Monday, February 25, 2013

Tandoor Grill, Ipoh

If you are an Ipohian, you wouldn't have missed the huge palace-like building opposite Moven Peak Steamboat. Tandoor Grill just had its soft launch in December, after months of speculation in the whole of 2012 what will be of this majestic bungalow. We were prepared that a meal here would not be cheap but since it was Chinese New Year period, Chinese restaurants would be packed and the price would be skyrocket-high. And since it's Valentine Day as well, Western cuisine restaurants would be all out to rake some beefy profit. What other better days where a meal in "fine dining" Indian setting would not feel exorbitantly priced at all.

I mean, I can't help since by looking at the huge porch which made the whole building look so grand, a meal here would be priced above the rest of its counterparts, right? You will have the feel that you have stepped into a hotel because there is an automatic sliding door. There is a waiting area whereby a receptionist will politely serve you and check with you for your bookings. The stairs at the sides leads to the Grand Ballroom upstairs, which is said to be able to accommodate up to 800 people for organization functions, weddings, etc. Trust me, its really an eye opening experience!

Because it was Valentine’s Day that night, the open dining area (which is said to can accommodate at least 100 diners) is fully booked. We were offered to sit on the floor… but in Japanese styled tatami private rooms! It was indeed a blessing in disguise, similar to my first visit to Hokkaido Japanese Cuisine.

 Each adjacent tatami room is separated with semi transparent veil. The carpet is very comfortable that my butt doesn't ache even though I tried sitting without the cushion. The dim lighting and wallpaper created a somehow romantic atmosphere for the evening to unwind and enjoy your company with your loved ones. Apart from tatami room, they have a few dining rooms which offers more dining privacy and elegant designs.

The wait for food and drinks was not long though while we sipped our sky juice. When the Chicken Kebab (RM17.90) arrived, it somehow gave me a poor first impression, because I never thought kebab would look something like………. Penang Lobak. At the back of my carnivorous mind, kebab has always been something like charred meat shaved to irregular pieces but they version here uses minced chicken meat. I took a bite and it somehow gave strong fragrance of herbs and condiments. There is a serving of mint based dip which made quite a refreshing complement to the kebab. If you would prefer lighter appetizers/starters, you can opt for Samosa, Fried Vegetable Patties, Fried Cottage Cheese, Fried Onion Rings and various type of salads.

The tallest glass is a special concoction mixed for Valentine's Day only, called Heartbeat (RM12). I feel its almost a derivative from one of their best sellers - the JMJ Passion (RM10), which is more like a mocktail which mixes strawberry juice, lime juice and ginger beer/soda. These are the "modern drinks with a twist" as if you want to break apart from typical hot coffee or tea or fruit juices. And if you would like to have a authentic accompaniment to an Indian meal, go ahead and try their Lassi (a classic Indian yoghurt drink). They have the plain, salted or sweet (RM6) and also with a few flavours (RM6.50) to choose from.

The Bread Basket (RM10.90) comprising 3 pieces of Naan (leavened bread made from wheat flour cooked in a tandoor oven), enable us to sample a piece each of Garlic, Cheese and Butter respectively. The Naan served here is like the base of a thin and crispy pizza, so one serving of the Bread Basket is at most sufficient for 2 persons.

The Sizzling Tandoori Chicken (RM26 for half, 46 for full chicken) is indeed a fresh alternative to the classic clay oven grilled Rotisserie chicken. Marinaded with a mixture of herbs, spices and yoghurt, this version has piquant reddish sauce cooked together with loads of onions, capsicum and tomatoes. This version is suitable to go along well with your white rice but I somehow prefer the original dry version of Tandoori Chicken served with a wedge of lime and some mint dip.

The waiters here, despite being foreign workers, have the basic command of English language and are well trained regarding the menu items. They can really recommend suitable dishes to meet your preference – spiciness, meat, etc. When we wanted something spicy to mask the potential gamey odour of mutton, the waiter gave us a good recommendation – the Mutton Punjabi Masala (RM25.90) which was indeed quite spicy.

