Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Umai-ya Japanese Restaurant, Damansara Perdana

We shall now move from a pseudo-foodie post (I say "pseudo" because we all know that the last post wasn't really about food, don't we?) to a post on my favourite non-local food of all time - Japanese.

It all began when msiagirl wrote to me from England to let me know that she would be in KL on Saturday. She proposed dinner. And I never say no to good food. What started out as dinner plans turned out to be a day trip with a bunch of whacky litbloggers who made me realise that we had more similarities rather than differences. After all, how different can we all be? I read. I have books beside my bed, on the table, in the bathroom, in my car and in my handbag. Of course, the book in my handbag is dog-eared, not from excessive reading, but from all the rummaging that I do when I want to retrieve my camera or carkeys.


Anyway, after we dropped off the last litblogger at his new place in Damansara Perdana, msiagirl and I drove around in circles hoping to spot a restaurant that would catch our fancy. We wanted something light and healthy and figured Japanese would be perfect. And so it was. Umai-ya stared at us in our faces and we walked right in. If only decisionmaking in other areas were this simple!

Service was excellent from the beginning. I'm always impressed with good service and it makes the dining experience a lot more pleasant. I wish more restaurateurs would realise the advantage of training their employees, but I guess they are usually bogged down with the cost-benefit issue. Which isn't an excuse, really, for several reasons, one of which I just mentioned.

sashimi mori

Since we had pigged out the whole day (some of which I shall be blogging about later), we assured ourselves that sashimi would be a healthy choice. To save ourselves the trouble of identifying which sashimi we wanted, we went for the easiest choice - sashimi mori (RM80/USD24). The platter was incredibly pretty. Everything was thoughtfully presented. The wasabe was shaped like a couple of green leaves and the platter was decorated with tropical flowers. Some items, like the sakura tempo (pink dust), looked like something decorative, but upon closer inspection, we realised that it was edible. After worshipping the plate for a good 10 minutes, amidst chatter and laughter, we proceeded to eat. And trust me, women can talk! Our ratio was 25 sentences to one piece of sashimi. It's a wonder we didn't suffer from food poisoning after all that exposure to the elements.


I love the selection of sashimi. The red tuna was fresh and tasty, as was the yellowtail tuna. I love the white tuna which had a smooth buttery taste to it. The octopus and prawns were very fresh and the salmon was firm to the touch. One of my favourite items was the scallops which were so sweet, there was absolutely no need for the condiments.

seabass with sea urchin

This beautiful sight is seabass with seaurchin. The seaurchin had a creamy texture which went so well with the firm flesh of the seabass. Little pieces of oba leaves were placed in the sashimi which created a myriad of different flavours.

taco wasabe

The taco wasabe was adorable. A prettily cut out cucumber held sliced marinated baby squid in a cradle. I savoured each piece slowly, allowing the flavours to linger in my mouth.

chawan mushi

Chawan mushi is comfort food to me. The chawan mushi here was one of the best I had ever tasted due to the quantity of ingredients added to this simple dish.

green tea, black sesame and wasabe ice-cream

For dessert, we had three different types of ice cream. Black sesame was nice, but I found it a bit too savoury for my liking. The wasabe ice cream was beautiful. I have a weakness for wasabe. I love how it hits my nose and causes my head to hurt. Wasabe in ice cream does that too, and somehow, the combination of hot and sweet was potent. A good kind of potent. The green tea ice cream had a slight bitter taste, but I enjoyed it tremendously. A side serving of sweet red beans came together with the ice cream to counter the bitter taste of the green tea.

I've made a resolution to go back to Umai-ya to check out the other non-sashimi items on the menu. After all, if this food had, even for just one night, made me euphoric, imagine what one week of the food can do for the soul.

Umai-ya Japanese Restaurant

G-3A, The Place, Jalan PJU 8/5D

Bandar Damansara Perdana

47820 PJ

Tel: 03-7729 0015

Opening hours: 11.30am - 2.30pm, 6.00pm - 10.30pm

(This post is dedicated to k.t.x. who professes to dislike sashimi, and whom I'm hoping will be soon be converted to appreciate this stupendous dish. After all, good food must always be shared. ;-) )

Monday, May 28, 2007

Laundry Bar @ The Curve, Mutiara Damansara

I received a call from Nigel just after 9pm today.

"Guess who I'm with?", he asked, unable to contain his excitement.

