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Thursday, 27 July 2017

Bonfire @ The Starling

A friend suggested Starling Mall for our next gathering, so I looked online to see what our options were. Other than Nicsmann 1940's by Lewre, Red Kettle, The Embassy Cafe and Bonfire, the rest are mostly generic outlets that you can find in other malls.

Since the latter two had better reviews and I found the menu of Bonfire @ The Starling to be the most exciting of the lot, Bonfire was my pick then.

The Bar at the entrance to the restaurant for pre-dinner or post-dinner drinks...or for those who just wanna drink! ;D

The focal point of the restaurant is an eye-catching, colourful and beautifully painted mural which adorns one side of the restaurant's wall.

Wood-fired grilling, baking and roasting is the cornerstone of Bonfire's cooking (just in case you missed this at the other entrance).  The restaurant prides itself with cooking their meat, seafood and poultry in a custom-made wood (and charcoal) fired oven.

By the time we arrived, all the tables (inside) were taken up and those that weren't have already been reserved...what? :P  Although a friend of ours, who got there earlier, managed to secure a table, we later learned that we had to vacate by 8.30pm as it has already been booked by someone else.  We didn't want to have to rush through our dinner, so we had no choice but take a table at the al fresco section of the restaurant which turned out later to be a better option.

Our dinner started with complimentary Pan de Casa (two trays of 4 slices each) which is their house baked bread with dried fruit butter.  The bread was soft, nicely toasted with some grill marks and great eaten with their dried fruit butter.  It's good...order it (at RM8) if it's not on the house! ;)

We started with an order of Soft Shell Crab Pasta @ RM28 for the kids to share.  Please note that the dinner menu differs from the lunch menu although some dishes from the lunch menu are found in the dinner menu and vice versa.

The spaghetti was cooked in a blue swimmer crab jus with cherry tomatoes (I tasted a tiny bit of crab meat in the sauce).  The tomatoey sauce was mildly spicy but pleasurable.  The kids didn't seem to mind the slight heat and lapped it up (I think the adults would too).  The temptingly tasty soft shell crabs (there were two not-too-big ones) were well seasoned and crisp.

Since Bonfire is all about the 'wood-fired oven', a must-order is, of course, their Big Bonfire Platter @ RM175 with a choice of 3 proteins that's recommended for 3 - 4 persons (a choice of 2 proteins suitable for 2 pax costs RM135).  Note that the choices can also be ordered individually.

Our first choice was the Wagyu Skirt Steak (the most expensive on the menu at RM80) served with piquant sauce.  Only when the platter arrived, I realised we weren't asked how we wanted the steak done, so perhaps it was intentional as they cook it in only one way.  I was surprised at how tender the steak was even when it was cooked to medium (by the looks of the steak when it arrived).  I think the high heat, quick searing and the incredible char it achieved, coupled with the expert slicing of the meat against the grain, contributed to its tenderness. ^o^  Not only was it tender, it was flavourful too and I actually prefer to eat it without the sauce.

For our second choice, we went with the Whole Red Snapper (RM65) with sweet basil and coconut buerre blanc sauce.  Holy smokes!  That is one big fish! ^.^  The fish was fresh, the meat firm, delicate and juicy.  It went very well with the fragrant coconut buerre blanc that lent further richness and sweetness to the fish.

Our final choice was the Squid Two Ways (RM65), the latest addition to their wood-fired menu which you can now order as part of their 2 or 3 meat platter.  Holy smokes x 2!  We got two gigantic whole squids, one is simply a charred squid while the other is an otak-otak stuffed squid.  Otak-otak is a Malaysian delicacy of ground fish meat with spices wrapped in banana leaves.  Looking at size of the squids, I was expecting them to be chewy but they weren't.  I chose to eat the tentacles and they were fairly tender.  Loved the otak-otak stuffed red and green chillies too.  The accompanying sauce was the highlight for me with its refreshing and tangy notes.  It was like I was tasting the flavours and freshness of bunga kantan (torch ginger flower), lemongrass, galangal, lime and chillies (at least some of them?).

