Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Uncle Chili, KLCC July 10 2011

Uhhh.... not so good as previously eaten. Burger was fine, but the fries were a bit raw and old and the chicken soup was way salty. Lettuce on the burger was a bit limp too. Better burger is at Chinoz on the ground floor. Way better fries too.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

El Meson Bangsar 8 July 2011

Got email from El Meson in Bangsar today inviting me to a wine dinner for RM188. They pissed me off about a year ago by attempting to whack me with corkage when the wines they had in stock were pretty piss poor. We left before eating and haven't been back since. Guess they must be doing okay without my patronage. Shame, because they were doing an excellent suckling pig at the time, way better than the noisy plate smashing irritating El Cerdo. We haven't been there for years either, ever since he suggested we should get used to his pork knuckle without the crispy skin because it was healthier for us. Still sounds like nonsense. I presume he has equally gotten used to living without our patronage.

Had the El Meson wines on the menu been more attractive, I could have been tempted back. But it needs more than the thought of suckling pig to compensate for untested wine at that kind of price. Maybe next time.

Amante Dinner Garibaldi Bangsar Village Juy 7th 2011

NOTE - Garibaldi is no longer there and hasn't been for years. Apols for not updating earlier. Was a great place.

Our nearly legal society had a gathering for which only twelve of us had signed up. Not sure why the numbers were so low, but it made for a close convivial and hearty gathering. A Four course with coffee and two glasses of wine for RM150 was a great deal and we'd been wanting to try the Garibaldi for a while. Well, what a delightful evening. One of the members treated us to a very welcome glass of Roederer champagne, with beautiful bubbles, rich oatmeal biscuit on the nose and yeast on the tongue. A great reminder of how great champagne can taste. Following a charming Amuse Bouche of walnut on some kind of puree, the starter of Beef Carpaccio with Shaved Parmegiano and Rucola which was…. quite forgettable, actually. Maybe should have asked for pepper to spruce up the beef or more pungency in the cheese. But the Primi Fettucine with Spring Veg Ragout and Truffle Sauce was brilliant. And most generous with two clips of shaved truffle added to the dish! The accompanying wine was the Albizza Chardonnay Toscana 2009 from Frescobaldi. Lean, slightly oily and fairly unassuming on its own, it bloomed with fruit and flower on connecting with the Fettucine. All trace of oil disappeared leaving a clean fresh full bodied wine that stood up to the truffle and really brought out the freshness of the pasta. A real winner.

Next was a choice of King Prawn or Veal. Dearest went for Prawn while I did the Veal. We also swapped wine, she taking the remains of my white for the prawn and I nabbed her red for the Veal. The mushroom and truffle sauce was delightful, and paired with lean veal pan fried made for a rich mouthful of earthy textures. The paired Danzante Merlot 2009 was….. okay, I guess. Bit light for Merlot, lot of cherry for some reason. Certainly not a large wine, which was just as well as it would have killed the meat. But at RM40 a glass, I don't see me buying it off the menu.

Garibaldi's Apple Pie with Vanilla Gelato looked scrummy, but I passed. Way too much sugar and fat. Diabetes is a bastard. I love desserts. Just can't eat them any more.

One of the members had most generously brought two bottles of Frescobaldi Brunello di Montalcino 2004 and 2005 for a vertical taste for the assembled. Both were full and beautiful, though the leaner 2004 had the edge on structure while the 2005 had better fruit. But lovely wine. The Brunello has lovely texture, bit velvet and slightly lean, with cheek tickling blackcurrant and damson. Finish was crisp and sleek, with wild fruit on the nose. Wonderful treat.

Most of the conversation was about air travel and a scary story about one SQ118 that had to return to base after an engine caught fire. Other talk was on obedient wives club and the upcoming marches. Most would be staying at home. Us too. Got DVD in case they decide to shut down the TV. Damn stupid if they do, but international opinion doesn't always seem to rank high on the list of priorities here.

Given the present selection of bottles, the imposition of RM80 for corkage seemed a bit of a whack. Here, though, the staff said that Garibaldi was taking delivery of 300 cases of Italian best the following week so hopefully the choice and price will be fair and reasonable. Whilst the individual dishes on the menu looked a bit stiff, the degustation of six courses at RM150 looks worth a try. Like Arnie Schwarz, we'll be back.

Margan Wine Dinner Lake Club July 6th 2011

Had reasonable expectations here which didn't quite get met.

