PEr FYI

March 29, 2015

NUR, Hong Kong…the No-Choice Restaurant

NUR doesn’t give you any choices. It serves just one prix-fixe menu of nine courses including dessert, and they came in rapid succession. The food is innovative, sophisticated and artfully presented: tomato, Hokkaido scallop, maitake mushroom, squid in noodles, scrambled taiyouran egg, mackerel, beef tongue, aomori apple, doughnut with goji cream.

NUR, which opened in April 2014, is a new one-star entry in the 2015 Michelin guide.

Be warned though; the dining space is compact and includes an open kitchen which allows you to watch the chefs working like demons stroking the fires of hell. The bill makes you think you’ve arrived there. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 28, 2015

Cassatt’s A Kiwi Cafe, Arlington, Washington DC…tasty dishes in a cozy bistro-style environment

Cassatt’s, “a Kiwi cafe” in Arlington is a pleaser. Along with the good food, which is styled with a New Zealand flair, it has a nice, cosy neighborhood feel.

The Big Kiwi Breakfast is very similar to the traditional British breakfast with two eggs any style, bacon, sausage, mushrooms & tomato. The Full English. The Full Monty. A fry-up. Call it what you want, but digging into this piping hot fry up is an experience that can set you right no matter what situation you may have gotten yourself into. The flat white, a not-too-milky espresso drink long adored by Australians and New Zealanders is also known as the “quintessential Kiwi coffee.”  It’s hard to find fault with the flat white here. The thin head was smooth and silky while the coffee itself was chocolatey with a light smokiness to it. The coffee was also powerful enough to keep me going well into the afternoon.

Cassatt’s A Kiwi Café doesn’t push the boundaries of cafe-dom but is novel simply by being such a cosy, personal space with flavourful food.  This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

cassatt's dc

 

March 21, 2015

Cha Ca La Vong, Hanoi… so exceptional that there is a street in Hanoi dedicated to these grilled catfish

Cha Ca is an iconic, delicious dish which also happens to be the name of the restaurant in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. With an unassuming external appearance the shop would be easy to miss. There’s very little to appreciate in the dining area: it’s just a room with wooden tables and chairs, a large shrine on the wall and a cabinet full of dusty looking bottles of alcohol.

So what exactly is cha ca? It is a mixture of chunks of grilled, smoky catfish, turmeric, dill, shrimp paste, fish sauce, chillies, noodles and other herbs. Once the various components are assembled, the cooking is fast, and the payoff is worth the effort. I don’t think there are any set rules in terms of how you eat it. We dished a few noodles into our bowl, put a few pieces of fish and vegetables on top, poured on some fish sauce and scooped it up with chopsticks, interspersing a mouthful of herbs every now and again. Probably not the Vietnamese way, but it worked

So is it any good? It is so delicious and aromatic and the complexity of the resulting well-balanced flavors will surely leave you craving for more.

Hanoians consider cha ca to be so exceptional that there is a street in the capital dedicated to these fried morsels of fish. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

cha ca hanoi

March 19, 2015

Congee King, Hong Kong….Yummy!!! One word sums it up.

Congee, also known as jook, is nothing more than Chinese hot cereal, a milky rice porridge. More than two dozen versions of MSG-free congee are served here in Congee King, some with additions as exotic as rabbit fish and boiled fish skin, each served steaming.

Fish ain’t my dish. The rich seafood tasting and uniquely textured baby oyster congee is especially good.  The rest of the menu offers excellent Cantonese and Hong Kong dishes, like the delicious, silky smooth and feather-like textured rice roll (chee cheong fun) with simple savoury mixed sauce.

Yummy!!! One word sums it up. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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congee king hk

March 15, 2015

Salt Grill by Luke Mangan, Jakarta…not worth the hype, reputation and money

For those of you not on the brink of marriage or buying a house, picking a celebrity chef restaurant is probably the most expensive decision you’ll make this week — and the gastronomic equivalent of an inflated “A” can lead you astray by hundreds of dollars.

A high-speed lift whizz you in seconds to the 46th floor. Wall-to-ceiling windows look on to a, as you might expect, stunning view– if you’re pointed in the right direction and, preferably, sitting at a window table.

Sydney crab omelette, enoki mushroom and herb salad, miso mustard broth is the signature dish. The sweetness of the strips of crab meat shone through the mild miso broth but I wished they could be more generous with the crab meat. The beautifully crispy, tender and delicious crumbed chicken makes a great combination of flavours with garlic mushrooms, coleslaw salad. The crispy pork belly, pickled green papaya salad and tamarind dressing shouldn’t be called that. There are two simple things necessary for crackling: a nice dry rind, and a good thick layer of fat underneath it. I’m an out-and-proud fat-fancier. The tender, melting wobble of it, that satisfying oily crunch – how can mere meat hope to compete? Here the crispy pork belly lacked in visual appeal and failed the “crunch test.” The signature dessert – liquorice parfait 2013 – was certainly unique but I will absolutely not order it again. Luke Mangan’s revolutionary reboot of the lamington – lamington sandwich, coconut ice cream, strawberry sauce – would be a better choice for dessert.

High ratings are often deserved, of course, and I’ve found plenty of haunts that can justify their hype but Salt Grill by Luke Mangan doesn’t measure up at all. It’s a fine place, yes, just that it is not worth the hype, reputation and money. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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salt grill jakarta

March 14, 2015

Crab in da bag, Singapore…No, this ain’t the place for restraint

When it comes to food, I suffer from multiple personality disorder. Sometimes, I crave refinement, creativity and some extravagance. And other times, I just want to pig out. When those urges get too strong, when I want the culinary equivalent of “dancing like nobody’s watching,” I can’t imagine a better way to set them free than to sit down and start cracking shells and stuffing face at Crab in da bag. It is crowded, messy and plenty fun.

