Monday, 29 February 2016

Revisit: Vietnam Kitchen @ Cheras Leisure Mall

We frequent Vietnam Kitchen @ Cheras Leisure Mall quite a bit because of its location (not too far from where we live) and the affordably priced set menus.

They have a few choices (can't remember how many) of value sets (that cater to the no. of pax).  The last time we were here, we opted for Set C (4 - 5 pax).  This time round, we selected Value Set A @ RM34.90 (for 2 - 3 pax) featuring 3 dishes so that we could add on some other dishes that we wanted.  Actually, the value set should be quite sufficient for a family-of-3 if you're small-eaters (but, we're my mother-in-law was with us).

The first dish in Value Set A was the Sweet & Sour Chicken and you'd be surprised that a Vietnamese restaurant does justice to this common dish (though more common with pork) found in most Chinese "tai chow" places.  The chicken pieces were well seasoned and crisp in a sauce that's more tangy than sweet which I liked.  I especially loved the way the vegetables of pineapple and tomatoes were cut into more chunky pieces. Many sweet and sour pork dishes in "tai chow" places don't even come with pineapples which I think is so important to lend a tangy, subtle sweetness to the dish.   I'd usually rank a sweet and sour dish with pork no. 1, followed by fish and chicken last....but, I must say, I'm quite a fan of this sweet and sour chicken! :)

The next dish in our set featured Stewed Ribs with Caramel Sauce.  Whenever I see the words "caramel sauce", I'm on the defence straightaway for fear it might be too sweet...but this wasn't.  My spouse liked the sauce so much he lapped it all up with his the ribs were downright tender.

Our final dish from the set was the simple Stir-Fried Yau Mak (Romaine Lettuce) with Garlic.  Quickly stir-fried to retain its crunchiness and topped with garlic...certainly one of our favourite vegetables.  Now, would you consider these 3 dishes real value for RM34.90 in a comfortable, air-conditioned environment?  I would.

Unfortunately, the set menu does not come with rice, so you'll need to pay RM2.35 for a bowl.

Since there were four of us and we aren't exactly petite eaters, I added on an extra dish of Fish Fillet with Pineapple Sauce @ RM23.30 which ended up to be my favourite dish of the night.  What can I say....the soft, battered pieces of fish coupled with the zesty pineapple sauce and fresh pineapples opened up my appetite like no other.

The other dish we ordered was one we had before, the Peppered Prawns @ RM23.85, coz it's my son's favourite.  This time, the battered prawns were even better, nicely crisp and those little bits of crunchy batter (that have fallen off the prawns) were the best parts...hehe! :D  The dish came with a fair amount of decently sized prawns and the taste wasn't as salty as the last time....bravo!

Drinks of Mango Milk Shake @ RM10.50, Watermelon Juice @ RM8.35 & Fresh Lemon Honey @ RM8.35

My Personal Opinion

It's a place my family frequents because of its location, good value sets and affordably priced meals with decent enough flavours....especially so when we're looking for a rice meal with dishes.

Vietnam Kitchen
L2-26-01 Cheras Leisure Mall
Jalan Manis 6 Taman Segar
56100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9130 9530

Friday, 26 February 2016

MH Pinnacle @ MH Hotel Ipoh

During my recent stay at MH Hotel in Ipoh, I booked my room with breakfast included, so I had no choice but to have breakfast there for 3 consecutive mornings.

The buffet breakfast venue was at MH Pinnacle @ MH Hotel on the 20th floor.  If not bundled with the room tariff, the breakfast costs RM20 nett which is more than reasonable for the variety of food offered.

View from the 20th floor of MH Pinnacle

Coming for breakfast, I've read some 'not so great' online reviews (from hotel guests) that there wasn't enough food, the food wasn't replenished fast enough and there weren't enough servers to clear the plates (during the Christmas period).  So, I wasn't expecting a lot since Chinese New Year (CNY) is also a peak period.  But I'm glad to report that I had none of those issues.

Here are photos of some (not all) of the food stations (all photos taken on Day 1 and then I quickly got bored of taking them...hehe!) and just got down to enjoying my breakfast.

Bread, Pastries & Cereals Station - a staple

Salad Bar - was surprised to see some form of yee sang (!) on the 2nd day of CNY on the salad counter

Hot Food Section - menu changes daily with a variety of fried rice, fried noodles, chicken, fish, sausages, mushrooms and what not cooked different ways

Noodles Station - a different type of noodle each day

Porridge Station - available all 3 days

Desserts & Fruits Station - that changes daily

Buffet breakfasts are....well, just buffet breakfasts!  Nothing out of the ordinary in terms of taste, range and creativity...with some hits and some misses (of course) and some tasting better than others.  So, I'll just show you photos of what I had over the 3 days.....

