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Review: Ticket To Korea, Setiawalk Puchong

Setiawalk Puchong has seen better days. Once the hottest hangout spot in Puchong, the place has been on a decline, especially in the last few years. There aren’t many restaurants left, but one that has been around since the mall’s inception is Ticket to Korea. Despite having been to Setiawalk many times, I have never thought to try them out — so a recent lunch date with my friend H was as good a time as any.

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The restaurant’s interior is brightly lit by natural sunlight and the space feels cosy and welcoming. A young couple whom I assume to be the owners greeted us enthusiastically, and we were quickly given menus. Aside from authentic Korean fare the likes of bulgogi and pajeon (pancake), diners will also find popular fusion dishes like Korean-style pork ribs with cheese, hot plate cheesy corn, and kimchi quesadilla.

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H ordered a bibimbap bowl, which came in a huge portion — I think it was good enough for two small eaters. It was beautifully presented, with generous heapings of vegetables, grilled pork belly, shredded cucumber, carrots and seaweed, topped off with a fried egg. It was delicious; the sweet and savoury sauce brought everything together really well.

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Despite the sweltering heat outside, I went for the Kimchi Ramen (because I’m masochist that way lol).

The bowl looked fiery red when it came to the table; there were soft slices of tofu swimming within, and the soup’s colour contrasted nicely with the enoki mushrooms and spring onion garnish on top. The soup was the bomb. Some places cut corners and add more kimchi paste, which means you get watery, ‘flavoured’ soup — but with this, I could really taste the texture of fibrous, blended vegetables, and there was a good amount of kimchi within as well. It was thick and sour, perfect for whetting the appetite, and the slight viscosity meant that the soup clung to each strand of ramyeon for maximum flavour. Did I also mention that the pork slices were super tender and had a great ratio of lean and fat?

The owners kept popping by to our table to check if I was okay with the heat. The soup was rather spicy, but hey — what’s pleasure without a bit of pain? *wink wink

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To wash everything down, a cold glass of coffee with condensed milk.
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We had a nice surprise at the end, compliments of the house — ice cream, served on a cold stone plate. They were drizzled over with what tasted like honey, and cookie shavings. Definitely a sweet end to a satisfying meal.

There are lots of good things to say about our dining experience here: the service was impeccable, the dishes that we tried tasted excellent, and prices were not too steep (our meal for two came up to about RM60). I wouldn’t mind a return visit !

PS: They have another branch at Tropicana Avenue, PJ.

TICKET TO KOREA

C-8-1, Block C, Setiawalk, Persiaran Wawasan, Jalan Wawasan 1/1, Taman Wawasan, 47160 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 12PM – 11PM (daily)

facebook.com/tickettokoreafinedining

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BarBQ Plaza’s Unlimited Refill Is A Meat-Lover’s Dream

Mookata, commonly called Thai-style barbecue, comes from the words mu (pig/pork) and kratha (pan/skillet). Believed to have been inspired by Mongolian and Korean barbecues, the concept was first popularised in Thailand – and has since spread across Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, you will find many mookata joints, usually non-halal, that serve pork, seafood and meat, to be sizzled on a dome-shaped pan oiled with lard. All the juices from the grill then drips down into a shallow, surrounding ‘ring’ around the edges of the pan which contains soup – essentially flavouring it with whatever you’ve cooked and giving you an umami bomb unlike any other. Also, hotpot + grill in one? Genius idea.

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While mookata joints are now a dime a dozen in Kuala Lumpur, one of the pioneers to enter the Malaysian market was BarBQ Plaza. They have not waned in popularity ever since, and currently have 18 outlets across Peninsular Malaysia, including one in IOI Mall Puchong. H and I came here for a late lunch after work, and since we were both famished after skipping breakfast, we decided to go for their All You Can Eat Refill promo, which is only available on weekdays.