Not that anything was really wrong with anything. The food was most palatable, especially the almost perfectly braised beef ribs - tasted like they had been slow braised for hours in rich gravy. Potato was excellent and the soup not salty. The new chef shows great promise. The wines were fair but not really standouts - crisp Semillon with Salmon starter, reasonable Chardonnay to follow with the soup, very light bodied Merlot with main and (I think) crisply sweet Semillon Dessert to finish. It's just that previous wine dinners were quite generous with the pourings. This evening they were decidely stingy. Except for the starter, barely a full glass with each course. Everything ended at 10pm. We left surprisingly and disappointingly sober. Didn't manage to get around to say hello to too many, but saw old friend the Bone Corrector at a distance and wine kaki Tuck Onn, who shared my disdain at the parsimony of the Club. Wine Chairman Derrick held court getting photos taken at all the tables. We run into each other about once a year and each time he keeps threatening to call me to come to his place to taste wine. Well, maybe this will be year. I said a quick hello to the winemaker Andrew but got quickly crowded out by He Who Would Be King who seemed keen to cement an impression. I am still developing one of him. Dick seems the closest at this time.

Pleasant company at the table with Vijay and Freya and son Rajiv. Apparent regulars at the Lake Club wine dinners, eye doctor and Anglophile Vijay regaled us with tales of his wine travels and knowledge and purchases. Rajiv spent most of the night on his Blackberry, but we swapped some restaurant tales in between sessions. I gave them a tip about discount cruises, they seemed happy with the idea. An early night, and quite proud that I remembered to call my sister in the UK and wish her a Happy Birthday. Decent sleep too, so the wines weren't that alcoholic.

PRIME, Le Meridien Hotel, July 3rd 2011

A late decision to go here after a planned rehearsal with accapella group Six2eight was cancelled. I love the ambience of Prime - the wod, the bottles stacked to the impossibly high ceiling, the windows onto the kitchen and the chefs all in black, inlcuding the big chef hat. Does get a bit cold, though. They were doing a special on the Black Angus so dearest went for the rib eye while I had the striploin. Mine came with ricotta and greens and was most tasty, though the meat was smeared with the gravy and I prefer mine on the side. It was tasty enough, though, and went well with the cheapest wine on the list, a Beringer Stone Cellar Merlot from 2006. Still prefer the steak at the Dish though - better meat and more of it. The Starwood Card gives us 50% off the food and 20% off the drinks, so the total after tax was about RM300. Not bad for a decent steak with trimmings and a shared bottle. Plus the delightful starter bread and the varieties of herb and garlic butter. Must try the rib eye sans gravy next time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Antipodean, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar 29th June 2011

Lots of people are having business meetings at coffee bars and cafes. Armed with their iPads and iPhones, they haunt the likes of Starbucks and Plan B in Bangsar Village. Deals are marketed and secured over coffee and eggs on toast, email checked and sorted - different world to the one I remember. My mate the Bald One uses these places as his office. He sends Junior Bald to school around the corner in the morning then parks up for breakfast and business. I joined him at his request for a meet with some prospects to discuss a venture. He decided to decamp today on intelligence that the Antipodean had bacon and sausage. Also, it had stopped raining and would be a dry walk.

Well, the walk wasn't dry, but the intelligence was correct. The all day breakfast did not disappoint with toast, scrambled egg, sausage and the most amazing hash brown, all for RM18. The side serving of bacon was also most generous at RM7. Didn't get round to coffee. Light and airy ambiance, with lots of glass window from which you can watch lorries squeezing past through the adjoining lane. I remember the space used to be a dark gloomy bar at one time. Nice change, though the place would maybe get a bit cramped when full. Pleasant attentive staff, Cookies looked good, must try next time. The Bald One was very happy at getting his daily pig. Nothing like a Big Happy Bald One...

EEST Restaurant 29th June 2011

Needed to return to retrieve a scarf that Dear Lady had left here from dinner the previous week, so we decided to try the lunch.

A RM45 Dim Sum lunch special did not attract the discount from our Starwood card so A La Carte it was. In there was a RM45 Slow Lunch combo of pretty much the same as the Special so we opted for that with additional Goose, Siew Pau and Woh Tip with a pot of tea.

The combo was okay, asparagus and beans in chili, prawn meat dumplings and rice with a quite tasty Siew Yoke. The Goose meat was fine, bit lean but solid and not greasy. Woh Tip was a bit stodgy, the cook adding the ginger to the stuffing in the mixing stage. Stars were the Chicken soup and Siew Pau. Tender meat in clear broth with no oil, and light flour pau with sweet filling.