Plate 1 - Fried Hong Kong Yee Mee, Grilled Fish with Teriyaki Sauce (good), Sausage with Brown Onions, Baked Beans with Mushrooms and Sauteed Mexican Potato.  Day 1 was also the only day I took a variety of food from the Hot Food Section.

Plate 2 - Nasi Lemak, always a crowd favourite at any buffets, was available on all 3 days.  On Day 1, it was "yellow" nasi lemak (turmeric-infused), on Day 2, it was "green" nasi lemak (pandan flavoured) and on Day 3, plain "white" nasi lemak (santan flavoured).  The nasi lemak was decent and the ayam rendang on Day 1 was the best tasting.

Plate 3 - Three different type of noodles were available at the Noodles Station namely Curry Laksa (Day 1), Prawn Mee (Day 2) and Soup Noodles (Day 3).  The Prawn Mee turned out to be my favourite breakfast item (although the prawns were a bit on the crunchy side but I certainly enjoyed the broth).

Plate 4 - On the first day, the dim sum station offered mini steamed buns of two varieties...a savoury option of barbecued minced chicken (the white bun) and a sweet one of red bean paste (pink bun which was the better of the two).  On the second day, it was four types of steamed dumplings...and on the third day, the steamers stopped steaming! ;p

Now, one of my favourite things to eat for breakfast is bread and eggs.  But, the Egg Station was somewhat obscure.  Initially, I couldn't see it but saw people having eggs, so I knew it was around somewhere.  Lo and behold, it was part of the kitchen where the cooks replenish the food (I passed by it a few times thinking it was just the kitchen).  They finally put up the sign on the third morning (when they realised that the guests were unsure) but I, of course, found the egg station on the very first day...hehe! ;D  You can ask for your eggs done any way and they'll fry it on the spot for you.

Plate 5 - Day 1: Omelette (I thought would be plain but came filled with diced veggies) with fried potatoes, sausages and toasted bread.

Plate 6 - Day 2: Sunny Side-up Eggs (perfectly runny)...ah, what a beautiful sight....let's just leave this as it is, shall we? :p

Plate 7 - Day 3: I just said Fried Eggs (and it turned out to be well done eggs, my son's favourite) with potato wedges, mushrooms in cream sauce, sausage and toasted bread.

Plate 8 - There was also a Soup Station with a different soup each day and this was the Tom Yam Soup (wished I had left this alone).

Plate 9 - Porridge

Plate 10  - There was also a station that offered three different things with one mainstay - rice, so I'll just call it the Rice Station.  On the first day, chee cheong fun (steamed rice noodles) was offered with some other stuff I can't remember.  On the second day, this might surprise someone (a fellow blogger) who hasn't seen chicken rice served in hotel buffets (actually, it's quite common)....I even got it for breakfast! XD

Plate 11 - On Day 3, they had this Nasi Impit served with Sayur Lodeh, Kuah Kacang and Sambal.  This is a vegetable curry dish made of compressed rice cubes with various vegetables (usually cabbage and carrots) cooked in a broth of coconut milk infused with turmeric served alongside a peanut sauce (that's reminiscent of satay sauce) and sambal.

Plate 12 - The Bread & Pastries Station, other than the common butter and jam, was filled with spreads of egg mayo, tuna and sardines.  In fact, I was quite happy with the combo of pastry with egg/tuna spread and went for a second helping.  Fried pastries like spring rolls, samosas and curry puffs were also available.

Plate 13 - I can't end without showing that I had at least one helping of salad, right?  I had fruits too, I really did! :p

You get a choice of two chilled juices (not of the fresh kind) each day...I had mango, lychee, guava and orange.  At least the orange on the third day was slightly better quality (like those Tropicana or Peel Fresh types, which has a bit of orange pulp) ;p

Of course, coffee is a must....every morning.....even if it's rather diluted...haha!  Now, after seeing all the pics, would you believe me if I say I ate all that? ;)

My Personal Opinion

Is there any cause for complaint for a buffet spread like this that's free with the room......or even at RM20 nett (if it wasn't)?  No, siree!

