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.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Topshelf and Villa Maria Wine - not bad!

Topshelf in TTDI
August 17, 2015

Started writing this one about two months after the dinner - seemed to be no time before or since a Douro River cruise. Also been a lot of dinners and drinking all this month of October, though mostly house parties and, though they have been magnificent food and wine adventures, they do not really seem to be the stuff of blogging. But it takes a toll. Waking up after a grim night's sleep does not put one in a particularly creative writing mood. There is a definite need for some serious drying out and a respite from the booze. Though at this time that does not look at all in prospect. Very large weekend and week ahead. It does catch up and there is a need to plan and be disciplined on the nights off. The sleep I get on these is beautiful. 

Got this Wine Dinner through the Doc Wine and it all looked good. We have been to Asia Euro's Villa Maria wine dinners on a number of previous occasions.  Leonardo's in Bangsar springs to mind circa 2011 cos we bought the Cellar Reserve Pinot for Lenglui's big birthday that year. There was also one at Senja in or around 2013 cos they gave out a free Credit Card USB drive and business card holder which are still lurking around the apartment somewhere.

Interior of Topshelf
This one was to be at a newish restaurant receiving good reviews from the foodie community. Topshelf is located on the far side of Taman Tun, where presumably the rents are reasonable and the parking is easy.  Their Facebook page bills it as "Casual French dining located in the heart of Taman Tun… serving up classic French dishes like Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon with neighbourhood friendly prices. They say their wine list is modest, with select boutique labels alongside offerings from the big boys to cater for all tastes and wallet sizes. 

We have been to one other place in this area, and which nearly made the blog but for some reason got left in the Pending folder and has not been able to tickle the brain sufficiently to return and finish it. Maybe one day.

The Bar
The traffic was quite easy getting there at rush hour, though I had to pull a barge-in from the wrong lane to everyone's consternation and honking. We followed the Waze instruction and got there bang on 7pm. Found a space just up from the place and in we marched. Initially, it looked a bit dark, with a total window frontage letting in natural light giving that glare feeling. But it soon mellowed as night fell into a cosy modern cafe/bistro feel. But it was darn noisy - all hard walls and glass and low ceiling which made for the place having the acoustics of a steel box - voices bouncing and echoing off the walls and windows and get naturally amplified and reamplified. Would be great for our accapella group Six2Eight but it was deafening for civilised conversation - I could barely hear what anyone was saying across the table.

Chef Christopher came out to welcome everyone and introduce Simon from Villa Maria who gave some brief background on the winery and the wines. Only note I made was he said that 2014 was a hot year which meant less acidity and more fruit driven wines resulted. Okay. The night would tell.

Wine Doc with Villa Maria Rep Simon
We had been sipping the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc which was also to be paired with the Amuse Bouche Lobster Ravioli. Billed as a wine of "vibrancy" and "freshness" it was proving a pleasant quaffer with a clean acidic grip and spritzy finish. Though the general consensus was that it was not worth the special RM128 asking price. This would be the common refrain for all the wines on the night - nice, but not THAT nice. (indeed, we got it on special for RM90 a month later which felt a bit more realistic. Can't say where from). 

One of our table thought the Lobster Ravioli looked a bit deconstructed, though for me it looked more like a dumpling you might find at the Dragon Eye. A shade on the cold side, there was a nice hit of mint on the firm bite through the lobster meat. Also got radish, carrot, and apple tastes and textures. I would have killed for a cracker for some texture (where was the bread?) to give some undercut to this.  The Bouillabaise was a bit on the thin side, though maybe this was no bad thing - anything firmer would have emasculated the Ravioli - and it gave the Lobster just enough season for taste. It also gave the wine lots of soft fruity layers  - Dragonfruit and Passionfruit - along with a thyme herby hit. Very pleasant together, these two. 

Lobster Ravioli
Not much in the way of top up so far, and the Chard got poured quite quickly. Strange wine, this one. Billed as "food friendly" I got a sashimi fresh fish like hit, almost sake. It drank very nicely - this one was indeeed vibrant, with orange peel, little bit of oil somewhere, and in great balance. Also got apricot, raspy acid and some sour pear. AND got citrus and spice from some oak. Nice to drink but definitely needed food (WHERE WAS THE BREAD??) although exactly what kind of food it could best be matched with would be a tough one - there was so much going on in the thing. Maybe best left as a barbie wine, parked in the ice bucket and quaffed with friends and fried prawns. That would work. 

