Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Luc's 1st Banana Leaf Rice Experience @ Curry Leaf, Damansara Utama PJ

Being a Belgian, it was Luc's first experience having his food served on a banana leaf! This would have been something common for us Malaysians but for him, our lunch at Curry Leaf restaurant at Damansara Utama (also known as Damansara Uptown) is an eye opener. It was in my plan to take Luc and Sophie out for an authentic banana leaf rice experience but Sophie couldn't join us for lunch as she was not feeling well. 

Curry Leaf at Uptown is the 2nd outlet from its original restaurant in Seremban which is also known as Curry Leaf. The restaurant in Seremban has been in operation for 15 years and this branch in Uptown is managed by Michelle and her husband Dewayne. The restaurant is started by Dewayne's parents whom his mother is a Chinese and his dad an Indian. Together they create wonderful recipes for this restaurant and Michelle whom used to work for L'oreal is now hands on at the restaurant with knowledge in cooking and also about the Indian cuisine.

 It's located along the same row as HSBC and beside Pathlab. This is a simple, clean and fuss-free restaurant. A plus point of this place is that it is not stuffy.

Just like any curry house, you can pick your own dishes here from their big variety of meat, fish and vegetables dishes everyday. The price is clearly displayed above the food counter. According to Michelle, the vegetable dishes will be changed daily to avoid food fatigue but a few clear favourites remain day to day.


Their lassi drinks are a must-try here. They use fresh fruits and also  fresh cow's milk which is then fermented into yogurt. So basically a Lassi is a traditional yogurt-based drink originating from India's Punjab region. Mom chose a Peach Lassi (RM3.80) and Luc took a safe choice of Mango Lassi (RM3.80) but I decided to be adventurous and ordered a Salted Lassi made with chilli and also diced onion. Sounds weird right? A traditional lassi is savoury whereas a sweet lassi usually containing fruits instead of spices is more popular among non-Indians. It turns out that the Salted lassi was not too difficult to stomach. It's lightly spiced and a little salty. It's definitely a "first" for me as I have not been too adventurous with Indian cuisine. The Mango Lassi is really nice, full of fresh mango flavours and it wasn't too sweet.

The most popular dish here is of course their Banana Leaf Rice. Here, the real banana leaf is used as a plate and the waiter will serve a few different vegetable dish onto the leaf and then followed by the rice. There's a choice of white rice or briyani and 3 different curry sauces. The real deal is of course to eat them with your hands but I probably shouldn't scare Luc during his first banana leaf experience.

All the vegetable dishes that were served on that day were delicious. I love the Aubergine with onions which is sweet and savoury. That is the most popular vegetable dish from the restaurant. So far I have not tasted anything like this in other curry houses. Actually I like all the vegetable dishes here.

Curry Leaf Fish Head Curry (RM25 onwards by weight)

Asked if I like fish head curry and of course I nodded my head. I think it comes from my dad as he's the real champion when it comes to eating this dish. He can leave no fish head unturned and he would make the fish die a worthy death. The fish head portion here is quite big and what I have here is the smallest portion. It's better to have 3 or more people eating this so that you can have more space for other dishes. The fish was fresh and the curry was flavourful, spicy and there were lots of lady fingers.

Chicken Stuffed Naan (RM6.50)

The restaurant offers a wide variety of naan (a type of oven-baked flatbread). One of the naan that we managed to try that day was stuffed with minced chicken and topped with fresh parsley. The naan here is soft, freshly baked and best eaten warm. And on the top left corner of the picture is one of the dishes that I enjoyed most here. It is the Fried Squid with sesame seeds (RM10). It was so crispy and light that I can keep on eating and eating them.


Kashmiri Naan (RM5)

The Kashmiri naan is also a signature dish from the restaurant. It is a sweet naan topped with fresh mango slices and dried fruits. This is indeed a very creative combination.

Who would have thought that the mango and dried fruits would compliment the naan so nicely?!! I finished half of the naan myself and I had one more of the same naan to be taken away too!! I think the winning combination of these ingredients has to do with the fact that the mango is fresh, juicy and sweet.


We managed to try their Squid Briyani (RM9) which comes with a generous portion of squids too. The briyani was wet and has a lingering flavour of spices. And the picture next to the Briyani is the Chicken Lakshimi Kebab (RM6.50) which looks like a layer of egg that wrapped over the chicken cubes. This is another dish which I have not tried before. To end the meal, Luc had a Bru Coffee (RM2.70) from India and mom had a Ginger Tea.