Seriously, I'd be a happy camper with just bread and pastries, made-to-order eggs and some egg mayo and tuna spread for the price....everything else was a bonus :)

MH Pinnacle
20th Floor MH Hotel
PT 212695B Jalan Medan Ipoh 1A
Medan Ipoh Bistari
31400 Ipoh
Tel: 05-545 1000

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

MH Hotel @ Ipoh

After the past two years of staying in Regalodge Hotel during our annual "balik kampong" trip, this year I decided to book a different hotel.  It wasn't because we weren't happy with Regalodge, it was just that we wanted to try some place new.

I checked the various hotel options on Agoda and finally settled for MH Hotel @ Ipoh because of its location. It's a 3-star hotel with 111 rooms spread over 20 floors with a user rating of 7.4 (I use this rating as a guide...7 - 8 is Very Good, 8 is considered Excellent and I usually wouldn't consider anything below 7).  

This is what greets you as you walk into the hotel.  Service is warm and friendly...and attentive.  The staff warmly welcomes and greets you each time too (and never fails to open the door for you).

Decor @ Hotel Entrance

Hotel Lobby

Lift Lobby

The cost for one night's stay in a deluxe premier room was around RM250 nett.  Checking in was a breeze and took less than 5 minutes.

I must say that the room was a lot more spacious than the one in Regalodge and there was lots of table space. Room was big enough to be furnished with a single seat sofa and small side table (handy if you intend to order room service...hehe!).  

The clothing cupboard was a bit peculiar as it was "doorless" but I actually prefer it this way since it's so convenient.  Another plus was the full length mirror.  The lights were a bit dim as there was just one main hanging light near the TV (Astro channels are limited though) and one in the doorway other than two small bedside lights.

Coffee and tea making amenities (but who needs that when we have MH Lyfe & McD a whisker away)

What I liked about the bathroom was the separate glass shower compartment and large shower-head with great water pressure.  This also helps to ensure other parts of the bathroom stays dry.  I'm one of those who dislikes bathtubs...and, in Regalodge, we were given that! >.<  What I didn't fancy was the hair dryer attached to the bathroom (I would have preferred it to be in the room).  All toiletries are provided including toothbrush and toothpaste.

View from our room on the 9th floor (early morning prior to breakfast)

In-house cafe, MH Lyfe, on the first floor

Another amenity provided by the hotel to their guests was the free flow of refreshments (coffee, tea & water) and snacks (biscuits & candies) at MH Lyfe (up to 9pm daily).

You can come in and help yourself to the coffee/tea and snacks all day long.  We enjoyed our free coffee but nasi lemak bungkus (packet) is payable @ RM3 (and it's available for room service at the same price). 

When we checked in, we were given a complimentary voucher for free ice cream at MH Lyfe which can be redeemed only once though.

Since we enjoyed the nasi lemak, we decided to order room service on another night and had their meehoon and kway teow goreng bungkus @ RM3 each.  You can add-on a hot drink...Nescafe, Milo or Teh Tarik for just RM2.  What a bargain!  Now, where can you get room service for only RM8 (okay-lah, RM10 with tips)....hehe! ;D  And, mind you, the noodle packets were fairly huge portions...the fried kway teow even came with a large prawn...what....for RM3! O_o  They'll even warm it up for you before sending it to your room.

On yet another night, we had the 'conveniently located' McD for supper ;)

There's also a Chinese restaurant (located next door) which can be accessed from the hotel lobby itself.  I can't remember the name since I didn't dine there.

Free parking is available on three floors (levels 2, 3 & 4) for guests and we had no problem finding parking space on level 2 itself whenever we returned to our hotel.  The parking pass is just a simple note left on your car dashboard for a hassle-free, uninterrupted parking throughout your stay.

As I booked my hotel (through Agoda) rather late this year (about a month before Chinese New Year), I couldn't find one with an option without breakfast, so the room rate came bundled with breakfast and I had to eat breakfast at the hotel for 3 consecutive mornings (that'll be in a separate post).

My Personal Opinion

For me, it was worth paying an extra RM70 on top of Regalodge Hotel's rate of RM180....and these are my top 5 reasons why:

1.  Room was a lot more spacious & had better furnishings.
2.  Separate shower compartment (with great water pressure) in bathroom.
3.  Cheap room service @ MH Lyfe & McDonald's (next door) to cater to night time snacking.
4.  Buffet breakfast (included in room tariff) was pleasant with a good enough variety.
5.  Located less than 5 minutes away from my spouse's family home.

