that celebrate the joyous season. Prepared by an award-winning culinary team, expect festive dishes that you won’t get at any other time of the year, such as Boston Lobster Mornay, Honey Glazed Spice Brined Roast Turkey with Cranberry Sauce and Grass-fed Australian Beef Sirloin Mini Steak. Other Christmas specialties to look forward to include Wagyu Beef Scotch Egg with Hollaindaise, Crisp Duck Leg Confit and Waffle with Mustard Maple Syrup, Salt-crusted Salmon Trout with Fennel, Signature Yule Log, Pan-fried Stolen with Berries and Homemade Blackcurrant Ice Cream and more. 

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The Christmas Eve Dinner Buffet on 24 December 2020 (6.30pm – 10.30pm) is priced at RM248 nett per person. Lunch and dinner buffets on Christmas Day are also available, priced at RM248 nett and RM228 nett per person, respectively.  

You can also usher in the New Year with a Seafood Galore buffet on New Year’s Eve, priced at RM248 nett per person, or enjoy lunch and dinner on New Year’s Day at RM228 and RM188 nett, respectively. 

Special London Duck at Chynna

Known as the ‘wagyu of duck’, the London Roast Duck was popularised by Cantonese immigrants to the UK, making a name for itself as an iconic dish of the city. The good news is you won’t have to travel all the way to London to get it, as celebrity Chef Lam Hock Hin works his culinary magic to present Chynna’s immaculate version; the duck’s smooth texture and succulent flesh sure to leave the most discerning appetites craving for more. In addition, diners can dig into his Cantonese-inspired turkey creations such as Pan-Fried Turkey Meat with Thyme Leaf, Turkey Dumpling with Black Truffle and Hot & Sour Soup with Shredded Turkey, which displays a masterful grasp of classic meets modern cooking. 

Chef Lam’s Special London Duck is available for order from 1 – 31 December 2020, from 12 to 2.30pm and 6 pm to 10.30pm. Price start from RM159. 

Grilled Festive Specialties at Chambers Grill 

Traditionally, meat is a quintessential part of many Christmas celebrations around the world. Chambers Grill’s Festive Carnivore Platter is sure to satisfy meat lovers, with highlights such as Monster “Bull Head” Steak, Lamb Cutlets, Black Angus Prime Rib Butterflied, Port Wine Braised Australian Beef Cheek and Turkey Roulade stuffed with Mushroom and Chestnuts. Plus, there’s a show-stopping Flambé Traditional Pudding with Brandy Sauce to cap off a convivial evening. 

The platter is good for three to four persons. It is available from 1 – 31 December from 6pm to 10.30pm, and is priced from RM800. 

Delectable Japanese Flavours at Iketeru

There’s no rule book that Christmas has to be about turkeys and log cakes – give your festive spirit a twist and experience authentic Japanese fare at Iketeru. Prepared with the freshest seasonal ingredients, Iketeru will serve two types of tantalizing 6-course menu, namely ‘Wafu Set’ and ‘Yofu Set’ to indulge the palates. Enjoy dishes like Smoked Duck Salad, Wagyu Beef Teppanyaki, Buri Teriyaki, Nigiri Sushi, Assorted Tempura and more. 

The festive set menu is available from 1 to 31 December 2020 from 12pm – 2.30pm, and 6pm – 10.30pm. Prices from RM360. 

Glorious Family-Style Feast at Graze

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Gather friends and family over a spread of rustic-themed epicurean delight at Graze on Christmas Day, as you exchange meaningful conversations (and presents!) with each other. The 12-course menu includes Freshly Shucked Irish Tragheanna Oyster, Tiger Prawn Cocktail, Chestnut Soup with Cranberry Cream Fraiche, Lobster Mornay with Truffle Fries and more. Cut through the meat and seafood with unlimited servings of Caesar Salad. Complete the experience with indulgent sweets and cheese like Hazelnut Mud Cake, Christmas pudding with Brandied Anglaise, Gorgonzola Blue Cheese, and French Brie Cheese served with dried fruits.

