Saturday, April 29, 2017

Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, De Garden, Ipoh

After hesitating for almost half a year, I decided to give a try to their first outlet outside Klang Valley. The outlet in Three Little Pigs and a Big Bad Wolf is currently their 4th outlet under the iconic brand name which has other outlets in Bangsar Village, Tropicanna Mall and Pavillion (under a different branding - Pigs and Wolf). The lot in De Garden is strategically facing Kinta City and you would be blind to miss it, especially with few new bill board posters which will get your taste buds salivating when you are waiting at the traffic lights. Zoom in closer and you will notice that the word "Pig" has been replaced with the letter "P", no thanks to our over-sensitive local authorities and regulators which sometimes trespass and act as censorship board. The outlet here only opens till 10pm (weird right, especially when you serve good food to go along with beer, damn potong stim weh) and closes on Monday


Their maiden branch out of Klang Valley does not field the full menu. Initially planning to try the Mac and Cheese Burger, I am further left with have limited options after knowing they do not have "pulled pork", thus all items having pull pork are also not available. So, this is my second try on the Piggy Aglio Olio angel hair (RM29) after trying this dish in their first branch in Bangsar. Served with strips of ham, bacon bits, roast pork belly (siu yoke) and a pork meatball, this is the next best option if could not withstand the runny egg yolk and cream from the Cabonara. Lightly tosses in garlic infused olive oil, they do not really hold back with the chilli flakes. Not that it is tongue-numbing, but it does not look as innocent as it is. Portion of meat is quite generous, and the same problem with the pork belly - the skin is no longer crackling.



Since pulled pork is not available, I decided to try out their Big Bad Ribs since pork chops is a bit too mainstream. By looking at the price tag of RM85, I expected the portion of the pork ribs to be huge but it could be barely enough to be shared by 2 people. And for a person with a carnivorous appetite, he could probably finish this all by himself. There is 6 pieces of rib bones for you to imagine the portion. They have a smaller portion at RM49 (2 pieces of bones only, goodness!)

Taste-wise, the meat was a fry-cry from what it claims to be one of its forte dishes. To do justice, the meat was indeed tender with almost fall off the bone meat evidence of slow-cooking it for a long period. But on the contrary, the taste fail to deliver the “oomph” factor from the few pork ribs/pork knuckle dishes I tried. Perhaps the BBQ sauce was just spread over the ribs and it was just mildly reheated prior to serving. Unlike some other versions which I prefer, after coating it with the basting/marinade/sauce, it will be then grilled to have the coating caramelized with some charred bit. The portion of onion rings, criss cut fries and salad does not speak for the dish to be convincingly enough for sharing. For RM89, I could've nearly ordered almost the 3 different pork ribs and pork belly dishes in Doma already which I enjoyed the taste more. Else, I can't wait for Morganfield's to open this week whereby their half ribs portion is RM50+ only



I regret ordering the Classic Eggs Benedict (RM25) as there were no elements of surprise in ingredients used and also presentation. I was expecting some sourdough bread or muffin rather than genetic toast from baguette slices. The poached egg was done to the right degree but no longer hot when I took the bite. Hollandaise sauce was lacklustre and the whole dish could be easily replicated by a novice cook at home. Wanted to order some unique burger but as mentioned earlier, they do not have the full menu as the KL outlets.

The only thing reasonably priced here are the beers which has a Buy 1 Free 1 promotion. Example, the Somersby is selling at RM23+ (which makes it RM12+ per bottle after buy 1 free 1) and the Corona was averaged to be RM14 per bottle. Which is quite a steal if you ask my opinion. Illy espresso based beverages and some canned soft drinks are also subjected to the Buy 1 Free 1 tag. Kudos to this place for serving complimentary plain drinking water which many places should emulate, especially if you are already slapping the 10% Service Charge multiplier on us. 

After a horrifying RM180+ bill, I was unamused when they launched the daily weekday set lunch the following week! If they would've launched this earlier, it would be a much cheaper proxy to bring my family to try this place. Since its quite inconvenient to do so as the promotion is only available on weekdays, I will just have to squeeze a longer lunch break to dine with a friend nearby

Perhaps it was a Friday, coupled with the fact it was the eve towards a long weekend, surprisingly the place was more than 3/4 full when I arrived at 1pm. Orders and serving were fast though with reasonable waiting time but kudos again to the team for providing drinking water regardless the diners are ordering from the ala carte or the set menu. Without long, the drinks and soup arrived. You are only given the option of having your beverage hot or cold as green tea is the only drink offered. For the soup of the day, I got Cream of Potato. We spotted some pinkish bits within and that would probably be bacon bits? Portion is just right to warm the stomach (and minimize the agony of waiting) as the soup was indeed thick. Nothing really special but it was indeed good to take a break from generic cream of mushroom right?

