Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Albannach

England, Part IV: Not many outlets in London specialize in Scottish food. So saints be praised for Albannach, which scores with a lively crowd at Trafalgar Square.

Haggis with neeps & tatties (turnips & potatoes). The haggis (sheep's heart, liver & lungs, minced with onions & oatmeal, then simmered in sheep's stomach) is produced by Macsween, an Edinburgh-based, third-generation family business that has been dubbed "the guardians of Scotland's national dish." Tender meat, flavor-packed without being gamy (kinda like a cross between beef and lamb).

Cullen Skink soup _ traditional smoked haddock broth. Creamy comfort food.

Inverawe smoked salmon with sweet pickled cucumber & beetroot. Smoked salmon that somehow tastes ferociously fresh _ why can't we have that in KL?

Steak & ale pie, featuring hearty beef cooked with organic Caledonian ale. Might be the perfect body-warming platter for a wintry night out on a Scottish highland cliff.

Il Banchetto Bianco, Italy ('09) & Il Banchetto Rosso.

Albannach,
London.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mayfair

Another week, another pork paradise surfaces in the Klang Valley.

Mayfair isn't the most innovative restaurant, but its menu is filled with crowd-pleasers like this pork sausage & bacon pizza. Gooey goodness, ideal for snacking. Each generously topped slice will likely vanish from the table before everyone realizes it. That's the power of cheese.

Char-grilled, bone-in pork chop with berries & poached apple. Gargantuan enough to placate masculine appetites. But the ladies might fall under the spell of its sweet, fruity flavors.

Hickory-smoked pork ribs. Could've been more tender, but sufficiently hearty for at least two people to share and tasty enough for all of them to lick their fingers afterwards. Me? I loved the surprisingly juicy shoestring fries.

One of the better pork knuckles around, with spectacularly crisp skin and succulent, savory flesh. All the accompaniments _ soft, fluffy chunks of roast potato, creamy apple sauce & sauerkraut _ were flawless. An indisputable steal at only 45 ringgit.

Refreshing fruit liquors: Bol's Apricot Brandy & Marie Bizard Parfait Amour.

Mt. Langi Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz (Australia).

Mayfair,
Menara Taiko, PJ Trade Centre, Damansara Perdana.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Plan B

Plan B is firmly on the A-list of Bangsar's restaurants, offering remarkable value for money in an atmosphere that absolutely hums with positive vibes.

The menu is thoughtful and sufficiently extensive. Salads are a highlight here; the crispy duck with watercress, orange segments & maple syrup dressing should satiate light eaters with its zesty mix of crisp leaves and lean meat.

Soft-shell crab spaghetti tossed in butter sauce. Addictively creamy, with a hearty helping of crisp crab and a spicy kick from curry leaves & chili flakes. Most salads and pastas here cost around RM20 _ a fair deal, all things considered.

Steak sandwich with arugula, caramelized onions & dijonnaise. This robust, medium-rare hunk of meat puts the chewy, thinly sliced and flavorless steak sandwiches elsewhere to shame.

Even if it makes you late for your employer's daughter's wedding, do not leave without sampling the desserts. The macadamia cheesecake was as soft, smooth and creamy as heaven might allow. This could very well haunt our dreams for months to come.

The red velvet cake tasted as good as it looked (and it looked excellent to me).

Petit four fancy cakes. We sometimes shun desserts at display counters, fearing they'll come out a bit too dry or too chilled or too lacking in freshness. Plan B's ones are the opposite of that.

Rocky Road bar. Sumptuously rich, moist and chocolatey.

Fireroad Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) & Peter Lehmann Weighbridge Chardonnay (Australia), with a coffee shake in the background. Not only are the house wines here excellent, they cost just RM17++ per glass.

Fireroad Pinot Noir & Peter Lehmann Weighbridge Cabernet Merlot.