The Christmas Day Brunch is available from 11am – 2.30pm from RM268 per person.

Toast to Brilliant Beginnings at Aviary Bar 

Sidle up to Aviary Bar and revel in the year-end festivities with bespoke cocktails crafted by award-winning mixologists. Indulge in a ‘Ring the Bell’ cocktail (RM50 nett per glass), made with Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve and peach liquor, and for the non-alcoholic drinkers, there’s the ‘Peachy Santa’ mocktail (RM35 nett per glass) a bright and fruity concoction that adds festive cheer to any celebration. Guests can order these festive beverages at the bar from 1 to 31 December, from 12 pm to 10pm. 

A Sip of Joy at Oro Café 

Malaysia may not have winters, but the recent rainy season has been pretty cold. Warm up with some classic Christmas Eggnog at Oro Cafe, or order one of their signature concoctions like The Grinch Punch and Pomegranate Spiced Tea, for a burst of fragrant smells and flavours of exotic spices. Make a loved one’s day with a heartwarming takeaway gift box, and choose from either Santa’s Turkey Box which features Roast Turkey with a side of salads, baked vegetables, cranberry sauce and desserts or Festive Gift Boxes which comprise a medley of homemade pastry delights.  

Festive beverages are available from 1 – 31 December 2020 from 12pm – 10pm at RM35 nett per glass, while the Festive Gift and Takeaway Boxes are available from now until 31 December 2020 at RM180 nett. Festive Goodies are priced at RM40 nett. 

Festive Tea Time at The Lounge

Themed ‘Spirit of Joy’, The Lounge offers a high tea menu for guests to indulge themselves in food haven this holiday season. The Festive Afternoon High Tea Set includes a plethora of handcrafted desserts and savouries, including Turkey Cranberry Swiss Cheese Finger Sandwich, Chocolate & Cinnamon Orange Cake, Spiced Mango Éclair, Christmas Plum Pudding with Chocolate Raspberry Mousse and more, served with Pomegranate Spiced Tea. With a majestic view of KL city, this is a perfect opportunity for a glamorous and intimate tête-à-tête session alongside your friends or partner. 

The Festive High Tea is available from 1 to 31 December 2020, from 2.30pm – 5.30pm on weekdays and 12.30pm – 5.30pm on weekends, priced at RM250 nett for two persons. 

For enquiries or reservations, call +603 2264 2264, or email KULHI_CustomerServce@hilton.com, or visit http://www.eatdrinkhilton.com. 

*Photos courtesy of Hilton Kuala Lumpur.

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Izakaya-Style Dining: Minato Yakitori, Bandar Puteri Puchong

In Japan, izakayas are popular after-work haunts that serve alcoholic drinks and snacks, such as grilled items on skewers and small appetiser plates, finished off with a more filling portion of rice or noodles. Unlike traditional restaurants that serve course-meals, you order as you eat and the chefs prepare it a la minute – so expect to spend a substantial amount of time when dining in.

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Japanese restos are a dime a dozen in the Klang Valley, but izakaya-style eateries that serve food on skewers are rare. In Puchong, there’s Minato Yakitori, a cosy establishment located above a steamboat restaurant. I’ve only been to an authentic izakaya once (in Nagoya), and Minato recreates the atmosphere well – the open kitchen where you can watch the chefs in action, the smoke, smells and sounds coming from the grill – even the bustle of diners chatting and enjoying their meals.

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Technically, though, Minato Yakitori is not a pure izakaya – as it also serves dishes like Ebi Tempura Don, Curry Rice, katsu and even sashimi. This is good news for big eaters, as the yakitori items aren’t really filling, and you can rack up a hefty bill if you’re only eating skewers.

For starters, we got a bowl of thinly sliced, cold marinated jellyfish. It was marinated well and had a salty, sour tang, with a crunchy texture.

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Pops had the Ebi Tempura (fried shrimp) set, which came with rice, miso soup and salad. Portions were generous for the price, as he had a good five pieces of largish shrimp, fried in a crispy batter with moist and springy insides. The Bro had a Chicken Katsu Don.

