Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pasta Zanmai Japanese Pasta - 1 Utama

This is a beautiful restaurant. The front portion is a mini-market. All kinds of things Japanese. Popular concept. Rakuzen Desa Parkcity adopted this concept and I am sure there are many around that I am not aware off. Though seating is a bit tight the rich ramin coloured woodwork exudes a warm that is all encompassing. I feel immediately at home. Be a bit patient as good food takes time and being popular there is always other patrons that have come earlier.

Next to us was a Japanese mother and son. That inspired my confidence in the food. I can't helped but to overhearing in the conversation. Not the content but the tone of it. It was a loving motherly nag. The young teen kept quiet. As the minutes ticked away the slouching child's head was barely above the tableline. It was a one-way traffic. Then the food came. Big bowls of Japanese pasta. The child found his voice and I even heard an 'arigato - thank you'. Then they were bantering away. His back straightened and shoulder squared. A lovely meal takes away the rough edges. Total costs: RM123.00. I got a RM20.00 voucher for their 1st Anniversary Celebration gift.
Asari Miso Soup (with 4 fresh and 'done just nice' clams)
Unagi Yana Set - RM29.00. Lots of unagi. A big thick one. Al dente pasta. Missing from post was Tori Kino Set - RM23.00. Cheesy pasta. Smooth, creamy not overwhelming.Ika Sumi - RM19.00. Squid ink pasta. Ink from squid was used to marinate the pasta! I first experienced this in Visayas, Philippines where the octopuses' ink was used to marinate itself. Be careful of staining clothes and also around the lips. Really good squid and pasta. Subtle. Making a loud delicious statement. Could eat more!!Hotate Teriyaki - RM12.00. Personally sauce was too robust and heavy.Shishamo - RM9.00. Fresh with crunchy roes!A Chip off the (Old) Bowl

Not too pleasant dining though. Large chip on the bowl. There was another smaller chip over the other side. Both chips on the rim. Not acceptable at all lah! If I choose to drink from the bowl like a Japanese it will my lips!. And the restaurant is just celebrating their 1st Anniversary this month!
Not only the bowl but also this plate was chipped in 2 places! Management, what happened?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Simply Penang Cafe, Cuisine and Nasi Lemak - 1 Utama

Another cafe/kopitiam? Yes. So far I have done Mark's Assam Laksa (1 Utama), Nyonya Colors (1 Utama), Kluang KopiTiam (1 Utama), Seri Penang (Ikano) and Little Penang (Curve) all in the vicinity of one another.

I am doing a bit of a head to head comparison at the end of this post. Except for Mark's and Simply Penang, I have passed through these eateries at least 5 times. And I have patronize these at least once. May not be accurate but food for thoughts! Head right to the bottom for my personal views!

Back to Simply Penang. The star of our order was Nasi Lemak Rempah Fish. The fried Cincaru was fresh and crispy. The stuffed curry and spices were aromatic and flavourful. Next on my praise was the Nasi Lemak. It was so rich in taste and fragrance as it was deeply infused by santan and pandan. This should be Simply Penang's crown jewel. As for the normal Nasi Lemak (chicken - fried or curry) I will vote for Nyonya Colors. Total costs: RM61.60.

Nasi Lemak Rempah Fish - RM12.90. Simply Penang's Crown Jewel.
The Ji Hu Char is a bit of a disappointment as I have eaten the best from my Penang Hokkien MIL's kitchen. This one was soft, damp and limp. I can't even smell the cuttlefish. In this department Little Penang's JHC is much better.
Ji Hu Char - RM9.90. The best is from Little Penang.
Char Koay Teow - RM9.50. Simply not worth it no matter how good it is! Small serving and mostly carbohydrates. None has measured up to give me value for money. Possible the best CKT may be from Little Penang.
Cendol - RM4.00. The ice was too dry. So far mostly average.
Assam Laksa - RM8.90. The base taste artificial and was too thick. Was not sure what was used. It should be thinner and the suspensions must be as much as possible be fish, spices and herbs. Mark's Assam Laksa is the best of the lot.
Head to Head Comparison

Menu Variety and Food Quality - Nyonya Colors seems to impressed esp. the kuih-muih and generous usage of ingredients to bring out the best in the food.

