Dining with the former King of Malaysia @Marini’s On 57, Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit: May 25 2013

Marini’s On 57  is the highest restaurant/ bar/ lounge in Malaysia located at Petronas Tower 3 (this is the new addition to the famous twin towers).   The first time I was in Marini’s was for a drink during Happy Hour, I was seated in the lounge area in stuffy chesterfield chairs with a room of  bankers.  It was also raining…

A simpleton’s guess of the origin of the name Marini’s on 57 would simply be being transported to a restaurant on level 57 presumably operated by an Italian chef surnamed Marini!   The entrance to Marini’s was unimpressive even though it has its own roped off section with attendants.  Heady aroma of scented candles created an Balinesque/ Thai ambiance and tacky gold polyester fabrics to hide the ceramic tiled walls made it to look like a changing-room.   As I was transported up to the restaurant in a service lift, I can’t help but feel the ‘private’ lobby and ‘private’ lift is an after-thought and was the service area for Petronas Tower 3 originally.

Anyway, since I have guests from overseas, I can’t think of a more impressive address than the Petronas Tower.

image

It was amazing to see the Twin Towers at such close proximity and for the towers to turn pink at sunset was quite breath-taking.

image

First stop:  Pre-dinner drinks at the bar.  What I have learnt in Asia is to order cocktails for pre-dinner drinks. Mixologists are pretty good. Anyway wine at $78 a glass, is too  expensive for a few sips. The bar area filled up quickly with snap-happy  tourists/ expats/ some locals.   My drink was the aptly named 57 on Sour, which was tangy and very thirst quenching with the right amount of alchohol to start my merriment.

Honestly, I did not bring a high expectation to dinner. I was expecting the usual rustic Italian fare of tomatoes and pasta.   However, dinner was a pleasant suprise.

The first to arrrive at the table after menus were distributed were the complimentary breads for the table which were very good.  I especially like the lavash with a garlic.

image

The whipped butter came wrapped like lollies.

image

The restaurant  was full.    Seems to me alcohol is a strong point here as there is another huge bar for the restaurant stocked with liquors.  As usual, it rained.  However, in KL, the rain pours with gusto encouraged by flashes of lightnings.   Gazing up to see the towering twin towers above pelted by water hitting the glass panels were rather exciting.  We also saw 2 rounds of mini fire-works shows near the KL Tower, making the experience pretty spectacular.

image

The wine we ordered for the table was a Tuscan Ruffino: 2010 Chinati (sic) Classico DOCG, “Aziano”.  The menu although peppered with spelling errors was spot on with the descriptions of the wine which had notes of wild cherries, hint of spice and aromatic herbs ($230).

Suprisingly, there was no amuse bouche and my entree of Grilled cucumber, tarragon, raw cuttlefish, snail marinated sea salt and squid ink dressing ($88) arrived soon after.  Since KL is very hot, I ordered the cucumber hoping that the cucumber might cool me down.  I can’t remember whether it was actually a grilled cucumber or a chilled cucumber but it was good nonetheless.  I think the cucumber topped with raw tangy cuttlefish tangy paired well with the refreshing cucumber.  The extra almonds on top added extra crunch, but the squid ink was cakey and tasteless.

image

The most interesting dish of all was the 20-10-8 Giardino di Insalata ($88) which has a Heston Blumenthal‘s play here.  Was there really 20 varieties of garden vegetables, 10 dressings, 8 perfumes and soil?  The waiter confirmed that it has.  The salad dressing came in 10 pippetes, and a choice of 8 edible perfume to choose from.  The ‘soil’ was particularly interesting too – made of dehydrated olive tapenade or perhaps soy beans? I have no idea, perhaps next time, I will order this one.

image

image

image

A peek at my other guest’s entree was this huge mozzarella ball accompanied by 3 varieties of tomatoes.

image

When the Mains arrived, we were all interested to see how the gold-leaf is presented in Risotto in onion and beef consomme, 24-carat  gold-leaf, 32-month maturation parmiggano reggiano P.D.O and aged balsamic ($118)  How generous to give a  whole sheet of gold leaf instead of flakes!  If I remember my history,  Cleopatra ate gold-leaf to preserve her youth since it has anti-aging properties.  So dig in!

image

My Main on the other hand had a rather boring presentation and not photogenic… it was a Roasted Pigeon Leg confit at 62 degree and medium rare pigeon breast, endive brancia, peach and polenta ($218).    I have never had pigeon confit before, however I remembered the deliciously BBQ pigeon in Shatin, Hong Kong which my granny will often take me to eat when I was little.  The pigeon breast was juicy and tender, but the confits were tiny,overcooked, dry and hard.  The gravy was nice though, very prune-y and I was given a couple of truffles shavings.

image

Service while attentive, was very sketchy.  We had a long intermission while waiting for desserts to arrive.

