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KFC Malaysia Released A “Zero Chicken Burger” – But It’s Not Vegan / Vegetarian-Friendly

You know what KFC is without the chicken?

Just KF.

…. Okay lame.

In all seriousness, woke up today and KFC’s icon on Facebook had turned green. Malaysians being Malaysians, there were many ‘mak kau hijau’ and ‘bila masa KFC dah join PAS ni?’ jokes. But it’s actually in conjunction with the launch of KFC’s new Zero Chicken Burger, a ‘chicken’ burger that – you guessed it – has no chicken. Singapore released theirs in January, so we’re a little late, but better late than never, right?

A collaboration between KFC and the meat substitute brand Quorn, the burger’s meat-free patty is ‘made with the original recipe of the 11 herbs and spices we know and love, topped with a slice of cheese and a splash of tangy BBQ sauce.’

Here’s the catch though: it’s neither vegan nor vegetarian. According to Singapore’s Today Online, the reason is because although the patties are plant-based (they’re made from mycoprotein from fungi) they’re fried in the same oil as some of KFC’s chicken products, and the mayonnaise is not vegan, since it’s made from eggs. It also has cheese.

Which begs the question: who is KFC targeting? They’ve made a meat-free burger, but people who don’t eat meat can’t enjoy it. The only answer I’m left with is people who think of it as a novelty. Because the only reason I go to KFC is, well, for the chicken. And if I wanted to eat vegan food, I’d go to a vegan resto.

Still, I think it’s a good attempt to introduce mock meat to the masses. When Beyond Burgers made headlines a couple of years ago, I was genuinely confused as to why it was such a big deal – Chinese restaurants have been making mock meat for ages; some of which taste almost like the real thing. But then I realised that there aren’t many people beyond the Chinese community who are actually aware of its existence. Especially in Malaysia, where there aren’t many people who adopt a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle (those who do usually do so for religious reasons > health reasons).

So for curious diners, you might want to give the KFC Zero Chicken Burger a try: the burger costs RM12.99 ala carte, and is available for a limited time only, while stocks last. The set goes for RM15.99.

As for me, I think I’ll stick with my chicks.

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Easy 4-Step Bakkwa Puffs

Bakkwa (also known as rougan) is the Chinese version of jerky, consisting of flattened pieces of dried meat seasoned with sugar, salt and spices. It is very popular among the Chinese community in Malaysia and Singapore, and although you can get it all year round, it is most commonly eaten during the Lunar New Year. We also prepare it differently here; ie cooking the meat over charcoal so it gets imbued with a nice, smoky flavour.

Bak kwa

Photo: Alpha, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never been much of a bakkwa fan. I don’t hate it – if I was visiting someone during the festive season and they offered me a slice, I wouldn’t say no – but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it. I’m sure many people would beg to differ though: apparently the line for the Lim Chee Guan brand of bak kwa in Singapore can stretch up to three hours!

Recently, my colleagues were tasked with making a video on ‘unique ways to prepare bakkwa’, and on my part, I had to come up with a recipe. All the good ones like pasta, fried rice and what not had already been taken. Not being much of a cook myself, I initially thought of just frying it as an omelet and calling it a day, but then my mom suggested I use it as filling for pastry, and bake it with cheese. Brilliant, Moomins!

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Closest place to my house selling bak kwa is Oloiya in Bandar Puteri Puchong. Thankfully, Malaysians are a bit saner than Singaporeans (or maybe it’s coz COVID cases are in the four digits daily these days so people are kiasi?) , so there was no three hour queue.

Oloiya sells chicken and pork bakkwa in 100, 300 and 500 g portions. Unlike pre-pandemic times, they no longer display stacks of meat out in the open, probably for hygiene purposes. Instead, everything is vacuum packed and sealed. No tasters as well. It takes away from the traditional shopping experience, but hey – safety first.

I couldn’t visualise how much each portion was because everything was already packed into plastic, so I ordered the middle option (300g – RM35). It turned out to be quite a lot, as there were six pieces inside.

Aside from traditional chicken and pork, Oloiya has items like “Blooming Beauty Pork” (basically dried bacon strips), pork / chicken floss, and snack-sized bakkwa (called Bak-Off. I’m surprised this name got approved for the market lol). For those who are looking for gifts, Oloiya also offers nicely packed gift boxes with options for personalised engraving.

