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 22, 2020

Restaurant and Bistro The Kitchen, Koh Samui…‘I would rather choke on my food and die than go here again.’

The moment I entered Restaurant and Bistro The Kitchen, I suspected, from looking at the expressions of the other diners, that I was in for a slightly stiff ride. One can tell a great deal about the meal ahead simply by gauging the atmosphere at other tables, well, alarm bells ring.

From the characterless tom yam khung, to the actively repellent wanton shrimp soup, I like to think the staff made these up as a prank, and were watching to see if I would be an obedient foodie and play ball. Let us never speak again of the khao ob sapparot – fried rice with pineapple and vegetables. Service, it must be said, is chaotic, so if one wants terrible food delivered quickly, accompanied by several other unappetising dishes you hadn’t ordered but other diners are currently waiting for, The Kitchen is for you. I walked out in revolt and was still in dire need of some lunch.

I’m a great believer in the best reviews being the shortest ones, so the succinct version is: ‘I would rather choke on my food and die than go here again.’ This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 8, 2020

Lattanzi, New York City…Perfetto!

Unlike a bastion of French haute cuisine or an upmarket sushi den, the very best Italian restaurant, by my estimation, must be a  place you can roll into with minimal forethought and  order some well-sourced salami and cheese or a perfect plate of pasta, and let the worries of the day dissipate with a bracingly bitter Negroni. You can do all these things at Lattanzi.

When it comes down to it, you judge an Italian restaurant on the strength of its pasta, and based on its merit of its Linguine alla Vongole – homemade linguine and little neck clams with garlic and extra virgin olive oil, Lattanzi is up there with the best. This is the kind of food that will stay on your mind long after you’ve left.

There’s nowhere better to become a regular. 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 22, 2020

Hakkasan, New York City…you’ll die poor but happy

New York’s Chinese food scene is a diverse beast. There’s pork ribs to sweet, stir-fried-whatever-you-can-think-of, Hong Kong Dim Sum, the classic Peking duck and of course the comforting staples including noodles and fried rice (and way, way more) at eateries both high end and super casual.

With its innovative Cantonese cooking, Hakkasan is still the benchmark against which all high-end Chinese restaurants should be judged. Their stylish interior and moody lighting attracts all kinds of beautiful people.

We started with hakka steamed dim sum platter – scallop shumai, har gau, prawn and Chinese chive dumpling, black pepper duck dumpling. The pastry was perfect in give and texture, just elastic enough to encase generous bites of flavour-packed meat and seafood. The stir-fry black pepper beef ribeye with Merlot was equally good, the melting tenderness of top-quality meat turning the clichéd staple into a luxury – Chinese takeaways should weep with shame. We also enjoyed the hot and sour soup with chicken, shiitake and pomelo, spring onion and fried egg rice and the tofu, aubergine and Japanese mushroom claypot with chili and black bean sauce

You’ll die poor but happy. 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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February 1, 2020

Dadong, New York City…nobody should pay this much money and be sad

If one wants terrible food delivered quickly, accompanied by several other unappetising dishes you hadn’t ordered but other diners are currently waiting for, Dadong in midtown New York is for you. While I didn’t get ill after eating at Dadong, I did feel sick about how much I’d spent on a substandard meal.

I’m a massive Dadong, Beijing fan, and can wolf down a peking duck faster than you can say “Times Square”, so I awaited my Dadong “Su bu ni” roast duck – served with sugar, pancakes, crispy sesame buns and special sauce with some level of excitement. The duck was bland, dry and actively repellent. I like to think the staff made it up as a prank, and were watching to see if I would be an obedient foodie and play ball. Let us never speak again of the prime chili diced short ribs

Dadong in New York, well, just don’t serve very good food. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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January 28, 2020

Tesate, Jakarta…satay with a difference

I had always thought of satay as basically covered in sweet peanut sauce.

Because I am a man, with a taste for blood, I ordered both of the meat satay. Sate sapi klopo – spiced tender beef coated in toasted grated coconut and Sate sapi Makasar – combination of aromatic beef tenderloin with tangy star fruit sauce. Both the beef had the densest, most satisfying texture. Both had a rich, mouth-coating savouriness, helped by their highly textured and sprightly star fruit sauce and the toasted grated coconut.

It was a satisfying one, and at an unemasculating price – and that’s what matters. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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January 27, 2020

Karma Sutra Bar & Kitchen, Koh Samui…isn’t a place worth traveling out of the way for

When dining out in Koh Samui, the spectre of crippling indecision lurks around every corner.

When evaluating local Thai spots, I like to run restaurants through my Thai Restaurant Test, which features just one question – “Would you eat anything other than pad thai here?” Karma Sutra gets a C+ on that test. King prawn Thai style and Deep fried garlic and pepper squid are worth ordering.

Having said that, Karma Sutra isn’t a place worth traveling out of the way for. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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