Monday, January 30, 2012

Best Dinner of Year 2011


The best dinner of the year would of couse took place at one of the best fine dining restaurant in town. This dinner was partly organised by me as I wanted to celebrate two of my friends' birthday with a Bang. No it does not include a bunch of waiters and waitresses singing a Happy Birthday song but it includes a lineup of exceptional wines that are almost rare and good food. Lafite @ Shangri La KL thus came to mind due to its consistent quality and convenient location.


I've always stressed on the importance of a good bread basket before a meal. At Lafite, I love the fact that they have a basket of a few bread varieties to choose from. There's also an interesting squid ink bread in black if you are into quirky food. I loved all the breads!



I brought along 3 bottles of wines - Jacques Selosse V.O Blanc de Blancs, Pur Sang 2006 and Domaine Du Pegau CDP 1998. If I start my story on these wines, I think it'll take at least sometime to read. But it's important for me to record my experience with these wines as I might not be able to sip them again. Read on and you'll know why.



If you think that you've tried the best champagne out there, you might want to get yourself a bottle of this and compare. I thought I've tried the Kings of champagnes from Krug to Cristal but I kept my mouth shut after I discovered a Jacques Selosse V.O which stands for Version Originale.

Version Originale is Anselme Selosse’s great multi-vintage cuvée, aged 42 months before degorgement, and bottled with little or no dosage (which typically means little or no sugar added at all). Anselme's work has been most glittering and has more than once been referred to as revolutionary with uncompromising brilliance in the winemaking world which include low yields, chemical free vineyards and creating terroir based wines.

I love my champagne and the excitement to try this bottle has been building up since a few weeks before the dinner. It was told to me that it's going to be a fabulous experience, one I would never forget and by putting money where my mouth is, this bottle does not only worth every penny, it's a champagne that is just out of this world. His prices, at almost SGD$600 and given the work that goes into the making wines coupled with the overwhelming demand, was deemed fair.




This champagne is so distinctive in terms of its aroma, palate and texture. It's like a Burgundy with bubbles. How often do you decant a bubbly? With this, it actually taste exceptionally well after decanting about half to an hour. Instead of a champagne flute, a burgundy glass would be perfect! The bubbles are elegant but the nose is intense. Words are hardly sufficient to describe my experience with the V.O. but I'm so excited to share the tasting notes. There's something so sexy about this bubbly - ripe pears, cider, yeast, the wonderful oak perfume, honey, lime and the fragrant apples all trying to lure me for a sip. If Adam couldn't refuse the temptation of the apple, then this is a sip I couldn't refuse. It was rich, full of body, citrusy and it's really like a burgundy with soft, delicate bubbles. I've never tasted such stylish, full of confident and stimulating champagne. Not only it's lingering on the palate, my mind was totally blew out too. What a brilliant bottle!



That's just the description for 1 bottle. Imagine we drank all of these bottles that night. I think a 5-page post would then do justice to all these outstanding wines. The next bottle that had left me with such a long-lasting impression was Didier Dagueneau's Pouilly-Fume Pur Sang 2006. An exceptional wine always come from an equally outstanding winemaker. Didier Dagueneau has been called a nonconformist, independent, eccentric, and maverick by producing some of the greatest white wines from Loire or probably the whole of France. He's not called the master of all sauvignon blanc grape for nothing!

PurSang in French means Thoroughbred, where some journalists used to joke about Didier using a horse to till the vineyards. This wine is produced from a vineyard called La Folie in the south of Saint Andelaine where deep clay and limestone make up the soil. It has a soft upfront and on the nose, there's flowers, nuts, fresh grass, citrus, lemon and verbena notes. The aromas are almost identical to my Loccitane Verbena shower bath! The nose is so refreshing and inviting, something so distinctive and unique. With an hour's decanting, it has opened up to a very creamy yet succulent palate of bursting honeysuckle, tangerine, tropical fruits with sweet melon and balanced minerality. With such a great acidity, this wine is of superb length and lingering finish. Mesmerising and impressive!

What makes his wines more valuable today is that Didier was tragically killed in 2008 when he was 52 years old in a ultralight plane that he was piloting. He had a problem with the take off and it eventually crashed and the world has lost such a talented winemaker. The 2 superstar whites produced from single vineyards were the Silex and PurSang in which I've written about the Silex here and now I've describe the PurSang 2006. You might baulk at the prices but his Sauvignon Blancs (around SGD$220) are not to be compared with those of the New Zealands if you know how Didier make his wines. It's unfortunate that after his passing, many would never know how wonderful the Pouilly-Fume can be.