Suddenly, a group of people stood up to form a line at the passage way to the toilet.  It was rather odd, so we all looked.  It was the former King of Malaysia (called ‘Agung’ in Malay) and his wife together with their entourage of youngsters heading to the toilet!  Very interesting to see the whole table to accompany the King to the toilet…  So one of the mystery to the tight security in the KLCC area cracked –  Malaysian royalties visit there often.

Each table was served a complimentary fairy floss.  It was a treat since it’s been a long time since I had tasted one.  A bit of Luna Park nostalgia here…*sigh*… Due to the humidity, we had to eat fast since it deflated rather quickly.  it was very sweet and I got a ‘burn’
image

image
The Desserts were a wonderful success.  Everyone was happy – except for one who received the wrong order and had to wait  15 minutes for his chocolate fondant to arrive.  70% Pure Valrhona melted chocolate, vanilla gelato ($44).

image

I was wise to share my dessert of Chocolate Sphere with Bon Bon team Lollypop and Hazelnut mousse ($48).  It utterly rocketed me to sugar heaven!  The gold-flaked shell of the chocolate sphere was thick and had to be melted by hot chocolate.  Inside the sphere, was thick dense hazelnut mousse and some sponge cake. A side of chocolate pop and mashmallow to dip in the chocolate

image

image

To end dinner, we had our coffees and complimentary Petit Fours.  We could not possibly eat anymore, but I  tried the  choc wedge dusted in gold flakes out of curiosity, it was  filled with condensed milk and tasted alright.
image

If I am to dine at Marini’s again, I will perhaps only order from the Entrees and Desserts section, skipping the very mediore (and expensive) Mains.

Being a Lamborghini Club, the bar and lounge area certainly liven up after 10pm, with a mix of people, mostly non-local middle-aged patrons dancing the night away to laser lights and tunes spinned by DJs.  I was told that Marini recently hosted a Lamborghini function which entered the Guiness Book of Records – not sure about the accuracy, but in KL if you want to see grand posh cars (Lamborghinis, Bentleys, aston Martins, etc) – check out the valet parking at Pavilion Mall during the weekends!

Chef of Chefs @Zeniya, Kanazawa

Date of Visit:  March 1 2013

The Kaga cuisine of Kanazawa is a distinct regional cuisine known as kaiseki ryori (a traditional Japanese multi-course meal) which is famed  for fresh seafood  caught off the Sea of Japan, rice and vegetables growned in the Kaga Plain and superior sake made from the quality water from the Hakusan Mountains.

It was a lucky fluke that  Zeniya turned up in my search for fine dining in in Kanazawa.  Little did I know that Chef Shinichiro Takagi is well-known for his innovative approach to Japanese cooking.  Zeniya’s founder was his father who started the restaurant in 1970.

We were thrilled to find out that Chef T spoke English and kept us entertained and informed throughout dinner about the local culture and places to visit.  He also told us that he has another restaurant in Kanazawa in the Geisha district and another overseas branch in Seoul.  He also divulged that his father and him were invited to open a fine dining establishment in Sydney in the 80’s, but the deal did not go through.  With training from the famous Kyoto Kitcho restaurant and having studied abroad including a stint in New York, it’s  no wonder then, Chef T regularly guest chef overseas. On the night of our dinner, he and his team of chefs had just returned from a week long of cooking for a private function in Saudi Arabia.

The unassuming restaurant is actually a 2-storey building with large private dining spaces, popular with the local politicians, media personalities including overseas star chefs Tetsuya and Alain Duccase!  To be close to action, we chose to sit at the  eight-seater counter.

image

The food at Zeniya is a celebration of the culinary culture of Kanazawa, where local produce is artfully presented  and also healthfully with a twist.

1st COURSE

White Fish with Amasake (a traditional Japanese sweet low alcohol drink made from fermented rice)

An artfully arranged pair of fish atop fresh produce in sweet mirin

wpid-20130301_182611.jpg

image
TO DRINK:

YACHIYA SAKE  from the most famous and oldest sake brewery in Kanazawa.  It is a family business started in 1628 and currently in its 16th generation.  True to Japanese family-run restaurant tradition, his wife came out to pour a round of sake for us.

image

There has been comments that kaiseki was developed in Kanazawa as a means to show off the fine lacquerware.  The lacquer ware and crockery that the food were presented at Zeniya were from Chef T’s father’s collection from over 40 years ago.  They are still in pristine condition.  Chef T also mentioned that a must-visit in Kanazawa is the gold leaf factory where he had accompanied Alain Duccase to buy 200 sets of gold-leaved chopsticks!

