Sunday, December 31, 2006

Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar

Note: This post is not related to Malaysian food. Writings on Malaysian food will resume when I am back from my vacation.

Even when I'm away from home, it's hard not to get excited about the food I've enjoyed abroad. We were introduced to this great restaurant located in SoNo (South Norwalk), Connecticut. We had arrived at close to 9.00pm on a weeknight and the restaurant and bar were packed.

Having eaten all kinds of burgers and hotdogs, we were in the mood for something different. The affable waiter offered us a menu consisting of two pages of a variety of tapas. We were spoilt for choice, but eventually ended up deciding on:

Gambas al Ajilio - sauteed shrimp with garlic and sherry

Chicken chorizo

Ceviche - shrimp, red snapper,calamari, cilantro, peppers, lime juice and tomato

Grilled hangar steak

Albondigas - meatballs in tomato sauce

Porcini - crusted chicken

*Note: My apologies for the photographs! The place had a nice atmosphere, lit by candlelight and fairy lights, and I didn't want to spoil it with my camera flash. Imagination is a wonderful tool, and I encourage you to use it right now. :-)

Everything was downed with white wine sangria, the perfect complement to our tapas meal!

The meal was delicious and the company was excellent. Dinner came up to US$100 (with tips) for three.

Barcelona Wine Bar
22 Elizabeth Street
SoNo, CT 06854
Ph: 203-9138844
F: 203-2991417

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Winter in New York

Note: This post is not related to Malaysian food. Writings on Malaysian food will resume when I am back from my vacation.

I had packed my bags anticipating a very cold winter. Someone up there sure has a sense of humour; the thick winter jacket which is still stored in my suitcase will not need any drycleaning this year.

New York, despite not having any snowfall so far, is still dressed to the nines for Christmas. If one isn't in the mood for Christmas yet, a visit to the ice skating rink at the Rockefeller Centre will definitely do the trick.

We spent a day at the Guggenheim Museum. When one has read so much about the Guggenheim, it is only natural to be disappointed to see the exterior covered in scaffolding. Apparently, the structure has been plagued by surface cracks since its opening in 1959, and in 2005, 12 layers of paint were removed to allow for an analysis of the building's surface. We, nevertheless, plundered along (of course lah...I had never done so much walking in my life) and were relieved to find the interior still in good condition. There was an exhibition on Spanish paintings from El Greco to Picasso featuring the works of Francisco de Goya, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali and of course El Greco and Pablo Picasso. I (I don't say "we", because we both have differing opinions on among others, Dali) found my introduction to surrealism particularly enlightening. Cubism, on the other hand, is something I shall leave to the art afficionados to debate. :-)

Another museum of interest is the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). So you either love it or hate it. I did enjoy the New Photography exhibition especially the works of Barbara Probst. There were also some particularly moving photographs depicting death, or rather, the act of dying e.g. the final moments before the firing squad. And I enjoyed the tiramisu in Cafe 2 in the Museum. :-)

There is so much energy in Times Square. Street artists at every corner. Wannabe-rappers selling their homerecorded wares. Screaming teenagers wanting to be part of the latest MTV recording. Stretch limos. Roasted chestnuts.

Central Park is bleak and desolate in the winter. But nannies and mothers still stroll in the park, prams in tow. Horse-drawn carriages still make their way through the park. Life does go on like normal.

And of course, the shopping's great. :-)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Where has that old friend gone?

As I listen to Josh Groban's February Song, I feel a little wistful that I will not be spending Christmas in Malaysia this year.

This year, I shall be in a country where reindeer skim the rooftops and Santa Claus and The Three Wise Men sing carols to Baby Jesus. Gardens will be filled with blinking ornaments signifying the holidays. Plastic snowmen will share the limelight with real snowmen. Snow angels will abound in freshly strewn sidewalks, touched by the soft breath of snow. Houses will look like visions from wonderland with candy canes and gaily decorated christmas trees that peep through the bay windows.

Is it fair to lament the bastardisation of Christmas?
This will be my third Christmas there. And I am still in awe at the lengths that people will go to.

I shall be taking a 3 week break from blogging, but I most definitely will be back with lots more to write about.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, folks!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Siu Siu Restaurant - Seafood

I started the day thinking that I would have a lunch appointment with my boss and a client, but unfortunately, she had to postpone our meeting, and that is how my boss, Pretty Pui and I ended up at Siu Siu. It was definitely a very good substitute for the initial lunch appointment at Kottaram, a restaurant specialising in cuisine from Kerala (which will be the subject of another review).