Out came the mushrooms, which had great texture and a good vegetal hit from the basil and rocket which fought a little with the pesto zip. For me the parmesan cheese let the whole thing down - all these soft textures needed some carbo or crunch to underpin and bring them together (WHERE WAS THE #$@$$$ BREAD??)  - today's parmesan was soft. There seemed to be a lot of acetic bite in this dish - splashes of balsamic maybe - which helped kill off any thought or real possibility of matching between food and wine. Both food and wine were good in their own ways, but a veritable fail in matching terms. 

Shrooms and Pistou
After some hounding of the kitchen by one of our group, the bread arrived sometime before Dish 2 plates were about to be cleared. The butter arrived about three minutes after, by which time most of the bread had vanished in a soaking of the remaining second course goo on the plate. In fairness, it was very very tasty sourdough style bread, with excellent crust and miele, as the French call it - that soft doughy bit in the middle. But it would have been total gangbusters had it been ready in time for the aperitif and 1st course sauce. Presume the kitchen had a hard time getting 1st and 2nd courses ready and someone forgot the bread. But as said it was darn tasty when it came. There you go - sometimes is best to just shut up and eat your food as and when it comes. 

I had opted for the Beef cheek and it was excellent. Great texture, just the right amount of season for enough beef taste in the meat without overpowering. With a full but even jus, the blend of both was outstanding. The mash was creamy and did a wonderful job of softening the jus just enough to take the slight salt tang away. The total combination was excellent, and made the more so with some toasted garlic buttered bread which gave it a sweet oily zippy kind of zap on the tongue to liven up the potato and meat mush in the mouth. The whole made for a creamy beefy coating of oily butter and fat in the mouth which perkily nipped the cheeks on its way through. All was totally well with the world.

The wonderful Braised Angus Cheek
The Cellar Selection Shiraz with which it was being paired came across as well made, with light bramble and dark fruit nose, good balance and medium weight, easy grip on the tannin side and a clean blackcurrant finish. Easy and pleasant to drink, later on in the glass the nose gave off some surprising notes of spring herbs and hedgerows - like somehow the wine had taken you into a field and the springtime breeze was bringing nature's scents directly to you. Kind of made you feel young - always nice when this happens. And even more so when the winemaker is generous with the pourings! Managed to get them to part with a bit more of the reds than the whites for some reason. So it goes.

Baked Seabass
I had a glass of the Pinot which felt jammy at first but gave way to some frisky cheek pinching dark fruit with reasonable grip and some chestnut on the finish. Darkly sweet yet sweetly lean, for some reason it put me in mind of Bella from the Twilight series - broody, beautiful, mysterious, lot of depth. Not entirely sure that the Seabass made much of an Edward Cullen to counterpoint for her - perhaps some fatty duck or goose would have been better suited as a partner into which she could get her teeth. 

Dessert came and went with my usual lack of ceremony and notes and got totally vacuumed off the plate. This Mille Feuille was excellent - fruits, sauces and pistachio ice cream made for a brilliant finish. I have no note on the Gewurtz, but memory serves that it was a bit thin to really stand up to the dessert. Nice wine, but you really need to be a fan to want to buy. We don't eat so much Asian food either at home or outside to warrant the purchase and storage. SB and Chards do us for our Chinese and Western destinations, though the chilled Gewurtz would be belter with anything spicy. 

The excellent Mille Feuille Framboise
Possibly because it was a Monday evening, everyone seemed to call it an early night. Also, the wine seemed to have stopped pouring and I think we all felt we'd had enough. As said, it went well enough with the food, but didn't do the business for late night chugging when no one seemed to be in the mood. Perhaps we had had enough of the echo chamber in which we were sitting and needed the quiet of the car ride home. 

All in all, at RM198++ a person, this was a very good deal and though part of me thinks perhaps they could have been a shade more generous in the pourings on the night it didn't matter. The wines paired magnificently with the most excellent food but did not really merit much drinking on their own. 

"Smile please." "What? Sorry I can't hear. Say that again?"
We will go back to Topshelf on a less noisy night. The food easily merits another try without a stressed kitchen and we understand it is quite a wine friendly place. I don't think anyone bought any of the Villa Maria on the night - at RM128 for the SB, Gewurtz and Chard, it felt a bit stiff for purchase. Same with the Shiraz and Pinot at RM158 and RM188 - not quite the right side of price friendly, especially with the Ringgit falling as it was. Doc Wine says there is far better which can be got at similar price and where the quality is off the map. He does know his wines and New Zealand is naturally his speciality - he has turned us on to some lovely and occasionally spectacular booze. Total disciple of the vine. Got to respect that.

