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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Triple Round, Serendah - not blown away

Soft Shell Crab
I generally dislike these food safaris that all my Malaysian Chinese friends seem to like with an intense passion. You know the script - A friend of a friend has somehow determined that this restaurant in this god forsaken out of the way town is the dogs for food and we should all go there one night to eat and why not go this weekend, oh and by the way I have already booked. Annoys me to have to trek across the country, get lost, get angry and turn up at the place in a bad mood and not really ready to enjoy the food. So it was I found myself driving up the North South Highway to Bukit Beruntong to eat at the Triple Round with the lenglui and in no way looking forward to getting lost. Huge control freak - don't like not knowing where I am or where I am going. But this should have been okay - we had a map and it looked straightforward. But then it always does, doesn't it? The food had better be worth it...

Mixed Vegetables
Actually, the web reviews looked very promising and the organising DQ had decided that it was absolutely essential that we all go there to eat as she had already invited her Yeehah friends to go there. So that was that. DQ loves to eat, especially with friends and other people who love to eat. Getting to the turnoff was easy enough though we did indeed get a bit lost by taking the one turning too soon. Got advised to go past the Petron station and take the next right and turn in 180 degrees and the place was at the far end of the shophouse block. Which it was. Next time preprogram the Garmin or the Waze. 

The place was buzzing and this was at 6.30pm. All Chinese. DQ had thoughtfully reserved the aircon part of the restaurant and they were all sat there waiting for me and visibly dehydrating. Seems the restaurant didn't have a corkscrew and they all knew for sure that I would bring one. Of course. I am IWFS. Force of habit makes me stuff a corkscrew in the pocket just on leaving the apartment. Just in case.

The Poon Choy
Not that it did much good in this early part of the evening. We spent our first ten minutes begging the staff to bring plates, glasses and tea before I finally decided to get the things for ourselves. Screw them. The table cheered. The staff didn't seem to notice or care - trying to cater to too many people to try to keep them all satisfied, no need to get worked up over some gwailo doing their work for them. Quite right. Screw him. Er, me. 

The food had been pre-ordered and it all seemed to come at once. There was Crispy Soft Shell Crab and Jellyfish Salad to start, Kampong White Chicken and Ginger Sauce, Prawn Rolls, Mixed Green Vegetables and the stars of the night - the Poon Choy and the Roast Pork Knuckle.

Kampong Chicken
The judgement? Okay, I guess. I am probably not the best judge of prime Cantonese Soul Food, but I found this… just okay. The soft shell crab was nicely crisp and crunchy though not a lot of crab, the prawn rolls firm and sweet, the veggies a bit over salted and the chicken nothing to shout about. The Poon Choy was essentially a mix of various foods in a big round pot which gets covered and steamed together for a while to create a kind of a hotpot. There was roast pork, stewed pork, duck feet, scallop, abalone, prawn, broccoli and black mushroom. It was very hearty, though the sum was probably greater than its parts. And as I am not a great one for duck feet, abalone and mushroom, a lot of the thing went straight past me. Probably too gwailo to understand the thing. It all felt way oversalted, though wholesome and quite tasty. 

Prawn Rolls
The Pork Knuckle got demolished quite fast and was good in a Germanic kind of way. My bit had tiny chunks of meat and gristle and little bony bits and not really enough to get a full taste of it. The bit I did have was okay, somewhat reminiscent of the ones we would get at the Eurodeli in its Ampang incarnation - crunchy, salty skin and juicy succulent meat. One Pork Knuckle we recently had at the Damansara Kim outlet was fairly good, but not the standard of the glory days. Maybe need a return trip to the Triple Round to give the knuckle another try. 

We sucked down five bottles - two of my lovely Hardy's Chardonnay, two bottles of Pinot (one a bold New Zealander, the other a cherry jam gooey Napa creation) and some sweetly vicious looking fizz which I didn't get to try. 

