Thursday, 28 August 2014

Coliseum Cafe @ Plaza 33

Touted as the 'Longest Operating Western Colonial-Themed Restaurant' in Malaysia, the Coliseum Café has been in business since 1921.  The original café is still operating today at the same premises in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

I have dined before at the original café eons ago, from way back when it used to be the hot spot for steaks in KL.  Nothing much has changed (in 93 years) for this old-fashioned, colonial setting restaurant which continues to serve what is known as Western Colonial Hainanese Cuisine.

The last time I dined at the original Coliseum, I remembered the smell of butter on the walls and the musky smell in the entire café as the place was so old.  Needless to say, I was not ecstatic about the smell.  Now that they have a 1-year old branch, Coliseum @ Plaza 33 (and smell was no longer an issue), it was time to take a step into the revisit the old era of steakhouses (for nostalgic reasons).

Knowing that Coliseum serves old-style western cuisine which would not be in petite portions, I decided to order just one starter for sharing, the Baked Crabmeat @ RM20.90 which is a house speciality.  When the dish arrived at our table, it was a pretty small serving of shredded crabmeat, encased in a crab shell with a crumbed top, that was crunchy but the colour on the crumb tells you that it's way over fried.  When you take a bite, you'd realise that it's dry and that's why it was served with mayo coz you really need the mayo, as well as a squeeze of lemon, to get it going. 

As no complimentary bread was served, we ordered a serving of Garlic Bread (2 pcs) @ RM6 when the old gentleman waiter asked if we wanted any but what he failed to inform us was how many slices of garlic bread was in one order (until I asked him).  He 'cleverly' deduced (and assumed) that we would want 4 pcs (and wrote down 2 portions) since there were 3 of us (without asking us first).  Thank god we ordered only 1 portion as their garlic bread was no where near good and resembled an 'old-school' toasted bread that you can get in any cafe and, worst still, the minced garlic on top were not even browned and infused into the was raw!

With the starters falling short of expectations, we moved on to our main courses.

You can't come to the Coliseum and not try their house specialty....which is their sizzling steaks!  I ordered the Sizzling Tenderloin @ RM51.90 with a choice of either black pepper, mushroom, garlic or brown sauce (I went with brown sauce).  The steak arrived sizzling and smoking hot!  <Holy smokes> totally 'steamed' up my snapshot!

When the smoke cleared, this was how it looked like on the hot plate.  Not to worry though, you won't end up smelling like sizzling steaks all day long as the sizzling is done in a special area (under an exhaust vent) and not in front of you (like in their original café).

The old gentleman waiter asked how I would like my beef done (and gave me only 2 options)...medium well or well done?  [#Note: That's how old-school this steakhouse is and this was how diners always had their steaks done (or overdone in my perspective).  Having it medium rare or medium was probably unheard of (call it the "Chinaman" style of eating beef if you like) since beef is not commonly consumed by the Chinese.]  As I didn't want to go too far 'off the grid', I requested for it to be done to medium (usually in places where I'm not too convinced on the quality of their meat).  [#Note: Medium is the furthest you should go for beef doneness coz anything beyond that doesn't do justice to the taste, texture and quality of the meat.]

On hindsight, I should have asked for medium rare as the steak will continue to cook on the hot plate.  Realising this (later), I can't comprehend how one can ask for well done as it will be way overcooked and chewy by the time you eat it.  My suggestion is to eat it quickly, so that it doesn't overcook plus the sauce tends to dry up and thicken very fast on the hot plate.  Overall, the steak was fairly tender, but slightly chewy, and the brown sauce was really good.  It was the sauce that elevated the dish and made up for the lack of flavour in the meat.