Topshelf French Restaurant
61, Lorong Rahim Kajai 13, TTDI
03-7727 7277


Amuse Bouche - Lobster Ravioli
Minted Pea Puree, Lobster Vinaigrette & Bouillabaise Sauce
Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Appetizer - Shrooms & Pistou
Grilled Mushrooms, Homemade Petsto, Greens & Parmesan
Cellar Selection Chardonnay 2014

Main Course - Baked Caught Wild Seabass
Roasted Vegetables, rosti Potatoes & Tomato Jus
Reserve Pinot Noir 2012


Braised Angus Cheek
Braised Angus Beef Cheek in Red Wine, Charred Endive, Potato Puree
Cellar Selection Syrah 2013

Dessert - Mille Feuille Framboise
Raspberries, Vanilla & Pistachio Cream
Private Bin Gewurtztraminer 2013

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wine Dinner at Gobo Bar, KL - bland food, thin wines

September 30th 2015

Probably best to say at the outset that I did not enjoy this wine dinner at all. Partly it was the mood with which I went into the dining room as a result of the hugely bad parking instructions at the Traders Hotel Car Park. The other part was the pretty looking but ultimately bland food and the mediocre wines on show along with being annoyingly deafened for most of the night by a Jazz trio parked next to our table (which after several admonitions to the manager eventually got moved to another part of the bar). I had a full blown report and rant on this wine dinner all ready, but ultimately decided I couldn't really be bothered to write it up. Suffice to say that the food was visually pretty but tastewise pretty bland and the wines were somewhat thin and a bit reedy to my taste. Sous Chef Kelvin Bin Kilin has clear skills in presentation but not sure if he might be required to keep the food "safe" in taste terms to satisfy the perceived expectations of Traders Hotel guests. Soup and dessert were okay, bread was dry, beef was ordinary, rest was pretty unmemorable. No hwyl in the food.

Kitchen with Chef Kelvin, centre, and staff
I have memories of Yering Station reds as quite vibrant and Xanadu Cabernet as bold in character. Not on these expressions. Not sure if the harvest was a bit grim but the offerings of both did not impress enough to buy. Not that there appeared to be much effort by the Luen Heng people in pushing the wines to us punters, which was both refreshing and yet somewhat strangely unsettling at the same time. Talking with the winery rep, it was revealed that both Yering Station and Xanadu had been taken over by the Rathbone Wine Group. Seems this is a family enterprise keen to grow its stable of high caliber wineries brands. All well and good, but occasionally the result in these circumstances is that there is less incentive for the wineries to maintain absolute top end standard and can slowly slip down the rankings. It's like the vines themselves - the best grapes come from those vines that have to fight to find water and less fight means less taste. Cloudy Bay is a useful case in point after it got bought over by LVMH - its SB has become more and more ordinary over the years and seems to be getting lower and lower in price as it needs to compete with a slew of competitors able to produce wines full of character at similar prices. Including personal favourite Kevin Judd of Greywacke and the erstwhile winemaker at Cloudy Bay. Needing to remain competitive is a state of nature. Total Darwin. Hopefully the Rathbone side can stay out of the way and let the winemakers speak for the grapes and the terroir. The Wine Rep assured that the winemakers were being retained by the wineries. Time will tell - maybe it was a bad year for the grapes and Mr Wine Rep also did not seem to remember. They all seemed to be having a jolly time of things whilst I felt the whole evening was pretty much a fail on most counts. Reading one other glowing and rapturous report on the dinner, I wondered if we were at the same event. Maybe I was just too cheesed to enjoy it. There you go - it's always perception coloured by mood, isn't it? 

Jan and Barry and two of the deafening Jazz Trio
It all made for an evening to forget and definitely one not to repeat. Though on the positive side all the hotel staff I encountered on this particular food odyssey were pretty sterling in their various attempts to help and assist. The Hotel Door Staff in particular were excellent as was the restaurant floor manager and the Gobo Bar staff were efficient and unobtrusive and acceded to most of my requests - very well done here. And the company was good fun as always with Jan and Barry and Chris and Sanjeev - the photos were all taken by Jan and reproduced with kind permission and grateful thanks. I was in too bad a mood to take any.

Traders is part of the ShangriLa chain, isn't it?   Hmmmm….  