"Unkaleong?", I warranted a guess. I knew that Unkaleong was down from Thailand for a quick break and it wasn't that difficult to figure out who Nigel would be excited about.

"Yes!", he exclaimed. "Come join us! We're at Laundry."

I like hanging out at Laundry; the ambience at Laundry is always pleasant and the music is great.

But I was still at the office feeling tired. "Nah...I'll pass."

Nigel was persistent. "You have to come!"

In the background, I could hear Unkaleong's voice. "I'll show you my abs if you come!"

I was in my car and at The Curve in less than half an hour.

Chilli sausages

I was ravenous by the time I arrived at Laundry. Unfortunately, after making the requisite introductions (it was my first time meeting most of them), I wasn't able to order dinner as the kitchen was closed, so I was resigned to ordering from the snacks menu. Sadly, nothing caught my fancy, and to prevent my stomach from making strange noises while getting acquainted with the charming lot, I ordered the chilli sausages. At RM9.90 for a few pieces of commercially produced chicken sausages (which looked liked they came out of a bag with a popular label) fried in chopped chilli and sliced onions, I felt a little shortchanged. And extremely hungry.


Nigel, Chee How, Unkaleong, Mervyn and Robert

Thankfully, the company was better. Sze, the lovely teacher who taught english teachers (seriously!), spoke with a delightful accent that made me want to say Budapest the way she did. Robert, the man who grew up on an estate eating banana leaf rice was a package full of surprises, while Chee How, the man who loved to travel, shared his ideas on how to backpack on a budget. Mervyn, the diver with an infectious smile, struck me as a person with a great sense of humour. Nigel and WMW, the bubbly duo (not dating each other), cracked me up the whole night.


And then there was Unkaleong who knew exactly what it would take to make us hungry.

I later went home to eat some delicious wantan noodles with wild boar curry to satiate my hunger. But that's another story altogether.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Groove Junction, Desa Sri Hartamas, KL

(Note: All photographs in this post are courtesy of Riz Ainuddin)

I usually get my yearly dosage of jazz music from the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas MPO Jazz Series, where the Bald Eagle and I hold season tickets. So naturally, I was excited to find out that there was a new kid in town (as far as jazz bars cum restaurants are concerned anyway) called Groove Junction.

Brian from All Dat Jazz, on behalf of the owners of Groove Junction, Joanne and Jennifer, sent us an invitation to sample their food. Jazz musician, Jose Thomas, is a musical director here, while his wife, Ellena, is the head chef at the restaurant. I found out, later that evening, that Ellena used to run a restaurant at Riana Green. The lovely Korean lady has been cooking for a number of years and has mastered not only Korean and Western dishes, but also Indian cuisine.

I love the decor and ambience at Groove Junction. The restaurant is tastefully decorated in earthy tones of cream and brown and the soft lights lend a cozy feeling to the entire place. Live music is always great, and we were entertained that night by Cheong, a bossanova specialist.

The menu has an extensive range of choices with a number of dishes creatively named after jazz greats. We were served an appetizer consisting of two items on their menu, namely Yam Nam - glass noodles with roast beef, and mushroom bruschetta. The Yam Nam is a cold dish with a tangy flavour from the squeezed lime which is refreshing and spicy due to the addition of finely chopped chillies.

I especially enjoyed the mushroom bruschetta made of a velvety creamy sauce with a generous helping of sliced mushrooms.

The mains included Beef Panne, which was essentially tender slices of grilled beef served with a herb sauce which had a strong hint of pepper.

This dish is named after famous American jazz tenor saxophonist, Dexter Gordon. Chicken breast with a ham and cheese filling is fried to obtain a crisp outer layer. I loved the chicken, but didn't care much for the serving of fries on the side. But I suppose I ought to remind myself that this is not only a restaurant but a bar as well, and fries do fit in well in a bar environment!

I love fish, so I suppose I can relate to Billie Holiday, the name of this pan-fried sole dish. The creamy mint sauce seemed to have a hint of yoghurt or sour cream, and I felt it went beautifully with the fried fillet.

I am no fan of red meat, but this dish, Ellena's lamb steak, was undoubtedly my favourite. A dish named after the chef herself must certainly be good, and I was not disappointed. The meat was very tender and the sauce sweet. Chef Ellena mentioned that she used fruits to tenderise the meat. That certainly made sense as fresh fruits like pineapples, papayas and pears do have enzymes that can tenderise meat.