If naan alone does not fill your stomach, the rice dishes will heed your call for carbohydrate supplement. They a few type of Briyani which ranges from RM7.90 to RM18.90, depending you order the plain or the one with meat/fish. We tried the Kashmiri Pulao (RM10.90) because we are captivated by the description which said its basmati rice cooked with fruit cocktail and dried fruits because we wanted something refreshing over the oily and heavy Briyani. Somehow, the fruity and sweetly taste did not really complement the savoury gravy of the other dishes. Things would've been better by having a sleep inducing portion of Briyani.

Having a whole page of desserts in the menu, we are quite indecisive to pick one. Just like how we picked the Bread Basket, we went for the Trio of Desserts (RM10.90). The far left in the picture is the  Badami Kulfi (traditional Indian ice cream flavoured with almonds), the centre is Ghajar Halwa (a "pudding" made from grated carrots simmered with milk and sugar) and the far right is Gulab Jamun (deep fried balls which is made from cheese/curdled milk and flavoured with cardamon syrup). There are a few more items but mostly are milk/cheese infused and fried. So... even your calorific level is not spared up to this stage.

Having offered a cosy room, we decided not to hop to a bar for second round as there are alcoholic beverages available in the menu. Yup, they have an extensive selection of cocktails and mocktails, beers, hard liquor and wines. Hard liquor can be in a shot (approx RM15/shot) or in a bottle quantity. Most mocktails are priced at RM12, cocktails ranges from RM15-RM18 (nope, I did not see radical concoctions like Tombstone here).

My Budweiser cost me RM16. Carlsberg is cheaper at RM12 while the Franziskaner Weisbier/Dunkel is at RM22. Whichever option you choose, you are will have the privilege to get your booze served on a carved stainless steel mug. Talk about drinking beer Indian style, like a boss! That's a reason they serve you in weird mugs as its easily differentiated from the Lassi and skyjuice steel glass. Yup, they have a separate glasses for alcohol as their kitchen food is pork free (haven't certified Halal)

This is their alcohol bar - a seperate route for "non-halal" beverages. Good planning ahead, but friend, HALAL status is not easy to obtain. I can assure you that with my experience as a QA Executive for more than 3 years. Anyway, kudos to the boss who want to penetrate the Malay market (they employed a few friendly Malay waitresses), though I'm skeptical that they will wanna patronize a eatery which halal status is doubtful. I mean, even the boss admitted that at least 60% of his customers are Chinese.

I mean, its not easy to maintain a high class Indian cuisine in a small town like Ipoh. As I have always lamented, the non-growing stagnated salary range would be a hindrance for sustainability of big guns in this category. Since a lot have been spent on renovation, I understand that the price is a bit steeper compared to the likes of Pakeeza. Even the boss spoke to me and explained the overhead is high, the electricity for a single day is approximately RM600!

I do wish them all the best in their venture as this in indeed a one-of-its-kind concept. But to be honest, a bill of RM199 for 3 people (even if we exclude the second round drinks, it would at least be RM50/pax for a decent meal), how often can Ipohian patronize these places? Well, I hope my blog review can do my part in promoting this place so that they have continuous flow of new customers. After all, how often and where else can we dine in style and elegance in an Indian restaurant with such cosy ambiance?  

Tandoor Grill is your only answer at the moment. :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Arthur's Hokkaido Mille Crepe, Berjaya Times Square

Crepe is actually a thin pancake. Unless you are a constant foodie or in the F&B line, one would not have much exposure to crepes. Even for me, the only time I read about this word was while I was browsing some recipe books and there was one dessert called Crepe Suzette (thin pancake with orange+Grand Marnier liquor drizzles). However, if you are a young foodie, perhaps you will heard, or rather caught in the craze of searching for Mille Crepe, a cake made of many layers of crepe. (FYI, the word "mille" means "a thousand")

The Mille Crepe craze, mainly caused by one of the pioneers and famous Nadeje in Melaka has hit the Klang Valley. Many places serve this cake but unless you are really a keen follower, you would have a hard time distinguishing the pretty good ones from the lackluster ones. For myself, I had my first slice of Mille Crepe in Arthur's Hokkaido Mille Crepe in the Lower Ground Floor of Berjaya Times Square. There are quite a number of flavours to choose from - among them the Original, Rum and Raisin, Green Tea, Oreo, Strawberry/Chocolate derivatives to name a few.