Having need to order the Aglio Olio as my parents do not fancy creamy and cheese cooking, I am with liberty to pick the Bacon Cabonara this time around. This is a toned down version of their signature The Wolf's Favourite (both in portions and ingredients) with missing poached egg and also a long piece of crispy streaky bacon. The portion of angel hair would not be enough for most guys... and some girls as well. But considering the price tag, the portion is well justifiable with reasonable amount of meat and mushrooms. Tastewise, it is super creamy and a bit too heavy for my liking.

Pork Meat Balls with Potatoes seems not bad upon arriving. This works out to be an appetizer to me rather than a main course but it seems enough for my friend. If I return, I would probably try this myself with the condition I have a proper breakfast before that. The meal ended with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Though I would still prefer Berlin's set for value for money (RM16.90++ which comes to almost RM20 and without a scoop of ice cream) - Berlin Bier Haus offer more choices and bigger portion when it comes to meat. Nevertheless if you want a cheaper ticket to try out this place, you can order one set lunch each then top up a main course from their ala carte menu. Till then, yours truly is counting down the hours to try out Morganfield's later :)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Kim's Dakgalbi


Kim's Dakgalbi has been in business for quite some time (located next to Bali Assam House in Ipoh Garden East) More than 3 years I would say. It is THE first dakgalbi restaurant in Ipoh. I refused to try dakgalbi until Daebak was opened in De Garden. Well, I did try out Uncle Jang in Puchong and found it to be quite spicy to my liking. During that time, there were NO korean cuisine available in Ipoh yet. Probably Onix Jun only. Before big player Daorae invaded De Garden and send Korean waves which Japanese restaurants in Ipoh feeling the ripple effect. Knowing that Kim's are actually manned by a Korean couple and they have an extended menu... and they have CHEESE hot plate! I decided to give it a go! I opted for Set B instead of Set A because of the Cheese hotplate

Besides ordering set B, I had a side portion of Kim-Chi fried rice (RM10) to be stir fried into the grill later on. They did not use high-calrose rice like Daebak Dakgalbi. And Daebak is charging RM8 for similar portion (without the kimchi that is) but heck, kimchi is FREE in the form of banchan, you can add in as much as you wish later on. And they are a bit skimpy with the seaweed portion.

The offer free plain drinking water just like Daebak (Daorae offers free roasted corn tea), unlike a Modern Korean cafe nearby which not only refuse to give free drinking water, and yet price the drinks quite exorbitantly. Banchan here is limited to a serving of Kimchi and picked cucumber and long beans. The kimchi is tailored to Malaysian tastebuds. The evidence is both my parents enjoyed it alot. It is not as pungent and spicy but toned down to a more salty after-taste.

This is the Grilled Sweet Soya Sauce Pork and Spicy Pork Belly. The portion seems to be enough for 2-3 pax. Is it just me or I noticed that the non-spicy pork portion was not marinaded in soya sauce as claimed. Hmm...

The STAR of Set B - Cheese Pong Dak came separately in a hot plate which was prepared from the kitchen instead. A single portion could be ordered at RM26. The actual product was indeed a far-cry from the illustration used in their menu. From the picture in the menu, it looks like pork ribs on a layer of melted cheese. And the real thing came out to be boneless chicken meat instead. The cheese was there though, only to be overshadowed by a slightly too dilute sweetish gravy and some cabbage and teokbokki (rice cakes). The watery gravy was probably due to the water from the cabbage itself. To be honest, it does not look quite appealing to me. Perhaps I am biased since I am served chicken instead of expecting to get pork ribs instead. Or rather, in my mind, the memorable meal in Ticket To Korea has set a benchmark for cheese ribs?

Okay, perhaps the proper word is Tteok/Ddeok (rice cakes). Tteokbokki probably means stir-fried rice cake stew. I have a soft spot for rice cakes and coupled with oozing cheese for you to twirl it, the savoury yet slightly salty taste from the melted cheese (mozarella and cheddar mix perhaps?), slightly sweetish and mildly spicy sauce and not forgetting the soft and chewy texture of the rice cakes? So addictive!