The final main course that we tried was the pan-fried chicken rolls in orange sauce named after Sonny Rollins, another jazz tenor saxaphonist. (Incidentally, Sonny Rollins, born in 1930, is still performing, having outlived most of his contemporaries.)

We also got to sample some of the finger food available at Groove Junction. The fried Chickalina's is a dish of bite-sized pieces of chicken fried in a sweet black sauce. Can I say it's finger lickin' good?

I found the lamb curry a little mild, but I suppose it was toned down to suit the tastebuds of the masses. It was, nevertheless, reminiscent of my childhood days (well, and even now, I suppose) where I'd dip slices of bread into curry, gobble down the bread soaked in spicy goodness and slurp up the remaining curry afterwards.

By this time, we were rather full, but still had a little more space for dessert. I do have a sweet tooth and a weakness for cheesecake, so I didn't require much persuasion to eat this dish!

I liked the creamy serving of tiramisu served with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

These banana rolls were served with ice cream. This is one of Ellena's specialties, so do try it if you have a chance to visit this place.

It was a pleasant evening spent with fellow bloggers, Boo_licious, KY and Riz Ainuddin. A special thank you goes out to Joanne, Jennifer, Brian and Ellena for organising such a lovely meal for us.

Also check out Boo_licious' review here.

Groove Junction (visit their website here)

1-1, Jalan 22A/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: +603 6201 8990

Closed on Mondays. Open from 6pm onwards.

(Note: Thanks, Riz, for allowing me to use your wonderful photographs. We should do this again! You can view Riz's gorgeous pictures here.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Tagged! My favourite food

Wmw tagged me with a task. I am required to talk about my favourite food. Easy? Maybe to some. But here's the thing about me: I am a seasonal creature with seasonal tastes.

And the flavour of the month? Asam boi.

I have had an on-off relationship with asam boi (preserved prunes) for several decades now. Our love affair began when I was about 7. Growing up in Penang, there were many trips to the beach along the winding roads around the island. My parents discovered early enough that I suffered from motion sickness.

I threw up on every trip.

Mum offered me asam boi. I took one bite of that salty, sour preserved fruit and I immediately felt better.

It was the panacea for all my queasiness.

asam boi

Have you ever heard the phrase "muka macam asam boi" (face like asam boi)? You know how when you're upset, you twist your face to create a huge frown? Doesn't that frown look like an asam boi? :-)

One of my favourite drinks is lime juice with asam boi. The saltiness of the asam boi works well with the sour juice to create a wonderfully refreshing cold drink.

Now, on my travels, I always bring with me a little packet of asam boi. It has become my comfort food - a reminder of home.


***Start Copy***

Proposition: What is your favorite food in your state or country? Requirements: Find some info about the food and show delicious pictures of it.

Quantity: FIVE PEOPLE.

Tag Mode: You leave their blog and post link and add to the list below.

Mybabybay loves Asam Laksa from Penang, Malaysia

JustMyThoughts loves Penang Char Koay Teow

My Lil Venture loves Laksa Sarawak

Monterssorimum loves Teluk Intan Chee Cheong Fun

Chinnee loves Melaka Wan Tan Mee

PeimunLeah loves Hakka Lei Cha

Hui Sia


Karen loves Pan Mee

Something about Lai loves Crispy duck skin from China

Simple American loves Cheese Enchiladas

Nicole Tan loves Char Tau Kueh

Velverse loves Otak-otak

Kenny Ng loves Jawa Mee

Fatty Poh loves Nasi Dagang Kelantan

wmw loves Kuih Tutu

Lyrical Lemongrass loves Asam Boi

And the "lucky" 5 to be tagged are:-

  1. Xiu Long Bao from KL people KL food

  2. Tigerfish from teczcape

  3. Shilpa from Flog & Rosbif

  4. Pink Elle from Funky Cookies

  5. Citygal from KampungboyCitygal.

It certainly feels like an awards ceremony. :-)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Teochew porridge in SS2, PJ

different dishes
I used to eat porridge only when I was ill. And no matter how good the stuff was, it would taste bland to me because my tastebuds were totally screwed up. So naturally, it didn't come as a surprise that I was never fond of porridge when I was growing up.

The funny thing about being an adult is the contradictions that occur when you compare your life now and when you were 12. I hated brinjals and ladies fingers, and now they are my favourite vegetables. Thosai? I would have rather thrown up. But now, I go out of my way to look for it, perhaps because I don't live with my parents anymore, and so I don't get to enjoy the thosai that mum so lovingly makes.

