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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holidays at Home: Back in Malaysia.

I reckon 2011 is the year which I have been away from home the longest. 11 months to be exact.  I have been home for a week now and boy life has been pretty interesting. Ok, not quite that considering how much I’ve been doing nothing but rolling in my bed!  Nevertheless, the comfort of home never leaves me dissatisfied.  Factor in the yummylicious hawker style food and roast, and damn its good!  Over the weekends mom brought me out for lunch in the city.  Located on Peel Street, this stall is one of the more unhygienic places to dine but then again, it is these sort of restaurants that keeps the culinary scene in Malaysia authentic and unpretentious.  Operated by a crew of elderly woman, parents and I feasted on some of the tastiest morsels of chicken feet and meat roast served with authentic ‘oily rice’.


The BBQ Pork or Char Siew is one of the roast meat that is almost NEVER good back in Perth.  Often served smothered in honey, I’m totally left speechless with the reinterpretation of this meat roast in Perth.  Putting disappointments aside, this Peel road specialty is definitely one of the best ones in KL.  With its outer bit slightly charred, it is crunchy on its outer bit with a melt in your mouth layer of lard.  Taste wise, sweetness is not overpowering and is instead very tasty as a whole.  Yums!  But I do have to say, it gets a little scary after awhile.  The fat is not exactly the healthiest thing either haha.  But still a damn good eat!



The chicken feet was another highly recommended dish by my parents that day.  Even my sister thought the chicken feet here is absolutely yummy! I thought so too! The chicken feet here is braised until everything just falls of the bone effortlessly.  Its sauce was soy based giving it a salty finish but that did not quite satisfy me as I was hoping for another taste not just saltiness.  Nevertheless, chicken feet fans should definitely give this place a try!



Lastly the roast pork was another dish here which was totally kickass.  As always, the requirement for a good roast pork includes defined layers of meat with a well marinated bottom layer finished with a crispy skin which carries a good crunch.  And if its in Perth, the quality of pork is always questionable as the meat are sometimes a little porky which can be a turn off!  Again, this is another Peel road specialty which gets me drooling even as I am typing now.


When we were done with the food, the total bill came up to Rm35 including drinks and 3 serves of rice.  Nothing beats such value and it is these sort of places where the make or break comes purely from the quality of its food,  not from the ambience or whatsoever.  I am totally a sucker for this place now.  Coming NYE, perhaps a swim at the clubhouse would be a good start to the morning before having lunch here! *drool* *drool*!


HK and Taiwan in 1 weeks time.  But before that, sometime with the darling and her family in her hometown! HOLIDAYS! RWARRR!



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bites: Shiro Japanese Restaurant @ Perth

I was recently invited by Daniel to tryout his new establishment set in the heart of the Perth CBD area.  Shiro Japanese restaurant sits nicely in Central Park just beside the Commonwealth Bank.  With an awesome decor that faces the park, it really is a nice place to be regardless of night or day.  If you have a big group, Daniel even has a long table capable of accommodating a large group of 20 or so. Moving on to the food, Shiro offers a variety of Japanese cuisine including some which are given catchy names like the Rolls Royce or the Salmon GTR.  This made me excited and I was dying to try some.  As the list was long, I definitely could not afford to order every single item and limited my choice to the dishes which Daniel had in mind for my friends and I.


For starters, we ordered the:


The Soft Tofu Salad @ $7.90 has two serves of bean curd on a mayonnaise dressing topped with spring onions and red cabbage.  While the accompanying sauce was decisively delicious enough to go with the tofu, it was the texture of the tofu that my dining companions and I did not like so much.  For us, a tofu with a smoother texture would be highly preferred.  Nevertheless, it was still a decent opening to our meal that night.



Our next appetizer was the Namban Tsuke or the cold fish tempura @ $7.90.  According to Daniel, the fish is deep fried before being marinated for about 24 hours or more.  To me, this was really quite enjoyable.  Its sauce in fact reminds me of the sauce typically found in Thai dishes which is usually a concoction of sweet, sour and salty; and to a further extent, fruity. My friends were also agreeable with some commenting that perhaps a little more softness in the fish would have been appreciated.  But I reckon for something that will be left in a marinade for 24 hours, it does have to be a little over fried than normal.



The Sunomono Salad @ $13.90 consisted of Prawn, seaweed, and cucumber smeared with ponzu sauce.  For me, this was exceptionally pricey for something that I find to have capture the freshness of all its elements but for a young crew like me, “meh”!!! Instead “karaage” all the chicken, throw all the ponzu and and mayo party please!  Perhaps a mature audience only show?



