Sunday Lunch @ Bistro Moncur, Woollahra

Date of Visit: July 28 2013

Bistro Moncur is quite an institution in the Eastern Suburbs. Many families come here for Sunday lunches to be served by attentive and friendly staffs. Bistro Moncur is also my family’s favourite. I like coming here for the familiar surrounds and also because I can mentally summise what I would be ordering without consulting their menu. Their long-standing signature dishes are fish soup, salt cod brandade, grilled sirloin and pork sausages, which are smackers. To cater for the many regulars, they have also have a ‘specials of the day’ menu for more innovative seasonal dishes.

The restaurant is located inside Woollahra Hotel, an iconic art deco building which also houses a TAB where one can get a lighter and more casual fare.

The curved interior of the restaurant is made up of a series of timber joists with fabric underneath. I am guessing this is for sound insulation purposes for a busy restaurant with hard surfaces such as the hardwood floor, mirrors, and bricks. In any regards, the noise level was low, moreover, I have noticed from my stay overseas is that the children here tend to be very well-behaved without the howling and running amok that the kids in Asia do. (Having said that, a little girl did fell off her chair while trying to grab a fork but she did not make a racket, but got back on her chair quietly). Read up on the conservation and refurbishment project here.

P1000056

Curved ceiling with arches in slated timber, made it a very acoustically controlled restaurant

The black-and-white Matisse-inspired wall murals by Michael Fitzjames adorned one side of the wall depicting humorous tales of the diners out in a restaurant e.g. 2 lovers dining in different tables next to each other, a pick-pocket lifting a wallet out the pocket of an unassuming diner among the few. This made for very interesting visuals.

P1000063

Wall mural by Michael Fitzjames

P1000066

Help waiter, there’s a snake in my salad!

P1000064

Bar/ Coffee Counter

Complimentary crusty sourdough bread. I like sprinkling some salt over the buttered bread for an extra salty crunch.

P1000062

Complimentary sourdough

My Bro’s usual is the Grilled Sirloin Cafe de Paris and Frites ($43.50 – wow, talk about inflation, it was $35 a few years back!). This is the Classic Parisian fare of steak and chips which is a fixture and signature of Bistro Moncur. The julienned frites are another hallmark of Bistro Moncur’s classic French cooking of potatoey goodness enveloped by the crispy shell. The taragon butter sauce drizzling the steak is a perfect accompaniment.

P1000067

Grilled Sirloin Cafe de Paris and Frites ($43.50)

Mom’s Bouillabaisse was one of the specials for the day. It was a very rustic hearty fare perfect for a cold wintry’s day. There was a lot of seafood in it, thus smelt very strongly of seafood. Needless to say, she was the last to finish.

P1000068

Bouillabaise with Dory Fillet, Crab, Balmain Bug, Broccolini and Sorrel ($39.50)

My Calves Liver was also another special of the day. The pan seared livers cooked in caramelised onions imparts a sweet tangy taste. Although the livers were seared with the insides still pinkish, the liver was tough and a tad too chewy. The bubble and squeak of cabbage, parsley, peas, ham and potato mash was delicious, I could not resist finishing them up.

P1000071

Pan fried Calves Liver, Bubble & Squeak and Onion Jus ($37.50)

We normally order a bowl of shoe-string fries to go with our meal, but decided to have a side salad of green beans with hazel nuts and eschalots instead. I can’t recall the waitress’s description of the beans, but needless to say, the long beans were very crunchy, the hazel nuts freshly roasted and the bitsy pulps of the tangy lemon balanced the grassy dish with a kick of acidity.

P1000069

Green Beans with hazel nuts and eschalots ($11)

The tarte tartin and soufflé in Bistro Moncur are very famous, but today we decided to go for something different.

My Bro chose Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Delice, popcorn ice cream and Banana Puree ($16.50). I did not get to taste, but since he left a clean plate, I was left in no doubt that he enjoyed it very much. I noted that the milk chocolate mousse was covered in dark chocolate ganache, and sprinkled with bits of caramel brittles and nuts. The Honey comb was set between the mousse and peanut butter ice-cream with pop corn on top.

