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, June 28, 2015

IWFS Lafite - Cuisine Haut, Service Naut…

Lafite entrance
June 25th 2015 Kuala Lumpur

For the first event of the new IWFS Year, President David wanted to start with a grand bang and pick a venue that would set a tone of IWFS members enjoying eating and drinking well and being merry together. So it was that Lafite got selected to host the dinner. He had challenged Chef de Cuisine Jean-Philippe Guiard to prepare a menu with "memories of Escoffier" and had also asked Maitre D' and Sommelier Benjamin Pons to choose the wines from our IWFS Cellar to pair. Response to the members' notice was swift and enthusiastic, and following some discussion it was decided to increase numbers to absorb the waiting list of members keen to attend. In the end, 59 members confirmed.

Orchids are pretty...
I am always a bit antipathetic to the Shangri-La and its outlets. Elsewhere I have commented on what I have seen as a decline in the service it offers. At one time, Lafite service used to be World Class but not so over the last few years (though I recognise my understanding of service has increased in the past few years given some Michelin experiences - see other posts). A recent visit showed some promise in reviving the halcyon days of superior service and it was hoped that in this outing this renaissance would be seen to have continued. It has to be said that the Lafite oozes class - the ambience is swish corporate though romantic enough for proposals. Most would give their eye teeth to be privileged enough to have just one evening there - the fact that I have had many is not lost on me, though I do feel that one should receive fair value for the expenditure involved. It costs a lot and an assessment of whether the experience is worth it needs to be made. 

Barry Shaw and Edna Tan
Driving into town at 7pm proved quite seamless for a Puasa evening and we got into Lafite on the 7.30pm dot. There is a timeslot which, if you catch it right, you can ride a gap in the traffic right into town. Puasa means that the Muslim population are looking for somewhere to break the day's fast, and would all be in the hotels or at the stalls by 7pm and sat down ahead of the sunset ready to buka. So. Though finding a parking space took almost as long as the drive in - all floors were full as was the spillover into the neighbouring UBN Tower. We got lucky - someone seemed to be having trouble parking and while we waited for him to get it right he left. Zipped in before friend behind could zip in and steal it. I'm a great believer in that we should look for the best in people, but car parks always show our true nature, n'est-ce pas? 

Chris Chew and Sanjeev
Everyone was crowded into the small reception bar and quaffing the zippy Duval-Leroy Rose and making lots of noise. It was a bit cramped though no-one seemed to mind too much and were happy clinking glasses and enjoying the jostling. The downside was that refills from staff proved impossible since they could not get through the crowd. This is where rugby training comes in and one can bob and weave ones way through the scrum to the man with the bottle. The Rose felt a bit sharp and in need of a canape to soften its edge, but it soon got replaced with a Pol Roger which was belter - cold crisp bubbles popping in the mouth and with a delightful throat ripping, thirst slaking finish. Just the thing for a sore throat and a perfect way to break the thirst.

Li Dong and Pitt Lee
Everyone got the call to seat and moved into the dining room. The tables had been set Chinese style round rather than Western style long which made for a more visible seating arrangement. Though occasionally one is not really able to engage with friends across the other side of the table. So it goes. The restaurant had basically been given over to IWFS for the night which made for nice space between tables and ensuing sense of distance. The Lafite ambience is refined, with small halogen spots dimly lighting on main areas - these proved a bit warm when shining on the bejacketed men and those with ties must have been a bit heated. But a quick turn up of the aircon always can solve a temperature issue. 

Lafite Restaurant
Brief speech from President David before breaking the bread on the table and the Foie Gras was out. Bread was very good and necessary to soak up the bubbles and make way for the entree. The 2010 Rieussec was poured and I could hear the Kiwi somewhere screaming "infanticide" but it was the only Sauteurnes we had in the cellar so out it had to come on suggestion of Sommelier Ben. And quite right too - Sauteurnes and FG is the perfect pairing of crunchy sweet wine with mushy gunky throat coating Foie Gras. 

The Rieussec was full peach and apple syrup infused with enough alcohol to render the whole with a crispy drinkability on its own.  

The Foie Gras
The Foie Gras was lovely - that sweet intestinal smooth pate feel inside the cheeks with the red wine jelly giving a gelatin undercurrent. The Brioche was a bit on the fluffy side but firm enough to underpin the whole - I generally prefer my carbo a bit crisper. Balsamic reduction was two dots on the plate which was not really enough to do anything. The combo was nice enough, a sweet gooey chew all slippy and sloppy and coating the roof of the mouth and giving that oily pasted feel across the tongue and cheeks. The perfect foil for the cleansing quality of the darling Rieussec to come in and scrape everything clean and clear. Must be how the drains feel after a good swoosh with the Clorox and Dettol. 

