Monday, March 20, 2017

The Great Harvest Meal, East Ocean Menglembu

大丰收 literally translated in the Big Harvest (or the Bountiful Harvest) could have been circulating in your Facebook news feed off and on, especially you have friends from Ipoh. Yup, you recalled it right - its a huge platter with a "pole dancing" chicken. This unique dining way of presenting Chinese banquet dishes could be savoured in East Ocean Restauran (Tung Hoi)

They have two outlets offering this meal - the one in Menglembu (the one with the reputation of the best among all under the same name) and the one in Chemor. Both offer the same price and items and it comes down to which is nearer to you. I am not sure whether the one in Ipoh Garden South offers this dish as the crowd seems less and rumours have it that they are under a different management.

The famed platter arrived in a trolley and they need two person to transfer it to your table! Served in a multi-tier platter style, perhaps one could start from the top as the lobster salad acts as a great appetizer. The shell of the lobster remained for decoration purpose with small blinking battery operated LEDs attached on it. I really loved the lobster salad alot as it is a refreshing entree. The mayonnaise is not over-cloying in richness and it is well balanced with some mixed fruits (longans!!!!) I can have this everyday for a month without feeling bored. LOL

The tiger garoupa is then filleted and fried. As tiger garoupa is priced above your average fish, fetching up to RM70-80 when ordered individually (depending on size and festive season), having it fried seems to be slightly a waste though. But due to serving time and coordination purpose, I think having it steamed would be less feasible though. Nevertheless, the "buttered" firm fillets of the garoupa made the mark, although far from being piping hot. Having them resting on a bed of mixed stir fried vegetables (shimeiji mushrooms, snow peas, etc) is a bit weird though. The "skeleton" of the fried fish is not put to waste though, more on that later...

The other highlight of the platter goes to the roasted chicken which is "impaled" on a steel rod. He/She does not look very happy though in this picture. :p

There! I found a happier photo of the similar chicken. Though not as photogenic and boastful in the earlier picture, this photo seems more down to earth though. With most part of the chicken chopped for more friendly handling, the chicken breast is then stir fried with diced vegetables (carrots and some beans?) and it should be eaten along the iceberg lettuce (similar to Korean way of eating your dakgalbi ya!). The chicken is slightly tough though, probably free range chicken is used here. The size of the chicken wing itself could be comparable to your average drumstick size!

The fate of the fish goes beyond the buttered fillets, as the legacy is continued in a bowl of tummy warming fish head beehoon! Sourish and savoury at the same time, the comforting bowl of noodles will give you an appetizing carbohydrate fix for this dinner!

Zooming into individual items on the platter! Everyone will get one unit each! No more, no less! All diners are to practice thoughtfulness and remember what items they have "plucked" from the platter as not to cross over other people's portion. This is a "dumpling" containing fish meat paste and prawn in moreish gravy used to lightly braise it. Nothing really spectacular though as this could appear as one of the side dish of the entree platter you normally find as the first dish of a Chinese wedding/banquet dinner. There is another patty of fish paste "dim sum-like" item at the bottom of this dumpling (you can refer to bottom picture, it is actually covered by the inverted wine glass)

Another common sight of an item in the first platter of a Chinese banquet dinner. It contains shredded seafood filling mixed with some vegetables and mayonnaise and coated in some Thai style sweet and sour sauce. Not really to my liking as it tasted very normal.

Moving forward, this is probably something you don't see (well probably you see it now and then but you don't eat this now and then though) often. Each soup spoon contains an abalone with braised fish maw. Needless to say, this is one of the priced item here, so savour it slowly :) At the inner circle, there is another circular assemby of spoons containing a dim-sum like meat paste item (again!)

Okay, here is a close-up shot of the missing items beside the abalone. (Photo credit to my cousin, Chris). Come to think of it. This is deconstructing the whole Chinese banquet meal which usually takes almost 2 hours from the first course all the way to the 8th course by fitting it into one single gargantuan platter. Appetizer platter, fish, chicken, noodles, vegetables! And yes, it is indeed filling! We did ordered a side portion of Assorted Waxed Claypot rice but it was unnecessary as the bowl of meehoon is there to fill the void in your stomach (should there be any)

Standard Chinese banquet dinner desserts - Shanghai pancakes (crispy layered pastry with lotus bean paste filling) and Red Bean soup (the one where is fully loaded with water chestnut, black sesame and glutinous rice balls! These are not included in the Big Harvest meal, pancake was RM12 if not mistaken while the red bean soup is at around RM26?

