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Miyako Land Izakaya, Petaling Jaya

Tucked on the southwestern most tip of Japan, Okinawa Prefecture is known for its azure blue waters, sandy beaches, and tropical climate. Also called “Japan’s Hawaii”, the prefecture regularly bags a spot on lists of top domestic destinations for locals.

Okinawan food is also popular, as it is notably different from that of the Japanese mainland. This is thanks to its proximity to Taiwan, China and Southeast Asia, as well as the long history of trade between these regions.

Lucky for us living in the Klang Valley, we don’t have to splurge thousands on a holiday to Japan, as there’s a hidden gem serving Okinawan cuisine, right in the heart of Petaling Jaya.

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Miyako Land Izakaya, which opened its doors last year, is tucked within an industrial-turned commercial lot called B-Land, sharing the place with a few other popular restaurants, a futsal court, gym facilities, and more. Touting itself the ‘first Okinawa style izakaya in Malaysia‘, diners can expect something different from the usual sushi, ramen, udon, and rice dishes that most people associate with Japanese cuisine.

PS: Miyako-jima is an island in Okinawa prefecture, some 300 kilometres southwest from Okinawa’s main island.

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I love the shop’s design and aesthetics. Most Japanese restaurants carry an elegant look and feel, featuring lots of wood, dark accents, orderly tables and chairs, tatamis, and the like. Miyako Land, on the other hand, is a vibrant medley of colours and cutesy knick knacks: reminiscent of a tropical beachside hut, but with a Japanese vibe.

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There’s a gazebo of sorts with rolled up bamboo blinds and noren (small banners that are hung on the exterior of traditional izakayas), bright and colourful posters of beer/soda ads, wooden tablets, as well as manga on shelves. The TV plays a travel show promoting Okinawa’s specialties, and there’s even a stand with imported Japanese magazines and newspapers.

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Trivia: Ultraman’s screenwriter, Shozo Uehara, was an Okinawan native!
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And here are some of Miyako Land Izakaya’s menu items:

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While the menu does carry some of the usual favourites such as ebi tempura (fried shrimp), you also get some not so conventional ones like Gooya (fried bitter gourd) and beni shouga (red ginger tempura). We wanted to try the signature Nankotsu karaage (chicken soft bone) but they had run out for the day, so we went for Mimiga (fried pig’s ears) instead.

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For the mains, again, some typically seen dishes like prawn tempura soba and curry udon – but also lesser known items like Ginger Tempura Udon, Natto Udon, Miyako Soba, Somen Champuru, ham and egg onigiri, and pork miso onigiri.

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And more dishes I have never seen or heard of before, like the Chi Bi Teh (slow cooked pork leg in Okinawa style), Ra Fu Te (braised pork belly with Okinawa sugar), and Goya Chan Puru (bitter gourd omelette).

I don’t know about you, but they sound quite similar to Chinese cuisine (chi bi teh reminds me of bak kut teh!). This is perhaps influence from when Okinawa was part of the Ryukyu kingdoms, and had a distinctly separate identity/culture from that of the Japanese mainland.

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For some reason, there is also a page on the menu dedicated to cheeses – crispy / grilled camembert, crispy cheese sticks, cheese crackers, and cheese korokke. But hey, I’m not complaining: it’s cheese!

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Some desserts as well, if you’re looking to finish off strong.

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Of course, being an izakaya, there are plenty of drinks to go with the snacks and munchies. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options are available.

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To match the whole ‘tropical holiday’ vibe, I got a Melon Cream Soda (RM14). The beverage came fizzing in a tall glass; the liquid a bright, almost acid-green, topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. It tasted sweet and syrupy, with an obviously artificial melon taste – but it was not unpleasant. Pretty refreshing, actually.

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I wanted noodles, so I ordered the Yakisoba. Ordinarily it comes with vegetables, but I requested for none. It was good; the noodles were chewy and had a nice texture, and they were generous with the pork slices. But it lacked wok hei, and I didn’t enjoy the red strips of pickled ginger either. If you want outstanding yakisoba, I recomend Okonomi. Still, Miyako Land’s version is pretty decent.

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The Hubs had Miyako Soba, a traditional pork based noodle. We ordered the half size (RM15) coz we got a couple of dishes to share, but you can go for the full (RM25) if you want something more filling. The soup is flavourful without being too rich, and you can really taste the goodness of the pork.

