So Long 2013!

So long 2013! You have been a most eventful year -finishing Tokyo Marathon 2013 in February despite a foot fracture, bidding adieu to my Dad in March, relocating to a rural town in Borneo with lots of humdrum (yuck!) and unpleasantries, another move to Hong Kong (YES!) and a wonderful trip with Mom & Bro to Tokyo last week. Here’s to a better 2014 and more strength to face the many headwinds yet again! Cheers and have a wonderful New Year Everyone! Thank you for following my just-turned -1 blog!

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Kaiseki Dinner @Mitsukoshi Department Store, Ginza, Tokyo

Date of Visit: December 20 2013

Japanese drinks vending machines are awesome, they sell both hot and cold drinks (colour-coded in case you don’t read Japanese – red for hot drinks and blue for cold drinks). In Japan one must try Calpis! A sweet yoghurt-y soda drink. And when you travel in Japan, you should also get yourself a Suica or Pasmo from JR Stations or from the many convenience stores around, this is stored-money card akin to Octopus in Hong Kong. BTW, Octopus is an Australian invention that failed miserably in Australia. In fact the company went burst – one of my earlier lemons! 😭

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😍😍😍 Calpis

***

For the first night in Tokyo, I did not bother to make any dinner reservations since I did not want to tire us out by dashing off to find the restaurant as soon as we arrived. It turned out to be a mistake – all the restaurants (the ones that we are interested in) were FULL! After wandering around Ginza, we were still undecided which restaurants to eat in and whether there is an English menu available. A quick think on our feet, led us to the Ginza Mitsukoshi Department Store.

There are 2 levels of restaurants serving International cuisines -Japanese, Japanese-European,European and Chinese (on Levels 11 and 12) inside the department store . We finally decided on a Japanese restaurant on Level 12 serving called 石桶花.

We were served by 2 very courteous and efficient waitresses. We were given an English menu with 3 courses to choose from – Banquet Cuisine Meal ¥4,800; Sumire Kaiseki Cuisine at ¥5,500 or Shakunage Kaiseki ¥8400. We settled on top-end Shakunage Kaiseki. We were very appreciative that the waitresses made a conscious effort to communicate with us and also to explain in English what is being served at each course.

To drink: We ordered a bottle of Japanese white from Chateau Mercian Katsumnuma Koshu ¥4,300 (the only Japanese white available on the menu). Clean and crisp on the palate, it has a pleasant astringent taste, and with an aromatic grapefruit and green apple finish and another note that I could not put my finger on – it turned out to be banana when I read the tasting notes (here). The pleasant scent of the white-flowers reminded me of sake too. A very enjoyable white from Suntory Brewery! KAMPAI!!

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Chateau Mercian Katsumnuma Koshu

Time for me to polish up on my chopsticks skills as the first of our courses arrives…

Appetiser #1 was 5 Gingko Nuts on a bed of sweet miso. Gingko nuts has a gummy texture, their rich, nutty flavour has a quick bitterness to it. (An important note is that children should not eat more than five ginkgo nuts per day, and adults should not eat more than eight per day. Going over these limits can result in ginkgo poisoning!! 😱).

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Gingko Nuts

Appetiser #2 consisted of crab meat, a deep-fried yam coated with sticky rice, a deep-fried sweet potato coated with sticky rice and some jellied pickles. I enjoyed the sticky yet crunchy-puffy-fried-rice a lot which provided a different layer of texture to both the yam and potato.

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Crabmeat and deep-fried sticky rice balls of yam and sweet potato

The Sashimi was very fresh – although not the top quality, but still standing head-and-shoulders above the sashimi served in top-hatted Australian restaurants. Understandably, the Japanese keep all the premium stuffs for their own local consumptions whereas other countries (e.g. Australia and especially China tend to export their top produces to overseas markets.) Here, we were served with yieldingly firm Yellow-tail, Kingfish and a very fatty Tuna that literally melts away in our mouths. The dish was beautifully presented with edible flowers, shiso and shredded radishes.

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Sashimi

Since this is Winter, we were served White miso soup with Mochi. The soup leans towards to the sweet side. I thoroughly enjoyed the chewy and glutinous texture of the mochi that has been slightly chargrilled before it went into the soup.