Eat me.
Would I go back? Well….   no, not really. At least not on this showing. A forty five minute drive to get there was not really merited given the taste of the food and the need for the self service. It was… okay. Not bad, just not really spectacular all round. I can see why the DQ and the others like it. Total for thirteen people was RM40 each which is brilliant value. But it didn't quite do it for me. We can get better quality in the city which begs the question why travel to Bukit Beruntong? Not that the place was short of punters scarfing down the food - business was happily booming. Was told that their other dishes are stunners - the pork mince on tofu and the pork ribs in orgasmic sauce - but there was no space left in the belly to try. Now going to Dengkil for the seafood makes sense - brilliant fish, well prepared and superb value which is tough to find in KL. Also the Dengkil is locked into the Garmin. But the Triple Round...   no. Maybe the style is just not the kind of food I would travel for. Didn't blow me away. Sorry.

Photos by Jan Shaw.

Restaurant Triple Round 
1, Jalan Melati 2B 
Bandar Bukit Beruntong
48300 Serendah 
Selangor D E
GPS: 3.4061364 , 101.5562796
Tel: 012 380 1162 ask for Lee Li

Thursday, July 10, 2014

DV Ristorante Pizzeria - not so good

Our Menu - note the "Main Curse"

Had a dinner with the Amante at the DV Ristorante in Damansara the other night. The web reviews and reports were quite glowing so it was with some high anticipation of a good food night that we made our way to Damansara.

The restaurant is on the corner of the shophouse block on Jalan Setiabakti. We remember it as Lords the Tailor and a flower shop run by old friend Carol. I think they still operate the Decanter chain around the city. Parking was easy on a Thursday night.

The restaurant itself was a long strip littered with simple chairs and tables and in dark brick with a bar to get the drinks out. We were seated on a long strip of tables next to the windows, with one extra table that had been commandeered for the booze. 

Under the deal secured by the Amante, we were supposed to each get two free glasses of their house wine with the dinner. We never tasted it - we had brought loads of our own, so much that we didn't get around to it. Corkage was RM33 per bottle.

Scallop and Parmesan Crust and Lap Cheong Tomato
Good wines brought by everyone, though can't remember what they all were. Mostly red. I brought a Giesen Pinot Gris 2011 which was crispily peach and banana with a sugary bite and a Le Volte 2011 which was dark and moody fruit and drank most nicely. There was some lovely fizz to start and Dealerman brought some bigass Penfolds Shiraz which was massive powerful. Good drinking night. Good glasses from the restaurant too, though the service was grim. Not enough staff to man both kitchen and wines. I took over the booze.

At the start of the dinner whilst the wine was being quaffed, someone asked where were the bread rolls and got told none would be provided. Hmmm. Bread rolls are pretty standard in Italian places.  Felt a bit… cheap. Not the best of form to start the evening. 

Linguine al Pesto
Foodwise the evening was not startling, though the kitchen was quite brisk in getting the food out. Little taste or texture on the scallop which was overpowered by the salty parmesan crust. Though the arugula with the dried baby tomato was firm in the mouth. Kind of like a peppery fruit lap cheong with a salty textured chew.

The linguine came out looking (and subsequently tasting) like a ball of floury rough stodge given flavour by the pesto.  The beef was tough and unchewable with no taste. The lamb fared slightly better though again on the tough side. Some said they enjoyed it. I found it inedible. Didn't try the fish. The vegetables were good, nicely undercooked  and tasting of mushroom with the texture of abalone. The Tiramisu was lovely - cream, sweet, spongey gunge, sprinkle of coffee - very very nice. Can't remember if there was coffee - don't think there was. Most of us were all happily chugging the wines.

Black Angus Tagliata - tough and dry
Equally good was the Braesola Pizza that Dealerman ordered, presumably to fill the belly given the failure of the other courses to do so. It rocked - great crust, good cheese and fresh greens. This might be where DV shines. Certainly on this outing the rest of the dinner was not of a standard we can get elsewhere in the city. Maybe a bad night, but given that there were only 20 of us and a sprinkling of other patrons one would expect a kitchen and staff to be able to cope. Would go back for the Pizza and desserts but that would be it - the mains were pretty grim. 

Baked king Scallop with Parmesan Crust on a bed of aragula

Linguine al Pesto

Main Course
Black Angus Tagliata 
Oven Baked Cod at "Cartoccio"
Charbroiled Lamb Loin


The lovely Tiramisu


and after!!


DV Ristorante Pizzeria
77 Jalan Setiabakti
Damansara KL
Tel 03-2098 2001

Friday, July 4, 2014

Shang stiffs IWFS for water - again!!

Fool me once, more fool you. Fool me twice...