Creamy Oyster and Haddock Soup
Decks got swiftly cleared and on came the white, a Sauvignon from old faithful Alois Lagerder. We've been quaffing wines from this winemaker across a good couple of years with the IWFS. They often surprise wonderfully on the upside and tonight they kept that record brilliantly intact. Initially a bit acidic on the throat, it showed its chops as a superb food wine when paired with the soup. Traditionally, no wine pairs well with soup, but the Lagerder did a sterling job, giving good fruit and dry stone minerality to counter the cream and puree. Clean and clear as a razor, it felt like drinking spring water from a flint stream - light, even texture and leaving a feeling of somehow being cleansed, as if the throat had just got baptised. Very good comments on the Sauvignon from the table and praised as a very good find, though it did need the food. 

The soup itself was a lovely creamy slurp leading to a textured creamy kiss on the inside of the cheeks. The little dab of pepper was a good suggestion and brought the cream to life. Vegetables not overcooked, lending a firm crunch to the cream. Supposedly a poached oyster somewhere in the mix, I don't remember swallowing one. I might omit the haddock next time, it gave a somewhat chewy feel to the soup. Or perhaps that was the oyster.

Rack of Veal
The rack of veal had come from the kitchen for a showing to the diners before being carted back for cutting. It came out soon after, though it would prove a good five minute wait for the fish to make the same journey to the table. We waited politely for four of these minutes and got instructed by the fish eaters to begin. The veal itself was pretty good - well cooked and good tender meat, not unlike the Charolais Beef we have eaten in Beaune but way more tender. And pretty tasteless, actually - not a lot of anything in the mouth from the meat. But then arguably that is the point - the meat is the tasteless texture around which all other tastes and flavours orbit to let them shine. And in this sense the veal was a success - the tastes were magnificent. The mashed potato was a bit reminiscent of Robuchon in Monte Carlo - creamy dreamy and luscious with the red wine gravy (claimed to be Morel sauce - whatever, it tasted like wine reduction). Very good rich French cuisine here. Though the asparagus was cooked to the point of limp. Which prompted some table comments about liking it firm and the associations this had with other things of length and degrees of firmness. I had no idea what they were talking about.

Veal with Asparagus
For whatever was the main of choice, both the Marsannay and Lynch Bages were poured so that each member got the paired wine and a glass of the other. Suggestion from Sommelier was to save some of either for the dessert. Hmmm. The Marsannay is an old friend from Pork Luck Club dinners with Dave Chan so we knew what to expect. Indeed, it was fine and frisky, though on this showing a bit fierce in the mouth - kind of like a black cherry with a curry puff bite on the cheek. Medium texture, lovely mouthfeel, good grippy finish. In contrast, the Lynch Bages was a bit disappointing - bit thin and light in the mouth, traditional Pauillac bramble and blackcurrrant terroir nose, nice tannins but a hint of tart on the finish. Not much fruit to make it really pleasant to drink nor I feel to sustain it through the years. Somewhat austere, though still approachable, but not an immediately friendly wine. Dare I say, perhaps a bit ordinary - neither lean, nor full, nor…   anything.  It was a good enough match with the food, though nothing to loudly shout about - the reduction tamed whatever tannin was there and made the wine slightly more drinkable. But slightly more ordinary at the same time. Not something I would pay a large sum to drink again. But then that's why we try them now, to see if there's anything worth raving about. Not today. Sorry. Didn't get this one at all. For the first time at an IWFS dinner I left wine in the glass. Couldn't drink it.

When the fish did finally make it to the tables, there was a silence as diners took in the visual display. The poor thing looked like it had been hacked with the cleaver and just plopped on the plate. It did not look classy. It was also apparently a bit cold.  I wonder whether the kitchen was under pressure to get the food out and perhaps the finesse got pushed to the margin as a result. 