It was served with fried potato wedges (with crispy edges which were good) and some boiled vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower) which I didn't care for.
And a simple salad of lettuce and shredded carrots with Thousand Island dressing that was a bit tart but acceptable.
Our next main was another sizzling order from their menu...Sizzling Chicken, but we got Sizzling Spring Chicken & Turkey Ham instead.  When we checked the menu and realised that this was not the dish we ordered, after my snapshot :P, we highlighted it to the old gentleman waiter.  He was hesitant to change it for us at first (as he probably didn't want to admit that he took down the wrong order) but when a young waitress came over, she immediately agreed to change it for us.  [#Tip: Maybe it's time to do away with these old-timers...yeah, I know, I know...they bring nostalgia to the place but, if you want to provide great service, it's time to replace the old with the new.]
Here comes our (correct) Sizzling Chicken @ RM27.90 that came with the same salad, boiled vegetables and potato wedges.
My husband's choice of black pepper sauce for his Sizzling Chicken was another hit!  The tender deboned chicken thigh (and not the spring chicken full of bones) was easy to eat and good tasting when paired with the sauce.
Our final main dish was the Grilled Salmon @ RM42.90 served with fresh vegetables, french fries and garlic sauce (which turned out to be more like a knob of solid garlic butter than a liquidy sauce).  Unfortunately, the salmon cut that arrived at our table was not a salmon fillet but a salmon steak (which my son dislikes immensely because of the bones he has to pick through).  It didn't occur to us to ask what cut it was as we usually get it in fillet form.  [#Tip: They should state more clearly in their menu if it's Grilled Salmon Fillet or Grilled Salmon Steak (and not list it as just Grilled Salmon).]
Compounded with a cut that was not to my son's liking, the salmon was also way overcooked even though it came with a nice char on the outside.  Again, this is an old-school western restaurant who is used to cooking the salmon to this stage of doneness.  After all the good and fresh salmons we had the privilege of eating before, this was certainly not up to par.
Our drinks for the evening were:
Fresh Watermelon Juice @ RM8.90
Iced Lemon Tea @ RM5
Pepsi @ RM4.50
My Personal Opinion

If you feel like taking a trip down memory lane (like me, even if it's just once) to one of the oldest steakhouses in town, you can give this place a go....just for the nostalgia!

The prices here are pretty affordable (for a steakhouse) with most dishes between RM30 - RM50 (except for the more expensive Chateaubriand) and under RM20 for local specialities (plus their weekday set lunches are value-for-money).  I can see why the place is full on a weekend night (even the al fresco dining area) with a steady stream of diners waiting for tables.  The wait for a table is surprisingly fast because their food service is too, in fact too hurried for my liking (they don't wait for you to finish your starter before serving you the main course...everything came out within minutes apart which isn't the most ideal when it's a western-type meal.

Coliseum is most well known for their sizzling meats and that's exactly what they're good at.  I would just stick with anything brown or black pepper sauce.....and forget about everything else...except (maybe?) their Hainanese Chicken Chop (which many have sing praises of) though I'm doubtful the sauce (which looks too reddish from the photos I see on blogs), probably leaning more towards a tart tomato-based sauce, can be better than Yut Kee's (which I absolutely love).

Although they may not be one of the best steakhouses around (or my favourite) but they do have their loyal patrons.....and you simply can't fault their sizzling steaks which have stood the test of time!

Coliseum Café & Grill Room
PG-02 Ground Floor Plaza 33
1 Jalan Semangat Section 13
46100 Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03-7932 3228

Monday, 25 August 2014

Ampang Yong Tau Foo Stall @ Jalan Imbi

One of my favourite things to eat is yong tau foo and one of the hawker stalls I would go to in KL is the Ampang Yong Tau Foo @ Jalan Imbi.  There're a number of stalls that open for business in the evenings (for dinner) at an open air car park beside the Honda showroom (opposite Win Heng Seng Coffee Shop) though I'm not really concerned with what the other hawker stalls are selling.

When I come here, I'm after only one thing....Jalan Imbi's Ampang Yong Tau Foo!  This yong tau foo stall is known as Ampang Yong Tau Foo (of course) even though it's located in Imbi (coz everyone knows that yong tau foo is synonymous with Ampang).  The name of his stall is Ampang Yong Tau Foo because (I heard) the boss used to work at a yong fau foo restaurant in Ampang.