Seems that for the second time, our IWFS KL has gotten stiffed for water charges by the Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur. This time was an event at the Arthur's Bar (which I did not attend - still peeved at the Shang from previous experiences at events there as reported elsewhere on this blog). Seems staff were asking if our members and guests wanted still or sparkling water WITHOUT STATING UPFRONT THAT THERE WOULD BE A CHARGE FOR IT. Although it was managed to get nipped in the bud before it got too expensive, the principle is that staff remain apparently instructed by management not to advise that water is chargeable at functions and it is presumably "assumed" by the staff that guests at such functions will know and understand that such water is chargeable as an extra. Whether such water issues are discussed and determined at contract negotiation stage I do not know at this time. If it is, then most of what follows becomes futile since the Shang can presumably point to the contract and say "you should have told your guests." 

Even so, I feel there is still a point. The issue is that in private Society events (which this one was), the assumption generally is that water is part of the evening's offerings for which any and all charges will have been paid upfront by Society members as part of the overall total they have paid to the Society. They reasonably assume that their water is gratis and payment for it would have been covered in their prepayment for the evening. For the Society to get stiffed with an extra bill for water leaves a very bad taste. As stated elsewhere, I presently no longer patronise the Shang if I can help it. When I do, I make a point of asking for warm water which comes from the tap. Whilst I enjoy sparkling water, I prefer not to pay the premium that hotels impose on it. 

The perception is that it appears exceptionally cheap for a hotel of the supposed stature and star quality of the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur to add such water charges for guests of private functions at hotel outlets and venues. I recognise from a business angle that there is a cost factor that needs to be covered. Even so, why not be upfront about the bottled water and its chargeability and not nastily surprise people at the end of the night with the bill? It really whacks the goodwill factor which gets seen to take second place to apparently making a swift couple of Hundred Plus Plus Ringgit on the water. Why not instruct staff to offer warm water as a viable alternative? As said, this is the second time it has happened to the IWFS (previous was a Chateau Beychevelle Wine dinner at Lafite). I just find it sad and unbecoming and it all reinforces why I now prefer to not patronise the place either personally or through the Society. Well, this and the below standard food I had at a function there in July last year. Bad form again, Shang, bad form again…

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Menage A Trois with Lanson Champagne at Brasserie Enfin

8th April 2014

This one has been lying on the desk for clearly too long so time to get it up in the blog as it was a cracker of a night. Notwithstanding some occasional iffy pairings, it was an evening of great food and fizz. 

We were a bit apprehensive of going to this one, given our horrendous traffic experience of the previous visit to the Enfin. Indeed, the view of the road from the office was horrific. We opted to try a different roundabout route on the NKVE which proved surprisingly swift - forty minutes in heavy but moving traffic. Lesson learnt - avoid the Federal Highway in the afternoon. Although previous experience in driving back to KL from a wine pickup at the Cave and Cellar suggests that the NKVE is still slow - well, at least the slip road going up to it - a continuous massive jam across all the lanes from the toll booth with cars and lorries jockeying to get into the one they want. Federal back is also not much better - backlogs trying to join up with it through and often past the Sunway turnoff. Nightmare. 

So it was we found ourselves in the Ara Damansara Oasis with about forty minutes to kill before corks up. We wandered around the complex, working up a thirst and checking out the various outlets. Not greatly busy at this time, though the concept is pleasant - food eateries around a pool which spouts water and gets lit up prettily after sundown. Worth a visit just for the buzz. 

The Lanson range
The evening was to be a showcase of Lanson Champagnes paired with Chef Justin's excellent food. We were joined by Anson Hobbs the Lawson rep for Asia Pacific, who once lived in Hong Kong and was now based in Reims. We told him of an impending trip to France in September and he said it was a good time to visit. Can get a TGV from CDG which takes 29 minutes to get to Reims. Tempting…

We were being joined by The Doc and The Geezer who was a late addition and also got surprised when fellow Porkie May Peng and IWFS kaki Rhian also got parked at our table. Oh dear. This could get boozy. 

The Lanson Range
The notes say Lanson is one of the oldest Champagne Houses, blending Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sourced from the region's best Crus - Verzenay, Avixe, Bouzy (what a name!) and Oger. The grapes go straight into press and fermentation and bottle with no secondary malolactic taking place - owner Victor Lanson decided to maintain a unique freshness that results from leaving nature to do what she does without too much interference in the wine making process. The claim is that this "allows the best aromas of the fruit to develop and reveals the original purity of the grape." Okay, we'll give it a go.