The Turbot. Yes.
And there was a lot of noise at the fact that the Turbot had not been deboned - it was sat there, all bones visible, looking kind of like a rack of fish ribs. The fish was tasty after Lenglui asked for and got some salt and pepper. Chunky flakes which rolled off the bone and sweet chew and bite. Though the bones got to her and she could not continue with it. I finished it off and was indeed soon spitting out bones like I was at the Overseas with a Soon Hock Yee. It was hard, messy work to eat and I think this was what members were railing at. Some suggested it might have been better had the fish been filleted and simply seasoned with salt and seared. Well, and perhaps, but Chef had his reasons for this style and maybe should be judged on those rather than what a personal preference might indicate. I wonder if the real point is that bone spitting is acceptable at a Chinese restaurant but not so at the Lafite. Which seems a very fair point - we'll happily bone spit in many places; however one cannot be seen to be so doing at the Lafite, n'est-ce pas? But the fish I finished off was beautifully cooked. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Don't remember much about the side bits. 

Pairing with the Marsannay made sense, though the Turbot rocked with the remains of the white. The Marsannay got slightly flattened by the fish, though not so much that it died in the mouth. The dark cherry gave a cute pop to the fish which was firm enough to stand up to it. Fair match. Can't remember if I sipped the Lynch Bages with the Turbot. Probably. No notes. 

Dessert was a Praline, Chocolate and Cherry Revised Black Forest. With some lovely milky ice cream. Not entirely sure what the name of the dish meant. Someone suggested deconstructed Black Forest, though perhaps unconstructed might have closer. Chef had a range of makings on the plate leaving diners to dip in or mash the lot together and consume the resulting goo ensemble. It was nicely not sweet and the ice cream was lovely, but really needed some carbo - in this, there was a bit of some crepe pancake-like thing on the plate which had that rubber taste and texture of day old roti canai. All was needed was a crisp light wafer which would have brought it all together. Notwithstanding the suggestion to keep some of the red wine with the dessert, it didn't work for me - praline and chocolate killed it off. Perhaps he was referring to keeping the Sauteurnes, but even here it would have died - whiskey can pair with chocolate, and coffee would also have done the trick but rarely will a sticky sweet Dessert wine pair well with chocolate and ice cream. Incidentally, coffee was not included in the dinner, though on leaving I did see a couple of cups on tables - which left me to wonder who would be paying for them?

So….  overall I felt Chef did very well… except for the fish. Kitchen did quite well… except for the fish. There seemed to be a major delay with the fish coming out to the tables. Staff did pretty well with the food serving and clearing. The wine service felt pretty poor, both in amounts and attitudes. Someone commented that the wine pouring felt a bit thin - though I think the wine wasn't getting to the other tables and the waiters were getting waylaid by the sweet talking chuggers and getting refills. Indeed, one sweet talker on our table who was joking in Bahasa with the wine waiter got a major refill when his two glasses were still more than half full and the wine waiter walked away leaving other glasses on the table empty. Not good. In fact, quite bad and nowhere near the standard one would expect of a restaurant of Lafite standing. 

Bachan Singh, Brian, and Jag Singh
But this is the old problem - train them up and they leave for better pay elsewhere; don't train them and give your customers the raw end of the service stick. There is a clear need for some serious training or supervision to be given to the wine waiters here on getting wine out to the far tables and not just letting themselves get bullied by the sweet talking chuggers. Either that or closer supervision by IWFS WIne people, but then you can't enjoy the dinner. Not sure how to handle this one...

Jan and Barry Shaw
So…  my hoped-for renaissance in the service at the Lafite does not seem to have taken place. As said, the restaurant still exudes great ambience and class, though for me some of the Wine Waiting staff fell down a bit on the night. One or two felt - unrefined. And possibly over-friendly. And very young, all of them. Part of me suspects that the experienced staff had once again been seconded to the Ballroom where a major function was taking place. And thoughts flew back to June 2013 and a disastrous IWFS dinner in the Sarawak room for 80 members from across the globe with an Annual Dinner going on in the main ballroom. On the business level, this is great for the Shangri-La; on my level I always seem to end up feeling disappointed. 

Do I expect too much? I think that when paying RM350 for food I have a reasonable expectation of an evening of professional level service with food at the standard of a fine dining establishment. Service wise, I didn't feel I got it - again. I got better service at a Chinese shopping mall restaurant for one quarter of what was paid for the Shang (see the recent post on the Grand Imperial). I recognise that my service expecations have increased as a result of my exposure to some excellent service at restaurants around the world. But seriously, if Lafite is still claiming to be KL's best in service terms, it is way, way behind Sage and Cilantro and Soleil. Be interesting to see how they match up to regional neighbours in Hong Kong, Singapore and (from what I am hearing) Bangkok. Perhaps the simple truth is that they think they can handle numbers when in fact they can't. Would probably be a different experience for a quiet dinner with an unstressed kitchen. 