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Moo and I ordered skewers and steamed rice. They took a pretty long time to come since everything is grilled to order. The skewers average about RM3 – RM10, depending on what you’re ordering.

I was actually kinda disappointed with the size. I know they’re meant to be snacks, but the squid, for example, looked small and shriveled. Even the dollop of mayo that was served on the side was super tiny. Although, I can’t fault the flavour and the quality of the food – the squid tasted fresh, and I liked that it had a slight char on the edges.

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Moo’s Pork with Spring Onions. The meat had a nice sweet taste, like glazed soy sauce and sugar, which complemented the natural sweetness of the spring onions.

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I also ordered: bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms, scallops and chicken liver. The latter two were the best of the lot: the scallops were plump and juicy, while the chicken liver was intense and gamey – not for those who don’t like the taste of offal. The bacon-wrapped mushrooms were good too, just the portion was small and the bacon slice was so thin I could have used it as a ring around my finger lol.

Our bill for 4 came up to just under RM100. If you’re looking for a tasty, filling meal, go for the sets. If you want the izakaya experience, order the skewers. Expect a wait as they grill the items to order. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.

MINATO YAKITORI 

First Floor, No. 49, 1, Jalan Puteri 2/3, Bandar Puteri Puchong, 47100 Puchong, Selangor (Above Harbour Steamboat) 

Opening hours: 11AM – 2.30PM, 5.30PM – 10.30PM  (closed Mondays)
Non-Halal

 

Oodles of Noodles @ Kai Xin Restaurant, Taman Wawasan Puchong

I’ve lived in Puchong nearly all my life, but I still haven’t been to the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve. It’s a popular hiking spot on weekends, and there are usually loads of cars parked near the entrance. Just next to it is a row of single storey shoplots with a few cafes and eateries where visitors can go to for breakfast / brunch / lunch after their hiking excursion. One of these is Kai Xin Restaurant, which specialises in simple, homemade noodles. The place has probably been around for some time, judging from the faded signboard which we had to squint at to make out.

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Typical of casual kopitiams, the interior is sparse and no-frills. While some customers seem to be hikers, judging from their attire, the rest are likely from the surrounding neighbourhood. The menu is limited, namely serving Wantan Mee, Pan Mee, Ginger Wine Noodles, Pork Trotters in Vinegar, Curry Noodles, Pork Noodles and Har Mee. You know what they say about good food spots though – quality over quantity!

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The curry noodles are ‘Melaka Nyonya style’, according to the boss who took our orders.

Hawker fare is typically served in a sloppy mess, but this was beautifully presented and came chock full of ingredients: tofu pok, sliced egg, fish cakes, beancurd sheets and charsiew, topped with a dollop of spicy sambal. The curry offers a spicy kick, and you can really taste the fragrant flavours of lemongrass and galangal. Curry noodles in KL tend to be creamy and heavy on the coconut milk, but this is very clear and light.

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Pan Mee is another one of the restaurant’s specialties. You can choose to have it in a soup, or dry / tossed in dark soy sauce. You can also pick from either thick, thin or hand cut noodles. Personally I prefer thick noodles as the extra thickness / bite just adds to that extra mouthfeel / al dente satisfaction! Both the soup and dry versions come with crunchy fried anchovies, minced meat and wood ear fungus.

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Round off the meal on a sweet note with some sweet Chinese desserts, the likes of red bean soup, black sesame soup or barley with pumpkin. 

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Was surprised that our meal for four came up to under RM40 (inclusive of the desserts and 2 drinks), which is very reasonable by today’s standards. Each bowl of noodles is only RM6. Good cheap food in a casual setting – can’t really fault that! So if you’re hiking at Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve, drop by Kai Xin for a nice and filling lunch. 🙂

KAI XIN RESTAURANT 

No. 31, Jalan Wawasan 5/1, Pusat Bandar Puuchong, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 9AM – 3PM (Tues – Sun). Closed Mondays.

