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: Taman Sari Bar & Grill, Marriott Yogyakarta

If you’re looking to indulge in some excellent grilled fare while in Yogyakarta,Indonesia, look no further than Taman Sari Bar & Grill, located within Marriott Yogyakarta Hotel. Named after a royal garden, the establishment is located just next to the pool, with an open layout that exudes chill vibes – great for intimate gatherings, small birthday parties with friends, and romantic candlelit dinners.

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In the day time, you can lounge with a cooler or two after coming up from the pool, and grab a couple of snacks while you’re at it. Come night, the ambient lighting and wooden skylight gives the impression of dining under the stars.

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During a recent stay, I had dinner at the resto and was suitably impressed. For starters, we had the Taman Sari Flatbread (IDR45,000 / RM12) – handcrafted flat bread straight from the wood-fired oven. There were three flavours, namely plain, garlic rub and fire spiced, served with Taman Sari’s sambal. The warm and toasty slices were fluffy and light – I especially liked the fragrant garlic rub, although the other two were equally tasty.

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For mains, I had the Striploin Angus (300gm), from stockyard Black Angus Beef 70+ days grained (IDR 355,000 /RM100), served with a side of corn cob, jacket potato and mushroom sauce. The slab of beef was humongous. I ordered mine medium rare. It’s notoriously difficult to get steaks done to the right level, but they nailed it here. Still slightly bloody on the inside with juices flowing, but not charred on the outside. The knife slid through the meat like butter. With each slice dipped into the sauce, it elevated the flavour of meat to another level. Pure. Bliss.

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To wash it down, a refreshing glass of Yogya Sunrise Mocktail (IDR45000), a sweet concoction of orange, strawberry, lychee, pear and grenadine.

For such a classy establishment, I’m quite surprised at how relatively affordable the prices are at Taman Sari. If ever I return to Yogyakarta, i can definitely see myself returning to have that steak again. It’s hard to find good steak anywhere, really.

TAMAN SARI BAR & GRILL MARRIOTT YOGYAKARTA 

Jl. Raya Ringrad Utara | Yogyakarta Marriott Hotel, Sleman 55283, Indonesia

Phone: +62 274 6000888

Swallow @ The Saw Emporium – The Hottest Pop-Up Dining Joint in Penang Now Extended Til July 2018!

What can you do with an old, disused saw mill?

You turn it into the hottest, most happening food spot in town.

At least, that’s what the folks at The Steamship Merchants have done with Swallow @ The Saw Emporium, located at Gat Lebuh Macallum in Georgetown, Penang.

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Open since November 2017, Swallow is a multi-concept culinary and lifestyle pop-up event, housed on the first level of a 1950-built art-deco industrial heritage building.

Swallow, The Saw Emporium @ Macallum Road, Penang, Malaysia - 2017 - Kian Contract Malaysia (134)

Make your way from the carpark to the Courtyard and through the original sawmill, lined with timber, tools and saw blades along a walkway. A repurposed 5-metre-long timbre table in the al fresco Courtyard seats 24 on stools from Kian Furniture.

Ultra. Instagrammable.  

Though, it’s really the food and lifestyle offerings that draws the crowd – and they’ve got brand spanking new concepts, new hours, updated food menus and upcoming kitchen takeovers. Originally scheduled to end in early 2018, response has been so encouraging that they’ve extended it until July 2018! 

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New to Swallow is Pho Viet, a Vietnamese café-restaurant committed to serving authentic Vietnamese cuisine with healthy, fresh ingredients. Feast on authentic dishes, from banh mi sandwiches and barbecued meats to fresh and fried spring rolls and steamed banana cakes.

Embers Braised Pork Belly Rice

Mainstay dining partners return with updated menus and well-loved favourites. Leading the charge is Embers BBQ Grill, a fully-flamed and fired-up Asian interpretation of the classic All-American steakhouse. Expect slow roasts and smokey meats marinated in herbs and condiments typically found in Asian kitchens, cooked over a glowing charcoal fire. The  menu also showcases savoury snacks for sharing such as Luncheon Meat Fries and Happy Like Duck Nachos, as well as more substantial items like the Taiwanese Pork Rice.

Whatsæb Flatlay

 

For tantalising Thai dishes, head to WhatSaeb แซบ Boat Noodles. The word saeb is an Isan/North-eastern Thai word for delicious, and Whatsaeb certainly delivers with panache with its authentic Thai boat noodles, served in dainty bowls that easily stack up – because one is never enough. As part of their updated menu, the pop-up now offers Pad Thai Nong Khai and Larb Moo Tod (fried pork and herb meatballs) as well.

Teppei Syokudo Eat

Not to be missed is Teppei Syokudo, the flagship of the award winning Teppei Japanese Restaurant from Singapore. Famous for its great value omakase set dinners in Singapore, Malaysian guests will be able to tuck into its expanded rice bowl offerings, with hot-sellers like Unagi Tamago Don, Katsu Curry Don and Mentaiko Rice.

Swallow Bottled Cocktails

Food is not the only thing that Swallow brings to the table, as they carry their own brand of bottled cocktails, now available via the DaVinci Gourmet Cocktail Bar. Meanwhile, beer lovers will not want to miss out on TAPS Beer Bar, a pure craft beer bar with outlets in Kuala Lumpur, as they continue to expand their craft beer and cider bottles with weekly specials in limited quantities.