On this showing, I would prefer not go back though I expect I will have to at some future occasion. I'd rather save the money and spend it in Paris. Or Singapore. Or Hong Kong. Seems also the hotel is now completely pork free, even the Shang Palace. So it goes. At least the parking after 7pm now seems standard, though a RM12 whack still compares to RM3 in the Wisma Lim Foo Yong around the corner and up the road. Someone could probably could do a good valet park business at the Shang by driving and parking at the LFY. Wouldn't be surprised if someone already is…  Malaysia boleh!!

The Menu
Chef Jean-Philippe

Duval-Leroy Rose de Saignee Brut NV
Duck Liver Terrine and Red Wine Jelly, Warm Homemade Brioche and Balsamic Reduction 
La Terrine de Foie Gras et Gelée de Vin Rouge, Brioche Tiède et Réduction de Balsamique 
Château Rieussec, 2010, Sauternes, France 
Creamy Oyster and Haddock Soup, Poached Oyster and Spring Vegetables 
La Crème d’Huître et Haddock, Huître Pochée et Légumes Primeurs 
Domaine Alois Lageder Sauvignon 2011
Roasted Rack of Veal, White Asparagus, Light Potato Cream and Morel Sauce 
Le Carré de Veau Rôti, Asperges Blanches, Crème de Pomme de Terre et Sauce Morille 
Château Lynch-Bages, 2008, Pauillac, France 
Roasted Turbot, Braised Onion Puree, Onion Leaves, Porcini, Red Wine and Beef Jus, Poached White Asparagus 
Le Tronçon de Turbot Poêlé, Soubise d’Oignons Braisés, Feuilles d’Oignon, Cèpes, Asperge Blanche Pochée et Sauce Vin Rouge 
Domaine Charles Audoin Marsannay La Charme aux Pretres, 2011, Burgundy, France 
Praliné, Chocolate and Cherry Revised Black Forest 
La Forêt Noire au Praliné, Chocolat et Cerise

The wines

The Wines
Duval-Leroy Rose de Saignee Brut NV
Fruit driven crisp clean and refreshing, aromas of strawberry and cherry, concentrated and with seething and scintillating bubbles that lead to a racing finish.

Château Rieussec, 2010, Sauternes, France 
A classic combination, Foie Gras and Sweet wine, which has a good complimentarity. Still in its infancy, those who recall it from our President’s dinner will relish making its re-acquaintance with its natural food pairing.

Alois Lagerder, 2011, Sauvignon, France 
Four years in bottle should have nicely mellowed this Sauvignon from the Alto Adige region near the border with Italy. Should pair well with the complex combination of Oyster and Smoked Haddock and provide some mouth texture relief after the Sauteurnes.

Château Lynch-Bages, 2008, Pauillac, France 
As with the 2009, not an easy year for Bordeaux. Notwithstanding, this classic Bordeaux from the Pauillac region should be a very good combination with the delicate Veal and the Morel sauce. 

Domaine Charles Audoin Marsannay La Charme aux Pretres, 2011, Burgundy, France 
Ben suggests to slightly chill this “charming” Cote de Nuits Pinot Noir so as to bring a light freshness to this meaty fish. D’accord!!

Thanks to Jan Shaw for most of the photographs in this post.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Grand Imperial, HSC - quite impressed

June 23rd 2015 - Quick note on the Grand Imperial Palace Restaurant in Hartamas Shopping Centre. Went there for dinner with a group of Lenglui's old kaki from the Line Dance days (Line as in Yeehah Bootscoot and Scuff as opposed to the dum-chang dum-chang Lion Dance you see at Chinese New Year time). It was a triple birthday and they're usually good fun. 

The Grand Imperial has been around since 2008, now having five operations at outlets in BSC, USJ City Mall, 1 Utama, Casa Klang and the one where we were in Hartamas Shopping Centre. Their website says they also have an outlet in London - very international. Looking back, it is only the one in Klang that is missing for the full set to have been sampled - the others seemed to have come and gone in one off visits with occasional foodie buffs (BSC, 1 Utama) or wine dinners (USJ). Which is probably why as the food came out it all looked a shade familiar. So it goes. 

The HSC venue was like the Tardis from Doctor Who days - small door that opens out into a palatial system of private rooms and main hall. Most of the private rooms looked to have been booked and there was a smattering of people in the main hall. Quite nicely opulent and tastefully furnished ambience - not so "jang" as some of the larger Chinese restaurants can sometimes be. It is indeed quite Grand and does give a good sense of occasion. 