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There are two tiers: the Super Refill (RM46.90 for members, RM49.90 for non-members) lets you order everything on the menu, while the Happy Refill (RM35.90 for members, RM39.90 for non-members) gets you items on the bottom only. Personally, if you’re on a budget, I think the Happy Refill is good enough, but if you like a bit more variety, then the Super Refill is worth the extra 10 bucks. Both sets come with a ‘starter’ of either pork or beef; and then you can add on whatever you want, no limits. Drinks and desserts are also included, although you’re basically just limited to honey lemon, green tea, coke and ice-cream.

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H and I were on a mission: to satisfy our pork cravings. So we started off with the pork set, which came with a side of udon and some vegetables.

The thing about BarBQ Plaza is that the meat is always sliced really thinly (so that it grills easier), but that also means that you rarely feel satisfied, and it always leaves you wanting more. With unlimited refill, you get 90 minutes to pack as much protein as you can.

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The restaurant gave us generous amounts of lard to oil the surface and ensure the meat doesn’t stick.

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I know it’s super unhealthy (which is why you should eat this once in a blue moon, or for celebrations!), but I highly recommend getting the Mozzarella Bacon. The cheese sticks to the pan, so I suggest grilling one side of the bacon first before putting the topping on the other side, so you get nice, crispy edges and a gooey centre. Speaking of which, I like my bacon to be chewy rather than crispy, which the Hubs deems blasphemous. How do you like your bacon?

(Also pictured) Cheese tofu, smoked duck, regular bacon, pork slices.

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To break the monotony of meat, we also ordered squid and a couple of seafood items like clam, prawn and fish. They were out of everything though, except for the squid.

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Round 2: More Mozzarella bacon, more smoked duck, and Thai-style pork. There’s barely any sauce though so we couldn’t really taste the ‘marinade’.

BarBQ Plaza’s in-house special sauce is really something. I’m not even sure what they make it from, but it’s like crack lol. Especially when you add in garlic. It’s sweet and savoury, and helps to cut through the greasiness so you can eat more.

Now, I know that buffets sell you the illusion that you can get your money’s worth, since you’re basically limited to how much you can eat – but most people can’t eat that much, and buffets have done that calculation. How else are they going to turn a profit?

This time, though, I think it’s score one for Eris and H. Our bill came up to RM55 per pax, and I felt like we ate our money’s worth lol. It’s a shame about the seafood items. They also didn’t have dessert. Pro tip: come at 11AM; that way you can avoid the lunch crowd and they wouldn’t run out of items.

That being said, there are a couple of things that the IOI Mall outlet can improve on. They were understaffed, with only 2 servers on the floor, so it took some time for them to serve our tables whenever we requested for refills. Also, instead of telling us that some of the items had run out, the first server simply brought whatever they had out – so we kept thinking they had forgotten the items and kept ordering them on our next chit.

BARBQ PLAZA (IOI MALL PUCHONG)

Lot FS09- FS11, 1st Floor, IOI MALL, Jalan Puchong, Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Business hours: 11AM – 10PM (daily)

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La Casa, Verve Suites Mont Kiara

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With its sleek wood accents, spacious interior and warm yellow lights, La Casa at Verve Suites, Mont Kiara is a cosy chill out spot that’s perfect for an intimate dinner with the significant other, or brunch with friends over coffee and conversations. The place is popular with the expat crowd as well as locals for its Western dishes the likes of pastas, pizzas, steaks, sandwiches and more. They also have a selection of Asian offerings, such as Japanese rice bowls. I rarely venture to Mont Kiara since it’s so far from my place, but I came here to meet up with some ex-colleagues for a small Christmas get together.

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PS: Sorry for the ugly photo. Quality of my phone’s camera has been deteriorating, especially when taking pictures indoors and at night. 😦 Would love to change it but I guess it’s not a need, more a want lol.

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Hot chocolate. Frothy, smooth as sin, and not too sweet.

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J ordered the unagi rice bowl, which she apparently does whenever she visits. The bowl came with a huge block of grilled unagi (eel), as well as Japanese-style eggs and a side of vegetables.

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S had pasta alle vongolle, featuring a generous heap of clams and lots of garlic.