Service - Nyonya and Mark's are self-service. Kluang is full-service but as for payment subtly forces the customers to go to the cashier. As for Simply Penang I was not impressed with their service. I was in a hurry to leave and went to pay at the cashier. He was on the phone throughout and fumbled along as he produced the bill and processed my payment. Little Penang seems more attuned to good service as the boss seems to force the service standards to acceptable levels. Seri Penang seems to have best customer service.

Business - So far Nyonya Colors seems to be the best patronized.

Which one do I Crave to Return? - Nyonya Colors

Value for Money - Drinks were overpriced. CKT mostly over-rated therefore over-priced. Generally Assam and Curry Laksa may be value for money! Seri Penang Salted Fish Vege Curry is the best value and healthy too!

Ambiance - Seri Penang by a mile.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dae Ga - Korean BBQ Restaurant Solaris Mont Kiara

Dae Ga. In Chinese it means 'everyone'.
Address: No.9-1, Solaris Mont’ Kiara, No.2, Jalan Solaris. Tel: 603- 6203 0468
The first Korean food I have was Ginseng Chicken soup served to tourists. Of course there were others in the menu but it did not blew me off my seat. It was in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada that I got acquainted with a simple Korean cold dish.

I visited a friend. He took me to visit his Korean friend as part of my 3 weeks Canadian itinerary. We drove east from Vancouver then cross the Rockies stopping by many scenic spots. Most memorable were Banff and Lake Louise. We stayed in motels and essentially passing through 'Scottish' territory. We sipped coffee at Starbucks. For food on the road we have purchased 2 doz sodas and a huge tray of doughnuts that would last us through the 3 days of driving.

Over there I stayed with my new found friend. Asian manners required him to share what he has with me. Luck was with me as his parents just popped in a day or two ago. At dinner time he took out a vege dish from his mother out of the fridge. It was blanched seasoned spinach with garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and seeds all mixed into an appetizing dish. It was obvious that the bright sheen on the spinach leaves and stems was oil and a lot of it was needed for it to taste good. The hollow stem seems to suck up the sauce and the oil making it so delightful.

Lately, I get to know Korean food better after 4 visits to Daorae in Bandar Puteri, Puchong. Self control is important as their beef are super costly!
The Interior
10 Side Dishes - all free: Anchovies, Local Spinach, Julienne Potatoes, Lily Stems, Cabbages, Kim Chi, Mashed Potatoes, Wood Ears, Cucumbers and Corn FrittersBBQ Pork Chops - RM30.
Almost there, all done by the attentive Myanmar and Korean staff. Was cut to bite sizes once done. Hot coals heated by gas below the grill. Surprisingly no need to use extractor and I finished meal with no bbq smell on my clothes. I believed special coals were used.Special beef and octopus hot pot with glass noodles. Tons of octopuses and beef strips - RM50. My son and I were overwhelmed by the quantity!The spicy hot pot. Very spicy. But the downside was the MSG. Need to get in more anchovies for the broth.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sun Yuan Loong - Ipoh White Coffee

Park around the blocks. Lots of parking. Also vacant parking area nearby. Never fail to get parking and promptly too.
Word has it that this coffee shop belongs to another son of the owner of renown white coffee shop Sin Yoon Loong (read my post).

It is located around Jalan Leong Boon Swee and Jalan Bendahara which is famous for its metalworks and "Besi Buruk" yards. With 2 lots and the use of the sidewalk this shop is 2+ times the seating capacity of the old one The original which is in the Old Town was passed on to the other son that has been running the show for ages.
Stand and wait for those who is about to finish. Embarrassing but that's life. I waited 5 mins.
This is my 4th trip here and each time it is packed with customers. I would expect more stalls but there were only 5-6 offering the usual fare. The toasted bread 'division' has grown with more offerings like sandwiches and egg tarts. The freshly baked tarts were actually flying out of the counter. Customers collect and pay for them at the counter.