The restaurant has a number of signature dishes which includes Chicken 65 (RM10). I asked Michelle why it is called 65 and she told me that this dish used to require all the chicken cubes to be weighed 65g each. Wow... I really have no idea that this is a deep-fried chicken with spices originating from Chennai. The Mutton Roghan Josh (RM10) is recommended as I am not a mutton person but I don't mind eating this because it is not gamey at all. Even my mom who doesn't take mutton due to the strong flavours indulged a few pieces.

A picture of us and a table full of yummy goodies!

I really have to thank Michelle for her hospitality and the invite for lunch. It has been a nice experience for the 3 of us because I am so unadventurous when it comes to Indian cuisine and now I have a chance to learn more about it. Luc enjoyed his first banana leaf rice and we would be coming back when we are in town the next time!

The restaurant is opened for breakfast from 7.30am to 10.30am and 4-10pm where there is a breakfast menu. They also provide function rooms upstairs and also catering services.


Curry Leaf
No.75, Jalan SS21/37,
Damansara Utama,
47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Tel: +6017-3377880



Saturday, August 24, 2013

Appreciation in a sip...

It's funny to know what goes on in a consumer's mind. Working before as a marketeer and also in sales has allowed me to understand a little better the importance of the value of a brand. Branding has always been a topic that I would love to study and what makes it fun is to learn about brands that has existed for centuries and yet can be so successful today. I have to admit that I am one of those who are loyal to brands I believe in. Check my wardrobe and 90% of them are from Zara. If I want to buy a pair of shoes, the first shop I visited would be Aldo.

It's probably the same when it comes to drinking and eating. I have a certain favourite drink or a favourite restaurant. Although it looks like I am popping champagnes and wines all the time, in fact I am beginning to explore the world of beers. Beers are generally low in alcohol percentage (but some could easily go up to 10%), served cold and it makes a refreshing drink in summer or warm weather like what we have here. There is just thousands of variety of beer out there and I don't think one would ever get bored of trying.

 The pic of me when I first started drinking Kilkenny 2 years ago.

When it comes to ale, Kilkenny would always be on my mind because I enjoy its full-bodied, distinctive taste that with a nitrogenated creaminess and surge. It's an appreciation in a sip. A drink is not just a drink. It means more to me because I take my alcohol seriously and I need to know what I am consuming and thus I did a little research on Kilkenny.

Kilkenny originated from a city called Kilkenny in Ireland. Did you know that Kilkenny is even older than some countries with a history dating back to the 14th century? It was originally brewed by the St Francis Abbey monks in the 14th century and it was only during the reign of Henry VIII that forces the Abbey to close. Then in the 1705, the Smithwick family discovered the wonderful brew and started to commercially produce Kilkenny which is known as "The Cream of Irish Beers".

You can find all the information and fun facts you'll need to know from their Kilkenny Facebook page here. The page has really interesting posts of Kilkenny for every occasion and sometimes there are jokes that we never heard of from this part of the world.

With 300 years of brewing legacy, it's no surprise that Kilkenny comes to mind when someone mentions the word " Irish ale". What sets Kilkenny apart is that it is nitrogenated whereas most brews are carbonated. It's difficult to miss a Kilkenny due to its distinctive red hue and a velvety smooth, creamy head. These features are due to it being brewed with a 100% Irish malt which is mildly baked in the brewing process.

 
A sexy date?

One sip of Kilkenny, a premium Irish ale, with three centuries of brewing perfection is all it takes for the discerning few to appreciate the finer things in life. That's the value of a brand that endures the test of time. Drinking ale is more than just quenching the thirst for some. It's an appreciation in a sip. 
  
The tutorial will guide you through the pouring. There are two steps and the perfect pour, first you pour 2/3 of the glass full, then let the ale sit until the foam goes down. The difficult part is the remaining of the pint and it is a short pour where you have to make sure the ale doesn't overflow.

I recently found out that Kilkenny Malaysia has a very fun Facebook page and you can learn about the Irish culture, cuisine and also the pubs and drinks. I learnt how the ale is made and I also enjoyed the jokes about the Irish that they posted on the Facebook. So check it out and you'll be surprised by what you can learn here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The "My Tribute" Glenfarclas 1968 by Luc Timmermans @ Auld Alliance, Singapore

It was Luc's 40th birthday which he received a big surprise gift from George Grant of Glenfarclas. When he opened the box, to his delight it held 40 casks samples of the Glenfarclas 1968 from 40 different casks! George even promised him that as long as he still has the casks, the bottles are refillable for life. Now that's what I called a birthday gift!