P1000073

Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Delice, popcorn ice cream and Banana Puree

Mom and I shared the deconstructed ‘Choc Mint Slice‘, which was an assembly of chocolate ganache, lime sorbet, mint sorbet, salted caramel and choc chip crumble. I especially enjoyed the thick fudgey chocolate mousse and slivers of brittle tempered chocolate.

P1000074

Choc Mint Slice

To finish, and to balance out the sweet dessert, I had a Long Black.

At the time of review, Bistro Moncur received a score of 87% out of 337 votes

Bistro Moncur on Urbanspoon

Simple Fare, Stylish Environ @ AMCE Bar & Coffee, Troika KLCC, Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit: July 2 2013

The KL property market had a soft-landing back in late 2000. I was not suprised when Malaysian property developers kicked off their sales launches in Hong Kong since there are many Malaysian expats living in Hong Kong. High-end properties in KL are very much cheaper compared to Hong Kong, and it was envisaged that most Malaysian expats would be looking to retire back home in Malaysia where the cost of living is lower. In a nutshell, that was how Troika came into my radar. I went to its launch at Mandarin Oriental to see the Norman Foster design, unfortunately the wasted spaces and dead corners did not excite. There was no mention of sky-dining at all.

Now what excited me about AMCE was its sharp interior from the same designer who did the clever interior for Melur & Thyme (my lunch experience here). Since my associates and I were in the vicinity with 2 hours to kill before our next appointment, we dropped in for a coffee and a quick bite.

Incidentally, in Greek, ‘Amce’ means ‘the best’. At the moment, AMCE is the best cafe in the prestigious KLCC condominium area, simply because it is the only cafe – unless one wants to trek across the KLCC Park to the Convention Center or to Suria KLCC on the other end.

What drew me to the design was its functionality in using natural lights, circulation and ease of assembly (and dismantling since it is in a residential block). Central to the design is the service booth which functions as reception, drinks and sometimes buffet display area. One’s experience begins from one’s entry through the heavy brass doors, being led by service through the double-volume atrium lined by light weight I-beam structures with over hanging pseudo-street style lamps which gave a feel of instant retro-industrial ‘oomph’.

image

Reception

image

An otherwise, basic fit-out highlighted by I-beams and overhanging lamps.

wpid-20130702_111015.jpg

Side-walk Cafe

wpid-iRShoPUVnAFODsETRXDLwc6Lc2bgx8dKbnVIBuL9fxc.jpeg

Service area

Mirrors are suspended on the ceiling affixed on steel girdles for added drama. Oxidised mirrors also lined the length of the wall. One would certainly enjoy a surreal experience with soft lights bouncing off the ceilings and wall under dim lightings. When dinner service comes around, the tinkling soft background music would perhaps make a romantic experience a well.

image

Upper part of the split level bistro

wpid-20130702_110950.jpg

Private booths

There are little touches of details noted throughout the bistro. I especially liked the details in the light bulbs and custom-made tables with plumbing pipes for legs. The colour palette is muted with dusty pink banquette, grey steel, natural coloured timbers and white/ patterned tiles.

image

The cleverness of the designer is further displayed at the end of the bistro, where one can find a Mondrian-esque decorative art on the brick wall using only the chasing of plumbing pipes.

image

Plumbing Wall Art

Between participating in chit-chats with my associates and appreciating the bistro fit-outs, I had a cup of tea (Cherry Marzipan which smelt very good and something different to my usual order of Mint tea) whilst my associates enjoyed their hot coffees.

My quick bite was Japanese Scrambled Egg Salad with Miso Mayo (RM29) which sounded interesting but tasted very average. It was slightly overdone with rubbery texture. However, this is an easy DIY if I were to recreate at home.

Recipe for Le Chica’s Japonaise a la Scrambled Egg Salad
Pick up a pre-packed mixed salad (whichever that takes your fancy) from the supermarket
Scramble 2 eggs (my preference is to crack 2 eggs into the pan with a tablespoon of cream and give it a quick whirl)
Mix a tablespoon of mayo with a teaspoon of miso paste for dressing
Assemble

image

AMCE’s Japanese Scrambled Egg Salad

Other interesting bites from the menu which I can attempt at home from looking at the ingredients listed on the menu are:
Mango Yoghurt Chilled Gazpacho (RM21)an easy-peasy blizz for my Vitamix using fresh mango, lemon, yoghurt, seasoned with white wine vinegar, decorated with a sprinkling of shallots and a touch of tomato salsa.
Strawberry Pomelo & Rocket Salad (RM21) which one of my associates had. My DIY at home would be a quick assembly of rocket salad, some slices of red radish, strawberries, pomelo, citrus segments with a touch of balsamic vinaigrette.

