Friday, November 17, 2017

Athanor, Sunway University: Arabian Nights

By Aiman Azri

Calling Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad: This month, an enterprising band of first-year students at Sunway University staged their own interpretation of Arabian Nights in Athanor, the campus' excellent restaurant. The students, scarcely into their second semester, brainstormed the theme and brought on a full-fledged extravaganza of belly dancing, live magic performances and what seemed like 1,001 courses of Middle Eastern fusion cuisine.

The food was fun, filled with a riot of colours that beautifully complemented the event, showcasing the skills of Malaysia's budding chefs. Any restaurant would be proud to serve temptations like Lahmacun and Tenderloin Kebapi; a Warm Eggplant Salad; and a bowl of Chilled Yogurt Soup with Garlic Foam, each beautifully plated. 

The team can also take tremendous pride in the Chicken 63° C with Tahini Sauce and Compressed Lemon Confit, cooked sous vide and coupled with couscous. Last but not least was the lemony-sweet Apricot Éclair with Soil and Berries - again, elaborate and nuanced, executed with flair.

Based on these efforts, we'll be eager to see where these students head to after completing their education.

A couple of mocktails completed the motif of the evening: Insanity Light in the Arabic Night blended the juices of lemon and passion fruit with mint, while the Golden Arabic Sunset was a nightcap of orange juice, grenadine syrup and cloves.

Arabian Nights was the work of more than 30 second-semester students under Sunway University’s BSc (Hons) International Hospitality Management. It was held in Athanor, Sunway University’s own restaurant. Many thanks to the students for having us.

Athanor is open to the public for lunch every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 12pm to 3pm. 

Shia Wong Hip Snake Restaurant @ Hong Kong

Slither over to Shia Wong Hip, which has been serving up snake specialities in Hong Kong since 1965 - the signature snake soup comprises five types of snakes in a thick, warming broth traditionally believed to bolster the body, especially for winter. 

Other headliners include the hearty snake belly claypot rice and a 'power soup' made of lizards, silkworms, cow penis, deer embryo and seahorses. Wash down with snake bladder juice wine. 

If you'd like to also see/touch a live snake, the establishment will enthusiastically oblige .

Shia Wong Hip
Sham Shui Po, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bait @ The Intermark

Five years after Bait first cruised into Bangsar, the tide has finally brought these swashbucklers of seafood to KL's city centre. Bait's sophomore berth, moored now at The Intermark, is a safe harbour for fans of fruits de mer, reeling them in with a catch of clams and cod, shrimp and sole, mussels and mulloways.

The captain of Bait's kitchen, chef Logan Terence Lopez, tackles mainly Mediterranean flavours, infusing his own eclectic flourishes into a selection of plates both small and big. Sharing is the best way to savour this bounty: Dive in with Bait co-founder Colin's personal favourite of baby squid, stuffed with paella and cheese, lushly flavoured with paprika (RM28), followed by its cephalopod cousin, the cuttlefish, slow-cooked in squid ink gravy and spread over pan-fried polenta (RM30).

Inspirations span the breadth of Italy to France, Spain to Greece and Lebanon: The Amalfi Coast fish-sauce speciality of colatura di alici makes a rare appearance at a KL restaurant, bringing a border-leaping bent to a combo of Chinese broccoli and Spanish anchovies with roasted garlic (RM19). It's a recipe with easy-going, balanced nuances - even if you're not typically fervent about bold-tasting fish, Bait tames the pungency of, say, sardines by preparing them in croquettes, for example, rounded out with a creamy richness of bechamel and parmesan that leaves you wanting more, not less (RM18).

You can construct a complete meal out of Bait's starters - we could imagine snacking on the ceaselessly crunchy baby prawn fritters with zucchini chips and spicy aioli (RM23) all evening long. It's fine to also bring friends who crave more than seafood - Bait's wild mushroom soup comprises no fewer than eight varieties of fungi, made even tastier and more textured with carrots, celery and cheese espuma (RM25), while roasted sweet peppers conceal a treasure of stuffed tender lamb, buoyed by a blue cheese sauce and balsamic glaze (RM30).

For lusty appetites, paella is as coveted as a lighthouse in a storm - Bait offers a moist, suitably hot-and-hearty arros negre, with the rice saturated with squid ink gravy, crowned with shrimp and squid (RM75). But if you prefer to sink your teeth into chunks of fish in their full glory, the souvlaki seems your best bet, featuring meaty grilled perch skewered with roasted peppers, elevated with tomato gravy and a side of coriander dip (RM48).

Here too, the menu stretches beyond the ocean - truffle-tinged ravioli with morsels of smoked duck and parmesan foam (RM69) and sumac-spiced spatchcock, oven-baked and served with the always-welcome watercress (RM42), would fit in nicely at any modern European establishment with an eye toward the world of contemporary dining.

The restaurant won't leave patrons high and dry - from Manhattans with house-made bitters to enough wine to sink a ship, its bar is awash with a well-stocked haul. Many thanks to the Bait team for having us.

Bait at The Intermark
G-19, Ground Floor, The Intermark Mall, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur. Daily, 11am-late. Tel: +603-21811268 

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Bloom @ Puchong

A pleasant hideout amid the hubbub of Puchong: Count us in for a calmingly crowd-free afternoon spent with The Bloom’s own-made tarts (in flavours like matcha or nutty caramel), coupled with filter coffee (Ethiopian) and iced tea (by Australia’s Adore), with mellow piano music tinkling softly from the speakers.

Fun fact: The Bloom might sound like a flower-powered cafe, reinforced by its leaf-loving decor, but it’s also a reference to the ‘coffee bloom,’ or the bubbling up of CO2 when freshly roasted coffee is brewed. 

The Bloom Cafe
55-1B, 1st Floor, Jalan Puteri 2/3, Bandar Puteri Puchong, Selangor. Tues-Sat, 8am-8pm; Sun, 8am-5pm.

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