The yong tau foo variety here is pretty standard, not too many varieties, just the usual fried sui kow (dumpling) and fu chuk (bean curd sheets), stuffed brinjal, bitter gourd, chillies, ladies fingers, tau fu pok (bean curd puffs), white tofu and fish balls.  All items are RM1.10 a piece.

Here's our orders of fu chuk rolls and sui kow fried to crispy perfection.

Their fried sui kow is a hot selling item as they're fried till super crunchy.  The sui kow had a plump filling of pork and fish with finely chopped carrots, "saa kot" (jicama) and spring onions.

The fried fu chuk, with a tasty fish paste filling, was just as in demand as the fried sui kow because they were freshly fried.  You can see the stall workers frying and replenishing the fried yong tau foo at feverish pace.

This was our plate of stuffed yong tau foo (brinjal, bitter gourd, chilli, fish ball and tau fu pok) in soup.  The fresh and authentic fish paste was really tasty.  The broth was dark brown in colour, a bit similar to the one in Paramount Garden, though not as tasty.  For a heartier meal, you can have your yong tau foo with a plate of plain rice here.

There're a number of other hawker stalls selling Penang Char Kway Teow (CKT), assam laksa, porridge, fried clams, sotong kangkung, fried rice and noodles, steamed dim sum, plus many others.

I noticed a particular stall selling Teochew CKT and decided to order a plate (as I've not come across Teochew CKT before) thinking it would be different.  The plate of Teochew CKT @ RM4.50 turned out to be the type of CKT I like (darker and richer in taste) and was (surprisingly) rather good.

Another order was the USA Fried Rice @ RM5 (very cheap, I might add).  I have always been intrigued by the names they come with for fried rice and this is one of it.  It's nothing but a Thai-inspired fried rice...only American thing about it is probably the hot dog!

My Personal Opinion

If you're looking for some cheap eats, especially simple delicious yong tau foo in KL, this is the place to be.  This 'Imbi' Yong Tau Foo is as good as any 'Ampang' Yong Tau Foo but not as good as 'Paramount Garden' Yong Tau Foo (which is still my favourite)!

It's the busiest stall here with many customers seen packing lots (and I mean, lots) of yong tau foo home.  My favourite is the fried fu chuk.

I've not eaten here in quite a while (years actually).  There used to be a stall selling Nyonya kuih that was really good but, sadly T_T, it's no longer around.  I remember vividly their lovely kuih talam, kuih lapis and especially their kuih sago...definitely one of the best!

I noticed that there aren't as many stalls as there used to be, hopefully the yong tau foo stall can stand the test of time.  I guess eating out 'under the stars' (amidst humidity and mosquitoes) is a dying breed these days.

Ampang Yong Tau Foo Stall
(Open air car park beside Honda showroom)
Jalan Imbi/Jalan Barat
55100 Kuala Lumpur

Friday, 22 August 2014

Dragon-i @ Cheras Leisure Mall

Dragon-i (established in 2004) opened its first outlet in Mid Valley Megamall offering signature dishes like "siu long bao" (Shanghainese steamed meat dumplings) and "la mian' (hand pulled noodles).  It has since grown to more than 10 outlets in the country and though I've been to Dragon-I @ Cheras Leisure Mall before, we ended up here for dinner one evening.
Dragon-i's menu looks a bit similar to Din Tai Fung's although the former's menu has more variety.  As usual, you'll find their condiments of chilli oil, vinegar and soy sauce readily available on the table (I didn't care for their chilli paste though).