Service busied themselves with setting up for the lunch but still kept an eye on us in case we needed service.

Personally, a dining experience is never complete without a tour to the restrooms. There are 3 stalls of unisex toilet, each fitted with a timber door with vintagey opaque glass. Overall, it looked retro and perhaps a hand-pulled flush toilet would complete the vintage feel.

image

Wash area

image

Inside the stall

If you are residing nearby, no doubt you would have been there many times and might had even made AMCE one of your locals. For a visitor to the area, just drop in for a cuppa to soak the ambience.

Que Volveré @ La Boca Latino Bar, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit: July 2 2013

With the bright colours and funky murals evoking Bohemian vibes, one would expect La Boca Latino Bar to be easy to find. In my case, it was not. I had walked past it countless times without knowing the existence of a bar tucked away near the thoroughfare, hidden under the escalator on Level 3 of The Connection at Pavilion. It was a mere coincidence that I was in the vicinity one day and was led by the loud music to a crowd gathering in front of the bar. Apparently this is a popular bar for live singing and dancing, in particular tango and samba nights. I made a mental note to visit the bar when it is quieter, which happened to be on this particular Tuesday night.

image

The essence of the rough-and-tumble shanty barrio of Carminito’, in the La Boca dockside district of Buenos Aires are recaptured by the brightly coloured hand-painted murals on the wall.   Together with colourful flags,  balloons and chairs, they added an eclectic ambience together with  little touches of novelties such as window-shutters to frame the portraitures, wrought-iron balconies and spiral stairs to further enliven the space with loud music.   My only hang-up was that it was not air-conditioned and a smoking restaurant.

image

Welcome! Giant mural depicting Tango dancers

image

Bar featuring flags from latino countries

image

Stage for Live Music and Performances

image

2-D Murals

With a mixologist hailing all the way from Brazil, an extensive drinks menu showcasing his skill is a must and only proper.  Alas, me being me, I still ordered our usual tipple – a Caipirinha – nothing more perfect to end a hectic day than a zesty alcoholic kick with mouth-puckering fresh limes.

image

The menu is another extensive list of Latino cuisine detailing foods from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Peru (a reference to the colourful flags at the bar).   It was hard to pick, but we settled for the ‘Argentinian theme’.  We were looking forward to sample Argentinian rotisserie steak (which comes in skewer) but advised by the server that it will be a slab of steak instead.

Striploin (RM68) was cooked medium-rare as requested.  Charred on the outside, still juicy with a bit of red on the inside.  Served ‘gaucho-style’ with chimichurri sauce, and a side of   mixed green salad and chips.  It would be wonderful if the cut originates from Argentina, but then again happy with the Aussie alternative.

image

Pizza Rellena (RM30) is Argentinian folded pizza, similar to the Italian calzone.  I had a mild shock when it arrived, for it was a huge thing!   Relief came after cutting it open to find  that it was puffed up by  hot steam.  I  was delighted  with the generous stuffing of ham, salami, mozzarella, basil and olives.  A tomato sauce came with it, but did nothing to enhance the already delish pie/pizza.

image

image

Overly-stuffed, we did not opt for dessert although we were looking forward for the Churros when we first sat down.  This and also the very rowdy group of red-neck expats just seated at our next table made for quick exit.

All-in, service was affable and smooth (quick) and I believe we met the proprietor as well.  Judging from his friendliness and his overly familiar use of the word ‘tapow, tapow‘ (take away), I am sure he uses it often on his customers for the huge serves he serves in his bar.

Que volveré !  I will be back for Peruvian next, for Creviche and Pisco Sour.

Sweet Deception @Melur & Thyme, Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit:  June 9 2013

The last time I was at Harrod’s Cafe at Suria KLCC, I noticed that there was a new bistro opposite serving Malay food.  Melur & Thyme it was called, but somehow, I couldn’t help getting the name confused with ‘Melur & Telur’ , I guess ‘Telur’ rhymes better with ‘Melur’.   To those non-Malay speakers out there,  ‘melur’ means ‘jasmine’ and ‘telur’ means ‘egg’.

