July 12, 2015

Burger Bar, San Francisco…you need a pre-recession budget but don’t expect to be blown away

There seems to be no food more popular nowadays than the once-humble hamburger, practically every upscale restaurant has a burger these days. Burger Bar offers several different types of beef, in addition to lamb, turkey, seafood and veggie burgers, with a variety of toppings from garden, farm, ocean and more and a variety of breads, all of it to be mixed and matched in endless do-it-yourself variety. Among the beef types is American-style Kobe, or Wagyu beef.

I had the American Kobe beef burger. I don’t really care what you call the beef, as long as it tastes great.  Kobe, the steak-lovers Holy Grail becomes less relevant in a ground burger patty. While the pate is thick and tightly packed, juicy but not dripping and has a very good overall flavour, it has nothing on any other gourmet burgers. I guess the Kobe label is just a marketing tool employed to justify a high price.

Try it, if you have a pre-recession budget but don’t expect to be blown away . This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

burger bar american kobe beef burger

burger bar

July 11, 2015

Restoran Yap Hup Kee, Kuala Lumpur…good, but not THAT good

For the hungry eyes, you can go to Restoran Yap Hup Kee and ogle your food porn….the many items of yong tau foo on display. Literal meaning of Yong Tau foo is “stuffed bean curd” although you will actually see other items apart from bean curd, stuffed with a meat paste of either fish or pork.  Anything that’s freshly fried cannot go wrong. However, the dumplings were good but not mind blowing.

Carb-rich chee cheong fun is actually steamed rice roll. I absolutely loved the silky smooth and feather-like texture of these rolls here and nothing beats a good sauce. Sweet sauce chee cheong fun topped with “har mai”(dried shrimps). The crispy (minced) dried shrimps added the necessary fragrant aroma to the dish and elevate it to another level. Opt for the robust but not spicy curry gravy version if you are a curry lover.

Parking there is a nightmare. Endless driving around the numerous lots to find a spot, to no success, I almost had to call yong tau foo day quits without even leaving the car…until I hatched the idea of parking in a nearby hotel.

The food was good, but not THAT good. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

yap hup kee kl2

yap hup kee KL1

July 7, 2015

Combat Durian, Singapore…Mau Sang Wang reigns supreme but you need to identify the real McCoy

Ahhhhh, it’s that time of the year again. The quest is on again for the delicacy that looks like a cross between a hedgehog and a hand grenade, with an odor that has been likened to rotten meat which caused it to be banned in hotels and public transportation in Singapore. Though I am not a hardcore, I, too, am into this whole durian eating business. So I headed to Balestier for some durian love.

The place is a semi permanent set up with plenty of tables and chairs. There’s quite a big selection of durians, from Mau Sang Wang and King of Kings, to the more common Red Prawn, you can pick you choose. So what is the fuss about the Mao Sang Wang (loosely translated : mountain cat or musang king in Malay), which is priced higher than the rest? It’s rich and creamy – almost buttery – small seeds and the slightly bitter sweet after taste lingers long in your mouth.

While there is no question about the Mao Shan Wang’s allure, identifying the real McCoy may sometimes be challenging. I asked for three Mau Sang Wang but the bloke at Combat Durian blatantly took one from the basket with the Mau Sang Wang sign and two from the other basket with the sign which reads King of Kings. When I enquired, he told me it’s the same and there’s no difference in price. There is a distinct difference in the two – the Mau Sang Wang reigns supreme and the other pales in comparison, but as at all durian stalls, once open considered sold.

Combat durian obviously has a very powerful position in the durian sellers market. With such unethical methods, Combat durian needs to be tamed, but there is no one simple solution. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

combat durian singapore

July 5, 2015

Bar Celona Tapas & Rice, Macau…the Iberian ham 36 and 45 are almost indescribably mouth-filling and deeply satisfying

For such an acclaimed restaurant it is surprisingly unassuming. Set upstairs in a de-script building on a quiet street in Macau it’s even almost difficult to locate. Inside, there’s a casual and relaxed atmosphere rather than stuffy with decor in dark and earthy colours.

The Iberian ham 36 and 45 (well-aged for 36 and 45 months) were thinly sliced (nearly, but not quite, paper thin) rashers of ham, each slice visibly interlayered with fat and lean. That was certainly a  flavour that is almost indescribably mouth-filling and deeply satisfying. The savoury olive muffins were also a crowd-pleaser. The unique flavor of these little breads is a slight departure from a traditional sweet muffin. The octopus leg gelatin style with potato and olive oil and the baby cuttlefish with artichoke were also pretty good. The former, though not my favourite dish, was an interesting combination that worked. The baby octopus, had stronger, if not more common flavours and was also quite nice. Again, however, both were qualified rather than resounding successes. A taste of the suckling pig is definitely necessary before you walk out those doors. Very different from your traditional Chinese Suckling Pig. My only fuss was that while the meat was amazing, the skin was tough and not exactly crackling with its crisp. The paella topped with generous amount of seafood shone less brightly amongst the rest of the stellar dishes served that night. The crispy egg with bone marrow and truffle is far from a simple egg dish but the crystal bread with olive oil and tomato was somewhat unremarkable.

Is Bar Celona Tapas & Rice a fine dining experience with top notch service? Nope and nope. Is it an satisfying and solid choice in Macau? Sure is. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

barcelona macau

barcelona macau2

July 3, 2015

Faulty Towers Dining Experience, London…a thin imitation which is only intermittently funny

For the uninitiated, Fawlty Towers, a cult classic BBC sitcom which ran for 12 memorable episodes is one of the funniest programmes of all time, frequently topping polls of viewers and industry insiders.

Faulty Towers Dining Experience – with a subtle spelling difference, presumably to avoid legal confusion – is only intermittently funny, serving up a thin imitation. That becomes obvious in the aimless pre-show, when people-hating hotel owner Basil and his “dragon” wife, Sybil merely argue bitterly, with limited English-speaking immigrant Spanish waiter Manuel. Once seated, our group of five was seated with a family of five on a table. The show is touted as an “immersive” experience, and it doesn’t get much more immersive than having the actors move round the tables, often serving you, frequently interrupting you, and occasionally – yes, this happened – climbing up on your table and performing matador impressions. Part of the ‘show’ is scripted so that means the actors get free reign to ad lib and directly engage with guests as well but the cast struggle in their improvisation to evoke the quality of the original. 

The 3-course 70s-inspired meal is fairly underwhelming; more cafeteria than restaurant, so don’t expect fine food or you’ll come away disappointed.

If, and only if you are, like-minded, hard-core Fawlty fans, go, but whatever you do, don’t mention the war. And remember to check your soup before you taste it. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

fawlty towers london

Blog at