Review: Ground Eatery, Bandar Puteri Puchong – Revamped Menu

Whenever S and I can’t figure out what to eat, Ground Eatery in Bandar Puteri Puchong is always a safe bet. It’s cosy, the food has never disappointed, service is friendly and the prices are reasonable for the setting. Since it was S’s birthday (and coz we hadn’t seen each other since February), dinner was in order.

Like many places, the resto has implemented SOPs, so we had to scan a QR code and get our temperatures checked before entering. The place was actually operating at full capacity, although it didn’t feel too crowded because seats were adequately spaced.

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Every time we come here we never fail to order the rose milk (RM7) – hot for me and iced for S. It’s milky and frothy, with the delicate sweetness of rose petals. They also serve refreshing juices and coffees.

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It has been awhile since my last visit, and the menu has changed a little.

They still offer pastas, pizzas and burgers, but they’ve also added several Japanese dishes such as Unagi with Rice and Japanese curry with chicken karaage (above).The portion was very generous, with three huge chunks of fried chicken, rice wrapped in a perfectly fluffy omelette, flooded with a savoury curry sauce. Tastewise, it was pretty good although I felt that it could have benefited from extra seasoning (curry was quite bland). The chicken was excellent, and despite the large size it was juicy and thoroughly cooked, with crisp skin.

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S had the pork burger. It came with two juicy patties stacked precariously, atop a bed of lettuce and a side of chips. Again, the patties were perfectly cooked and juicy. I think it takes a considerable amount of skill to make sure thick patties are cooked thoroughly without drying them out, so kudos to the chef at Ground Eatery!

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Our meal for two with drinks came up to about RM60. I bought a loaf of banana chocolate bread as well (RM15) – not pictured but it was nice and moist, not too sweet.

In light of the new SOPs, the restaurant now offers dine-in, delivery and pick-up. Dine-in is available from 11am – 8pm. For delivery and pickup, you can send a Whatsapp to this link. 

Menu: 

GROUND EATERY 

Tower 4 & 5, PFCC, Jalan Puteri 1/2, Bandar Puteri Puchong,, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Tel: 03-5879 7292

Business hours: 11AM – 8PM

 

 

 

Quarantine Meals ! – Of Dimsum, Nasi Lemak and Char Kuey Teow

Hey guys! It’s technically Day 51 of the Movement Control Order here in Malaysia. I will be resuming work at the office tomorrow. After nearly 2 months, it’s time to say hello again to traffic jams. :/

Originally, the MCO was supposed to be lifted on May 12 – but the government has already allowed businesses to reopen from May 4. It’s all very confusing: on one hand, the MCO is still in place, but everyone is already allowed out to work anyway so what’s the point of having the MCO? Personally, I feel that the move is too sudden (it was announced on May 1, giving businesses just 2 days to prepare). There’s also been a lot of political bullshit going on. Imho, I think the government is pressured to reopen businesses because the coffers are running out of money and they can’t afford to have the economy collapse. We’re also seeing lots of U-turns in terms of promised aid. Can’t help but think it’s every person for themselves now.

But enough doom and gloom: here’s a #foodpost! Being at home for close to two months has been great for my eating habits because I’m eating out less and having more homecooked food. I am an okay (?) cook, but if it were up to me, we’d be eating pasta, fried chicken, steaks and wraps every day – so it’s my mom that does most of the cooking. Most days it’s simple stuff like boiled vegetables and something like chicken and potatoes, or dishes that are steamed, stewed or stir-fried (deep fried is almost a taboo in my household because it’s ‘unhealthy’). Some days, though, we get better than average ones:

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Roasted chicken wings glazed with honey. 

We have a tiny, portable oven which does the job for roasting and baking. It’s adequate, but not very convenient. Prepping the chicken is easy – you just have to turn it over halfway through to make sure that it’s cooked thoroughly, and keep applying the glaze so that it’s nice and glistening.

I miss the oven I had back in Sheffield when I was a student. My housemates and I had a large oven in our flat, and it was so easy to pop everything in there – fish and chips, sausages, chipolatas, bacon. Much easier to clean up as well.