This is another aeriel view of the Big Harvest platter which carries a price tag of RM799. Speak to the manager in charge and if you pay in cash, they can "make some arrangements" for you. Not convenient for me to disclose in details but I guess you know what I am trying to hint. Signing off with a video below courtesy of my cousin being the ad-hoc videographer while yours truly is busy snapping photo. Have a great week ahead! :)


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Morning After, M-Roof Hotel, Ipoh

The Morning After (TMA) has a few outlets in Klang Valley and two outlets in airports (Subang and Penang) and they decided to make their presence felt in the sleepy town of Ipoh (where the salary is always stunted and purchasing power is always stagnant resulting into franchise like Burger King, Wendy's, Tutti Fruiti closing down. Nevertheless it managed to draw attention of even more premium franchise like Milkcow, Hokkaido Cheese Tarts, Uncle Tetsu, Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf and yours truly is so excited that Morganfield will be opening in Greentown soon! Yes, yours truly as an affinity for non halal food! Pork for the solid, beer and wine for the liquid. Yeah, I am certified non-halal, don't you dare accept my donated blood or organs or touch my money notes :p

Choosing to be attached to the latest hotel in town in a strategic location at Ipoh Garden roundabout may boost its survivability and sustainability chances. I am not sure whether they will partner with M-Roof on being the breakfast/brunch provider just like how Myth Eatery (joint venture effort from Josephine with M Boutique hotel). Else, lets review the food and environment to see how well Ipoh people will accept this place in the long term run. The dining place is not very big as it could cater to slightly more than 50 people only at the max. They have an extensive brunch menu (they mentioned that they are inspired by those all day dining parlours in Melbourne) which serves generic items like Big Breakfast - continental, American, Egg Benedict, well you get the picture :)

As I am having dinner, I dismissed the brunch items at the moment. Firstly, the Citrusy Salmon salad is quite a visual letdown when it arrived. I expected more details was spent on food presentation as this is not just a side dish which goes along your mains but a stand-alone ala carte entrée by itself at a price tag of RM22. Not all in pink are the slices of smoked salmon but they are grapefruit instead. Well, I wish for slightly more generous portion of smoked salmon though. The salad dressing is nothing really spectacular though. As the name goes, it should be orange-lemon based dressing on the bed of ice berg lettuce, apples, orange and grapefruit wedges.

Topped with croutons, cream and drizzled with a bit of truffle oil, the Wild Mushroom Soup (RM13) is earthy, thick and creamy. It has loads of oyster mushroom bits but the slight drawback is the chef is a bit too generous with the salt though. Else it would be a good tummy warming starter before they bring in the mains. Portion is just right for one person though it could still be shared by two.

The Grilled Lamb Shoulder (RM30) consists of 3 slabs of meat which turns out to be quite lean. Requested to be cooked on a well-done basis, the meat turned out to be slightly tough though. The meat alone did not taste like it was seasoned or marinaded before grilling, so you need to rely on the gravy to do the job. The garlic mashed potatoes is smooth and buttery (slightly milky) but the aroma from the garlic barely present. The sautéed mixed vegetables includes mushroom, snow peas, carrots, broccoli and cherry tomatoes to lessen your guilt after indulging in so much red meat. Limited choices of main courses are offered such as Roasted Chicken, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Grilled Salmon, Beef Steak to name a few.

The Smoked Beef Bacon Spaghetti (RM20) is smothered with subtle garlic gravy with generous servings of beef bacon. The garlic is quite mild and brings in the resemblance of the Aglio Olio.The options for pasta is quite generic, ranging from the staples such as Pesto, Cabonara, Aglio Olio. The most unique one is the one topped with a fried soft shell crab but because it is tomato based, I skipped that. The pizza series is not available in the Ipoh outlet here so besides sandwiches and the pilaf rice series, that probably sums up the whole food menu.

Cakes range from RM11 onwards with staples such as Oreo Cheesecake, Moist Chocolate Cake, Red Velvet cake to name a few. I opted for apparently their signature cake called The Nut Job (RM14) which turns out to be chocolate sponge layered with peanut butter based cream with crushed nuts and drizzled with salted caramel on the top layer. Peanut butter and chocolate should work wonders as I have tried the one in Starbucks before but the one here was far from being rich in flavour. Just slightly above average I would say...

Ending my meal with a cup of coffee, I opted for the The Caramel Macchiato (RM13). Who could resist the luscious and buttery caramel with slightly burnt aroma and just unwind. Yours truly has an unusual affinity towards salted caramel lately due to personal reasons but its best he just skip this genre of flavour as it brings bad memories. As Macchiato is an Italian word for spotted/ stained, the milk ratio should be quite minimal relative to the amount of espresso.. If I were to be picky by referring to the "Barista code/handbook" I feel the cup I am indulging is more like a flat white instead of macchiato from the ratio of milk to espresso used. Nevertheless, the velvety frothed milk was well done and I really loved their salted caramel drizzles. Not only the mushroom soup is tad saltier than usual, even the caramel here is saltier than usual. But I somehow kinda like it as it does not really taste like the usual caramel syrup pumped from those shower-gel look-alike containers in franchised cafes like Starbucks and McCafe.