While you twirl around the cheesy hotplate, the Korean boss (or the waitress) would do the stir-frying of the meat. The meat is quite well done, slightly charred but grilled to near perfection. The slight drawback could be the portion from the shoulder seems to be slightly tough. Tastewise, it is well flavoured although minimal marinade was applied but some element seems to be missing, one which charcoal grill could only deliver. And that smoky BBQ fragrance over charcoal fire could not be replicated from a hotplate grill. Just my opinion :)

They will add in the rice and stir fry it at the centre. And they will mix in the Cheese Hotplate at one end too. Honestly, I do not really fancy mixing everything at one go. Seems messy. Is the Cheese Pong Dak supposed to be eaten this way or enjoyed seperately? As the gravy sizzles off and absorbs into the rice, it was not bad actually. Nevertheless, I think on my next trip, I will just order Set A which is almost RM20 cheaper and just add on a serving of cheese at RM8. Instead of going for Kimchi fried rice, maybe I will just opt for plain white rice (RM4) since I am disappointed I do not get the round calrose rice. That would probably reduce the total bill of RM93+ to RM70+ on my next visit :)


Tadaa!!! See this photo above. Now this is DA BOMB! the trendsetter! the BENCHMARK!

Follow my previous write up on the legendary cheese ribs and the near 2 hour wait at Ticket to Korea by clicking on this link: http://softshellcrabtemaki.blogspot.my/2016/08/cheesy-pork-ribs-at-ticket-to-korea_6.html

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ideas to Stretch your Entertainment and Food budget


This post will be slightly different from my previous posts. Looking back, I have maintained this blog for years, dating to my university days. My gastronomic journey never cease even though I left KL and opted to work in my hometown. With such a mediocre salary in Ipoh, you might wonder how do I try out new food now and then and also dine out most of the time. 

Simple! It's by doing some proper research on on-going promotion by eateries nowadays. With the poor consumer sentiment far from fully recovering, food businesses are more aggressive in throwing promotion after promotion like never before. Never mind the profit margin, they think. They need to regain the market share, or at least, to generate a healthy turnover to account for the business overheads. 


1) KENNY ROGERS ROASTERS


Kenny Rogers Roasters has been quite rampant in promotion recently. Previously they only open to the KRR B-Card for the Buy 1 Free 1 or you will need to dress in red in conjunction with their Red Hot set meal.

Last month, they had this prom from Monday to Wednesday and this is the Red Hot Meal Buy 1 Free 1 (original price is RM21.90) and it comes with a muffin but without drinks. No specific period, you can rush for a lunch or just enjoy it after work.


A week or two later, I just got this meal for RM10 nett - a quarter chicken, a scoop or rice and a limited-time-only Peanut Butter Chocolate muffin. The chicken base is similar like their usual original and pepper roast, just that the sauce is freaking spicy! It is very similar to Nando's Peri-peri sauce with the highest degree of spiciness. Else, lookout for something like the poster below - usual set RM22.90 (buy 1 Free 1)


Value for money: Definitely! even a plate of drumstick chicken rice now cost you RM5 at hawker stalls in Ipoh (even much more in Klang valley). And mind you, this is with the thigh portion as well, and they throw in a muffin. How does that sound to you with aircond dining environment with sofa seats?

Drawback: no hidden terms and conditions as no service charge and the GST already priced in. As the meal is kinda spicy and the cheapest drink available is soft drinks at RM5.90 per pax, you may end up spending a bit more than what you expect/forecast.


2) THE CHICKEN RICE SHOP 

Chicken Rice Shop is offering a quarter chicken for RM1.80 for minimum two diners    
                                    
How? 
All day long every 18th of the month (regardless weekdays or weekends)
Dine in with minimum two person


Drawbacks:
Not much hidden terms and conditions. At the minimum, you will end up spend slightly above RM5 per pax after ordering ala carte portion of rice (RM3 per pax) and drinks (around RM1 per pax for plain water/Chinese tea) but quarter chicken may not be sufficient to be shared by two persons.

