Posts Tagged ‘Malaysia’

The Pink Sage is my new obsession.

July 10, 2010

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio: Fair enough and Of Iceland and inspirations.

Slash of Guns ‘N’ Roses live @ Sunway Lagoon, 5 Aug 2010. Buy your tickets now!

—–

It’s not even a question. It’s on the lips of your lover. It’s the love you discover. (See what I just did there? Heh).

Relocated not too long ago to Solaris Dutamas, just a little bit down the road from Solaris Mont Kiara, The Pink Sage has created quite livelihood in the still developing centre. The diner is far from being exaggerated by perky pink walls, but it has all the creativity the fun-loving colour possess.

With a simple interior that houses many laughters their customers bring in groups and packs, The Pink Sage serves breakfasts, lunches and dinners daily. From signature favourites to familiar dishes, take it easy here over the weekend. Believe me, it will be love at first sight.

The Pink Sage serves breakfasts of all sizes that will satisfy all kinds of appetites, including the Stacked breakfast (RM17.50). Your choice of beef, chicken or lamb sausages, juicy beef brisket, with the side of toast, beans and mushrooms to go with eggs cooked any way you want. Packed with protein to give your morning a good headstart.

One of the must try’s here is their homemade burgers. They have a pretty good selection, but if it’s your first time, order the Classic cheeseburger (RM21.50). A thick patty of beef, oozing with avocado sauce, you can smell it on its way from the kitchen, even before the waiter places the platter on your table. Although quite petite in size, but it is enough to fill the tummy until the next meal.

Also with a decent selection to choose from are the tacos and quesadillas, such as the Ribeye steak quesadillas (RM24.00). In bite-sized forms, these pockets full of beef served hot from the oven drenched in spicy sauce, are suitable for a mid-day brunch for those who aren’t looking for overbearing dishes first thing in their morning, or afternoon.

Make a meal out of this, or share it with your friends. Whatever you do, The Pink Sage’s 3 stack buttermilk pancakes (RM8.50) is one dessert you would make room for even if you’re stretched to the brim. Although it’s merely three stacks, sprinkled with snowy powdered sugar and topped with a strawberry, it holds a great deal of sweetness to its name, being a household favourite to many. It definitely makes for a good start for your day at the diner, as well as an end to it all.

Also on the menu is the pancakes’ dessert sister in arms, Classic waffles (RM9.50). Baked to a good browning crisp and crowned with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, add some flavouring maple syrup and jam on the side to sweeten things up a bit.

So, how about spending your Sunday a little away from town here at The Pink Sage. Just drop in anytime, and they will greet you with a smiley…

… hello.

* The Pink Sage is a pork-free establishment.

++
The Pink Sage
A4-UG1-01
Solaris Dutamas
1 Jalan Dutamas 1
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
Opens everyday @ 8AM-11PM
T: +6 016 205 2023
F: +6 03 6207 9908
E: hello@thepinksage.com
W: http://www.thepinksage.com

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Pulse of The Press Room.

June 6, 2010

Here comes the beginning of the month, when paychecks have just been cashed in. It is also the middle of the year already. Oh, how time flies. The good news is, half of the year’s worries and troubles are over and done with already.

How about a little ‘celebration’ to give yourself a pat on the back for surviving the first 6 months of 2010? Or perhaps just something to treat yourself and your friends to since you now have some extra dough with you?

The Press Room is no stranger for fellow Bangsarians, as well as any KL-ites who enjoy good Anglo-French cuisine and a good atmosphere to be in over the weekends. It is also a commonplace for wine enthusiasts with the restaurant’s abundant collection of the world’s best wines hanging off the shelves.

For starters, there is Escargot Gratinés with Bleu Cheese Butter (RM26).

Or in English, snails.

OK, I know it does not really sound appeasing knowing what it really is. Fact is, I did not even know what I put in my mouth that day either until I babelfished what ‘Escargot’ meant today. But I suppose it was quite an interesting dish. Just as long as I do not eat too much of it.

The dish is prepared in a famous French culinary technique known as gratin, whereby it is cooked under an overhead grill until the toppings of breadcrumbs, bleu cheese and butter is brown and golden. The texture is slick and juice, and the gratin toppings just make everything go down smoother.

There is also Salmon Tartare (RM32) for starters. What better way to start off your course with some finely chopped raw salmon that tingles your tastebuds with its sweetness? The juicy meat, heightened by the seasonings, will awaken your senses to get you all ready on what is to come.

If you are up for some seafood, might we suggest Moules Marinières, Frites (RM30), or fried marine mussels.

I have never been a fan of shellfish. I have to at least be eating them with something else, like pasta or risotto, so I do not throw up. But surprisingly, I loved this dish. The buttery and cheesy sauce kept things fresh for the palette and I am gunning down one after another pretty fast. Definitely something to share with a friend or two.

For something from the grill, Duck Breast à l’orange (RM45) is the dish to go for.

If you have never been a duck fan (because of that ‘duck smell’), you will probably learn to love it here. The so-called ‘duck smell’ is pretty much non-existent – not that I have a problem having it around anyway, and the zesty orange flavour highlights the juicy and tender meat texture.

The Cheese Platter for two (RM42) is perfect to kick start or finish up your meal, or even just to have something to chew on.

Feta cheese, goat cheese and bleu cheese, with complements of crackers, nuts and fruits to reset your tastebuds to end things pretty like the pretty bow for the final touch of your Christmas present.

Too bad we were not given any desserts to try out. It already sounded so yummylicious on the menu itself. So, perhaps some other time, I shall stop by solely for their Crème Brûlée or – gasps – Chocolate Volcano (RM16 each), Lemon Meringue or Peach Melba (RM12 each). Yums.

Also, being called The Press Room and all, wine aficionados will definitely have a field day with their wine list is extensive and superb with a wine collection from all over the world. Reds, whites, champagnes, sparklings, magnums, desserts – you name it, they will probably have it.

Call for any of the waiters or waitresses in The Press Room, as they are all trained to help you with recommendations on what to go best with your selected dishes for the day/night.

Things are quieter in daytime at The Press Room. Although it is located by the busy traffic light of Jalan Maarof, the greeneries that surround the mall seem to filter out the gridlock like a solid wall, leaving patrons in the restaurant  a serene and tranquil atmosphere to enjoy your morning coffee or tea.

Spend your early hours at the al-fresco area enjoying a cuppa while flipping through the Sunday papers alone, or with plenty of company over a feastful luncheon after a fun Saturday night out.

By nightfall, it is said that The Press Room is the place to be to see and to be seen. So guys, give yourself an extra dab of that musky cologne and polish up your charming smile, and ladies, it is the time to put on that sultry body-hugging black dress and dreamy mascara – go all out to look your best while you are dining in one of Bangsar’s bests.

The deep red timber wood complements the sensual colours of golden orange bouncing off the walls set you in the mood for love – or lust, if you must – as you toast to your friends and loved ones the clink of their best house wines meticulously selected from their brewery.

It does not matter whoever you are and whomever you are with: whether you are a guy and you are out with your guy friends for a guys’ night out, or a lady with your lady friends for a girls’ night out with good food, wine and company; someone who would like to lavish your date with something above the class, or a special family dinner to celebrate your grandpap’s 50th birthday – The Press Room fits the picture perfectly.

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The Press Room
Bangsar Shopping Centre
Lot G110, Ground Floor
Jalan Maarof
Bangsar
59100 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
Opens everyday @ 12PM-2AM
T: +6 03 2095 8089
F: +6 03 2095 1089
W: http://www.gastrodome.com.my

Meeting Superman.

