Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dragon-i, the Xiao Long Bao expext has invaded Ipoh

 Dragon-I has finally made its path to Ipoh. Previously opened in major ares in the Klang Valley and Penang, now this franchise famous for its Chinese cuisine from Shanghai, Beijing and Szechuan has made its presence felt in the ground floor of AEON Station 18. For those who seldom make their way to KL, what is Dragon-I? In a nutshell, they are famous for their Xiao Long Bao and La Mein.

 Apparently, every outlet has a head chef from China overseeing the hand made noodles and dumlings. Besides freshness and taste, hygiene is of utmost importance as seen here. Yes, every outlet has an semi open kitchen to boast their forte, the making of Xiao Long Bao and La Mein. Now that Ipoh has catch the craze since its opening on 16 August, lets move on to the review from my visit to Dragon I (fondly called Long Dik Chuen Yan which literally translates into Descendent of the Dragon) a few days after its grand opening.

 The Beef Brisket La Mein (RM16) has both hits and misses. The noodles is good, undoubtedly. Apparently you can choose from the few variance of noodles offered - the knife shredded, flat and broad (like pan mee), fine strands like the one in the photo and a few other types. For the Beef Brisket Soup, you opt to have it spicy or non-spicy. I chose the Spicy version and was glad the chilli oil kinda saved the day. The broth was a bit too "clear" to my liking, perhaps the robust flavored and slightly murky beef soup from Korean restaurants have already set a benchmark. The soup here lacked the "beefy hearty essence" though the cuts of beef were tender enough.

The Xiao Long Bao, of course, should be the main reason you are here. A serving of 4 in a steamer basket cost you RM9.80. I have tasted Xiao Long Baos from the dim sum restaurants in Ipoh and none really have really exceeded my expectation. For the ones here, the skin has even thickness throughout, especially at the folding part at the tip. According to them, they boast in their skillful 18 plaits on their skin. The soup is flavourful and the meat juicy. Some may think that the xiao long bao is quite small in size but to me quality matters. If you want a bigger portion, you can order a individual "Soup Bun" which is like a "dai bao". It's a single serve portion on a steamer basket and they provide you with a straw to sip the soup. Check out the menu once you are there and you will know which item I'm referring to =)

 The Woh Tip (Pan fried Dumplings) is has a similar like filling to the Xiao Long Bao. The only difference is the skin is way thicker and this has less soup. Its more of the juices from the filling of pork+minced ham. Enjoy this with a bit of vinegar and ginger shreds.
The Lao Sar Bao here has a rich and strong centre. A serving of 3 buns cost you RM8. A bit steep in my opinion. Oh, if you are here, you might wanna check out the Red Bean Bun which is shaped into a piggy shape. It's very cute indeed, but for RM9 for red bean bun, I shall pass.

I do not know about you but I like to eat Lao Shar Bao just like how I eat Xiao Long Bao, poking a hole and slurp out the potent essence encased. Photo is a bit grainy. Look at the hue of the filling of the salted egg yolk and custard. Slurrrpppssss...

 Initially though of ordering the Flaky Yam Pastry (RM8) but they ran out of that item. Hence we opted for the savoury version of flaky pastry which has a raddish filling (RM6). The pastry is good but the filing is a bit bland. They could've put in dried shrimps or waxed sausages or ham to spice up the filling, just like those stuffs which make your Lor Bak Gou taste good.

 The Gui Lin Gao (RM6) is so-so, nothing much to brag about. Drinks are averagely priced, Chinese tea (refillable at RM2.50, soya milk at RM4) and they have various flower tea (RM5) like this photo above. Else, choose from the Mango Sago dessert and other few tong shuis which range from RM5-RM10. Total damage done was RM80 for 3 person, and we didn't really go all out for a filling lunch. Dragon I offer dishes to go along with rice like Dung Po Yuk, smoked duck, cold Pak Chaam Gai (poached chicken but served cold), etc. I was there on a Sunday, having an early lunch at 11:45am to wait a few person in line before getting my table. For those who wish to try soon, be prepared to wait... Until then, Happy Weekend! =)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tai Thong (Royal China Ipoh) Dim Sum

Dim Sum for breakfast? Then you will have quite a number of selection. Its not surprising at all since Dim Sum is "accepted" to be a breakfast selection. For lunch, most of the dim sum outlets remained open from breakfast period. For dinner, one can go to Yoke Fook Moon only, which I boycotted recently due to frequent price hike, unreasonable tax charges, expensive cover charges for tea and bad gesture towards customers shown by the owner's fat son.