I'm just alone so it was quite hard for me to choose the flavour for my first slice. I went for the Rum and Raisin. Its priced at RM10.50 per slice if I remembered correctly. For most flavours, the crepe layers are made from original flavour while a few will have a chocolate infused pancake layers. Fresh cream is used to sandwich all the layers together - it was 17 or 18 layers if I did not lose count that day. Actually the cream layer was thicker than the pancake itself hence 1 slice is quite jelak. It's best eaten on the spot when it's still cold even so, perfect if eaten as fresh as possible, but I hope the slice I had was fresh on that day itself. Tastewise, it was good at the first few spoonful but it is kinda jelak after you are done with half the slice. Perhaps due to the overdose of cream use. Rum and Raisin was a bit below par in terms of flavour - the raisin is present but the rum flavour lack "kick", not to mention a non-pleasant bitter aftertaste due to poor quality rum I supposed. Perhaps, choosing the Mocha/Chocolate based flavour would be better...

Just as I was about to leave, I saw two young gals posing and camwhoring with 4 slices of cake on the table! Gosh! I had a hard time finishing one slice and one of them need to eat 2 slices! I actually wanted to walk over and asked permission so snap photos with them their cakes. Well I didn't... The maiden slice was an utter disappointment and I felt the mille crepe craze is a bit over rated. I do not think I will return again for another slice considering the price and the jelak-ness...

Perhaps I will give the benefit of the doubt and try the famous ones from Nadeje. Their new branch in Dataran 32Square, Petaling Jaya just had the soft launch tonight (Photo Source: Nadeje Facebook) Good news for foodies - no need to go until Melaka to be part of the Mille Crepe craze. I will make a visit here next time.... or a relatively famous cafe called Humble Beginnings to give the Mille Crepe a second chance. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Street Food @ Tiny Taipei, Berjaya Times Square - Wafllemania & Scallop-Q

Its been few years since I last stepped into Berjaya Times Square. Traveling to this shopping from UPM this those days was quite an arduous task, as one need to switch between trains. If waiting for KTM is not frustrating enough, try squeezing in a cramped monorail. After doing it for some time, I discovered the slightly better alternative, which is to switch train at Bandar Tasik Selatan into an LRT, which drops you off at Hang Tuah station. This option will save you from being cramped but won't be practical if it's on a rainy day as you will need to walk a slight distance from Hang Tuah LRT to Berjaya Times Square. 

 (photo grabbed from Scallop-Q Facebook)
There is some noticeable change in Times Square over the years. They have additional passenger lifts at the extreme left and right of building. This is to ease the movement of the people as the escalator and design of this building is quite asymmetrical from floor to floor. This place was never in my top list of place to lepak, unless I wanna hunt for clothes and good haircut or if I wanna cross over to Sg Wang for karaoke, window shop for tech gadgets at Low Yat plaza nearby, cross over to Lot10 before mesmerizing branded fashion apparels and accessories in The Pavilion.

Food-wise, most of the shops remained there besides additional stalls on the third floor nearby the cinema area . The branded this area as "Tiny Taipei". It does lift up to its name though as one can see many ordinary stalls selling extraordinary things. Take this photo for example, a typical waffle stall?

The display caught my attention. Not to mention to small crowd/queue waiting for their food. Must be good I thought. Despite having intentions to try Mille Crepe later on, I could not help but to join the crowd and see, or rather taste for myself what is the hype all about innovating traditional Belgian Waffles.

Of the few flavours available, its hard for me to decide whether to go for sweet or the savoury flavour. Okay, I'm a sucker for sweet stuffs, especially those pleasing to the eyes and hence I had the Marshmallow (RM5.50). One side of the waffle is dipped in melted cooking chocolate to serve as an adhesive surface to welcome generous serving of marshmallow and crushed nuts. It it then slightly heated in an oven to get browned and slightly gooey marshmallow. The waffle is crispy on the exterior but gooey and slightly chewy at the centre portion. The texture is very typical to Taiwaneese preference which they have their own mouthfeel terminology known as "Q", or rather "QQ-ness". "Q" is a texture that your teeth will dig into but not sunken, slightly more gooey than a marshmallow but less elastic compared  to licorice. Complexed huh?  "Q" can also be used to describe a noodle being al dente and bouncy at the same time. The secret for a QQ waffle is besides taking pride in using 100% milk,  the secret just lies in the "dough" or rather.... a specially modified flour/starch. Yup, its not waffle batter but "dough"! 

