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.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

IWFS Kuala Lumpur Hong Kong Jolly January 2019 Day Five

IWFS Kuala Lumpur Hong Kong Jolly January 18 - 22 2019 - A recollection of Five Days of Food and Wine in Hong Kong, and how I became a Lap Cheong mule

Day Five - Tuesday January 22nd

Woke up to a pretty uneventful but intensely busy morning trying to figure the puzzle that was the packing of all of the Lap Cheong and the other foodie bits. I was concerned at the amount we were to carry. If the cases got scanned, then most if it could get confiscated - pork products coming into Malaysia? Not good methinks. So I stuffed as much as I could in my backpack, which took a lot of the strain out of the cases. All the Yung Kee and all of May's were vacuum packed so it was an easy fit to the backpack. Lenglui was able to pack the Century Eggs into her hand baggage roller. Notwithstanding, both mine and Lenglui's cases had to take one goose each along with the Lap Cheong bought from West Villa Restaurant and bagged in normal plastic. The wines were wrapped in socks and stuffed into the foam wine carriers for extra protection. It was two darn heavy cases at the end. Just as well we were flying MAS with its hugely generous 30kg baggage. 

Having solved the packing puzzle, we headed down for a late breakfast and rested up back in the room ahead of our return flight to KL. 

We checked out at 10.30 and sat in the Jen reception pending an elevator down one level to where the shuttle bus would stop. We had decided to take an earlier shuttle bus (the 11am) to the Central with a view toward buying some hard to find gin at the airport. The shuttle was quite full and the driver again opted to stack all the luggage in the front bus area; this made for much ease of de-bagging when we arrived at the Central 10 minutes later. Check in at the Central was a breeze - buy your Airport Express tickets in the machine (with group discount again - for four pax total HKD280), go through the barrier to the MAS Counter, check the bags in and stroll back out to the Airport Express train to the airport. Hugely efficient. The airport itself was a bit large and involved a fair walk to get to the immigration. We lost one of the couples on the way, and so it was that four of us parked up in the CP lounge for lunch and bubbles ahead of the afternoon flight home. I have half a memory of being in the lounge a long time ago on a transit flight from USA. Very pleasant, food not bad, though not really able to do it justice so early in the day; could have used an extra hour to have let breakfast settle. So it goes. 

The flight was at 15.10 which gave us about an hour to shop the duty free. We found the Duty Zero and snagged a bottle each of Four Pillars Gin (HKD405) and Edinburgh Gin (HKD355) for cash which pricewise seemed fair, all wrapped up in the brown foam protection mesh and plastic bagged before heading off in search of the boarding gate. 

Uneventful flight. Ate some food, watched a movie and pretty soon we were belting up to land. Quickly through immigration thanks to a designated MM2H counter and out to the carousels. 

And so we came to it - the X-Ray machine at the KLIA and the last hurdle to negotiate before the Airport Limo home. What would happen? Would they be checking all bags coming through as I had previously read? What would they say to all our booze and food? I had visions of being the poster boy for a Lap Cheong mule. Scary. I trundled with trepidation to the duty exit preparing to plead Mat Salleh ignorance...

It became a non-event - there was one guy at the machine who was being selective about who to stop (with an apparent predisposition for cardboard boxes) whilst the rest of us just kept on sailing through. I later wondered whether it was because we had got our bags along with a number of other flights and that 7.10pm was prayer time with a resultant thinning out of staff at the gates. Could be. Whatever, I breathed a massive sigh of relief as the Airport Limo counter came into view. Lenglui went off to return the RoamingMan machine to the counter in Departures and, having bought the Limo ticket, I waited for her to come back near the main exit. 

And that was it. Back home for 8.30pm, early supper of a Burger King cheeseburger that Lenglui had picked up at the Airport with a glass of our house red, unpacked for the laundry, parked the food booty in the fridge for distribution and bagging on the morrow, and sleep. My time as a Lap Cheong mule was done. Never again. Well, not on this scale. Maybe one or two packs. But not twenty. And no more goose. Geese. Whatever. 


This had been a brilliant trip of food, wines, friends and general merrymaking. Supremely well organised by the Money and the Bank, it took us on a great ride across their Hong Kong and, thanks to liaison with their IWFS compadres, into places we might otherwise have not got to visit. So many wonderful memories, some of which I have tried to capture in these scribblings. All the restaurants we went to were brilliant - the H Kitchen for its unique style and sense of exclusivity, the Ying Jee for some excellent dim sum, the Boardroom for the booze and farm to plate freshness, the Tycoon Tann for a wonderfully bubbly dim sum lunch, and the Tosca for the view. The IWFS Hong Kong is in process of organising a APZ Festival for November 2020, and hopefully those of us in the IWFS KL will be able to join and maybe return to these places. 

Hong Kong is a hugely vibrant place with a buzz I have not felt for years. My last visit was circa 1995 and I remember getting hugely drunk in some bar and dispensing wisdom to some guy on the verge of leaving his wife and pretty much little else. Oh, there was a walk by the dock where some locals were getting their feng shui and tai chi exercises in. I was the only gwailo and one of the assembled asked me how I knew this place. "Just on a walk from the hotel. Nice place here - feels good." He smiled and outside of a nod goodbye the rest was silence. Sometimes it is good to just follow the sense of the soul and go where the feet of serendipity take you. 