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Baked chicken and mushroom pies. They didn’t look perfect (the tops were sunken) but they tasted great. The mini ones were adorable, although they were not created intentionally lol (Mom ran out of containers).

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Pork chops with white sauce. I fried the chops while Mom made the sauce with evaporated milk and a bit of flour. It turned out a bit too gooey, but the chops were moist, juicy and succulent so it wasn’t too bad.

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We don’t cook all the time – sometimes we also order takeout.

I am a big fan of dim sum, and I usually have it at least once a month pre-coronavirus days – but none of my usual dim sum haunts was open in the initial days of the quarantine. After 45 days, I finally broke my dim sum ‘fast’ with takeout from Jin Xuan Restaurant in Bandar Puteri Puchong. I don’t usually come here because it’s out of the way and their items are pricier than some other establishments, but at the time, I was just super glad to be able to get my dim sum fix lol. (Above, clockwise from bottom left – fried shrimp dumplings, shrimp rolls, siew mai (pork and shrimp dumplings), and har gaw (shrimp dumplings)).

JIN XUAN HONG KONG DIM SUM: 27, Jalan Puteri 1/6, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor (open for take-away only during the MCO) 

 

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Another time for lunch, we bought Nasi Lemak from Brilliant Nasi Lemak House, just a block away from Jin Xuan. The resto specialises in nasi lemak ie rice cooked in coconut milk and served with dishes such as fried chicken, rendang, curry and sambal sotong. Against my better judgment, I had the sambal sotong. It was good but the portions were rather small. If you like spicy food, the sambal here delivers a strong kick.

BRILLIANT NASI LEMAK HOUSE : 2, Jalan Puteri 1/2, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Kuala Lumpur, Selangor (open for takeaway only during the MCO) 

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Last but not least, the all-time Malaysian favourite, char kuey teow or wok-fried flat noodles. This one’s from a famous franchise called Goreng Kuey Teow Tong Shin. You can opt to get kuey teow mee (mix of flat noodles and yellow noodles, as pictured above), and add on items such as cockles, Chinese sausages and other ingredients. The basic char kuey teow will usually have shrimp, egg, kuchai, cockles and chilli sauce. What makes char kuey teow so divine is the smokiness that you can only get from wok frying it over a huge flame. Control of the fire is essential. The one from Tong Shin is pretty good !

GORENG KUEY TEOW TONG SHIN: G, 27, Jalan Puteri 2/6, Bandar Puteri Puchong, 47100 Puchong, Selangor (Open for takeaway only during the MCO). 

 

 

What are some of your quarantine meals? Are you cooking at home or ordering more takeout? Share them with me in the comments below; I’d love to hear about any delicious dishes you’ve had! 

 

We Ate At A Random Resto In Tokyo : Out-Of-This-World Gyoza + Fatty Hotpot

Tokyo is home to an abundance of eateries, and it’s not unusual to stumble upon a hidden gem while walking through a narrow alleyway at night. Like this one:  

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Heavy on the tech noir feels.

I must be the worst food/travel blogger ever, because I snapped pictures of the place thinking it’d be easy to find later on Google Maps.

How. Utterly. Mistaken.  

Googling the few Romanised shop signs in the area yielded no results, but after much sleuthing, I managed to find the resto we dined at through the Street View function – I still dunno what it’s called because the sign is in Japanese, but it’s at the same row as An-Deux Kitchen (アンドゥーズキッチン) in Shimbashi.

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Store front. If anyone reads Japanese, I’d greatly appreciate if you could tell me what the name is!

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The menu was designed to look like a broadsheet newspaper, complete with ‘ads’ promoting special items. There were some pictures, but everything else was in Japanese, so we let Ken-san do the ordering. For appetisers, there was a spicy fish roe of some sort, served in a bamboo wicker tray. It was spicy and salty with an almost overwhelmingly fishy taste – might not be the best dish to order if you’re not familiar with pungent dishes.

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I think these were cream cheese cubes with a fermented bean sauce. Surprisingly addictive!