Plan B,
Bangsar Village.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cungdinh Vietnam

If One Bangsar is indeed forced to close when its lease expires at the end of this year, we might lose one of the city's best Vietnamese restaurants.

Charcoal-grilled minced beef wrapped in wild betel. Fragrant and flavorsome.

A sampler of starters, mainly Hue traditional food _ prawn cakes, banana-leaf rice paste with minced prawns, tapioca rice cakes & spring rolls. Can't vouch for their authenticity, but they all seemed impeccably prepared.

Danang thick noodles, topped with prawns, chicken, sesame crackers & peanuts, served with mint, shredded banana flower & water spinach. Sounded like a complicated recipe, but it had a nice wholesomeness that made it taste almost home-cooked.

Tiger prawns broiled with rice wine. Plump, sweet crustaceans.

Hue noodles, buried and hidden beneath baby clams, starfruit, herbs & peanuts. Mix everything up for a nutritious, guilt-free noodle dish.

Charcoal-grilled snake fish. Fresh and tender enough to recommend.

Steamed seafood rice. We loved scraping out the succulent coconut flesh.

Can't leave without having the Vietnamese coffee.

Cungdinh Vietnam,
One Bangsar.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Aria

Aria has taken over Moxie's location at Plaza Damansara, though it still belongs to the family of outlets that comprise Bangsar's Opus, Cava, Leonardo's & Four Seas.

After a little nip and tuck, this two-story location now houses a serene Italian restaurant on the ground floor and a whiskey bar upstairs.

Aria's menu is kinda unadventurous, with nothing that KL hasn't seen before. Nevertheless, that helps it remain true to its promise of offering "traditional Italian dining."

Spaghetti vongole, cooked in Chardonnay with Venus clams. Irreproachably prepared; one of the best versions of this recipe that we've had in Malaysia, thanks to the slick, fabulously flavorsome sauce and the fat, fresh-tasting clams.

A reasonably substantial portion of seafood risotto, with more prawns, squid, mussels & other creatures of the sea packed on this plate compared to rice. Especially recommended if you enjoy tangy tomato flavors. Pasta & risotto prices here are in the regular RM20-30++ range.

Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chardonnay. Available by the glass, carafe & bottle.

Auchentoshan 12 yr & Clynelish 14 yr at the whiskey bar.




Aria,
44, Jalan Medan Setia 2,
Plaza Damansara, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2095-0016

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Merienda de Eva

One of KL's few outlets that offer Filipino fare. It's a cozy cafe with fairly priced food, though its pork-free tenet prevents it from serving non-halal recipes.

Pancit Canton (stir-fried egg noodles with cubed chicken, shrimp & mixed veggies). Surprisingly addictive, even though it tasted Chinese; the noodles were piping-hot and perfectly prepared, with a pleasant chewiness that went so well with the thick, flavorsome gravy.

Relleneng Manok (deboned minced chicken, steamed then roasted to lock in the flavor). Another bona fide hit; the meat was chunky, tender and fresh-tasting, nicely seasoned and stuffed with cheese, turkey ham & herbs.

We had mixed feelings about the desserts. The Buko Salad, featuring young coconut, fruits & cream, was hard, clumpy and frosty, like it had been in the freezer for hours.

The Halaya pudding proved better, with a creamy texture and mild, milky taste. Basically violet yam, grated and boiled with coconut milk & sugar, then served chilled.

Custard-like Maja Blanca _ coconut milk pudding with corn kernels.

Cassava pudding (tapioca cooked with shredded young coconut & nata de coco). I loathed this, but my companion loved it. Tasted like something regurgitated, I'd say.

Similar to how Cagayan at Centrepoint in Bandar Utama serves not only Filipino food but Japanese dishes too, Merienda de Eva has many non-Filipino options on its menu, including Salisbury steak and grilled salmon.

Merienda de Eva,
50-G Medan Setia 2,
Plaza Damansara, Bukit Damansara,
Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2092-2072
Closed Sundays. Last orders at around 8 p.m.