Dessert of Creme Brulee with Mandarin Orange ice cream was pleasant. Total lunch cost RM55 for two after discount. Bargain. Plus we got free parking at the Westin!! Seems it is first two hours complimentary during the week. Most friendly. On the way out, we noticed there was no buffet at the downstairs eating place. Guess The Westin is off the lunch map for the business crowd. EEST was quite busy, though. May do lunch again - the ambiance of the EEST is quite pleasant and the card and free parking make it worth the trip.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Dish, Dua Residency Jalan Tun Razak 25th June 2011

The layout had changed. No more the racks of wine surrounding the tables and eating area, now it was bare wall with a few odd bottles in racks. As a result, a good chunk of the ambience and warmth had gone from the place. Notwithstanding, the food was still excellent - Australian rib eye steak and potatoes fried in duck fat. The starter salad was unavailable for some reason, which Dear Lady thought smacked of bad planning, but at least they had the wherewithal to realize the problem and not bring a rancid salad to the table. Wine list was a bit sad - way way less choice than previous and large markups - previous was much more fairly priced. Probably the new owners looking at the larger margins available. Well and maybe, but not here - don't like to pay over marked up prices for mediocre wine. Better to bring your own and pay the RM50 corkage. Which we did - an old friend we discovered at the Porter House Steak restaurant in New York 2008 and found in a store on the way back from Yakima Valley in Washington in 2009. The Stella Maris 2003, a blend of Cabernet and Merlot with a little Malbec. A light, almost non existent bouquet gave way to a rounded velvet in the mouth, tasting of blackcurrant and plum and enough acid to cut through the steak to bring out peppers and sparks of wild fruit all the way down the throat. Top end quality at fair price. Was the only bottle, too, but at eight years in the bottle we felt it was time to go. Could maybe have left it a little longer in the bottle, but it was magnificent as it was. And the memories it brought back of New York and Washington in a Malaysian steakhouse were most pleasant. Will look for more next time we are in the USA.

Basil Noodle House Bangsar Village June 25 2011

Our usual stop for lunch before stocking up on the groceries or wandering across to the stores in BV2. Reason - it is consistent. Starter plate of spring rolls and money bags and prawn rolls followed by a Beef noodle shared for two people is good enough to keep you going for the afternoon. 50 sen for a glass of water seems a bit squeeze the punter, but at least it's hot. Follow it with coffee or affrogato and the newspaper at the San Terri in BV2 and you're ready for the world.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lunch at KLCC June 23 2011

Needed to return to KLCC to pick up some Coffee for the machine. First choice lunch at San Francisco Coffee was fully seated and a queue for food some more. Forget it? Absolutely. KLCC is in a state of flux and renovation, with some of the food outlets being relocated. Deciding to opt for safety, and not fancying the food court (gets a bit hot and smelly with all the food) we end up at old favourite Chinoz. Margherita Pizza for me ( I normally have the mushroom and egg) and steak sandwich for the Dear Lady. Lovely pizza, light cheese and a little sprig of mint brought out the tomato flavour. Steak sandwich pretty okay, beef, rocket and mayo between two slabs of chunky bread. Dear Lady still got 15% discount with her Club 21 card - deal.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Dish Jalan Tun Razak

Just a shout out for our present favourite destination for steak - the Dish on Jalan Tun Razak. Part of the Dua Residency condo, Dish is part restaurant part delicatessen and a delightful experience. We have had steak there on a few occasions and it has been unfailingly excellent. Australian or USA beef charred outside and done to your liking inside, it can pair with a variety of sides. We like the potatoes fried in duck fat. Quite an extensive wine list at fair prices, and the bread and the hot cross buns are magnificent.

Other steak restaurant - Prime at Le Meridien. Went for lunch there recently, still got standard. Haven't done dinner for a while, but hope to go soon, will update then.

EEST Restaurant Westin Hotel June 22 2011

I've not been a great fan of hotel restaurants. With only a few exceptions, they tend toward the general in an attempt to be all things to everyone and not offend the palate of Mr and Mrs Well Heeled. And for some reason, I have never struck lucky at EEST in The Westin. On the previous occasions I have dined there, there always seemed to be some shock either in the service or the bill which dented and pretty much killed the night. So it was with a bit of trepidation that we got invited to the EEST for what turned out to be a massive amount of Chinese food. My memory of EEST was a bit fusion and modern Japanese style, which I was never quite sure served which demographic in the market, so this apparent shift to Chinese style seemed to make economic sense.

Got there at 7.30pm and were shuttled to a private room with chintz cushions and overlooking the Pavilion. Everyone arrived and took their seats. It took a very long time for some food to come, at least 30 minutes before we saw some nuts to nibble on. After this, the food came quite quickly.