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Anyway enough promo: on to the bakkwa puffs.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pieces store-bought filo pastry (if you’re feeling hardworking, you can make your own – but I don’t have a recipe for that lol)
  • 1 piece bakkwa, cut into thin strips
  • 1 slice cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten (for eggwash)

Method:

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  • Fill half of the filo pastry with bakkwa and top with cheese. Make sure there is enough space at the edges to fold.
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  • Fold pastry into triangles and seal the edges with a fork.
  • Brush egg wash on top of pastry for colour.
  • Pre-heat oven. Set to 180C. Bake for 20 minutes. (PS: If it doesn’t look brown enough, either bake for another 10 minutes, or set the oven to a higher temperature.)
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And there you have it. A creative way to enjoy your bakkwa!

If you think about it, you’re basically making a sandwich of sorts. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with meat + cheese + pastry combo. The pastry gives it a nice and crispy exterior, and the bakkwa’s sweet and salty flavour goes great with cheese. The texture also softens a bit during the baking process, so you actually get meat that is more moist.

What are some of the creative ways you eat your bakkwa? Or do you enjoy it as it is? Let me know if you’re planning to try this recipe, and how it turned out for you! 🙂

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Tucking Into Chanko Nabe (Sumo Hotpot) @ Saganobori, Ginza, Tokyo

I was going through some old posts from my Japan trip last year and realised that I missed out writing on this.

It was our last night in Tokyo, and as appreciation for our work filming from 3AM – 1PM lol (we were doing a story on the Toyosu Fish Market), our POC / guide Ken-san picked out a place for dinner. It turned out to be Saganobori in Ginza, which is very famous for their chanko nabe, aka sumo hotpot. Reservations are required, so we were really grateful to Ken-san for making all the arrangements – we just showed up for the food!

Sumo wrestling is a big sport and an age-old tradition in Japan. If you thought they are just fat dudes wrestling around in a ring, you are sorely mistaken. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into maintaining their physique, and sumo wrestlers adhere to a rigorous diet and training regime, and follow a strict set of rules.

One of the most recognisable dishes associated with sumo wrestling is chanko nabe, which literally translates to “a meal of hotpot”. There are no specific recipes, but typical ingredients include meat or fish/seafood, and vegetables. One thing they all have in common is the large serving, as chanko nabe is eaten as part of a weight gain diet.

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Cute sumo-themed chopstick holders !

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A couple of pickled appetisers to get things started. The fig with cream sauce (top right) was divine.

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Japanese cuisine is always a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach.

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Tamagoyaki (Sweet omelette) with herbs – fluffy, bouncy and absolutely perfect.

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Small fried shrimp – more snacks to keep us going while they prepared the hotpot.

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It. Was. Massive.

It was the first time I had ever seen such a gigantic hotpot, and it was filled to the brim with beautiful slices of fatty pork belly, humongous squares of tofu, meatballs, mushrooms, vegetables and spring onions in a light dashi broth. This thing could feed a village. Needless to say, we had problems finishing it among the six of us and were basically lying sideways in our chairs by the end of the meal. It was quite wasted, so I don’t recommend getting this unless you’re travelling in a big group or you are a big eater with a bottomless pit for a stomach.

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This was like the third bowl and I was already slowing down considerably lol. Of course, everything was fresh and tasty, especially the pork belly slices. The dashi got more and more flavourful as the night wore on, having soaked up the full flavours of the ingredients.

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The meat and veggies in itself were already very filling – but of course Ken-san had to go and order noodles lol. I’m not sure what they are but they were a little chewy, like udon, but less thick.

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Despite saying we were all full, we somehow found space in our stomach for ice cream (because everyone has a separate dessert stomach, no?). It was an interesting flavour – sea salt – hence the bluish tinge.

We actually sat around eating and drinking green tea (thankfully, I travelled with a group of non-alcoholics!) until closing time. It was actually autumn during our visit and the weather was just starting to get chilly – so it was nice to have something warm and hearty before bedtime.

If you’ve never had sumo hotpot, and are travelling with friends/family in Tokyo, I recommend trying it out at Saganobori. The shop can be a little hard to find because it’s tucked in a quiet side alley (I notice that this is a trend with many famous restos in Tokyo – they often look super unassuming / are hidden in some back alley or other), but with a little determination and a GPS, you’ll be rewarded with a giant bowl of hearty hotpot!

