Italiannies @ The Gardens

On our last day in the city (Kuala Lumpur), after shopping at The Gardens mall, my siblings and I wanted to have a good western lunch. So we looked at the directory and decided on the Italian restaurant – Italiannies. The restaurant is located on the 2nd floor, on the same side of Robinsons. At first glance, the restaurant has a modern rustic yet inviting atmosphere.

There were only two waiters and we had to wait quite some time for someone to take our orders. One was more professional and friendlier than the other.  As we were hungry, it seemed like an eternity for our food to be served.

                                                                                   Sicilian Chicken RM 34.85

We ordered the Sicilian Chicken salad which was marinated diced chicken breast, mango, red grapes, and walnuts, tossed in a Sicilian dressing on crisp romaine lettuce. The croutons could be more buttery and crispy, however, I liked that it had a light dressing as it allowed me to savor the sweetness of the fruits and lettuce. A refreshing salad dish.

                                                                                  Baked Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage

The baked orecchiette with chicken sausage was amazing. The first mouthful I took instantly made me wanting more. The taste reminded me of Carbonara except less thick and more savory. And the baked cheese on top, mmm, love it!

                                                                                               Herb Rice with Fish RM 24.90

What I liked about this dish was the fish. It was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. I did not fancy the cioppino sauce, it tasted like store-bought pasta sauce. The rice had a nice Italian seasoning flavor to it.

                                                                                      Salmon with Zucchini Cream RM 58.20

The salmon took a really long time to be served. The mashed potatoes were palatable, it had a thicker and chewier consistency with a lovely coating of some kind of chicken gravy.  I was disappointed to find that the salmon was overcooked, so I requested for another. When I went over to the counter to pay, the “friendlier” waiter apologized again for the overcooked salmon.

 

All in all, this was not a great dining experience. The food was mediocre except for the baked orecchiette. The service was poor and there was even a 10 percent service charge. The food did not justify the price.

I don’t think I will dine at this restaurant again neither would I recommend it.

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Bala’s Banana Leaf

 

The restaurant is very clean compared to many banana leaf places I have been to.

The basic banana leaf meal is RM 7.5 ( about 1.8 USD) which consists of white rice, 4 different types of vegetables, fried chili, papadom, and a choice of dhal, chicken curry, fish curry, and mutton curry.  If one prefers a different type of rice, there is a choice of Indian rice or biryani (extra charge). There are also other types of curries, varuval, kurma, and masala that one can order (extra charge).

The waiters were friendly. We were spoiled for choices so one of the waiters recommended some of their popular dishes and they were all flavorful. Overall, the dishes were good. My family and I enjoyed our meal.

Banana leaf meals are usually eaten by hand. If you don’t mind digging your hands into gravies, do give it a try, it’ll definitely be an interesting eating experience.

There are certain etiquettes that would be good to observe and be aware of. Banana leaf is folded inwards after the meal as a sign of gratitude, folding outwards is considered rude.

 

 

Bala’s banana leaf

Opening hours: 8a.m to midnight

Telephone number: +60 3-2201 7107

Lucky Garden Bangsar, 21, Lorong Ara Kiri 1, Lucky Garden, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Night Markets in KL

 

The Malaysian night market, or as the locals call it Pasar Malam, can be considered a quintessential local cultural practice which has been around for a long time. It is basically a street market that is opened at night in certain residential neighborhoods. Here you can find a wide range of local food, electronics, clothing, household item and etc. The night market is a great place to taste various local delicacies all in one place.
As the night markets in KL are not commercialized, one is still able to get the authentic experience.

Below are addresses of two of the more popular night markets in KL.

 

SS2 Pasar Malam

Opening hours: Monday, 4pm-12midnight

Taman Connaught Pasar Malam (one of the longest night market in Malaysia, spanning over 2 kilometers long)

Opening hours: Wednesdays,  5:00 pm to 1:00 am

El Mesón

I came to this restaurant two days in a row. I was meeting a friend for lunch. The restaurant she wanted to take me to was under renovation.  So we randomly picked this place which was across the road. This modern rustic open space bar/restaurant serves Spanish food and tapas. I enjoyed my dining experience that I brought my siblings the next day for lunch.