Direction: Exit Simpang Pulai toll. Drive towards Ipoh city. Drive along Jalan Gopeng. Branch left to Jalan Kampar. At Oblong 'roundabout' take 12 o'oclock. Temple on left. About 200m at cross junction. Perpendicular road is Jalan Pasir Putih. Drive straight. After junction the road is now Jalan Leong Boon Swee. Take left turn after 50m. Turn-off is immediately after Autoworld. Take right turn and Sun Yuan Loong is on your left at the end of the block of shops.
Starters. Crispy, tender, fatty and tasty roast pork with hot beverages!
Prawn Mee RM3.20. Taste good enough for me though, I pefers pork strips rather than fish cake strips.
Curry noodles RM3.00. Good enough again.The Toast here is not as good as the Old Town older counterpart. It is not 100% crispy. The centre is not heated through. Milo ice, teh see and coffee + 4 sets of toast - RM6.40.The *star* of the show. Coffee. My father grew up with these. Has him singing the praises. I have 'teh see' though. Rich and creamy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mmm Express - Waterfront Desa Parkcity, Kepong

P/S This outlet looks like its closed for business. Will update. 30th March 2010.

Mmm ... an express light meal concept from Sri Melaka. I am not sure if this is the Sri Melaka that are found in 1 Utama and Amcorp Mall. May have other branches too.

The meal can be light but also can be as heavy on the tummy as one wants it to be.
The concept is a clean-cut and uncomplicated interior. Comfy yet detached. Though the furniture is soft and comfortable yet the hardness of the aesthetics may not encourage customers to linger. Neutral may be the word.
The Spring Roll RM4.50 is very good. Crispy and flavourful contents with julienne carrots thrown in. The skin also crumbled in the mouth. A pretty sight.Assam Laksa Set - plus a drink (RM9.00)
Aromatic yet with many competing laksa's' our senses are dulled and may not be sensitive to pick up small differences except the exceptional standouts. Contents were pureed into a fine suspension to the disappointment of those who like the fish meat to be chunky.Nasi Lemak Set - plus a drink (RM9.50)
Average run of the mill sterile fare. Should have done better with imaginative food presentation to out 'look' other competing nasi lemak!It occupies a lookout position with a commanding view of the front area of the Waterfront Mall. Like a observation tower. The following scene played out right in front of our eyes. The modus operandi of the police out-rider and the positioning of the 2 patrol cars sandwiching the VIP limousine. The Mercedes is that of the Vietnamese ambassador as we saw Vietnamese flags draped from lamposts on our way in. He dropped by the Parkview Chinese Restaurant for lunch. And guess what the entire retinue went up to Mmm... Express for lunch. About 20 pax! Uniformed and non-uniformed. I guess they want a commanding view too.

Desa Parkcity is going great guns having a tripartite JV with Vietnamese and Singaporean partners in in developing 200-acre parcel 13km from Hanoi with 7,000 residentials and 1.5 million sq. ft. of commercial and office space.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yong Tau Foo (Under the Big Tree) - Ipoh

I made a trip back to Ipoh to catch up with my folks. And of course we went out for meals. Usually we talked while eating! This is our way of catching up. We were going to have a Christmas' steamboat dinner in the evening with a few families and mother suggested that we eat Yong Tau Foo under the Big Tree and 'ta pau' some of the YTF as part of our contribution. This YTF under the big tree is new to me. Situated in a corner of Pasir Pinji New Village this stall really surprised me that even at 3:00+pm the crowd was still there though many of the YTF varieties were gone.
Pasir Pinji New Village
For one who have spent 20 years of my childhood in Ipoh, I am quite used to eating under the big tree. Wantan mee, roti chanai, CCF. Fortunes were made and kids were sent overseas for a real education.

However this site is different, there was not just one but numerous leafy and shady trees. Some were 'ketapang's with sprawling branches and big leaves. My only concern was wrigglers that may rappelled down from the upper reaches and land on my uncovered neck causing allergenic rashes.
Under the big trees!
The mid-afternoon rush!
This 'little forest' also has a few other stalls serving all kinds of Ipoh food. Another surprise was this site is tucked just behind the Ipoh icon of the Roasts Order, "Tuck Kee".