Started out with the sweet little lotus paste beans in the pod. I'm not sure of their significance, but they are necessary at Chinese birthday dinners and usually as a dessert. Not bad, not too sweet. Followed by Four Seasons (crispy fishroll, a cute taiwanese style dumpling and some unagi - fair) and into the pork knuckle and dumpling bread in sweet and sour sauce. Traditionally a northern Chinese dish eaten in the winter, this can be one of the best ways to enjoy the pig. I found this one a bit on the bland side. The sauce did not have enough fire in the mouth and did little to add to the meat. We normally have this at the excellent and consistent Pik Wah near Stadium Negara and it is always the business. Here it was only so-so. The Waipara Hills SB 2010 went well with all three courses to date, lean and crisp and fresh in the mouth with a clean finish.

Next up was the Yam Cake with prawn and veggies (mostly celery and capsicum). I found the yam a bit on the stodgy side - it fell like a stone lump into the belly. Crisp celery and nuts and prawns in a light broth. Nice texture and good taste. The prawns were excellent. This was followed by a kind of Chicken Roulade topped with crisp fried chopped garlic. Texturally, this went well, with the garlic crunch and the soft chicken. Tastewise, again a bit bland, but hey, it's chicken!

We then had Kai Lan and garlic which was quite strangely sweet and soft shelled crab in batter (lovely!!) and finished off by the traditional longevity noodles to signify long life. The fruit platter was well laid out and varied - kiwi, guava, pear and dragonfruit.

All of the above was being paired with Eaglehawk 2009 Red Blend and a Benchmark Merlot 2009. Reason was, the wine list at the EEST was a bit thin and felt overpriced - RM40 plus for a glass of supermarket plonk. Better to BYO and pay the RM60 corkage or just stick to warm water. Or pay for one and hide another bottle under the table. Both were a bit sweet and alcoholic, but the Merlot had some fruit. Will try and blend the remains of it with some young Chilean Cab.

As said, there was nothing wrong with the meal at the EEST. Individually, the dishes were well prepared and presented and collectively it made for a pleasant experience. It's just that there is so much BETTER Chinese food available at restaurants across the city. I have had so many great and outstanding meals in my time in KL - food that has fire and grip and taste and which makes you feel that you've had something really special. Didn't get that here. The surroundings and the location were outstanding, so maybe that would be the attraction of the EEST. The best food in KL is often in the funkiest of surroundings, in the backstreets and alleys. EEST is a good venue if you're looking to impress someone. If you want top end Chinese style food, though, our standby venues are Overseas on Imbi, Marco Polo on Raja Chulan or Pik Wah off Jalan Sultan.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Zinnia Bar, Royal Lake Club June 20 2011

Monday 20th June 2011

A surprise at the Royal Lake Club Zinnia Bar this evening - the pepperoni Pizza and Boxing Chicken were excellent. The Boxing chicken had a crunchy crust with herb - lovely taste. The pizza was full and cheesy with a bit of chili for taste (we had asked for less chili). Washed down with 3 pints of Kilkenny, this was a lovely munch for two people at a total of less than RM100. All the more so since it was so unexpected! Need to have a RLC member with you to eat here, but if you can find one it is worth the trip!

Marco Polo Restaurant June 18 2011

Saturday 18th June 2011

Another birthday dinner at which I was emcee. I never get to eat much when I am officiating a function, but I did manage to taste the duck at the Marco Polo which was excellent. I am told that the chicken soup was also superb though little mention of the suckling pig or the sea cucumber. The wines were 2009 La Forge Chardonnay from France and 2009 Private Bin Pinot Noir by Villa Maria in New Zealand. We had found each of these at wine dinners and thought they would be excellent for guests. We were right. The La Forge proved crisp and resilient both as aperitif and with the three seasons starter through to the fish. The light and balanced Villa Maria quaffed equally well and gave the duck a lovely bed in the mouth. Thirteen tables went through 24 white and 22 red and five bottles of scotch. Raucous night, totally enjoyable. Our six2eight accapella group sang two sets and Edna gave a very well received speech for her birthday and sang up the New York New York. Ben Choo and his keyboard kept everyone dancing.

Most people said everything was excellent - the food, company, wine and entertainment. It was a good night, one for the ages. The good doctor helped me pack up the sound system I had brought for Six2Eight and we cracked a bottle of Benchmark Chardonnay 2009 at home to wind down. 3am bedtime. Knackered all next day. Edna opened her presents. Lots of wine given as gifts, I think mostly from the wine stores. Lots of tasting coming up!!