 

During the weekdays, the restaurant offers a 2-course lunch special for RM29. You get a starter, main dish, and a choice of either coke, sprite or ice lemon tea.  There is also a tapas special for Rm49 for 3 tapas and 1 side.

Since my siblings and I were there on a Tuesday, we decided to go for the 2-course lunch and tapas special.

 

As we were waiting for our food, we were served a plate of warm slices of bread with garlic aioli spread. The aioli was delicious!

For the tapas, we ordered the croquetas caseras de jamon (deep-fried croquettes with jamon iberico), champiñones a la trufa ( sautéed mixed mushrooms in garlic wine, cream & truffle paste), piggy in a blanket (pork sausage wrapped with bacon served with honey mustard & carmelised onions), and bacon mashed potato (side dish).
The piggy in the blanket and mashed patatoes were decent. The croquestas were simply fabulous! These little creamy potato morsels were light yet rich and flavorful. The sautéed mixed mushrooms were delightful! It was cooked in such a way that the mushrooms absorbed the flavors from the sauce.

For starters, we had the ensalada española with tuna, tomato & olives, and 2 pumpkin soup. The salad was refreshing. The dressing was light and sweetish. The soup for me was the highlight. It was different from the usual pumpkin soup. It was more savory and creamier with a hint of the pumpkin flavor. The bacon bits accentuated the soup.  It was really flavorful.

As for the main course, we had pollo asado which is grilled spatchcock spring chicken served with homemade fries and mixed mesclun salad, fish of the day, and tagliatelle marinera with smoked garlic, scallop, prawns & chili.
The tagliatelle marinera was good; it had a slight spicy kick to it. The seafood was cooked just right.  The fish was tender and moist.  The tomato-based sauce complimented the fish well. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the grilled spring chicken. It was bland and uninteresting.

There were two waiters that served us. One, in particular, an intern, was very friendly, he had a constant smile and attended to our table on different occasions to ensure that everything went smoothly.  We enjoyed our food so much so we asked the waiter to give our compliments to the chef.

We were overall very satisfied with the service and our meal.

I highly recommend this restaurant for an enjoyable Spanish experience.

 

El Mesón 

Website: http://www.elmeson.com.my/ 

Telephone: +60 3-2282 8290

Opening hours: Weekdays –

 

Patty & Pie

My friend took me to a cozy pizza place for dinner in Aman Suria, Petaling Jaya that serves wood-fired pizzas. He claimed that this place serves one of the best pizzas in town and he was right! They serve one of the best wood-fired pizza I’ve had.

We ordered the half and half pizza.  I chose the Margherita and my friend chose the truffle (white sauce, mozzarella, truffle cream, provolone, egg, parmesan).  I have never been a fan of truffle. It is one of those acquired flavors, either you like it or you don’t. So I was feeling skeptical yet full of anticipation.

**I do not own the pictures above. I accidentally deleted my pizza pictures. These are pictures taken by others who have dined there and I wanted to show you guys what the pizza looked like. 

The pizza resembles a Neapolitan style pizza crust with a poofy thin crispy crust yet elastic, soft and moist on the inside. Each dough is formed by hand and tossed.  The brick oven is located next to the restaurant bar so customers can watch the pizzaiolo perform the pizza tossing.

The Margherita was decent but the truffle was divine! It had a wonderful smokey flavor with a delicate hint of sweetness and fragrance from the oil and cheese. Furthermore, personally, I feel the egg accentuated and balanced all the flavors together. Each bite was memorable.

I am looking forward to my next visit!

Patty & Pie

Website: https://www.facebook.com/PattyandPie/

Opening hours: 12:00PM – 3:00PM, 6:00PM – 10:00PM

Telephone: +60 12-223 1009

Inside scoop ice cream

A friend took me to an up-and-coming local ice cream parlor call Inside Scoop. We went to the Damansara Jaya branch.

Inside scoop started off as one store in Bangsar. Now it has expanded and they have 17 outlets throughout Selangor and in other states. I liked that they created unique local flavors such as durian, teh tarik, and cendol using local ingredients such as local tea and gula melaka (palm sugar) to the ice cream.