SAGANOBORI 

Address: 7-18-15, Ginza, Chuo 104-0061 Tokyo Prefecture

Website: https://www.saganobori.co.jp

Phone: +81 3-3545-1221

PS: I’m not sure how you can make reservations if you don’t speak Japanese. You may need the assistance of a local.

 

 

A Meaty Affair @ Butcher’s Block, Raffles Singapore

Offering some of the world’s finest cuts of meats with a wood-fire-focused dining experience. Butcher’s Block – a buzzing specialty meat restaurant – opened its doors last month to round off the stellar F&B outlets at the revamped Raffles Arcade in Singapore.

Butcher's Block - Restaurant Interior

 

Expect a convivial evening as soon as you step into the restaurant’s stylish adorned interior, which features cobalt blue hues, complementary dark wood panelling and bold brass furnishing and accents.

There’s a glass cooler aptly named The Vault, displaying fine cuts of meats right next to the Open Kitchen, where guests can watch the chefs in action. Adding to the visual appeal is The Library, an exposed wine cellar that houses more than 200 different wine labels, including a good selection of natural wines. For guests who prefer privacy, two private dining rooms, each seating eight persons, are available.

Remy Lefebvre, Chef de Cuisine at Butcher's Block, Raffles Singapore

Presented by Chef de Cuisine Remy Lefebvre, the Butcher’s Block menu is a culmination of his professional culinary experiences across his 16 years of cooking in Qatar, Spain, Grand Cayman among other locales. He favours the time-honoured methods of curing, ageing, fermenting and cooking with wood fire.

Porterhouse

 

The age-old craft of wood fire cooking requires technical skill and employs a variety of techniques, such as smoking, grilling and slow cooking in embers, to impart distinct flavours and aromas that appeal to one’s primal cravings. Meat is not the only thing on the curated a la carte menu – there’s also delectable seafood and vegetables prepared to perfection.

For a unique dining experience, the OAK (One of A Kind) Table offers a fun, theatrical way to experience the cuisine. Only available on Fridays and Saturdays, the OAK Table features off-the-menu delights that are only revealed on the evening itself.

Cecina de Leon

The menu allows Chef Remy to deliver table side interaction, showcasing special cuts often in limited quantities – whether a small batch of prized beef or even a whole fish dry-aged to achieve remarkable umami notes.

Turbot

Completing the experience is a line-up of one bubbly and three wines, selected by the Raffles sommelier team and offered all at once for guests to be able to taste with every dish to discover their own preferences. Priced at SGD398++ per guest, the OAK Table accommodates just eight guests who will be seated at the three-metre long communal table in the middle of Butcher’s Block with an unadulterated view of the action in the kitchen.

BUTCHER’S BLOCK

#02-02 to #02-07, Raffles Arcade, 328 North Bridge Rd, Singapore 188719

Opening Hours: 6:00pm–10:00pm
Restaurant capacity: 44(2 Private Rooms of 8 persons each)
butchersblock.com.sg

*Photos courtesy of Directions Group Inc Pte Ltd

 

Review: Unlimited BBQ @ Rocku Yakiniku, 1 Utama Shopping Centre Petaling Jaya

What’s better than barbecue?

UNLIMITED BARBECUE. 

There’s nothing like the sizzle of fresh meat as it hits the grill, and the glisten of oil and juices over beautifully marbled slices of pork belly. You get all that, and more, at Rocku Yakiniku, a popular Japanese-style barbecue (yakiniku)joint located within 1 Utama Shopping Centre, Bandar Utama Petaling Jaya. 

Video here. Scroll to the bottom to read more details!

This is actually my second time here (the first was with my junior writer and we were too busy eating to take pictures, lol). Since it was S’s birthday, I decided to treat him to a meal. We thought the resto would be super busy since it was a Saturday, but it was surprisingly empty. Not that we’re complaining!  The interior is upbeat, casual and cosy, with cool Japanese-themed murals decorating the brick walls. There is a stage at the centre where they have music performances in the evenings.

