Hakka Yuen @ Taman Yulek, Cheras

On 12/26/2010 01:48:00 PM 11 comments
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Drove past this new looking restaurant known as Hakka Yuen in Taman Yulek, Cheras and decided to give it a try. After-all, I'm a Hakka yin and a big fan of Hakka lui char.

Fully air-conditioned, clean and bright interior with white marbled tables and wallpaper of the famous Hakka round houses in China known as tulou (土楼). Hakka Yuen may get pretty crowded especially during dinner time despite only started few months back - they do have another branch in Melaka known as Hakka Zhan.

Their special concoction orange chili sauce mainly made from fermented bean curd. It was sourish, salty and spicy at the same time.

Started off with the Hakka abacus beads (RM 15), mashed yam balls resembling the shapes of Chinese abacus beads. Stir-fried with minced meat, dried shrimps, black fungus, mushroom and topped with chopped scallions. It was indeed tasty and chewy. But, I preferred those with more yam in it. I'm expecting more since I paid RM 15 for this!

Hakka lui char / léi chá 擂茶 (RM 8.80) is a bit of acquired taste but it is a healthy Hakka delicacy rice dish. Topped with several types of vegetables (mainly shredded tapioca leaves, chopped preserved radish, leek, long beans), peanuts and served with a bowl of soup made from pounded basil, tea and mint leaves. Ever since I had one of the best lui char in Ipoh (from Jeram), I couldn't exactly find any other lui chars in KL / PJ that able to match that.

It is hard to find a good proportion of ingredients in the lui char rice and I like mine with alot of chopped preserved radish. This bowl had a decent good proportions of vegetables and chopped preserved radish - just got to mix it well.

You can either consume the rice and soup separately or pour the soup onto the rice. I prefer to pour just enough soup for the rice to soak up all the goodness and fragrance. Even though the rice was good, but the soup was slightly too light and bland for me. Some says, the best lui char is to actually cook it yourself - you know what you like best and it's true!

Hakka mutton steamboat (RM 25), with fresh tender mutton, black fungus and bean curd skins cooked in a hot claypot of delicious herbal soup.

The mutton was very fresh and tender with decent number of pieces in it. The soup was fantastic hearty and deliciously healthy with a tasty combination of herbal flavors in it.

Hakka crispy fish fillet with creamy butter sauce (RM 18). The creamy butter sauce was superb with the fresh deep fried fish fillet. The aroma of the curry leaves plus the spiciness from the cili padi (bird eye chili) made this dish more fragrant and savoury. One bowl of rice is never enough with this around!

Hakka home-style vinegar pork trotter (RM 18), cooked in sweet black vinegar, ginger and black fungus. The taste wasn't rich and strong enough for me, but nevertheless, the sweet spicy sourish sauce went well with the rice.

Hakka stir fried yau mak (romaine lettuce) with fermented bean curd (RM 10). It was nice and tasty. The fermented bean curd is a distinct flavor that is often used in Hakka cuisine to impart saltiness and to assuage greasiness associated with massive consumption of multiple super fatty meats.

Verdict: Most of their dishes that I've tried were pretty good and definitely will return to sample the other popular Hakka dishes. Slightly expensive but it's worth it if you know what to have.

No. 20, Jalan Kaskas 3,
Taman Cheras,
56100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9133 3115
Business Hours: Opens daily from 11.30am - 3pm and 5.30pm - 11pm
Pork Free: No
GPS: 3.100053, 101.741788

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Coffee Ritual @ Section 14, PJ

On 12/17/2010 01:35:00 AM Comments
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Coffee Ritual is a big refreshing change from the countless international coffee chains like Starbucks that dotted across the Klang Valley. Coffee Ritual is located at a corner lot in Section 14, Petaling Jaya and was initially moved from Phileo Damansara. Realising that Section 14 is a parking nightmare, Coffee Ritual offers an hour of free parking at the multi-level parking complex for those who spend RM 30 and above on a single receipt.

The decors here are simple yet functional with free WiFi and power supplies. Like most Malaysians, I grew up thinking of coffee with the traditional kopitiam culture of what a cup of coffee should be: thick, black, and cheap. This mindset was changed thanks to an encounter with Coffee Ritual.

The cold brew coffee tower looked rather astonishing with a drip chamber that almost resembles an hourglass. Ice and water are placed in the tower's top chamber and a valve regulates the water which releases slowly into the tower's carafe. Cold brewing takes about 6 hours just to make only 4 cups of coffee! The end-result is a remarkably smooth rich, low in acids and strong beverage with a hint of nutty bitterness of the coffee.