May 14, 2010

“You don’t know what it’s been like meeting someone like you.”

—–

Of course I was nervous and excited at the same time. Days leading up to Stereophonics’ Malaysia concert, I was trying to appear cool that if ever I could not weave my way to their ‘secret’ press conference, I would be alright, even though I probably would not. And after knowing I have been granted access – double access, in fact, just in case – to meet them, it was pretty hard to keep calm and carry on. I mean, who am I kidding? They are Stereo-fucking-phonics!

So, I do apologise beforehand if this entry sounds a little too fangirlish. Just be thankful it wasn’t Damien Rice I was meeting.

In the span of my journey to Nikko Hotel, where the press conference was held, I smoked three cigarettes just to calm my nerves. Trying to pretend that meeting Kelly Jones  and co was not really a big deal. I made it just in time, and was still catching my breath as the escalator carried me to the second level. Lugged against my back was Vern‘s Takemine guitar, probably bigger than me; this is why I don’t play the guitar.

I expected the band to pull a diva card, being fashionably late and all, but there they were, huddled together behind a pillar talking to a camera. My heart started up triple its normal speed. There they were.

I was caught in a funny situation when I was heading into the ballroom for the press conference just as Stereophonics themselves were going in. I mean. Should I walk past them to go in, would that be impolite. Or should I let them go first, because you know, they are fucking rockstars. At the same time, trying hard not to go on overdrive for being just a breath away from them. Before Kelly Jones led the band in with their own improvised interlude, Javier Weyler caught my eye and smiled at me. I melted inside. Guh.

I did not speak much that afternoon for one reason: I was starstruck. And I am never good with making witty quickies to catch their attention like Reta – pro-rockstar stalker that she is, so for the better half of the press conference, I was pretty much quiet, snapping pictures, and sitting quietly chewing my gum, pretending to be listening to them, when really, nothing was registering in my head.

After calming myself down a bit, I decided maybe I should ask some not-so-silly questions. It is not everyday I would find myself in the same room with people whose CDs are lined amongst the collection I take pride in. I would probably regret not saying enough in later days. So, it was either stay shy and let this moment pass by, or just say something and risk sounding – well, stupid.

Half of the time, whilst my eyes were fixed on Jones, my head was bewildered, “oh my gawd, he’s looking right at me, answering my question. Wait, what was his answer again? Oh gawd, he’s looking at me.” It was such a fangirl moment, anyone would find it funny.

The photo session came afterwards, and of course, I managed to snap a shot with the band. Jones’ height proved true, as I slipped in between him and Weyler. He was merely a couple of inches taller than me. And everyone knows how short and tiny I am. Heh. I also remember Weyler’s arm leisurely placed on my shoulders as we looked at my camera and smiled. He is such a sweetie pie.

Before we media were shooed out of the room, I quickly took out the guitar and have the band sign it. Seeing the guitar, Jones asked if I play, but sadly and embarrassingly, I had to say no and that it belonged to a friend. Our conversation would have been more interesting if I do actually play. Would it be silly to start learning guitar just to have more meaningful conversations with my favourite musicians?

Richard Jones reached forward and ran his fingers down the strings on the neck and said, “Wow, these strings are well-worned.” Even for a non-musician, I thought it was some sort of a compliment.

I muttered to Jones something about Vern being an aspiring musician himself, and he was a little bummed he could not be there that day, and perhaps a little word of encouragement may help? So, he scribbled a quick “be lucky”, before signing his name.

The Takemine has been blessed by one of Brit rock’s bests.

So much so that after that, I could even strike up a tune of Bright Red Star. Not. Heh.

Some roundtable interviews followed. Unlike MTV World Stage last year, we had plenty of time to spare, journalists asked the quirkiest questions in regards to life back home in Welsh – recommendations on where to visit and when to visit, of Lolita Bootsy, Kelly’s baby girl, something about their albums, something about their concert later that night.

It was call time for the last question once again. The journalists have pretty much exhausted themselves with questions, so my hand shot up. And it was quite a cheap thrill for me, when the band got all excited that the quiet me in the group decided to ask the question – well, for me, at least.

“My favourite song is Bright Red Star,” I started.

“Ah, really?” Jones said. “Well, we play the song every night!” (Another mental giggly moment for me)

“I just wanna know: who is Mary in the song?”

There were some chuckles in the group, and Weyler got all mischievously shifty eyed, probably knowing some secret meaning behind the song.

“Mary is just someone I used to know. She’s sort of a girlfriend, but not really.”

“Was the song written to woo her?”

“Nah, it wasn’t really a song to woo her, but more about her. It’s a lot to do with phone calls. Those long distance ones. And you know how sometimes you get to know more of a person through the phone than in person. That’s kinda how it is with her, and that’s what the song is.”

And that concluded our intimate session with Stereophonics.

But not forgetting, of course, to shake each and every one of their hands, especially Jones’. Le sigh.

Listening to Pull the Pin on the way back, every other second, I could not believe I actually met Stereophonics in person just a few minutes ago. Years I have spent loving Jones’ raspy whiskey voice, and making favourites off almost every song off their albums, listening to a few favourites a little too often. It actually happened. It was surreal.

Probably the best fucking day of my life. 🙂

More about the Singapore concert HERE.

When I grow up, I wanna be like David Corio.

April 27, 2010

Event: CONVERSE and Jam Division presents Youth/Decay: Iconic Rock & Roll Photography Exhibition
Date: April 24, 2010 (Saturday) – May 5, 2010 (Wednesday)
Venue: Zinc Art Space, Bangsar

I am hopeless when it comes to music instruments. I was naturally enrolled for piano lessons after my sister when I was 5, only to quit the moment I finally got myself to Grade 8. Better half of my high school days was spent on the school band, only to pay more attention with complicated formations, and to convince apathetic juniors to stay focus and not quit, instead of working on my flute. I also distinctively remember my flute solo being matter-of-factly given to another better player in an orchestra performance years ago. And I never learned to play the guitar, only air guitar – with my left hand.

What are we musically challenged bunch left but our abundant CD collection, a good ear to sift out the good from the bad, and a good eye, to perhaps someday capture moments like these captured by one of the best music photographers out there – David Corio.

After the hype from the exhibition launch the previous night had died down, what was left were the few photography fans, armed with their own DSLRs, with ears on attentively to hear Corio share his stories with famous musicians, while sauntering about the gallery, hoping to take good shots of Corio’s best shots without looking too much of a fool.

I know I felt that way. So, do forgive me if the photos in this entry look weird or amateur (if they aren’t already in general); I did feel intimidated just being in the same room with his photos, let alone being in the same room with him.

The better part of the crowd has left when I arrived later that day. Which was a good thing, since I do not really like crowds. The spacious art gallery left ample space for patrons to move around without obstructing the view of others checking out the photos on display.

To set the mood, drifting in and out from the background was the distinguishable voice of Kelly Jones, only all too appropriate for two reasons: that Stereophonics will be stopping by Malaysia themselves in a few days. And that it is an iconic rock & roll photo exhibition – someday, perhaps, in one of the photos Kelly Jones will sport his leather jacket and Ray Ban shades as he rocked out his solo in Superman. Click. Frozen in time.

With every photo displayed on the wall, Corio told a story behind it. How they were taken, when they were taken. A picture of Eric Clapton actually smiling and letting loose backstage before a gig. An overlapped expose of The Cure, done accidentally, purposely, in a concert setting much too inconvenient for any photographer. A closeup shot of Deborah Harry he took, while the other photographers moved further behind for theirs, and even got a cuffing in the head himself for not following suit.

