Thursday, June 27, 2019

Degustation, Taman Tun Dr Ismail

Meals conceived with creative effort, presented in portions that exceed expectations: Taman Tun Dr Ismail's latest restaurant makes its mark with recipes of robust imagination and remarkable integrity. Start with the three-course set lunches, which kick off with a soup of the day and a salad that prove more nuanced than the norm; the latter, for example, is a far cry from perfunctory leaves, tossed with an elaborate ensemble of shimeji mushrooms, yellow raisins, julienned red peppers, red radish and candied walnuts in a perky lemon vinaigrette.

The main course is where the lunch shines: Choose from possibilities like Pork Bulgogi Melt Sandwich (showcasing chunks of 12-hour slow-braised pork belly, savoury succulence to sink your teeth into, thickly sliced to ensure an epic mouthful, layered with sambal, salted egg yolk aioli, cheese and pickled cucumber in a charcoal bun, with breaded onion rings on the side for extra indulgence), Salted Egg Yolk Smoked Duck Spaghetti (pasta coated in a house-made cured duck egg sauce, more mellow and subtle than typical, mixed with coconut emulsion and garlic scapes for an aromatic boost, plus a poached egg to crown the poultry protein pleasure), beef stroganoff, pan-seared salmon, duck leg confit, and more.

This could be the neighbourhood's heartiest, most honest set lunch bargain, clocking in at a total of RM19.90++ for three courses with a beverage. It's impossible to imagine many other places offering a multi-course meal that includes a powerhouse serving of braised pork, beef stroganoff, salmon or duck confit for that price.

The forces behind Degustation comprise its lead founder, passionate first-time restaurateur Swadesh, and his chefs Bryan and Alvin, who are relatively young but have honed their craft at respected restaurants in KL and abroad. Their skill and experience come into play for the dinnertime repertoire; while Degustation currently doesn't boast a degustation menu, the selection's wide enough to ensure that a sampling of different, distinctive dynamics can be delivered.

Seafood buffs can take note of the citrus-cured hamachi, channelling an Italian-inflected crudo preparation for the yellowtail, fleshy fish that's jazzed up with uplifting notes from grapefruit dashi, red perilla, avocado mousse and kaffir lime oil (RM25), and scallops cushioned with creamy sweet corn polenta and spiced butternut squash puree, punched up with chorizo crumbs and soothed down with orange blossom essence (RM30), painstakingly put together, pretty on the plate.

For a good ribbing, Degustation delves into both beef and pork - the bovine short ribs is meat at its most full-bodied, blanketed in smoked garlic jus, balanced out with steak fries, baby carrots, broccoli puree and pearl onions (RM33), while the porcine ribs is part of the bar snacks menu, emerging tenderly glazed with a lightly tangy chipotle passionfruit cider reduction sauce - it's sufficiently substantial to be a main course on its own, with a heap of fries on the side (RM18).

There's plenty more for the bar snacks, from Southern-fried chicken to sausage platters and salmon tacos, to pair perhaps with playful cocktails like the colourful Raibbow (RM29), a beer bottle-loving Coal concoction (RM36) and Ginito, essentially a Mojito with a gin-based twist (RM20).

Many thanks to Degustation for having us here.

16, Jalan Wan Kadir 1, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. Open Monday-Saturday, 12pm-12am. Tel: +6019-700-7433

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Chez Lamine Hadj Mustapha, Marrakesh

Tangia is the star dish of Marrakesh, a deeply savoury stew of sheep poured out of a terra cotta urn, cooked in furnaces that traditionally heat the water for hammams. Brightened by preserved lemons, its birthplace is Marrakesh, so this is the best city to order this soulful speciality.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Lafus Cafe & Patisserie, Petaling Jaya

Lunchtime at Lafus is a busy affair, with crowds thronging this cafe for popular picks like bowls of fried rice blanketed with egg and char siu chicken (RM14.99) and Nyonya-inspired laksa with a pleasurably spicy curry paste prepared in the kitchen here (RM15.90), hearty fare that manages to be comfortingly familiar but with a few personal flourishes to make meals memorable.

Linger for tea - Lafus' sweet concoctions showcase a fun sense of creativity, particularly the tong shui-influenced sweet potato cake that evokes bubur cha cha, layered with coconut cream and pearled sago (RM12), and bread-and-butter pudding with a twist, topped with croissant pastry (RM6.50). Down with a sweet corn milkshake (RM9) or Korean-style pomelo red tea (RM9).

Lafus Cafe & Patisserie
D8-9-G, Block D8, Pusat Perdagangan Dana 1, Jalan PJU1A/46, PJU 1A, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Open Monday-Friday, 11am-7pm; Saturday, 11am-3pm.

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Ming Palace, Corus Hotel: London Roast & Peking Duck

By Aiman Azri

Fabulous fowl: Relying on meat sourced from a Europe-based, family-run farm where ducks roam freely, Ming Palace's new London Roast Duck and London Peking Duck menu is worth winging on over to Corus Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

These are ducks raised right, hand-reared and fed on a natural, nourishing diet of maize, soybeans and wheat to ensure the meat is thoroughly tender and clean-tasting. Corus Hotel's flagship Chinese restaurant accords them with equal respect, putting them through a painstaking preparation process for pristine poultry pleasure.

Ming Palace first marinates the duck, infusing it with the aromatic nuances of five-spice powder, salt, plum sauce and spring onions. Air is pumped into the duck, expanding its skin before it's hung for six to eight hours and oven-cooked for up to 45 minutes.

This result is what customers savour when they order the London Roast Duck (RM188 nett for a whole duck of approximately 2.5 kilograms, or RM98 nett for half a duck). It's rich and robust, bursting with intense flavour but free of gaminess - savoury and sweet in complexities, endowed with crisp skin that's bliss to crunch through, completed with the same house-made plum sauce that the duck was marinated with.

Ming Palace also promises the duck as part of a three-course meal in the London Peking Duck set, wedding Western-bred duck with Asian inflections for RM198 nett. In this set, you'll still enjoy a platter of roast duck, plus the bonus of three different dishes that utilise the rest of the duck.

The first course is the classic Peking Duck appetiser of crispy duck skin rolled up with cucumber and scallions, served with hoisin sauce. Bao buns are also offered - slice them up and insert the duck skin for a snack of fluffy-crackly textural contrasts.

The second course features flesh to sink your teeth into - stir-fried duck fillets with ginger and spring onion for a fragrant sharpness that buoys and bolsters the protein, keeping us enthusiastically munching. If you prefer a spicy dish, you can have the duck stir-fried with chilli peppers and salt.

The third course also showcases two possibilities to choose from - either traditional fried rice with duck meat (a sure-fire smash, addictive without being greasy, with many morsels of meat to relish amid the firm grains) or the more unorthodox fried spaghetti with duck fillet (the flavour is comfortingly Chinese, with a soy sauce base that evokes yee mee, executed with a beautiful balance that does justice to this inspired recipe with heaps of oomph).

We've been to Ming Palace multiple times in the past year, enjoying each visit. The London Roast Duck and London Peking Duck menu makes a lovely restaurant even better. Many thanks to Corus Hotel Kuala Lumpur for having us back.

Ming Palace
Corus Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur.
Daily, 12pm-230pm, 630pm-1030pm.
Reservations: 03-2161-8888, extension 188; or email

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Monday, June 24, 2019

Berber Breakfasts, Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Berbers know best: Travelling through Morocco's section of the Atlas Mountains, time-honoured cafes run by the indigenous community serve simple but soul-warming fare, with flat breads, omelettes and hot mint tea being a balm for chilly mornings.