Thursday, January 31, 2013

Citrus Wine & Dine

I do not take alcoholic drinks during working hours. It was a good pick as for RM6.90 (it's imported, brewed in Holland) it was something different than regular soft drinks. Bavaria Non Alcoholic series comes in a few flavors, I chose the Apple flavour. Very gassy and refreshing drink indeed, tasted very similar to the carbonated drink Zappel. Can't help but to limit the zip of this beverages while waiting for more than 15 minutes for our main course despite it was quite empty during lunch. It was a long wait since I'm really curious what Citrus Wine and Dine has to offer. Being opened for more than 5 years, I've never tried this place as I heard it was kinda pricey, though set lunches below RM20 are offered.

But since this is a treat from somebody, I shall not go for the set lunches. Let's see what a table of 4 can pick from the ala carte menu. The first main course selected was the Spaghetti With Chicken Pepperoni in Creamy Sauce (RM22). My colleague opted for this after I pointed out that the Cabonara comes with beef. Quite identical to the Cabonara though, which will be reviewed next.

Spaghetti Cabonara (RM26) came with bacon bits, capsicum, mushrooms in a soupy like gravy. The angel hair pasta was cooked al dente but no matter how hard the bacon bits tried, it paled in comparison with the pork bacon. Yes, authentic porky goodness is irreplaceable in dishing up a good plate of Cabonara. And I prefer my Cabonara to be slightly dry - with evident presence of an egg and cream cheese. I really liked the version served in Michelangelo Pizzaria (few years back) and the resonably priced one in EuroHouse. The version here somehow is not my cup of tea.

The Aglio Olio Tenderloin (RM26) was somehow I feel the best among the 3 pasta ordered. Lightly tossed in olive oil and garlic oil, the herbs and dashed of freshly ground pepper made the presence of this dish felt in our table of four. My colleague mentioned that the beef is nicely executed, not chewy and was quite tender.

Enough of seeing pasta? The last main course is one of the best in display. Welcome the Chicken Pesto Fondue (RM26). A medium sized chicken thigh grilled and finding itself comfortably placed on top of mashed potato and some garden vegetable and blanketed in creamy pesto sauce. Really loved the presentation of this dish/ The mint olive oil drizzled into a pattern on the circumference of the meat is indeed a sight to behold. Didn't manage to take a sample of this dish but it have already won our eyes, if not our tastebuds.

Most desserts are priced in the range of RM8-RM15. Yes, they served quite a wide range of attractive desserts besides the cake of the day on display. If you are not certain on what to choose, or rather, you have a sweet tooth like me, why not pick something like the The Trio Sampler (RM16)? As the name goes, you get to douse your cravings with 3 different desserts!

The Crepe with Chocolate and Banana Filling is lovely! This is the one of the 3 items of this platter which I do not wish to share with the rest of my colleagues. The banana puree is ripe, warm and not painstakingly sweet, but coupled with the chocolate drizzle and the thin skin of pancake, this is heavenly! One thumb up for the taste, the other thumb up for being a personal favourite!

Strawberry Panna Cotta is served on a tall dessert glass. The base of the glass is stuck with candle wax to get a secure grip on the platter. The Italian custard is quite bland on itself but the texture is quite wobbly and slips down your throat just like tau fu fah. The strawberry puree with whole strawberries is a bit overpowering on its own but it will give a good combination when your spoonful of puree and custard is at the right ratio.

The Creme Brulee of Pandan and Ginger flavour is a creative creation. Those who are not fond of milky stuffs would find this dessert palatable too because the ginger manage to mask the creamy, milky and eggy flavour making it more acceptable and less "jelak". However, pure lovers of creme brulee would not find this version appealing though I felt the caramelized sugar top was well executed and the texture of the egg custard is also quite velvety smooth.

Ending our first 3 desserts, let's add another 3 more desserts in the review. Enter our second combination platter called Dessert Symphony (RM18.80). This platter is more of a cake combo - the Cheesecake, Brownies with Vanilla Ice Cream and The Warm Chocolate Moist Cake. The first two is of quite average, the cheesecake being very light and not too overpowering to end a meal, the brownies created a strong chemistry bond with the ice cream. The winner of the 3, in our unanimous decision is undoubtedly the Moist Chocolate Cake....

It is more like a Molten Lava Cake though. The cooking chocolate centre is far from being gooey and pudding-like viscosity but it flowed kinda freely... the black gold, the elixir of this dish, being warm... not too sweet but with a slight bitter aftertaste. I'm totally sold! Hehe... so much for being a sucker at desserts, the bill kinda woke us up into reality. Total damage was near RM180 for the 4 of us, quite pricey for the ala carte picks but for the taste, IMHO it is better than Indulgence. I might consider returning for more of the desserts though it means burning a hole in my pocket...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Bistro, Impiana Hotel, Ipoh

The Bistro is a semi-fine dining with a touch of a casual and relaxing environment situated at the ground floor of Impiana Hotel, Ipoh. Do not be mistaken with their own hotel coffee house which serves buffet lunch and dinner as The Bistro is totally by itself. This is maybe due to the incorporation of alcohol and also they serve liquor here. It is pork free but does not have a halal cert, obviously.