Like myself, you may have never heard of siphon coffee making. Siphon brewers consist of 2 stacked glass chambers held together with a rubber gasket and separated by a tube containing a filter. Heat is applied to the lower container and as it heats up, some of the water is converted to vapour gas. The vapour gas continues to expand and it pushes the brewing water up the siphon tube. The brewing water in the top vessel is maintained at a near-ideal coffee brewing temperature of 90 - 95 Celcius.

The siphon brewing process makes for great theatre, but it's not all for appearance sake. At the end of all those ministrations what you are left with is coffee that boasts an incomparable clean flavor that often difficult to detect in coffee brewed with other methods. This siphon coffee maker has a patent heritage that harks back to 1830s. Now, you can brew like a pro at home for only RM 297 - Coffee Ritual sells the Hario Syphon Tech 3 which is manufactured from Japan.

My perfect cup of Sumatra Mandheling (RM 6) with a clean rich heavy-bodied texture, mild earthy notes and an intense syrupy aftertaste. Always have a taste of the coffee first without adding any sugar or milk to experience its flavor at its purest. Sip a little, roll it around the mouth, swallow, and wait for notes like sourness and sweetness, and an ever-so-slight effervescence on the tongue to appear.

Other choices of single-origin gourmet coffees specialties include the Colombian Special, Brazil Fancy Santos and Java Arabica Jampit — all brewed using the siphon vacuum pot. These single origins are rare and priced as premium coffee as it is not easy to preserve coffee due to its short shelf life. After it is roasted, it takes about 2 days for it to develop into full-body flavours and is best consumed within 2 - 3 weeks. Aside from the siphon brew coffee, Coffee Ritual sets apart from others by offering Italian espresso-based coffee instead of the usual American Seattle-styled.

Coffee Ritual serves not only specially-brewed coffee, but also a large selection of food from savoury and sweet crêpes, to salads, meat and fish, rice, pasta and various desserts. The mushroom and turkey toast crêpe (RM 10.40) with sautéed mushrooms, shredded turkey toast, mozzarella cheese, fresh salad on the side and cream sauce. I was partly disappointed with the turkey toast which was more like turkey ham. Nevertheless, it was still nice except for the price and portions.

Nasi lemak with curry chicken (RM 8.40), fried egg, cucumber, ikan bilis, sambal, peanuts, curry chicken drumstick, potatoes and curry gravy.

The rice wasn't fragrant enough but it wasn't actually too bad. Most of the condiments were served fresh and unlike some nasi lemak with super hard ikan bilis that can break your teeth.

Fish and chips (RM 13.40), with crinkle fries, tar-tar sauce and a lemon wedge. It was decent, but I thought the portions were small for the price.

Café de Paris grilled lamb (RM 16.80), with choices of butter rice or baked potato and stir-fried vegetables. The lamb was fresh; hardly had any lamb smell in it and with a dollop of herbal butter melting on top. Personally, it was too bland and I don't find Café de Paris sauce suits me since I'm the type that prefers strong lamby taste with mint sauce.

Caesar salad (RM 9.60) with hard boiled egg wedges (RM 1.20), romaine lettuce, black olives, croutons, grated parmesan cheese and Caesar salad dressing. Caesar salad without any bacon and had a slight overdose of mayo in it. However, you can add black pepper chicken strips or sliced turkey toast strips for an extra RM 3.60 - at the end, it isn't going to be worthwhile paying for a complete Caesar salad.

Verdict: I'll probably just stick to their coffee which is what they do best. For coffee connoisseur who want a taste of real gourmet coffee, Coffee Ritual is definitely worth a try. Food wise, they are pretty expensive for decent portion and taste.

25/11/2011: It was sad to see Coffee Ritual closed down and no longer operates in Section 14, PJ. I live nearby and sometimes I just want a cup of good coffee (not Starbucks!). Hopefully they're not closed down for good. Follow their Facebook page for their latest updates.

No. 35, Jalan 14/20,
46100 Petaling Jaya,
Tel: 03-7956 1080
Business Hours: Opens daily from 10am - 10pm
Pork Free: Yes
GPS: 3.1104022, 101.635690

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Marco's Pizza @ Kelana Jaya, PJ

On 12/08/2010 06:23:00 PM 9 comments
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It's really hard to miss the extremely big Marco's Pizza signboard whenever you drive past Kelana Jaya via the LDP highway. Not only the signboard is huge, Marco's Pizza is 5 shop lots huge too - there is even a children playground at one corner!