And for today's post, its a Dim Sum lunch at Tai Thong/ Royal China Restaurant at Coliseum Square. This was a birthday treat for dad. First item to be introduced is the Superior Har Gow (Prawn Dumplings) (RM7.80 per basket). It comes in 4 pieces... Plump and bouncy, the prawns are fresh. We can't help but to order another serving. =)

Sesame Balls is also fondly known as Ji Ma Joe ir priced at RM6 per serving. Would've been real good if it was fried on the spot. It somehow arrived a bit cold.

Thought of ordering something more filling to the stomach. The Baked BBQ Pork Bun (RM7) is a pure letdown. Not only its not hot, I find the pastry to be a bit under-baked, resulting in a chewy dough like texture of the crust, with obvious "flour" smell. Good baked ones like I had in Qi Yuan in Greentown should give a crumbly and fragrant buttery aroma. This is a failure, avoid this at all cost!

Stir Fried Radish Cake (RM7.80) is averagely good. It could do with a bit more seasoning/salt.  The cubes of radish cake were not hot enough. Perhaps the stir frying was done in the quickest means possible as the bean sprouts were still juicy... Not bad though, good alternative to the conventional slabs of plain radish cake.

The Superior Siew Mai (RM7.80) comes in 4 pieces, just like the Har Gow. With the right amount of minced pork meat and fat proportion, this made its mark.

The Steamed Fish Ball (RM7) came in 3 pieces, but are quite small as well compared to the gloriously plump prawn dumplings. No fishy smell, bouncy... we had a second serving of this too.

We skipped the Har Guen and Prawn Salad Roll from the fried stuffs and opted for the Deep Fried Glutinous Rice Dumpling (Ham Shui Gok). For RM6, you get 3 pieces of chewy fried glutinous dough encompassing a "char siew bao"-like filling. The dough was a bit too thick, other than that, passable.

Steamed Glutinous Rice (RM7) which is averagely good. Nothing spectacular. But after reviewing all the dishes we had, its time to unveil something really spectacular. Take note of all the prices mentioned... Divide it by 2. Yeshhhh... Every dim sum item is at 50% discount for a short promotional period. This means, for RM3.90 (after discount, before tax) you get 4 plump prawn dumplings compared to the likes of established names like Foh San and Yoke Fook Moon who arrogantly priced theirs at range of RM5.50-RM6 per serving of 3 pieces of Har Gow and RM4.80 for the Lor Mai Kai. This was once reason why the place was quite packed on a Saturday afternoon. I repeat: 50% discount on dim sum items on weekdays (Mon-Sat, 11:30am to 2:30pm) and 20% on Sundays and Public Holidays (9am onwards till 2:30pm). Yes, they are not opened for breakfast on weekdays, be warned.

Despite the 50% discount, there was a reason the total bill came to hit the RM100 mark. I ordered a individual serving of Braised Abalone (10 Head) with Sea Cucumber for dad. We didn't expect a 10-Head abalone to be that small ("Heads" is a grading for abalone. a 10 Head grade means there are 10 pieces of abalones that makes up a kati/600g. In other words, the smaller the "head number", the bigger the abalone size, the higher the grade and more expensive it is) But from this photo, it doesn't look like 60g too , being 10 Head grade. Hmm... for RM38.80, nothing much to complain le. Next time when I earn more money, I will bring my parents to try the real stuff in Ah Yat Abalone Restaurant in KL!

No birthday cake for dad, so bought 2 pieces of mooncake for him, or rather for the family. RM14 for a lotus paste and RM16 for the mixed nutes with chicken ham. Tai Thong is giving 10% discount at the moment, if you choose not to have the gift box, you will be offered an additional 10% discount. So that's all for this post, make sure you give Royal China a call to confirm whether the half priced dim sum is still taking effect. If yes, enjoy your Har Gow frenzy =)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Finale of Setiawan Saga: Seafood at Coconut Villa

No more procrastination - as promised, a wrap up of my one day Stiawan trip with a review on the seafood over here. Before we move into food, I will share some snap shops of the Marina Island Jetty here.

Ferries are at a frequency of once an hour. Its RM10 for 2 way trip. We missed the 2pm one by a few minutes. Hence we have to wait for almost an hour for the next one. One can laze around under the coconut shade, take a nap on the "wire mesh net cradle" overlooking the sea. Thank goodness it was a bit hazy so the heat and sunlight was not too intense.