Checkers Restaurant June 16 2011

Thursday 16th June 2011

Birthday dinner at Checkers in Damansara. An old favourite, recently revisited after a number of years when the Pork Ribs were at their excellent best. Assuming tonight would be similar, a bit disappointed when told we were having fish. Though this soon dissipated with the darned good pink champagne brought by the good doctor. Dry bubbles and biscuit nose, brilliant texture and clean laser like fruit raking the tongue. The food was a bit fine dining and very tasty, though writing nearly six days after the food I can't remember exactly what it was. There was starter caviar (perfect with the pink bubbly) followed by ham and a shrimp pasta after which came the fish and then a main and dessert. A Laurent Perrier champagne was opened and discarded for being too sweet (the Pink was a tough act to follow) but the Macon Villages Recolte 2007 proved eminently interesting and a perfect foil for the fish. The restaurant seems to be moving toward fine dining, and whilst the taste was within the concept we thought the portions were a bit too large. Our main was matched with a delightful 2005 Gevrey Chambertin which paired well with the food and drank delightfully on its own. Balance, fragrant, light on the tongue with a texture and finish that sailed into memory. Chef and restaurateur Mr Tan kept the bottle. His dessert of oranges steeped in rosemary was brilliant. Would double as a sorbet. We'll be going back but this time will insist on the ribs.

Legend Hotel June 12 2011

Sunday 12th June 2011

Wedding dinner at Legend Hotel. Usual eight course. Salty four seasons, I pass on the shark fin, ordinary chicken with little taste, fish was okay. I miss the prawn, have a bit of the broccoli, and scarf down the rice. Still hungry, so go home and have a Carman's breakfast bar for supper. Time was I would have scarfed down the lot and had seconds. Now am picky about what gets eaten. Trying to be careful on the salt and sugar - hotel kitchens seem to overload their sauces with salt in their Chinese style cuisine.

Edna sings the couple's favourite song "When You Wish Upon A Star" and "The Wedding Song" and does her usual good job. I do my usual Wedding party piece "Yue Liang Tai Piao Wo Ti Shin". They respond so big that I mess up the words. Memo to self - don't get complacent about your songs.

Wine was a standard table - Henri de Laval or something - I have seen it being offered by a couple of wine distributors as a wedding wine, so I presume it is a value proposition. Bit jammy and sweet, not ideal, but okay to chug down and toast.

Elegant Inn Menara Hap Seng June 11 2011

Saturday 11th June

Got taken to the Elegant Inn in what used to be MUI Plaza but is now Menara Hap Seng. Is Hong Kong style cuisine, which I have yet to learn how to appreciate. Started well with the Siew Yoke but faded for me after that. The next memorable dish was the rice at the end. The scallop and goose feet delicacies just don't jive with my stomach. The Saint Clair 2007 Sauvignon Blanc went nicely with the rice, which was a bit glutinous and sticky, so the acid cut through the gunk in the food. The 2007 Saint Clair has been a good friend over the past few years and has stayed remarkably crisp and refreshing. Not many left now... we have some 2009 which is still nice, though we was a bit disappointed with the 2010 we tried. Bit thin and overly grassy, as memory serves. Maybe is time to try again.

The company was delightful, intelligent conversation is always nice. Topic of the day was the Obedient Wives Club, and we got talking about why it is that so many educated women of faith still follow the husband's word to the letter. Couldn't figure it out. More is the case, all us spoken for guys are already signed up life members of the Obedient Husbands club... and wouldn't have it any other way!!

Daorae Korean food June 10 2011

Friday 10th June 2011

Got invited to a Korean restaurant in Kota Damansara (I think - I get a bit lost two clicks anywhere beyond KL town) called Daorae. The style is that there is a hot charcoal fire and a hot metal plate covers this on which is put the meat to cook. Nice food, the pork was lovely, but the sauces were a bit sweet for the diabetic in me. A 2007 Benchmark Rose which I took from the home fridge went surprisingly well, better than our usual Eaglehawk Chardonnay. Nice crisp acid and fruit cut through the fire and sugar of the sauce. Certainly very good and well prepared Korean style food, though because of the sweet sauces maybe not something I could do on a regular basis. Daorae have a number of outlets across the city, though this one was the flagship. Staff were very friendly, though our host for the night was a regular and was also teaching them English. Always helps when someone in the party has some clout with the kitchen.

Was also the first time using Garmin GPS - brilliant. Got us there and back. The British voice is hilarious, very mat salleh.