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White Miso Soup

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White Miso Soup with Mochi

Delicacies of the Season are winter root vegetables – mushrooms, pumpkin, fresh tiny shrimps, burdock and yam. Each very delicious and has natural sweetness to them.

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Delicacies of the Season

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Delicacies of the Season

Next to follow is the Soup. The star of this course is definitely the Sea-urchin on Tofu. Ilove the sweet briny taste of the sea-urchin very much, the tofu has an unusual texture that I was not accustomed to due to its stickiness, perhaps sticky rice was added to its list of ingredients. The salty soup was very gelatine-y, and worked well to cleanse the palate of the briny sea-urchin.

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Sea urchin on tofu

The Grilled Japanese Beef course literally melts in my mouth! This is Kagoshima beef was simply seared and served with Japanese green peppers (not hot) and enoki mushroom.

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Grilled Japanese Beef

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Grilled Japanese Beef

For the Boiled Dish, we were served 2 minced pork balls as light and fluffy as soufflé, they were joined by Japanese leeks, onions, fungus and shreds of yuzu peels for a citrusy kick. We were also given a hot black tea (Ocha).

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Boiled Dish

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Boiled Dish

The boiled dish forms part of the last course of our kaiseki dinner, with pickles, rice and a side of salmon roe (ikura). We were asked to eat the rice with the ikura.

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Boiled Dish, Pickles, Rice, Ikura

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Ikura Rice and grated radishes

The food served at the restaurant all tend to be on the sweeter side, due to sugar content of miring sauces used.

Finally dessert and matcha (green tea) were served.  Our Dessert was ice-cream and poached apple drenched with flower honey – delicious, but too sweet for me. 😀

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Dessert

During dinner, a Japanese business man had a heart attack, but still we had seamless service, everybody remained calm and helped the man to wait for ambulance.

Check out the interior of the restaurant.

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Very clean and simple Interior

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Watching the chefs at work at the bar

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Outdoor seating in Summer – a fantastic place to watch Ginza night view too!

So when you are at a lost, unsure of where to eat in the Japan, do check out the dining floors in the department stores where English menus are provided. The basement level is usually food outlets where you can buy bread for tomorrow’s breakfast and traditional sweets and delicacies or something for mid-night snacks! 😋😋😋

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Our late night snack – mochi with red bean (azuki) paste inside

Tonkichi Tonkatsu Seafood @The ONE, TST, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: December 29 2013

I figured that my legs should be very sore from my training yesterday – my trainer was the first person I texted to confirm appointment when I arrived Hong Kong the night before, since zero exercise and too much good food in Tokyo had made me a tad guilty… (I’m up to 115lbs for the leg press at the moment -pretty decent for a female – but my arms are very weak, I can only curl 5 reps of 15lbs before failure, losing form and get ‘stuck’). In order to ‘catch up’ on my ‘lost exercise time’ while in Tokyo, I thought it prudent that I also ran around the park for a good 45 minutes after the weights session before my DOMS sets in. Well, let’s see what my trainer says when I meet him next and whether this was a wise move because I am yet to feel any DOMS, perhaps tomorrow?

So with today being a rest day, I persuaded my Mom and Bro to watch ‘Firestorm‘, a Cantonese action movie starring Hong Kong heart-throb Andy Lau at The ONE and we also had our lunch at the mall too.

***

Tonkichi Tonkatsu Seafood is a Hong Kong Japanese-styled tonkatsu restaurant serving deep-fried crumbed pork and seafood. The restaurant has a fantastic view looking into Kowloon Park. This is a former British army barracks converted into a park with a total area of 13.3 hectares, offering a full range of active and passive recreational facilities to the public. It is an oasis in the city away from the busy Nathan Road (the longest and straightest road in Hong Kong) where one can go for a relaxing stroll, have a picnic on the grass (a privilege in HK!), feed the pigeons and more interestingly to see the pink flamingos in the Bird Park. On any given Sundays, there will be performances (e.g. kung fu, traditional dances) by amateur groups in the park as well.