The 15 minute ferry ride was very refreshing indeed as you experience the waves more compared to those gigantic ones in Penang. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by "businessman" offering vehicle renting, guided taxi, etc. Since there were 6 of us, we opted for a car. RM80 for whole day but we only manage to negotiate until RM60 since we are using it for less than 1/2 a day. A RM10 petrol tank in the bad condition hatchback Wira should be enough to circle the whole of Pangkor.

We went to this seafood-junkfood factory called HAI SENG HIN. The production area is not for outsiders to visit. But one can access up to the sales area. Somehow you might wonder, how can such place be certified GMP and HALAL manufacturer. The exterior and surrounding of the factory doesn't look very convincing though. But since they have export market to countries like Hong Kong, I'm sure their product should pass the minimum mark as Hong Kong is known for being stringent in food laws.

Here is a glimpse of my harvest. Some are 3 packets for RM8. some are 3 packets for RM10. I really love the satay fish here! The sotong gulung is.... so-so.

The winding roads - uphill and downhill really makes driving memorable in Pangkor. It's similar to those race tracks of the Initial D game. If you have bring along extra clothes, you may take a dip at the beach. Other than that, there are a few temples and site where you see historical remains of the Dutch. There are a few budget hotels and resort around in the island, but I reckon a 1 day trip would be more than enough here. We took the 6:00pm ferry back to the mainland. Now are you ready for the climax of the Setiawan trip?

A curtain raiser - Salted Egg Crabs!!! Cooking style need improvement as the salted eggs were not well melted and coated on the crabs. Well, who cares as the flesh of the crabs is uber fresh! =D We went for the "meat crabs" instead of the "roe crabs". I'm not sure the weight of the crabs used but there is at least 3 medium sized crabs in this plate (counting the shells)

Let the seafood galore continue with the Oh Chien (Oyster Omelette) The egg coating is a bit thick and dry, but the oysters were merely passable. Not very big and plump and juicy, but still made its mark. Still the salted egg crab is at pole position.

The Fried Sotong didnt manage to outshine the curtain raiser crustacean. The batter was just right, fried to perfection. Squids were not chewy, very addictive stuff. Especially I had my beer to go along with. My friends went for Toddy, alcoholic beverage fermented from coconut.

The Siong Tong Lala (Clams in Superior Broth) exceeded my expectation. I suggested to order it and my research has paid off well as my friends liked it too. The version here is a bit heaty and heaty from the effects of black peppercorns, ginger and green chillies!!! I was expecting a clearer broth infused with Chinese Cooking Wine but this version was also very appetizing indeed. The clams were fresh without any faint hint of muddy smell. Lovely! Best to slurp it when its hot!

Last but not least, the Chilli Crab!! Well executed this time!!! The eggy sauce was good to go along with the rice. But nothing beats fried mantou or toasted bread which are not available here! Yeshhh, we have 2 crab dishes! One dry one and one with sauce to taste the best of both worlds. To me, both are equally good... There are other way of cooking like the Oyster Sauce/Baked Crabs!!! The 6 of us find it so hard to finish off all the food on the table (another vegetable dish on top of all dishes featured here) despite everybody going for "small rice".

And the best thing was.... The bill came to RM160 only?! Yesh!!! (the BKT lunch came to RM130) Not even RM200 for a meal for 6 person with 2 crab dishes (approximately 7 crabs for 2 plates) with a big bottle of Tiger, 1 small bottle of Stout, a jug of Toddy, 2 whole coconuts and all the dishes featured earlier! Damn, no wonder they say your Setiawan trip is incomplete without indulging in the seafood here. Environment wise, do not expect fancy restaurants as Coconut Villa is actually.... a "hut" beneath coconut trees. Literally speaking. This place is situated somewhere in Kampung Cina. Set your destination point on your GPS and it shall lead you here without much hassle. I shall come back for the seafood. This time without a local as a guide. But with my parents. =D

Sunday, August 12, 2012

GJ Bak Kut Teh Setiawan

The Kong Piah post was just a teaser to travel/food log of Setiawan. This post shall resume with our lunch in Stiawan. Considering we will be staying back for dinner for seafood, we have to sought for something else for lunch. Red Wine chicken mee suah for lunch? Perhaps not as our tour guide suggested an alternative. Well, from the first picture, guess you would've guessed it.