For starters, I ordered their chef's recommendation of Delicious of the Land and Sea (RM85). Yes, for a starter the price might seem like it's over the top but if you look right down to the ingredients, you'll find that the price is quite reasonable. On the top layer, there's a butter poached lobster, followed by seared foie gras, cherry tomato confit and covered with white truffle foam. The soup base tasted like a lobster bisque and I absolutely love the succulent and fresh lobsters. Paired it with the foie gras and you'll get a robust taste with different textures. Wonderful finish!



Another starter that is worth a try is the Black Truffle Tagliantelle Pasta (RM38). Though it's supposed to be a starter, the portion is quite generous. The pasta is freshly made, and then it's cooked with parmesan cheese, chives and black truffle cream. Very simple dish with simple ingredients but the secret was the texture of the pasta and its balanced flavours. It's truly a rich pasta and my friend finished every morsel of it!



It was very generous of a friend to bring along a bottle of his 2004 Cheval Blanc. This is a Premier Grand Cru Classé A. Knowing that I have not tried a Chateau Cheval Blanc, this is like my birthday! One of the best vintages for Cheval Blanc would be the 1998 before 2009 comes along and was rated a 100 pointer by Robert Parker. This 2004 (around SGD$240) scores a 94 by Wine Spectator and what I liked best about this bottle is that it has earthy and black berries aromas that are so intense. If you nose it a lil longer, you'll get to trace some hints of tobacco and maybe some flowery notes as well. On the palate, you can't help but notice its silkiness, velvety texture and elegance. There's lots of ripe fruits but it was rather tight and complex. Let it breathe and it'll taste much better. Medium-bodied, great length and bright acidity!



For mains, I had the 200g Grilled Kobe Wagyu Rib Eye (RM170). It comes with cherry tomatoes, french beans which are all grilled as well and a potato fondant and rosemary sauce. The potato fondant is made out of thin slices of potato assembled into a short tower. It's buttery and has a very nice grilled flavour. The Kobe Wagyu as expected was tender and juicy due to its marbled fats. The taste of the fats is dissolved into the meat when it underwent the grilling station and the result is that you get a very succulent and intense taste of butter and nuts. Yummy!



With all the superstar wines, a dessert is almost unnecessary just so that the wines can have a lingering taste on our palates. Probably we were too high to remember, but there were 3 desserts. We has a Valrhona chocolate soufle (RM30) and then a Raspberry Yuzu Orange Cheese Cake (RM30). This cheesecake has interesting layers of colours which reminded me of the "kuih lapis" that I used to eat. Of course, this is only more posh with the use of Pistachio sponge cake, yuzu orange sabayon, raspberry jelly, mango peels and wafer with cocoa nips. Aesthetically beautiful, creamy texture and tangy finish. It's all good!!!




I'm glad that I've finally decided to end this post although omitting two wines that I should have written about them - the Ruinart Brut Rose and the Domaine Du Pegau CDP 1998 which are equally outstanding too in their own ways. It took me the whole night to write this post and I'm glad I've finally put it down. The dinner had taken place a few months ago when the new chef was still absent from Lafite and due to procrastination, I've only decided to pen it now. Though without a chef, the sous chef has been doing such a wonderful job. And the best thing was, someone went and picked up the bill! hehehe....


Lafite
Shangri La Hotel
11 Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
T: +(60 3) 2032 2388
Website

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Water Dragon Year

It's been a year of ups and downs and finally the Rabbit hops off and here come the Water Dragon. I hope it'll be a wonderful year and not to mention the 3 vital things which are truly important in chinese culture - health, wealth and success. Therefore, to start the year with a bang, I've bought myself some lottery tickets, hoping to strike a pot of gold someday this year. LOL... (so far, I haven't even strike a dime but I will not give up!)



Dad was home for CNY from Qatar and we all missed him so dearly. It's a tradition at home that we had to serve him and mommy tea in order to get the ang pows. At the same time, we have to recite some meaningful Chinese New Year greetings and it's really a challenge. So sometimes, we ended up with crap messages like may the share market be bullish and may mommy never scold us so much this year. Heheh...



It's also a time of togetherness. We went to Pavilion KL on the 1st day of CNY because Dad has a biz appointment in the city. At the same time I went to the YTL Open House at JW Marriott and Dad's friend gave me the biggest ang pow ever - RM50. How often do you get so much from a stranger?