In that pile of samples, Luc discovered cask #699 which he bought the cask and bottled it for the Lindores Whisky Society in 2009. That was not his first cask of 1968 because his first bottling of this vintage was a cask of #688 in 2004 which was called “Glenfarclas for Friends edition No 1”. He continues to bottle some of the very best 1968 casks from Glenfarclas for the past few years and sadly, this "My Tribute" Glenfarclas 1968 from cask #5241 is his very last and it yielded 175 bottles only.

The year 1968 has a special place in Luc's heart, not because it's his year of birth but also in that particular year, Glenfarclas began to market its own single malt and built stocks for the future instead of selling its whisky for blending. Luc's passion for the whisky can be seen and tasted from all the casks he has bought and bottled. From his first cask of Glenfarclas 1968 to his last cask, he spent a total of 8 years nosing, tasting and comparing all the casks samples of the mythical 1968 vintage. Luc Timmermans is considered the most devoted collector of historical and vintage bottles of Glenfarclas which led to his title as Mr. Glenfarclas.  And in 2005 he was also nominated Honorary Member of the Grand Order of Glenfarclas.
 
Such dedication to a passion called whisky led him to Singapore recently on August 7th to host a "My Tribute" evening at Auld Alliance where he presented and conducted a whisky tasting together with Ian McWilliam for the guests whom have purchased his "My Tribute" Glenfarclas 1968 package.


The package includes a handmade wooden presentation box with two crystal Glencairns, a bung, a ‘My Tribute’ book and a copy of the Glenfarclas history written by Ian Buxton. All these for a whopping price of SGD$3500 and there are already 24 sets sold in Singapore. 

 I'm so happy that I could join my partner at his second "My Tribute" dinner in Singapore as the 1st one was already held in Belgium last year. It was a very joyful moment to see the guests approving and appreciating the whisky that was specially chosen by Luc for his last bottling of Glenfarclas 1968.

On that night, we had a tasting of 4 different bottlings of Glenfarclas including the "My Tribute" bottle of course. First we started with some canapes before having our first dram of Glenfarclas 175 which is a limited edition bottle to commemorate 175th anniversary of the distillery in 2011. This is a very special and yet complicated bottle because it contains casks from six different decades, with the oldest cask being from 1952. The one we had was from the first batch and the second batch has also been released.

It was very nice of Ian to bring along a surprise bottle for us to sample. It was a Glenfarclas 25yo Quarter Casks which is a special bottling taken from ten of the last remaining quarter casks at Glenfarclas. The youngest of these whisky is 25 years old, with the entire maturation having taken place in the smaller sized casksand it gives greater wood contact and thus even more complexity and richness than the core 25 year old bottling. After that we continued with a 40yo Glenfarclas before moving to the highlight of the night.


I love the Glenfarclas 1968 "My Tribute" very much but a little less than my love for my partner (ahem... ahem...). Luc, if you're reading this, you have to give me a kiss! Back to the whisky, it was a rather complex whisky with layers of notes. On the nose, it was elegant with hints of fruits, oak spices and sherry. The first sip was truly exceptional although with a high alcohol content of 54.4%. I tasted ripe apricots, raisins and figs, it was also interwoven with a soft smoke, nutmeg and spices. It's a very fine sherried whisky indeed. With a drop of water, the whisky opens up and it makes it so much easier to drink because I was overwhelmed with the high alcohol content. A true craftsmanship of fine whisky from Glenfarclas.


Wayne, Ian McWilliam, Luc Timmermans & Emmanuel Dron. 
That's a nice kilt!!!

Even when there are guests whom are late, Luc still did an explanation about the whisky in detail with a personal touch. He loves sharing his knowledge and passion for whisky which he has influenced many people in his life to start appreciating fine whisky. To this date, he holds a whisky collection of over 4000 bottles and I am very privileged to have access to that cellar. After dinner in the evenings, I would go to the cellar and come up with two drams in my hands. I handed him the glasses and then I made him guess the whisky I poured. It was really fun to share the same passion with someone you love so much.