Our host and rep for Lanson Anton Hobbs got up to say that Champagne was the drink of Kings, with Royal Warrants and Seals being given only to the best. Lanson was a bit unique in that its crest was the English Cross. Not many English families get a French Warrant to make champagne for the King. Lanson is also a regular sponsor for both the French Open and Wimbledon, selling about 25,000 bottles per event. Never see a bottle being shook on Centre Court, though - maybe a marketing opportunity being missed here? He talked a bit about the presence of the Malic acid which could be found by virtue of the apples taste in our first fizz. Certainly a unique tasting champagne with the apples, though tending toward coming off like a fizzy cider. Nice, though a bit of a shock to those used to more biscuit and neutral bubbles. 

The first fizz out (Lanson Black) was sweet and big lemon spritzy on the tongue, reminiscent of a good bottle of Cream Soda Pop. Lovely bubbles. To join it was the Chef's complimentary - a macaroon laced with a combo of wasabi, natural obiko and black olive paste. Total umami and salt which set off the sugary and dissolving macaroon very nicely. Here, the apple champagne showed its chops - the apple gave the fruit on the tongue whilst the bubbles seared the tastebuds and ripped the sugar from the cheeks a rare treat. Zippy? Double zippy. A full blown sweet salty blitz with fizzing bubbles zapping everywhere. Total bzzzzt on the tongue. 
One Oysters Trio of Strawberry Gastrique, Watermelon Gazpacho and Grapefruit Gelee

The Oysters fresh from the West Coast of Canada came out a bit warm at room temperature, which again was a shock given the usual penchant for them to be served cold and on ice. But they were huge, big suckers and damn beautiful in the mouth.  Truth be said, they were more of a throatful than a mouthful, and being able to actually bite into an oyster rather than the usual let it slip down the throat was wonderful. Each oyster had a different fruit taste and texture, with strawberry, watermelon and grapefruit combined with occasional chili to give off tremendous sensations across the mouth. Very tasty. The paired lanson Black Label gave out pear and citrus and grapefruit, which was claimed to be a great match with the grapefruit oyster. Well, and maybe - there was a bit too much seashore in the oyster to tell for me. But truth be told I was just enjoying their hugeness and the sensation of chewing was delightful. A good full bodied starter, though perhaps a better fizz would have made it phenomenal. Chef James started talking about UMAMI which he said is a savoriness you generally get from meat. He said he was able to heighten the umami in the oysters through use of the fruits to increase the saliva factor. Okay…  I may have got this wrong, maybe hearing one thing and understanding another. Maybe better check. Notes say the sugar from the strawberry gives a bloody umami to the oyster and the same with the watermelon. Whatever.

Not for the first time did there appear to be a lot of instructing and explaining from Chef James going on. There is a reason - the chit chat gives the kitchen a bit more time to get the food out. Makes sense, though the belly can be a hard task master when it is hungry. At least we had had the oysters and amuse bouche to quiet the grumbles. 
Boston Lobster Ceviche with Rose Essence and Crab Cucumber Tian with Coriander and Avocado Creme

The Boston Lobster Ceviche with Rose Essence was being paired with the Lanson Rose. We were told that the wine is not left on the lees since this imports tannins which are not desirable in fizz. Make sense. The Rose was a nicely brisk and dry brushsweep across the tongue, though the balance felt a bit on the acidic side. Natural strawberry notes, but the bubbles seemed to die quite fast. It did indeed bring out the floral rose in the Lobster Ceviche. giving a sense of Turkish Delight about the whole thing. The downside was that this was pretty much all there was - didn't get much of a lobster taste in the lobster. It was all roses and texture and somehow missing something on the tongue. For some reason it reminded of Crocodile meat we once had in Cape Town in South Africa - chewy, slight rubber texture but more tender and with a nice bounce on the bite. It did cut the acidity in the Rose giving rise to a much better balance in the wine, though somewhat at the expense of the food. Unfortunate.

The Doc's fizz seemed far less fizzy than ours, so we sent the glass back suspecting some washing up liquid left in the glass was the culprit. It was.