 I find these young entrepreneurs innovative in making a twist to the conventional honey/butter/kaya/peanut butter/strawberry jam toppings on a typical waffle sold at RM2.50-RM3. Since they are in the novelty stage, most waffle here are charged with a premium price for RM4.50 onwards for both savoury and sweet delights. I think the Cheesy Ham will be a good pick if I happen to drop by Times Square in the future for a snack or light lunch.

I've picked up an add-on  lemonade drink from Wafflemania for just RM1 but the acidity didn't serve well as a palate cleanser. I needed something more, something savoury. Situated just at the next stall, skewers on a grill caught my attention, there are actually SCALLOP! ^^

 (Photo grabbed from:

This stall is named Scallop-Q, (干贝烧)  a Taiwanese based brand started in 2011. It started off business in the famous Shilin Night Market, breaking the strereotyping that scallop is an expensive restaurant delicacy. Sourcing fresh and large scallops from Japan and running on kiosks were Scallop-Q's modus operandi in formulating a affordable scallop snack.

The scallop are first cooked in a hot plate/press grill (something which look like a sandwich maker) and basted with their own in-house secret recipe sauce. Upon near cooked status, they are transferred to the open grill to "dry" them off. Customers can opt for different sauce/flavours for their skewer of scallops ranging from BBQ Bonito, French Garlic, Japanese Seaweed, Indian Spicy Curry, Sea Salt, American Black Pepper, to name a few.
Being spoilt for choice, I picked the original "Scallop-Q Special" flavour. There are 4 morsels of scallops almost she size of the old 50 cent coin promising a savoury and appetizing taste. Basted with their own sauce which resembles Teriyaki sauce, they are lightly dusted with chilli flakes upon serving. Scallops were fresh yet succulent and have a tinge of sweetness from the sauce brushed on the scallops during the grilling process. For RM5.80, some may find it priced a bit steep for just 4 scallops. You need to fork out more than RM60 to savour all its 11 flavours. 1 down, 10 more to go. I will definitely return for more if I'm in Times Square. I would really love to try the Sea Salt and Frenh Garlic flavour which hopefully is less overpowering and you can sample the "taste of the sea" of the scallop. Lets hope that this time around, I can grabbed somebody interested to go food hunting in the heart of urban jungle! :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

A late afternoon treat in DELIcious, Midvalley.

The journey of Klang Valley food hunting continues though not in chronological order though, but I will try to manage them well. The next in line is Delicious, Midvalley. Having a few branches across the Klang Valley, they have now sprung forth in Penang and Singapore as well. According to their website, the first outlet was actually in One Utama but the opening of the Midvalley branch certainly boosted its reputation well. At least I heard of them and was curious to find out more after noticing them in Midvalley. They are pork free and they claim that all their food and non-alcoholic beverages are "halal". But as far as my work experience and knowledge serve me, legally your food is not halal until you are certified halal. Well, for some (or rather most) hardcores firm believers' stand. Enough of introduction, lets move on to the food.

Melting Pot (RM8.90) is actually hot chocolate with marshmallow. The presentation is simple yet lovely - thick later on foam with some cocoa powder topped with marshmallows. Tastewise, its very rich and tummy warming choice, towards the end the last few sips are heavy and concentrated in cocoa flavour. The drink behind is actually a creative Iced Longan + Lemongrass Tea (RM9.90). A whole stalk of lemongrass is immersed partially into the drink and acts as a stirrer.

Nasi Kerabu with Ayam Percik (RM24.90) comes in a hearty portion of ulam (traditional Malay salad), salted egg, keropok (fish crackers) and a whole drumstick (with thigh). The percik sauce has just a mild degree of spiciness, else you have a lot of green ulam to cool down the spiciness. The sambal-like dip for the ulam tasted a bit...... weird though.

Pasta Cabonara with Crumbed Chicken Tenders (RM12.90) is indeed a steal. But the catch is.... it's from the kids menu. Unless you have a child tagging along, I dare you wouldn't order this. The portion is quite substantial despite being meant for kids. Served with beef bacons (well, can't be pork ma) and doused in creamy sauce, if that doesn't fill a kid up, the chicken tender will wrap up the task.