We got ushered into one of the private rooms with the ubiquitous karaoke system which had been switched to "off" for the night. Glasses were waiting at a side bar with the bottles brought for the occasion and a charming wine chap was ready to help with the pouring. I took command and retrieved the reds from the ice bucket and parked the whites therein. Sometimes they just need a bit of training, though my guess was that one of the guests had told him to park the red in the ice. Recognising this, I selected the less complex of the reds brought (turned out to be an Australian Merlot and which would not ultimately get drunk) and left it to freeze with the whites. Sadly one of the whites brought by Datuk proved undrinkable - it was a fancy named French thing from 2006 that must have been parked in his fridge for years. It was dark in the glass and rough as a robber's dog on the nose. He was quite miffed, saying it was supposed to be a good one. It was a shame, since he does usually bring decent wines. This particular one had the varietal name prominently displayed on the label. Conventional wisdom suggests that any Frenchie who does this should set off the alarm bells, since for this to be done often suggests marketing over the degree of care about what went into the bottle and how. But that's only the CW talking - it is only the uncork that reveals the truth.

Menu for the night was

Spinach Beancurd with Crab Meat
Steamed Rice
Double Boiled Soup with Dried Chicken
Ocean Garoupa
Baked Spare Rib
Sauteed Lotus Root with vegetable and (I think) Hazelnut
BBQ Pork Noodle
Longevity Bun
Chilled Longan with Peach

The Birthday Boys and Girl. And cake. 
Drinks were Chilean SB, Argentinian Chardonnay (both supermarket), a 2011 Argento Malbec Reserve (also Argentina, seen in supermarkets) and a delightful Pinot from Monterey County in California which I should have taken a photo of as I now can't find the name of it in any of the lists. Lovely and light as an aperitif, went belter with most of the food. Darn. Bit embarrassed to ask the company what it was since it was me that supped most of it. Charmer of a wine. I decided to go straight for the red because recent dinners suggest wine friends are happy to chug more white. So the less white for me means the more for the friends. And that Monterey Pinot was a rare tempting treat. 

In all, the food was not bad, though Lenglui found it all a bit ordinary and lacking taste compared to our Marco Polo. But looking back, I think perhaps this might the style that the Imperial Group is going for - not supercharging dishes with the spice or soy (like what the restaurants in the Noble House group seem to do) but keeping it simple and understated to let the food show itself off. Which for me it all did quite nicely. We both liked the soup, the Garoupa was perfectly steamed and the Lotus Root and celery and hazelnut made for a sourish crunchy mouthful with nut texture contrasting with the celery and lotus root starch and competing for dominance. The Pork Noodle was fair but the Total Star was the Baked Spare Rib. I remembered that the supplier to the restaurant is the same chap we buy our ribs from (Oscar from Spanish Passion) so that made them Iberico. They were darling - roasted to melting perfection and with a sauce that had sweet, smoke, zip and goo but without that overpowering gunk and unctuous fire you can sometimes get from the bottle. Totally delightful and wonderful balance. We had been given a pair of plastic disposable gloves with which to eat the ribs - these got licked and sucked completely dry. The company was very kind to let me have the remaining rib on the table. Absolute cracker with the Pinot, and tamed the Malbec tannins nicely to let some crisp dark plum come through. 

Baked Spare Rib. O beautiful...
Total bill was RM1250 for eleven people after service and GST charges and no corkage appeared to have been charged. Service was pleasant and efficient, with food being shown for the obligatory photo before being partitioned into individual servings for everyone. Also got fresh glasses for the red and also got offered for the change of white. Impressed. One of the group had brought a birthday cake for the obligatory candle blowing and photo. Not bad - coffee flavour though still that sickly sweet icing around the rim that suggested Secret Recipe. Also, table neighbour had started coughing a bit and, being a total germophobe, I decided against eating the surface bits. Doctor Gan once told us that the fastest way to get infected is from hand to food to mouth. Which is why the Japanese don't like to shake hands - perfect germ transmission system. I usually try and wash the hands after a handshake - or at least splash a bit of water from a glass on the table if a visit to a bathroom is cannot. Lenglui also carries a little disinfectant spray bottle filled with Vodka. Another tip from Dr Gan - alcohol is the best disinfectant - not greasy, dries quickly and no smell. Our yearly infections have definitely gone down. 