The crab was excellent - textured and juicy sweet meat which went double belter champion with the avocado. It was also far better with the first fizz than the Rose, boosting the fruit and amplifying the sweet crab. Outstanding match - shame it couldn't have been the official one. The Rose was a bit floral for the crab and tended to mask the avocado.

The 1999 Vintage Lanson Gold Label came out ahead of the Chicken and came over as somewhat masculine in its bold acidity and firm bubbles. A complex biscuit on the nose, it was in beautiful balance. An easy drinker with clean bubbles, rich and full in the mouth with almond, honey, and apricot marmalade leading to a somewhat throat oily rich finish. Yum. Wine of the night. We asked for many refills. Candy obliged. Nice girl. This fizz showed its class later in the night when it got revisited after some time in the glass; still retaining an excellent body and character even after the fizz had, er, fuzz…

The Mushroom has a splash of vinegar which cut nicely through the earth notes. Abalone I have yet to really get - all is mostly texture, though the salt and zap of the mushroom gives a nice blitz on the back tongue.

Whole Roasted Free-range Chicken stuffed with Baby Abalone and French Herb Butter with Jus of Exotic Mushrooms in Chardonnay
The Chicken is well cooked - great juice texture with a nice salty zip on the tongue. Good chook. The combo with the mushroom is magnificent in an earthy, peasant and rustic kind of way - total fulfilling soul food. The potato is in similar style, like a sweet fritter with an oily fat crisp crunch about the thing. Just like mother used to make - roasted spuds with the chicken and getting all its flavours from the fat. A taste of childhood rekindled. Priceless.

As said, the fizz was beautiful but was not really a match with the chicken. Would have been better served as an aperitif with some salty appetizers to spritz the start of a night, though the need to showcase by order of class is understood and necessary for comparison. In contrast, the Rose (now warm) is far better and cuts a wicked swathe through the light grease of the meat. 

The Landon Ivory demi sec came out and across as apples and honey and hugely sweet, though with enough acidity to give a lovely balance across the mouth. The bubbles and methode of making gave a fizzy crispness and ended up like Corona Lemonade, the taste of growing up as a kid in Grangetown. Mars Bars and Pop, as John Lynch would have said. Though this one naturally had more of a kick! 

Charlotte Enfin of Durian Creme and Cinnamon Croissant
The Charlotte Enfin was essentially a croissant pumped full of durian creme to end up like an eclair with a light cream topping. For some reason it gave off mint when paired with the Durian Creme. Quite an odd juxtaposition of tastes and textures which somehow worked. My notes say it was odd, but good - good odd, if that makes sense. Chef showed his genius with a sprig of basil across the top to give a pungent herb kick to the combo. Belter. Though the durian whacked me for an intestinal six. More repeats than CSI on the Astro and Durian breath for days. It is definitely a vicious fruit. Beware.

For some reason there was not much interaction between the table guests. Perhaps this is because the Enfin tables are a bit on the wide side, and this can make getting to know people across the table a bit difficult. The space becomes a divide and consequently a barrier - the distance makes for difficulty in hearing against the background noise which also diminishes the conviviality a bit. Seemed the same on the other tables. I did try to engage everyone with a "cheers" and while our end of the table lustily obliged, the other end seemed a bit reluctant. There you go. We had a good time. I hope they did.

Cave and Cellar were selling the various Lanson at various prices in combo sets. We didn't buy - nice at is was, at an average of RM250 a bottle you can get the branded stuff a shade cheaper. And we are not that much of connoisseurs with the fizz - it is not a style we salivate about and would much prefer a tasty Bordeaux or a fine Burgundy. But certainly a pleasant experience to try some of the different stuff and well worth the trek to the Enfin. See everyone in Reims one day - Salut!

Amuse Bouche

One Oysters Trio of Strawberry Gastrique, Watermelon Gazpacho and Grapefruit Gelee
Lanson Black Label - Brut

Entree Two
Boston Lobster Ceviche with Rose Essence and Crab Cucumber Tian with Coriander and Avocado Creme
Lanson Rose Label - Brut NV

Main One
Whole Roasted Free-range Chicken stuffed with Baby Abalone and French Herb Butter with Jus of Exotic Mushrooms in Chardonnay
Lanson Gold Label - Brut NV

Charlotte Enfin of Durian Creme and Cinnamon Croissant
Lanson Ivory - Demi Sec