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I went for buttermilk fried chicken, which came with a mountain of sweet potato fries, a side of salad and housemade anchovy cream sauce. Was a tad disappointed with the chicken; the inside was not cooked thoroughly and it didn’t smell fresh. The skin was quite soggy too. Only saving grace was the fries, which were nice and salty/sweet, and the anchovy sauce.

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For the sweet-toothed, there are a variety of cakes and desserts you can try out! 🙂

The staff was kind enough to move us to another seat when we accidentally spilled some juice onto the table. We ended up spending quite a long time in the cafe catching up on things. There wasn’t supposed to be a gift exchange, but since I had been shopping recently, I got them some items, and they also bought me some treats!

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LA CASA

Verve Shops Mont’ Kiara, G-5, Grd Floor, No. 8, Jalan Kiara 5, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Business hours: Mon – Fri (10AM – 11PM), Sat-Sun (9AM – 11PM)

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Meal for One: Gangnam 88 @ Setiawalk Puchong

I can’t believe it has been three years since I last dined at Gangnam 88 at Setiawalk Puchong – I’m surprised the place is still surviving. It has nothing to do with their food, which is pretty decent – it’s just that Setiawalk is so dead these days, you’ll be hard-pressed to find restaurants that are still open. A far cry from its glory days when the place was thriving with restos and bars.

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The decor and menu has not changed much since my last visit: it still looks bright, cheerful and warm, with lots of Korean-themed decor adorning the walls, and the customary K-pop videos playing on TV.

Most of the items they serve are meant for sharing, like the BBQ platters, Korean fried chicken, stews and such. For lunch, they have individual rice and noodle dishes, as well as lunch sets which come with refillable banchan (sides).

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I had the Ramyeon with Cheese (RM16), which was served with the usual sides like pickled vegetables, kimchi, fishcakes and tofu. Ramyeon was a tad overcooked so the noodles were too soft, and the soup was too diluted, so it was a quite disappointing. Still, if you’re in the area and looking for Korean food, this is one of the only ones around aside from Ticket to Korea, and I think that they do serve some pretty decent BBQ.

GANGNAM 88 (PUCHONG)

I-2-G, Setiawalk, Persiaran Wawasan,, Pusat Bandar Puchong, 47160 Puchong, Selangor Darul Ehsan

Opening hours: 11AM – 12AM (daily)

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I Went For A Solo Buffet @ Rocku Yakiniku, 1 Utama

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If you can’t already tell, I am somewhat of a loner.

While I enjoy good company in small doses and in intimate settings, large crowds give me anxiety, and I need lots of me-time to recuperate after an extended period of socializing. This is probably why I’m comfortable dining alone: I’ve never really understood why other people would give me the ‘but it’s so sad!’ – because all I need is a good book / manga to read over my food.

I’ve never really gone for a solo buffet though – which I did for my birthday a couple of months ago at Rocku Yakiniku, 1 Utama.

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This is my third visit to the Japanese BBQ establishment. Not much has changed – the interior is still upbeat and edgy-looking, with Japanese-themed murals decorating the brick walls. The layout has been tweaked slightly to allow for more social distancing between diners, however.

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Meat is the main highlight at Rocku Yakiniku – you can choose from different cuts of beef and pork, and there is also a selection of fresh seafood.
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From past experience, the dishes from their buffet counter are so-so, so I went straight for the meat. Pork is always a good bet. Above is the pork platter with pork belly, bacon and collar. Cuts are thin enough to make it easy for grilling, but thick and meaty enough to satisfy.

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Oil the grill with a piece of pork lard before placing your items onto the grill. Rocku Yakiniku uses charcoal so you get a nice, charred/smoky taste imbued into the meat.
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The butterfish and squid were also very fresh.

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While the meat is good and all, my favourite is actually the scallops, which are served in small tin foil bowls swimming in a flavourful broth. The scallops are sweet and juicy with a buttery taste – extremely addictive – and the broth is delicious too. After demolishing seven bowls, 2 plates of butterfish, 1 plate of squid and a whole pork platter, I think I’ve gotten my money’s worth back lol.