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche
Blue swimmer crab meat served with fish cracker, black caviar, compressed honeydew and micro green
Xanadu Exmoor Drive Sauvignon Blanc Semillion 2014

Starter - Deconstructed Nicoise Salad
Egg, ahi tuna, green pea, parmesan chip, avocado puree, baby French bean, artcihoke, cherry tomato and black olive puree
Xanadu Exmoor Drive Sauvignon Blanc Semillion 2014

Appetizer - King Prawn Ravioli
Truffle cream sauce, roasted caulifolouwer, asparagus, sautee baby spinach
Yering Station Village Chardonnay 2011

Soup - Butternut Squash Soup with Young Coconut
Toasted coconut meat, roasted pumpkin, coconut milk foam
Xanadu DJL Chardonnay 2013

Raspberry Lychee Sorbet

Main Course - Surf and Turf
Prawn, 150 days Angus tenderloin, pomme puree, broccolini, baby carrot, Bordelaise sauce, micro green
Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Main Course

Lemon Cello Panacotta with Warm Banana Pudding and Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

Excellent company!

IWFS Bottega Lunch - Hot, man…

August 23rd 2015

Interior of Bottega Mediterranea
Boozy lunches always crease me. Noon start for a 3pm finish means the rest of the day is hungover with headache and listlessness and generally feeling yuck. Which is why I normally avoid them - I find them not worth the pain of feeling your brain getting mashed with a hammer. Especially when you need to be on point with a vocal rehearsal at 4pm the same day. 

But this was the IWFS and a new place and a fair price - the Bottega Mediterranea on Jalan Ceylon in KL at RM150 a throw. David had proposed this place some time ago and I thought he might have forgottten about it. But then an email came through with all the details and could I please let the members know. It came together quite quickly and at the end we got 31 plucky punters up for the beano. Mostly from the expat side of the membership for some reason - not sure if this was a cultural thing (ie boozy lunches being more a western activity) or whether most members prefer a lazy Sunday at home. Possibly both. There you go. 

Pinky and Peter
David had billed it as "A Hot Italian Affair at Bottega Mediterranea" and in the end it turned out to be a very hot one. I had assumed an actual restaurant of indoor sorts with a porch area - turned out not to be a restaurant at all. It was basically one of the old townhouses on Jalan Ceylon which served as a storehouse for the import and sale of meats and cheeses and other bits from Italy. Seems the owners like to offer a monthly lunch to showcase their foods and cheeses and have a cook out in the house for alfresco consumption in the midday sun. 

The serving area with the kitchen at back
So in essence it became a race to find the coolest spot in the outside front porch area at which to sit and chug the wines and scarf the food. The early ones bagged their seats and enjoyed the fanblast. Others made for the sales area where the food was being prepared and where there was some lifesaving aircon for respite from the brain searing and fierce heat. Having said this, there was only one really brutal spot which we all managed to avoid by some judicial table and chair shifting. 

Notwithstanding, the lunch would prove most pleasant indeed. We each got given four plastic tickets, one for each glass of the different drinks of a very pleasant Prosecco, a thoroughly delightful Chardonnay, a firm Red and a sweetie to finish. 

Foodwise all was very tasty and delightfully tapas style - loads of prosciutto, pepper salami and porchetta with both soft cheeses and parmeggiano, herby oiled and chopped tomatoes for bruschetta, and the most amazing olives - total salt whack and crunchy fig like texture for which I would return in a second. The cured meats were all on a table from which members could help themselves whilst the pastas and cooked meats were panfired on a gas burner inside the house reception area. 

"Your wine - I take two cases!"
The charming ladies came around with these different dishes as they got cooked. We had a creamy paella style dollop of what I guess was Fregola followed by some chili flaked Gemelli (or "twins" - little twists of wonderfully fresh pasta), all of which helped the magnificent Chardonnay and the last of the bubbles on their merry way. Big Tony was in total praise fo the Chard and when the Kiwi echoed we figured there must be something there. There was - crisp fruit, loads of tropicals, enough oak to tantalise which quickly disappeared in the presence of food, excellent acidity and firm texture, brilliant balance and a refreshing summertime finish. Parked in the shade of the townhouse in the blazing sun with a couple of fans blowing at the other end, it was total Italian farmhouse lunchtime. All was well with the world (even though the currency and markets were crashing) and peace was upon us. Delightful.

The meats came out to join with the bold and somewhat not quite in balance red, though it proved a good partner for the venison, the duck and the roasted pork. In fact it proved a great partner with everything left on the table inside. Everyone praised the duck and rightly so - firm meat perfectly roasted with a tea smoke skin. Excellent.

Doc Stephen checking the prices
I grabbed a plate of the wonderful prosciutto to share with the table. The table seemed to have had enough so I was left to face up to the task of scarfing the lot.  All salt and fat and thin shavings of Italy's best. O belter. Then David came around with a plate of his favourite - it was either the Panchetta or the Mortadella, can't quite remember which. And it was lovely - light and featherlike slivers of cured sweetness that pricked the cheeks and slipped into gastric oblivion - total delight.