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We both agreed that the stars of the show were the small bites. I’m not an alcohol drinker, but the Hubs commented how well they would go with beer. The Sumi Yaki Buta (charcoal grilled pork belly) was excellent – glistening with juices and fat, with a smoky, slightly charred exterior. It was served with a slice of lemon, and the sourness actually elevated the flavour of the pork. Our only qualm was that the portion was pretty small for RM13, and you’d probably have to order several plates to feel satisfied!

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My personal favourite? The Mimiga (fried pig’s ears). It is cut into narrow strips, battered, then deep fried and lightly seasoned. The winner here is the texture. Pig’s ears are usually crunchy, and because of the batter, it was double the crunchiness, but with a layer of hardness to within (kind of like when you’re biting on cartilage). It was a workout for the jaw, but also strangely addictive. The mayo was creamy and had a hint of lemon and pepper, which cut through the greasiness.

There are so many interesting dishes to try at Miyako Land – which is why I think the place warrants another visit soon! Prices are on the steep side for the portions, but service is good, and the food is excellent.

Come check out the place and its Okinawan cuisine if you’re ever in PJ!

MIYAKO LAND IZAKAYA

Lot 4, B Land, 2, Jalan 51a/225, Seksyen 51a, 46100 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Opening hours: 12PM – 2.30PM, 5PM – 11PM

Website and menu here

PS: You can’t see the shop from the main road as it is located within a compound. Just Waze to B.Land and park inside the lot. Miyako Land is located to the left of the parking entrance.

I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

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Marco Creative Cuisine @ 1 Utama

Fun fact: Marco’s owner-cum-chef graduated with a degree in information tech. A far cry from his current role as head chef of a Western-inspired kitchen, to say the least.

But it wasn’t unexpected. As a child, Chef Daren Leong grew up tasting sumptuous dishes the likes of roast turkey, roast pork, and Christmas pudding while visiting his grandparents, who ran a holiday bungalow in Fraser’s Hill catering to British tourists. This love for food eventually culminated in him joining the culinary world, and opening Marco Creative Cuisine in 1 Utama.

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Marco’s chic interior features lots of white with green and blue chairs providing pops of colour, giving the space a cool, calming vibe. A partition in the middle of the restaurant provides privacy for diners, but I opted to sit closer to the entrance so I could people watch. The kitchen window also gives you a glimpse of the chefs hard at work within. Wait staff are friendly and attentive to your needs.

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The Hubs was still at work, so I came here to ‘celebrate’ my birthday. This isn’t my first solo birthday outing. A lot of people might find it odd, but I actually enjoy the solitude.

I decided to splurge by ordering the New York Strip Steak (200 – 250g) (RM78), done rare. What came to the table was a humongous slab of Australian grain-fed striploin, with a side of salad and sauce. You can also choose to have fries if greens aren’t to your liking. For the sauce, I went with the steak sauce, a smooth and buttery conconction that paired extremely well with the beef.

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I don’t eat steaks often because they’re pricey, but the few times I’ve had, they rarely (haha! geddit? Sorry, couldn’t help it) get it right.

Glad that Marco’s version was perfect ! The meat was beautifully pink on the inside and juicy, while the exterior was smoky and well flavoured. The sauce elevated its taste as well.

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Even after that giant slab of meat, I felt like there was still room for more. So I ordered the Wild Mushroom Ravioli (RM45 – 5 pieces). The dish was decent, but there was a crunchy type of mushroom mixed into the ravioli (I think it was woodear fungus) which I didn’t enjoy, as it clashed with the otherwise excellent taste of truffles and cheese. If I return to Marco, I think I’ll try the Ravioli in Cream Sauce instead.

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Finishing off the meal on a sweet note, I got the Parisian Chocolate (RM18), which contained 63% dark chocolate, white chocolate, and fresh milk, topped with loads of whipped cream. Oh-so-sinful, but oh-so-delightful.

I had a very satisfying meal at Marco. The food is tasty, and the service is prompt and impressive. It kind of feels like having fine dining cuisine, but not as ‘frilly’ and at a much more affordable price.

Aside from steaks, their best sellers also include pastas, gourmet burgers, pork wellington, elevated rice dishes, and lovely starters like risotto balls, pork pate platters, and charcuterie.