But I digress. It has been way too long to have spent away from the place. Yes, it can get expensive and this has probably militated against me going there - hotels, food, all of it can add up and whack this half Scot and half Eng Choon's heart with the costs. But you can save here and there - load up on a good breakfast at the Jen, catch a tram or the subway to Causeway or Kowloon and find the backstreet stalls to snack and feast. But if you are prepared to pay for it, the food can be exceptional, far more so in terms of its intensity and ingredient freshness across all the cuisines we could want to compare. And shut your eyes and devote your savings to the cost of the goose at Kam's Kitchen. One of the tastes of my life, seared into the soul along with the sea bass in pastry at Paul Bocuse in Lyon, the steak at the Extebarri in San Sebastian, and the Bresse Chicken at the Hotel de Ville in Beaune. An absolute and total privilege to have been able to have tasted these things, and so far still with the mobility and appetite to taste more. Roll on the next food adventure! 

Click here to go back to Day One of the Jolly>>>

IWFS Kuala Lumpur Hong Kong Jolly January 2019 Day Four

IWFS Kuala Lumpur Hong Kong Jolly January 18 - 22 2019 - A recollection of Five Days of Food and Wine in Hong Kong, and how I became a Lap Cheong mule

Day Four - Monday January 21st

Many of the Jolliers were making their various ways back to Kuala Lumpur today. Lenglui and I had decided to extend an extra day, with an original plan to take a day trip to Macao. We were dissuaded from this by the Money, who advised that it would take two hours to get there (and back) and would be not highly enjoyable given the preponderance of mainlanders visiting the Island. What about the Ferry? Faster, but still have to put up with many mainlanders. Some more, it now seems that most of the world needs a Visa to visit since it is all part of China. These can be arranged, but the story goes that it is tedious and requires patience and time and as a result better to spend an overnight on Macao rather than go through all the rigmarole just for a day trip. Fair enough. I guess. Maybe next time. Or not. 

So... following the now traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs and beans with bread and butter, we all variously lounged and rested up until 11am to get the Hotel Shuttle that would take us the ten minutes drive into Central and the IFC Mall containing shopping delights for everyone by the bucketful. The IFC also houses the Airport Express that can take people direct to the, er, airport and time it so that you can buy your ticket and check your bags, shop and eat in the Mall and then get the lift down to jump the Express and be on your plane and off into the world faster than Superman. Hugely efficient and totally integrated. Very impressed with the system. 

Those with luggage saw it parked near the shuttle bus entrance ready to get faster offloaded at the Central. The rest of us gazed out of the windows at the water and the traffic and eventually got down and headed into the bright and airy Mall. Floors and floors of stores of mostly globally known brand names of various calibre. And buzzing - people moving quite quickly through the floors with roller bags and families in tow. Lots of families, all looking well heeled and brand savvy. I must have cut a comparatively forlorn figure in my baggy chinos and walking boots. So it goes. I dress for function and utility rather than brand projection. 

Lane Crawford was the designated destination by mutual consensus (well, not that the guys had much say in this). Three couples separated and wandered their individual ways around for about an hour. I took off on a tour of the Mall more for exercise than looking to spend. Hugely spacious and with superb natural light coming through various windows in the centre. A surprisingly enjoyable walk. We eventually all met back up at the appointed meeting spot and headed off for lunch, a noodle place of apparent legend somewhere in the Mall. There was a queue to get in and it was heaving full. One of the group gave the name for the waitlist and the men wandered back along the walkway to where a wine store was conveniently located, spending a solid ten minutes ogling the lovelies. Then it was back to the Noodle Shop for a bowl of steaming and tasty noodles. Six of us were packed around a tiny table and elbowing our way to chopstick and spoon the food into the mouth. In my years in the tropics, I have adopted the Oriental way of soup eating - face close to the bowl and chopstick the noodles onto the spoon and suck it up. Or skip the spoon altogether and chopstick the noodle straight into the mouth. It might look a bit unclutured - but it is a hugely efficent way of eating this kind of dish. Also avoids splashes of soup from staining the ensemble. 

I suppose the noodles were good - can't remember too much about it nor the place except as said that it was crowded. Lots of noise too. Though apparently it is a must eat place. Well, and all right I guess. Didn't impact that much on me. Noodles is noodles, no?

We then decided to part ways, with Barry and Jan heading off to Kowloon in search of markets and the remaining four of us grabbing a couple of taxis to take us to Sogo in Causeway Bay. We could also have taken the Subway but didn't want to waste the time doing the escalators and getting confused over how to pay. Well, I didn't. We arrived at about 2.30pm and figured to meet back up for coffee somewhere in the Sogo about 4pm.

