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Monday, 22 May 2017

Kong Ming @ Pandan Indah

Ever since my neighbourhood "tai chow" place offering stir-fry dishes (Restoran Chong Yuan) closed shop (not due to insufficient business but due to the owner/cook's health), I've not found a worthy replacement (so far) in terms of taste and price.  Then again, that's partly because there's also very few tai chow places in my housing area.

So, in its place is Restoran Kong Ming @ Pandan Indah which took over the spot.  We waited quite a few months before finally patronising the place just to see if they can last.

Our first visit didn't go down too well when we were recommended to order their signature dish of Sweet & Sour Pork With Ice @ RM16.  I thought...why not....it could be exciting since I've never heard or eaten it before.  This was how it looked when it arrived...with ice piled on top of the sweet and sour pork.  The top plate has holes in the bottom for the water to drip away as the ice melts when you're eating.  They take a dish that should be served hot, made it cold and then let the ice 'wash' away the sweet and sour sauce.  Now, why on earth would they think that makes a tasty dish (although we saw many tables ordering it)! @_@

We were wiser the next time and went with the tried and tested version of Sweet & Sour Pork @ RM16 that we're more used to.  This was a satisfying sweet and sour pork and I especially liked that it came with pineapples (apart from the usual green bell pepper, cucumber, onions, tomatoes and chillies).

Though, at times, the pineapples were a no-show! :(

Sometimes, we'd switch to Sweet & Sour Fish Fillet @ RM16 for a change.  Although still acceptable, I think the pork version is the undisputed winner! ^_*

The Claypot Fried Pork Belly with Salted Fish ("ham yu fah lam pou") @ RM16, made up of thin slices of pork belly cooked with salted fish and dried chillies, is another popular "tze char" (cook and fry) dish that many families like to order for its robust, salty and slightly spicy flavours.  This one goes very well with rice obviously.

Since we love salted eggs, we'd find ourselves (inadvertently) ordering the Salted Egg Yolk Fried Squid @ RM20, of course.  This one was a fair rendition with an equally fair amount of salted egg yolk in the battered mix.

The Marmite Pork Ribs @ RM16 offers a mixture of salty, sweet and sour nuances to the pork ribs.  We'd much prefer if they were cubes of pork with no bones to contend with + the portion size of just 5 pcs was rather meagre for the price.  I usually find marmite to be more sticky sweet than anything else since it resembles molasses anyway.  On its own, marmite doesn't taste all that good but when cooked with pork or chicken (as it's usually done), it has become a popular order at many tai chow places.

Fish Fillet with Ginger & Onions @ RM16 is one of my favourites at tai chow places as I love to eat the long strands of spring onions.  It's normally stir-fried with just ginger and spring onions with no sauce but this (to my surprise) came fried with either soy or oyster sauce.  Hmmm, not to my liking, this one :(

The Creamy Butter Pork @ RM16 was decent too with crispy pork nuggets coated in a delicious butter sauce.

The Kam Heong Lala (Clams) @ RM20 is great if you're a fan of kam heong sauce that's usually salty and robustly flavoured.  Best eaten with rice.  You can also opt for clams to be cooked in soup, simply stir-fried, fried with dried chillies or cooked in Shaoxing wine.

Their 'Double Layer' Beancurd @ RM12 is a house speciality I've not come across in other tai chow places. The double layer refers to a layer of fish paste in between the homemade tofu.

The well-made beancurd is soft and smooth with the fish paste in between and the sauce is pretty tasty too (when it's not too salty).  Obviously, it has become a favourite of ours and we can't stop ordering it each time! ^o^

Judging from the photos, the tofu block seems to be deep-fried first before the sauce is poured in...and, on some days, the execution and presentation is better (the second pic looks the best)...hehe! ;D

Of course, there's also the usual Beancurd with Minced Pork @ RM12 that has more gravy for those who love more gravy with their rice.

Or Thai Style Beancurd @ RM12 in a tangy sauce with shredded onions, cucumber and red chillies and a spicy note from the fiery bird's eye chillies.  This was my least favourite.

They offer lots of omelette dishes with prawns, minced pork, bitter gourd, onion, salted and dried radish and the ever popular "Fu Yoong Tan".  Most of the time, we'd order the Omelette with Minced Pork or the Omelette with Prawns @ RM10...simple yet tasty :)

As usual, there must always be a vegetable dish to round up each meal and there are lots to choose from here such as sweet potato leaf, kangkung, lettuce, bayam, cabbage, "choy sum" (flowering cabbage), bitter gourd, even "ching loong choy" (green dragon vegetable).