MARCO CREATIVE CUISINE

Lot G146, Ground Floor (Old Wing), 1Utama Shopping Centre, 47800 PJ, Selangor, Malaysia, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Opening hours: 11AM – 9PM

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I’m A Terrible Blogger. But Ippudo Ramen @ Sunway Pyramid, is Excellent

I’m a terrible blogger.

What else do you call someone who has stuff from November 2021 that has yet to be posted?! That’s like, almost nine months ago wtf.

This blog is more than just a space to share information and experiences. It’s an online journal of sorts; a way for me to look back on what I’ve been doing at a specific point in time. So in that sense, I’ve failed miserably lmao.

Oh, I can give excuses, of course:

  • Busy with getting the husband settled in, after we spent two years seaparated due to the pandemic
  • Busy getting his papers done so he can stay here long term
  • Busy bringing him around on dates (hey, give me a break, we did not see each other physically for two years)
  • Busy caring for the mom, whose health has not been good
  • Busy with new job, responsibilities and tasks of which has picked up significantly
  • Unmotivated due to writer’s block and burnout
  • And the list goes on.

But the fact of the matter is, there are things that I haven’t been prioritising – this blog included. Heck, I bought Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous and sank so many hours into it over the last couple of weeks, so the excuse “I’m busy” is shit.

So I’m going to do what a good blogger should do. I’m going to stop gaming and doing unnecessary shit, and finally get down to posting all the things I have lined up. Also edit those videos that I should have edited but was just too lazy/unmotivated to.

I can’t promise I’ll be able to fulfill this 100%, but I’m going to try my best.

….

BTW, said #throwback from November 2021 : I finally tried Ippudo Ramen!

The brand, is, of course, not new in Malaysia – they opened their first outlet in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur in 2013, so I’m about 10 years late to the party. But as the saying goes, better late than never – and I’ve heard so many good things about their ramen over the years, I had high expectations going in to their Sunway Pyramid branch.

History

Originally from Fukuoka in Japan, Ippudo Ramen has over 37 years of history, having opened its first store in 1985. It has since expanded all across the world, with branches in Asia, Europe, and the United States. The brand is well known for its tonkotsu ramen, which features a rich soup broth made from pork bones that has been simmered for hours.

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Understandably, the outlet in Sunway Pyramid is super popular. I’ve passed by the shop a couple of times and they’re always busy during peak hours. I was lucky to land a seat at the counter, which caters to solo diners. You can watch the chefs in action through a glass partition, so I would call these the best seats in the house!

Decor wise, the restaurant looks like your typical ramen joint, with all the trimmings – red and white lanterns, as well as lots of wood contrasted against dark walls and accents, giving the space a clean, elegant feel.

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Service was efficient and the food was served promptly.

Being a first timer, I wanted to try the original that has made them a household name for Japanese tonkotsu ramen across the world: the Shiromaru Special, featuring bouncy, ultra-thin cut noodles in a pork bone-based broth simmered for over 15 hours to achieve full-flavoured umami. The bowl also came with a perfectly cooked half boiled egg, crisp sheets of seaweed, spring onions, kikurage (wood-ear fungus) for extra crunch, and succulent chashu (roast pork). PS: It should also have beansprouts, but I hate beansprouts with a passion, so I requested for them to be left out of my order.

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Ippudo’s ramen definitely lives up to its reputation. The broth is creamy and sweet, but not overly so, and the richness is not cloying. Some ramen places with rich soups will leave you feeling bloated and overwhelmed after a few sips, but Ippudo’s version is well balanced. The noodles are excellent as well; bouncy and al-dente, with just the right amount of bite, while the chashu is tender and juicy, with just a hint of smokiness and char imparted onto its surface from the grilling process.