Our next appetizer was the Ocean’s 5 @ $37 which was a HIT! The serve of scallop, yellow tail, tuna, snapper and salmon were one of the freshest in the business.  No wonder Daniel says its a big hit with its customers.  Everyone thought it was delish and another serve would undoubtfuly be much welcomed.  Even the scallops were still fresh and sweet!



After ending our sashimi note on a high, we moved on to a slightly toned down version which to me was the best dish that night.  The Salmon Aburi Maki or Salmon Belly blow-torched before being topped with flying fish roe and drizzled with mayonnaise on sushi rice captures all the sweetness and richness one would expect from a fatty fish belly.  It was faultless with a certain melt in your mouth feel.  Boy how can you not want that aye?  My words?  Definitely worth the $5 price a piece!  But do not expect Moby Dick to land in your tummy when you are done because I WARN you its small.  Its more of a delicacy, not a main course but damn it was good!



The Rolls Royce as it name suggest should be no less than luxury, exclusivity and satisfaction on a plate. For $23, you get 8 pieces of sushi filled with lettuce, crabstick, and cucumber topped with diced prawn tempura, Unagi, cucumber, onion and tiered with apple sauce, teriyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise, finally topped with scallion and tobiko.  Hmmm. not bad!   While it might be hard to distinguish or appreciate the effort spent in preparing this dish, do not be fooled.  It was truly deserving although at this particular time, it has started to feel as if the Japanese Mayonnaise that I truly love so much is starting to weigh down on the dishes.  Nevertheless, Fishman in particular found this dish worth coming back for.  I’d second that.  Definitely beats those outrageous looking Spider rolls which is no more than a show.



Next we moved on to a main that we ordered to share, the Toothfish braised in Shiro style soy sauce @ $34.90.  At first, it looked really good.  Perhaps my expectations were slightly more than your typical filleted teriyaki fish.  But it was the sweetness which I though made this dish a little difficult to eat.  Having some sugar in foods can be good such as how having salt in chocolate foods help bring out its flavour.  But too much and you know you have messed up.  This was exactly how it turned out for me.  Not quite there but I reckon there is still space for improvement.  The little darling agreed with me too and thought that this was too sweet for her liking.  But looking back in retrospect, this is the kind of sweetness most Caucasian like is it not?  Cannot blame Shiro for keeping up with consumers need.  Then again, I was here for authentic Japanese food with a touch of creativity and excitement. Looking back then, I realise this does not quite satisfy my requirements.



The chicken Teriyaki @ $19 was decent but I would not say it was the best. For me it lacked the fragrant that I desire in every chicken Teriyaki.   Neither did it carry that lovely contrast between the skin and the flesh.  Í am super keen of the Teriyaki at Kanta’s and this definitely does not match what I was looking for.  However, taste wise, it was not too far away.


Over all, our meal was pretty good at Shiro’s Japanese Restaurant.  While the things like Rolls Royce, Salmon Aburi and Ocean’s 5 are likely to leave you wanting for more, it is the other missing minor details like the sweetness of the tooth fish or the poor consistency of the tofu that will leave you wishing for improvements.  Nevertheless, it is still a brilliant place.  I have read most private reviews and one thing consistent is about the price Shiro charges.  I do have to admit that some foods are  expensive such as the soft tofu salad  @ $7.90 or the Sunomono Salad @ $13.90.  Even the Teriyaki @ $19 seems luxurious for what you get.  Perhaps a slight revision would help draw the crowd.  But based on its prime location, it is no wonder that such prices are charged.  Perhaps the targeted crowd is not you and me but corporate people dining at the company’s expense. So if that is the case, I have all the right reasons the believe that Shiro will go a long way and become a successful establishment in the heart of the city, and this is because it serves good food; and truthfully, people will be willing to pay.  Thanks for the 10% discount Daniel :D!



Shiro Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bites: Birthday Date @ Jacksons, Highgate.

On my birthday, the little darling brought me to Jacksons.  When we stepped in, we did not know what to expect from one of Australia’s finest establishments except a large price tag.   Seated at one of the more private corners, the restaurant looked rather classy but spared the clutter which was to me a good thing.  One disturbing thing though, was the silver bull head ornament that was glaring at us the whole night from the wall beside our table.  Scary! Enough said :)! Looking through the menu, Jacksons have an impressive list of culinary delights which had me drooling for a bit.  But deciding what to have was not easy so we decided to go for Jacksons degustation which spanned 7-course long.  See what we had below!