We started off with a crispy appetiser of Crispy Caramelised Eel @ RM18.  The slithers of eel are deep fried and then tossed in some sort of a sweetish sauce.  The eels were definitely very crispy but that's about it, I couldn't really detect any taste of the eel other than a sweet caramelised crunchy batter.  That said, I think it would appeal to young children who loves anything crispy.
The next appetiser was a chef recommended dish, their signature Chilled Drunken Chicken with "Hua Diao" Rice Wine @ RM16 (not cheap for just 5 slices of chicken).  To create this dish, they cooked the specially selected farm chicken in low heat and then soaked it in a Chinese wine base to totally infuse the chicken with the wine flavour.  The tender chicken pieces are served chilled with a very robust wine broth.  If you like a very intense wine flavour, it's good but, for me, the intensity of the wine was too much for my palate.
For our final starter, I chose the Deep Fried Beancurd with Salt & Pepper @ RM8.  You get small cubes of smooth soft tofu with a crisp exterior that has been seasoned with salt and pepper (not black pepper but what seemed like Sichuan pepper to me).  We enjoyed this dish very much.
We ordered Fried Rice with Ham, Shrimps & Fish @ RM18 as one of our mains instead of the usual fried rice with pork chop.  The fried rice (best shared if you're a small eater) was fried with bits of shredded pork, egg and scallions.  Taste wise, it was pleasant enough (though I've eaten better fried rice than this).  Also, my son didn't like the Chinese ham.
Our other main was the La Mian with Shredded Pork & Potherb Mustard @ RM15.  The la mian was perfectly cooked and the "ching" broth was fairly delicious but may be too subtle for some.  I particularly liked the soft pickled potherb mustard (don't know what it's called in Chinese though).
My Personal Opinion

All in all, the food was acceptable, just not as good as Din Tai Fung's.  As far as siu long bao is concerned, I definitely preferred Din Tai Fung's version.  On other occasions, I've tried some of their dim sum items which turned out quite ok.

I found Dragon-i's portions (especially the fried rice and la mian) to be a bit too hefty for one person to finish but (then again) that's me, I prefer smaller portions so that I have 'room' to sample more types of food.

Price wise, almost similar but (maybe) a tad higher than Din Tai Fung's.  You can give this place a try (if you like this kind of food), just don't have too high an expectation and you'll be fine.

Dragon-i Restaurant 
Lot G22 & G22A Ground Floor
Cheras Leisure Mall
Taman Segar Cheras
56100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9130 0688

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Hung Kee (Wantan Mee) @ Taman Shamelin

Hung Kee is a household name serving top notch wantan noodles at its original shop in Jalan Loke Yew for over 50 years and I've been there a couple of times.  But they now have a branch, Hung Kee @ Taman Shamelin which is more conveniently located closer to home.

A welcome sight at this wantan mee establishment is the availability of an air-conditioned dining room, apart from the outside dining area which has a roof over the area, so the heat/humidity is somewhat bearable.

Obviously, the char siew is the main draw here, so I guess you have to order it in any form, either with wantan noodles or rice.

This is the Wantan Mee with Char Siew, Siew Yoke and Wantan @ RM8.50.  If you opt for the "pun fei sau char siew" (semi-fat barbequed pork), it's similar to those highly focused on honey caramelisation and you end up with sticky, sweet char siew (though not as sweet as Meng Kee's).  The char siew was not quite melt-in-your-mouth but still good enough to rival many of the char siew wantan mee shops in KL.

The "siew yoke" (roast pork) was acceptable (but the char siew was better) as the siew yoke crackling, though crispy, was a bit hard.

This is my plate of Wantan Mee with Roast Duck, Char Siew & Wantan @ RM8.50 that was tossed in the usual soy sauce mixture with flavoured oil (my guess...probably a mixture of lard, garlic and sesame oil).  It was a tad more oily than some that I've eaten but flavourful nonetheless.  If you like your noodles springy in texture, then this one may suit you.  For me, I prefer mine softer but with a bit of bite (I liked Chan Meng Kee's noodles more).

As I ordered the wantan mee with 2 meats (char siew/roast pork and char siew/roast duck), there were only 2 pcs of wantan.  The wantans had a filling of minced pork and black fungus and were more plump in size than the average ones at other wantan mee stalls.  It was moderately good.