Sogo in Causeway Bay is a shopping emporium of apparent legend. The place is ten storeys of pretty much everything you could want to look for in a department store. Though initially I found it a shade confusing as we were dropped off at a side entrance and could not find the central escalators. The signage also seemed a bit thin. But it was clear that the elevators did not go down. We asked a lady who was looking after the elevator lifts in visual (viz point up, then upturned palms = up, how?) who pointed the way with a smile. Lenglui went up whilst I went down to the amazingly stocked supermarket to spend about thirty minutes ogling at all the fresh meat and fish and the well stocked and fairly reasonably priced wine racks. Though there was ultimately nothing to buy - the beauti9fully fresh meat and seafood would not survive the trip. And anyway we had already spent at the Enoteca on the Saturday.

The place was heaving. On a Monday afternoon some more. In fact, the whole of the main road was a constant moving mass of people all moving in and out of each other to their various destinations. During my time at the Sogo I popped out through a back entrance to get some respite. No chance - the backstreet was equally teeming with bodies going in and out of the various pharmacies located there. I joined the throng for a brief hunt for my magnetic soles. No joy. 

Having scaled the escalators a couple of times in an unsuccessful search for my magnetic soles, I was getting pooped so I headed back to the rendezvous spot and found a spot to sit and rest the legs for a while and plugged into the free Sogo wifi to send a couple of whatsapp messages. After about 15 minutes I spotted the Lenglui approaching looking equally pooped and told her of a coffee spot on the seventh floor. We both went up and on her approval sat down. Our friends had found another spot on the fourth floor, but Lenglui insisted they join us on the seventh as her remembrance of the fourth floor cafe was small and dim whilst the seventh was brighter and more room. They came and we shared some cake with our respective coffees. It was a very pleasant way to rest up ahead of whatever HongKong could throw at us. 

Sogo Causeway Bay
555 Henessey Road
Hong Kong
+852 2833 8338

Our dinner was to be at Kam's Kitchen, which Google Maps said was a 15 minute walk from Sogo. We were a bit early so decided we would look for a pub to pass some of the time. Google reported that there were none in the immediate vicinity. So we opted to gently walk to the restaurant and look to find somewhere on the way. We ducked into a couple of malls and along some roads but met with little success. Presumably the Mall rents militated against small scale operations. We looked into a bar in one hotel en route but decided against. Too dark and not very relaxing.

The Bar at the Hong Kong Taphouse
Back out into the sunlight, we followed my paper map which indicated a pleasant walk through the Victoria Park and out past the Tin Hau station onto Electric Road. Our destination was Mercury Street which was up a few blocks and to the left. Paul and Molly were walking strong ahead when I looked to the left and saw a bar looking style place. Lenglui took a brief stroll along this side street to confirm what was the Hong Kong Island Taphouse. Perfect - somewhere to sit down and have a couple of beers ahead of the dinner. I waited for Paul and Molly to turn around and pointed and gesticulated drinking a jug and they quickly returned. Seem to be getting quite good at this visual communication - they understood perfectly. 

Lenglui, Molly and Paul. And the beers. Yes.
The Taphouse is basically a bar and burger joint, but the edge is that they have a range of 40 craft beers from across the world on tap. And they offer a tasting of your choice of any five which comes in a wooden glass server and you can share with each other to decide which is a personal favourite and proceed to get merrily sloshed whilst watching the football. What was also interesting was the availability of Hong Kong Craft beers, which presumably not much of which would leave the island given the transport costs. So it was a grand opportunity to get a taste of the local and see how it compared with the overseas. 

Some of the available craft beers
I seem to recall we ordered some chips to go with our beers and spent a merry hour tasting the beers and figuring which one was our favourite. Though it seemed to be a strange location for a beer haunt such as this - clearly aimed at the expat crowd, it was a bit out of the way and quite quiet for a 6pm in the evening when joints like this should be jumping. Thouhg on reflection it was a Monday; maybe Fridays would be stomping. So it goes. We certainly enjoyed it. We posted a few photos on the Whatsapp Chat Group. The Jolliers seemed to like what they saw and were all keen to find out all about the place when we saw them at breakfast the following day. Teh Hong Kong Taphouse is well recommended for the thirsty traveller in need of a refresher in the Causeway Bay side of town. And a great destination for the adventurous seeking to sample craft beers from both across Hong Kong and the world. It would be be brilliant to see something like this in Kuala Lumpur. Though I suspect it will be a long time coming - not much of a craft beer culture here at this time. And probably a lot of ding dong to try to get a licence for this. So it goes. 

Hong Kong Island Taphouse
1a-1b Tsing Fung Street Flyover, Tin Hau, Hong Kong
+852 3705 9901

Think it was Foie Gras on deep fried bread. Wicked yum.
Back out into the street for a ten minute bowl along the Electric Street and looking for a Mercury Street. The Electric Street seemed to be living up to its name - lots of activity in the shops and eating places, brightly lit and buzzing. Adn with a couple of Michelin Star stickers on windows of food stalls that we passed. Seems we were at the end of the food market, lots of fresh veggies and meat still being hawked on the street. It was beginning to drizzle a bit so we put a step on and reached Kam's Kitchen pretty much on time. 