Service was prompt and friendly. You can choose from the Platters (beef, pork and seafood – good for if you want to try a bit of everything) or opt for individual orders. The red meats such as lamb and beef are flown in from Australia and New Zealand.

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The buffet corner has a limited selection of items, which is fair since most people come here for the grilled items anyway. There’s the sauce station where you can mix and match your own dips, such as yuzu chilli, sushi shoyu, chilli sauce, and more. I recommend the spicy miso – savoury with a spicy kick; great with various grilled meats.

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For carb lovers, there’s fried rice, sushi rolls, udon and stir fried noodles, alongside chawan mushi, tofu and fried snacks like chicken wings and hash browns.

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While the charcoal grill was being heated, we got a couple of snacks to nibble on. Udon had a nice sweetish flavour and good texture, hash browns were greasy but tasty, but AVOID the chicken wings – they were obviously fried way earlier and the batter was rock hard.

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Meats are grilled over a charcoal fire, which I think is better at producing that charred, smoky taste compared to gas fires.

For starters, S and I went for a seafood platter and pork platter. The seafood platter came with squid, mussels, saba (mackerel), butterfish, shrimps and scallops, while the pork platter had 3 pieces of pork shoulder, pork belly and bacon slathered in a marinade. There was also a piece of lard for us to grease the grill.

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Portions were generous and hearty, especially the shrimps and the butterfish slices.

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Grilling in progress

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One thing about BBQ is that you really have to work for your food 😀

Everything was fresh and tasty. S liked the bacon slices which had a sweet, smoky flavour. Even better if you get a piece of pork belly, slather some spicy miso onto it, put the meat onto a piece of lettuce and eat that whole, as the veggie helps to cut through the fattiness and grease. Shrimps were sizable, which was impressive seeing how difficult it is to get large-sized shrimps at many establishments these days.

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The scallops were served in aluminium foil bowls and heated up til they bubbled merrily. There was also a dash of egg yolk(presumably quail) in the broth.

Personally, being a seafood lover, I really enjoyed the squid and butterfish, which like its namesake, has a buttery texture and just melts on the tongue. Kinda like fatty tuna.

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Round 2 of our orders saw more bacon, more pork belly, and lamb shoulder. This was the only ‘meh’ item we had because the meat was really lean and ended up being dry.

Drinks are ordered separately, but an economical choice would be the green tea which is served in a jug for RM3 and can be shared among a group.

Our lunch for two came up to RM120, which was pretty reasonable for a barbecue buffet. If you come on weekday afternoons, it’s RM39.90++ per pax.

Rocku Yakiniku has another outlet in Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur.

ROCKU YAKINIKU (1UTAMA Branch) 

F.355, F.356 & F.357, First Floor, Rainforest, No. 1, Lebuh Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Opening hours: 11AM – 11PM (Daily)

rocku.com.my

Food Review: Korean BBQ @ Apple + Samgyupsal, Bandar Puteri Puchong

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Apple + Samgyupsal – they have several branches in Kuala Lumpur and around the Klang Valley – but never had the chance to try it out until recently. C and I felt like having meat, so we headed to lunch at their Bandar Puteri Puchong branch.

As the name suggests, the restaurant specializes in apple-based dishes, and their specialty is barbecued pork wrapped in apple slices and eaten with onions, garlic, gochujang sauce and kimchi.

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I like the red colour scheme and fairy lights; they go well with the sleek metallic tables and minimalist decor. Each table has its own exhaust fan to suck away the smoke. Service is prompt and friendly, and they use charcoal for the barbecue process.

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Our sharing platter for two (RM88) came with 120g Apple Samgyupsal (pork belly), 120g Apple Moksal (pork neck), 120g Apple Hanjungsal (jowls), apple wraps, tteok (rice cakes), homemade sausage and apple salad. The meats are all marinated in a special apple based mix, then smoked over apple wood chips for extra flavour and aroma.

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Staff helped us to grill and cut up the meats.

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The way to enjoy the meal is to place a piece of meat on the thin apple slice, place some onion rings + garlic + kimchi and a dollop of gochujang sauce, then pop it into your mouth. The apple’s slight hint of sweetness balances out the savoury flavour of the meat and sauce, although I still prefer eating it with fresh lettuce and rice.

The meat cuts that were served during our visit were fresh and tender, except the pork belly slab which was a bit on the fatty side ie too much fat, too little lean meat. The sausage was well spiced and tasty, while the grilled rice cakes had a crispy exterior and chewy insides.