Marco's Pizza has been around for many years and it isn't surprising at all how they're able to last so long despite having very few customers in such a big space for most of the time. That's because Marco's Pizza is owned and supported by Dato' Marcus Kam - the founder of MXM International (a MLM membership program company located in a 10-storey high MXM Tower at Phileo Damansara), PathLab (a laboratory and pathological tests provider established 48 years ago by his father, Datuk F.W. Kam) and also King Crab (a seafood restaurant located on the same row with Marco's Pizza). Trust me, the owner is extremely rich and Marco's Pizza will be around for many more years to come.

I've eaten quite often in Marco's Pizza and personally, I do think they dish out pretty decent Italian food without burning a hole in your pocket. However, I've gone through couple of other food blogs and most of them reviewed Marco's Pizza as bland and tasteless; but again most of these reviews were written back in 2006 - 2007.

At first look, it's hard to pick a dish from the extensive menu with many varieties of pizzas and pastas.

Caesar salad (RM 13.80) with beef bacon (RM 3), fresh romaine lettuce tossed with aioli Caesar dressing, eggs, croutons and shaved parmesan cheese. It was one of the best Caesar salad I've ever had but it was also very inconsistent. In one of my visit, the Caesar dressing wasn't flavorful enough, they must have seriously forgotten about the vinegar and lemon juice in it! Now, I'm afraid to order this anymore since I wouldn't know when it'll taste right. Otherwise, it'll be a perfect plate of healthy Caesar salad with plentiful of beef bacons!

Spaghetti carbonara (RM 19.80), traditional creamy pasta with beef bacon, garlic, eggs and parmesan cheese. The Italians will tell you that real carbonara has no cream in it. The creamy sauce is actually made with beaten raw eggs and grated cheese - you get a creamy mixture that coats every strand of pasta.

Fettuccine al salmone (RM 28.80), with smoked salmon cooked with capers, caviar and light cream in napolitana sauce. It was really indulging with the smoked salmon, capers and caviar that intensified the tomato-based napolitana sauce. At a moment, the sauce was overpowering salty - no where this was near to bland and tasteless! Maybe, they've improvised it over the years to suit the Malaysians heavy taste-buds.

Spaghetti bolognese (RM 18.80), minced beef with parmesan cheese in napolitana sauce.

Fettuccine vegetarian (RM 14.80), with market vegetables enhanced with fresh basil in napolitana sauce. Even though I didn't order this, I couldn't give it back without snapping a picture of it first!

Fettuccine alla panna (RM 16.80), with young mushrooms, generous portions of beef bacon and onions in creamy sauce. Just like carbonara, this pasta doesn't like sitting around for too long and make sure you're ready to eat once it arrives. This pasta was so good that it deserved my full attention! Sadly, the portion was comparatively smaller than the other pastas I've had during the other days.

The signature thin crust Marco's Pizza (RM 18.80), with shredded turkey ham, country chicken egg, napolitana sauce and loads of melted mozzarella cheese. I've always thought it was weird to have an egg on top of a pizza but it was great! The richness of the oozing egg and mozzarella cheese combination was flourishingly hearty.

Pepperoni thin crust pizza (RM 18.80), with smoked beef pepperoni, anchovies, black olives, napolitana sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. Unlike our common pepperoni pizza, this pizza had real salted fish anchovies in it - not our usual ikan bilis! Personally, I don't find their pizzas bland at all, maybe that's because I always opted for the thin crust version.

Lamb shank (RM 26.80), tender succulent lamb braised in fresh tomato sauce, mushrooms and potatoes for 2 - 3 hours.

Most of their pastas are great and filled with strong flavors suited for the Malaysians. At times, I find it overly strong and very different from the authentic Italian pastas I've had in Italy - they're generally simple and bland with the usage of the freshest and highest quality ingredients. Their pizzas may not be the best but they're pretty decent and generous for the price paid for. Remember to go for the thin crust version only.

Verdict: On the contrary of all the bad reviews on Marco's Pizza, I personally find they're actually quite decent. The only problem was inconsistency - like what happened to my Caesar salad and the portions of their pasta vary at times. Some of the dishes are expensive while some are priced decently, just need to know what to order.

No. 81-85, Jalan SS25/2
Taman Bukit Emas,
47301, Petaling Jaya,
Tel: 03-7803 5000
Business Hours: Opens daily from 10.30am - 10.30pm
Pork Free: Yes
GPS: 3.113476,101.604480

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