I have worked in Brickfields for a number of years and have only recently moved out of that comfort zone. The idea of a comfort zone seems to cover many aspects of my life; my job, my personal life and certainly, my eating habits. We all tend to fall back on old favourites, so the idea of exploring beyond that boundary is sometimes unthinkable. As a result of that, Siu Siu Restaurant which is located approximately 2 km from my workplace, remained undiscovered.

Siu Siu stands in one of the small pockets of greenery in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Finding it isn't difficult - coming from KL on the Federal Highway, take the first left exit after Kuen Cheng High School, drive straight on about 200m and you're there. There is also ample parking.

Apparently, one of the specialties at Siu Siu is the claypot rice with crab. We were not in the mood for crabs, so we passed, but we did see the dish. The rice looked very much like the claypot chicken rice, with the only difference in appearance being the crabs sitting on top of the rice.

We ordered another house specialty, Vietnamese Curry Prawns. This is best eaten with the mantou (buns). The curry is creamy, presumably due to the addition of milk (evaporated milk?). In addition to the prawns, the claypot contained lots of sliced brinjals, ladies fingers and long beans. I enjoyed this dish which reminded me of butter crabs, but with lots of curry.

The char siew (barbequed pork) took me by surprise. When you think you already know where the best char siew is, another one comes and rocks your world. Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little, but I thought the char siew was fantastic! It wasn't too sticky and was sufficiently sweet, and it consisted of the right amount of lean meat and fat.

Vegetables consisted of a mixed selection of 4 different types - brinjal, long beans, petai and 4-angled beans.

Whenever the conversation at lunch turned to work, we quickly switched the topic by telling each other how good the food was. And that was no lie.

Restaurant Siu Siu

No. 15-11, Lorong Syed Putra Kiri

50450 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 016-370 8555/016-309 8038 (Mr Ng)

Open from 11.00am to 12.00midnight.

Closed on Mondays.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pun Chun, Bidor - duck noodles

Part 5 - Finale

6.00pm in Ipoh. We knew it was time to have dinner and go back to reality where loved ones were waiting patiently for goodies from Ipoh. We were in a dilemma; to continue eating in Ipoh or to start our journey back to Kuala Lumpur and eat along the way.

Someone mentioned Pun Chun in Bidor. The decision was a no-brainer.

It had already started to rain when we left Ipoh that Saturday evening. But we had faith that we would arrive in Bidor safe and dry.

Because of the rain, traffic on the highway was slow. A car had spun out of control near the toll booth, so traffic slowed down further. We made it to Bidor, and fortunately, it wasn't raining there. It was quite easy to find the restaurant which is located along the main road of the tiny town, but traffic was surprisingly heavy along the single lane road.

Even from a distance, one can smell the aroma of duck soup. Because we were early, it was easy to get a table to ourselves, hence we didn't need to employ our table booking strategy which we had quickly learnt in Ipoh. We all ordered the dry version of duck noodles with soup on the side. The duck is served in simmering herbal soup and its flesh is soft and tender. I did not only finish up my soup, but I helped myself to Pretty Pui's leftovers too. Let's just say that I LOVE soup, and this soup was great. The noodles were cooked al dente and it was nice and springy.

Looking around the shop, we felt like we were in titbits wonderland as we were surrounded by various traditional chinese snacks. Pun Chun is well-known for its chicken biscuits, shat kek ma and heong peng and we dutifully stocked up on the sweet and sinful goodies.

Outside, one can buy petai by the bunches.

It rained when we left Bidor.

Other Ipoh delicacies

Part 4

When we weren't eating at restaurants and kopitiams in Ipoh, we were busy buying food. What? Obsessed with food? Us? Certainly not!

We drove in circles looking for Gunung Rapat where the famous Yee Hup is located. All that effort for heong peng. It's funny how when you're not looking for something, it appears before you several times. But when you're searching high and low for it, it plays hide and seek with you.

Suffice to say that we found Yee Hup even when we were looking for Tambun to buy pomelos.

Yee Hup is the place to buy heong peng. There is usually a long queue and a steady stream of cars outside, all for the delectably sweet and sticky, flaky delicacy.

When in Ipoh, one has to buy pomelos. It's expected of you. Sadly, we couldn't find Tambun (seriously!), so we ended up at the stalls outside the Sam Po Tong temple which is built in a limestone cave. The temple, not the stalls. Because we were quite inexperienced in selecting pomelos, we chose the ones with unblemished skins. :-)

Salt baked chicken is another delicacy from Ipoh, and the place to go to is Aun Kheng Lim. On one side of the shop are several ovens in which the chicken, wrapped in paper, are baked under mounds of salt, and on the other side of the shop are boxes stacked six feet high, ready for packing.