It was served with the usual pickled green chillies, which was acceptable, although it looked like it needed a bit more 'pickling' time and I prefer mine to be more thinly sliced.

If wantan mee is not to your liking, you can still savour the char siew in rice instead.  This is the Char Siew Rice @ RM5.50 with a specific request for "char siew tao" (the burnt end bits of the char siew) which was pretty decent as well.

But what stood out for me was the incredible chilli dip that accompanied the rice which had coarse bits of red chillies, green bird's eye chillies, fresh ginger, shallots (maybe), garlic and lime juice.  The combination of flavours was truly had a good balance between acidity and heat.  Although I say that I'm not a fan of a coarse chilli dip, this was was an immensely refreshing dip that whets your appetite!

The surprise find at this wantan mee shop was their "Sui Kow" (Chinese Dumplings in Soup) @ RM1/pc (a minimum of 3 pcs) made fresh at their premises.  It was (however) served in an underwhelming soup that reeked heavily of white pepper.

However, their mammoth-sized sui kow had a generous amount of filling of minced pork, prawns and slithers of black fungus.  It was good (and even better when eaten with their chicken rice chilli).  That little bit of bright acidity just lifts the sui kow to a tastier level.

My Personal Opinion

This is another fairly good wantan mee place in KL, and one so close to home as well, to cater to my wantan mee fix.  The char siew (though) is better than the roast duck and the siew yoke.  

But the (surprising) favourite of mine turned out to be their sui kow (in soup)....and the chilli dip!

(Kedai Makanan Mee) Hung Kee
No 18-20 Jalan 4/91
Taman Shamelin Perkasa
56100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9282 0133

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Revisit: The Press Room Bistro @ Pavilion

Ever since a very fulfilling dining experience at The Press Room @ Pavilion some time ago (read my earlier review here), I had always wanted to return to try their Josper Oven (JO) specialities and finally did (one Saturday evening) for dinner.

The JO is a traditional, Spanish closed barbecue that uses high quality charcoal for its cooking.  With its precision temperature control, it's able to offer the authentic taste of barbecue indoors. 

Its elegant combination of a grill and an oven (with its high operating temperature and grilling quality) makes it highly sought after by many steakhouses.

The first JO speciality that is a must-try is the JO Tenderloin or any other cut of beef like Rib-Eye (or Prime Rib if it doesn't burn a hole in your pocket) served with your choice of sauce and one side dish.  Your sauce choices are Blue Cheese, Green Pepper, Bearnaise or Porcini Mushroom while the side dishes are French Fries, The Press Room Mash, Ratatouille, Mixed Green Salad or French Beans.

This is a close-up pic of my JO Tenderloin (200g) @ RM88....that's a meat lover's dream right there!  Even the smallest of details, a clove of roasted garlic, added further flavour to the meat.  If you're not a beef lover, fret not for you can opt for other JO options like rack of lamb or spring chicken.

Not only was the meat cooked perfectly to medium rare (as requested), it was well rested before it was served.  This is evident when you cut into the meat as no meat juices flowed out from the meat, an indication that the meat was perfectly rested.  Resting allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat resulting in a piece of meat that is moist, tender and juicy.

What a 'handsome looking' piece of meat.....just look at the beautiful sear on the tenderloin and its ultra juicy meat that was perfectly seasoned as well.  The meat was good enough to eat in all its 'naked' glory (but sauces are provided if you need them) and I liked the fact that they serve it on the side (giving you the option of how much or how little sauce you want to put on your steak).

Although the wait staff recommended Bearnaise to go with my tenderloin, I decided to go with my gut, the Porcini Mushroom Sauce, which ended up to be an excellent choice.  [#Note: Bearnaise sauce is a sauce made from an emulsion of clarified butter and egg yolks and is considered to be a 'child' of the mother Hollandaise sauce, only difference is Bearnaise is further flavoured with herbs.]

