Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Inside Africa

Wood carvings, sculptures, lamps, even ornamental ostrich eggs _ African art takes center stage at Inside Africa, a Petaling Jaya poolside crafts shop & cafe.

Simple South African snacks are the highlight. Call in advance if you plan to order the "braai broodjie," a barbecued sandwich packed with cheese, tomatoes & onions. Sounds simple, but it really satisfies, thanks to its toasty, flavorful feel.

Also worthwhile: "vetkoek" fried pastry stuffed with spicy chicken, kinda like a cross between a doughnut & a curry puff.

For a rich dessert, hop to Out Of Africa a few meters away for the Cape Brandy Pudding _ a hot, densely rich South African date cake with brandy syrup & walnuts.

South African Rooibos bush tea to soothe our souls.

Inside Africa only serves beer, but Out Of Africa boasts these boozy concoctions: Dom Pedro (kahlua, milk, ice cream _ like the best alcoholic milkshake ever) & Amarula Cream Liquor.

South African wine: the Bellingham Chardonnay.




Mama Cafe @ Inside Africa,
PJ Palms Sports Center, Petaling Jaya.
Tel: 03-7960-0025

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Humble Chef & Chef Diary

Will too many Chefs spoil this block? We headed to Plaza Damansara to find out, seeking snacks at The Humble Chef & a full-blown dinner at Chef Diary.

Most might know The Humble Chef from its van that parks at night in Pusat Bandar Damansara & dishes out RM5 pasta. This year, it opened a cafe in Bukit Damansara, where customers can eat in a partially air-conditioned setting adorned with local artwork.

Lamb-stuffed omelet. Hot & fresh, with an eggy-cheesy texture that's both fluffy & milky. Sure, the lamb's a little too gamy, evocative of mutton, but for RM2.50, we can't complain.

Lamb-filled pita bread (RM4.50). Why try this even if you're ordering the omelet? One reason: The Humble Chef's own zingy mustard sauce, which really complements the minced meat.

Spaghetti is sold in a myriad of preparations: pesto, aglio olio, carbonara & bolognese, with choices of chicken, beef, lamb & meatballs. The chicken pesto is flavorful in a blended herb sauce; could nitpick that the meat comes in sparse slivers, but it's still only RM5.

The crowds head here fast & furious, causing some items run out before the night is over. The Humble Chef opens for lunch & dinner starting 7:30pm, but by the time we arrived at 9pm, it was out of beef & noodles (Mee Kondo & Fried Laksa). Thankfully, service is speedy & smiley.

Next up, revisiting Chef Diary, which has maintained high standards & survived 30 months now.
Earlier entry on Chef Diary: September 23, 2009.

Tapas are a treat here; arranged to look like butterflies, this duck pate with black truffles & smoked paprika is worth admiring. The pate might have hailed from a can, but for RM18++, it's far from a rip-off.

Air-dried beef, drizzled with truffle oil & stuffed with piquillo peppers & Manchego cheese. A delicious combo with complicated flavors & textures _ meaty, savory, oily, earthy, peppery, chewy-crumbly & nutty. Something to savor slowly & silently.

More truffles, in piping-hot potato croquettes, crisp on the outside & creamy-soft within.

Air-dried tuna with avocado, mascarpone & pomegranate dressing. Another textural triumph, reminiscent of recipes that Millesime's Max Chin might whip up.

Boquerones with vine-ripened tomatoes in brown butter & white balsamic sauce. Can't say the unusual mix of crisp anchovies with such tangy accompaniments was an unadulterated success, but it was an intriguing interplay of ingredients.

Oxtail braised in Madeira wine. You can taste the liquor _ reason enough to recommend this.

For main courses, Chef Diary's should-try is the Spanish Carbonara, featuring fettuccine with duck pancetta (similar to Chinese siew yoke in both appearance & flavor), Manchego cheese & egg yolk. Forget those salmonella poisoning fears & dig deep into this richly sumptuous dish.

We can't thoroughly endorse the beef paella though; while it came with muscularly hearty chunks of meat to justify its RM70 price tag, the rice lacked any scent of saffron.

Complimentary dessert: flourless chocolate cake, warm & moist, accompanied by whole figs.

Sangria is available, a refreshing, thirst-quenching version with lots of chopped fruits.