The YTF was excellent though a bit oily as we have to make do with the deep fried stuff as most of the veggie YTF were gone. The 'fu chook' has thin skin and within there was a thick slather of fish paste in it. Fresh and taste like it should: fish all the way and without the stale fish smell which I dislikes because it assaults my taste buds and nostril. It was also soft yet held up well to give an impression of firmness. With this I may say that there was a lack of the use of boric acid that gives that strong bouncy, springy, 'shac', shac', 'shac' feel when biting through it. The rugby shaped fried fish balls were even more incredibly. It was huge. How to turn a profit with such quantity and quality fish paste? Average is RM0.50 per piece. I am glad to report that there was no shady business!

Other Blogs that posted on the same stall and more!
Ipoh Mali Talak Sombong

The surprise. Tuck Kee and their famous roast products. The lines were forming and hungry souls are waiting to part with their cash.Roast porkRoast duck

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fleet Age (Firefly, AirAsia, Singapore Airlines and Others)

It is indeed splendid to hear Firefly has a complete changeover yesterday from the 18 years old Fokker to brand new ATR 72-500. Even though its fleet stand at 5 it called for celebration as it spells out clearly the intention to do well for the mid- to long-term. Another 5 is coming in 2009. I took the ATR last month and it is what they claimed it to be: reduced noise, ample leg room, comfy seats and nice interior.
On the 7th October 2008, AirAsia also has a complete changeover into brand new Airbus A320. It has 42 so far. AirAsia placed an order for 225 A320 in December 2007. It started with a Boeing fleet with an average age of 18 years old. Indeed this is a success story.

With higher reliability, low maintenance and reduced fuel consumption coupled with fuel price dropping by half since a year ago, both Firefly and AirAsia has removed their fuel surcharge. AirAsia has even thrown in another quality guarantee. Any delays that is more than 2 hours will be compensated with RM200. That will be RM36,000 if the delayed plane is booked solid.

Age Matters
New planes and consequently a young fleet are important first step in the right direction for airlines building a global brand. Singapore Airlines has one of the youngest fleet for a global player. It has 115 planes with the average age of the fleet at 6.6 years. Emirates also does well with 119 planes and a fleet age of 6 years.

Other Asian global players did not fare so well in this category though they have a very good safety record.
- Malaysian Airlines - 86 planes with a fleet age of 12.9
- Cathay Pacific - 117 planes with a fleet age of 11.
- Thai Airways - 82 planes with a fleet age of 11.1.
- Qantas - 135 planes with a fleet age of 11.

2008 will certainly be the annus horibilis for Qantas. Multiple problems and questions over their maintenance program and safety standards surfaced through a series of technical problems - mid-air and ground that gave them a bad name. Certainly customers' loyalty is in tatters. The fleet is aging (compared to SQ and Emirates) and vigilance and high alert must be invested besides more and better equipment to keep it fleetshape. Fleet replacement may take 3-4 years and if none of the above is done delays and declining customers' loyalty will be the order of the day.

My other blog on Qantas list of problems.

Long-term Strategies Matter
How did SQ end up with such a young fleet? Why was it the first to take delivery of the Airbus A380? It is a well-known fact that it makes capital investments even during the downturn cycle when others play safe. Their outlook in investments has always been based on a long-term strategy. Marketing and expresso are investments not expenses.

Service Matters
With a young fleet SQ can afford to focus on providing customers with a touch of glamour in the front end and value-added services in economy class. The 10% at the front end is the cash cow. It provides 60% of its revenue. The economy class provides the public opinion. It receives 34 compliments per complaint for every 10,000 passengers.

It's an emotional experience and an exciting life-style flying SQ. It is also no coincidence that they are serving expresso when other airlines is going in the opposite direction charging for meals and reducing baggage allocations. They have more cabin crew in the aircraft than other airlines in similiar planes.

It is not that I fly SQ all the time. I wish I could. Personally, having flew Indonesia's SriWijaya (fleet age at 25 years) and Wings (24 years) as well as Bangladesh's GMG (14.4 years) at least 10X, I have a dubious reputation of taking risks. That is part of being Malaysian.

But I have a former colleague who refuses to fly other airlines except SQ. Queried, he said his mother told him that other airlines are not safe. The problem is he is in the 50's. You guess it, he is Singaporean. SQ is their only global brand and they are proud of it!!

As for me I am still waiting (besides Petronas) for a Malaysia's global brand to take-off.