We were rapidly running out of wine - the Gaffer was being true to form and sucking down a goodly amount of any holy juice that remained in bottle. I managed to persuade Mr Corkscrew to open a bottle of his Pinot and he poured the lot into four glasses. Top man. All pourings should be like this. I also grabbed our allocations of the sweetie - it turned out to be very light in texture with the taste buds finding it more Gewurtz lychee and Turkish than full on whack your chest with a spoonful of double syrup dessert style (though very cheek pinchingly pleasant - one for the ladies as Mr Dogballs observed). 

President David and Chef Riccardo
The nice ladies then came around with a digestif sort of thing which tasted like burnt oranges and perhaps not quite right for a hot afternoon finisher. May have fared better had it been poured over a slug of gelato. 

As said, IWFS does not normally do lunches, and in fairness this was more a picnic with wine rather than a lunch. But for all that it was a brilliantly impromptu, no ceremony, sit down and eat in the lunchtime open air at someone's home where the food was hearty and wholesome and the company and wine were excellent. Worth the pain, though perhaps more shade is necessary to avoid the mild booze induced sunstroke bleuugh hangover I seemed to get. An awning or industrial fans to keep the cool and dent the ferocity of the midday sun. And more water to cut the booze. And no vocal rehearsals. Maybe I need training? Or better preparation for the heat - anyone got some shorts and a pith helmet?

Bottega Mediterranea Sdn.Bhd. 
1A Jalan Ceylon 
50200 Kuala Lumpur 
+60 173 651051

The Food:
Cold Cuts & Cheese platter on free flow.
Risotto with Saffron and Porcini.
Seared French Duck Breast  / Roasted Iberico Pork Rack
Pickle and Olives.
Ice Cream Soft served with Napolean Baba' (it may be change to Mascarpone Cream with Savoiardi).

The Wines
Principessa Sparkling, Champenoise Method.
Selin D'Almari Chardonnay winner of Chardonnay du Munde 2014/2015.
Carabas Barbara.
Pantera Cabernet Sauvignon or Malvasia (Sweet Wine)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Window of the Neroteca

September 23rd 2015

Following on from two events in August at the Bottega and the Kampachi, the IWFS decided to go Italian for its September bash and try out the cuisine in An Evening of "La Dolce Vita!" at the Neroteca. 

Neroteca has been a popular destination for lovers of Italian cuisine in Kuala Lumpur for a number of years. I have memories of pretty good food at an outlet in the Jalan Ceylon area, which presently looks to be in the process of renovation. They were also legend at the Nero Vivo in the Somerset Building around the corner with their prosciutto and salami platters. Seems Neroteca also operates the Bottega where IWFS had their lunch affair in the August, whilst our IWFS dinner would take place at their recently opened outlet in Plaza Damansara. Chef Riccardo has clearly built quite an empire around the city. 

Neroteca interior
The Neroteca blurb I got to share with the members (I am IWFS Secretary at this time) said the Restaurant prides itself on the degree of authenticity it achieves when compared to a trattoria and enoteca in the home land. It seeks to transport diners to a rustic destination in the Tuscan countryside where the food is superb and the wines are delicious. The "vibrant restaurant has a unique concept where very inch of wall space is taken up with shelves of Italian kitchen staples like olive oils, pastas, and herbs (with) a deli case bursting with Italian meats and cheeses, and a sweet little bar fronting an authentically macho espresso machine." 

Lots of dark wood ambience
The blurb continued "With warm timber flooring, smoked sausages hanging from ceiling hooks and an entire wall filled with bottles of tomato sauce, olives, artichokes and tartufo, Neroteca is the closest thing to an enoteca this side of Florence.  It’s easy to feel a sense of dislocation on entering the place!"

Actually, it was quite a good piece of marketing copy, evoking all the senses of taste and ambience and excellent "vibrant" service and the quality of food and wine. In the end, we got a turnout of 49 and all clearly keen to get transported to this utopian Italian trattoria. As is was, the Indonesian haze brought us all back to reality, though it wasn't too bad on our evening thanks to a good downpour earlier in the day.   