It's really disappointing to see the value of ang pows nowadays. 20 years ago, I get RM10 from relatives and then 20 years later, I am still getting the same amount. What happened to the cost of inflation? Even friends gave me RM10 nowadays which is a big increase from RM2 and RM5 you get from strangers a decade ago. And I can predict that the ang pow will be capped at RM10 for a long long time.

In financial point of view, house visiting for singles is a nett loss activity. You bring a gift that costs more than RM30 and you get a RM10 ang pow in return. Where's the ROI?!! The only way to get your ROI is to eat all the cookies and drink all the beer! I'm kidding. Afterall, CNY is all about giving and celebrating. Thus the ROI is not applicable. But you can always gamble and make back the money!



It's also a time to meet your childhood friends! I've been back in Ipoh for a few days and I managed to visit my dearest friend Jasmin whom I know since we were in MGS and then David who came to the restaurant on surprise and poked my shoulder. It's so good to meet up at least once a year to know that you've not been forgotten! Lol..



It's also the time of the year to put on some kilos! Gosh, I've been eating non stop from the 1st day of CNY to this day. There's so much to eat and I think I easily finish the whole tin of Kuih Kapit at my relatives' house. I think the amount of 100Plus I drank for these few days is more than what I drank in a year! Before we make our way back to KL, we had to stop by at Funny Mountain to taste the best Tau Fu Fa in the world! It's so yummy!!!


And that includes waking up at 8am to go to your parents' friend's house to see 3 dragons and 8 lions danced around the house.


The Lim family wishes you a very Happy Dragon Year!



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tossing Coins at Fontana di Trevi


Perhaps one of the most famous icons of Rome would be the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi). If you've watched movies like La Dolce Vita, Roman Holiday, When in Rome, or even the Chinese TVB drama series Triumph in the Skies, you'll see a very beautiful fountain in Rome and that's the famous Trevi Fountain. At 85 feet high and 65 feet wide, it’s the biggest baroque fountain in the entire city of Rome and almost every tourist to the city would make their way to this fountain at least once.



When in Rome, you'll notice that there were quite a number of fountains but none of them is as famous as this fountain here. A little history about the fountain which I read from the travel guide: Trevi Fountain was originally built on this spot in the mid-15th century, when the tradition of building fountains to mark the end point of an acqueduct of the three roads (Acqua Vergine). The acqueduct was destroyed by invaders in the 6th century, but repaired in the 15th century by order of the Pope when the first fountain was built. The Trevi Fountain today, which was completed in 1762, is still served by that same Acqua Vergine acqueduct.



This place is horribly crowded and so you won't miss this spot if you're traveling on foot without a guide. A tricky note is that you should always ask for directions as this fountain is not located along some main roads. It's located in the midst of some old buildings with small roads. This place is a haven for pickpockets so beware of your bags and pockets. Don't take pictures with those Gladiators as they are there to make big bucks from you. Apart from that, it's still a place that one has to visit when in Rome. The fountain is indeed big and magnificent.

While you're there, don't forget to toss a coin. There's a legend about throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain. Watch the people. The original legend says that if you throw a coin into the Trevi, with your right hand over your left shoulder and your back to the fountain – that will ensure a return to Rome. In modern times, thanks to the film “Three Coins in the Fountain,” it says throwing one coin means a return to Rome, a second coin leads to a new romance, and a third coin leads to marriage.



Err... I think I threw 4 coins. What does that mean? A road leading to eternal happiness? Haha...
Did you know that about 3000 Euros is collected from the fountain daily?!! The coins are collected every night and the funds have been used to fund a supermarket that serves the poor of Rome, the Italian Red Cross, as well as other local charities. There are attempts of people trying to jump into the fountain and perhaps take the coins but there are many policemen all around the fountain eyeing on you!

I think it'll be good for our economy if we have such a fountain in Malaysia. RM3000 daily will do a lot of good to our economy too!


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Beware of Gladiators!


This is the story of Gladiators at the Pantheon. They are not your swordsman in the Roman Empire because here, they make a fast killing on tourists by offering to take memorable pictures with you even without telling you that there's a price to pay.

I knew from the start that taking pictures with them comes with a price but at the spur of the moment, you'll think that it's nice to have pictures with these gladiators since you're in Rome. The trick is, always ask how much it costs! And bargain, bargain and bargain...

This is the story of my encounter with a Gladiator at The Pantheon.