GD Vajra Wine at Aria June 9 2011

Thursday June 9th 2011

A surprisingly pleasant evening out of the blue at Aria restaurant in Plaza Damansara. Friend and wine sifu Karen had been invited to a tasting of GD Vajra Italian wine by Straits Wine Company and gang busted Edna and myself to join in. There was also to be a presentation on smell kits to help learn to differentiate the various aromas in wine. Greeted by Jason from Straits Wine, we got introduced to Giuseppe from the winery who sat us all down and embarked on a romantic if somewhat lengthy talk on his wines and winery and family and love for the process. We had earlier started with a sweetly crisp and slightly fizzy 2009 Moscato d'Asti which, as Giuseppe admitted, was usually better as a finisher than an opener. Notes of lychee and peach. Certainly too sweet to start a night, but a good wine for people new to drinking and appreciating. Next was the Dolcetto 2009, which I liked for its versatility - great with any kind of food. I could taste pizza, pasta, light meat and cheese going with it - but the others thought it a bit bland to chug. Light cherry and a little spice for me which came out with food. Nice structure, bit lean on its own. Giuiseppe likened it to a friend who brings out the best in you - good analogy. The Barbera d'Alba 2008 seemed to be the favourite and certainly was a main course wine - big tannin and fruit for beef - though I felt it faded in the glass. Notes claim dark fruits, spices and oak. Was full in the mouth, velvetish texture - a good glug. And same with the Barolo 2005 - good with the main or with cheese to end a meal, but I thought it was fading. Not sure if there's much shelf life in this one, or whether it will get better with age, though others seemed to think so. Notes claim tomato leaf, rustic red fruit aroma, boysenberry and truffle oil with plenty of life. Maybe it needed some air.

Apparently an entertaining session with the wine scents - we were sat down with Giuseppe and drinking his wine. We ended up having a meal at the Aria and seeing off the remnants of the tasting with Giu and Fred the scent seller and staff of Straits Wines. Fred's approach of treating every glass of wine as a potential bedmate was refreshing. Get to know it and figure out if it is a one night stand or a long term relationship or wherever in between! The food came across as Italian Malaysian fusion - italian food with chili and seemingly geared toward the local taste. I think I prefer my italian food with a little less kick. But the company was excellent - Ed and Peter from the Opus Restaurant Group, Karen, Giuseppe, Fred and the ebullient Tan from Straits Wines. Nights like this are wonderful.

Amante Dinner Villa Danieli Sheraton May 5 2011

Thursday 5th May 2011
Having been pressganged into signing up for the Starwood Card, it seemed like gentle fate when the Amante group decided to hold their May gathering at Villa Danieli at the Sheraton Imperial to test out the newly installed chef. The Amante are a semi loose group of people who enjoy Italian food in Kuala Lumpur and get together once a month at a different Italian restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. They try to maintain a ceiling of RM120 for the dinner, though this should be increasingly difficult given the global economy and rising inflation. Possibly for this reason, the Villa Daniele dinner had a price tag of RM150 a pop; the the hope was that it would be worth it. If it was, I didn't feel it, although there were no major complaints from the assembled. Appetizer of Salmon and cold Fish terrine with caper and basil sauce was tasty, though some felt it was overdone with the salt. Needed a decent wine to match it and the house Ruffino white didn't quite cut it. Main course of pan fried lamb loin was excellent, melt in the mouth succulent and the mash and gravy made for a delightful experience. Again, the house Ruffino Chianti failed to match the food. Didn't touch the Chocolate Mousse dessert, though everyone else scarfed it down swiftly. Whilst both wines came with welcome refills, it was a shame that a better wine could not have been found to fit the food. But that's the Amante - always pressing for value and sometimes getting good and sometimes getting a little. The coffee took an age to reach the table, as did the bill. I'll be back at the Danieli at some time, as my Starwood Card gives me discount. Not sure I would make it my first choice otherwise. Corkage was a bit stiff as well, RM60 as I remember. Asked if Starwood members got free corkage, answer was no. Chinese restaurants rarely charge corkage. Then again, they don't have decent wine glasses, so we bring our own.

IWFS Dinner Dancing Fish April 26 2011

April 26th 2011

This was an IWFS Dinner at the Dancing Fish in Bangsar. Good reports of the quality of the Indonesian food had set up reasonable expectations and we were not disappointed. Starting off with the Grant Burge Sparkiling Pinot Noir accompanied by Emping with Sambal Terasai, the Emping continued on the table with a Trimbach Gewurtztraminer. On its own the Trimbach was pleasant enough with its signature petrol and lychee finish but there was not really enough muscle to cut through the sambal. The neutralising effect of the wine on the spice made for an interesting experience, but not one that really merits writing about or repeating.