All in all, I’d rate it as an above average K-BBQ experience, and the portion was just right for two medium to big eaters. We had quite a lot of leftovers, so we had it to go.

Banchan (side dishes) are refillable – the fish cakes are commendable! Would recommend larger groups to get the most bang for your buck, as they have set menus for 5-6 people.

APPLE + SAMGYUPSAL (Bandar Puteri Puchong branch) 

2, Jalan Puteri 2/6, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 12PM – 12AM (Daily)

Phone: +603 – 8052 6768

applesamgyupsal.com

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

Review: World’s Highest Grade Miyazaki Wagyu Beef @ The Olive, Resorts World Genting

A Continental fine dining restaurant seems like an unlikely place to find the world’s highest grade Miyazaki Wagyu Beef – but that’s exactly what diners will get at The Olive at Resorts World Genting. The award-winning establishment is the first in Malaysia to offer Miyazaki Wagyu – from the Miyazaki region in Japan – and only among a handful of restaurants around the world with such an accolade. Widely considered the gold standard in its native Japan, the beef has been crowned champion at Japan’s Wagyu Olympics for three consecutive tournaments since 2007.

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I had the privilege of trying out this exquisite meat at a recent food review for work cries tears of happiness. Under the hands of The Olive veteran Chef Mohd Radzuan,  we were served a wondrous meal – a 150g cut of top grade Miyazaki beef, with a side of grilled vegetables. Arriving at our table, the beef sat on top of a heated stone slab, sizzling in its own fat and juices. No seasoning is added, but it comes served with three types of salt, which is all it takes to enhance the meat’s flavour.

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Wagyu is the general term for beef from four traditional Japanese cattle breeds, genetically predisposed to contain a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Because of its intense marbling, it yields a delicious, tender yet healthy meat that is famous all around the world. The value of wagyu depends on the combination of environment, weather, feed and cattle strain – which leads it to be identified by their production region, in the same way connoisseurs would refer to French wine from certain regions.

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The Olive sources its wagyu from the Nishinoharu Farm, surrounded by fresh mountain spring water from the Kirishima Mountains. The cattle are fed on a diet of wheat, corn and grass for at least 900 days. They are butchered between 28-32 months – 8 times longer than commercial beef – and only four cattle are harvested at a time to ensure the best care of each animal.

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Tasting is believing – and the Wagyu did not disappoint.

Sliced into beautiful cuts and lightly torched, each bite was the perfect epitome of melt in the mouth texture, the beef’s juices spreading out over the tongue. Its buttery smooth disposition meant there was little chewing involved, and despite the high fat content, was not cloying. Even without seasoning, the beef had a savoury, pure meaty flavour that was excellent on its own. Pair it with a shot of Chivas Regal whisky for the ultimate indulgence.

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The highlight was definitely the beef, but the chef turned it into a satisfying three-course meal with an appetiser of salad, finishing off with dessert. The Quinoa and kale salad with pomegranate, feta, and maple dressing was a fruity, sweet-savoury mix and made for a refreshing palate-pleaser. One of the rare times I actually finished my greens!

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The meal ended off on a sweet note with the house special, Chocolate Lava Cake, which oozed warm, chocolate-y goodness as we split open its center. What made this unique was the accompanying cigar-flavoured ice cream – created by infusing the smoke from cigars into the ingredients. The slight bitterness of tobacco complemented the sweetness of the chocolate and vanilla-based ice cream really well.

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Miyazaki wagyu will be served at The Olive as part of the a la carte menu, priced at RM450 nett per 150 grams. The Nakanishi grade of Miyazaki wagyu is certified halal by JAKIM, with butchering process that is separate from farm’s process for the Japanese market.

The Olive is located on the Lobby Level of Genting Grand Hotel, featuring a European-inspired fine dining menu with an extensive selection of wines. Miyazaki wagyu served at The Olive differs in pricing depending on the grade of meat selected, with the Nakanishi grade being the highest. Dining hours are 6pm-11pm daily, while The Olive Bar & Lounge operates from 6pm-1am (Sundays to Thursdays) and 6pm-2am (Fridays and Saturdays).

For reservations, call +603 2718 1118.