Curry Mixed Vegetables @ RM15 - a tad too much curry powder taste but still ok.

Stir-Fried Mixed Vegetables @ RM12 - not my favourite.

Soup with Bayam @ RM12 - the bayam was alright but I didn't like that they overcooked century and salted eggs in the broth.

Kangkung Belacan @ RM10 - I like the one here as it's dry and not too salty.

We obviously like kangkung very much ;P

They also do this kangkung (and the other being choy sum) in claypot style which I've not had before in other tai chow places I've eaten at.  They will bring a preheated claypot and the cooked vegetables (separately) to your table and then pour the vegetables in (and you can hear the immediate sizzle).  This is the Kangkung in Claypot @ RM12.  Taste-wise I didn't detect any difference in taste with simple stir-fried kangkung other than the theatrics and a little addition of crispy "chee yau char" (pork lard bits) to the dish! ^.^

My Personal Opinion

All in all, this is a worthy replacement of the previous tai chow place that occupied the space here.  Though prices may be slightly higher but then this place is little bit more premium in looks and offerings with both an air-conditioned and an outdoor dining area plus a proper menu.

Perhaps some of the dishes can't compare with the previous tai chow place but we also had some dishes that weren't offered by the previous place.  So, this still makes a good neighbourhood tai chow place for some of our weekday and weekend dinners.

Restoran Kong Ming
M4-A-16 Jalan Pandan Indah 4/1
Pandan Indah
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-4287 6955

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Marco Creative Cuisine @ 1 Utama

When I first saw this unbeatable deal for fine dining at unbelievable down-to-earth prices on mimi's dining room, I had to pinch myself! :D  I'm talking about Marco Creative Cuisine @ 1 Utama which opened its doors to the public in late March.

The place is tastefully done up in a sweet and soothing colour of Tiffany blue (and white) which ladies will adore I'm sure.  Only thing missing on the beautifully set up table that day was a bit of a warm welcome that fresh flowers would undoubtedly bring.

When my friend and I arrived at the restaurant for lunch, we found a bunch of people hovering around the entrance which made me wonder that we still had to queue to get a place at that late hour (around 2.30pm) for lunch.  We soon realised that people were just hovering at the entrance to look at an aquarium filled with jellyfish.  No wonder it's magnetic with people passing by the restaurant as it exudes a calm and wondrous feeling to see these living organisms dancing in the tank.

What attracted us to this place was, first and foremost, the price...coz where on earth can you find an elaborately presented 7-course lunch or dinner at RM78+ per person these days.....no where other than here, I reckon! ;)

Hint:  This is actually their coaster :P

1st Course - Palate Cleanser

The journey begins with a palate cleanser of a chilled Velvety Matcha-Lime Shooter with a tangy lime-flavoured frothy foam and a sprinkle of matcha powder.

Absolutely loved the intense citrusy flavour of lime on the palate that awakened my tastebuds for what is to follow.  You can say it was the start of a beautiful 'friendship'...and we were off to a great start :)

2nd Course - Appetiser

Next came an appetiser of Savoury Eclair topped with a gruyere flavoured aubergine caviar pate on a choux pastry with green chilli pesto, tomato confit and a hint of spiciness.  I can't say I was a fan of the squiggle of Gruyere flavoured pate or the eclair that was dry and hard-textured.  Maybe I'm more used to a sweet eclair (with piped pastry cream) that's crisp, light and airy.

3rd Course - Soup

For the soup course, you have three choices to choose from.  I went with the Strawberry Gazpacho as cold soups aren't commonly found on menus here.  This chilled soup of strawberries, garnished with dehydrated strawberries and micro greens, was light and refreshing, but the taste of the strawberries were a bit muted. Though a cold soup is great (eaten outdoors) during summertime in western countries and sounds ideal in our hot weather, I question its suitability since it's eaten indoors (in an air-conditioned environment)...haha, so it may not be such a wonderful pairing after all.

My friend had the Truffled Mushroom Soup which is simply a creamy mushroom soup with a drizzle of truffle oil.  This was earthy, filled with loads of mushroom flavour, and the better tasting soup of the two (in my opinion).  The third choice is the French Onion Soup.

4th Course -  Entree

Again, you have three choices for this course.  We chose the Savoury Ice Cream Salad (since the other choice sounded like a boring salad called Garden Platter) with assorted baby leaves, heirloom tomato, seasonal micro greens and edible flowers served with sea salt ice cream.  The perfectly quenelled ice cream looked pretty on a plate but (unfortunately) didn't follow through in taste.  I found it very weird to eat the cold ice cream (+ it didn't taste all that savoury) with salad leaves.  In the end, it was a creative but strange combo which didn't sync together, IMHO.