The satay chicken was one of the best I have ever tasted. Most satay tends to be tough and over marinated. This was melt in the mouth tender and enough marinade to taste but not overpower. Same with the peanut sauce - enough to taste without whacking the tongue into submission. Which made the accompanying St Clair SB a most pleasant accompanist with its still steel grassy dryness and texture and sleek crisp finish.

And then to the dish for which the restaurant was named - the Dancing Fish itself. This is essentially deep fried and crispy and arranged so the fish looks like it is dancing on the plate. It certainly danced in the mouth! Lovely texture and taste on the flesh with the added crunch of the coating. Paired with the Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, the full body of the wine made for a good partner to the dish. Three years in the bottle lent a mellow hint to the fruit, though the body remained full and the finish full and long with good acidity to cut through the slight oil of the fish. Excellent.

The conversation veered toward Keith Floyd and how he could polish off a bottle during a cooking sketch, and I was feeling similarly sloshed after all the white wine.
It was perhaps for this reason that the remainder of the evening was not memorable nor remembered. The wine was a Piedmont, the Malgra Galana Barbera d'Asti form 2004. We were also pretty full from the food by this point. Edna had the staff doggybag the crispy duck for take home. This I know because it was in the fridge for dinner the following night with our Ipoh Chicken Noodles. Paired with our Fridge wine the crisp and fruity Wolf Blass Eaglehawk Chardonnay from the supermarket, it was a bit on the dry side, both in texture and a kind of dry rendang coating, but pleasant nonetheless.

Malbec Food and Wine Cava April 17th 2011

April 17th

This was grim. Thomas from Entwine, from whom we'd previously had some lovely wines, organised a Malbec Food and Wine session at Cava. Presumably aiming to pair Spanish style food with the wines, it was pretty bad. Apart from the Torrontes aperitif and opening wine, the rest were highly alcoholic - 14 to 15 plus. The food at Cava seems to have gone steadily downhill over recent time. The starter Tapas Platter was a bit cold and forgettable with the salad oil hinting of rancid, whilst the Paella Las Verduras that followed was also cold and a bit smoky. The Cod with Romesco Sauce redeemed the night and apparently the oxtail was good. The cheese platter was a bit… cheesy in presentation - a Ritz cracker with a slab of best imported Jamon felt like not the best way to end the evening. The garlic bread remained the table favourite. The matching was way off beam, though - heavy wines need heavy food, and these boys were very muscular and tannic and not really pleasant to drink. The labes were all new to me. Also not sure if there is much to improve over time - the tannins overpower everything and not sure there will be enough fruit to even them out. I have tasted many delightful Malbecs full of fruit and fire and texture, a lot of them coming from the supermarkets, but these were way below the par one would expect. Good to give a rugby team hairs on the chest at half time, or doing battle with half a cow slab after twenty minutes on the paradilla in Buenos Aires, but not really suited for the KL clime nor the below par cuisine. I took no notes on the wines. Not for buying.

Villa Maria Food Safari April 7th 2011

April 7th

Got a last minute invite to a Villa Maria Food Safari by Peter of the Bangkung Row restaurant group. These guys are long term supporters of our Six2Eight accapella group. We sing for them at Xmas and they give us a boozy dinner in January. Some lovely Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir on display, with pork knuckle at Leonardo's, salad and pasta at the Opus function room and paella at Cava. Very tasty food and pretty well matched with the wines. Pork Knuckle was better on this occasion than previous - not as dry. Pasta was good with a creamy carbonara. The paella was okay, but Cava seems to have slipped a bit of late - see other posts. The Pinots were very pleasant, full cherries and not sour in the mouth like a lot of other NZ pinots I've tried. The Sauvignon Blancs were nice, increasingly complex, though the lower level Private Bin was lovely - crisp, full in the mouth and good fruit. The Private Bin Pinot was equally good - light cherry and supple with a clean balance that refreshed the mouth. We bought one of each of the Pinots to try with the good doctor to judge which would be best with pork and duck at an upcoming birthday party. We opted for the Private Bin - great taste and value, versatile and not too complex for the general audience.

Buffet at KL Hilton March 29 2011

March 29

Went for buffet at the Hilton KL. Seems to have dropped a bit in quality terms; though the prawns were fresh, the sashimi was a bit flabby (presumably due to the Japan earthquake and consequent supply disruptions). The bread and the Stilton Cheese were the highlight for me, as was the Gazpatcho, but the Beef felt a bit tasteless whilst the Chicken and Mushroom pie was a stodgy disaster. Tasty basmati rice and lamb shank tortellini, though. But the mains were not strong. Also, appeared to be tasteless supermarket Ice cream for dessert rather than the previous very tasty chocolate chip. Bit disappointing.