Complementary bread basket.


Consisting of house made bread rolls, lavosh & cheese sticks the ‘free things’ actually made us quite full even before we started.  I guess strict family upbringing didn’t quite allow me to waste food :P!  Moving on, one of the best things about the bread basket was the butter which accompanied the savoury pastries.  I cannot distinguish origins of a slab of butter but the lescure sea salted butter from France as mentioned on the menu website was absolutely yummy.  To a certain extent, it tasted slightly like cheese!  Bread rolls with some pink salt and butter was perfect chemistry.  Perhaps a slightly warmer bread roll would be welcomed!



Next was the complementary amuse bouche which was what I can say one of the best tasting starters of all time.  A crisp cone filled with some gazpacho sorbet, fetta mouse and did I hear asparagus foam too? To finish it was a small serve of red onions.  As advised by the waitress, I had it in one shot and wow! It was really good.  The taste was a mix of saltiness, and sweetness with that necessary addition of red onions finishing it off on a delightful note.



Next was the chilli squid, compressed watermelon, Thai salad and a small serve of peanut to add texture. Chilli squid was cooked to perfection without any hint of rubbery texture. The Thai salad on the other hand had all the necessary acidity which brought out the flavours of the squid with the peanuts providing a slight crunchiness which was already present in the fresh salad. To finish off, the sweet melon provided a soothing finish that kills of any spiciness that might be present. This was easily the best appetizer that night. As darling is partially allergic to seafood, the courteous crew at Jackson’s reinterpreted this dish using tofu to replace the squid and to darling’s delight, it was flawlessly recreated!


The next course was the  Cambinata yabbies, spring onion pancake & tomato.


For most parts of this dish, it was good.  But spectacular? Perhaps not quite so!  Yabbies were fresh, and the accompanying sauce was good.  Could not really tell what sauce was used but it spelt seafood.   Moving on,the truffled eggs did not quite have that truffle taste but it was every bit satisfying in terms of texture and taste.  But the name might be a little deceiving to some.  For me the downfall of this dish was the spring onion cake which tended to be annoyingly sticky on my tooth at all times.  It did not turn out to be as crunchy as I expected it to be.  Taste is not its strong point either.  But regardless of its flaw, I’d reckon that  this dish was still good. Perhaps a distinction?



Seeing the dish itself made me giggly, especially the part with the Chinese sausage.  For the little darling, yabbies were a big no-no! Instead she had a crispy skin pork belly with seared scallop and Chinese sausage.  In my honest opinion, the crackling was divine and darling did agree.  Chinese sausage was Chinese sausage. Asked about the scallops and darling says she forgot. I guess it was alright?  But unfortunately, the pork belly meat tended to have a little porky smell which was fine to me but not so much to her.


Next was a dish we were both fine with, the fish dish.


The fish of the day was the cod fillet encrusted with a shark bay crab crust served with nicoise salad.  I tell you OMG. I have been known to be particularly fussy about my fish.  While the fish here was really good, quail egg was yums,and  the sauce was no different either, the smell of the entire dish was horrible.  I had to put the anchovy aside.  The nicoise salad was not really my type of salad but I had it anyways.  This was definitely the lowest rated dish of the night.  I felt like the salad did not really complement the fish enough.  I am honestly not as expert and the chef at Jackson’s should know more but those are just my thoughts :)!


The second complementary dish was a beautiful lamb roast served with pickled radish and root vegetables on a carrot puree.


Is it just me or are the complementary courses really kick ass at Jackson’s?  Even darling who strays from lamb because of its gamey odour thought that it was really nice.  The attentive kitchen crew even carved out the vegetables to maintain its original shape! For me, tender lamb was all the rave but perfectly cooked vegetables definitely help this dish triumph over its former course of fish.


The last appetizer for the night was the hare & mushroom Empandilla, red wine & chocolate sauce with runner beans. 


The Malaysians have the curry puff, the Italians the Calzone, Indians the Samosa and the Spanish the Empanada.  Unfortunately, Jacksons reinterpretation of the little Empanada or Empanadilla did not quite satisfy us.  The mixture of hare and mushroom did not quite excite my senses as it felt rather blend.  Beans were just for show but sauce on the other hand rather special.  Also, I did like the crisp pastry coating the outside of the Empanadilla but as I started chewing through it, hmm was it undercooked?  Or perhaps it was intentional?  Overall this was OK but not mind blowing.


At this time I was already stuffed to the brim but our mains have yet to arrive. For me I had Jackson’s surf n turf.