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The pork gyoza was served in a sizzling deep-dish pan, shaped like a blooming flower. Despite being quite oily, it did not feel greasy or cloying. The skin had perfect crispness, enveloping each gyoza’s juicy, meaty insides. Easily the star of the night!

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Ken-san said this is a local specialty – hotpot with very fatty pork. If you’re a fan of fatty pork then this will be right up your alley. I liked the pork, but not the massive amount of kow choi (chives) in it. After you’re done with the pork, they add tonkotsu (pork bone broth) into the pot and a round of ramen so you can enjoy the noodles with the soup.

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The soup was very hearty and comforting, and I liked the chewy, fatty pork. Not so much a fan of chives, and you know how chives can be – the flavour permeates through everything.

Ken-san ordered way too much ramen and we were practically rolling out of the door by the end of dinner.. but yeah. If you’re in the Shimbashi neighbourhood, look out for this resto ! The gyozas are to die for. Address below is the one for An-Deux Kitchen; the resto is just a few steps away.

Address: 〒105-0004 Tokyo, Minato City, 9, 新橋2-9-14三浦ビル3F

 

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

 

Review: Tsukiji Sushidai Honkan @ Tsukiji Outer Market, Tokyo

On my last trip to Japan, I was fortunate enough to experience many off-the-beaten path gems, from visiting thatched-roof villages in Gokayama to strolling through one of the country’s most beautifully landscaped gardens in Kanazawa.

This time around, I had a couple of days in Tokyo – the country’s modern, bustling capital. While most of it was spent on a work-related assignment, our group managed to squeeze in time to visit a couple of places – many thanks to our guide Ken-san, who brought us to both popular attractions and little spots that only the locals would know.

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After a morning work briefing at his office, Ken-san brought us to the site of the old Tsukiji Market. Many visitors to Tokyo would have visited (or at least heard) of the iconic Tsukiji Market, a sprawling wholesale seafood market located in the heart of the city. Opened in 1935, it replaced an even older market nearby called Nihonbashi, and was famous for its tuna auctions.

The market shuttered and moved its wholesale operations to the newer Toyosu Market, some two kilometres away, in October last year, citing better facilities and hygiene. The restaurants and shops outside Tsukiji, however, have remained – and they still get their seafood fresh from Toyosu (from the same wholesalers that were operating at Tsukiji) each morning.

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One of the area’s most famous sushi restaurants, which has since moved to Toyosu (you gotta line up for 2-3 hours to get in) was called Sushi Dai. I was initially confused when looking up the name of the restaurant we dined at, because it sounded so similar, but have now confirmed that they’re not related. That is not to say that Tsukiji Sushidai Honkan is not worth a visit, because we found the sushi to be excellent. No long wait as well!

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You know a place is good when it’s mostly locals. I think we were the only foreigners dining in during lunch time. The space was rather cramped (as it usually is with many Japanese restos), but cosy, with multiple floors. We settled into a corner and let Ken-san do the ordering while we sipped on green tea.

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Our first platter of five nigiri sushi. I can’t even recall all of them (lol), but from second left, tuna, ika (squid), ebi (shrimp) and hotate (scallop). Needless to say, everything was very fresh, and the nigiri was expertly done with no flaky rice bits – just firm balls of rice covered by beautifully sliced fish and seafood.

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Next, grilled anago (eel), ikura (salmon roe), kampachi (yellowtail), and maki rolls stuffed with sliced cucumber and tuna, plus sweet egg rolls. Don’t let their simple appearance fool you – the egg rolls are laborious to make and require much skill, as they have to be folded in a special pan with minute timing.

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Ikura – glistening, briny bubbles that burst when you pop them in your mouth.

While I have not had the good fortune to try Sushi Dai (ie ‘the best sushi in Japan according to some travelers), I think this is a good alternative if you, like me, can’t stand queueing up for hours just to have a meal! Prices for the platters vary, from 1,000 yen to 2,000 yen depending on the number and variety of items.

TSUKIJI SUSHIDAI HONKAN 

6-21-2, Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan

Business hours: 10.30AM – 4.00PM (Mon – Sat), 11AM – 10PM (Sun)