We were provided with a starch stiff linen napkin to be placed on our laps. So much for fine dining etiquette. :p Luckily we were spared from complicated cutlery on the table, though I noticed the size of the fork for pasta and for my lamb shank seems to be different in size. Not long after the photographer nature in us kicked in, we were served with a bowl full of Ciabatta, Panini, Focaccia, Olive Bread, Tuscan, assorted Grissini sticks to name a few. It certainly surpassed my expectation as in Italianese, I was only served with Tuscan bread with olive oil-balsamic vinegar dip.

In The Bistro, you are provided with 3 different accompaniments for your bread and buns! The soft and creamy, lightly salted butter, the almond oil (I suppose) and olive oil lightly drizzled with some balsamic vinegar. All of us loved the butter a lot and wished we can find similar one in the market.

The assorted bread - not warm from the oven but was certainly fresh! Different bread gave a different texture although. The stick ones were very addictive indeed, especially the one generously sprinkled with paprika. We didn't know they were so meticulous with the complimentary bread (its was priced at RM12 in the menu, at first we were unsure whether will we be charged for this portion), else we would've ordered a soup to go along with it - I wanted to try their Crayfish Bisque (RM14, with alcohol, crayfish is a large shelled prawn, NOT a fish. It's a substitution for lobster for this soup)

Ok, I'm done with the bread. Let's move into the menu in depth and our choice of food. There is a 3 course Set Lunch (RM32) and Set Dinner (RM48) currently running. One can choose from an Appetiser, Starter or Soup for the first course but Salmon Carpacio was our pick. Ideally sufficient for one person, the Carpacio had done its part well to the light seasoning of oil, balsamic vinegar, etc. The slight flaw would be the salmon slices was not too fresh, somehow it "fell apart" after trying to lift it with our fork. Notice tat flat piece of "craker". That was actually a whole piece of Parmesan Cheese. :)

We decided to skip the ala carte Alfredo Smoke Salmon Linguine and went for the Seafood Aglio Olio from the choice in the set meal. The version here rewarded with a small twist, at least to the taste buds. Birds eye chili are finely chopped and tossed together with some olive oil and minced garlic and herbs. According to the description in the menu, white wine was used in this pasta but I think the chilli masked the alcoholic presence here. The seafood portion was quite generous, which includes scallops, mussels, prawns and squid. Pasta was near al dente but upon serving, the dish was just merely below lukewarm.

For one of the 1 ala carte dishes, we went for The Roasted Lamb Rack (RM52). From the name, it may give you the impression that you need to have a ferocious appetite to finish the portion up. We overlooked the fact of which type of restaurant we are in… and each of us only manage to have one small piece of it. The piece I took had a little too much fat and the meat was slightly tough and chewy. The 3 pieces of lamb are sitting on a bed of mashed potato and garlic without any gravy. Well, there is a small cup containing brown sauce to accompany the lamb, but the mashed potato was indeed very good to be eaten on its own. The meal is balanced with a few numbers of baby tomato, pickled onions, baby sprouts, zucchini, carrots, etc...

The Risotto Con Porcini (RM22) is a vegetarian dish which a lot of button mushroom and black mushroom in the centre. The texture is like thick congee cooked together with Parmesan cheese. Well, actually we expected something else when ordering the dish and it turned out different from what we expected. After some post dinner research, what we were looking for was Paella, NOT Risotto.  Anyway this portion of gruel was a bit hard to be eaten on its own, I cannot further comment much, neither do I liked it nor I dislike it. Perhaps it just couldn’t relate to our taste buds, MINE at least..

The Crème Brulee (usually made from cream, egg yolks and sugar) which was the dessert for the set dinner turned out to be very overpowering in egg taste. However, the texture is a bit rough and coarse, far from being smooth and velvety melt-in-your-mouth type. The version here is flavoured with Rosemary. The sugar was not too well caramelized - still can feel some fine crystalline in a few mouthful. All 3 of us agreed that this dessert not very impressive. So we cast a unanimous vote to order another dessert!

We decided to gauge how far this place can go by claiming to be an "Italian" restaurant. So lets see how their forte fare this time. Tiramisu is an Italian dessert made of lady finger dipped in Espresso, layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks, sugar and mascarpone cheese, dusted with cocoa powder and most importantly flavoured with alcohol – either Rum or Marsala Wine. Thank goodness for the price of RM19, the taste here somehow matched my preference, though I expected a better feast for the eyes. I mean, the food presentation for the dessert is a bit lackluster.

Tastewise, I'm sold! I’m a firm believer that Tiramisu without alcohol should not be called Tiramisu at all. Besides that, Tiramisu should NEVER be classified as a cake, NEVER to incorporate sponge cake in place of the lady finger, neither should normal whipping cream be in place of the mascarpone cheese (even if Mascarpone cheese is expensive, try using cream cheese to the least). Very rich and ended the meal with a smile on my face.... :)

Food aside, I shall now present you with some shots of the ambiance here. There is a live 3 piece band from Indonesia taking place on this stage from 9pm onwards. Oh yeah, we were seated in the dining area, similar to the table in this photo...