We pretty much had taken over the place, though there were a few diners braving the remains of the haze outside (to which contributions were apparently being made by some of the smoker members). Inside proved a bit cramped with all of us supping the fizz in the narrow bar area at the Neroteca entrance, though no-one seemed too uncomfortable for comment. Made for a good convivial start to the evening. The staff behind the bar were being very generous with the Prosecco which was quaffing well - standard sweetly crisp and uncomplicated bubbles with just enough sparkle to generate interest and taste to keep asking for more. Went very nicely with the assorted mushroom or tomato Bruschetta that was making the rounds. The mushroom seemed to disappear quite quickly - either that or they had overloaded with tomato. Both were quite tasty, with the tomato juice softening the stale-ish bread very nicely.

Ajeet, Rajan and Lenglui
Bit slow in getting to the seat after the call to dinner due to the Gaffer engaging me in conversation, so a bit rude barging into the seat during President David's welcome address.  Happily we were not the last to get seated - some others taking a final puff made a later entrance to the table. May said a few things about the whites and we were off.

First out was the Carpaccio of Trout with Sicilian dressing and paired with the Planeta, also from Sicily. Naturally a few Godfather lines made the rounds of the tables, though none sufficiently seared the memory to get recorded here. Everyone was happy eating the fishes rather than entertaining any thoughts of sleeping with them. The Planeta was lively, full of fruit and cheer, though perhaps a shade light in texture to pair sufficiently well with the trout. A hint of oiliness helped, but in truth the trout needed very little in the way of accompaniment - it was delightful on its own and pretty much melted into fish vapour on contact with the mouth. There seemed to be a lot of it on the plate, which was deceptive as it had been sliced razor thin. Very good job by the chef here. 

Carpaccio of Trout
Next out was the Seafood Brodetto, a combo of mixed shellfish and fish bits in a light seasoned broth. Ours had wonderfully fresh prawn, clam, mussels and sotong along with some chives for garnish. The broth also had hints of tomato which is apparently a constant among the various recipes that exist for the dish. It was nicely underseasoned, taking much of its body from the shellfish, and there must have been a generous splash of white wine in it as well since it went down with a firm kick. Booze knows booze. The Planeto was a good enough accompaniment, though neither food nor wine did either any real favours. Wine was not made to pair with liquid dishes. 

Seafood Brodetto
The Ravioli was wonderful - light ricotta filling full of taste with a firm coat of pasta made for a full bite and delightful chew. Very authentic and very well made and a perfect match for the somewhat oily yet crisp Gavi that had been paired with it. A little pepper on the nose set off the truffle whilst the tropical fruits in the mouth set nicely against the wheat and flour of the pasta whilst the little green ball of spinach lent good vegetal crunch. Great dish. One of the table partners felt unable to touch the spinach ball - it did look like a disgustingly healthy Ferrero Rocher chocolate - so I obliged by relieving him of it. And also one ravioli that had got left on the plate. 

The mains seemed to be coming out a bit slow, but with so many people it couldn't really be avoided. I had opted for the Lamb Rack as main which proved very good in an all solid hearty peasant fare kind of way, with creamy mash and what tasted like a mushroom style gravy. The mains came with both Chianti and Barolo. The Chianti proved a great quaffer; nicely balanced, smooth, crisp and fruity with medium acidity and a short sleek finish. Nice dark cherries came through with the meat. In contrast, the Barolo felt a bit lacking in body and most unlike the hugely masculine styles tasted at previous dinners. Some said it was a very feminine Barolo - I might go so far as to say perhaps a bit gender confused. It is of course possible that the wines got confused in the glasses, so maybe better to reserve judgement until a retaste can take place. It just didn't match the expectation. Perhaps it was still young, but it felt definitely feminine in character. Finished well, though, and matched the lamb very well. I had a quick taste of Lenglui's leftover pork - not bad. Would come back for either lamb or pork. Dessert got swallowed quickly, so presumably it was very good - no notes as usual. 

Seabass Alla Puttanesca
[sidenote - indeed we were back there two days later for a friend's birthday. We arrived late and nibbled on some well made pizza and salami and cheese bits while sipping some Cordon Blue brandy. Was very pleasant. The food here is very tasty and filling. The staff also remembered me - was impressed enough to leave a tip!]

People were swallowing the remains of the reds pretty quickly and someone presented me with a full topup of the Barolo. I decided to pass it to one of our table guests who had been abstaining from the whites on preference. Consequently, I felt it necessary to drink his share of the remaining white. In this, I found a fairly full bottle of the Gavi in one of the ice buckets and poured a generous slug for myself which lasted till leaving time. Manager Riccardo then came out with some Grappa for everyone as a farewell digestif. I've never quite got grappa or schnapps or all of the eau-de-vie styles - it seems pretty much like drinking raw alcohol and I never got the point - but tonight it made a bit more sense. After the first throat numbing sip, the remaining went most pleasantly and warmingly. Lovely top off for the night.