One of Tom Waits by his piano, too grainy but too perfect to be thrown away. One of Michael Jackson, taken for that split second when he took off his sunglasses and looked back at the flashing cameras – almost scared. That one frozen frame of Bob Marley with his dreadlocks flung in the air like a spider’s legs.

All 36 photos on display during the exhibition are for sale. Some of them cost RM1,800, most of them RM2,000. The thought of looking at some 20 photos that costs as much as the camera I hold in my hands each. Wow.

I noted a few favourites while I was browsing. Two of which were the ones above of Bob Marley and Joe Strummer.

Another is this of AC/DC. I just love photos of musicians and their guitars.

And this of Nick Cave and his long-time collaborator Mick Harvey.

So. Birthday presents for me, anyone? I’d love you forever. Heh.

A plus for showing up that Saturday was that David Corio was there too. He hung back after having a one-hour talk on photography and his works, doing interviews, perhaps even autographs and taking pictures with people.

I even managed to get him to pose with the famous U2 photo he did, which also made the cover of their U218 Singles compilation album, before striking up the courage to shake his hand and introduce myself. Quite a well-mannered guy, with a notable gap between his bucked teeth and talking British with a sort of lisp. I have never been one to come up impromptu conversations. Only managed a lame: “It’s nice to meet you. Your photos are really great.” Meh.

If you are a fan of old rock & roll music, or love photography, or just like to purchase expensive photos out of spite, I would suggest you to stop by this photo exhibition. It is not everyday someone like Corio, who has rubbed shoulders with famous musicians we have only been listening to on the radio, stop by. If you don’t get to meet him in person, it’s still quite a nice trip to Zinc on a weekend.

Someday.

++
Zinc Art Space

Lot 61 Jalan Maarof (opposite Dataran Maybank)
59000 Bangsar
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
T: +6 03 2282 5388
F: +6 03 2284 8044
W: http://www.zinc.com.my

Youth/Decay: An Iconic Rock & Roll Photography Exhibition
Exhibition date: Apr 24 – May 5, 2010
Business hour: 12PM-6PM; closed on Sunday
Admission: Free

PS: Also, if you are a fan of music photography, might I suggest checking out those by the late Jim Marshall. This is my favourite of Keith Richards. RIP.

All our base are belong to VGL!

April 22, 2010

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio:
1. Stereophonics live in Malaysia, Apr 28, AND Singapore, Apr 30
2. Peaches live in Singapore @ Apr 28, 2010
3. This is a story of a bunch of girls

—–

Event: Video Games Live
Date: April 17, 2010 (Saturday)
Venue: Plenary Hall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre

OK, before I get crucified here at my own blog, I have to admit I am not exactly a hardcore video games fan. My video gaming days dated back when computers were still Internet-less and my sister and I were taking turns to play games off the IBM 5¼ inch floppy disks (yes, I kid you not) when we were on home arrest for chicken pox, Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty and Warcraft: Orcs and Humans being my favourites then.

As well as when video game consoles were still using them ROM catridges, and my neighbours and I would trade them back and forth for new games – Super Mario Bros, Tetris, Excitebike (love this), Ice Climber, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Adventure Island, Street Fighter, Contra, Double Dragon, to name a few. After that, the rest of my knowledge on video games came solely from my guy friends, who actually play the games.

So, you have got to give me credit that I am not at a total loss when it comes to video games. I guess I would not mind getting in the whole video gaming thing, if I do not actually, well, suck at playing console games. I do. Ask my mom. Other than that, I can always pull the ‘I’m a girl’ card. Heh.

The geekdar is off the charts last Saturday over at KL Convention Centre. Not only was the weekend of the PIKOM PC Fair, Video Games Live was also happening on the same day. It was like saying: “Come buy some computers, and while you’re here, enjoy a concert dedicated to video games!” I am sure some tech geek out there was having a virtual orgasm that day. Heh.

There were two pre-show activities going on before the concert, one being the Guitar Hero challenge, and another, the Cosplay competition. I missed the Guitar Hero session, but managed to catch a few Cosplay characters wandering the foyer.

Here is Nemesis from Resident Evil.

Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter sharing a shot without going expelliarmus on each other.

Can he even see where he is going?

With the immensity of Video Games Live, I guess I expected more people to play dress up. I have seen a larger community of Cosplayers wandering around One Utama a while back, so I thought it would be massive that day. Alas.

Before the concert started, all Cosplayers were ushered up onstage. The one with the loudest applause from the crowd wins.

Cute. /girl

It was a close call between Nemesis and Master Chief. And Nemesis won in the end.

Under the conduction of Jack Hall, co-founder of Video Games Live, the National Symphony Orchestra kicked off Malaysia’s instalment with a medley of Classic Arcade:

Pong. The video game that started it all.

Space Invaders.

Tetris.

And others like Donkey Kong, Outrun, Contra and such.

Tommy Tallarico – who, by the way, is the cousin to Steven Tyler from Aerosmith – emerged after that, sporting his Spidey T-shirt and shoes, to give us a brief run through on what VGL was all about, dropping our infamous lah suffix here and there.

First up was music from Metal Gear Solid.

With some Cosplay going on, and Tallarico hiding in the box behind. Heh.

God of War.

With the bone chilling voice of Laura Intravia.

A member of the audience was invited onstage to play a little game of Space Invaders for 2 minutes. The winning prize was a Katana desktop video arcade machine.

The tricky part was that the player had to move left and right accordingly like the laser cannon on screen. He even had on a T-shirt with the laser cannon on the back. Heh.

Ralph Baer, creator of Pong and the Father of Video Games, also made an appearance that night. Live via Skype, apparently. I was skeptical at first if he was indeed talking to us live, but after getting confirmations from those who have gone to the evening show, it was just a recording. Unless Baer is really semangat, staying up late and all just to say hi to us.

Next up was Sonic the Hedgehog.

Intravia a.k.a Flute Link returned back onstage dressed as Link from The Legend of Zelda for a flute solo. Oh, to have half the talent as she does when I was in high school.

Then, the orchestra did The Legend of Zelda.

An interval.

I wonder what happens if the download fails. You know how slow and wonky our connection is here.

Kickstarting things again with a Disney medley of Kingdom Hearts.

And then. World of Warcraft.

Another special guest. Norihiko Hibino, music composer of Metal Gear Solid, performing Snake Eater.

The beloved Super Mario Bros.

Then, the winner from the Guitar Hero challenge earlier was invited onstage to strut his stuff.

He was to score 220,000 points on Hard, in order to win an autographed VGL poster, signed by Koji Kondo, music composer of The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. He got to play the soon-to-be-released Guitar Hero: Van Halen, rocking out to Jump, playing alongside Tallarico himself. Things got interesting when he decided to up the game, to play on Expert instead.

The kid didn’t win though. But he was only some 20,000 points behind, and he did get the poster after all.

Now, till this point, Tallarico was to me just someone with a great idea to revolutionise the worlds of video games and symphony orchestras. But still, I have definitely underestimated him when the concert continued with him at his electric guitar, going through themes from Mega Man, Halo and Halo 3.

Master Chief returned.

Absolutely loving Tallarico’s Spidey guitar as he rocked out to Final Fantasy VII‘s Advent: One-winged Angel.

For the encore, Castlevania.

And Chrono Trigger.

With Hall on his acoustic guitar.

It was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience, orchestral music that leaves your skin all pimply, mixed with a tinge of fun you get from the video game world.

It goes without saying that it is a must for video games enthusiasts to patronise the concert. Heck, everyone was having a ball spotting as many classic arcade games as they could, and cheering everytime the theme from their favourite game was played live.