Minced Pork deep fried, I think. Double wicked yum
Kam's Kitchen is the breakaway venture from the Yung Kee restaurant talked about in Day Three where one of the grandsons set up the kitchen with the Yung Kee chef. The Money swore it is the best goose she has ever tasted and went and organised a dinner with the four of us along with Yasu and Allie who would be making their individual way there. We almost passed it, and would have done were it not  for a small sign in English on the shopwindow procaliming it to be the restaurant. In through the door, it lived up to its name - most of the place was the kitchen. Only the front area was tabled, and looked to have a capacity of about twenty maximum. Clearly one would have to book well ahead to get a table, though apparently they do a roaring takeaway trade. 

The Roast Goose. Beyond sublime. Wowowowowowowow...
The Money and the Bank were already there sorting out the wines and glasses and we sat to crack a tasty white ahead of the meal and catch up on everyone's day. 

Lap Cheong Fried Rice. Double wicked. 
I don't now remember too much of the dinner except that it was huge fun and full of taste and good wine and fellowship and that the goose was indeed the absolute top dog business. Best, best ever. The skin and the meat when combined with the special gravy that chef puts together is out of this world. Massive taste, full of rich fat and salt and grease - so, so good. I would go back there in a second. The other dishes were of equally good taste but they just paled in the presence of this awesome goose. Which was far from cheap. But wicked good. The folks back home would love it. 

Booze for the night
What I didn't know was that the Lenglui had ordered two cooked geese for takeaway to those folks back home in Kuala Lumpur. Seems that Lenglui's extended family would often come to Hong Kong and buy back the Yung Kee Roast Geese to share with the siblings. So I was somewhat shocked when two foil wrapped masses made their ways into plastic bags for transport back to the hotel for packing into the cases. Unbelievable. Smack my gob with some goose feet. So what with all the Lap Cheong and the wines and other bits we had pruchased along the trip, we would now be adding two cooked geese. And the gravy. Yes. 

Jolliers outside the Kam Kitchen, well wined and dined
Allie and Lenglui
Sanjeev, me and Yasu
Yasu, Chris, Molly and Paul
Kam's Kitchen
G/G Hoi Hing Building 5
Mercury Street
North Point
Hong Kong

Paul and Molly would get a lift back to the Jen whilst the Lenglui and I opted to brave a taxi. I didn't fancy trying to negotiate the Underground with all the booty in our possession and the booze in the system. Pay the money, shut the eyes and thank the goose gods. 

The taxi was good and fast and got us back in fair time. Have to say the cabs here are far better than expected. Clean, efficient, and fair. Puts the KL street and mall/hotel cabbies way in the shade. On the drive back to the Hotel Jen, I got a SOS Whatsapp from May. Seemed she had left all of her Lap Cheong loot in the Hotel room fridge and could someone please fetch it back for her. I guess I was first responder and was able to retrieve it from the reception and park it in our room fridge for packing. So we come to it….   what with Lenglui's purchases at both the street market and the Kam Restaurant and the Yung Kee, and now coupled with coming to the rescue of May's Lap Cheong buys, this had become a massive shedful of Lap Cheong and Roast Goose to pack back to Kuala Lumpur. Wow. Don't quite remember signing up for this. Never mind, we would figure it. Just as well we had a fair sized fridge in the hotel room - I managed to pack most of the Lap Cheong in it. The Goose would have to sit on the desk table. We turned up the aircon to keep it cool and shivered our ways to sleep and figuring that tomorrow should prove interesting. 

Click here for Day Five of the Jolly>>>

Thursday, March 21, 2019

IWFS KL with Katnook Estate Wines at OpenHouse - fair

Kudap Kudap - Malaysian Crackers
Katnook Estate Winemaker's Dinner at OpenHouse, Suria KLCC
February 21st 2019

The emailed notice for this event saw President May extending a very Happy New Year wish to all IWFS KL Members with an expectant hope for a year of good food, wine, company and memories for all. 

The notice also gave details of the February event to be held at the OpenHouse in Suria KLCC on 21st February 2019. It was to be an exclusive Society evening with Katnook Estate wines, and would be hosted  the Principal of Katnook Estate Ms Alison Hardy in partnership with AsiaEuro Wines. Seemed that this year marked the 20th Anniversary of the launch of the winery's flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, named Odyssey, and attendees were scheduled to enjoy the launch of the 2013 vintage along with a vertical tasting of previous Odyssey vintages with dinner. AsiaEuro are hugely supportive of the IWFSKL and offer access to wines that might not otherwise come available in the normal swing of wine dinners. Good discounts too.

Oxtail Soup with Garlic Toast
Katnook Estate is located on 180 hectares in South Australia's Coonawarra region nearly halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide. Katnook is rated 5-star in James Halliday’s Wine Companion 2019 whilst two Katnook wines are currently included in the prestigious Langton’s Classification V11 of Australian Wines. Katnook focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon and the webbie notes wine writer James Halliday in July 2018 describing the Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon : " A majority of the grapes grown in Coonawarra go into a making a 100 per cent varietal wine. Expect a medium-bodied style with a supple palate and balanced tannins. The range of fruit flavours in the wine is largely influenced by the vintage and winemaker, covering cassis, blackcurrant, redcurrant, blackberry and mulberry when the wine is young. With age, these flavours develop into distinctive earthy, savoury and spicy characteristics."