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Views beyond Kowloon Park to ICC (tallest building in Kowloon) and premier residential towers of ‘Sorrento’ and ‘The Arch’

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Kowloon Mosque

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Nathan Road, Parklane Shopping Strip and Kowloon Park (above)

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A lush Kowloon Park

On the table are 3 types of sweet and sour sauces and toothpicks.

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Unctuous sweet and sour sauces and toothpicks

I was the only one given a bowl of sesame seeds. Me thinks this is a bit misery since in Kuala Lumpur, the tonkatsu place that we frequented (here) has pestle bowls and a pot of sesame seeds on the tables, free-for-all! Hmm…I smell some accountants running the show here?

Anyway, the soy vinegar sauce was unctuously thick, sweet and sour – so the sesame paste that I got was thick and gummy – not my cuppa tea, chums.

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Sesame Seeds

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Sesame Paste

My tonkatsu set was HUGE – a big piece of deep-fried breaded pork with shredded cabbage, a bowl of rice, miso soup, pickles and dessert. The breadcrumbs were crunchy, but too thick for my liking. I had to scrap the breadcrumbs off. The mustard was only a tiny scrap on the plate – so I went without any sauces which is even better for me to shave some calories.

I also found the pork too firm and a tad dry, even though my order was the Premium Royal Pork Tonkatsu which the menu had pointed out as “one of the top quality pork meats in the world because of (sic) you can enjoy its juicy, tender and natural flavour“. I shall not ponder the texture of the ‘normal/ ordinary’ tonkatsu at HK$20 cheaper.

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Tonkatsu Premium Royal Pork Loin (HK$198)

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Tonkatsu Premium Royal Pork Loin (HK$198)

Both my Mom and Bro ordered the Katsu-Don Sets. My mom had the Katsu-Don Loin whereas my Bro had the Katsu-Don Fillet, both priced at HK$182 a bowl. Presentation-wise, they both looked the same so the picture below was my Bro’s Katsu-Don Fillet – steamed rice topped with pork loin/ pork fillet in scrambled egg and onion sauce and dressed with dried seaweed strips. The set also comes with pickles, shredded cabbages, miso soup and a dessert.

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Katsu-Don Fillet

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Side salad of shredded cabbage

Diners are allowed to have free refills of shredded cabbages, but the over-eager waitress swooped in on us to clear our table even though my mom was still eating…

We had a change of hot tea and some watermelons for dessert. At this point, my Bro asked why people throw watermelons into the sea to retrieve corpses and why do this ‘trick’ works? A mythical ‘answer’ here.

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Watermelon for Dessert

A family restaurant like this gets rather noisy when it fills up – especially with screaming children on the weekends crying over the piped-in Japanese Pop. Will I be back? Hmm… I am sitting on the fence, but maybe, since this is a branch of one of the best tonkatsu places in Hong Kong!

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Interior of restaurant

It was off to the movie after lunch – but Mom had to get the sweet caramelised pop-corns first!

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Broadway Circuit Cinema at The ONE

There are a lot of toy stores in The ONE and the one stall that caught my attention was B.Duck. I am not sure whether it is affiliated with Florentijn Hofman’s Giant Rubber Duck installations which I’ve seen earlier this year in both Sydney and Hong Kong (and which I had blogged about here and here), but nevertheless B.Duck has an interesting animated biography, so do check out their official webpage here!

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B.Duck figurines

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B.Duck figurines dressed in Xmas best

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B.Duck Amplifiers

Glutton Homeward Bound Tomorrow!

Well, this ‘lil rodent totally captures what I am feeling right now! Tokyo has been a fun trip filled with gastronomic delights – stuffing ourselves full at the numerous restaurants and cafés. Alcohols are reasonably priced compared to the other cities in the world -¥29000 for a bottle of Cristal? That’s around A$300 a bottle, where can you beat that in Sydney or Hong Kong? Good times gotta end, I’m homeward bound for Hongkie Town tomorrow with LOTSA blog about! Stay tuned! 😘

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Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Guys & Gals! I’m on my Christmas break in Tokyo with my family. I hope you are all enjoying the festive holiday season too! Here is a picture of the Christmas decoration in Landmark, Hong Kong. Upon every hour, the Christmas music chimes with fake snow falling. If you look close enough you should be able to see tracks around the centrepiece, where the ‘PowerBalls’ rolls along. I am only guessing that the winning numbers are 25-12-20 and the bonus number is 13!