Does Ippudo have the best ramen I’ve tasted? No. I think that still goes to Menya Shishido for me (although I can’t say it tastes the same now, since they moved somewhere new and I haven’t been to the new place yet). But it certainly is one of the top ones on my list, and worth a little splurging at RM37 per bowl. The only con I can think of: because the outlet has such high traffic, you do feel a little harried to finish up your food ASAP to make way for other diners – they cleared my bowl almost immediately after I finished up my soup, and I felt compelled to gulp down my green tea because customers waiting outside were staring at me balefully like VACATE YOUR DAMN SEAT 😛

IPPUDO RAMEN (SUNWAY PYRAMID)

G1.45, Sunway Pyramid Shopping Centre, No. 3, Jalan PJS 11/15, Bandar Sunway, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor

Opening hours: 10.30AM – 10PM (daily)

*Ippudo ramen also has other branches around the Klang Valley. For more info, visit ippudo.com.my

I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

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The Owls Cafe, Sunway Pyramid

Known for their signature waffles and hearty Western-style brunches, The Owls Cafe already has several successful branches under their belt. Their latest venture, The Owls Cafe at Sunway Pyramid, is no exception, drawing long queues of hungry diners on weekends. Weekdays are a quieter affair, so if you’re able to, drop by for a relaxing brunch, minus the crowd.

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Like their outlet in Bukit Jalil, The Owls Cafe at Sunway Pyramid is bright and cheerful, with floor to ceiling windows that allow plenty of natural sunlight to filter in. They also provide panoramic views of the Sunway Pyramid theme park below. The central island counter is where staff members busy themselves preparing coffee and tea, the aroma of which wafts across the air to where you’re seated.

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The Hubs wanted something lighter, and opted for the Junior Meal of Mac n Cheese. The portion was still pretty generous, with al dente pieces of macaroni tossed in a sweet and savoury tomato base topped with gooey melted cheese.

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Fragrant oolong tea was served in an adorable owl-shaped cup.

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My favourite dish here when I’m craving for something savoury is the Salted Egg Yolk Pasta. The pasta’s texture is just perfect, and the sauce is rich and creamy without being cloying, coating each strand of pasta with delicious umami. Another highlight is the deep fried chicken karaage, which are juicy, and moist, perfectly battered, and very crispy.

While we did not get to order any of their signature waffles, would gladly make a return visit (on a weekday, because the weekend crowds are crazy!) for their awesome food and great service.

Prices are typical for a cafe, ranging around RM15 to RM20++ for mains.

THE OWLS CAFE

Unit G1.PT.08, Ground Floor, Sunway Pyramid Shopping Centre, Jalan PJS 11/15, Bandar Sunway, 46150 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Open daily: 10AM – 10PM

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Think Thailand 2022 — Malaysia’s Largest Thai Festival @ Tropicana Gardens Mall, PJ

The Hubs and I recently paid a visit to Think Thailand — Malaysia’s Largest Thai Festival — which was held from 26 May to 6 June 2022 at Tropicana Gardens Mall in Petaling Jaya. Organized by the Thai embassy in collaboration with several major Thai companies as well as SMEs, the festival featured over 50 booths showcasing the best Thailand has to offer, from food and drinks, to products and services. There were also scheduled performances and cooking demonstrations throughout the 12-day event.

Here’s what went down during our visit!

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Live cooking demo in session
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Thailand is known for its abundance of snacks. We saw a few that looked familiar, but also many new ones.

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Sweet basil seed drinks are popular in Thailand, with purported benefits such as helping to cool the body. They come in a variety of flavours, including pomegranate, honey, grape, orange, and more. We got a few bottles to try. Maybe it’s because our taste buds are spoiled by sugary drinks, but these tasted very mild. They were refreshing though!

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Traditional Thai clothing on display. Visitors were welcome to try them on and take photos as a souvenir, for a price.
Fun fact: traditional Thai clothing is called ‘chut thai’ — literally ‘Thai outfit’.
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There was an outdoor area as well with an open-air dining area, with booths selling street food such as som tam (salad), grilled meats, and beer. The stalls were divided into halal and non-halal sections. Food was a bit pricey, but I liked the atmosphere as it reminded me of the street food vibe you get in Thailand — the smells of food from the grill, smoke from the cooking, animated conversations wafting across the warm tropical air.

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My must-get while exploring Thai night markets — iced tea! Thai milk tea has a distinctively orange colour as they use orange blossom water, which is water distilled from the essence of flowers from orange trees. Some vendors substitute it with food colouring. There was also green tea, which is different from Japanese green tea, as it is mixed with milk and sugar.
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Staff preparing somtam, or Thai papaya salad.
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Stalls selling Thai beer like Singha and Chang.
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Chicken skewers fresh from the grill
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Thailand’s iconic Tomyum Mama noodles
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Deep fried baby crabs
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We had a great time checking out the stalls, and returned with a few packets of snacks in tow: a crispy baked rice cracker snack with salted egg and chilli squid flavour, as well as a crispy enoki mushroom snack that featured very fine, deep fried strands of mushroom that served as an excellent condiment with rice.