Each table is covered with a large sheet of coated paper. The crab arrives in plastic bags…. set in the middle of the table sheathed in clear plastic loaded with the sauce of your choice. The best dish was definitely tiger prawns in garlic butter. Sri Lankan crab in caboodle mix – a combo of local and Cajun spices – is out of this world….they combined beautifully. The crab farci was delightfully delicious. The word farci, when used in the description of a dish, means to ‘stuff’ or to ‘pad out’ (from the Latin,farcire). The prawns are first cleaned out and then cooked in their shells, ensuring maximum flavour. The sweetness of the prawns complemented the garlic sauce perfectly. Whenever I need a prawn-fix, I know where to go. The squid in curry had a very intense and specific flavour.
If you don’t like eating with your hands, you should not even think about going there. No, this ain’t the place for restraint. It’s for anyone who speaks the international language of crab done right, and who wants to enjoy good seafood in a casual atmosphere. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

crab in da bag

March 8, 2015

Noble Mansion, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia…upscale, urban, and understated in all the right ways

Noble Mansion is a Chinese restaurant that turns out Chinese dishes influenced by modern techniques and presentation. The décor is a distinctly modernized space outfitted with flowery upholstery, gilded ceilings and auspicious Chinese proverbs on shiny, black lacquered walls. In short, my expectations were high, and they inched even higher the first time I walked into the polished, modern space in this restaurant in Plaza 33. Noble Mansion is chic, but not snooty. Upscale, but comfy.

Noble Mansion is more than funky fare and presentation. Light, distinct, memorable flavors shine through much of the menu that merits attention: the artfully prepared roasted duck served with plum sauce & crispy glutinous rice explode in fits and bursts on the tongue, while the steamed fresh water prawns is equally noteworthy. Gorgeous. Their signature hokkien mee is a foodie’s wet dream.

Add the ambience to this a standard of food, which matches the best in the city, and you now know what the next generation of classic Chinese restaurants will look like. It says, in short, that we’ve arrived. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

noble mansion pj

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March 7, 2015

Don Antonio, New York City…fried pizza is different

Filed under: American, Food & Beverage, Pizza, restaurant, USA — PEr @ 5:18 pm

Pizza is high on my  list of comfort foods. Neapolitan style pizza restaurants serve individual pizzas as opposed to pizza. The pizzas must all be cooked in a wood oven stove. These wood (oak) fired pizzas add a unique taste that is not found with gas  or coal cooked pizza. They have a noticeable soupy center in the pie which means be prepared to eat them with a knife and fork.

Don Antonio boasts to be Hell’s Kitchen’s best pizzeria. The restaurant is hidden, tucked away in the back corner of a nondescript shopping center.

The Montanara Starita is the house’s pièce de résistance – the crust is first deep-fried, then baked in a wood-fired, topped with signature strait tomato sauce, imported smoked buffalo mozzarella and basil. The crust is superbly crispy but the rest of the pizza – the effect of smoky, milky cheese, fried dough and sweetly acidic tomatoes had too strong of a flavor that just didn’t sit well with me. The Vesuvio is not your averaged stuffed pizza. They stuff it with fresh ricotta, homemade mozzarella, salami. Then the toppings of tomato sauce, Italian ham, homemade mozzarella, mushrooms, basil and artichokes on  top of the pizza weigh down the pie, so it’s not going to be as puffy as a calzone.  The homemade burrata and salad, though, were okay, though the salad was a bit overdressed.

This is not Domino’s, so bring money but Don Antonio is definitely a great option if you want to jump on the montanara bandwagon. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

don anotnio ny

March 2, 2015

Scents & Senses A Touch of Thai, Melaka…an authentic, pocket-friendly massage that takes you right back to the massage shops in Thailand

The serene, authentic Zen-like Asian aesthetics interiors here make it just as relaxing to sit on a soft sofa with a drink as it is to lie down and be manipulated. In a day and age where regular massages are no longer seen as just a luxury for the rich, but a necessity for the health conscious, places like Scents & Senses are so important. They offer locals a reliable and affordable place to go. Not just once, but time and time again.

With no bells and whistles to distract, the Thai massage takes center stage, with the exceptionally talented Khun Safe, the masseuse loosening parts of the body I didn’t even know were tense to begin with.  This woman’s hands were made for massage, her thumbs found and removed knots in my lower back as if she was popping bubble wrap. Truly massage bliss.

Totally professional service, reasonable prices, intense and deep massages, the therapists are all from Thailand and made for a great, authentic experience! I won’t go anywhere else in Melaka after finding this place. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

scents n senses melaka

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March 1, 2015

Goubuli, Tianjin….not the best dumplings I have tried

Goubuli Baozi (also known as Go Believe) was a hit during the Empress Dowager Cixi era in the Qing Dynasty.  Certainly a good sign when you walk in, a majority of the people eating here are locals. Maybe the buns were exceptional back then but it’s not the best dumplings I have tried although it will satisfy my dumpling craving.

The famous and soft baozi – traditional steamed bun with pork stuffing- which looks like a chrysanthemum (each Goubuli bun has eighteen wrinkles) in bud had good texture and were quite flavourful. The other dishes such as steamed bun with shrimp and fragrant-flowered garlic and braised pork seasoned with soy sauce were a bit flavourful but otherwise average.

The food were a decent portion and I was certainly not hungry afterward. But the truth is, these dumplings were really nothing special. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

goubuli tianjin

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