Together, we travel and share the good drams with whisky enthusiasts from all over the world. The next "My Tribute" will be held in Taipei on 22nd October and another dinner in Paris in December. If you're interested to attend any of these dinners, feel free to get more info at this website.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

KL Bird Park Visit

It's been such a long time since my last visit to the KL Bird Park. My parents told me that the last time they brought me and my sisters there was probably when I'm in Primary School but sadly I couldn't remember anything of that visit. This time, I returned as a 29-year-old "tourist" because I knew nothing about the birds there and Sophie is in KL for the first time and she would like to visit the bird park. The funny thing is, my dad is very excited and looking forward to visit it too.

He has been asking us to visit the zoo and the bird park with him so many times but none of us were interested to go with him. Now he has finally found a reason to go there! After breakfast at a coffee shop in USJ, we headed straight to the Bird Park. It was really an impromptu decision which turned out to be really nice.

 Sophie having a playful moment with his dad in front of the sign

 We like to make silly faces for the picture

 A nice picture of the 3 of us in front of a small waterfall

 Was disappointed that the peacocks didn't show off their beautiful feathers

 Sophie and an ostrich

 Did you see the ostrich behind us?

 Trying to spot the Scarlet Ibis.

 My dad feeding ice-cream to a parrot.

Sophie feeding the Koi fishes at the pond.

A nice outing with my parents too.

It turned out to be quite interesting to visit a Bird Park. I've seen some birds here that I would have never seen in my life. The KL Bird Park as I found out was the largest free-flight walk-in aviary in the world with 20.9 acres of land to explore. The fee for tourists is RM48 for adult and Malaysians with a MyKad is only RM25. A very worthwhile visit as both Luc and Sophie managed to see a few monkeys in the wild which they hasn't seen before in Belgium. I really like the family time we spent together!

KL Bird Park
920 Jalan Cenderawasih
Taman Tasik Perdana 50480
Kuala Lumpur MALAYSIA

General enquiries
Tel : 03 - 2272 1010
Fax : 03 - 2273 5428
Email : info@klbirdpark.com

Monday, August 05, 2013

In the land of Beers

Belgium is after all the land of beers. I've never been a beer person and 2 months ago when I stepped into Belgium to spend time with my partner, I've been converted. Maybe not totally converted because I still like my wines, champagnes and whisky. I'm just adding another drink to my list.


I was in Brussels a few days ago and I've never felt more relaxed in exploring a place like this in a long time. Everytime I go on a trip, I was always in a rush to visit as many places as possible. This time, we are just wandering around and looking for a nice place for beers and food. Belgium might be the land of chocolates because there is a chocolate shop almost every 100m you walk in Brussels but it's also a land of beers. The variety of beer that they have is uncountable.

Following a recommendation from the net, the Delirium Cafe which is just a short walk from the historical square is a beer cave with 2004 variety of beer from all over the world but mainly from Belgium.
There are 2 floors to the beer bar. the ground floor serves a variety of beers from the draught and the floor below serves the largest variety of bottle beers. Just looking through the beer menu takes me 10 minutes and deciding which bottle to order takes another few minutes. The menu is thicker than the average magazine with description of the beer and price.
Finally Luc decides to try a bottle of the Liefmans Goudenband and I wanted a Struise Mikkeller but they were sold out. However the beer specialist suggested that I take Elliot Brew which tasted like the one I wanted initially and it's also brewed by the Struise Brouwers. Both the beers tasted really good and the Elliot Brew is a crafted beer that was rated 99 points by Ratebeer.

Address: Impasse de la Fidélité 4, 1000 Brussels
Phone:+32 0)2 514 44 34
Hours:

Saturday hours 10:00 am–4:00 am


I think I am really going to miss Belgium. Not only I will miss my partner but also the good beers at such affordable prices. You have no idea how I wished that we can enjoy the same beers at the same prices in Malaysia. It's such a shame that we, consumers have to bear such high prices due to alcohol import duties.

The variety of beers I've tried during my 2 months stay.

Beers and Geuze that I've tried and like.

The trappist beers that I've tried. Of course not all trappist beers are good. Some are extremely sought after like the Westvleteren (i've written here) and some are just not to my taste (Benno from Austria).

This is one of the Geuze tasting that we had at home with some friends over BBQ and it was fun. We tasted the beer like we would with whisky and this is the best way to find out our favourite geuze.


As I am going to leave to Paris for my flight to Singapore in a few hours, this post is dedicated to all the yummy Belgian beers I've tried. I will never look at beer the same way again. As of now, I am starting to help my partner to collect more beers for cellaring. Cheers!


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