Hence I will propose one person order a chicken rice meal (RM10.90) or a set meal (RM17.90 onwards but it comes with drinks and a plate of vegetables and small sides) while the other person just tops up a plate of rice at RM3. This will work out to be around RM10 per pax. Coincidentally, on the previous 2 months, the 18th falls on a Saturday. The two photos amount to RM23+ and serves as a good light lunch for 3 pax (2 rice shared between 3 people) - which comes to around RM8 per person. Now who says you can't dine more comfortably without hurting your wallet much? :) 


3 ) PIZZA HUT

Honestly, I am a fan of Dominoes for their takeover personal pizza at RM5.90 flat. And at the same time I have countless bad experience of poor customer service and speed of serving food in Pizza Hut. But for RM8.90, I will brush aside my so called "ban". Choose between a pizza or a pasta and your meal is made complete with a soup and soft drink. Not sure if there is still 10% being charged, but even so, the meal is stil less than RM10. 

Drawback: only on weekdays lunch (excluding public holidays) and probably the poor and slow service will spoil your appetite by driving you up the wall. Else, are you bored everyday eating having your RM5.50 bowl of noodles and RM2 iced coffee or soft drink? Care to pay a few bucks more for a change and more cosy environment than your usual unscrupulous overcharged hawker stalls?




 4) DRAGON- i

The famous annual Dragon-i 一蚊鸡 (RM1 Chicken) is back but they with some changes this year

Pros: There are a total of 4 different flavors for each week. Initially they run this promotion on weekdays but due to “overwhelming response” (yours truly feel otherwise though), they extended it to weekends as well. Although the promotion starts from 6pm onwards, limited portions are allocated daily
                                                                                                                         
Cons: Minimum 3 diners to trigger this promotion. And this time, 3 diners will only get half a chicken unlike previously they offered a whole chicken for RM1. To get the whole chicken, you will need to dine in a group of 6 people and above.


Drawback: Enter unprepared and you will definitely spend a lot here! Meat dishes ranges from RM30 onwards and vegetables alone will cost you RM26 per plate (not to mention plain white rice at RM2.50 per bowl) A group of three can have a bill touching RM100 easily even with just ordering one vegetable dish and another meat dish.

The best way to keep your bill low is to order individual noodles and rice meal. On two separate occasions, I managed to keep my bill to RM60+ for myself and my parents.

Week 1: Roasted Chicken. The chicken is marinaded lightly as portions like the chicken breast is quite evenly flavoured. Being prepared in advance and chopped into serving portions awaiting the crowd to start coming in past 6pm, this dish is not piping hot as expected. Bathing the chicken in hot coil will rejuvenate its crispy skin and scored even higher points.

Week 3: Soya Sauce Chicken. Kampung chicken is used this round, resulting into a tougher texture but leaner meat. The portion seems to be bigger than the roasted chicken though. Like its name, its just soya sauce chicken which does not have any herbal aftertaste/tingue you might be expecting from those stewed chicken.


On my first outing. my first main dish is this Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles. For RM16, it seems to be quite pricey for a bowl of "plain noodles" The broth has a hint of sesame and peanut aroma with a strong hue of chilli oil but actual dish is far from the one illustrated in the menu, lack of condiments and topping. Somehow it failed to deliver a memorable note despite Shanghai delicacies supposed to be their forte.


On the other hand, Stir Fried La Mian with Sliced Australian Beef in Black Pepper Sauce (RM24) saved the day as the second main dish. There is a generous amount of tender beef slices while the noodles is well braised in the black pepper gravy. My parents liked this dish alot. Coupled with a serving of their signature Xiao Long Bao (RM11.50) and nibbling on the half roasted chicken, we were not really full to be honest, but it was still a satisfying dinner.

On the second visit, as the chicken is stewed soya sauce chicken, I ordered a bowl of white rice and some dim sum to nibble on. Besides the soupy xiao long bao which is a must order in Dragon-i, I tried their new item which is the Scallion Pork Floss Pastry (RM9). The pastry texture is similar to fried man tou with a generous serving of sesame oil all over, resulting to a aromatic yet crispy exterior which is best eaten hot. The filling is concentrated at the centre only, or perhaps they could be a bit more generous with the pork floss?

Shanghainese Pan Fried Meat Buns (RM9) arrived piping hot and the fluffy and soft dough of the bun is evident that this item was indeed freshly made to order. The filling is juicy and cooked to the right degree (bears resemblance to the minced meat filling in xiao long bao) but lacked some seasoning though.