I’m happy to see that events are being held again after two years. Hopefully this is a sign of a better economy to come!

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We Watched a Star Wars Wayang Kulit Show @ Jaya One, PJ

It was a celebration of all things Star Wars at Jaya One recently, as “This is the May – Nar Shaddaa Day” – organized by the Star Wars Malaysia Fan Club (SWMFC) – held its first fan event after a two-year hiatus.

May, of course, is Star Wars month (May the 4th be with you!); and the event saw dozens of cosplayers, dressed to the nines in their best Star Wars outfits. There were also booths selling exclusive Star Wars merchandise, art exhibitions, games, puppet making workshops, and performances.

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I’m not a big Star Wars fan (I keep mixing up my Wookies and Ewoks), but I’ve seen the films, and I think the original Star Wars story was brilliant for its time, and yet to be paralleled in the world of science fiction and futuristic fantasy.

My main reason for coming here was actually to watch the Star Wars Wayang Kulit performance (more on that later!), but since we had some time before the performance, the Hubs and I explored the main concourse, where most of the booths were set up. There were some pretty nifty things on display, including limited edition toys, props, and collectors items from overseas.

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Among the cosplayers were troopers, Mandalorians, a Queen Amidala, a Princess Leia, and Chewbacca, some of them armed with lightsabers. Speaking of lightsabers, there was a booth from a toy company selling custom lightsabers with interchangeable colours!
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Loved these Star Wars themed earrings!
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The highlight of the event for me was the Fusion Wayang Kulit show, a unique performance featuring traditional Malaysian puppetry (wayang kulit) fused with modern pop culture elements; in this case, Star Wars. It was held at the PJ Live Arts centre next to Jaya One’s main building. The puppets are made from leather, propped on sticks, and moved by the puppet master behind a screen.

Fusion Wayang Kulit was founded by Tintoy Chua and Take Huat in 2012, aimed at revitalizing the dying art by incorporating modern elements into it. The pair approached Kelantanese wayang kulit master (Tok Dhalang) Pak Dain for their project, taking meticulous care to ensure the roots of the plays are respected while giving it a breath of fresh air. The rest, as they say, is history. Fusion Wayang Kulit has since performed not just locally, but overseas. It was even acknowledged by LucasFilm and featured in the official Star Wars magazine!

Pak Dain himself performed the show. There were two parts: the traditional story which is an adaptation of the Hindu epic Ramayana, and the modern part which had characters and a story inspired by Star Wars.

To be honest, while I found the traditional puppets beautiful, the story was difficult for me to follow as it was presented in Kelantanese Malay (a dialect that is very different from standard Malay).

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There was a break in between the two sessions, where we were introduced to the concept behind Fusion Wayang Kulit, and how they designed the characters for the ‘new’ story. They’re all based on traditional characters, so “Sang Kala Veda” (Darth Vader) is based on the villain, while Puteri Leia is based on Rama’s wife, basically the heroine of the story.

The character designs are mind blowing. There’s so much attention to detail and respect for the source material, both new and old. Take Darth Vader’s face – which has been designed with fangs (similar to the villain), yet retains that triangular motif. We were also told that Malaysian wayang kulit is distinctly different from its Indonesian counterpart in terms of looks and design. Malaysian wayang kulit characters usually ride on ‘dragons’ or a platform of sorts (the Javanese version does not have this). So to suit the Star Wars theme, they made Darth Vader’s platform a smaller version of the Executor. Brilliant!

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Pak Dain performed the Star Wars story in standard Malay, which made it much easier to understand. Here Puteri Leia gives R2D2 the Death Star plans. Did I mention how beautiful the puppets are? They look modern yet traditional at the same time. Perfectly embodies the ‘fusion’ theme!

When the show ended, the audience gave a standing ovation. I truly hope that with this modernization of an ancient art form, they can continue to keep it alive and relevant to a new audience.