After some haggling and my refusal to pay, he say he'll just charge us both 5 Euros. These guys are really persistent and they followed us around. In the end, we both just pay the money and got rid of him. A friend told me that he told the Gladiator that he will delete all the pictures and so he wouldn't need to pay. And at last, he only paid 2 Euros. Wow.. good deal!



Apart from these irritating Gladiators trying to lure you to take pictures with them, the Pantheon is actually a very nice place to visit. Situated not very far from the Trevi Fountain, this Pantheon, commissioned by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.



Inside the building, it has a very interesting central opening that overlooks the blue sky. The height to the central opening and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres (142 ft). It is after all, one of the best preserved of all Roman buildings. Admission is free.


Piazza della Rotonda, 12, 00186 Roma, Italy


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Run, Eiling! Run!

Those are the lines I've heard for the past 2 morning runs I had while in Rome.

"You can do it!"
"Run, Eiling, run!!!"

It's no easy feat when running in the cold. It's my 1st ever morning jog in the cold where the temperature falls below 7 degrees celcius. I'm used to hot and humid weather where one starts sweating before the run but here in Rome, I only sweat after the run and my hands were freezing!



On the 1st morning run, we made it to the Colosseum. I only managed to catch a glimpse which is less than a minute and then we ran back to the hotel. From the hotel to the Colosseum and back, it took us almost 30 minutes for a 4.24km distance. I made it!



On our 2nd run, my colleague had a brilliant idea. He suggested that we should run to another country. What?!! It's just a short distance to the Vatican City (which is in fact a sovereign city state) and we just ran all the way until we reach the St Peter's Square.



We passed so many beautiful sights and buildings along the way. Too bad as I have no opportunity to stop and admire them (or rest) as my colleagues are really crazy runners. They can run so fast and full of stamina. I'm at least 1-2 minutes behind them every time!



But in the end, I still made it! It's 4.02km from our hotel to the Vatican City and back. After that, I had a quick shower and head out for our meeting at 8.30am. I must say that I really enjoy having a morning jog in the cold and in a new country. It just make the whole experience a whole lot better. And after the morning workout, it kept me warm throughout the day in Rome. So bring your jogging shoes the next time you're away and you'll be surprised how wonderful a morning jog could be!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Have you sent out your CNY greeting?


I think in years to come, the act of sending out Chinese New Year cards during this festive period will be extinct. Just ask ourselves, how many greeting cards have you bought last year and how many have you actually personally sent? Well, I can honestly tell you that I've sent 4 Xmas cards (real cards) and 3 postcards in 2011.



These are the CNY cards I received from my high school friends when I was in college. Looking back, I have accumulated a drawer filled with hand-written cards and sometimes I would just sit back and run through all of them again. I miss you guys and your cards.

The internet, e-greetings and whatsapp have taken over the sending out of CNY cards due to 3 reasons - cost, time and hassle-free. Gone are the days when one anticipates for the cards to be hand delivered by postmen, collecting the stamps from the used envelopes and hanging the CNY cards received in the house as part of the decor. Gone are the days...

This year, I made a cute e-greeting and I sent it out using my Facebook which makes everything so much easier. Yes, I'm truly guilty for not buying any CNY cards and personally posting them. Maybank added a very cute CNY app in its Facebook page to allow users to create an e-greeting with lion movements and music that you can customise, check your Zodiac mash-up and then entertain your guests with some CNY facts that they might not know.



I love hand-written cards but technology makes life a breeze and this is what I did and sent out a while ago. The best thing is, Maybank is selecting one daily favourite to win the RM250 Ang Pow and the 3 best lion dances created stand to win a real lion dance performance to be sent to the winners house. Contest ends 31st Jan 2012 so don't wait till it's too late!



I also played with the zodiac mash-up and I happened to be an Aquarat! Lol... that's pretty interesting.


And after that, you can scroll through the CNY facts that you would want to know. They have quite a number of topics and you can wow someone with that.


It's a pretty good app to send out greetings, win prizes and do some fact-finding. Try to use it to send out your CNY e-greetings and I'm sure your friends will like it. Log on to Maybank CNY FB app here.

Kiasu mode ON. It's CNY, who doesn't want free money and lion dance?


Monday, January 16, 2012

Urban Spoon Bistro @ Sri Hartamas


On the 2nd day of New Year, I was invited by Sean & Chef Tawfeeq Seow whom are the owners of Urban Spoon Bistro in Sri Hartamas, situated at the building right opposite the Hartamas Shopping Centre. It's quite a new place and I was surprised that I didn't know about the existence of Plaza Damas 3 which already house a few restaurants since its opening a few months ago.