 

We ordered the peanut butter cup, strawberry, and durian. It cost 18.50 ringgit for a triple scoop. The ice cream was smooth, creamy and rich in flavor. It exceeded my expectations.

Inside scoop can definitely compete with international ice cream chains.

 

Website: https://www.insidescoop.com.my/

Kuching delicacies

I made a trip back to Kuching, Sarawak two weeks ago to visit my grandmother. It has been 3 years since my last visit. Kuching has many unique local foods. Here are some that I had.

Sarawak Laksa

The Sarawak laksa, or as the locals call it Kuching laksa, is a dish of an array of flavors. The main ingredient is a paste made of a wide range of local ingredients which is then added to the broth. It is usually garnished with prawn, chicken and omelet strips, bean sprouts, freshly chopped coriander and lime. The soup is tangy (from the lime), spicy, creamy (coconut milk), with a hint of sweetness.

Kuching laksa can be found in most hawker centers in Kuching.

Kolo Mee

Kolo mee is a signature Kuching dish.  It is dry egg noodles in a light sauce topped with minced pork, shallots, fried onion, slices of char siew (barbequed pork), and white pepper. It is a must-have whenever I visit. My mother, who is from Kuching, says that one of the best and authentic kolo mee is at the expert food court. The map below shows the exact location of the food court. The expert food court is not available on google maps but I’m guessing the vegetarian foods stall is located within the expert food court.


Crispy tomato ketchup noodles

This dish is only exclusively available in  Kuching and is one of the local favorites. As one can tell from the name of the dish, it is basically deep fried noodles in ketchup sauce. My mum and cousins love it. I, on the other hand, am not too fond of the dish. It only tasted like ketchup to me. However, if you had not had this dish before, it may be worth a try. Who knows? maybe you might like it.

Hakka Lei Cha

Lei Cha (tea rice) is a traditional hakka dish. The Hakkas are Han Chinese people whose ancestral homes are chiefly from the Hakka-speaking provincial areas of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hunan, Zhejiang, Hainan and Guizhou (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakka_people).  The soup base consists of grounded tea leaves, herbs, peanuts, and sesame seeds, thus giving the soup a greenish color. The soup is accompanied with a bowl of rice topped with chopped green vegetables and beans, tofu, pickled radish, and crushed peanuts. The toppings vary depending on the person who makes it.  As the soup consist of the herb Kulixin, it can be somewhat bitter to some people. Even though it is biter, I find this dish really fragrant (from the roasted peanuts). It took a few tries before I started liking the dish. Nonetheless, it is a very hearty and healthy dish!

Not a lot of stalls makes this dish well. The one I had that was really good was at the expert food court located at Jalan Datuk Amar Kalong Ningkan.

 

Sugarcane with Coconut Flesh

This is a popular drink in Kuching. It is a concoction of fresh sugarcane juice, fresh coconut juice, and coconut flesh.  It is perfect on a hot day. The place to get this drink is at Song Kheng Hai hawker center.

 

There are so many more delicious food Kuching has to offer. I hope I get to share more in the future.

 

 

Durian buffet SS2

Durian is my favorite fruit of all time! I absolutely love it! To others though, the smell of the durian can be repulsive.

If you are a durian fan like me, then the durian SS2 in Petaling Jaya is the place to go! Some of the best durian varieties are sold here like Musang King, D24, and XO. The prices of the durian vary depending on the type of durian and weight. The workers will help you choose the durian based on the variety requested. Before serving the durian, you are allowed to taste the pulp. If you are dissatisfied, you can request for another.

I had the D24 and XO during my last trip back. The D24 was more expensive than the XO. The D24 was between 70 – 80 ringgit (per durian) and the XO was around 55 ringgit. Both the D24 and XO had a creamy texture and a bittersweet taste.

They are opened from Monday to Sunday, from 10am to 12am.

Telephone: 012-234-5619

Website: https://www.durianss2.com/

Cafe Flo, Sanlitun branch, Beijing

Cafe FLO is the new casual dining space from Groupe Flo, who also owns Brasserie Flo, Beijing longest standing French restaurant. There are two other branches located in Parkview Green Mall and World Trade Center mall. Each branch has a slightly different menu and different decor.