Wine Dinner Cava Restaurant March 23 2011

March 23

Was a wine dinner at Cava in Bangsar. Wines were Les Domaines Paul Mas imported by Straits Wine.

Billing themselves as Old World vines with New World outlook, the Vineyard rep made a stumbling introductory speech which he wisely cut short.

Starting with a Viogner seemed a bit strange - would have preferred something more refreshing - but the restaurants and importers do what they can with what they got. No sparkling wine from the vineyard so that was that. It did make a good match with the aubergine vol au vents which, outside of the seafood cream oyster, proved to be the best dish of the evening.

Yes, again the Cava didn't quite deliver in food terms. It's not that the food there is bad, far from it. Just that it somehow doesn't leap off the plate and into the tastebuds. Something always seems to be missing, a little zip that would take the dishes above the ordinary. This is not a plea for chili - just a bit more imagination with the ingredients and less on the sauce.

The Trio Oyster was okay, as was the Lamb Shank Fettucine - came over as a kind of lamb stew noodles and quite tasty. They decided to swap the Malbec for the lamb and save the Shiraz for the Steak. Didn't make much of a difference , to be frank. Neither were particularly memorable. I blended them together and they did improve each other. Slightly.

The Baked Maine Lobster Tail was well overcooked, though the Cod was light and tasty. Surprise of the night was the Chardonnay. Rich and creamy with steel and structure, it came across as a pleasant Puligny style wine. We ordered two cases.

The cheese platter I left on the plate. The Enigma dessert wine was billed as a lighter style sweetish wine. Came across similar in taste to the excellent Torres Santa Esmeralda, one of our favourites for aperatif or as a livener before going out. Not as good though.

All in all, fun evening, with okay food and okay wine. RM160 was a bit stiff given the experience, but Cava are good friends so we support them la.

IWFS Dinner Sage March 16 2011

March 16 2011
Our first dinner as members of the International Wine and Food Society was at Sage in the Gardens. Greeted with copious amounts of 1999 Champagne with some lovely prawn in batter and soy sauce, we all chit chatted and got photographed prior to sitting down for the meal. Billed as "Super Special Fine Fare at Sage" by Chef Daniel, it was mostly good. Carpaccio of Kanpachi Fish with Avruga Caviar and Kombu Shoyu made for a pleasant textured mouthful ably washed down with a 2008 Val de Sil Godello. This was a new wine to me, reminiscent of tasty white burgundy with a hint of oak.

Favourite on the table was the Pate en Croute of Duck with Foie Gras in Red Wine sauce. Came across as a duck siew pau but with pastry that melted and filling that exploded on the tongue. Paired with a nicely structured and slightly lean 2004 Aloxe Corton from Bouchard Pere et Fils this was a stunner.

We opted for the Wagyu Beef Tenderloin paired with a Chateau Fombrauge 2003. The beef felt a bit too aged, missing the heat and bounce that Wagyu often has and a little below the par we'd previously had at Sage. Was a good pairing with the St Emilion, full of berries and velvet. Friends on the table said the Steamed Garoupa was okay. Only okay.

Dessert was Mixed Berries and Ice Cream with Black Truffle Sabayon and paired with a most pleasant Tokaji presumably from Hungary. Lovely texture and balance to the tokaji, not so sickly sweet as some of the dessert wines we usually come across from Canada and Australia. The addition of the truffle to the ice cream was a surprise and one most of the table couldn't quite get to grips with. The pungent truffle fought with the cream and citrus berries, producing a conflict on the tongue which the tokaji didn't quite resolve.

Chef's Table at the Sage

More Wagyu Burger and Napa Cabs

March 14 2011
Following night saw Karen last minute invite for steak with Zam and Trisha before they headed back to Toronto. More salad, tasty beef and wagyu burger and another Dunn 1992 but this time against a Santa Cruz 1991. Santa Cruz was also mighty tannic. Good berries, got some bell pepper.

Wagyu Burgers and Napa Cabernet

March 12 2011
Came back from Singapore with another load of wines from friend and wine sifu Karen. As reward she prepared salad and we had some wagyu burgers we'd brought from Meidi Ya in Liang Court.

Cracked a bottle of Dunn's 1991 and Robert Mondavi 1991 to compare the Cabernets. Karen preferred the brambly and tasty Dunn. I liked the Mondavi - sleek but tannic, still powerful. Nice match with the wagyu, but then again anything would be a good match with this amazingly tasty beef.