All 3 choices hit it out of the park but if I were to rank my preference, I'd say I enjoyed the Wagyu Skirt Steak the most followed by the Whole Red Snapper and Otak-Otak Stuffed Squid.  The Big Bonfire Platter was served with a chunk of charred corn, a bulb of roasted garlic, some grilled cherry tomatoes and a refreshing  pineapple slaw of pineapple cubes, thin shreds of cucumber and green papaya.

Your other choices for the 2 or 3 meat platter would be Rack of Lamb (RM75), Pineapple Glazed Beef Short Ribs (RM60) and Mediterranean Baby Spring Chicken (RM42).  If you do your math, you'd see that the platter would have cost RM210 individually, so it makes more sense to order their 3 meat platter for the savings you'll enjoy.  But take note that some of the combos you choose may cost less when ordered a la carte, so make a calculated move! ^_~

We ordered a number of sides to go with our platter of wood-fired goodness.  The first was the Potato Dauphinoise with Creamy Parmesan @ RM18.  Just look at the wonderful charring on the cheese.

This dish of thin slices of potatoes in a mixture of cream, milk and garlic is topped with cheese and then baked.  The potatoes were soft, creamy and cheesy with a layer of tasty, charred delightfulness.  A unanimous favourite of the table (kids included) as the best side dish we had.

Another side was the Charred Corn with Parmesan, Butter & Chives @ RM15 that was juicy with a nice grilled flavour.  But they forgot to mention that there would be a sprinkling of chilli flakes, so it was a bit spicy for the kids but totally fine with the adults.

We finished with the Baked Watermelon & Pomelo Salad with Housemade Vinaigrette @ RM18 to meet our criteria of 'we must at least have some greens' with our meal.

The lively salad was filled with charred watermelon cubes bursting with juices at each bite, juicy pomelo sacs, cherry tomatoes, leafy greens and cheese cubes.  The other sides include Truffled Mash Potatoes (RM16), Chargrilled Miso Eggplant (RM16) and Almond Crusted Crispy Onion Rings (RM13).

For some reason, my friends felt like having red wine that night (I guess it was ladies night ^_~), so we got a bottle of red (Coopers Crossing Shiraz) @ RM95 (RM28 by glass).  Since yours truly don't really drink, I went with a mocktail of Earl Grey & Raspberry Tea Spritzer @ RM16.

This wonderfully citrusy and tangy drink concoction of concentrated brewed earl grey tea, raspberry puree, rosemary (which you can smell and taste), lime juice and soda was utterly refreshing on a warm night...I loved it! ^_^  More so when it came in this wide bordeaux-type wine glass....so classy! ^_*

In the end, yours truly did have a glass of red herself too (cheers everyone!).....or was it like half a glass? ;P

My Personal Opinion

Their wood-fired Big Bonfire Platter is the way to go (plus it's really a good deal)....with 6 choices of meat/seafood to choose from, you're bound to find something you like.  Pair that with a choice of 6 sides and you'll have yourself a truly wonderful meal.

But if your eating party is sizeable, best to make reservations ahead of time, lest you end up with al fresco seating which was actually alright except that we had to contend with a smoker (just one) during our meal. But we also got to enjoy 'free' live music from next door (Nicsmann)...hey! ;)  On hindsight, we were glad we were seated at the al fresco area coz, when we left, we walked through the restaurant and felt the ventilation could be better inside (I know it's difficult to do when you're fanning the flames of wood-fired cooking....haha) ;D

Prices may seem high at first glance but we paid around RM100 per adult for a meal (inclusive of a bottle of red) that fed 4 adults and 3 kids to the brim, so I think that was pretty reasonable.  If you're hungry (or greedy) for some succulent charred meat (or seafood), you know where to go when you're in this mall. Bonfire can sure cook up a storm! ^.^

Bonfire Restaurant & Bar
G32 The Starling Mall
Jalan SS21/37 Damansara Utama
47400 Petaling Jaya
Selangor
Tel: 016-236 9849

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

#ewew makes One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream

I've seen this One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream online since way back when but have always been a bit skeptical if it would really work, so what better way than to try it out for myself with some leftover bananas one day.