It's MEAT time!!! Since we are having seafood for dinner, why not indulge on porky delights for lunch? Apparently, Stiawan too claims that they could dish up reputable Bak Kut Teh. This dish of a "dai guat" stewed with herbs is a winner! Infused with herbal scent with a tinge of spiciness, maybe from the star anise, there is no porky smell residue on any morsel of meat. Be warned that this dish is among the top ranking of arterry clogging, considering the amount of melt-in-your-mouth fat layers and gelatinous skin.

If the braised pork hand is too much to handle, go for a pot of Bak Kut Teh. Equal distribution of lean meat, ribs and offals like stomach, intestines mixed along tau pok, pork balls, enoki mushrooms and vegetables. I find the soup here a bit cloudy to my liking and the herbs proportion causing a too robust/pungent aftertaste. Side tracking a bit, there is a Bak Kut Teh stall along the Bercham main road serving quite good Bak Kut Teh.

Braised Fish Fillets (or rather Chunks) with Tau Chu/Curry/Dried Chill sauce. It's similar to the Kung Pou style but infused with a bit of curry like taste. It didnt really appeal to me, perhaps I prefer fish slices rather than chunks.

Bill came to RM130 for 6 person!!! So its not that cheap huh eating in Setiawan? But the portions are huge, Perhaps my friend should have trimmed down the portion when ordering, a 4 pax serving would've be enough to serve 6 of us. This shop name is G.J. (Chinese words is Koo Chai). Not in my to-eat list when I make a return trip to Setiawan. I will assure you why on the next post on SEAFOOD galore...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Behind the Scene Setiawan Kong Peah (Gong Pian)

How many of you have tasted good Kong Peah? Well, if you have, most likely this scene will be familair to you as good Kong Peah are best eaten hot and fresh. And while queing up for the ones which are fresh from the oven, you would most likely witness this scene. For those wwho do not know what is Kong Peah (光餅), it is actually charcoal oven baked biscuit made popular in Setiawan. To be exact Foochow community towns, including towns in Sarawak. They have a few variants, the original plain ones with onion fillings, the meat fillings (char siew like filling - the one with the sesame seed in the photo below) and some said they have vegetables/preserved vegetable fillings.

"Kompyang was named after Qi Jiguang, who invented it, taking the idea from Japanese onigiri. When Qi Jiguang led his troops into Fujian in 1562, the Japanese pirates, fearing his name, engaged mainly in guerrilla-style battles. Qi Jiguang noticed that the Japanese pirates could always trace where his troops camped because of the smoke that rose up to the sky when the soldiers prepared their meals. He found out the Japanese pirates had no such problem because they brought onigiri with them. So Qi Jiguang invented a kind of cake with a hole in the center so that they could be strung together to be conveniently carried along. Later, to commemorate Qi Jiguang's victory against the pirate raiders, the cakes were named guang bing." 
-Quoted From Wikipedia

Gong Pian/Kong Peah/Kompyang/Guang-biang/Kom-pia, whatever dialect or pronunciation you attempt, it's one of the must have if you make a trip to Setiawan. Cheong Cia is a household name a local from Setiawan would bring you for good Kong Peahs.

This is the playground of the maestro. A piece of Kong Peah dough, after divided into further smaller portions, is then flattened using a rolling pin. Onions is normally used as the filling. The peeling and cutting of onions have indeed drawn a lot of flies to this area. Hence, a glue board (fly trap) would be necessary to ensure you do not get extra toppings/fillings on your biscuit.

Baking time would be approximately 10-15 minutes. I didn't really timed the baking process but I used the queieing time as my estimation. Kong Piah baking process is similar to baking a piece of Naan or Heong Peah. Yes, using charcoal and a traditional clay/brick oven to ensure a smoky fragrant aroma...

A stainless steel plate is used to direct the wind from the fan into the furnace. This is to ensure the amber from the charcoal keep glowing and to create well distributed heat circulation in the oven. When the biscuits are ready, a stick and a spade like equipment will be used to "harvest" the biscuits which would easily peel of the walls of the oven. Sign that they are baked to perfection.

At 80 cents a piece, one person would normally buy at average 10 pieces, at least. That is why one batch from an oven would most likely cater to 2-3 customers ahead of you in the queue. Thank goodness they have 3 ovens running at full capacity!