The Chicken Liver Parfait of a brulee topped creamy chicken liver served with toasted bread and dehydrated apple chips, on the other hand, wasn't quite my cup of tea even though I love chicken liver.  The liver was a little too pink for my taste buds and, married together with the sweet notes of the brulee top, made it taste a bit too funky for me overall.  Order this only if you absolutely love chicken liver pate that's on the rare side.

5th Course - Main

And thanks to the many reviews done on this place which showed all 6 selections of main courses, we knew exactly which two we wanted.  The first was the Duck Breast with Orange Puree and Roasted Beetroot finished with a drizzle of Valrhona Dark Chocolate.

The sous vide pan seared duck breast was nicely cooked, just pink in the centre.  The meat was tender but had the fat in the skin been rendered down to make it crispy, it would have been a much more successful dish.

The other main was the Salmon with Jet Black Hollandaise featuring Atlantic salmon with squid ink hollandaise sauce, garnished with pickled beetroot, green chilli pesto and tobiko.  I didn't care much for the squid ink hollandaise sauce which was a bit fishy for me.

I made a request to ensure my salmon is not cooked through only to find out that it's done sous vide style.  So, no worries as this will ensure the salmon stay moist and juicy.  Between the two mains we had, the salmon was a clear winner! ^o^

6th Course - Dessert

With the mains out of the way, it was time to seal the deal with something sweet.  First up was the Deconstructed Lemon Meringue Pie.

With tangy squirts of lemon curd and dots of passion fruit gel with crisp shards of meringue and a smooth white chocolate sherbet, these components I did enjoy except for that squiggle of torched cream which I wasn't liking as much.

The second was the Raspberry Decadence made up a raspberry cheesecake with raspberry gel, lemon meringue kisses, passion fruit gel and a white chocolate sherbet as well.

This was decadent alright with light and zesty flavours of a luscious raspberry cheesecake, raspberry and passion fruit gel.  I liked this a lot and certainly the better tasting of the two desserts.  The third dessert choice is the common Creme Brulee with White Chocolate Sherbet.

7th & Final Course - Drinks

The meal concluded with a choice of a refreshing Sparkling Iced Berry drink (rather diluted though) for something cold......

....or simply sit back and relax, enjoy sips of hot Single Origin, French Pressed Coffee (or Loose Leaves Teaand a warm conversation with your dining companion (whoever he or she may be)...and not necessarily in that order! ^_~

Throughout our meal, our server would describe every dish to us in detail (which I know is standard in a fine dining setting) but the overly detailed description of every plate of food felt like a long-drawn-out affair. Perhaps, leaving a menu card on the table would be a better alternative since the foreign server (whose English accent was hard to hear) was just repeating the words on the menu.

Besides that, I think there's a fine line between providing good (yet not obtrusive) service and overly attentive service.  In their haste to ensure the courses are served efficiently within a set time frame (within 50 minutes) to diners, we felt like we were being watched (constantly) so that they'd be aware the moment we finished each course.  I also felt they went a bit overboard to the point of telling us how to and how best to eat the food presented (or maybe I just got an overly eager server that day).

The Journey of Flavours is available for both lunch and dinner while an Afternoon Tea Indulgence (3-6pm) takes over in between offering the same three desserts with the addition of Souffle and French Toast (which you can pair with wine, coffee or tea).

My Personal Opinion

Although there were obviously some hits and misses where the food was concerned, the 5-star dining experience overall made me willing to overlook some of its shortcomings.

The Good

1.  Fine dining menu at its most affordable.
2.  Great aesthetic pleasure from the food plating and presentation.
3.  Quality ingredients (for the price paid).
4.  Lovely ambience.

The Not-So-Good

1.  Appetiser and entrees could be improved.
2.  Finer balance between good and overly attentive service.
3.  Better way to provide detailed descriptions of the dishes.

The Palate Cleanser, Mushroom Soup, Salmon and Raspberry dessert were my favourites.  In the end, there's no cause for complaint for a fine meal like that for the price paid.  I certainly wouldn't mind returning for another journey.....perhaps when they put out a new menu (as they say they would every 3 months).  That way I get to try a different journey of flavours! ^.^

Marco Creative Cuisine
Lot G146 1Utama Shopping Centre
47800 Petaling Jaya
Selangor
Tel: 03-7731 8923

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