One Very Happy man
In sum, I'd go back for the ribs in a second. Fish was okay but not in the Soon Hock class of sweetness and texture, but that was menu choice rather than restaurant preparation. On this showing they'd do a standout job with any fish. The pork in the noodles felt a bit fat and sweet, though the desserts were lovely - ice cool, fruity crunch and a lightly sweet syrup. Beancurd was good though the crabstick felt a bit rubbery. Even so, for a group dinner the Grand Imperial makes a good choice. Have to get the IWFS to consider because those ribs were really off the map. 

Mmmmmmmmmm.... an excellently succulently good rib
Parking - there is a valet service, though if you go through the Car Parking gate just before the restaurant entrance and park near this gate you can walk back through and straight into the place. Only downside is trying to pay for your parking when you leave - the nearest machine was "rosak" and there were a number of people ambling around trying to locate another. Not the thing you want to be doing in a hot and stuffy car park after a good meal. We were lucky - HSC is a regular Saturday destination for massage and groceries so we were able to drive to where we knew the next one was located. Now if the management can get their fricking machines to take the new RM1 and RM5 notes it might survive the beating and kicking it will get next time it refuses to take the money. Though you can use the Touch N Go Card to get in. Life in Malaysia, eh?

Grand Imperial Restaurant
Lot F33-F35 1st Floor 
Hartamas Shopping Centre
No 60 Jalan Sri Hartamas 1
50480 Kuala Lumpur

Tel 03-62013777 / 62019777
Restaurant pics sourced from their website, others from an SII. Should really change the phone for one with a decent camera...

Monday, June 15, 2015

Naughty Nuri's - stellar ribs, expensive drinks

Naughty Nuri's Warung, Desa Sri Hartamas

Lenglui was having a girls night at some Korean place in Sri Hartamas and so I decided to go on an evening wander around the area, just to see what was there. When you're driving past in the car, you don't always see what's new or old or closed or whatever. Not that we regularly go there - parking is a real nightmare though we got insanely lucky on this night snagging a space right outside Lenglui's Korean venue. 

Seems to still be mostly Korean places for food and supermarkets on the main roads and shophouses. All mostly food. Good to see that Backofen was still there - remember going there about three years ago for coffee after having a costume check with Dominque for a Christmas show we were doing at the time. Was planning to go to the Denise for a glass but it looked closed and quite sad. 

I took a walk across the road to where the Maybank is, having seen some lights in the street behind from my side of the road and never having been to that part. A bit of a dodgy lane to get there, but white boy in Malaysia attitude and keep walking and it mostly turns out okay. Dodgy would turn out to be right - the road turned out to be pretty much all nightclubs on both sides of the street with young ladies parked on stools outside, doing nails and riffling long extension style hair. Couldn't see too many faces - I was walking down the middle of the road - but eyelashes and lips and legs and hot pants kind of sealed the tone. Haven't seen this kind of sleazy bar street ambience for years. It oozed funk. You could almost smell the disease and lost hope that inhabit these bars, with their bump and grind club sounds seeping out through the darkened doors. No thank you - just stop long enough for a quick look at the freak show and get out befgore you get caught up in it. Don't play play on the wild side.

A double back to the other side and a wander through the backstreets of Sri Hartamas revealed some useful looking places on a street behind the Souled Out (which was heaving, and this on a Monday night - outrageously successful, for which reason I declined to go there). One Japanese Tonkatsu place looked promising, with Japanese looking types eating there, but I felt not quite in the mood for Ramen soup. Another dodgy looking nightclub next door kind of settled that one as well.

I ended up at a newish looking place called Naughty Nuri's Warung. It is at the far end of the main drag through Desa Sri Hartamas, and right on the end of the street. I think it used to be one of those Irish Pubs, as memory serves. It was also heaving, but the prospect of eating some Pork and enjoying apparent happy hours on beers at the bar sealed the deal. I think the concept is Balinese, whilst most things on the menu were pork related. There was a live band playing quite well and raucously in another section which made for decent entertainment. Equal entertainment was being provided by the bar staff with their repartee both between them and with patrons.  I went for the signature ribs to be washed down with Happy Hour Cooper's Porter. The ribs were stellar - lovely mouth tinglers with the spice and sweet burn on the lips with some tender meat that just eased through the mouth and cheeks and slippery on the tongue. One of the best, period. 