I now eat porridge because I want to, not because I have to. It does bring a sense of comfort to me as I eat it, though.

The teochew porridge at Teochew Porridge Restaurant in SS2, PJ is not outstanding, but it certainly isn't bad. There is a limited selection of meats, normally braised or cooked in soy sauce, but what I like is the fact that there is a whole section dedicated to different types of vegetable dishes. The selection isn't varied, but I was happy with the dishes that we picked.

The consistency of the porridge was just right. Teochew porridge is normally a little watery and the grains are recognisable and not completely mushed up. Eaten alone, it is certainly bland, which is why the various dishes, salted and spiced, are perfect complements to the porridge.

The meal was good value at RM13 (approximately US$3.50) for two persons.

Restaurant Teo Chew Porridge
Jalan SS 2/24 (Next to Korea House)
Petaling Jaya.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Groove Junction, Hartamas

Groove Junction Tiramisu, originally uploaded by Riz Ainuddin.

A preview of what's to come on my blog....Thanks, Riz, for the gorgeous pics!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday Breakfast for One

nasi lemak
The Bald Eagle left last night for Athens to pay homage to his favourite football team, Liverpool FC, as they meet AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League finals on May 23 (May 24 in KL).

So Sunday breakfast turned out to be a lonely one. I was in Bangsar this morning, and came across a tiny stall (it's more of a table, really), at the junction of Jalan Telawi and Telawi 4, with packets of nasi lemak piled high.

nasi lemak
A packet, wrapped first in banana leaf, then in brown paper, contains rice cooked in coconut milk, fried anchovies, roasted peanuts, a quarter of a hard-boiled egg and yummy sambal which has the right balance of chilli and sweetness. All for RM1 (that's approximately US$0.25!).

My husband is half way across the globe to his destination right now, but I bet the food on his flight doesn't taste half as good as my humble nasi lemak.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Just Heavenly Pleasures

I first tasted Just Heavenly's cakes at Carcosa Sri Negara. It was a tasting session. One bite, and I was in love. I was greedy for more, but Pretty Pui slapped my wrists and pulled me away from the cakes. That was also the first time I met Nigel Skelchy (co-owner of Just Heavenly together with Allan Yap) whose gregarious nature and uninhibited demeanour bowled me over, and I've been infected ever since.

banana cheese

When Nigel mentioned that Just Heavenly Pleasures had opened at Damansara Heights on May 11, I couldn't contain my excitement. After tormenting Nigel for several days, begging him to deliver his cakes to me, I finally gave in to my desires by making a trip to Damansara Heights today.

just heavenly pleasures
Just Heavenly Pleasures not only sells cakes, but also takes flower bouquet orders and sells a nice range of chutneys and marmalades.

chocolate cheese
How does one make up one's mind when presented with attractive, tempting pieces such as these?

I couldn't make up my mind; everything looked delectable, so Nigel helped me fill up this pretty box with tiny treasures.

assortment of treasures

I went overboard and selected this scrumptious assortment.

chocolate durian

I couldn't wait. I ate the chocolate durian cake immediately. How does one describe Heaven?

Congratulations, Nigel and Allan!

Check these out:-

Just Heavenly Pleasures

G1.05 and 1.06, Epicure, 1 Jalan Medan Setia 1, Damansara Heights.

Tel: 03-22879866

Opening hours: 11.00am - 6.00pm (will later change to 11.00am - 9.00pm)

The genius that is Mark Best

meulle - foil of smoked bonito
How often does one get to dine on exquisite food prepared by acclaimed chef, Mark Best of Sydney's Marque Restaurant, who is currently Chef of the Year in the 2006 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide? Okay, you sir, if you're from Sydney, you can put your hand down coz you don't qualify. This is for the rest of us non-Sydneysiders. Yes, about 99.99999999% of the world population.

The Westin Kuala Lumpur is currently promoting Taste of Australia from May 11 - 20, 2007 which features celeb chefs such as Andrew McConnell, Daniel Mosedale and Mark Best. That's about all the publicity that I'm going to give to the Westin. They have enough money to promote themselves.