Rocku Yakiniku is open for lunch and dinner. The lunch buffet on weekdays is RM39.90++, excluding drinks.

ROCKU YAKINIKU

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

Beautiful Ice Cream Cakes @ Tanuki by Crustz, Taman Bukit Indah KL

Tucked within a quiet KL suburb, Tanuki by Crustz is certainly worth a visit nevermind your Waze taking you through suburban roads that lead to god knows where if you take a wrong turn. This delightful dessert café is sister to the popular Xiao by Crustz patisserie at Happy Mansion, and it serves creamy ice cream cakes and frozen treats, alongside too-pretty-to-be-eaten gateau offerings.

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The cafe looks unassuming on the outside, but venture in and you’ll find a cozy escape, with an open garden that offers plenty of natural light, and comfortable interiors with lots of wood and beige. Not to mention a beautiful display of cakes and ice cream cakes once you walk into the store. 🙂

WHAT’S THE SCOOP?

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A decade ago, there was no such thing as a ‘dessert café’: if you wanted swanky, you’d go to Haagen Dasz or Swensen’s.

These days, there is no shortage of places where you can go to satisfy your sweet-toothed cravings, thanks to a boom in café culture. Tanuki by Crustz is one of them, but rather than serving ice cream scoops, they’ve differentiated themselves with their ice cream cakes. These are not your Baskin Robbins variety either: they’re a reflection of owner Koh Xiao-Ly’s deep passion for desserts. Drawing from her experience with Xiao by Crustz, Koh’s creative cakes often feature multiple elements and layers, such as compote, jelly, cream, crumble and biscuits topped with sorbet and gelato.

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Fans of Xiao by Crustz can also enjoy the brand’s signature gateau at Tanuki, so if you live in KL, you won’t have to go all the way to Happy Mansion! 🙂
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Aside from ice cream cakes and petit gateau, you can also enjoy cool beverages, which are often visually appealing and just begging for an Instagram photo lol. (Above) the Strawberry Milk (RM16) comes with dollops of preserved strawberries, a thin wafer and strawberry sorbet topped with a meringue piggy. The sweetness and tartness is wonderfully balanced.

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The Peach Passion Sparkling Float (RM16) is a sour and refreshing soda and works perfectly if you’re pairing it with a sweet dessert. It comes with a cute animal-shaped meringue biscuit and passionfruit sorbet.

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The gateau cakes are so pretty, you’ll feel almost sorry to dig in.

Making each cake is a laborious process that can take days. Take for instance the Sunny Side Up (RM17), which features yogurt mousse with mango passion fruit jelly, milk chocolate ganache and vanilla sponge on a sable viennois biscuit base. “It’s not like regular cakes where you bake a whole cake, then cut it into slices. Here we make individual cakes and there are many different layers within. It gives you a nice mix of textures and flavours, but there’s also a lot of work involved,” says Koh.

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My personal favourite is Miso (RM17), which is only available on Sundays. The cake is made with layers of miso caramel cream, miso crème brulee, white chocolate mousse, almond sponge and chocolate sable Breton. The miso lends the dessert a slight saltiness, so the sweetness is not overpowering.

There are plenty of other desserts to try at Tanuki. Koh constantly changes the menu to keep her offerings fresh, especially during the festive season. Although the prices are slightly above average, I think they are fair seeing as how much work goes into making these delectable creations.

TANUKI BY CRUSTZ

26, Jalan Selera 1, Taman Bukit Indah, 58200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 12 – 6PM (Fridays to Sundays)

If you’d like to read about how this young and passionate pastry chef started her business, you can check out my interview with her for Fireflyz Magazine – Page 42 (click for fullscreen):

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Meal for One: Kluang Station, 3Damansara PJ

Established in 1938, the original Kluang Rail Coffee in Johor is the stuff of legend. The humble kopitiam (coffee shop) started off as a pitstop for commuters and travelers at the Kluang Railway Station – where they could grab simple but tasty Malaysian breakfast quintessentials like nasi lemak, tea, half boiled eggs, and toast with butter and kaya. (you can read about my previous visit here).