Looking at Jackson’s plating and style of surf n turf definitely strikes you as something unlike conventional surf and turf which usually sports a large steak topped with creamy garlic prawns.  At Jackson’s its a travel through a cow.  Funny term. But you get a small piece of sirloin, a tongue steak and a beef cheek. As for the prawns, the chefs decided to ditch the garlic and was instead cooked with an orange infused cream sauce.  The crusted beef cheek was tender with a tasty marinade.  Somewhat reminds me of my date with the little darling at Nine Fine Food where the lamb and scallop served was flawless.  The tongue steak was equally satisfying.  Unlike Japanese restaurants that serve tongue steak slightly chewy, the tongue steak came with a melt-in-your-mouth feel giving it a creamy texture.  And the sirloin itself was cooked medium and fared well with it being tender in each bite.  Tiger prawns was ok but it was the sauce that tasted brilliant. Much kudos to that. 



The darling on the other hand had the pheasant stuffed with foie gras served with sauerkraut, ham hock, and carrots carrots.  The game bird was exceptionally tender and soft.  Makes me wonder how it was cooked.  Foie gras had minimal effect on taste but it added texture to the dish.  Sauerkraut was a lot nicer than conventional German ones which is a lot more sour.  I guess it is a good thing that it is less sour :D!  Overall, darling thought it was nice. 


After resting a bit, the wait staff brought out our next course, a savoury dessert.


Right of from their website, Boise la tradition with a black pepper & white balsamic vinegar strawberry salad and crumbs for texture.  Over all, darling and I felt that it was decent but tasted rather mature and we could not quite appreciate anything on that plate.  Darling herself is not quite a fan of pepper.  As for me I did like the cheese and strawberries but the pungent taste from the herbs and spices were quite unwelcoming.  But I believe though that it was actually good for other people and think that it is a question of personal preference.


Next was the third complementary dish, a dessert which consisted of biscuit bits and lemon curd topped with a rosemary meringue.


Seriously, this dish was another give me five or what?!  Darling thought that the meringue bit was a little too sweet but for me, the whole dessert was just spot on.  It really amazes me how the rosemary played an important role in toning down the sweetness making the dessert delicious.  The lemon curd itself was smooth throughout and everything really worked well together.  I liked this a lot!


As for the next dessert course, we had:


For dessert we had tea and coconut brulee with a violet macaron, lavender ice cream and honeycomb.  Darling says it was good but this differs significant from her preferred dessert which usually sits around a combination of berries, chocolates and ice cream rather than herbs. For me, I thought it was a little weird at first but after a few spoon too many, I got hooked and ended up really enjoying the dessert.  Brulee  was refreshing, ice cream felt light and texture wise, creamy in every spoon.  Very entertaining dessert.  I liked it :)!


After finishing the dessert, I thought we were finally done.  Jeans were already starting to feel tight and home was nearby.  Couldn’t wait to jump in and snooze of.. and just when you thought you were done, the waitress offered us drinks and brought us little things to accompany our hot drinks and to end our night.


Two truffles were the ‘things’ that night.  One was a white chocolate truffle with blood peach and raspberries while the other was a milk chocolate ganache.  Both were the direct opposite when it came to taste.  The white chocolate truffle felt refreshing with a hint of fruitiness from the fruits which were served in a jelly like form.  Very nicely done.  That was darling’s favourite that night.  The chocolate truffle on the other hand was served slightly melted so that once in your mouth, all you get is that delicious sensation of chocolate.  To me both was equally good but given the state we were in after so much food, I reckon the white truffle with blood peach and raspberries prevailed the better of the two.


By the end of the meal, I was definitely stuffed but at the same time was really happy.  1 year older but tonnes happier.  Good to have finally graduated as well.  It was all a very good feeling yet slightly mixed.  Jackson’s for one is definitely a memorable dining experience. Could make it a yearly occasion as I believe it is truly deserving.  Impeccable service paired with top notch food will satisfy even the fussiest eaters around.  There was little to fault with. If anything I had to complain about, it would probably be the garnishing which seems to be a little repetitive but acceptable anyways.  Other than that, perhaps the fish could do with a little more improvement? Before we leaving, the little darling and I gave the waiter a little tip believing that it was well earned.  She provided us with explanation for every food detail and where hygiene is concerned, all staff at Jacksons wear white gloves which gives it a classy look but at times can look slightly intimidating as the gloves look no different from the ones used in the medical field?



Jackson's Restaurant on Urbanspoon