It was the bill that was the shock - one set of ribs and two beers came out at RM140. Seems Happyhour was on halfpints and I had opted for the full version which was not clearly explained. This absence of clarity tried to be explained to Sam Vijendra, the manager (owner?)and Pork Seller (according to his card) though I am not sure the message got across. He offered to stand me another drink, but that didn't seem quite the point - I wanted clarity for future patrons, myself included. I made my excuses, paid and left.

I doubt that I will go back. even though the ribs were stellar - making a margin on drinks is one thing but this felt a real sting for what I got. RM30 plus for a pint of beer, very good though it was - forget it. Found I could buy a case of Bud for RM100 at a back of the lorry place just up the road. Maybe I can do take out from Nuri's next time and grab some beers on the way through, but seriously watch the drinks bill if you decide to go there. 

Extra Super Tanker - extra darn good!!

Quick report on a dinner we had at the Supertanker on Sunday 14th June (or the Extra Super Tanker Restaurant to give its full name). One of our serious wine afficionado friends had been inviting Lenglui and I over muliple occacions to come and drink his wine at some tasty restaurant but the scheduling fates had been continually against us. Holidays and other dinners seemed to have a way of getting in the, er, way. Finally the schedules aligned and so it was that nine of ended up at the Supertanker in Damansara Kim. Four and a half fairly serious winers, the others happy with a glass or two to taste. One of the group arrived forty minutes late, claiming that dinner was 7.30pm. Whatsapp proved that 7pm was correct. We said nothing, having arrived at 7.20pm though we did text ahead to say we were delayed. 

Supertanker interior - pic from their website
This is about the third time I have been to the Supertanker in Damansara. It has been operating since 2004 and now has two outlets, the other being located in a club in Bandar Utama (where I have attended a couple of big wedding banquets - food was fair, and reasonably well praised by table guests, though it is unfair to try and judge quality when the kitchen is just getting food through the doors to feed the masses). For my first time at the Damansara outlet, I remember it had tried a bit too hard to impress with a fusion style Chinese menu as requested of Chef by a birthday boy. This didn't quite come off for me, though I do remember guzzling bottles of tasty white and Chateau Soleil magnums. Second time was more traditional Chinese fare which I can't quite remember much about. Don't seem to have written about it. This third time would prove to be the charm - total memory of brilliant food, wines and people around a table and having a rare old time of things. We need to savour these moments when we can get together with friends and laugh and joke and sing and leave at the end of it with a lighter heart and a full belly. I feel we sometimes take it all so much for granted that we have the means and the faculties to do these things. And that is a mistake - many out there cannot even dream of the lives we live and experience, and for me I try to relish and extract the entire atomic essence of each and every moment and squeeze it, savour it, sip it, suck it, guzzle and chew and swallow it. Breathe and live every moment of lightness and love with whom or whatever it is that brings joy to this life. It could all end tomorrow, even more so as the years rack up. 

Supertanker interior - pic from website
But I digress. Winewise, we had a Leth 2014 Gruner Veltliner that we had brought back from our Austria trip, and a Giesen August Brothers 1888 Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from New Zealand. We started with the Leth, which proved a delightful aperitif being all light honey and peach pear and crisp finish. Light, crisp but with enough heft to tickle the palate interest, it proved a hit all around the table. Well tasty wine.

Sad thing was I didn't get to try it with the food, which proved a lot late in getting to the table. We had fully whacked the bottle, though I seemed to be the only one with no Leth - the others clearly possess much more self discipline. I have a weakness for crisp tasty wine. Our host was getting animated and following a "get up from the table and verbal whack the captain" it all came at once - the fish, the duck, the omelete, with the ribs and taufoo only five minutes behind. 

It would prove worth the wait - the brother of new friend TB at the table (ex TV producer, great stories about Formula One at Monte Carlo) had bought a 2.5kg Ikan Kelah that morning in Pahang and had delivered it to TB earlier in the day, presumably driving all the way. Our friend had kept it alive all day before emptying the tank and wrapping Ikan in an old T-Shirt for delivery to the restaurant kitchen for cleaning and steaming by Chef and his team.

Known as the "King" of the river, and "Emperau" in Sarawak (where it is also apparently the National Fish), Ikan Kelah remains THE top fish that all anglers want to catch. Having the capacity to grow as large as a human being, it can fetch up to RM800 to RM1,200 per kilo live weight. It is also known as the Malaysian Mahseer and the Greater Brook Carp. The fish has proven difficult to breed and farm due to an apparent inability to find the right diet for it to thrive in captivity. In the fast and clean rivers that are its natural habitat, Ikan Kelah can happily feed on both river fruits and shelled fish that it comes across on the river bed. No one has yet been able to replicate this. In the wild, it is both elusive and increasingly scarce as a result of deforestation and environmental degradation. In this, Sarawak and Sabah have implemented a system (known as "Tagal") where the villagers themselves guard and protect these fish and their rivers. As a result, the fish population has recovered.