Lamb Rack
I thoroughly enjoyed this evening. Great food, tasty wines of character, great ambience in Neroteco and very convivial all round. Staff were excellent. Was good to see everyone in good spirits and mixing around. 

Seems there were mixed thoughts about the wines. Whilst our table enjoyed all, others felt only one of the reds was of standard - possibly the "expensive" one as it was termed. There you go. The Chianti was most palatable, with a cherry zip on top of a mildly spicy mouthpinch and a sour fruit gluggy kind of finish.  The Barolo felt quite feminine on both nose and mouth, though it hit the finish like a stallion - all gallop and romping home to a clear win. On the night, I prefered the whites - better character and bodies, crisp and good fruit with some hints of deeper levels.

Highlight of the night was the Gaffer seemingly, er, gaffe-ing with a proclamation to the effect that all women are stupid. Yes. It was proclaimed after pretty much everyone had left, though those remaining ladies within earshot took immediate umbrage and admonished him profusely. Didn't seem to do much good - it got proclaimed a further twice to my ears. I think I pretended deafness and called it a night. Some things are better left unheard. Cheers!

James and Laura. Or should that be Laura and James?

Amuse Bouche
Assorted Bruschetta
Villa Sandi Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry

Trota Marinara
Petunia Trout Carpaccio served with Sicilian dressing
Planeta Alastro Grecanico DOC Sicilia 2013

Zuppa di Pesce
Seafood Brodetto
Planeta Alastro Grecanico DOC Sicilia 2013

Main Course 1
Ravioli di Ricotta e Spinaci
Homemade Pasta stuffed with Spinach and Ricotta on Truffle Sauce
Banfi Principessa Gavia Gavi DOCG 2013

Main Course 2
Option 1
Agnello e Salsa Marrone
Imported Australian white stripes lamb rack served with fontina mashed potatoes and Italian version of brown sauce

Option 2
Seabass Alla Puttanesca
Pan Seared Seabass with Puttanesca Sauce served with vegetables

Option 3
Porchetta e Lenticchia
Piglet stuffed with vegetables, ham & salsiccia served with lentil and potatoes
Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2012
Ascheri Barolo DOCG 2009

Tiramisu della casa
Our version of Tiramisu infused with Caffe Borghetti Liquer

He said THAT????

Villa Sandi Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry
This uplands wine distinguishes itself from the wide spread notions of Processco developed from larger, lowland sparkling production bearing the region’s name. The cooler climate and viticulture of the designated region of Valdobbiadene leads to wines at the top of the Prosecco pyramid. This finely moussed, lively wine has an interesting nose, brightness, minerality and a drier lingering note.

Planeta Alastro Grecanico DOC Sicilia 2013
This wine of 70%Greciano, 15% Grillo and 15% Sauvignon Blanc is elegant and fresh in a blend which speaks uniquely of sunny Mediterranean isles. The aroma evolves in the glass in an intriguing mix. The acidity is balanced by rounded white stone fruit, citrus notes and a medium weight with a finish which is surprisingly different. The popularity of Greciano has led to a designated IGT area centred on this Sicilian native variety. This blend by the expanding Planeta winery is named after a local wild flower.

Banfi Principessa Gavia Gavi DOCG 2013
Soft pressing of the Cortesse grapes from Banfi’s single estate and stainless style fermentation lets the grapes speak for themselves. This historic grape variety, one of Italy's over 850 documented varieties, has intriguing floral aromas and a lingering citrus core.

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2012
This Tuscan Sangiovese has more than a splash of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon adding intensity. The colour is a typical, Intense ruby red. A fresh and floral bouquet with hints of violets and mimosa, is followed by generous fruit sensations of blackberries and sweet mint leaves. This well regarded example has a plush mouth feel, ripe red fruit with silky tannins and a well-balanced palate. The hot and early picking of 2012 delivers plenty of fruit in this vintage which is accessible now.

Ascheri Barolo DOCG 2009 
We are tacking a big wine early in its life to experience complexity in a classic style. Barolo actually means ‘bitter black’ but there is a lot more than that going on in this prestigious DOCG wine.  Intense tar with a scent of dried flowers and a mineral note in a complex classic nose and more. The rich palate, balance and tannins contribute to its harmony, distinction and intensity and this bold typical style may ask for some patience in the glass. This long weighty pure Nebbiolo has been decanted for your pleasure and we suggest you linger over it.