The webbie says Katnook "aims to make wines which show subtlety, intrigue and complexity. Reflecting the essence of Coonawarra’s terroir is integral to Katnook's winemaking approach.  Cabernet Sauvignon is the undoubted hero of the Coonawarra region. However other red varietals such as Shiraz and Merlot are equally impressive. White wines are similarly unique in character and world class in quality."

Garden Ambience of the OpenHouse
The restaurant itself is located at the heart of Kuala Lumpur city center KLCC, just up and along from the landmark Chinoz on the Park. I felt the signage could be better - it is a dark shingle above a channel in the wall and a bit easy to miss. The website holds that the OpenHouse is a "modern Malaysian restaurant weaving generational recipes, a delightful space and warm hospitality into a finer dining experience." It plays on the concept of Malaysians "opening their houses" to friends and family at Festive times and having loads of food to share with everyone. The webbie continues - "One of Malaysia’s most endearing and unique experience is of “open houses” during festive seasons. It is a celebration of welcoming family, friends and sometimes even strangers to our homes to partake in the festivities over food and drinks. Special dishes are prepared, the house is dressed up for the occasion and Malaysians extend their warm hospitality welcoming guests to our homes. It is this unique Malaysian tradition that is sought to be brought to OpenHouse."

Deep Fried Tiger Prawn - pretty, yes? Tasty too...
The Maitre D' is Effendie, an old friend of the IWFS going back to Cilantro, Soleil and a few other establishments of note. He welcomed everyone he recognised and it is always good to see a friendly face when you come through the door. Seems that our group was the first large scale the restaurant had to cope with. Outside of the lack of welcome glasses, I thought they did pretty well - the glasses got refills on request and the food came out as quickly as it could. Friendly and attentive and discreet - what more needed?

The Duo of Poultry - Chicken and Duck
The decor itself is warm and welcoming, though as said perhaps a shade dark at the entrance. The place sits 42 (just) and there was extra room in a bar area for people to presumably sit before being escorted to tables. 

The Duo of Red Meat - Lamb and Venison
Members were thronging around the entrance and tables and getting the booze flowing. Though none of it would flow my way for a good seeming ten minutes due to there being insufficient glasses to accommodate the new entrants. So whilst others were clearly getting a second refill, the new arrivals were being left to thirst. Not good planning here - I had to bark a couple of times to get the staff moving. Eventually the glassware surfaced and some of the pleasant and easy drinking first white soothed the aching and stressed out brow and the evening was back in decent sync. Very nice Chardonnay, tropical with banana and hazelnut notes in the mouth and with sufficient friskiness to titillate and slake. 

The Keria Churros - wicked good
The notice said that the kitchen has "rediscovered traditional recipes, and royal household recipes to create modern Malaysian cuisine. Recipes that have been passed down through generations, and respectfully renewed for today.  We have also foraged our rainforest for jungle produce. With a multi-cultural history, rich biodiversity and natural hospitality, OpenHouse weaves a magical modern Malaysian dining experience at the heart of Kuala Lumpur just below the Petronas Twin Towers." The place came well recommended by a number of the members and all were keen to repeat the experience. Fair enough. And the chef apparently was once with the erstwhile mentioned Chinoz On The Park but presumably set off for pastures new. Clearly the new pasture was not too far away.

(l to r) Dr Rajan, Stephanie, Mubina, Ajmal, May Peng and AsiaEuro's Michelle
Well and yes and I guess I got most of the concept. Traditional well made Malaysian cuisine in an upmarket setting made sense. There has not really been a fine dining Malaysian cuisine restaurant that showcases the best of such traditions and OpenHouse makes a fine front runner for such a concept. I can see it becoming a "go to" destination for visitors inquisitive enough to want to understand and enjoy the opulent grandeur of the setting. Smart thinking by the owners and operators of the place. I wish them success. 

Vanessa and Jessica
Again no notes of the food at the table and the memory now has faded, though I do seem to recall enjoying the food and the company and the wines. Visually, very good plating. I certainly remember scarfing down all the churros of both my serving and that of the Lenglui. Which suggests that the food was a shade insufficient to quench such evident burning hunger. The crackers were similar to those one finds in Indonesian establishments and eaten similarily with fresh ground chili sauce, the prawn was hugely fresh and with very good bite, Ox Tail stew was meaty and full of vim. The duck was full and firm and crispy skin salt tasty though the turkey lacked somewhat in taste terms for me. The lamb was good, the venison also, and all went well with some delightful Cabernets. They all naturally tasted similar, though the older ones presented better on the night than the tannic young ones. All have pretty good ageing potential, though the 2013 seemed more robust and balanced. The Katnook website notes that the Katnook Odyssey 2013 is: "One of 53 wines listed in the ‘Outstanding’ category of the Langton’s VI, Classification of Australian Wine. This 20th release is rated 96 points in Halliday's 2019  'Wine Companion'." It was good and drinkable but for me lacking somewhat in heft and body. I like my Cabernets with a firm whack in the throat and chest and with that velvet silkiness that coats the throat with unspeakable loveliness and bite - almost chewy and a drop that you want to keep and swirl around the mouth forever. Napa do them perfectly - Joseph Phelps Insignia and one whose name escapes me at the moment which I bought during a trip to New York. Also the Tom Price I shared with the Rubber Baron at the Butcher's Table - Cabs that seared their way into the brain and soul. I didn't quite get that with the Odyssey. Well made and excellent with the lamb and steak and certainly way less bold than some of the tannic monsters I have previously drunk. But just missing that texture that for me marks the good from the great. Guess I have to try more Aussie Cabs. 