The KID's Fish and Chips (RM12.90) is more than enough for a child. 3 pieces of battered fish fillets with generous serving of shoestring fries. And there's a sides of cucumber and carrot sticks with baby tomatoes for fibre and vitamins. Looks like they care alot about your kids well being, make sure they are fed well :p

We thought of trying the Afternoon Tea for Two Set (RM59.90 - warm scones with cream, bit sized sandwiches, strawberries with chocolate dip, cookies and a slice of cake of your choice, tea/coffee for 2 pax) but due to one of a friend did not turn up last minute, we skipped this. I went for the Be My Valentine (RM21.90) which is a trio of chocolate ganache with green tea crumbles, Tiramisu creme encased in a chocolate shell and white chocolate pavlova with raspberry and passion-fruit pulp

So this is what's the pavlova is all about. something similar to a meringue based - airy and light and sweet. The tangy passionfruit pulp coupled well and masked the Pavlova sweetness very well. The Tiramisu chocolate shell is just so-so but the chocolate ganache is heavenly and would find its spot well among the chocolate fanatics. Total bill for 2 adults and 1 kid was close to RM100 for all the items here. Quite pricey in my opinion but it would've been a norm for people in KL. Till then, a belated Chinese New Year greetings to all of you out there! Yours truly will be trying his best to keep up to its backlogged food reviews here this festive season.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Flying Chillies, The Gardens, Midvalley

It was 2 weekends in KL back to back due to 2 wedding dinners of my coursemates. Can't say no to a bestie, its once in a lifetime anyway. So I treated it as a partial coursemate reunion and also a chance to explore some food hotspot in KL. As I've said, there are many places which I did not manage to go while I was a student. Not born with a silver spoon in my mouth to have luxurious meals every weekend (in some student case nowadays, EVERYDAY), I have better "firepower" now since I've started working. Of the few places I've been, let me kick start with Flying Chillies, The Gardens, Midvalley.

 It was just a 2 person lunch, so I did have a hard time choosing what items. Firstly, it was the Deep Fried Prawn Wrapped in Wantan Skin (RM9.90) Nothing really spectacular but the prawns are quite succulent indeed and the mouthfeel contrasted well with the crispy spring-roll skin. If you are in a group of 4 or more, you can try a mixture of appetizer platter at around RM18+ which offers you to sample 3-4 items at one go.

Thai Green Mango Salad which is guarantee you a one-way ticket to the extreme burning sensation. In the menu it was mentioned that it is tossed with dried shrimps. I did NOT find any! Ishhh, felt a bit conned for RM14 appetizer. We finished almost half of the portion served as it was really spicy!

Pineapple Fried Rice (RM16.90)- you can opt for Chicken or Prawn. I opted for the Chicken version since the Tomyam I ordered has seafood already and the appetizer earlier had prawns. The rice is whole and grainy. Accompanied by cashew nuts, raisins, pineapple cubes and chicken meat marinated in tumeric, this portion actually is intended for one person only :p

Tom Yam Soup (RM12.90) which will do more than tingle your tastebuds. It literally torches them! You can choose between having all prawns in it or the seafood version. Besides that you can have the White (Clear) version or the Red version. The typical Red version is sour and piquant yet very fiery and deadly. The portion here is actually for 1 single person, but it can easily bring to people to tears. Literally.

Thai Iced Tea (RM10 if I'm not mistaken) is a similar resemblance to those Teh Si Special you get in Chinese Coffeeshops. They said Teh Si Special is originated from the East Coast, Sarawak if I'm not mistaken. The one served here, claiming to be authentic Thai version is more on the milkier side but have less fragrant sugary layer on the bottom. I prefer the palm sugar layer to be full of pandan leaves fragrance, as if you are adding a tinge of gula melaka into your milk tea...

Red Rubbies Water Chestnut in Coconut Milk (RM9) is a personal favourite of mine when it comes to Thai desserts. The version here is pretty decent with creamy and thick coconut milk. It could be better if they were abit more generous with the jackfruit.

Total damage for 2 person is RM100+ - including drinks of SeaCoconut Longan drink and some Minty Lemon drink with the dishes featured above. If you are an AEON card member or you choose to pay by CIMB card, you get a 10% discount. And if you have a great friend, your bill is waived, just like how it happened to me :)