The Ikan Kelah - wicked tasty
So we were pretty privileged to be having this freshwater finback. It was seriously priced and totally delightful  - all fish oil, firm flakes of solid fish meat, leaning toward the gooey but a wonderful mouthful of blissful taste. Full fish without being fishy, hugely dripping with omega three; a voluptuous, sweet, oily mess of meat. Nowhere near as light as a Soon Hock, it proved a change from the normal style of fish to which Lenglui is used. But I enjoyed it hugely. A sweet salt gungey suck for the most part and slipping down so smoothly. Little bit of soy and cilantro and we were done. Good job from the kitchen.

We also had Iberico pork ribs which were equally outstanding - with just a simple rub of salt and pepper and oil and probably slow roasted for hours, they proved delightfully tasty and dry on the outside but with loads of juice in the meat. A total taste of Spain but with a Chinese twist of raucous black pepper. Tender but with firm bite on the meat, we polished off two racks of them. We even got plastic gloves to eat the ribs with - became a greasy problem trying to pour wine after chewing on the rib. So it goes. 

Brilliantly tasty Iberico Pork Ribs - yum
Other dishes came and went (duck was tasty, also some egg foo yong style omelette fried thingy with spring onion and chives). But the ribs and fish made the night. 

The Giesen SB which we were drinking with the fish seemed to lean more toward the Smith Haut Lafitte style in terms of texture - more a rich Chablis in style than anything else - and although it should have been a belter with the fish, for me it did not quite come together. Perhaps it was the slightly oily texture of the wine competing wiht the oil in the fish that did it - not enough acidity in the wine to cut through and perhaps a bit too mellow given its time in the bottle. It was still a belter, though - rich, unctuous, honey and toffee apples and a long throat tickling finish. It was just …  well, I thought it would stun and it didn't - my expectations didn't pan out together. So it goes. Live and learn, eh?

For the reds, our friend had raided his cellar and totally delighted us all with a 1999 Conseillante and a 1999 Ornellaia. The Ornellaia was a real treat and had mellowed nicely for balance but still not so much that its character had been totally subsumed by bottle age - still a lot of life and fire in this one. Bold, and with a bit of sass, kind of like a Venetian gondolier hustling for an extra tip. Initially bold, it evened out down the bottle and ended up more like a priest from the local Tuscan church - friendly, full of life, but lots of depth to explore. Was a belter with the ribs. The Bordeaux Right Bank Conseillante was equally delightful though more complex - layers of fruit and spice and texture and all of which seemed to change as each sip progressed through the palate. Lovely, lovely wine and great balance across the component varietels. We drank it long into the evening, well after all the food had vanished. A stunning wine to end the evening, invoking lots of stories, jokes and laughter. Even got me singing the "Pang Yau", one of the three Chinese songs I seem to sing passably well enough. Prefer to stick with my Rock and Blues, though my Delilah remains a crowd favourite.

In all a great evening, on the strength of which I would happily return to the Supertanker. Now I think of it, the fish we had on my second visit was not bad, and seeing photos of the dishes on another blogsite have jogged the memory. Have to return to try them again. Parking is easy, but a bit dark and secluded at night, so maybe show some extra caution getting to and from the car? I think I heard that corkage was charged, but I didn't see the bill - our friend took it. Glasses were a bit ordinary if it was, though I seem to recall decanting is available. Be our turn next time. But our friend will still be more than welcome to bring his wines. We help him drink them. 

We also had a discussion about buying new wine for investment and I gave him my position that we were now only buying wine we would be able to drink - we don't have twenty years to wait before a wine becomes drinkable and we don't really want to buy just for other people to enjoy them. He said the investment cycle was marked by two events - BC and AC - Before China and After China. Prices skyrocketed when the Chinese came in to buy around 2003 and died in 2011 with the clampdown on Guanxi gifts. Now was difficult to predict - better to stick to the stock market.  Not wrong there. Cheers!

Extra Super Tanker Fine Chinese Restaurant
Damansara Main Branch
48 SS 20/10, Damansara Kim , 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
TEL: 03-77267768 / 03-77267769, Fax: 03-7726 7782
website: http://estrestaurant.net/damansara.html