Lenglui and Hans
Would I go back? Not entirely sure on this showing… but this showing does not allow the place to show off in its more natural context (ie covers coming in at an easier pace rather than looking to serve 42 mouths at one go. I do seem to recall the kitchen slowing a bit in its output during the night. No bad thing - allows one to get up and chit chat with the rakyat. Some of the dishes mentioned by previous patrons were not on the menu, so again a need to return and check out the specials and recommendations. Have to check the corkage too; old friend Affendi is in control of the place. 

OpenHouse staff surprising President May with a Birthday Cake and song
Pre Drinks
Kudap Kudap - Malaysian crackers
Katnook Estate Chardonnay 2015

Deep Fried Tiger Prawn, Murasaki Potato served with Horseshoe Crab Rice Kerabu
Katnook Estate Chardonnay 2015

Oxtail Kepayang Black Nut with Garlic Toast
Katnook Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Duo of Poultry
Smoked Duck Breast with Ingkung Sauce and Sapodilla Salsa
Pan Seared Roulade of Turkey stuffed with Sambal Kelapa
Katnook Estate Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Katnook Estate Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Duo of Red Meat
Rolled of Baked Venison Rendang and Renday Gravy
Pan Seared Lamb Cutlet with Sultana and Spice Sauce
Katnook Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and 2009

Keria Churros
Orange Sweet Potato, Wheat Flour, Milo and Caramel Salted Butter

Coffee or Tea

Open House, 
G48 and 139 Ground and First Floor Suria KLCC, 
Jalan Ampang, 50088 Kuala Lumpur
Tel +603 2162 0888

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Natural Wines at Roost: Yum food, yuck wine...

Gin One at the Mercat
March 14th 2019 - Went for a Natural Wine event at Roost in Bangsar last night. Roost is one of the pioneer farm to plate and as natural as can get it eateries in Kuala Lumpur. We were last there a couple of years back for a friend's birthday and had not opportunity nor reason to return. So when friend Kit whatsapped the flyer to us we figured to give it a go. 

I have to say that as yet I can't quite get into the natural wines. The biodynamics, yes but the natural and organics, no. Somehow the biodynamic wines leave all the artisan and natural in the shade; I have had some stellar naturals but in the main they all seem to have that slight vinegar tinge about them, a sharp acetic zap in the mouth that I don't quite find friendly as compared to the usual plonk. Presumably it can be acquired, and respect to all winemakers who resist the path to easier viticulture. I just can't quite get the taste for them at this time…

Natural and organic have been de rigeur for years and getting out of the way and letting nature do what nature does seems a fair strategy. But nature needs sometimes to be nurtured and channelled to prevent odd tastes getting into the juice and denigrating from the wonder that can result with a little bit of creative viticulture. And I do somewhat rebel at what can occasionally become an automatic monklike reverence for the Natural winemakers as they pursue their saintly mission to produce wines as close to the earth as naturally possible. They are artisans and we should revere them for their dedication and commitment. Well and maybe, but if the stuff they produce leaves a sour taste in the mouth…

Gin Two at the Mercat
Lenglui and I deliberately got there a shade early to line the mouth with one each of The Mercat's excellent Gin mixes. They occasionally showcase new gins for us punters to try and the ones on show tonight were delightful - a traditional style from the Oregon pre prohibition era and a floral Spanish fruit bomb which was total gangbusters with some added strawberry - one of the best and freshest tastes I have had for a while, reminiscent of those ice cream filled fruit lollies we would get as kids from the store. Not cheap though - RM65 for a double - but close the eye to this one. So, so good. 

We made our way to Roost, meeting two fellow guests on the way, climbed the stairs and found our table. The room is a minimalist echo chamber with hard walls, floors and tables and very little in the way of sound absorption making meaningful conversation pretty difficult for the marginally deaf like myself. Felt more like a school canteen with the kitchen on one end alongside which our table was parked. 

Goat Cheese and Fig Salad. Okay...
The wines had been brought in by Straits Wine, and though I have had regular contact with the firm over the years, none of the people pouring the wines looked at all familiar. So it goes. I did get recognised by old friend Victor who was still bringing in his Spanish Passion delights for the Malaysian palate and plate. Always good to see an old face. 

Foodwise, the bread and wagyu butter with a sprinkling of fried shallots was stellar. Melt in the mouth creamy salty fat and shallot crunch on fresh wholewheat bread is a little taste of heaven. The Raventos Blanc de Blancs fizz was a good yeasty match with very fine bead that did not quite rinse the mouth but went down pleasantly nonetheless. There was something almost a bit prep school and wholesome about the fizz, kind of like a liquid Richard Quest from CNN, all zap and zest and jolly but a little acerbic underneath it all. Different from the usual bubbles,  a nice bit of bite on the mouth and finish.

