PEr FYI

March 29, 2020

Biku, Bali…decent, but not one to rave about

When I stepped into this buzzy restaurant that’s set in a 150-year-old teak joglo (Javanese wooden house), I wasn’t sure what to expect.

A promising opening move would be the calamari in Balinese curry sauce – served with kangkung vegetable and steamed rice which is so appealingly savoury. If you were on vacation, you would order tray after tray of these. The sop buntut – oxtail soup with vegetable and steamed rice is not a dish that is likely to have been stirred by generations of sainted grandmothers since the dawn of time. The broth is rich yet lightened to springtime levels through tactical doses of lemongrass and cilantro. There had better be nasi goreng at any restaurant that is even playing at being Indonesian. There is, in the Nasi goreng special – Indonesian style fried rice served with chicken sate, krupuk, fried egg, the rice fried just until it crackles a bit between your teeth. It has a gentle but genuine spice undercurrent that would be welcome in more of the cooking. Of course there is Mie goreng – fried noodle with chicken and egg.

Few dishes really come forward as the kind of knockout that everybody will talk about later. But if there are few stars on the table, the contrast of flavors, colors, textures and techniques makes the meal into a memorable ensemble piece. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 1, 2020

Annie1, Petaling Jaya…it’s all a-okay

Big menus are commonplace in Malaysia. The menu at Annie1 looks longer than the complete musings of Confucius.

Famous Menglembu wanton mee is absurdly satisfying: They are the very definition of joyous slurp. The noodles are springy and the charsiews are the star of the dish. There is no way to eat this food elegantly so don’t bother trying. Just get your mouth over the plate, lift the noodles and suck. Festoon yourself in napkins tucked into every crevice of your clothing as if you are trying to mitigate the impact of a blast zone, which in a way you are. I was also moved to speechlessness by their Chee cheong fun pork curry – this is a good place to try these rice noodle roll.

Yes, the food is also deliciously affordable. This is the true truth, as I say it as it is…

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February 23, 2020

Eneko Shop, Sansaku market, Otaru…serious about seafood?

No trip to Hokkaido would be complete without sampling Japan’s most prized resource – allergies permitting. A stone’s throw from Otaru stations, the Sansaku market  presents a terrifically seductive dance of fresh, gorgeously prepared seafood and shellfish, tucked in one of Hokkaido’s most beloved neighbourhoods – Otaru.

Eneko Shop offers the kind of food you have to work for. It’s virtually impossible to avoid a queue, and you’re likely to be elbow-to-elbow with strangers. Stunning seafood dishes like octopus are profound in their simplicity, bringing out clean, startlingly robust flavors. Make sure you have the more ambitious dishes like the Seafood rice bowl with Hokkaido specialty, ikura (salmon roe) for a total experience which is dizzying and unforgettable. Everything is exceptional. It’ll leave seafood enthusiasts bragging for weeks.

You’d be advised to come with an appetite. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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February 16, 2020

Khaw Glong Thai Restaurant, Koh Samui…don’t skip the shrimps with tamarind sauce. Or the curry.

If my grandma decided to open a Thai restaurant in Koh Samui, she’d end up with something that looks like Khaw Glong Thai Restaurant. An unassuming authentic Thai cuisine eatery using fresh high quality ingredients without MSG and additives set the stage for dishes like thai curries.

Those un-averse to the funkiest flavors of the sea will be delighted by dishes like the jumbo shrimps with tamarind sauce, tom yum seafood and red curry crab meat. By the time you decide on a non-seafood dish, the choice is especially easy: there’s just one staple option, chicken in pandan leaves – gai hor bai. The only question is whether you want it. Based on its vibrant aroma and mesmerizingly delicious juicy and moist chicken inside – the answer is yes.

One of the best bang-for-your-buck restaurants in Koh Samui. Go early. Or be prepared to wait. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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February 15, 2020

Kuya J Restaurant, Manila…a homey vibe

This is the place to get your affordable yet impeccably cooked, deliciously simple Filipino food.