My sister, Yiling and I were invited and so we thought it would be a good idea to go together. At the very same day, there was a birthday party going on at their bistro located on the 1st floor which caters to private functions. Everyone was so busy but despite that, we still have very good service from the staff.


Apple Mojito, Watermelon Margharita, Soho La, Lychee Gimlet
(RM25/glass)

What's a better way to start the year off with some cocktails? I personally like the Soho La which has interesting layers of colours and also a play of textures. Their Mojito was a little off tune that day and thus I prefer the watermelon-based cocktails for a fresh afternoon.

The restaurant has a cosy yet upmarket style with the blend of colours by matching the gloomy colours with bright strips of turquoise. I like the classy bar and the naked brick wall. However, seating wise may be a bit tight and not too spacious.



The chef asked us what we would like to try and as usual, I told him that I'll leave the menu in his safe hands. We started off with a Soft Shell Crab Tempura (RM18). This salad is an interesting twist to the normal soft shell crab salad because they used a thai style sauce on it. There's apple papaya som tam and also garlic dressing. It's really a good start to the meal with the sourish and refreshing taste.



Next, we had a Roast Beef Salad (RM18) which consists of french beans, shallots, lemongrass, chilli, eggplant with lime and fish sauce dressing. This also reminds me of a thai style appetiser but the main ingredient which was the roast beef was just a good compliment to the salad. You can taste the juicy beef slices which is aged and hand-sliced. It's really a good piece of meat! Now imagine all those taste interwovened into one dish. Yummy!



We are into really serious spicy business here with the next dish presented to us in the form of fried breaded Jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese (RM18). I was skeptical at first to try it as I am not a big fan of spicy food but in the end I did convince myself to try one. At the first bite, it was sweet and you can taste the cheese but towards the end, you can feel the spiciness creeping into your tongue. Well, it's not too spicy and if I can take it, anyone can too!


Carrot and orange bisque (RM14)

This soup is made with orange, carrot with seafood ceviche and braised leeks. It's interesting to see an orange goes into making this soup. It's creamy, but lucky it's not starchy. You have to really consume this while it's still warm. The tangy taste is very subtle but the more distinct taste comes from the seafood and leek.



We're finally moving into mains after at least and hour and a half there. Things were moving a bit slow that afternoon and I guess it might be the party that's going on upstairs. We heard that the Emperor Tang Duck Confit (RM38) is a must try. The presentation is really impressive with a use of roasted baby potatoes, french beans, soy and calamansi reduction. While the duck did have a crispy skin, I felt that the meat was a bit dry. The sauce was a combination of sweet and savoury but somehow I felt that there's something missing with this dish.


Yaki fillet of cod (RM55)

I personally like the cod with sauteed tomato, oyster mushroom, seasonal vegetables, wasabi mayo, anise-mirin glaze, bonito flakes. The fish was fresh and you can see the flakes of the fish beautifully lined. The bonito flakes is certainly a very odd ingredient to the dish but it does pair very well because you get this roasted umami taste to it.



Perhaps one of the best mains we had that day which everyone enjoyed was the Cajun Wagyu Beef Burger (RM38). It is served with home-made spicy tomato chutney, cheese and a fried egg. The minced beef patty was good because the meat has retained it's juiciness and fats through the grilling process and the egg yolks oozes out as you cut into the burger.



After almost 2 hours there, we were still not finished. Coming up, we had 3 desserts. We had a Zesty crepe with vanilla ice cream which is not in the menu yet, Black pepper tamarind macerated strawberry & peach (RM14) with chardonnay au gratin & watermelon-basil slashy and a Chocolate cherry fondant (RM18) with vanilla ice cream and alcoholic option if you prefer. All the desserts were very good particularly with the chocolate dish that comes with preserved cherries and oozing chocolate that make you dance.

We weren't quite done here until the fat lady sings coffee were served. We had a cuppa and a good conversation with Chef Tawfeeq Seow whom has a bevy of experience from his previous stint at some of the 5 star hotels in KL. Although fusion is the word best describe this restaurant, it's certainly not one of those that serve half-past-six fusion food. For the price you pay for, I must say this is a good deal.


An obligatory picture of satisfied patrons and the chef.


Urban Spoon Bistro
Plaza Damas 3,
Jalan Sri Hartamas 1,
50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-6201 2108
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Business hours: Mon - Sun 11:am - 11:00pm

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