But, I suppose, if you were only a fan of the music, you would enjoy yourself too. The hair on the back of my neck stood so often, I thought they were just going to fall off my skin.

Tallarico was quite a good sport too, dropping jokes and banters here and there, so he and his army definitely had the crowd going. Besides, it’s video games. Most of the job is already done for you already anyway. Heh.

But despite the goosebumps, I expected better performance from the National Symphony Orchestra. Quite often, I barely noticed the music was actually live. And I don’t suppose that’s a good thing. Perhaps the graphics backdrop kind of took half of our attention away. Or maybe, I should have stopped taking so many photos that day, and just sit down and thoroughly enjoyed the show. Meh.

But, all in all, the inner geek in me had a good time. She came out from the back of the closet and bathed in the sun of pure geekdom. They totally had me with the introductory poem: “Roses are #FF0000 / Violets are #0000FF / All your base are belong to us!” Good to see my graphic designing days finally paid off with such a cheap thrill. Heh.

I could not stop smiling to myself everytime something I recognise came on screen. Brought back a piece of childhood memory I have almost forgotten over time, but still intact – though vaguely – in my mind. Ah, the kind of smile you would have on your face when you recall those good ol’ games you used to spend time on.

My Saturday was definitely pwned by the people of Video Games Live.

Glory, glory, Kings of Convenience!

March 23, 2010

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio: The story of two kings, conveniently.

—–

Event: Kings of Convenience live in concert
Date: March 21, 2010 (Sunday)
Venue: Bentley Music Auditorium, Wisma Bentley Music

Sunday afternoon’s torrents of rain slowly came to mere drizzles. All over the country, thousands of football fans flocked to their nearest mamak stalls to watch the live match, emanating bouts of cheers heard throughout the neighbourhood with every hit and miss.

Whereas, a minority of some 1,000 fans travelled from all over Klang Valley – perhaps even the country – to an unusual concert venue just to see two Kings who came all the way from Norway. People with bobbed haircuts and oversized horn-rimmed glasses and too short hems of jeans, speaking fluent Cantonese with their similarly styled friends, as they sauntered into the venue. Not to be stereotypical, but I did not realise Kings of Convenience would actually attract a sold out crowd, let alone those who would prefer not to converse in English.

Security was strict that night, especially when it comes to cameras. Later, we found out that it was the Kings’ special order to tone down on the photo-snapping, even though they were flash-less. Something to do with the tiny clicks the cameras make. Erlend Øye asked fans to not take pictures in the first 30 minutes, but thereafter, it was up to our fancies, with the double-edged undertone of “that is, if you don’t mind bothering the people next to you.”

But, being Malaysians, cameras were still sneaked into the venue right under the bulky security’s nose. Some were iffy at first, whether or not to lift up their cameras after Erlend’s request. But eventually, the snappers let loose, Blackberry units with red blinking lights recording song after song – like little assassins, as if waiting for the right moment to strike the Kings down.

As jesters of the evening to entertain the crowd before the Kings took the stage – Tenderfist, a local synth pop group, which I am quite happy to say, sounds pretty close to The Postal Service. Why the world said Owl City ripped The Postal Service off, was beyond me, especially seeing that it is doubtful Adam Young even know who they are. But after hearing Tenderfist for the night, I am glad that at least someone – not to mention, someone from Malaysia – is doing things the right way. Ben Gibbard would be proud.

They were unlike any Kings in the world. Humble and modest, so much so that they opened their show with My Ship Isn’t Pretty – nothing too upbeat, just something as simple as the plucking of the acoustics to ease us in.

Erlend Øye kept the crowd close to his heart, pleasing us quite easily whenever he struck a few dorky dance moves ala Napoleon Dynamite in Sing Softly to Me, or doing his amazing trumpet imitation in Second to Numb, or got us snapping our fingers away and singing in a choir in Little Kids.

Eirik Glambek Bøe was less mobile as he had his own words to pay attention to. But he kept the crowd on little laughing frenzies speaking in Bergensk (I think), then blaming the sound system for speaking in such a foreign language to us.

Small jokes aside, Eirik kept us close to his heart too, serenading us with songs mostly from Declaration of Dependence, such as Me in You, Mrs Cold, Rule My World, and Boat Behind – which got the crowd singing along: “Oh woah woah woah woah / I could never belong to you / Oh woah woah woah woah / I could never belong to you.”

Also, not forgetting beloved ones from their earlier albums – I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From, Homesick (which quickly became a favourite for me), Gold in the Air of Summer, and of course, I’d Rather Dance with You, which they had Tenderfist up on stage again during the encore to play with them.

And what is a song about dancing with someone without actually, well, dancing with someone? Handpicked by Erland himself, a lucky fan got to go on stage to struck some Napoleon moves with him, and share his microphone singing, “I’d rather dance, I’d rather dance than talk with you / I’d rather dance, I’d rather dance than talk with you.”

Here is a video of it:

Personally, I thought that other song Kings of Convenience did with Tenderfist was better. I loved it when they got the crowd clapping along to Tenderfist’s synth pop beats and Erland pulling it in with his trumpet imitation and the lights in a colourful array projecting off the ceiling.

I loved that moment.

We had close encounters with the Kings after their gig. While we were smoking outside, a security guard escorted a timid-looking Eirik past the awe-struck crowd towards the loo, and then after that, Erland.

They were merely a breath away from me.

I guess this is what it feels like to be with someone of ‘royalty’ status – you just get starstruck and stand frozen in place, not sure whether to quickly whip out your camera, or open your mouth to say something – anything – and risk sounding like an idiot. I suppose days of mobbing fans were over too; security had only to whisper a quiet ‘excuse me’ to get through the crowd. No holding people’s hands were necessary, either.

It was a pleasure to be in the same presence with such Kingly figures, especially in a venue like Bentley Music Auditorium – spacious enough to house a lot of fans, but not too much that it loses its intimacy of such fragile bands. Well done, Junk and Soundscape Records. And of course, Tenderfist and Kings of Convenience themselves.

* Thanks Reta for helping to smuggle in the camera and take photographs during the concert.

Excuse me, does my room come with a rockstar?

January 26, 2010

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio:
1. A review: ‘Alter the Ending’ by Dashboard Confessional
2. A new moon is rising
3. Editors who kick like a sleep twitch
4. Row, row, row that rocking boat
5. A Brand New sound to cure the broken soul

It has been a while since I last went back to Penang, and while I was away, a band of rock stars decided to wash up ashore and got the whole island in an uproar again with their latest edition of Hard Rock Hotel and Hard Rock Cafe.

So, once I have settled my leaves for my homecoming, calls were made and a room was set up for me at the hotel. I landed in Penang in the evening, and after seeing my parents at home for dinner, I loaded my bags into the car and headed halfway across the island towards my rockstar experience to see what the fuss was all about.

As the doors of the lift opened up, and I shuffled out with weary feet dragging my luggage, I was immersed immediately at the setting of the dimly lit hallway. Apparently, at each level of Hard Rock Hotel Penang, they have a different theme going on at the foyer, as well as different genres of music playing in the background.

Gazing down the wide corridor with striped wallpapers, I half expected some drunken rockstar to stumble out of his room with a groupie in each arm. I could so see the hallways filled with behind-the-music people – the band members, the fans and the journos, kicking back after an awesome concert in a venue nearby (but in Batu Ferringhi’s case, there is no such venue nearby), drinking expensive liquor and smoking up.

It was a nice image in my head.