As we had just landed in KL from Hong Kong.  I wanted to check out the Diane Von Furstenberg shop here.  In particular, I wanted to buy the silver beaded top shown in the SS13 catwalk collection which was sold-out in Hong Kong.  As luck went, no luck for me, I couldn’t find it in the shop,  I did notice that the DVF here is more expensive by probably 20% .  No bargain for me, since I can get 10% off all tax free DVF stock in HK.

A couple more shop hops later, we turned up at Melur & Thyme for lunch.  (FYI, Ladies, KL fashions are far more colourful than the boring office wear for the OLs aka ‘Office Ladies’)

Mom and I ordered Mint Kombucha which we saw advertised on the blackboard on our way in. What arrived were 2 very sweet drinks, tasting like Sprite and can be passed off as Sprite. Isn’t Kombucha a probiotic tea drink, so it should at least look a teeny-weeny brown? Moreover, there was no hint of mint and this left me puzzling whether I got the wrong order… and  whether the scrounge on a sprig of mint?

2013-06-09 12.25.03

The menu is lengthy mix of Western and Malaysian.   I skipped through all the ‘Western’ selections of eggs, pasta, grills and settled on the ‘Eastern’ local delights.  This is after all Malaysia, and I should try improved Malaysian food right?

My Nasi Lemak is one-dimensional. One word – SWEET.   Earlier, I saw the waiter taking a parcel wrapped in leaf from the bar counter top, presumably, my nasi lemak to zap in the microwave.  But it was not warmed up properly, a tad cold, another disappointment.  On top of my nasi is half a hard-boiled egg hiding some peanuts at the bottom.  Also accompanying the nasi were cucumbers and 2 sambals; the sweet sambal ikan bilis and sambal cuttlefish.  My mom liked the cuttlefish sambal and reckoned its been rehydrated from the dried cuttlefish.  The nasi was fine, but didn’t tickle my fancy much.

2013-06-09 12.29.58

Mom ordered a bowl of Grandma’s Hokkien Mee which is a huge bowl of rice noodles with shredded chicken, veggies, bean sprouts, prawns, fish balls, fish slices, a hard-boiled egg as well as other condiments.  The comment that I got from her was ‘the broth is very flavoursome but simply too sweet’.

2013-06-09 12.31.16

My brother ordered Curry Mee.  Again, it’s huge.  It had the same ingredients as  my mom’s big bowl of noodles, but had the extras of  fried tofu pieces and snake beans.  The soup looked very thick and smelt nice.  I presume that it uses coconut milk.  It came with 2 types of noodles, pretty unusual for us…

2013-06-09 12.33.13

Round yellow noodles

2013-06-09 12.34.22

Rice vermicelli noodles

2013-06-09 12.38.37

Looking around, I noticed the other patrons at the next table ordered pasta.  I like the look of big juicy tiger prawns, but the amount of gravy that came with the pastas would be too much for me.  In hindsight, after reading other foodie blogs, I realised that Melur & Thyme’s speciality is duck, and I should have order a duck instead, oh well, next time…

I actually liked the interior of this bistro more than anything else. It’s very very cost effective and simply done using white tiles as backdrops for the metal wrought filigree of a sketch of caricatures eating out at a bistro.  This gave an interesting twist and instant quirkiness to the interior.

20130624-170924.jpg

2013-06-09 12.18.30

If you look closely at the photos, you see the bottles at the bar sitting on glass shelves.  Again metal lattices were used to give a 3-dimensional visual layering of the wall as well as presenting the ‘presence’ of an actual drinks-shelf without the heaviness.  Even the timber ceilings have metal swirling clouds to give a visual interest to an otherwise boring ceiling.

2013-06-09 12.18.41

20130624-170915.jpg

Unfortunately, the use of hard surfaces on walls, floor and ceilings made the side-walk cafe to be overbearingly noisy.  With uncontrollable screaming children dining at the other end of the bistro, I had a rather miserable evening with ringing ears.