But since this uses only one-ingredient ie. bananas, you have to be really, really into bananas (which I am) to want to do this, otherwise don't even try.

First, you cut up the bananas (when they're still soft, obviously) and put them into the freezer.  As soon as they're frozen (in a matter of hours or left overnight), it's ready to use.

I don't even have a proper blender as I've never found the real need to buy a blender as I don't large portions of food that needed blending at home.  So, I used my trusted mini chopper to do the job (and two large bananas just about fit snugly in it).

I didn't expect the blitzing to take so long actually.  I didn't time it but I think it was a good 5 - 10 minutes probably because I wasn't using a proper blender but a hand-held one that's only 300 watts which I use occasionally just to blend garlic, onions, dried prawns or small amounts of chilli paste.

It actually became rather warm due to the prolonged usage that I thought it was going to "meletup" (burst) or something.  You have to blitz it until it reaches a smooth consistency.  But don't worry if it's not completely smooth as the little lumps of banana will add on to the texture of the ice cream.

You can eat it right after it's blended (if you like) and it'll have a texture like a soft serve with an intense banana flavour.  But if you enjoy it firmer, then be patient and put in back into the freezer to harden.  Now who says making ice cream is hard....haha! ^.^

Yes, I wanted to eat some immediately...but not before making a quenelle for a restaurant-y presentation! ;) Sorry, this is the result of watching too many cooking competitions.  So, I attempted to make a quenelle with two spoons by transferring it back and forth between the two spoons until I achieve the desired shape I want.

So, what do you think?  Did my first ice cream quenelle pass the test?  Kekeke! ^_~

A quenelle is an elegant way to serve ice cream.  You can quenelle them when they're soft (as it's easier to handle then) and put them back into the freezer until you're ready to serve to your guests.  Oops, this one not a very 'pretty' attempt :P

Or simply just serve it in a nice glass for less hassle :)  Now this is one guilt-free ice cream you can indulge in without the extra calories of sugar and cream.

You can also brighten it up by adding some colourful fresh fruits.  Alternatively, you can turn your One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream into a 2-ingredient ice cream by adding strawberries (or blueberries) to make it a Strawberry (or Blueberry) Banana Ice Cream or some cocoa powder or dark chocolate to turn it into a Chocolate Banana Ice Cream.  Or even some green tea for a Green Tea Banana Ice Cream.  The possibilities are endless! ^o^

Monday, 24 July 2017

Jia Li Mian Noodle House @ Pandan Jaya

I didn't know about the existence of a good curry laksa near me until I read about it on two food blogs.  If I passed by this place, I probably wouldn't have given it a second look.

That's because the signboard of Jia Li Mian Noodle House @ Pandan Jaya is written in Chinese.  In fact, I had to find out its 'equivalent' name in English from their facebook page for this blog post.  Since both me and my husband are fans of curry laksa, we just had to try this.

If you've watched the video (made by Ho Chak) posted on their facebook, you'll realise that they serve two types of curry noodles here, an authentic Penang version (referred to as curry mee) and a KL version (which we like to call curry laksa).  Even if you have not, no worries as the friendly boss will explain to you the two types available.

I wanted to try the Penang Curry Mee @ RM6.50 (small, RM7.50 for big).  When the bowl arrived, I found it topped with a sprinkling of finely shredded "bunga kantan" (torch ginger flower) and some mint leaves.  I know mint leaves are quite common in a Penang version of curry mee but wasn't aware that ginger flower was also part of an authentic bowl of Penang curry mee.  I thought it would be more common in a bowl of assam laksa than curry mee.  I'm sure they were there to add some freshness and to enhance the fragrance of the curry noodles even more, so I didn't mind it.

Although I placed an order for small, it was a big bowl fully loaded with ingredients of cockles, shrimps, cuttlefish slices, cubes of pig's blood, tofu puffs and bean sprouts.  So, if you're a small-eater, this bowl may be a tad too much for you.  The curry broth was exactly how I liked it...thick, fragrant and savoury with just enough of creaminess from the "santan" (coconut milk).  It's happiness in a bowl! ^o^

Of course, fresh plump cockles is a must for a successful bowl of curry noodles.  Just look at the size of these babies....happy days! ^_~

Then there are some not-so-happy days...that's when they look like this (I put it on a sauce plate to let you gauge the size)! T_T  The size is inconsistent...I guess it depends on the cockle supply and what they get.