Too bad all we have here are families with too noisy kids, and housekeepers with their large trolleys of dirty laundry and spare toiletries. Heh.

I fucking loved my room. The inviting bed – which itched me to go jump on it, which I did, heh. The 32” LCD television – can’t throw this TV out the balcony though. The Wi-Fi and broadband Internet – which was not a plus point in this hotel because I could not for the life of me stay connected for more than 15 minutes straight.

And this.

Call me ulu, but that was the first time I stayed in a hotel with an iPod docking stereo system. And I just loved the idea that someone put my beloved iPod into consideration. Almost immediately (after I got off from jumping on the bed), I plugged in my iPod, and blasted myself some Dashboard Confessional (OK, fine, not exactly a very hard rock music, but what can you do?).

The bathroom is lovely. Although a tad crammed, the decor was top for me. And I realised that Hard Rock Hotel Penang is a very narcissistic hotel, because wherever I turn to, there will be a reflection of me in the mirror staring back. I guess that is what rockstars love seeing – themselves. Heh.

From the bathroom, you can sort of see right through into the bedroom. If you are staying alone, it might not be much of a problem for you. But if you are not, it is OK. You can always slide open the mirrors.

But I would not advise that, because that would mean a very big Ray Charles staring at you while you are taking a shower or a dump. So what, he is blind; it is still creepy to have an old man in the bathroom with you.

With such a confined space, the Seaview Deluxe (approx. RM490++*) does not come with a bathtub. But it does come with a rain showerhead and one that looks like a microphone – for the bathroom singers. Heh.

Also, a digital weighing scale. Rockstars do need to keep check of their weight, you know. But if you cannot see the numbers past your jutting belly, it is suffice to say you need to cut down on the alcohol and free food.

Having a music-themed hotel is also a perfect reason to have memorable lyrics littered in any place you can find. Things like Signed, Sealed, Delivered… I’m Yours by Stevie Wonder on letterheads, or some welcoming quote at the hotel front entrance. But it is a good thing they did not get carried away with it. It would have been an overkill.

After a nice hot shower, I slid open the balcony doors and kicked back on the sofa with a book, while enjoying the languid laps of the ocean just outside of my door. Then, it was straight to the beckoning bed, in which I slept like a log within seconds.

Cheap thrill to-do #1: Ask the room service if they can send up a rockstar to your room, and see how they response.

My sleep was interrupted the next morning by some overexcitedly loud kids by the pool. Meh.

But it was still nice to see the view of the beach from my balcony.

Rockstar or not, you cannot dive straight into the pool from your balcony. Safety first.

You can, however, from these rooms. They are the Lagoon Deluxe (approx. RM600++*) rooms, one of the most hot selling rooms in Hard Rock Hotel Penang. You can rise and shine in the morning and jump straight into the swimming pool from your deck.

For the not-so-rockstar guests, other room types you can consider on include: Hillview Deluxe (approx. RM380++*) – something similar to the Seaview Deluxe, only with an unparalleled scenic view of the hills; and Family Room (approx. RM580++*) – for those travelling in family packs. A non-smoking room, with a kids’ playground to keep your little rock stars entertained.

If you are a rockstar with platinum/gold/diamond-selling albums, you might want to consider these options: Kings Club Seaview Deluxe (approx. RM625++*) – only 10 units of these at Level 6, where you can enjoy a vantage point view of the ocean from your balcony; Seaview Studio Suite (approx. RM680++*) – for those who are enthused by space and comfort; Rock Star Suite – one and only suite with a connecting private living space for you to entertain your VIP guests, and a one bedroom that gives you the first class retreat you deserve; and Kings Suite – the next Graceland or Neverland Ranch for the next Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson in you.

Doesn’t that make you want to moonwalk your way to Hard Rock Hotel Penang now?

Guests from the latter four rooms get to enjoy access to Hard Rock Hotel Penang’s Kings Club Lounge, located on Level 6. It is a private area, where you can retreat to for a little privacy away from the ‘commoners’.

The theme on this level is, of course, all about the King of Rock himself – Elvis Presley. From the foyer, to the collage collection on the wall, to his very own green coat with golden emblazons in the casing – which is one of the more expensive memorabilias available at Hard Rock Hotel Penang.

You can have your breakfast at their dining area, because trust me, you do not want to get caught in the breakfast crowd, especially during peak season.

After that, you can kick back at the living area donned with memorabilia of the Kings from all music genres, perhaps even try to channel one of them to get your groove on.

The very first things you would notice upon stepping into Hard Rock Hotel Penang are none other than their memorabilia littered all over the place – from the glass display spread at the lobby, to the many hallways leading to your rooms, to the restaurants, and even as you exit out of the washrooms. So much so that everyone is snapping pictures everywhere they go – from posing with the Beatles’ head statues by the entrance, to posing with the guitar-shaped door knobs of the washrooms. Meh.

And most definitely, you would notice the 18-foot tall guitar placed right smack outside of Hard Rock Hotel Penang, which, by the way, is a replica of Chuck Berry’s guitar, also stored as a memorabilia in the hotel itself.

There are more than 500 pieces of unparalleled rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia collection from both local and international artists in the hotel. Spot for Madonna’s famous Vogue corset, or Richie Sambora’s tailor-made 12-string guitar, or Tom Petersson’s (of Cheap Trick) silk suit in the premise.

Memorabilia tours are available at 11AM and 3PM daily.

Other than that, there are many facilities at your disposal during your stay at the hotel.

Think your little one is the next Miley Cyrus or Jonas Brothers? You might want to kick things off early for them by ‘enrolling’ them to the Lil’ Rock Kids Club and Teens Club.

There are babysitters to look after them at Lil’ Rock – instilling rock music in them while they are at it, who knows? At the Teens Club, a pool table, foosball table and PlayStation to keep them entertained. There is even a drum kit in case inspiration hits and they need to bang out a tune.

Body Rock. Hard Rock’s very own gym with state-of-the art equipments for you to work those guns, especially for guitarists who are required to do those guitar goreng solos.

Rock Spa. Hard Rock Hotel’s spa outlet for you to retreat to for a relaxing massage to loosen up the muscles.

And of course the swimming pool, currently the largest swimming pool available in Penang, measuring at a magnificent 26,000 sq ft – that’s 3 Olympic-sized swimming pools, thank you very much.

Not forgetting the Rock Shop, where you go to get the ever-popular Hard Rock T-shirts. There are three Rock Shops available at Hard Rock Hotel Penang: the main one in a building on its own, another in Hard Rock Hotel Penang and the third in Hard Rock Cafe. But no, you cannot purchase any of the displaying memorabilia here.

I did wanted to get one for myself, but seeing that they did not have my size – and also the fact that everyone and their grandmas are wearing the T-shirts around the hotel, I decided to get this charity bracelet instead.

The Imagine There’s No Hunger campaign is a Hard Rock International initiative to help WHY, a non-profit organisation striving to fight against hunger and poverty around the world. The name, of course, stems from John Lennon’s legendary song Imagine.

So far, Hard Rock Hotel Penang only carries the charity bracelets (for RM5, whereby all proceeds go to WHY), and the pins will be arriving pretty soon. No sign of the merchandising Serve4 CDs though.

Hard Rock Hotel Penang has five F&B outlets where you can go fill your hungry tummies.

The sure hit is the Hard Rock Cafe Penang, with live bands rocking it out at the Cafe every night. Penang own’s rock band, Ocean of Fire, launched their latest album, Destination, to a full house here last year .

Try naming all the stars on the mural there.

Here, you can also find the Mapex drum set used by Matt Sorum of Guns ‘N’ Roses, which was torn apart to be plastered on the ceiling wall. I thought that was kind of a waste.