This is snap shot near the bar. Wine glasses and cocktail glasses at your disposal - ready to be utilize to their part in unwinding your tough week. The drinks maybe a bit steep here, draft beer at RM15, bottled imported beer at RM19 onwards, cocktails at RM23 onwards, Irish coffee at around RM20, soft drinks, fruit juice and not alcoholic hot beverages at RM10 onwards. Perhaps there is live band, and they do charge a premium for those who choose to order a drink only without eating.

House wine is at RM18 per glass if you wish to unwind like a boss in style at the sofa area. Initially we wanted to call for some drinks and shift to this area but some other customers were already occupying this area and some were smoking there..

A cabinet of cigar on display for sale near the sofa/lounge area. There are also magazines for reading as well, but I would recommend you go Starbucks if you wanna do reading. Hehehe... Last but not least, having all said, let me unveil the total bill for that night....

RM143! For 3 person. It was cheaper than expected! I overlooked one very important point. The price you see in the menu is already the nett price (the 6%+10% tax are already inclusive in the numbers you see in the menu). Well, if that's the case, its not a very pricey affair considering the ambiance and polite service (unlike Indulgence and Secret Garden). Do give this place a try if you if you are cracking your head where to go with your someone special or during anniversary or just want to unwind on a Friday night. Like how I did... on my first Friday of 2013. And lets hope this year will be a great gastronomical journey for me.... and for you all as well. Cheers! :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Alexis. The Gardens, Midvalley

There are many eateries in KL which I missed out throughout my 4 years in uni because I do not have a car. Even so, its not even possible to review the ones which are situated in the malls, which are easily accessible by public transport - there's always the financial limiting factor. Hence, it feels great to be back in KL on a weekend getaway once you have started working. And this stop, its ALEXIS in the Gardens, Midvalley.

It was just a teatime session cum light lunch before I take my train back to Ipoh. So no main courses... just stick to the cakes. Firstly, this is the Moist Chocolate Cake (RM15) - Sweet toothed like yours truly will find this cake kinda monotonous and far from delivering the richness a chocolate cake should have. Lack some cocoa firepower though the texture was indeed soft and moist enough to my liking.

Tiramisu Cake (RM15). A different perspective offered in Alexis - which didn't click well with me, which is introduction of Strawberry Sauce and sugar glazed almonds. The mascarpone cheese light yet creamy presence was felt but the after taste of coffee and the alcohol was somehow missing. The sugar glazed almonds was a bit hard when you lay your teeth on it. Some may think that its a contrasting feel to the creamy and soft cake beneath but I prefer they stick to the authentic recipe. Well, so much for the acclaimed one-of-the-top picks for the best Tiramisu in town. For the same price, I think I should've tried their Pavlova instead. Should've been more adventurous instead...

Price is above your average cafe, after all, this is The Gardens, Midvalley. Main course is mostly at the range of RM20 onwards and beverages could easily touch RM10. I'm not too keen on trying out the main courses here, a tea time session here should suffice to have it done in my checklist. Their signature Tiramisu is not my cup of tea... I will disclose how a proper Tiramisu should appease me in my next review :)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tong Pak Fu. Midvalley

This was a delayed post due to procrastination and due to poor photo quality due to the orange lighting. Tong Pak Fu is situated nearby the Cinema Area of Midvalley and was opened few months before the Hui Lau Shan mango craze hit our shores. Mango also seems to be their hit theme here, as seen in this picture above, The Mango Sago Dessert. Quite a common scene in dessert house nowadays. The one here is thick, creamy and full of mango goodness at the price or around RM9 if I'm not mistaken. If cold desserts are not your preference, you can opt for many hot desserts like Double Boiled Pear tong shui, Black Glutinous Rice Cream, Peanut Butter Cream to name a few. Whatever your choice is, try not to skip their signature product below.

I'm unsure of the origin of this Snow Ice dessert but as far as I know, this craze has originated in Taiwan but the Hongkies too have their own version/improvisation and made popular in Hong Kong based F&B chains like Kim Gary, Hui Lau Shan and even here Tong Pak Fu (not to mention pasar malam stalls nowadays). The significant difference can been in this photo compared to other SHAVED iced desserts is layers of light and fluffy snow ice is meticulously piled up in a tower form, drizzled with syrup and garnished with accompaniments like the signature chewy Pearls, Sago Balls containing sourish yoghurt based filling, Aloe Vera Jelly, Grass Jelly, Taro Balls, Cornflakes, fresh fruits cubes/slices to name a few. I had the Mango Snow Ice (RM10 if I'm not mistaken) but I heard from my friends that the Durian Snow Ice is da bomb!

Will I come back again? Hmm... If I'm out of new dessert/cafe based outlets in Midvalley, perhaps I will make a return since they do serve snacks like Curry Fish Balls, Rice Cakes, Fried Chicken Cutlets, Fried Squid to name a few and also fusion/Western desserts like Crepe, Lava Vake/Brownies. Till then, cheers to the first weekend of 2013 as I prepare on my next post of yet another KL dessert gem :)