With most of the items here is just slightly above average and far from being memorable, I don't mind returning for a cup of coffee just for the ambiance and because its just a new place in town. Or probably a pint of beer and some Nachos while enjoying the live band? Others might opt for a shot or two of Scottish Whiskey and other hard liquor? They have a separate alcohol menu available upon request. Expect a budget of minimum RM50 per pax as they have 10% service charge and 6% GST in return for friendly, prompt and attentive service. The bill for the items above came to RM140+ with an Iced Peach Tea (RM8) not among the photos. Convinced to give it a try?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

"un-named korean cuisine" at Restoran Alishan, Ipoh Garden East

Take a long throwback probably two decades ago and people in Ipoh will associate Japanese food as one of the luxurious epitome of dining. Then, Sushi King sprung forth for more affordable japanese cuisine at probably half the price and later on, the hawkers and food court stalls also caught the hype and have their imitation offerings at probably another half the price of Sushi King. But bear in mind as the you are paying half or rather a quarter of the price of the original authentic ones, don't expect you will get equal or near similar quality. The same can be said with Korean food in Ipoh. Recently I heard of  an attempt of a Korean food operator occupying a Chinese coffee shop during dinner time. 

Those residing in Ipoh Garden East or Bercham area would probably know about it. If I mention the name of the coffeeshop called Restoran Alishan, you would not have guessed that it could transform into a " 大牌 档 styles" Korean food. The place is not hard to locate as during the day time, there is a morning "wet market" nearby. And beside this row of shop is where the residential water supply tank is located.

Their operating hours is from 6pm onwards to around 10pm? And they are closed on Mondays. Here is the glimpse of their simple menu. Yes, you have searched high and low - there is no sign of Korean staples like Bibimbap (stone bowl rice) and San Gye Tang (Ginseng Chicken Soup). The options here is indeed very limited as their best seller would definitely be the hot plate BBQ. Nevertheless, the pricing is very affordable and reasonable right?

Coming in a group of three, I picked the Mixed Hot Plate set to test the best of both worlds. I could not reason out how would the set of both the pork belly (individually 200g at RM18) and the Spicy Chicken (RM18 again for 220g) can sum up to RM38 instead of RM36? Probably cause it includes the serving of kimchi, pickled raddish and basket of assorted leafy greens included in the mixed combo? The garlic, chilli, onions and enoki mushroom seems to come standard with the two slab of pork belly. Well, couldn't ask much for something below RM20 right as if you have done marketing or at least keep track or pay for your household groceries, you would've noticed the escalating rate of inflation in our country.

I like the ratio of lean meat to fat for the pork belly served. However, I somehow felt something was missing and I am quite sure it is the smoky charcoal smell from meat grilled over open fire which was evidently not present in the pork belly grilled using inducted heat from a hot plate. The meat, as expected, was not marinaded, hence you will need to depend on the seasoned oil for dipping and a bit of the fermented bean paste. Since they priced the mixed vegetable at RM5, I don't think they have free refills for the leafy greens used to wrap the meat. 

Ja Jang Myeon (RM12) comes with a side serving of kimchi. The texture of the noodles did not appeal to my tastebuds. There is too much gravy and the gravy is too starchy to my liking. Should a good plate of Korean black bean paste noodle supposed to be like this? There are some diced onions and potatoes with stewed pork belly cubes. The first time I had a similar dish was my first visit at Doma, which is far smaller in portion and do not have any ingredients except for edamame beans and julienne cucumber. But somehow, that version was my cup of tea.

Lastly, we ordered two bowls of white rice (from the texture, I think not full Calrose rice ratio is used here, since you paying RM2.50 instead of RM5 in Korean restaurants) to be shared to mop up all the chill paste of the savoury and spicy Dak Galbi, which is the other half of the Mix BBQ Hot Plate set. Besides cabbage, there is julienne carrots and sweet potato along a few pieces of dabokki (rice cakes) which is stir-fried with boneless chicken meat. They should use parts like chicken thigh or chicken drumstick instead as I find the chicken meat is somehow quite dry.

A jug of Korean rice tea for RM3 and the total bill comes to RM58! Perhaps its just half or 2/3 of the price of Korean restaurants. The slight draw back would be the coffee shop environment nor any wide range of complimentary and refillable side dishes (banchan). The menu is also limited and service can be a bit slow as there is only 2 person manning the whole outlet. They have a "hidden" menu as shown above whereby there is the missing Korean cuisine staples like Army Stew, Pork Ribs, Ginseng Chicken Soup, Bulgogi, Seafood Soup or Stew and Bibimbap but most would require advanced ordering. The prices of items featured in this menu is in the range of standard Korean restaurant in Ipoh, which I feel I wont be paying for it in this coffee shop environment. Will I be back again, I don't think so. Will I recommend you to try? well, just don't put too much expectation on authenticity and it should be fine.