Also, the authentic American cuisine food made famous by Hard Rock Cafes across the globe.

The juicy and succulent Black pepper steak.

And the Chocolate brownie. They were yum.

Also the al-fresco Pizzeria, the perfect location for a lazy holiday meal with a great choice of pizzas and pasta dishes as you watch the sun set in the horizon.

Some Carbonara fettucini.

And the recommended Tandoori chicken pizza.

Other outlets include Starz Diner, an all-day dining restaurant featuring Asian and International cuisine; The Shack, a pool bar, where you can sub-emerged from your laps around the pool to a nice cooling glass of cocktail; and the Lobby Lounge, where drinks are served to you from the bar as you enjoy – surprise, surprise – more live music from performing bands.

Cheap thrill to-do #2: Ring up their hotline and note how they would greet you with a chirpy “how may I rock your world today?”

Truthfully, I am wary as to how long Hard Rock Hotel Penang will survive on the island. Granted, it is a wonderful to have something as renowned as Hard Rock Hotel here. It is cool (I think) to be in the same room with Vince Neil’s (of Motley Crue) and Phil Collin’s suits. (Yeah, they once sweated in them but whatever).

Currently, it is still a fairly new establishment, so everyone would still want to book a room there, and take pictures with the memorabilia. Not to jinx things or anything, but a few years down the road, when the room pricing suddenly becomes a problem to everyone, and the memorabilias are still the same as they were since day one, Penangites might just pull up their pants and go shit in some new toilets elsewhere on the island if nothing new swings by.

So, we will just have to wait and see how the hotel turns out in five years’ time.

Till then. Whether you like hard rock or soft rock, or even blues, pop or R&B, there is definitely a room for you here at Hard Rock Hotel Penang. Just make sure to arrive in a rockin’ style, and blow everyone away.

* Prices stated are correct during the point of reference.

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Hard Rock Hotel Penang
Batu Ferringhi Beach
11100 Penang
Malaysia
T: +6 04 881 1711
F: +6 04 881 2155
E: reservations.penang@hardrockhotels.net
W: http://penang.hardrockhotels.net

Xensually Xenri.

November 4, 2009

I am saving the best for last in my little MIGF adventure. Out of the few restaurants I have visited for the 2009 Malaysia International Gourmet Festival last month, Xenri D’Garden Terrace would have to be my favourite. Partly because I love Japanese cuisine, so don’t mind me if I seem a little bias.

A name synonymous with ‘a thousand miles’, Xenri begins their journey in 2004 with Xenri D’RiverView in a reserved location along Old Klang Road. Since then, they have spread their kimonos to Hong Kong with Xenri No Tsuki at Causeway Bay, and in September 2008, Xenri D’Garden Terrace in Menara Hap Seng.

Xenri is famous for their all-you-can-eat buffet spreads during the weekends to larger parties. And this year, for the first time, Xenri D’Garden Terrace participates alongside 23 other restaurants for MIGF 2009 to appease fine diners’ thirst for something Japanese.

What Xenri has planned for the MIGF menu works from mild to strong for the taste palettes. And throughout the menu, if you care to notice, a lot of the ingredients are seasonal and available only during the Fall season, which made the menu a tad special like that.

For an appetiser they started off with the novel and refreshing Homemade chilled silk bean curd with hotaru squid ink sauce. Now, before you get turned off by the prejudicing black sauce, wipe that grimace off your face because you’d definitely like to take a chance on this.

It’s a perfect composition that moulds the smooth bean curd into tiny pots with a cap on, bellying the squid ink sauce that spills out when you break the bean curd. There is a mild saltiness for the sauce that brings taste to the bland bean curd, which I thought started the menu on a very appropriate note.

Complementing the dish is the equally mild Chitose Tsuru Hunmai Tachoizuru Sake, a famous Japanese alcohol with an aftertaste that hits your senses, but yet at the same time, not too overwhelming that it shoots straight into the nostrils.

Let it be known here and now that I am a fan of sashimi. So, it is only right that I anticipate with bated breath for the Sashimi Platter to come next. When it did, it literally blew me away with its adorable igloo sculpture, an extra step taken to preserve the freshness of the raw seafood.

I was enthralled and as I made my way through the jewel pieces, I shut the world out as if I were an Eskimo hiding in my own igloo in the middle of nowhere. And I was genuinely sad when the platter was all cleared out, regardless of how slow I took my own sweet time with them.

Starting things off light is the Hokkaido wild catch scampi, the lightest for the taste buds and the softest with a texture that seems to melt in the mouth; the Japanese green sea urchin with a heightened saltiness harmonised with the scallop; and lastly, the Premium tuna belly that is slightly thawed in its own oiliness to capture the exact taste of the high quality fish.

This platter also comes with a perilla leaf (known in Japan as ‘aojiso’), which is often paired with sashimi, and a stem of its flower buds that are mixed in the soy sauce to provide a fragrant and herbal kick.

Next up is the simmered dish, featuring the Slow poached salmon skin roll with Tsubame ginger broth. Again, another lovable and cute presentation that serves the broth still bubbling in a small pot over a slow fire of a tiny stove. It keeps the soup warm as you take your own sweet time savouring on the supple cod fish and salmon and the firm radish slices. It also contains green slimy but sweet substance made from blended lady’s fingers together with the herbal elements of the soup. Definitely the perfect dish to relish on as you watch the auburn leaves fall in your Japanese garden.

Moving on to something heavier is the featured grilled dish – Kobe Wagyu housyou yaki. Xenri uses Grade A5 wagyu beef, the highest grade available in Japan, wrapped in a layer of fresh soy yuba skin parcel before hitting the grill. This method of cooking is called housyou, and it is tried since the olden Japanese days, which keeps the beef from overcooking and traps the oil and flavours in the meat.

Because of the the skin parcel, the beef is served a tad bit raw and garbed in its own extracted oil. By itself, you cannot really taste the meat, but when paired with Xenri’s homemade sauce, it seems to magically accentuates the wagyu beef.

For the main dish is Xenri’s beloved Chirimen jyako okowa hoba meshi, attributing Japanese rice with bits of baby sardines wrapped in magnolia leaf, plucked from the autumn trees in Japan and flown straight to the Xenri kitchen.

This is not exactly an outstanding dish for me, compared to the others on the menu. The presentation is as exquisite, but it seems to me to be another Japanese rice dish, as sweet and grainy. The baby sardines stood out, however, in every bite with its peppered saltiness, making the dish somewhat unique.

I was a little iffy when Xenri stated their dessert as the Xenri special homemade sunny side up. I mean, are they going to serve us eggs as a finale, or is it a kind of Japanese sweetie of the same name I do not know of? It was neither.

Xenri went out of the box and presented a culinary masterpiece that although appears like the breakfast favourite, is actually a sweetie in disguise. What looks like an over-fertile egg holds dear the many elements that make a dessert a, well, dessert.

The ‘egg white’ is made from panna cotta, a famous Italian pudding prepared from simmering cream, milk and sugar and the slightest tinge of Brandy flavouring; the peach puree as the ‘egg yolk’; grounded sesame seeds as the sprinkled ‘black pepper’; and the dribble of black honey sauce as the ‘soy sauce’.

It is definitely a sweet delicacy that is out of the ordinary and one that ends Xenri’s MIGF Menu for this year with a spectacular finish.

The wine selections recommended for Xenri’s MIGF Menu were the La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from Cape town, South Africa for the Sashimi platter and Simmered dish, and the Haute Cabriere Pinot Noir 2005, also from South Africa for the Grilled and Main dishes.