The ceviche was a shade firm though full of taste though the condiments seemed to lack something in the fire they were presumably supposed to lend - coriander felt a bit limp and needing a boost of verve. The soft shell prawn in the bun was excellent - batter, crunchy prawn and mouth friendly chinese steamed bun combined with the kimchi to produce a taste and texture that was at once full and filling yet sparked with crispy bites to crunch through to the fire that lay at the base of the submarine bun. Kind of KFC Crispy Prawn Hot Dog. Wonderful. 

The excellent Chicken Liver Pate
It was being matched with a Chard that was just the wrong side of artisan for me - it had that sharp acetic quality that I seem to find in many of the natural wines I come across in these food and wine adventures. The batter did take the edge off the Chard, but a buttery Chablis would have sent the thing ballistic.

The superb Chicken Liver pate was being matched with a Pedro Ximinez Spanish dry sherry style that seemed a bit confused - it was at once sweetly unctuous whilst at the same time dry and almond nut chewy. Good, but somehow artisanal in feel and not quite sure who or what it was looking to be. The sweet aspect lent the pate a base on which to sit but I couldn't quite fathom the match between them. Perhaps I just didn't like this style of wine, though I do enjoy a good oloroso with the best of them. 

The Goats Cheese and Salad and Mushroom Padano came out almost together and were being paired with some red. At this point, things seemed to be getting somewhat over wholesome. The Padano had that husky oatbran feel about it whilst the wine was very barnyard and somewhat frizzante, as if some yeast had been left in the bottle and had kicked up some bubbles. And again, that slight acetic mouthfeel that, frankly, on this occasion made me want to spit. You have to like that wholesome veggie style of cuisine, and whilst I occasionally do the attempted match with these wines just did not work for me. And while the artisan wineries do look to romance with the best of them, piss and vinegar is still piss and vinegar.

Ceviche of Grouper
Lenglui had been passing her wines and food to me for clearance and hoovering most of the night. At the taste of the red, though, we decided that enough was enough. Equally, I was feeling a bit woozy and my head was starting to spin. So I claimed legitimate JetLag, made my excuses, paid our bill and left. 

Overall, Roost offers enjoyable food that would have sung with higher caliber wines. Not sure if they charge corkage, but given that some of these wines were on their winelist then perhaps better to bring and pay. Or stay at the Mercat with the Gin cocktails and their excellent porky bites. I was not overawed by the canteen ambience, though the passion in the place is evident and to be celebrated. For me. the lesson has been learned. No more natural wines for the Gwailo. Or the Lenglui. As the fridge magnet says, Life is Too Short to Drink Grim Wine. Amen.

Ciabatta Bread and Wagyu Butter
Ceviche of Grouper, Miso, Chili and Coriander
Steamed Bun with Soft Shell Prawn and Kimchi
Chicken Liver Pate on Charred Bread
Goats Cheese, Pecan, Figs, Vinaigrette, Salad, Chicken Innards
Mushroom "Barleyotto" Padano
Capunti, Scallops, Estragon
Croquettes of Confit Duck and Foie Gras
Wagyu Rump Tartare, Chips, Caviar and Herbs
Local Chees (Opal, Tomme, Sarawak)


Not a clue other than the Raventos Blanc de Blancs NV - left before could take a photo. 

The Crispy Prawn Bun - wonderfully satisfying
69.1 Jalan Telawi 3
Bangsar Baru
Kuala Lumpur
tel: +603 22011710
website: www.roostkl.com

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Yen Restaurant at W Hotel - Hits and Misses

February 20th, 2019

Got invited by the Lenglui's Godfamily to try the food at the Yen Restaurant in the relatively new W Hotel on Jalan Ampang. Parking in the complex would prove easy (though stiff at RM25 for our three plus hours) and the lift took us straight to the door where we got ushered through the spacious main area into the equally spacious private room at the back. This was actually quite special, affording a vista view to the twin towers and a look down into the cratered and scorched earth that is the remains of what was once the glorious Bok House. Better et this view while you can, chances are whoever owns this plot of land will build on it and block the view (or should that be "Bok" the view... no). 

Table in the Yen Private Room
14 of us were parked around a massive red round lacquer table on solid and immoveable chairs. Our host has been a follower of the Chef here at the Yen through his time at the Renaissance, the Shangri La and a couple of other places. I remember his pig at the Renaissance as being finestkind and his Hokkien Mee is still the taste of legend. On his move to the Shang Palace, the pork aspect needed to be sidelined as the hotel became halal (ostensibly to easier facilitate business from the non pork consuming section of Malaysian society) and equally here at the W is was no pork. 

The dried scallop was indeed dry, though mostly as a result of the crab meat lacking any juice whatsoever (though not lacking in bits of shell that needed expectorating) - I have had better elsewhere. The Szechaun Eggplant was special request and on tasting it I remembered why - fiery spitz on the tongue yet with a sweet caramel sauce and the gunge of well cooked strips of brinjal were dynamite.