Sadly, there are not many puppet masters left in Kelantan, where Malaysian wayang kulit originates from. Once popular at family gatherings and other communal events, puppet shows were banned in Kelantan after the Islamic political party PAS came into power in 1990 (they banned it in 1998), as they deemed it “un-Islamic” (they also banned the Mak Yong, a traditional dance, but lifted this ban in 2019, subject to conditions). Now, wayang kulit shows can ONLY be performed at the cultural centre in Kota Bharu. Can’t help but feel like it’s a ‘token’ that they use to attract tourists, rather than a genuine art form celebrated for its historic value and artistry.

But I digress.

Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, I highly recommend catching the Fusion Wayang Kulit show! Support the local arts, because I don’t think it’s promoted enough by the relevant bodies. To see ordinary Malaysians of different races and beliefs banding together to keep this old art form alive – not backed by any special funding, only driven by a love for the country and its arts – is, to me, the true spirit of Malaysia.

You can learn more about Fusion Wayang Kulit here. They also have a gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

Rolling Daruma x Olfactory Bulb, Kota Damansara

If you like creative Japanese cuisine, alcoholic desserts, and inventive cocktails, Rolling Daruma x Olfactory Bulb hits all the right spots, served in a cozy setting ideal for intimate get-togethers. The Hubs and I stumbled on this place purely by chance: we were hunting for dinner around Kota Damansara and saw their menu on the sidewalk; our interest piqued by offerings of Japanese tapas, donburis, and ramen.

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Two red darumas greet visitors at the entrance, where the bar is. The space is mostly black and grey, with warm lights and concrete accents, giving it an industrial look. I especially like the decorative cracks on the wall, which are varnished to create a glossy look.

The menu is pretty extensive, but since we were not very hungry, the Hubs and I decided to share a main, a Japas (japanese tapas), and a drink.

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Our choice of Japas was Bourbon-Peach Pulled Pork on Deep-Fried Mantou Bun (RM16), featuring pork shoulder loin, slow cooked til tender for eight hours in balsamic vinegar and peach and bourbon sauce. The taste of the bourbon is mild, but it lends a rich depth to the soft, melt-in-the-mouth pulled pork. The fried mantou is crisp on the edges and soft on the inside, so you have a nice medley of flavours and textures.

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We also got their signature Gyoza Ramen in Sake Pork Bone Broth (RM24). I was expecting the gyoza to be served on the side and was surprised to find them swimming in the soup, which also came with egg, a smattering of seaweed, corn, and spring onions. Some ramen dishes come with rich soup; this was mild but still flavourful, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. The noodles were too soft for my liking, but otherwise this was a decent bowl of ramen.

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No libations for me, but the resto serves plenty of non-alcoholic drinks too such as mocktails and shakes. We got a Salty Yuzie-San (RM16), a refreshing mix of lemon, kaffir lime leaves and yuzu sauce balanced with pandan syrup, brown sugar, and soda water. Perfect for quenching your thirst on a hot day, or just to cut through any greasiness from the food.

Service was friendly with most of the servers, but the one assigned to our table was probably having a bad day because he looked tired and sounded disinterested when taking our orders, and seemed to heave a visible sigh when we requested for an extra bowl. I hope you have a better day, man!

There are still many things we have yet to try at Rolling Daruma x Olfactory Bulb; and I’d like to make a return visit when I’m in the neighbourhood again to try their other items – reviews seem to be stellar for their desserts and coffee.

ROLLING DARUMA X OLFACTORY BULB

15-2, Jalan PJU 5/13 Dataran Sunway, Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya 47810, Selangor

Phone: 03-61511108

Open: Wed-Fri (5.30PM – 11.30PM), Sat-Sun (11.30AM – 11.30PM). Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto

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Things to Do@Tropicana Gardens Mall, Kota Damansara

Malls these days follow a cookie-cutter formula – if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all.

Once in awhile, though, you find neighbourhood places like Tropicana Gardens Mall in Kota Damansara. Despite being a stone’s throw away from well known malls like IKEA Damansara, 1Utama and The Curve, Tropicana Gardens holds its own with a unique mix of offerings and cool tenants; most notably Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki, as well as the largest Starbucks Reserve in Malaysia.

Although it’s far from my house, I’ve been here a couple of times, mostly to visit Donki, but also coz it’s a nice mall to shop at, with everything under one roof.

If you haven’t had the chance to visit, here’s what to expect!