And for a fulfilling meal, we had La Mian with Shanghainese Deep Fried Pork Ribs (RM19) which  is not actually pork ribs though but a decent portion of pork chops fried till forming a slightly dry exterior with a moderately moist centre. Far from being tender, but rest assured these are lean meat cuts. The soupy la mian had a slight flaw this time with a mild "flour" aftertaste in the broth. Else, it was a nice dish if the chef had drained the la mian well enough to avoid the water from cooking the noodles to drip back on the bowl before pouring the broth over. The bill time was also was just around RM60 for 3 pax. Yes, it may not be cheap meal but you still pay lesser than a usual dining bill.

5) SECRET RECIPE





An ideal place for dating! One main meal in the range of RM18-20. Which makes it to be just RM10 per pax! The cheapest drink is iced filtered water at RM1.20. You can just bear with it for a while and head towards Starbucks (they are throwing a lot of promotion like Buy 1 Free 1, 2 Venti sized handcrafted drinks at RM25 etc off and on, but the time period is usually just from 5pm-8pm) Maybe you can consider clocking off work on-time, enjoy your dinner at Secret Recipe at 6pm+ and head to Starbucks at 7pm+. Takes a bit of time management though :)


If you would like the ultimate combo -  be there slightly before 6pm to get you entitled for the Tea Time Promotion (buy 1 slice free one drink – Long Black, Flat white, or a pot of  tea. Top up RM2 to upgrade to latte, mocha, premium flavoured teas ) and once you have locked in a portion of that, proceed with the Monday Buy 1 Free 1
Slight drawback: It is limited to Monday dinner 6pm-9pm only (so far no sold out scenario unlike the recent RM20 for two which features more premium options)


 6) STARBUCKS

Noticed that Starbucks has raised their prices lately by a range of RM1-2? Plan to cut down your trips to get your caffeine fix? As this is a food blog and not a financial management blog, I WON'T suggest you to "make your own coffee". If the coffee and atmosphere is what you love about this place, make use of the ongoing promotions so that you do not need to cut your plans to reward yourself! By the way, I just inserted this section as soon as I received the email this morning (you can refer to my FB posts for more current updates)  From 28-30th March 2017, during 11-2pm and 5-8pm, you will get 50% discount on handcrafted beverages if you make payment with your Starbucks card. If its hard to find time to drop by Starbucks to takeaway during your lunch break, how about seeing this as a motivation for some of you to stop staying in office till late? The coffee is still the same, the environment is still the same, perhaps the time is a bit "inconvenient" to some. But hey, if you wanna stretch your purchasing power, there are some minor sacrifices on priorities and commitments you have to make :)


7) OLDTOWN WHITE COFFEE

Staff vouchers and discount coupons, need I say more on my weekly check-in here? Okay to be fair, you may not be able to enjoy this benefit like I do (unless you are my colleague), having free items and set meals at lower than walk-in prices. A meal for 3 adults can be just RM30+ or even lower if I use some Free main course vouchers (:

Else, yours truly will be distributing some discount vouchers/cash vouchers of and on if you are keen to save a few bucks, just like the ones above.

8) GENERAL - OTHERS

Most businesses will run promotion on off-peak hours, especially on weekdays. The same concept goes for entertainment businesses. Cinemas having cheaper tickets on Wednesday (new movie release on Thurs) or generally, ticket are priced at their peak on weekends. Be a smart consumer and arrange your entertainment and meal outings wisely. Make use of certain credit card perks like Buy 1 Free 1 drinks in Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf using Citibank Clear Card or Buy 1 Free 1 movie tickets on Fridays for that same credit card. You pay only half the amount compared to amount you are paying on weekends! And this means you can enjoy twice as frequent on your handcrafted coffee and movies


The same goes for karaoke as well (yours truly just love the RM10 happy hours at Enco Karaoke form 5pm to 8pm - although by the time I leave office and reach there at 6pm, I still have 2 hours of singing and at RM10 with a drink included and NO tidbits charge, I couldn't ask for more. It is way must better and cheaper than to just spend almost RM40 to sing on peak periods on weekends. One time of singing on peak periods can allow you to sing 4 times on off-peak periods. I am sorry that most of the promotion are no longer valid but if you are my Facebook friend, most likely you will see me sharing these post on ongoing promotions. Nevertheless, I think you already can get an idea on how to still enjoy a good meal in a cosy environment without paying much extra/cost you much lesser. Till then have a great second quarter of 2017!