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Those who prefer something non-alcoholic (like yours truly) can quench their thirst at the Qwenchers Juice Bar, where one will find everything from coffee to tea and cocktails, prepared using only the best and freshest natural ingredients coupled with unique homemade recipes. Alternatively, hop on over to Norm, where its baristas-cum-bartenders present to diners skyscraping waffles, signature tiramisu and specialty coffees from 9AM, whilst infusing limited-edition cocktails via Noct from dusk until midnight.

Weekend takeovers and quarter long pop-ups with partners such as SOi 55 modern Thai, Yin’s Sourdough Pizza, Three Food Truck & Wham ensure that every visit will be a different experience to Swallow. Friday evenings from 9PM – midnight are a great time to chill, as the venue showcases local artistes, musicians and songbirds.

Swallow, The Saw Emporium @ Macallum Road, Penang, Malaysia - 2017 - Kian Contract Malaysia (62)

From April 2018, Swallow opens from Wednesdays to Sundays and Public Holidays from 11 am to 12 midnight or until the last guest leaves. The Saw Emporium is available for private event bookings and corporate event reservations with customized menus including non-Swallow days on Mondays and Tuesdays, subject to availability via enquiries@steamships.co

Swallow @ The Saw Emporium
1 Gat Lebuh Macallum, George Town 10300, Penang

 

*Photos courtesy of Steamships.co

BibiWok Thai Steamboat/Grill, Bandar Puteri Puchong

UPDATE: This place is now closed D: *cries* 

I can’t believe I’ve lived in Puchong my whole life and never got down to eating at BibiWok Thai Steamboat/Grill in Bandar Puteri, Puchong. My mum ate at their resto downstairs (which serves Thai cuisine) and didn’t like the food, so I always had the impression that their stuff wasn’t up to par. Goes to show that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear…

The ex-colleagues and I had dinner here recently and boy, was I blown away. This is easily the best, most value for money hotpot/grill place you can get around Puchong.

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Thai steamboat/grill is called Mookata. Ever since H brought me to try one while we were holidaying in Phuket, I’ve been hooked – but it’s not very common in Malaysia. I love the concept, since you can choose to boil or grill your food, or both !

BibiWok’s restaurant is divided into two sections. Downstairs, they serve typical Thai dishes like Basil Chicken, Tom Yum Goong, and Pad Thai. The mookata is upstairs, and you enter through a rather dingy-looking staircase at the side. They should put more signs, coz if I was a first-time customer, I wouldn’t know there was such a gem of a place on the second floor.

7pm on a Friday night, and we had the whole place to ourselves. Guests can choose to sit at the regular table, or in these niches with a space for you to put your legs.

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The menu features a wide selection of veggies, meat and seafood. You write down the order on a piece of paper, and they’ll bring it out on a plate lined with banana leaves. For our first ’round’, we ordered scallops, fish slices, lamb, smoked duck slices, squid, chicken, shrimp, seafood tofu, fishballs, beef balls, and fried beancurd. What can I say – everything was fresh and tasty.

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The grill was also lined with banana leaves, so it really gave this smokey, fragrant flavour to the items.

My favourite was the smoked duck, which was cut not too thick or thin. After grilling, the fat just melted in the mouth along with the tender, salted meat. The lamb was another winner – juicy, well-marinated; as was the bouncy squid and succulent chicken meat. I think what made everything so good was the fact that the stuff was fresh.

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Our tomyum soup base became really salty after adding a lot of ingredients. 😛

We actually ordered TWO more plates similar to the one I took a picture of above. The waiters were looking at us like O-O “what is wrong with these three women?”. At the end of the meal, we finished off with fruits and chocolate/vanilla ice-cream. The buffet is also inclusive of drinks such as green tea, water and cincau.

What we liked about it, apart from the food, is that they serve everything right up to your table.

The buffet is priced at RM38++ per pax. For the variety and freshness, this is a steal.

Restoran BibiWok

1, Jalan Puteri 10/16, Bandar Puteri,

47100 Puchong, Selangor, Malaysia

Phone: 03 8068 6284

Business hours: 5.30pm – 11.00pm

Seafood by the Ocean @ Jimbaran / Exploring Kuta Beach, Bali

Hullo, and welcome to the next part of my Indonesian trip! We visited Kuta, a famous stretch of beach and about the most touristy places you can ever go to in Bali. Surrounded by blocks of shopping malls, little shops selling souvenirs (prices are up for haggling), chic bars, clubs and restaurants, it wouldn’t be a place for a quiet getaway lol.

Toto drove us through the traffic and we got down for a quick visit. The beach was dirty because it was monsoon season, but they have regular patrols to clean up. It was late evening though so I guess they didn’t clear up the rubbish in time. The beach was super long and the waves were high, unlike in Malaysia. Surfing is common here. The wind was also super strong because of it’s flat, open landscape. Be prepared to get dust in your eyes.

Beach. Photo from dad’s phone.

It was then on to Jimbaran for dinner. Many restaurants line the beach, with soft candlelight illuminating the tables. Very romantic…if not for the strong wind blowing sand in everyone’s faces. We chose to sit inside the restaurant. The sunset view was magnificent.

Dinner was a platter of seafood items – grilled fish, squid, shrimp, and clams. The taste was so-so. I liked the clams, but they only gave us two each. The price came up to 400,000 rupiah (RM128+ or USD 30) for all of us.

The seafood is freshly picked and grilled. Lots of aquariums with fish in them, where customers can pick out their choice on the spot.

Guests sitting outside will be able to enjoy traditional Balinese dances on stage. I love their costume detail.

All in all, I think Kuta and Jimbaran are pretty touristy places to visit in Bali, although that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t check them out. There’s good, cheap seafood and a relatively nice (albeit crowded) beach.