What I'm really excited about is the food.

chaud froid free range eggIf you've never heard of Chaud-Froid (Free Range) Egg, research it. There is so much literature out there. It is easy to think that it is just a half boiled egg in a cup. But scoop up some and taste it. The mixture of the slightly runny egg and the cream together with what tasted like syrup created an unexpected mixture of flavours in the mouth. The sensuous feeling of holding the egg in my hand as I cleaned out the eggshell immediately disappeared as it cracked under the pressure from my fingers. I'm no Nigella Lawson.

That marked the beginning of my journey of discovery. The pairing of the unexpected. Blue swimmer crab with almond jelly sprinkled with ground popcorn. Cured ocean trout with a slice of melon on top. Risotto made of calamari instead of rice. Smoked bonito with wafer thin crisp potato slices. Roast duckling with olive that tasted of liquorice. Goat's cheese with marzipan cake and rambutan. It was fusion food like no other. The descriptions were utterly baffling.

Despite that, the flavours of the unusual ingredients were a perfect match for each other. The trout served with a slice of melon and a single oyster reminded me of the sea as I inhaled its fresh fragrance. Close your eyes, and it is easy enough to be transported to a place where the sand is fine and white and ocean waves caress your feet. The blue swimmer crab served with smooth almond jelly and finely ground popcorn allowed the tongue to explore the various textures of the dish. The risotto which turned out to be finely chopped calamari in a bubbly broth had a touch of spiciness in it, the curry leaves providing a hint of asian flavour.

apple pectin jelly and salted caramel chocolateAnd for dessert, we were served goat's cheese with marzipan cake. Eaten individually, my tastebuds were overwhelmed by the piquant taste of the cheese. The marzipan cake, however, provided a perfect foil for the pungent cheese and an entirely new experience was created by the matching of these two unlikely-paired foods.

Mark Best's Sauterness Custard with Caramel, a deceivingly simple looking dish, will be forever imprinted in my memory. Sauterness, a dessert wine, gave the custard an intoxicatingly sweet flavour, and I savoured it slowly, jealously guarding my portion like it was my pot of gold.

Dessert also included dark chocolate with banana, coffee and apricot, apple pectin jelly and salted caramel chocolate. My dinner companions, Boo_licious, Splashie Boy and The Bald Eagle, seemed to enjoy the dark chocolate very much. Unfortunately, my tastebuds are not as refined; give me sweet anytime, and between the two types of chocolates, I preferred the salted caramel chocolate.

Dinner was at Qba at the Westin, a Cuban bar and Latin grill. As the night progressed, vibrant latin music combined with the consumption of different wines (my favourite being the Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2006) were perfect for an evening of lively banter and loud conversation for the four of us.

For more pictures of the food we ate, check out masak-masak.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Red Velvet if you please

red velvet friand2
I first read about the Red Velvet cake in the New York Times on February 14 this year.

A red cake? I was sceptical. I read on. Apparently, the cake, which purportedly originated from the South (of the US of A, not Malaysia!) had been around for several years already, but only gained popularity of late thanks to various celebrity endorsements. Cocoa is normally used to obtain the dark colour which is further enhanced with red food colouring, although some purists use red beet as an alternative for natural colouring.

I scoured the internet for recipes, but never got around to baking the cake. And so I archived it in the recesses of my memory.

box of surprises

Blogger, Riz, after learning about my mini-obsession with the Red Velvet, surprised me yesterday with a couple of beautifully presented boxes of cupcakes, one of which contained, surprise surprise, Red Velvet friands. Thanks, man!

The cupcakes and friands, baked by his friend, Aida, not only looked good but were scrumptious too. Aida takes orders, so if you wish to contact Aida, do drop me an email and I'll give you her number. (Check out Riz's gorgeous collection of photos of Aida's cooking and baking here.)

The Blueberry Cupcakes with Cheese Topping were as good as they looked.

banana poppy seed cupcake
And who can resist something as exquisite as the Riz Banana Poppyseed Friands with Lindt Chocolate Frosting? (Aida named this friand after Riz!)

red velvet friand1

As for the Red Velvet friands, they were exactly what I expected them to be. Mini cakes that were moist but not too dense, with a very slight recognisable taste of chocolate and with a texture that resembled a cross between a butter cake and a muffin; but the deep red colour throws one off into a different dimension, defying all sense of rationality and expectation. I love the cheese frosting which was very good and perfectly complemented the cake.

In the words of Alannah Myles, with a slight twist of course....

Red velvet and that little boy smile
Red velvet with that slow southern style
A new religion that'll bring you to your knees
Red velvet if you please.