The old-time classic crispy pata brings me to my knees, as does the heart-palpitatingly good sizzling sisig, served in a sizzling, cast iron pan, look good and taste even better. The moment I took my first bite, I fell completely in love. (I think this is a good time to note that writing out this paragraph has made me incredibly hungry, and has also ruined this week’s attempt at veganism.)

Kain na tayo! This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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January 26, 2020

Osteria dell’Acquabella, Milan…the ossobuco definitely floats my boat

Ossobuco – or rather slow-braised veal which would sound more appetising – is a dish that should be left to the Milanese. So said the great 19th-century writer, Artus. So, when you’re in Milan, forget about pizza and pasta although both  can be downright heavenly.

There is no debate here: Ossobuco Milanese (served with saffron risotto) at Osteria dell’Acquabella is absolutely delicious and soul-satisfying it’ll knock more than just your socks off. It is creamy, rich, silky smooth and vivid in both color and flavour with veal which is fall-off-the-bone tender.

A good sign is that Osteria dell’Acquabella is full of locals (including families) who know their stuff when it comes to food. This intimate and comfortable place is one of my most exciting discoveries. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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January 19, 2020

Pez Vela, Barcelona… irrefutable proof that God exists and wants us to be happy

Paella, Spain’s most famous dish — mountains of yellow rice cooked with seafood, chorizo, and/or chicken in big lidded pots called calderos, enough to feed two or three hungry diners. Where can you get the best paella in Barcelona? This is a really common question for visitors coming over to visit this beautiful city.

Luckily for you, I’ve already covered that question!

Upon entering the warm, welcoming Pez Vela, the surroundings are immediately evocative of the Mediterranean. When the mouth-watering and hearty brothy rice with lobster landed on the table, it was belt-bustingly big so that the red crustacean seems to be crawling out of the caldero. Unlike paella, the rice here remains immersed in boldly flavoured broth and actually portioned to share.

Perfect paella. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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December 29, 2019

Fatt Kee Seafood Restaurant, Kota Kinabalu…go fish

Good seafood is hard to come by – but when it’s done well, it’s probably the most delicious thing you can put in your mouth.

Down here at Fatt Kee Seafood, the menu is fiercely unpretentious, with bold flavours and tried-and-tested classics winning out over fiddly presentation. Happily, both somebodies and nobodies get an equally warm welcome here, and the unfussy but spot-on fish is spectacular – in tom yum soup.

Fresh fish slice? fresh fish head? fish ball? fish paste? fish maw? All here, and all good. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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October 6, 2019

Raymond’s, New Jersey…it doesn’t get more old school that this

You may not be able to tell from the outside, but stepping into this nondescript diner is like  going back in time, gotta love that 1930s style décor.

On the food front, not to miss is Raymond’s French Toast – with fresh fruit and pure Berkshires maple syrup which is heavenly – amped up with a side of smoked bacon – some of the best smoked bacons I have ever had. The food is prepared and served significantly better than most diners in tourist areas or business districts, but it’s still affordable. For a weekday breakfast, you will feel right at home.

Raymond’s reminds us that some things should never change. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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August 31, 2019

Lek Seafood, Bangkok…don’t make the mistake of dying before you eat here

When dining out in Bangkok, the spectre of crippling indecision lurks around every corner. Once you get past the overwhelming question of where to eat, you’re still faced with the menu: what to order? Lek Seafood provides an easy answer to both of these questions.

First of all, you should eat there. Second, show up in a group of 3 or 4 and go for these: the grilled cockles is a simple satisfying dish. Also fantastic is the shrimp in hot and sour soup (tom yum kung) which is perfectly cooked and a firm bestseller here. My favourite was the stir fried soft crab in curry sauce. I will never tire of it. The stir fried cabbage with fish sauce is also much loved and the stir fried baby clam with sweet basil was a refreshing touch between the spicier dishes. By the time you get to dessert, the choice is especially easy: the mango sticky rice may not sound like anything special but this is one of the best in the city.

Fantastic, authentic food and great service, Lek Seafood deserves all its repeat visits from all Thai food lovers. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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