Interstate travel is discouraged in light of the pandemic, so for KL-ites who can’t travel all the way down south, there is a ‘watered down’ alternative – in the form of Kluang Station in 3Damansara. While I am not sure if the Kluang Station franchise (they have a few shops across Peninsular Malaysia and also in Kuching, Sarawak) is affiliated in any way to Kluang Rail Coffee, it definitely draws inspiration from it, from the train station-themed decor to the classic favourites on its menu.

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The menu is a hodgepodge of Malaysian street food favourites with some Western offerings like pasta and salads thrown in. For drinks, there’s the usual teh tarik, milo and coffee, but also some less ordinary beverages like the pretty three-layered Sirap Bandung, which has rose cordial, condensed milk and gula melaka (palm sugar) on the bottom.

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Was in the mood for pasta, so I ordered a carbonara. It came with bits of fried ham and button mushrooms. The pasta was al dente, but the sauce had an odd, artificial flavour. Won’t be ordering this again. ._.

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I also felt like snacking on something, so I got an order of fried chicken. These are lightly battered boneless cubes served with spicy dipping sauce. It was decent but not great. At least the chicken was thoroughly cooked and not dry.

To be completely honest, I was not impressed with the few dishes I ordered – but then again, they are better known for Malaysian dishes so perhaps I got the wrong items? It is a far cry from the simplistic but comforting fare at Kluang Rail Coffee. That being said, they have value for money set lunches and most of their offerings are affordably priced, so its suitable for office workers in the area.

PS: There are 11 Kluang Stations all across Malaysia. I dined at the one at 3Damansara.

KLUANG STATION

Lot G-43, 3 Damansara Shopping Mall, No. 3, Jalan SS20/27, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Opening hours: 8AM – 10PM (daily)

kluangstation.com.my

Authentic Vietnamese Food @ Bahn Mi Cafe, Bandar Puteri Puchong

When it comes to ethnic cuisine, there are a couple of hard and fast rules in identifying if a restaurant serves authentic food.

  • If the servers / staff are mostly from that ethnic group; and
  • If a large proportion of their customers are also from that ethnic group.

Banh Mi Cafe in Bandar Puteri Puchong is one of these places, and it is one of my fam’s go-to spots whenever we’re craving authentic Vietnamese chow.

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The resto has undergone some renovation since our last visit; the dining area is much more spacious now and they’ve even made a couple of raised wooden ‘gazebos’ indoors. The corner for imported Vietnamese snacks and sundry (noodles, sauces, paste, etc.) has also been upgraded. The open outdoor seating is now covered, which provides some shade from the heat in the daytime.

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Fans of Vietnamese food will recognise some firm favourites from their menu: banh mi, pork belly stew, spring rolls, shaking beef, lemongrass chicken and grilled pork chops (above), served with soup, pickled vegetables, rice and an egg/meat pate. Portions are hearty, and the grilled pork has a nice, sweet flavour.

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Another dish I recommend trying is the lemongrass chicken with fried rice. Lemongrass is a popular herb used in many Vietnamese dishes, and the flavour permeates throughout the tender, juicy whole fried chicken thigh.

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I tend to order the same dishes whenever I visit (namely banh mi). This time around, I got the pho (beef noodle soup) but requested for no beansprouts.

The noodles are nice and silky, and there are generous portions of thinly sliced beef within. I can see why people like pho coz it has a very herb-y, refreshing taste (especially for those who like basil) – but I don’t think I will be ordering this again. Nothing against the pho – it’s just my personal preference.

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Service is fast, and most of the servers speak Mandarin as well as Vietnamese. Prices have increased since the beginning of the year, but they are still within the reasonable range.

BANH MI CAFE

No.1, Jalan Puteri 7/10,Bandar Puteri Puchong,47100 Puchong, Selangor.

Tel : 603-8060 0127

Opening hours: 1030am – 10pm (daily)