Soup - magnificent
The soup that followed was epic - Chinese Herbal with the usual boiled dry chicken and rubber chewy abalone, but serving it in a coconut and allowing the flesh to cook in the heat brought an amazingly delightful and sweet touch to the broth. The single Garlic chip on the plate was presumably for salt taste - I crunched it down on its own and it was a cracking little snap on the tongue; could happily have platefuls of these with beer and football. One of the better soups I have had, ever. 

The Giant Grouper had been cooked and cut and doused with its juice and chili. It was still cooking over those candles and I think by the time it got to me it had just flipped into overcook. My small chunk was firm and drying. So it goes. Would perhaps have liked to have seen the boy before it got drawn and quartered to assess the size. I did not touch the beancurd - I have a serious jones about beancurd; last two times I ate it the thing seemed to dislodge stones in the kidney and cost a shedful of ringgit to get treated. The Gwailo does not do beancurd. 

Serving of the Giant Grouper
I enjoyed the beef ribs. Mouth melt, tender, taste, no strings - I thought it extremely well prepared and presented and would happily have taken this home for breakfast. Not sure about the wine or the broth - there was a gravy looking substance on the dish, so perhaps this was it. Very rich, finestkind. Worth a return for this.

Beef Short Ribs
In contrast, the Oyster was awful - metallic, undercooked, and with that baked cheesy gunk on top. Darn sad - it was one of those humungous Pacific boys and would probably have been magnificent with just a dab of lemon juice. Definite fail for me and the Lenglui, though the rest of the table wolfed them down molto gusto. Maybe not a Western taste. 

Oyster. Pretty grim, sad to say
I passed on the Abalone and Sea Cucumber as usual and was thus able to get stuck into the Hokkien Mee. When it comes to this dish, Chef is absolute legend. People still remember his cooking it from twenty years previous. As do I - the stuff we would have at the Renaissance was brahma, sublime, whatever similar word you can come up with. Rich black sauce, not overly sweet, firm noodles, lots of tasty pork and ladles of Chee Ho Jiak (deep fried croutons of pork fat) - ho, ho seck. One that is totally seared in the memory. 

Abalone and Sea Cucumber
In a non pork environment, Chef turns to chicken and prawn for the proteins and created a wildly tasty substitute of Duck Fat for the Lard. It worked extremely well, giving that fatty crisp bite in the mouth to coat the mee and the meat. In this, the prawns were some of the freshest and best I have tasted for a while - excellent bite on these boys. One can only lament the absence of connection between chef and pork, though this was far from a bad dish. But O, the Hokkien Mee of the past….

The Pork Free Hokkien Fried Mee
Dessert was… okay, I guess. Almond Milk is a new experience for me, and I think I got it. Gingko beans lent a sweet vegetal crunch, and I guess the snow fungus gives a fibrous rubber like texture. The Green Tea Yam was actually pretty tasteless on its own but it became the perfect crunchy foil for the amazingly tasting Salted Egg Yolk in the middle. Absolute belter - gooey egg with layers of taste and texture was wonderful - Asian version of a Cadbury's Creme Egg but savory over sweet. Someone offered me another - I opted to refuse, preferring to savour this brilliant mouthfeel of gunk and goo. Belter of a taste. 

Drinks were Chinese Tea and a couple of New Zealand Pinots which were well received and the light texture and cherry pop mouth matched quite nicely with most of the dishes. This group enjoy a little taste of the wines but I don't think they drink sufficiently to warrant investing over the longer term. Never mind - happy to share the booze. 

Ambience and views were excellent, the service was attentive and polite and efficient (though I decided to take over wine pouring duties for the table - a shade slow in this regard). 

So…  the hits were brilliantly on target whilst the misses were pretty grim. Overall, quite enjoyable (though would have been more so had I opted for a lighter lunch). Worth a visit, though I can't see a return for me in the near future - RM25 to park the car? Nope. Better to park up in KLCC and walk across, though that can be a whack as well…

Dried Scallop, Fish Maw, Scrambled Eggs, Crab Meat, Bean Sprout, Szechaun Egg Plant, Lettuce Leaf

Double Boiled Anoectochilus Soup, Abalone, Farm Chicken, Yunnan Aged Black Garlic, Whole Coconut

Steamed Giant Grouper Fish, Hinan Yellow Fermented Chili, Beancurd Sheet

Slow Cooked Grain Fed Wagyu Beef Short Ribs, Aged 10 Years Hua Diao Wine, Chinese Herbs Broth

Baked Japan Oyster, White Sauce, Cheese

Braised Abalone, Sea Cucumber, Pomelo Peel, HK Sprout Vegetables

Briased Local Hokkien Noodle, Sliced Prawn, Chicken, Duck Crackling

Sweetened Amond Cream, Snow Fungus, Gingko Nuts, Natural Peach Resin

Crispy Green Tea Yam Dumpling, Creamy Salted Egg Yolk Filling

2013 White Cliff Pinot Noir NZ

2016 Giesen Pinot Noir NZ