And when it's a Penang version of curry mee, there must be the undeniable coagulated pig blood cubes. What a surprise it was when I got ones with a pretty design.....special edition?....kekeke! :D

My husband opted for the KL Curry Mee @ RM6.50 which comes with curry chicken, pork skin and tofu puffs but minus the cockles.  Ah well, to each his own.  And yeah, I wouldn't mind more cockles in my bowl but since he dislikes them immensely, he thinks they'd 'taint' the taste of his beloved bowl of curry broth! :P

You need to dunk in all the sambal to bring the curry broth to life.  Don't worry, even after adding all of it, the broth was mildly spicy.  I've introduced a lot of curry noodles to my spouse but most of them did not meet his expectations.  He has very high standards for curry.  So, I asked...how is this compared to your no. 1 favourite curry laksa (mine too) in Imbi?  His reply?....very close!  I was relieved that one finally met his standards.

On another trip here, I tried their Penang Assam Laksa @ RM6.50 (small, RM7.50 for big) filled with chunks of fresh "ikan kembong" (Indian mackerel), julienned cucumber, pineapple, onions and lettuce (but no "daun kesom" or polygonum leaves though), topped with finely chopped bunga kantan, red chillies, mint leaves and a crispy cracker (somewhat similar in taste to those you'd find in rojak buah, only thinner).

What is assam laksa without "har ko" (thick prawn paste)?  I was hesitant (at first) to drizzle all of it in but in the end I did.  The broth, with its slightly sour note, was just mildly spicy.  This broth was lighter than some I've had before and not as pungently hot, sour and spicy like the one from O & S (this could also be due to the fact that the broth did not arrive as piping hot as I would have liked).  Having said that, I prefer a less sourish broth but those who prefer a thicker, pungent and more full-flavoured broth may find this too light for them.

The first time I had the curry mee, I found it straining to finish the entire bowl and told them (when settling the bill) that perhaps it's too big a bowl.  This time, I noticed my husband's bowl of curry mee didn't seem as big.  They say be careful what you wish for (or maybe it's just my imagination).  P/S: I hope I'm not the cause of the reduced size...haha! ;D  But then I also saw 4 ladies at the next table ordering 2 bowls and asking for 2 empty bowls, so..... :P

For side dishes, they have only two...and we tried both.  Their Penang Lobak @ RM3 per piece (the serving here is two pieces) turned out to be really good too.  It's fried to order with just the right amount of five-spice that did not overpower the taste of the lobak (unlike some I've eaten that had too much five-spice powder).  Highly recommend it.

Their other snack is the Penang Otak-Otak @ RM4 a piece which is a Malaysian delicacy of steamed fish custard wrapped in banana leaves.

It's made with fish paste blended with aromatic herbs and spices (this one you can clearly see the small pieces of fish fillet), eggs, coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves.  This is a Penang Nyonya-style otak-otak, that's why it has the ever important "daun kaduk" (wild betel or pepper leaves) without which it's simply not an authentic otak-otak.

It arrived piping hot (I believe it's steamed to order) and the texture is very soft and delicious with a subtle hint of aromatic spices...so good! ^.^  Both this Penang Nyonya Style Otak-Otak and the Penang Lobak are certainly among the better ones I've eaten thus far.  You can take-away these in cooked form or fresh ones to be steamed and fried at home as and when you like.

You may want to try their signature drink, "Hor Ka Sai" (loosely translated as "sangat hebat" or great, I think). It's basically a mixture of kopi-peng (local black coffee with condensed milk) + Milo.  But since I'm not a kopi-peng or Milo person, I decided to skip it.  I'm more of a kopi-o-ping (iced black coffee, RM2) and teh-ping (iced tea with milk, RM2.20) kind of person.