I took some leftover Kong Piah back to Ipoh and reheated them for my parents. Took a bite and found it to be still cripsy but still have the chewy and hard exterior. Nothing beats the oven fresh ones. Crackling pastry skin/crust just like a piece of Shanghai Pancake (Woh Peang). The hot onion fillings coupled with lard released a pleasant aroma inside your mouth on every bite. The next time around, I will drive up to Setiawan again with my parents for a seafood meal and oven fresh Kong Piah experience.... soon =)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sky Lounge, 7th Floor MH Tower

Welcome back dear readers. I had a great an exciting weekend last week. How bout you? To kick start the strings of posts, it shall start off with a dinner on a Friday evening. Too normal? How bout having it on the 7th floor al fresco dining style? Ladies and gentleman, this is Sky Lounge, located on the 7th floor of MH Tower.

I heard many negative comments about this place all this while, particularly about the service. Especially during CNY, they impose a minimum order quantity for you to enter the limited alfresco dining area. And the funny thing is, the crowd is huge despite the arrogant service and exorbitant price of liquor/drinks. Well, its not surprising at all because this place share the same owner as Secret Garden "Fine Dining"

I'm a firm believer than besides good food, one pays also for ambiance and courteous service. I was unwilling to give this place a try until there is a promotion in Groupon. RM33+ per person for a 3 course meal. Not too bad amount to spend to test the waters.

Yes, this promotion....

Furthermore, its a special occasion as it was a farewell for one of my colleagues. Another person leaving Ipoh on hopes to make it big in KL. Here I go again with my famous sentence: Ipoh is doomed, the salary here sucks! Career advancement is limited. :O

Ok, I'm done with my ranting about low Ipoh salary. I'm sure my group of makan kaki does rant about work sometimes. Furthermore its a Friday evening. After picking our main courses, we chilled out with some beer and camwhored around the place.

Despite the haze, the amber skyline during sun set provides a good backdrop for those who loves photography... and camwhoring too. I believe that on a clearer night, you can get a great night view of this part of Ipoh city. Enough of seeing the pictures of the surrounding and my friends, lets move on to review the food! =p

Food here is below par. The best would be this only - Smoked Duck Breast. A bit too generous on the layer of fat, the meat is fragrant and "bouncy", not really chewy like Chinese roasted duck. Good to pair with beer.

My pitiful Sirloin Steak. I requested for medium well. Well, I assumed medium well is around 70-80%? But the meat came in 120%! Tough, dry. It's like a kid messing around in the grilling/BBQ pit. How come a so called "posh" dining place like this could make such mistake. This main course didn't make my RM33+ worth it.

I'm not too sure bout how the Grilled Salmon fared among my friends. The presentation looks good. But again, if you would've noticed, its kinda generic as in long beans and stewed potatoes with some gravy providing support to the meat on top. There are total of 5 choices of main course for the Groupon set - the other 2 being Grilled Lamb of Rack (which turns out to be slightly charred, more like lamb chop instead of rack of lamb) and Grilled Spring Chicken.

The dessert was a saving grace though. Brownies with Strawberry Ice Cream and Strawberry.... errrr sauce/syrup. Normally they would go for Vanilla to pair with Brownies, some might double the intensity with Chocolate flavour ice cream. But strawberry? Erm.... okay. :O

Overall, the set dinner was a failure and didn't impress me a bit. I would've criticized even more if its not because it was priced cheaper than ala carte pricing. Actually there was a soup included - The overly salty Cream of mushroom soup and the overly sweet Cream of Onion. Beer is priced much more expensive than any bar/pub you can find in Greentown. Their tower of Tiger is RM115 if I'm not mistaken. The happy hour of 5+1 "pints" of choice of beer is RM80 - making it an average of RM13 per "pint". Well, its really a pint for my Heineken, but the same cannot be said for the Kilkenny as it's not a full pint.

We left around 10pm. The al fresco area is almost half full. That's around 20 tables occupied at an estimation. The indoor lounge has only 2-3 tables. Nobody bothered to thank us or gave us any acknowledgement when we left. Well, same management as Secret Garden, where I previously had a sour dining experience from the poor service and food. I wouldn't want to return here again, though the view and breeze is very soothing and relaxing for a chill out night.

As the CEO (Chief Entertainment Officer) of the group - I hereby wish my "Financial Controller" Rachel all the best in her future undertaking. Now, there are 4 people to vote for our next outing place, some prefer Bricks And Barrel, some neutral but me the CEO normally calls for the veto power - to have it at Eurohouse, still my favourite spot to chill out. =)