Lenglui and Sue

Friday, October 23, 2015

Storming Chili Crab at the Hai Peng!

October 21st 2015

Been a bit lax with the food blog of late. Fact is, I was five songs shy of breaking the fifty mark for my Rock and Blues singing uploads to the Youtube channel and the urge to crack that particular milestone proved compelling. Gives one something to brag about on the Facebook, yes? So. That milestone has been cracked and duly bragged about and now I can carry on with a farily large backlog of foodie tales to tell. Those keen to hear what I sound like can check out the tunes and vids at www.youtube.com/user/gwailoah and hope you enjoy them!

To the food - it has to be said that the crab has never been a massive favourite of mine. Whilst my Malaysian friends attack the things with greedy gusto, I always find myself left somewhat non plussed by the whole experience. Fiddly things they are, hiding their meat deep within thin legs and sharp outer armour and needing some dedicated digging and hammering that leaves me thinking "why bother?" 

The Hai Peng Seafood Restaurant has shown me the light. Jalan Taman Desa to Jalan Klang Lama has proved to be my road to Damascus. Well, at least in crustacean terms. 

The Hai Peng has been lurking at the fringes of eating destinations for a while now.  Parked on a strip of shophouses near the Taman Desa turning, its bright colourful and well lit shingle display stands it out in the otherwise pretty dark and somewhat scary and lonely looking surroundings. Pretty unassuming inside, the tables and chairs are totally functional and clearly geared to the serious connoisseur of the Crab - you don't need frills getting soiled by flying crabshell.  If you are making the U-turn to go back to KL or turning right from the Taman Desa side, you have to cut across the 3 lane Klang Lama racing strip to make the turning into the restaurant road, which can be a bit hairy. Lenglui had been there on a couple of previous occasions with her Pang Yau, and it was also one of Dr Gan's destinations when the sap for the Crabmeat was on the rise. So it came to pass that Lenglui needed some Cantonese pronunciation training with her Pang Yau and standing a Crab dinner at one of her favourite restaurants seemed like perfect reciprocity. 

And o, it was. Starting with some tasty prawn and vegetable noodles, the crabs came out two styles - steamed and chili - and they were magical. The steamed was hot and the meat was sweet whilst the chili was tongue spicy but not mouth or lips burning. The Chili came with a well tasty sauce that was tomato based but laced with crabmeat and given a light dose of chili. It was sweet and sourish brilliant with the roti bakar (toast dry bread) to mop it up from the plate. Part of me thinks it might have been plain ketchup mixed with boiled crab bits, but no matter - an amazing taste on this one. 

But the crabs were the total stars. Hot sweet meat with that hint of crab flavour and textural heaven on the tongue - simple and perfect. I also learned to cover the crab with a tissue when giving it the tenderising hammer so as not to pepper Lenglui and everyone with exploding crab shell shrapnel.

We had brought the remains of a Gruner Veltliner from the previous evening's Iberico Ribs and Collar party we had at home along with a 2013 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. The SB totally shone with the crab, its grapefruit zing giving way to a tongue soothing melon on contact with the crabmeat. Tamed the chili a treat as well. Around RM130 in the supermarkets and very nice indeed. The Gruner was tasty, through its leaner fruit got rendered a shade flat by the crab. Was belter with the ribs and collar the previous night, though.

In sum, excellent crab that was a wonderful match with a young SB, and paired with a superb chili sauce to get mopped up by dry toast bread. So darn good that I forgot to take photos - totally absorbed in sucking down this magnificent crab and sauce and wine. For three crabs and the noodles with a vegetable we paid RM200. Free ice and no corkage, though better to take your own glassware if you're a bit anal about drinking wine from a whiskey glass. We also take a portable plastic PVC Ice Bucket bag on our food adventures - you can always get ice but not always a big enough bucket to take a wine bottle. Been a life saver on numerous occasions. 

The Hai Peng feels like it has been turning out these crabs for decades and remaining totally consistent in the quality and taste of the daily results. We were there on a Wednesday night and it was pretty full (NB not much seating space in the main area, but there is a back area out in the open). Definitely worth driving the the distance to get there, though the restaurant does advise not to leave valuables in the car. It is a bit dark and does look a bit forbidding parking-wise. Notwithstanding, give this one a double Arnie - I'll be back!

Hai Peng Seafood Restaurant
Lot KS-5 Taman Evergreen
4th Mile Jalan Klang Lama, 58200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel +603 7982 5072
HP +6012 2393649
GPS:  3.082926, 101.669972

Daily 6pm to midnight, closed on alternate Tuesdays