And of course, when in Ipoh, one has to drink Ipoh White Coffee which is made of robusta beans roasted in margarine. There are several coffeeshops in the same area, all claiming to be the original white coffee specialists, but we went to Sun Yuan Foong which was home to the original white coffee. :-) The coffee is served sweetened (translated: sweet!) and we ordered some kuih along with it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Kong Heng, Ipoh - popiah, hor fun, satay

Part 3

Ipoh Old Town has two prominent kopitiams which are located side-by-side: Thean Chun (House of Mirrors) and Kong Heng. When we arrived at about 1.30pm, Thean Chun was closed, so maybe that explained why Kong Heng was PACKED.

Getting a table at Kong Heng is no easy feat. Like playing chess, there is a strategy involved. And we learnt, 30 minutes later and no table in hand, that one has to be ruthless.

The steps are as follows:-

  1. Identify table. Look for signs indicating that the persons sitting at the table are going to complete their meal in the next 10 minutes. If energetic conversations are going on, chances are they'll be asking for another round of drinks, so move on to the next table.
  2. Stand really close to the table. This gives a double signal, i.e. to the person sitting down that you are targetting his table, and to other vultures to stay away from this table.
  3. If other vultures have also targetted the same table, start limbering up for step 4.
  4. Say there are 6 people currently sitting at the table. When one person stands up, immediately move your butt and place yourself in his place, regardless of whether or not the other 5 have finished their meals. This is very important, as it indicates ownership of that table. Vultures will immediately disperse.
  5. Put on a nonchalant expression and wait till the remaining 5 move, then wave madly so your friends will know that you have successfully completed your mission and come over and congratulate you.

So we got our table. :-)

Kong Heng has several stalls serving a variety of food including asam laksa, hor fun, lor bak, popiah, wantan mee and sotong kangkung. One of the more popular items to order is pork satay. Basically, the satay man dumps a plate of satay on the table, and when he sees the number of sticks dwindling, he tops up the plate with more satay. You pay for what you consume. Which brings us to the question of hygiene....

Unfortunately, this time around, the satay man was nowhere to be seen. We saw a plate of popiah on every table, so we ordered the popiah which was absolutely delicious. The hor fun in soup was also very good, but Barbie preferred Pretty Pui's asam laksa. The asam laksa is very much like the Penang version.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Foh San Restaurant, Ipoh - Dim Sum

Part 2

One of the reasons why we headed out early to Ipoh was because we wanted to try the dim sum at the famous Foh San restaurant. Foh San is well known for its char siew pau and tai pau, and regulars will tell you that if you arrive after 8.30am, there won't be anymore left.

It's a shame that road names are changed around the country, presumably to do away with the imperialistic connotations associated with our "colonial fathers" in keeping with the old road names. Several road names have been changed to the names of present sultans and glorified politicians, but in changing the names, are we also deceiving ourselves into believing that the past never existed? Incidentally, there is a radio ad right now campaigning Malaysia's 50th year of independence in 2007. The ad says that Malaysia turns 50 next year. Malaysia has a long history, not as "Malaysia" but as "Malaya" or "Tanah Melayu" before that, but nevertheless, is it right to say that we're only 50? Anyhow, the reason why I brought this up was because we couldn't find Osborne Road in Ipoh, and realised, in the process, that several road names had been changed. :-

We arrived at about 9.30am, so we were fully prepared for the absence of char siew pau, but we were still keen to try the other stuff. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we all exhaled a "wow" in unison at seeing the huge crowd, either seated or waiting to be served. It certainly appeared to be popular, not only with the tourists, but also with the locals.

The restaurant is bright and cheery, mostly due to its open concept which lets the sunshine in. Despite what other people may say, we experienced good service with a smile everytime we asked for something. Most of the waitresses are old "aunties", and one can't help but to warm up to them.

The dim sum was certainly delicious. A selection of pictures of the dim sum we consumed is shown below.

We were lucky enough to get ONE char siew pau, which we promptly, and fairly, divided into four parts. :-) We pronounced it good, and agreed that our trip to Ipoh wasn't in vain.

The entire meal was very reasonably priced. At approximately RM40 for four of us, we agreed that we could never get a similarly priced meal of dim sum back in Kuala Lumpur.

The aunty and uncle manning the payment counter, despite having stern looks, were actually very pleasant. It was definitely a good start to our day in Ipoh.

Restoran Foh San

2, Jalan Osborne,

30300 Ipoh, Perak.

Tel: 05-2540308