Marques de Caceros Crianza, a Spanish red that's perfect for partnering with the food. And as we finished the wine, we reached our happy conclusion: as far as Plaza Damansara is concerned, two Chefs are better than one!

The Humble Chef & Chef Diary,
Plaza Damansara, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fatboy's Burger Bar @ Publika

Hailing from Singapore, Fatboy's has launched its first Malaysian outpost in Solaris Dutamas' Publika, unleashing a blitzkrieg of burgers that are better than the average.

This Fat Basterd is the signature treat, a RM28 beefy behemoth that two should share. It has received mixed reviews in SG, but KL's preparation tastes perfect. Two extra-thick, exceptionally juicy patties form a tower of protein, gratuitously turbocharged with pork bacon, cheddar cheese, fried egg & a savory sauce.

Surprisingly, Fatboy's has stuck to its guns & remained resolutely non-halal, serving this weirdly wondrous Elvis Burger, featuring a pork patty topped with peanut butter & bananas (!). Not the menage a trois of our dreams, but it won't trigger gastronomic nightmares. No sickeningly sweet, mushy bananas here.

Unlike its Singaporean counterpart, this Publika branch serves no wine, so we guzzled this low-carb Pure Blonde beer instead (about 100 calories per 300ml bottle), alongside cranberry juice.

Vanilla malt shake blended with nutella (yummy for the tummy!) & orange juice. We'll be back here for more; there are still lamb, chicken & portobello mushroom burgers to order.

Fatboy's doesn't exactly have a sweeping dessert selection (think brownies & ice cream, mainly), so sugar-seekers might want to adjourn to Plan B to satisfy their sweet tooth.
Main entry on Plan B @ Publika: January 20, 2012.

Carrot cake with raisins, nuts & cream cheese frosting. One of KL's better ones.

Almond toffee bar, the crunchy, stick-to-your-gums kind.

Macadamia white chocolate cookie & peanut butter milk choc cookie. Sometimes, some things deserve a second chance; on our earlier visit, we found the peanut butter cookie "spongy." But this time, it was delightfully decadent.

French Press Guatemalan Antigua Los Volcanes coffee & butterscotch milkshake.

Two gins (Tanqueray & Hendricks) & a tonic.

Fat Boy's The Burger Bar & Journal By Plan B,
Publika, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur.
Directions: Fatboy's faces Publika's open square, very near Ben's.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Paradiso @ Publika

With a moniker probably inspired by "Cinema Paradiso" (one of my all-time favorite films), Paradiso is KL's first "cinema lounge" where movie buffs sip cocktails named after popular flicks.

Food might not be the star of the show here, but these chicken wings glazed in peanut butter (!!!) are a novelty worth sampling. The coating is evocative of peanut satay gravy, thick & savory.

Tenderloin marinated in tequila, herbs & lime, with supporting roles by Cajun potato wedges & veggies. Won't steal any scenes or win an award, but this is still a solidly juicy performance by Paradiso's kitchen.

Zebra Pasta _ essentially squid ink spaghetti with slipper lobster & lemon-laced shrimp in mascarpone sauce. A cute name, the perfect pasta to satiate crustacean cravings.

Pulp Fiction (vodka, rock melon, pistachio, vanilla, lime).

Desperado (patron silver, elderflower, mangosteen juice!!!!!).

Paradiso also plans to host film screenings; for Oscar season, Iran's "A Separation," nominated for Best Foreign Film, kicks things off, 6:30pm, Wednesday, Feb. 29 _ a remarkable choice that bodes well for the future. Seat bookings are recommended.

Paradiso Lounge @ Solaris Dutamas,
Lot 28 & 29, Level G3, Block C5, Publika, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-6211-3344
Open daily through late.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Wooi Mei

Families & friends flock to this neighborhood Chinese eatery for no-nonsense nosh.

Sizzling-hot, super-silky bean curd, soaked in deliciously savory gravy.

Fat, pleasantly chewy snails in a sinfully buttery sauce.

Honey-cooked chicken, a sweeter substitute for fried, roasted or steamed fowl.

Obligatory veggies. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Complimentary black-herbal jelly in ice. Or something like that.

Wooi Mei Seafood Restaurant,
Jalan 29, Section 17, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.