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The mall spans five floors, and has a star-shaped layout. It’s fairly new (the mall opened in February 2021), so the upper floors are quite empty – but there’s plenty to explore on the lower floors. A golden tree takes centre stage at the main concourse, and they spruce it up with different decorations for every season (this pic was taken over a Christmas visit).

SHOP FOR JAPANESE SNACKS AND GOODS AT DON DON DONKI

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One of the mall’s highlights is, of course, the Don Don Donki. This is the second Donki outlet in Malaysia and also the largest, covering nearly 4,000 sq m across two floors. There is a wide variety of goods to shop for here, from fresh produce and snacks, to cosmetics, gym equipment and toys imported from Japan. You can read a more detailed post here.

DO SOME READING AT BOOK XCESS

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Lifestyle bookstore Book Xcess, which sells most of its titles for half the price of what you get at normal bookstores (they’re able to do this as they sell remainder books — books that were overprinted and weren’t taken by conventional bookstores, but are brand new), has a branch on the 2nd floor. If you’re a bibliophile, you can wile the hours away browsing, or just soaking in the store’s cosy aesthetics. I especially like the floor to ceiling ‘wave’ book shelf that stretches from one end of the shop to the other.

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GRAB A BITE

Tropicana Gardens Mall has a fair selection of F&B tenants, from fast food chains to chic cafes. There is also an area called Pitstop which is inspired by the food truck concept — with food truck-shaped kiosks, open seating, and gas station-themed decor.

Personally, I would recommend Tendon Kohaku, which specialises in tempura bowls. Other notable restaurants here include Delay No More Crab Restaurant, Dodo Dimsum Bowls, Go Street Noodle, Ramen Bankara, Rakuzen, D’Italiane, and Sukishi. Don’t forget to check out the snack bars, cafes and bakeries such as Chizu, Park’s Bagels and Gula Cakery.

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GET A MAKEOVER

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The upper floors host a number of salons and beauty parlours where you can get your hair cut, washed and styled, or enjoy beauty treatments.

JOIN A DANCE OR SINGING CLASS

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Here, you can find Flow Academy, a creative school dedicated to the performing arts. They offer dancing and fitness as well as music and singing classes. Many of the academy’s students perform professionally, but you can sign up too if you’re looking to pick up a hobby.

PLAY AND BUY TRADING CARDS AND BOARD GAMES

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If nerdy stuff is more your thing (and I mean it in the best way, being a nerd myself), Invictus Force carries a wide selection of tabletop accessories, trading cards and board games. They also host events for games like Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering.

CATCH A FILM

I haven’t been to the theatres for over two years now, and probably will not in the near future — but for movie-buffs, the mall has a Golden Screen Cinemas on the top floor.

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The upper floors are quite empty at present.

SING KARAOKE

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Another activity that I haven’t done for years is karaoke — my college mates and I used to go every other week, as it was relatively ‘cheap’ entertainment (20 bucks for 4 hours — but this was back in the 2010s :P). Now that we’re all working, it has been hard to go for such activities, and even if we have free time we end up at a cafe anyway.

If you’d like to sing your heart out and belt out some Whitney Houston, Loudspeaker is on the same floor as the cinema.

SHOOT STUFF UP AT THE ARCADE

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Or race some cars, play some drums, shoot a few hoops.

Last but not least…

GRAB SOME COFFEE AT THE STARBUCKS RESERVE

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The mall is home to Malaysia’s largest Starbucks Reserve (they’re essentially ‘high-end Starbucks’, carrying  ‘a selection of the rarest, most extraordinary coffees Starbucks has to offer’, prepared through different techniques such as Chemex, siphon and pour-over). I haven’t actually been inside (on my visits, I was always too full from eating at the other restos or stuffing my face at Donki, lol), but I’d like to drop by on my next trip. It looks impressive enough from the outside, where there is al fresco seating and an outdoor area with beautiful murals.

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If you have the weekend free, Tropicana Gardens Mall is worth a visit! There is ample parking (although the entrance is quite difficult to find — you have to go past the drop-off point in front of the mall, then make a U-turn when you’re almost at the exit), and alternatively, you can take the MRT and stop at the Surian station.

TROPICANA GARDENS MALL

29 No, Unit CC, 2A, Persiaran Surian, Tropicana Indah, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

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PS: This is not a sponsored post. Opinions here are entirely my own.

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