My Personal Opinion

Besides curry noodles and assam laksa, they also offer Tom Yum Noodles, Fish Ball Noodles and Jawa Mee. The curry noodles here is definitely my preferred choice over the assam laksa.  This curry mee can give our favourite curry laksa a run for its money although it didn't knock it off its top spot in our books.  Plus the price for such a fully loaded bowl makes it really cheap.  

Make sure you order their two side snacks of Penang Lobak and Penang Otak-Otak as they're equally yum.

If you can't make it here, they've opened a stall in Makan-Makan by Parkson (on Level 3, Sunway Velocity Mall) since February 2017 under the name of Homey Curry Laksa (now that's a name I can understand).  They strive to give you the homemade taste (like your mom or grandma makes or use to make) in their curry mee, hence the name Jia Li Mian or Homey Curry Laksa.  Did they deliver?  For me, they did.

Jia Li Mian Noodle House
19 Jalan Pandan 2/2
Pandan Jaya
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 012-560 3879

Friday, 21 July 2017

Rakuzen @ Sunway Velocity

After our first visit and liking the food, we made our way back to Rakuzen @ Sunway Velocity for more. We're glad to have another Japanese restaurant near us that offers good and reasonably priced Japanese food.

I really like the design of the place with its exposed polished wood and how the place is sectioned into various booths.  Although each cubicle is filled with a few tables, you still get a bit of privacy as it's not a totally open concept, so you only see the diners in your booth.  If you have a large enough eating party, you can even get yourself a whole booth of your own for even more privacy.

This time we went for the affordably priced dinner sets, the first being the Teppanyaki Zen @ RM48 which is the diced-cut beef steak set.

The set comes with all the usual components of chawanmushi, miso soup, eggplant, pickles, fresh fruits, garlic fried rice and diced-cut beef, of course.

The odd tasting side dish for me was the eggplant which was served chilled.  Mind you, I love my eggplant but eating it chilled wasn't my thing so I left it unfinished.  I'm not sure if it was meant to be served chilled like that or they didn't warm it through.

I also welcomed the addition of  a more premium fresh fruit of seedless sweet purple grapes besides the usual juicy watermelon.

The garlic fried rice was good too and it was a very large bowl.  I actually managed to eat only half of it and had to summon help to finish the rest.

The main event of this set was (of course) the diced-cut beef executed to medium rare as requested.  They were served along with some stir-fried vegetables of cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, leek and mushrooms, topped with some crispy garlic! ^o^  If there's one (small) complaint, it would be that the beef and vegetables were not as hot as I would have liked when they were served (probably sitting at the kitchen counter a tad longer than it should) judging by the release of water from the vegetables).  But because the cubes of beef were flavourful, juicy and tender, I'm willing to overlook the fact that it was served lukewarm! :P

The  other set we got was the Chicken Teriyaki Zen @ RM33 which is the grilled chicken set.

Again, the set was complemented by the same servings of miso soup, chawanmushi, eggplant, pickles and fresh fruits.  Loved that the chawanmushi arrived piping hot! ^.^

The chicken teriyaki, coated in a delicious sauce, was well grilled to yield tender, tasty meat.  It was one of the better chicken teriyaki I've come across.

We also ordered one of their special maki for sharing.  This time we tried the Stamina Roll @ RM38 featuring an avocado and omelette roll topped with (what else) but our favourite unagi.

Although their rolls are expertly done and taste good, we still prefer Burger & Sushi's maki rolls just a fraction more.

Rakuzen is the only Japanese restaurant I've come across here (so far) that serves complimentary green tea...and it's refillable too! *thumbs up* ;)

My Personal Opinion

It was again a more than decent Japanese meal at a mall that's conveniently located near where we stay.  If you go with a value-for-money dinner set, it'll make your meal here that much more affordable.

It you're a small-eater and happen to be not too hungry, the beef teppanyaki set that I had could probably be shared since I had difficulty finishing the miso soup, eggplant and fried rice on my own.

I'm certain I'll be back as it's now one of our 'go to' places for a wide selection of Japanese food that's good and reasonably priced.

Rakuzen
Lot 1-28 Sunway Velocity Mall
Lingkaran SV
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9770 1170

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