2nd COURSE

Soup

The soup was very light, yet bursting with umami.  Egg and fish, wakame with wild fern from the mountains and a slice of carrot to add colour

image

image

3rd COURSE

Sashimi, prawns in yuzu accompanied by local tomatoes.  

The star of the plate is definitely the baby tomatoes.  Have you ever seen such small cherry tomatoes?  Red distinctive rings on the the prawns marking freshness and ‘seasoned’ by the squeeze of yuzu juice.

image

image

AMUSE BOUCHE

Chef T’s explained that this is his twist on carpaccio.  Bonito shavings on marinated sashimi decorated with edible flowers.  It certainly has a ‘twist’, very tasty and ‘Italian’ with additional flavouring, departuring from the traditional sashimi of soy sauce and wasabi.  The piece of fish practically melts on my tongue.

image

4th COURSE

BBQ Clam

The prepping of the locally sourced Manjugai clam was a bit violent!  The clam was given a few slaps on table to toughen it, because otherswise it would be too soft.  Then sliced and presented on a bowl of ice.  The rock was handpicked from the river, less than 10% made it to the table since it need to sustain very high temperature.  This is a DIY where we cook the clam on a hot stone, then dip the clam into the soy sauce under the watchful eye of the chefs.

image

image

5th COURSE

Assorted Sashimi accompanied by local Kaga root vegetables

This is an exquisite platter of appetisers.  Each piece is meticulously prepared.  The star here is the Firefly Squid on a gold-plated plate that Kanazawa is so famous for.  The squid signals the arrival of Spring and is special as it emits blue light.

image

image

6th COURSE:

Grilled Fish

Milky and tender – what more can I say?

 image

7th COURSE:

Beef

Kogashima Beef, one of the Top 3 beefs in Japan, served with freshly grated wasabi, turnip and leeks.  The beef was not fatty, but meltingly tender.

image

8th COURSE:

Crab Rice

Grilling the crab legs

image

Lots of fiddly work to pick the meat out of the long spindly legs of the crabs, so co-operations of 2 chefs are needed.  Chef T on the right with his second-in-command.

image

image

image

Accompanied by pickles and wakame

image

O-Cha to cleanse our palate

image

DESSERT

A very simple dessert to finish our meal – a humongously sweet strawberry

image

Dining at Zeniya is not cheap at ¥30,000 per person, but Chef Takagi – with his entertaining stories and sociable demeanour – completes the experience.

Porky The Flying Ace @Porcorosso, Sydney

A tip from a ‘clayton runner‘ ( A runner who is not a runner ??), once you’ve taken up running as a sport, NEVER TAKE AN EXTENDED BREAK ‘cos it’s darn hard to pick up from where you left.

So, what’s up?  With travelling, work and family matters over the last 3 months, I’ve stopped running – or any kind of exercises for that matter.  Moreover, my relocation to the fringe of the tropical jungles on Borneo means that despite my good intentions, I am at the mercy of the weather – blinding hot sun likening to life in the Sahara or a heavy downpour likening to T8 in The Philippines.   But before my guilt kills me for sitting on my arse too much, I made the resolution to get up before the crack of dawn each day when Mr Sun is still asleep to get acquainted with my Asics again.

As I ran, my mind harkens to the jumbo grissinis at Porcorosso, a Japanese-Italian pizza pasta joint in Sydney – and also it’s mascot, Porcorosso

(Tip #2: Thinking of food when one is seriously huffing and puffing is a good motivator to keep running – think of carbo-loading after!)  

20130418-210610.jpg

Honestly, naming your restaurant after a figurine pig may seem daft, but befitting for the joint partnership of a Japanese and his four Italians mates.  Intriguingly, Porcorosso is named after the animated crimson pig (Porco Rosso in Italian) made famous in a popular animated film by Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki.  Porcorosso was an Italian WWI fighter ace pilot turned bounty hunter who was cursed and turned into a pig…

The restaurant is located on the unassuming ground floor of a residential block in the industrial area of Waterloo.  

(Tip #3:  Buy some nuts at The Nut Shop  opposite  for your trail mix).  

Not much money is spent on refurbishment –  concrete floor, exposed overhead pipings, sacks of flour on the floor, parma slicer on the counter  and the most the interesting part is that there is a window where once can eat and watch the baker making the fresh pizza and chef cooking pasta.

20130418-210632.jpg

Carrying on the quirky theme of Italian- Japanese joint effort, the pizzas are named after Italian numbers, whereas the pastas are named after the Japanese numbers.