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2 Birds, 1 Stone @ Sixpenny, Stanmore

Date of Visit: November 10 2013

Anybody read the November 18 2013, Time Magazine edition ‘The Gods of Food: Meet the people who influence what (and how) you eat’? There is a family tree where Cafe Paci and Sixpenny were mentioned.

According to the ‘family tree’, Chef Pasi (of Cafe Paci) had both worked with and co-authored a cookbook with Mark Best of Marque – comes from Alain Passard’s branch in L’Arpege, Paris whereas Sixpenny (James Parry and Daniel Peaks) –  is an offshoot of Andoni Adurlz of Errentera, Spain who in turn came from the kitchens of Ferran and Albert Adria of el bulli, Pakta, Tickets, Bodega, 1900, 41’s fame.

Anyway, on every second Sundays, Sixpenny organises collaborations with a guest chef to shake things up a bit. On this particular Sunday I booked, it happened to be a collaboration between Cafe Paci and Sixpenny, thus killing 2 birds with 1 stone at a fantastic deal of A$125 per person!

We had 4 Snacks for Starters… For each course, the chefs who prepared the dish will make an introduction. We started off with Cafe Paci (CP), then Sixpenny (S) – whereby, the signatures from each restaurant followed one after the other.

Fish & Chips (CP): A neat twist of the good ol’ fish and chips, using Barramundi fish skins and deep-fried thinly sliced potatoes arranged into crackers. On its own, the fish-skins had no taste, but eaten with the overly salt-and-vinegared potato crisps, taste was liven up.

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Fish & Chips

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Crispy Barramundi Skin aka ‘Fish’

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Potato crisps aka ‘Chips’

Semi Dried Pickles (S): These are akin to the pickled Japanese ume (Japanese plums or apricots) known as umeboshi, which were very oiishi! These are carrots, beetroots and radishes were pickled in fruit vinegars (e.g peach, apple, etc.)

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Semi Dried Pickles

Shag Pile Prawns (and an Asparagus Spear for me)

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Shag Pile Prawns

The asparagus freshly picked spear that I had had been coated in lemon curd then encrusted with poppy seeds – very crunchy and delectable!

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Asparagus Spear

The last of the snacks were the aromatic heart-shaped cutie Blood waffles with the accompaniments of creamed butter and loganberry jam.

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Blood Waffles

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Creamed butter studded with bitter fern tips

To drink: Collector Shiraz 2009 Mark Tree Red, although wine-matching is also available.

We also had house-baked bread rolls.

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Sourdough roll

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Mascarpone butter

We were actually getting rather full when the 1st course was served… in any regards…lets loosen our belts and dig in!

Course #1

Something green, something sweet – and something sour to round ’em up! This is from Sixpenny kicked whereby the sous chef came out to pour the refreshingly fragrant pea juice over the snap peas and sour cream curd.

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Beans, Peas & Sour cream

Course #2

The 2nd course was from Cafe Paci.   My 2 dining companions had the veal tartare and smoked bone marrow were tossed with dry shrimp prawn floss and prawn roe and onions.

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Veal tartare, Smoked Bone Marow & Prawn

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Veal tartare, Smoked Bone Marow & Prawn

I had the no-shellfish option, so was given lamb tartare instead.  This was served furikake-style – furikake is a popular Japanese condiment used mainly as a seasoning for rice.  This comprised of  toasted sesame, sweet capsium crackers/tacos,bits of nori, puffed rice (?) and spices.  I love the sweet peppery taste

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Lamb Tartare Furikake

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Lamb Tartare Furikake

Course #3

Adorned with a deep-fried sweet potato leaf sprinkled with salt, the blue eye travella was perfectly cooked.  The flesh flaking when a fork was pierced into it.  Foie gras on top of the fish and water cress purée blanketed around the fish.

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Lightly Steamed Blue Eye with foie gras

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Lightly Steamed Blue Eye with foie gras

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Lightly Steamed Blue Eye with foie gras

Course #4

This is dish Cafe Paci is renowned for.  A very smart, play-on words of pho (Vietnamese noodles) and potato (potatoes) – hence, potato noodles – a fusion of Vietnamese and Finnish (where Pasi was originally from).