But the porcini mushroom (probably a mixture of fresh and dried porcini) was an excellent sauce to go with the had a nutty, smoky, intense mushroom flavour that I really liked.  It was so good that I almost finished the sauce when my tenderloin was only half consumed.  The wait staff was very attentive and asked if I would like more sauce...of course I would =) and brought me another hot serving of porcini mushroom's that for customer service!

I also did not opt for any of their 5 choices of side dish but instead requested if I could have Roasted Vegetables instead as the thought of vegetables roasted in a Josper Charcoal Oven was just too tempting to resist.  And they obliged....yay, further testimony to their flexible (and great) service!  There were pieces of broccoli, eggplant, carrot, zucchini, squash, bell peppers (red, orange, yellow and green) and sweet baby was a beautiful (almost) 'rainbow coloured' plate of roasted vegetables.

Our next JO option was the JO Salmon @ RM40 served with herbed oil and your choice of one side dish.  When the dish first arrived at our table, it was smaller than I envisioned but (thankfully) 'big' in taste!

The salmon skin had just the right browning on it and was rendered to crispy perfection.  The salmon flesh was again cooked to perfection...just the right tinge of rareness (and not those overly done salmon we get at some places).  But, most of all, you know it's a piece of quality salmon as it was really fresh and tasted really good.

My son's choice (of course) was French Fries.  A bite of the fries immediately tells you that these are freshly made and not the low quality type of pre-packaged fries from a store.  The freshly cut potatoes (with skins on) did not have that powdery taste that is so apparent in store-bought fries.  They were soft on the inside and crisp on the outside...fresh, simple and perfect!

To end the meal on a high, you may want to sample a trio-of-desserts (err, a little bit of everything-lah), so choose the Cafe Gourmand @ RM18 which comes with a mini creme brûlée, a sorbet and a chocolate brownie and finished with a cup of illy espresso.

The 1st item in the trio-of-desserts was a sorbet.  [#Note: A sorbet is a frozen dessert made from sweetened water with (typically) a fruit juice flavouring and is usually served to cleanse your palate after a meal.]  I was told by the wait staff that it was a vanilla sorbet, but the tartness of the sorbet made me believe that (probably) lemon juice played a part in it.  Whatever it was, it was certainly a lovely palate cleanser.

The 2nd item in thdessert trio was the mini creme brûlée (topped with a blueberry) to reveal a brûlée with strawberries (I asked) when the sugary top was cracked.  The custard was silky smooth, the strawberries inside (which looked more like raspberries to me because of the size) provided some acidity to the sweet custard while the cracked caramelised top added further sweetness and crunch to an incredible dessert.  It was deliciously decadent!

The 3rd and final item in the trio-of-desserts was the rich and fudgy chocolate brownie that would appease any chocolate lover.

And what better way to round up the trio-of-desserts than with a tiny cup of illy espresso.  The highly concentrated espresso, with crema on top (a foam with a creamy consistency), would appeal to coffee lovers who like their coffee really strong and bitter.  It was (however) too strong for my palate but (then again) I've never really liked espresso to begin with.

Our drinks for the evening were:

A Chilled Fruit Juice of Pink Guava @ RM11 which is a favourite of mine because I love the taste (of guava) and the colour (pretty in pink).

The Lychee Iced Tea @ RM16 (with the mint garnish omitted as requested) was a lychee & watermelon refreshment...err, very refreshing?'s the only thing I could think of to describe it. 

My Personal Opinion

It was yet again another very satisfying dining experience, one that I wouldn't mind having over and over and over merits many revisits!

You have to come and try their Josper Oven specialities.  The perfectly grilled meat is the 'piece de resistance' and resisting this sensational masterpiece is a futile, hopeless and doomed least for me!!

Prices here are above 'middle-of-the-park' (around RM100 per person) but it's definitely worth it because the excellent cooking, at the hands of very able chefs, produces phenomenal food.

I'll be back ;)

The Press Room Bistro
C3.10.02 Level 3 Connection
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
168 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
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