When I entered the cafe, I was taken with the decor of the restaurant. The whole interior was aesthetically pleasing. The dark wooden beam columns along with the different shades of blue accentuated the ambiance of a Parisian bistro.

I was at Cafe Flo on two different occasions. One was for brunch and the other dinner. I will share both experiences.

 

As stated on the menu, all brunch meals come with French imported butter, croissant, and Bonne Maman jam. The croissant was buttery and flaky. The baguette emanated a subtle sweet fragrance, the kind you get from a freshly baked bread.

Brunch du Chef C. 100g grilled beef tenderloin with truffled scrambled egg, bacon, pork sausage and sauteed baby potato 

150RMB

In my opinion, the price for this dish was a tad bit steep. It just had the usual ingredients for a full breakfast meal. It was good, but nothing was outstanding that would justify the price. I was not a fan of the scrambled egg. It was not because it did not taste good, but it was the way it was made. The French-style scrambled egg has a more creamy consistency with tiny curds. I prefer my eggs “dry”.

Saumon norvégien. Norwegian salmon topped with sauce Vierge with a side of cauliflower puree accompanied by asparagus.

98RMB

The salmon was cooked just right. The sauce did not overpower the natural sweetness of the salmon. The cauliflower puree was a good companion to the food.

Red velvet chocolate

I did not know what to expect from this drink. It was my first-time hearing about it, and I am a big fan of red velvet cake. In my mind, I thought maybe it would taste somewhat like a red velvet cake (plus it looked stunning in the picture). The drink was a little too sweet for me, and it tasted like a hot strawberry candy drink with milk.  Some people may like it, but it did not fancy my palate.

Vienna coffee

Two shots of strong espresso topped with whipped cream with a sprinkle of cocoa powder.

This was an enjoyable coffee. You take a sip of the coffee with the whipped cream, and it gives the coffee a light creamy sweetness, and you get this lovely bittersweet flavor with each sip.

Soupe de champignons
Creamy mushroom soup with marinated mushrooms

48RMB

The mushroom soup was delicious. This substantial warm-hued soup was a perfectly balanced blend of good quality fresh ingredients complemented by a dollop of cream.

Frites de patates douces 

Sweet potato fries with garlic aioli

25RMB

These sweet potato fries were fried to perfection.  The sweet potato used were pleasantly sweet – just a basket of deep-fried goodness!

Spaghetti au boeuf

Spaghetti with minced beef, Provençale sauce, Parisian mushroom, and Parmesan

79RMB

The spaghetti bolognese was somewhat different from the American or Italian style. It was light, creamier, and smoother in texture. There was not a lot of ground meat. I did enjoy the dish,  it was flavorful.

 

Overall, I enjoyed the food. However, unlike its more famous sister restaurant, Brasserie Flo, the service at Cafe Flo lacked professionalism. The waiters were all gathered at a counter, in the middle of the cafe, in some sort of discussion. I raised my hand to get the attention of one of the waiters for the bill, but no one saw me until I called out to one of them. Shouldn’t there be at least one waiter at different corners of the restaurant? That was my only disappointment.

Camembert with grapes and saltine crackers

I used to have a strong distaste to the thought of pairing cheeses or dry-cured ham with fruits such as Camembert and grapes, Parma ham and cantaloupe. I could not imagine how those flavors together would taste good until I had my first taste of Camembert paired with grapes and saltine crackers. I was blown away at how amazing it tasted. There could not be a more perfect matrimony of flavors! The contrast of the sweetness of the grapes along with the buttery saltiness flavor of the crackers and the slight milky, creamy flavor of the cheese makes this pairing memorable.

Camembert is a soft, earthy, creamy cow’s milk cheese, with a hint of sweetness originating from France, more specifically Camembert in northern France. I personally like to have Camembert with crunchy red grapes such as the red globe or seedless flame because of its high level of sweetness and saltine crackers. Water crackers are also good.

Camembert with grapes and saltine crackers can be served as part of breakfast or as a snack.

These are my favorite saltine crackers