The noodles are strands of enoki mushrooms and finely threaded potatoes cooked in garlic butter and vinegar.  The beef is a thinly sliced Wagyu chuck tail flap, seared on 1 side and seasoned with salt and some horseradish.  One squeezes the grilled wedge of lemon to separate the taste and also to get a citrusy hit.

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Photato: The best Hanoi-Helsinki fusion

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Photato: Crunchy vinegared potato ‘noodles’

Next up were the 2 desserts, which I found rather under-whelming since I am not a fan of ‘moussey-saucey’ stuffs.

Course #5

The reddish piece is quandong jelly on lemon myrtle sauce and sprinkled with frozen panna cotta snowflakes.  I liked the tart taste, in particular the chewy cured quangdong which sicks to my teeth!

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Whipped Quangdong Jelly, Lemon Myrtle & Frozen Ricotta

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Whipped Quangdong Jelly, Lemon Myrtle & Frozen Ricotta

Course #6

The last dessert was something akin to McVite malt biscuits under the malty white chocolate sauce, foam and shavings.

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Rye, Camomile and Chocolate

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Rye, Camomile and Chocolate

Coffees were served together with petit fours.

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Malt Floss, Rye Macarons, . Native Ginger Granny Smith Apples

I’d definitely visit Sixpenny again – and also visit Cafe Paci in Darlinghurst the next time I am in Sydney!

At the time of posting, Sixpenny scored 88% out of 130 votes.

Sixpenny on Urbanspoon

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The heritage building were Sixpenny is located

A British Affair @ Harrods Restaurant, Suria KLCC, Malaysia

Date of Visit:  Numerous times

Fancy a good solid Brit fare in Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC)? Well, do I have a recommendation for you!

Harrods is a fine dining establishment in Suria KLCC or the shopping mall under the famous Twin Towers. I first dined there when it opened in 2009 and saw that there was a chef from Harrods HQ in London and another expat manager.  A fair guess would be that the menus and fit-outs were all under the HQ’s specs, and the waiters all underwent silver-service training.

In the front is a retail section with a range of Harrods branded merchandises including dry foods, teas, coffees and the signature Harrods shopping bags and teddy bears.  There is also an impressive bar area for drinks. Since then, the store has added a bakery section selling cakes, pastries and macarons – business must be good, with Harrods expanding into Harrods Cafe on the ground floor, which I had done a review here.  

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Iconic Harrods Teddy standing guard outside Harrods in Suria KLCC

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The Harrods Bear attracts a lot of attention with people posing with it. The placard says: “Please do not touch me, I am at work” Funny!

The restaurant is at the back, modelled after the famous Georgian Restaurant in Harrods London.  It is very comfortable and relaxing i.e quiet and far from the maddening crowds in the mall.  The toilet is nice too.  Scented Harrods liquid soap, moisturiser and towels are provided.

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Interior shot of restaurant #1

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Interior shot of restaurant #2

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Fresh flowers

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Starched linen table-clothes and fresh flowers

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The walls of the salon are adorned with framed memories and iconic images from Harrods illustrious history.

Harrods serves traditional British fares.

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Leather-bound Menu

For lunch on weekdays, they serve Set Menu (Choice of Salad or Soup, Main and a Drink) which works out to be more cost-effective (cheaper).  Here is a sample:

Complimentary Bread and Butter

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Plain Butter and Sundried Tomato Butter – presented in traditional silverwares

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Soft Pretzel Roll

Drinks: Harrods do not serve water, they only serve bottled waters, that means you have to pay!

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Mango Slushy

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Carrot Slushy

Appetiser:  Soup of the Day

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Purple potato soup

Mains:  There are a couple to choose from which rotates daily

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Chicken Schnitzel

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Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding – Highly Recommended!!

A la Carte Includes:

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Steak Sandwich with sides of chips and pickles

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Chicken Caesar

Harrods also offers a British High Tea Set in the afternoons.  I have not tried it, perhaps you have and do let me know what you think!

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Views out to KLCC Park and the water fountain