The former is made from organically grown grapes, which contains a rich flavouring of tropical fruits, such as passion fruit, melon, apples and litchi that awakens the taste palettes with its slight tinge of sweetness. It displays a firm structure that is both tempered and well-balanced, with refreshing acidity in the foreground and a steadfast minerality in the background. An apt wine that washes down the saltiness of the dishes. And I like it that it is not acidic and jams up my nose.

As for the Pinot Noir, it is served best to diners chilled and under 11ºC to preserve its fragrant and not turn sour. This red wine displays whiffs of pungent raspberries, cherries and ground black pepper, and dark berries with perfectly integrated tannins on the palettes.

Alright, so I may be a little bias towards Xenri because I love Japanese food. But I have had my fair share of less than perfect Japanese food, and I am all for a restaurant that makes things perfect for the cuisine. I suppose it is safe to say that Xenri is one of them, and I would have to say they have done a pretty good job for their debut into MIGF.

Not only are the chefs and kitchen crew dedicated to what they are cooking, even the waitresses are knowledgeable on what they are serving too. The waitress that served us was patient in introducing each dish to us – the ingredients, the cooking method, why this white wine is chosen, why specifically the red wine is chilled… she knows it all. And I am quite impressed by that.

From the lush green grass padding, to the perfectly symmetrical stepping stones, to the quiet fall of water from one level down the next in the mini fountain, to a restaurant that serves a blend of authentic Japanese recipes with contemporary ingredients and tastes… everything that’s pure and true from the Land of the Rising Sun. Why would you not feel like you are in Kyoto?

Festival Menu
RM230++ per person with sake/wine
RM180++ per person without sake/wine

Light Festival Menu
RM160++ per person with sake/wine
RM120++ per person without sake/wine

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Xenri D’Garden Terrace
Podium Block
Menara Hap Seng
Lot No. 2-04, 2nd Floor
Jalan P Ramlee
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Opens daily 12PM-3PM for lunch; 6PM-11PM for dinner
Tel.: +6 03 2078 6688

Bunga Emas, for the Majesty in you.

October 30, 2009

From the golden curtains hanging off the ceiling to the golden carpeting beneath your feet, from the golden cushions you sit on to the golden table settings displaying your royal dishes. Bunga Emas Restaurant is the newest restaurant in town that provides an ambience and delectable fine Malay dishes that is fit for a king.

Bunga emas plays an important role in traditional Malay customs during special occasions and wedding ceremonies. With that, Bunga Emas Restaurant would like to highlight this beloved Malaysian trademark via the interior designs, as well as the food served on the table.

Headed by Chef de Cuisine Khairul Ghazali, this is his latest culinary concerto in The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur, after Sutera Harbour Resort in Sabah, and Langkawi Four Seasons in Kedah, where he became good friends with Executive Sous Chef Sabri Soid, who is just a door away at L’Heritage. (As you follow through, you will see similar usage of ingredients in the menu).

And this is Chef Khairul’s second time participating in the 2009 Malaysia International Gourmet Festival (MIGF), first time when he was in the Langkawi Four Seasons, in which he had also won the Most Creative Food category.

As the appetiser is the Udang kara kerdil limau Bali, a baby rock lobster salad topped with a tangy variety of fruits, such as pomelo and orange slices, pandan fronth, and are’nkha caviar pomegranate compote.

This is a weird combo for me. It consists of all four flavours that hit you at one go: sweet from the orange, bitter from the pomelo, salty from the caviar, and spicy from the tomato sauce. We were definitely off to quite an interesting start at Bunga Emas.

The starter is another novel composition of both land and sea – Darat dan lautan. Representing the sea is a ball of grilled salmon with a surprise pineapple and sambal filling, and the land, roulade of quail dressed in peppercorn seasoning that pops like little firecrackers in your mouth, and a dollop of – get this – purple mashed potatoes.

Again, quite an unusual piece. I was a little distracted trying to get used to something so uncalled for. I am not used to eating purple coloured food, and it did not really taste like those golden yellow mashed potatoes. But I like the effort put into the grilled salmon. The stuffing definitely put me off-guard, and it was a just flavour to go with the fish.

For the soup course is Sup ketam labu kundur, made from little spoonfuls of flower crab broths sailing on winter melon rafts on the feather light tomato consume.

This is a very overwhelmingly pepperish dish for me. So much so that it drowned out the taste of the winter melon cubes, as well as the freshness of the tomatoes. It did accentuate the crab meat, but overall, it was too much for me to enjoy.

For half-time, I thought perhaps I can take a breather from the Dadih mempelam, a silky smooth mango custard. Stated as a sorbet course, it is not exactly sorbet since it is a kind of pudding.

I did not think it is a right choice for a half-time sweetie, because the custard is a little heavy on the palettes. Thus, it did not really reset the taste buds properly, especially after the peppered soup. Although it is sweet nonetheless, a good thing after the two spicy dishes prior, but I would still like an icy cool sorbet to refresh things.

But when it comes to the main course, one would feel like they are having another serving of Hari Raya.

On the Festival Menu as mains are the Kerapu merah pais kelapa, baked grouper fish rolled up with a good touch of chilli coconut paste stuffing on the insides, and Chef Khairul’s signature dish, Sendi kambing briyani, lamb shank in briyani gravy. Accommodating the dishes is Nasi pandan gajus, savoury screw pine rice with a tinge of sweetness, and chopped cashew nuts revealed in every bite.

The fish was ecstatically spicy. I thought the chilli coconut paste filling was a good touch – I have not really tasted spicy coconut paste before, so don’t mind me. This dish is guaranteed to awaken your senses with an explosion that is oh so pleasurable.

No Malay meal is complete without a curry dish, and the lamb shank definitely filled in the blanks for the menu. Chef Khairul’s famous is not made famous for no apparent reason. Cooked in briyani gravy with the smooth and tender meat that seems to fall off the bone as you run the knife gently down in between, and the curry gravy that is not too spicy as to overwhelm diners after fighting through the grouper fish.

Concluding this year’s MIGF dining experience in Bunga Emas is their dessert platter – Manisan Bunga Emas, with a plethora of delicacies to bring it home in a sweet note.

The Warm chocolate hazelnut pudding, which was not really warm when it was served to us, was a tad bitter, but the generous drench of strawberry syrup balanced things up and all is well again. As for the Anise tea cream and young coconut ice cream, it is a touch of innovation with coconut slices hidden at the bottom of the refreshing scoop, turning every-day used ingredients in traditional Malay cuisine into a dessert. Not bad at all.

Wine selections recommended for Bunga Emas’ Festival Menu are one of Australia’s best, Kangaroo Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, displaying hints of blackberry and well integrated oak and soft tannins, and Kangaroo Ridge Chardonnay, flaunting aromas of the vivacious melon and succulent white peaches.

It is quite evident that Chef Khairul has put in much effort in originality when it comes to his food composition. He pinpoints the traditional dishes in Malay cuisine, tweaks it with some fusion styles and presents it in a way that would bring Malay food a fresh breath of air. One that might even appease the foreign crowd.

It may get a little too heavy for the taste palettes – i.e. the appetiser, the starter, the soup – but I suppose that is how the Malays like their food, strong flavouring and all, no?

I guess I am more towards traditional Malay food; that would explain why I am trying so hard to get used to the appetiser and starter. Although, it would definitely have been good if beef rendang is on the menu. Heh.