Kosher in Hong Kong…Main St Deli @Langham Hotel, TST

Date of Visit: February 10, 2013

Nothing much happening on the 1st day of the Lunar New Year. So mom and I went for the early morning show at The One, TST. (Rumour has it that the building was dedicated to the developer-tycoon’s undying love for an HK actress – tacky…but romantic, don’t you think? I don’t mind having a building dedicated to me!) Goss aside the cinema tickets in Hong Kong are SO darn cheap compared to Sydney, only HK$45 – that’s roughly AUD5.60!! (If you are over 65 and have a senior’s card, you pay only HK$10 for the early morning show – like AUD1.25!)

The movie was ‘A Good Day To Die Hard’ starring Bruce Willis. Gotta say, it takes a pro to work an action-movie, whereas the younger chap playing his son seems to be unsure of his moves. Although it’s an action movie, the crux of the story is the strong bond of family unity which strikes the chord with the spirit of Chinese New Year i.e family unity and respect for the elders. I thoroughly enjoyed the show with all the death-defying actions, a tall-tale with the actors suffering not a single broken bone!

After the show, mom and I thought of going to Tsui Wah, a Chinese fast-food chain some noodles. But man, the queues were so long – like snakes!! Too funny…off we went to Main St Deli at Langham Hotel, TST

@@@@@@@@@@@

Apparently, Main St Deli is Hong Kong’s first authentic New York style deli. It is located in the basement of Langham Hotel, TST.

As soon as we were seated by the super-fast and efficient waiter, a bowl of fat gherkins and pickled coleslaw quickly appeared.

The pickles were the largest I’ve seen outside the States…very appetising, not salty at all…

Giant gherkins (complimentary)

Giant gherkins (complimentary)

There’s a certain ‘Chineseness’ to the pickled cabbage. Looks like what you get in Chinese restaurants, except there is no chilli and sesame seeds, only cabbage and carrots…

Pickled cabbage (complimentary)

Pickled cabbage (complimentary)

The menu offered a lot of choices for homesick New Yorkers – Reuben sandwiches, bagels, salads, burgers, pizza, and even chicken soup with matzoh balls!  I was suprised to see kosher salami on the menu.  Well, I know where to get Kosher food in HK now!  The desserts were serious stuffs too – shakes, cheesecakes, cookies, pie!

We were thinking of soup and salad/ sandwich combo, but thought against it since we didn’t like the soup choices. I thought of getting the ‘One foot dog’, but having had it before, it’s name was misleading – the bun was long, but the sausage was puny. We ordered salads instead.

American menu

Check out the Combo Deals: Soup with either a half-sandwich or half-salad. HK$288. Auspicious digits-88, all the prices end with a digit-8!

I really like the ‘New York art-deco meeting Hong Kong Cha Chaan Teng (tea food hall) interior’.  Langham Hotels is tasteful in design and pay close attention to detailing unlike other 5/6-star hotels whereby predominantly timber veneer and expensive marbles/ granites in beige, browns, whites and blacks are used!  Langham Hotels also have art installations that changes regularly in their hotel lobbies.

L1010184

Especially like the crystal lights. Really jazz up the place. And note the detail on the ceiling using tiles!

L1010197

Interior of deli, food available for take-away as well

L1010194

Another angle…

L1010191

The vinyl booth-seat, padded walls, tiled mosaic floor. The vinyl seats uses 2 different swatches

L1010192

L1010193

Art deco-ish lights

Checking out the place can be exhausting.  Lucky food arrived promptly…

Nova Scotia Salmon ‘Lox’ Platter HK$158 (for half HK$92)
The salmon were very good and fresh.  It was a big serving and came with shaved red onion and cream cheese.  Only complaint was the dry cream cheese.

L1010190

Salmon platter

Deli Chef Salad HK$158 (for half HK$92)
This salad rocks.  It has roast prime beef, chicken, tongue, cheddar cheese, boiled egg and avo.  The tongue was especially good.  Serving was big too.

L1010188

Chef’s salad

I’m bailing out of Dan Ryan’s, Main St Deli is my new ‘canteen’ from now on.  Did I mention that I get extra 15% for the Langham Supper card?

L1010199

Shop front

By the way, Jews take food prep very seriously…meat and diary never mix

20130212-115034.jpg

Coffe machine unavailabe for use:
11:30am – 1pm Daily
4:30pm – 6pm Fridays