Antipasti of Jumbo Grissini and Parma Prosciutto

This is large platter for all to share.  The crusty chewy grissinis were freshly made and hot out the oven while the sweet smelling rosy coloured parma ham were sliced to order

20130418-210621.jpg

Pasta

Very oriental-inspired.  A bit like my mom’s cooking at home.  Mushroom and broccoli with sun-dried tomatoes all stirred up and fried in a pan.  I like this pasta because it was not heavily drenched with sauces.  The pasta was also made at the restaurant and has a chewy springy texture

20130418-210645.jpg

Calzone

This was the ‘Special’ on the board on that day.  A simple pizza with ham and cheese folded in half.

20130418-210657.jpg

Much of the credit to the success of Porcorosso lies in its Neapolitan-style pizza crust, lightly crispy, slightly chewy,  little bit charred and fragrant

Pizza Uno

Laid with tomato sauce, parma prociutto, mozzarella, rocket and cherry tomatoes.

20130418-210708.jpg

Pizza Due

Laid with tomato sauce, smoked ham, mozzarella, wild mushrooms, artichokes, olives

20130418-210718.jpg

While you’re at it, chinwag with a glass of Rosso!!  Let’s all go all cheery and crimson like Porky!

<img alt=”Porcorosso on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/logo/1655793/biglogo.gif” style=”border:none;padding:0px;width:104px;height:34px” />

Names Can Be So Misleading @ Bistecca Bistro, Sibu

YAY!  After 3 weeks, I finally got a TV installed and a functioning internet at home.  I am easing into Sibu and getting used to the scorching midday heat and thundery afternoon showers. I am actually feeling quite at home now, which is good news since I will be calling Sibu/ Malaysia home for the next 2 years at the very least.

Without wasting time, I have started on the look-out for new places and food to eat.   Call me lucky, the dig I am currently living is located in the vicinity of a rather ‘happening place’.  There are  numerous eateries and bars within the area for me to happily check out.

I chanced upon Bistecca Bistro one rainy night.  It is a smart restaurant within a row of shophouses.  Since it was packed and the sign board read ” Italian Steak Wine Bar”, I decided to test it out.  Interestingly, what were on the menu look nothing Italian to me, save for the spaghetti dishes under the ‘Pasta’ column.   The menu listed an array of western options consisting of sandwiches, burgers, grilled meats and would you expect – fried rice!

Continue reading

Delectably Classy @Aria Restaurant Sydney

Dates of Visits:  A couple of times in April 2013

From the moment you enter the well-polished brass doors, you are well and truly looked after.  With a classy interior that looks out to the Sydney Harbour and Opera House and waited on by smart attentive staffs (fit too, from pushing the brass doors, I presume?), Aria Restaurant Sydney is clearly a perfect place to dine, impress and to entertain.

A Rodeo Machine to Get Fit?? LOL

Oww… I woke up this morning with every single part of my body aching.  Yesterday, I spent a good 12 hours 4-wheel driving in the rotten off-beat track.  It was fun, but gosh, so much rattling, shaking and  rocking.  I was like the bobbin head doll, my jaws felt like dropping off!  Anyway, that reminded me of the saddle-rocking exerciser that was very popular back in the early 2000s.  Osim iGallop exercise machine, anyone?

IGallop Exerciser

IGallop Exerciser

Click on the link (here) to jostle your memory.  I was living in Hong Kong back then and every few minutes the ‘wild wild west’ advertisement of girls with sexy butts will air on TV to drive you nuts.  (yeah, in Asia, particularly Hong Kong, the ladies go to the extremes to ‘keep fit’ without dong any exercises.   A good friend of mine spent HK$100,000 just to lose her post-baby weight gain.  Besides going on a very restrictive low-calorie diet and she had to check-in at the slimming salon to undergo the muscle stimulator machine everyday!)

So what is iGallop?  It’s a zero-impact, tri-axial riding action machine, mimicking  the actions of a wild horse in the rodeo.  It is supposed to work your abs, hips, butt and thighs.  As the saddle moves in different directions, certain core muscles are hopefully  stimulated to keep you from landing on your head.  Like all exercise gadgets, I don’t believe they work. Heck, if they do work, where are they now?

A Bit of a Yawner…@ Tapas Molecular Bar, Tokyo

Date of Visit: February 24 2013

Tapas are primarily small bites with something to drink. After some surfing on the net, I decided to go for an ‘adventurous’ molecular dinner at Tapas Molecular Bar at Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Tokyo. I will advise to book sometime ahead since there are only 2 seatings per night accommodating 7 diners per seating.

True to its name, this tapas bar is REALLY a bar – a cosy 7-seaters tucked away from the Oriental Lounge where we can watch the bartender mix cocktails at one corner while waiting for our dinner to start.

From reading blogs and reviews, I came to understand that the main draw card is the highly entertaining Canadian chef called Chef Ramsey. Unfortunately, it was his off-night, so we had his second-in-command, Chef Yamamoto to ‘perform’ for us.

20130307-201006.jpg

Continue reading