Festival Menu
RM239++ per person with wine
RM159++ per person without wine

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Bunga Emas Restaurant
The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur
6 Jalan Conlay
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
Opens daily 12PM-10.30PM
T: +6 03 2688 9688
W: http://www.royalechulan.com.my

French lessons with L’Heritage.

October 23, 2009
Kick start your MIGF experience this year at L’Heritage with the appetiser – Salmon trout tartare, made from finely chopped raw salmon, smoked salmon and cucumber, set off with a crispy piece of parmesan tuille, topped with a spoonful of caviar, rucola (arugula) and sorc-l’tranche juice.
Next up is the starter of Quail leg confit with beetroot, prepared in one of France’s oldest ways of food preservation. The quail legs are cooked in a very slow fire of 60ºC for three hours to preserve the seasoning alongside the rendered fat in the softened meat. Served with the dish is Languedoc gratin and avocado volute, a traditional food preparation for French cuisine, where sliced eggplants, tomatoes and zucchinis are topped with a layer of melted and browned grated cheese.
For soup, L’Heritage takes things lightly with the Herbs tomato consume with moref seafood dumpling, one that does not weigh down the senses with its fluffy water-based form and bits of moref dumplings. Simple in preparation and without any hanky panky.
Before delving into your main course, L’Heritage provides you a moment to lighten up your palettes with Lemon sorbet with a tinge of the bitter basil and a dash of Calvados, an apple brandy. It provides a quick way to reset the taste buds with a minty sourness that almost makes your eyes water.
For the main course, diners have two choices at L’Heritage.
There is the Stone-grilled wagyu beef, with petit romaine (cos lettuce) drenched in old pot green peppercorn juice. Slice your way through the layer of meat and relish on the juicy saltiness that tingle the senses.
Alternatively, try the Oven-baked red mullet with a crispy outer layer followed by tender soft insides. The dish is also harmonised with a crunchy sweetbread paillaid, capers relish and showered with duck foie gras emulsion.
For dessert, sample on the French’s well known sweetie Mille fuille, made of several layers of crispy pastry alternating with a variety of berries such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, and sabayon, a very light custard made with sugar, egg yolks and sweet wine. The dessert is also complemented with a scoop of fragrant mint ice cream to give the taste palette a refreshing finale.
Recommended wine for the L’Heritage Festival Menu are France’s Albert Bichot Cotes du Rhone and Albert Bichot Cotes du Rhone Blanc.

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio: NME, not a music enemy.

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Recently inducted to the fine dining scene in Kuala Lumpur is the new French guy, L’Heritage Restaurant, at the equally brand new hotel in town, The Royale Chulan. This French restaurant opened its doors on the very day of the 2009 Malaysia International Gourmet Festival 2009 launch on October 1, 2009.

Although the restaurant may be new, the walls still stank of paint and the surrounding still eerily deserted, the people behind the scene is not, especially Executive Sous Chef Sabri Soid. (Why yes, it is not a Frenchman running the kitchen, but a local Malay). He has seen glory days when he was cooking up a storm in the Langkawi Four Seasons, with guest lists as famous as Mel Gibson, Tony Blair and Michael Schumacher themselves.

Although he has never been to France himself, or pick up a ‘French for Dummies’ as he stirs his pot of soup, Chef Sabri seems genuinely knowledgeable in what he knows about the French cuisine. So, it was quite an interesting feat for me too, to learn about the kinds of traditional food preparation in France.

L’Heritage’s Festival Menu starts with the appetiser of Salmon trout tartare, parmesan tuille, rucola and sorc-l’tranche. The tartare is made from finely chopped raw salmon, smoked salmon and cucumber dices, which is paired with the crispy piece of parmesan tuille, topped with a spoonful of caviar, rucola (arugula) and sorc-l’tranche juice.

I am a fan of raw salmon so naturally, this appetiser works for me, especially when there are bits of refreshing cucumber dices hidden in the tartare. I thought the parmesan tuille was a good touch. Although it has this heavy saltiness going on, I still like it.

For starter, the Quail leg confit with beetroot, languedoc gratin and avocado volute. Confit is France’s oldest and most common way in food preservation, and it is now quite luxurious since it preserves meat without actually refrigerating it.

For this dish, the quail legs are cooked in a very slow fire of 60ºC for three hours to preserve the seasoning alongside the rendered fat in the softened meat. Served with the dish is Languedoc gratin and avocado volute, another traditional food preparation for the French, whereby sliced eggplants, tomatoes and zucchinis are topped with a layer of melted and browned grated cheese.

The quail legs are ecstatically soft and they just fall off the teeny bones when you run your knife through it gently. Too bad quails are not bigger, eh? Heh. As for the volute, in my opinion, anything with melted cheese on it is a good thing. Enough said.

L’Heritage takes things lightly for the soup course with Herbs tomato consume with moref seafood dumpling. Fluffy and water-based with floating bits of mushrooms and sliced moref dumplings, it does not weigh down the senses. It is simple in preparation and without any hanky panky.

Nothing really out of the ordinary for this one compared to the previous two dishes, save for the moref seafood dumpling, which has a texture that is quite similar to a – fishball.

At this point, my taste palettes are getting a little tired out with the constant saltiness from the tuille and the confit and the consume and the cheese. I have lost count of the times I grasp for my glass of water.

So, to take a break from it all, there is the Lemon basil sorbet with calvados. Served in a cylinder shotglass, it is – for a change – sour, with a tinge of the bitter basil and a dash of Calvados, an apple brandy. It provides a quick way to reset the taste buds with a minty sourness that almost makes your eyes water, literally.

For the main course, diners have two choices at L’Heritage. First one being the Stone-grilled wagyu beef, petit romaine old pot green peppercorn juice. I did not really like this because it was really, really salty, so much so that I could not taste anything else on the dish but that lingering taste. And juicy as it was, it sort of bothered me that the beef was oozing blood still. Meh.

Alternatively, there is the Oven-baked red mullet, sweetbread paillaid, capers relish, duck foie gras emulsion. It has a crispy outer layer blanketing the tender soft insides, it is harmonised with the sweetbread that reminds me a lot of hashbrowns. Once again, salty is the main flavour.

Right about now, I was longing for something sweet, and I can definitely count on that for dessert: Mille fuille of berries sabayon with fragrant mint ice cream. Here, we got to sample the Frenchmen’s well known sweetie, mille fuille, a kind of layered pastry alternating with a sweet filling that is usually cream or jam.

Chef Sabri did a bit of self-composition here, changing the pastry to a kind crispy cereal Middle Easterners have for breakfast (which I did not quite catch the name), and having a variety of berries such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries together with sabayon, a very light custard made with sugar, egg yolks and sweet wine. I thought it was quite a job well done.

However, the complementing mint ice cream seems a little out of place for me. It did not quite give the refreshing finale it was aimed for. And I felt like I need another shot of their lemon sorbet to do the palette reset properly.

It is my first time trying out French cuisine, so I am not sure if it is common for the meals to be taken with extremely heavy flavours. It was a little too much for me to bear palette-wise, to be honest.

The one thing that really did it for me was the dessert; it was original, blending French cuisine’s traditional sweet delicacy with the chef’s own imagination. Other than that, they might need to tone down on the saltiness for me to really enjoy the menu.

Recommended wines for the L’Heritage Festival Menu are France’s Albert Bichot Cotes du Rhone and Albert Bichot Cotes du Rhone Blanc.

Festival Menu
RM239++ per person with wine
RM159++ per person without wine

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L’Heritage Restaurant
The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur
6 Jalan Conlay
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
Opens daily 12PM-10.30PM
T: +6 03 2688 9688
W: http://www.royalechulan.com.my