All in all, it was a good stay (good enough amenities for the price we paid) and you may want to give this hotel a go the next time you visit Ipoh.  It'll probably be our choice for next year as could be yours too! ;)  

MH Hotel
PT 212695B Jalan Medan Ipoh 1A
Medan Ipoh Bistari
31400 Ipoh
Tel: 05-545 1000

Monday, 22 February 2016

Hao Yun Lai @ Pandan Indah

A new Chinese restaurant popped up in my neighbourhood (more than 3 months ago) and, of course, I had to try it out.  And, by Chinese restaurant, I don't mean our local Chinese-style dishes but Chinese cuisine from China (I was told that the owners are from China).  We came on a weekend dinner (when it was newly opened) and noticed long queues of people waiting outside the restaurant and we had to quickly abandon the idea.

I have since been back for dinner to Hao Yun Lai @ Pandan Indah and found it 'eerily' crowd-free.  The restaurant was brightly lit and everything was spanking new, so the air-conditioned place was pretty comfortable.

The menu was pretty grand-looking (for a neighbourhood Chinese restaurant) and impressive, printed on very thick and glossy paper, with equally "impressive" prices.  Their menu includes breakfast items (mostly dim sum), a few affordable one-dish meals but mostly stir-fry dishes you'd eat with rice (and these were the expensive ones on the menu).  On a subsequent visit (however), I noticed that they weren't using their grand-looking menu anymore but replaced it with a simple laminated one (their reason was because of the introduction of some new dishes).  To me, it looked more like they wanted to introduce some cheaper menu items to disassociate itself from their previous grand-looking and expensive menu.

We tried the Sweet & Sour Pork @ RM22.  Now, if you think this was the usual sweet and sour pork, it was not.  Though the sauce may look like it's sweet-sour, it didn't taste like the usual sweet-sour ones that I've had before.  The sauce took on a darker shade of red though the predominant taste of it was still sweet and sour.

The crispiness of the batter coating the lean pork pieces was also a standout from the usual sweet and sour pork ones that I've been accustomed to.  Overall, it was different....and quite good (apart from the small portion size)!  Certainly wouldn't mind ordering this again.

We went for a vegetable dish of Stir-fried Eggplant & Long Beans @ RM14.50 in a robustly flavoured oyster-type sauce.  What I liked about this dish was the fact that both the brinjal and long beans were cooked till very soft especially the long beans which looked crinkled like they were deep-fried first.  Again, the portion was rather small (barely enough for two).

The Spicy Fried Squid @ RM14.80 were rather small pieces of slightly chewy, fried, battered squid tossed with crunchy slivers of celery (which I enjoyed), spring onions, dried chillies and Szechuan peppercorns. There were more dried chillies than squid! ;p

Don't be fooled by the 'innocent looking' was very fiery in taste.  In fact, it was one-dimensional....just hot!  It'll make you break out into a sweat, especially when you bite into one of those hot Szechuan peppercorns.  Just look at the amount of dried chillies left behind! >_<

The Stir-Fried Rice Noodles @ RM7.90, fried with bits of pork (very few bits, in fact), shredded cabbage and spring onions, was run-of-the-mill in taste and nothing out of the ordinary.  The rice noodles are nothing like our "kway teow" at all, they're much thicker and chewier...not something I enjoyed.

The Seaweed and Egg Soup @ RM2 (small bowl meant for one), with bits of seaweed, egg and tomatoes, was downright bland.  Just about anybody can cook up a more decent version of this at home! ;p

You know how I love my eggs done any way...including hard-boiled but this Stewed Egg @ RM1.50/pc was braised in a sauce that tasted like dark soy mixed with not good and devoid of any flavour whatsoever.

Also, stay clear of their house-made soya bean which is quite horrible-tasting as it's unlike any I've tasted before.

Service is neither warm nor welcoming and the staff tend to exhibit signs of impatience especially while waiting on you to place your orders.  There's one lady staff that comes off as particularly unfriendly.

My Personal Opinion

On my initial visit, I thought the prices of many of their menu items (especially for a residential-type restaurant) were pretty steep for small portion sizes and forgettable tastes...and wondered if they'd be able to survive.  

Whenever I do pass by the restaurant, it looked a bit deserted to me (now I know why it was eerily crowd-free when Sushi Mentai is still crowded...with queues even to this day).  I guess they realised that and have since introduced some cheaper items on their menu but then the dishes come with scarce ingredients and aren't exactly big on tastes either.

The menu says "heavenly world of flavours".....but the few things I tried were far from "heavenly".  Overall, I'm not that impressed with the food nor the service to return to try more! :(

Update:  The restaurant has since closed (yet another one that didn't survive past its first year)

Hao Yun Lai Restaurant
18G Jalan Perubatan 2
Pandan Indah
55100 Kuala Lumpur

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