Thursday, January 8, 2015

Zok Noodle House, Puchong

The iMiirage post had definitely caused a stir, causing a record for my personal blogging experience. It is now the top post with nearly 18k views in just a span of 7 days! At the same time, it is one of the posts drawing the most flaks, some being constructive and some comments from shallow minded, argumentative people. Knowing the fact that my blog is now more known among my colleagues and my boss(!), it's time to remain low and do some throwback food posts out of Ipoh.

Every tried waking up on a Sunday morning in Klang Valley and have the slightest doubt what to eat for brunch? Normally when I make my routine shopping/food hunt trip to KL, I will try my best to shy away from local hawker cuisines or Chinese restaurants since there are so many other unique things to try: Middle Eastern Cuisines, French, Italian, Korean, Vietnamese.... or even gourmet/themed cafes mushrooming all around. Reality kinda hit me hard on what should I be eating in Puchong as most cafes only open for business after 10:30am. I managed to Google about this place: Zok Noodle House and decided to give it shot before proceeding to UPM later to attend the annual Dogathon event.

Located at Bandar Puchong Jaya, Zok Noodle House literally means Bamboo Noodle House. Is it just me or have you noticed that the word "bamboo" is seems to be a cliche name for a Chinese noodle restaurant? Perhaps its because the traditional secret way of producing springy egg noodles lies in the act of "riding" the bamboo log on the noodle dough. Associating the name with the word "bamboo" seems to give a perception that the noodles are meticulously handmade with passion (and sweat of course!). Yours truly here just giving an initial test by impersonating Hong Kong's food critic Tou Tou in the poster.

So does it live up to its fame captured in wooden frames? Judging by the the near full turnout around 10am, let's hope nothing does wrong.

We tried the best of both worlds, the egg noodles in soup and the dry version. We have plump pork wantans in the soupy egg noodles. The broth was passable with minimal MSG usage as I was not overwhelmed with thirst after the meal. The wantan size is generally bigger than those you commonly see in hawker stalls. Since you are paying for RM7+ for a bowl of noodles, you do get back the worth. And the star of the dish is definitely the noodles! Cooked to near al dente texture, the springy texture makes it addictive and slurping the noodles with alternating spoonfuls of warm broth is comfort food on a lazy weekend morning!

The dry version was good too but somehow I still prefer the soupy version to keep the noodles moisten and warm till the very last bite. In other words, the roast meat managed to shine in this dish. Char Siew was well charred and bears a shiny caramelized coat while the Siew Yuk has crackling skin. The slight drawback was it was nearly total lean meat. A small layer of melt-in-your-mouth fat somewhere in between, would have scored perfect marks in my books. Since this is a throwback post, the receipt was indeed THROWN and this plate was around RM9 if I remembered correctly. Portion is quite substantial and its recommended for sharing if you would like to keep some space for their dim sum.

Dim Sum is priced reasonably from RM4 onwards. 3 of us were quite full from the 2 serving of their signature noodles, hence it was just Bacon Rolls, Siew Mai and Egg Tarts for us. Egg Tarts failed miserably while the other two made its mark. Is it just me or I feel generally Ipoh Dim Sum restaurants are better?

A myriad of dim sums catering to a full crowd. By the time we left, we noticed other dim sum shops within the vicinity to be quite packed. The noodles is worth a try, notably good but the dim sum is forgettable if you are a discerning diner. Till then, more KL short posts on the way :)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

CoffeeTag @ Ipoh Garden South Plaza

Its the first weekend of the new year. And I bet some among you, especially those from outstation are still in their respective hometowns, making full use of the long weekend by just applying just one day leave from work on Friday. And if you are hoping for a place to catch up with friends, the sleepy town of Ipoh has more than 30 cafes mushrooming since last year. One might wonder is it enough to sustain the business? I was at one of them on the last Sunday of 2014. It was 9pm, the peak hour notably for youngsters to flock these cafe joints but.... there was just merely 3-4 tables occupied.

Could it be the place was less strategic. I have a tough time describing to my non-residing Ipohians as this place is neither facing the front road nor the back. It's at the side, just nearby Eu Yan Sang and a petshop at the rear corner row of shops. Okay, I will just tell you the name, since with apps like Waze, you most likely wont be lost. This randomly selected one out of the 30 over cafes for the yum char session is CoffeeTag. You will see a big "#" on their signboard.

So what makes coffee here so different than the rest of the 30 over cafes elsewhere? To do justice to CoffeeTag, I'm not really a cafe hunter myself, so I can't really benchmark it against the rest. Coffee art here is quite standard like the other cafes. This is the Capuccino (RM7.80). Do I need to elaborate much?

The Cafe Latte is also at the same price if I remember correctly. Well I did not keep the bill as I was not the person footing it. Well, these are the usual photos you see in a cafe blog post (and Facebook/instagram bombardment)

For non-coffee drinkers, they have a few range of teas from RM6 onwards. Rather than drinking something from a teabag, why not opt for the Hot Chocolate (RM9 if I am not mistaken). Ok it has been 3 photos of beverages posted and I wonder anyone of you reading would've spot a sense of dejavu. The coffee art, cups and saucers bring out a familiar feeling somewhere? Well, the "chief barista" is actually a young lad who was previously one of the trio of Bread.Espresso.Dessert (B.E.D)

And lastly, this is my drink, the Naughty (RM10). It is actually espresso with milk and Nutella! Interesting combination but the presence of Nutella was not well detected by the tastebuds, except for noticing swirls of the hazelnut cocoa spread on the walls of the glass. More for decor purpose. Or perhaps the espresso was kinda strong till it has mask the subtle hint of hazelnut-chocolatey aftertaste I expected it linger on my tongue/throat.

For the pastries, we tried the Apple Crumble Cheescake (couldn't remember its RM10 or RM12) and it turned out to be quite good. My friend must be a constant cafe goer in KL, hence she made the remark of "this version is well executed but it would be better if the cooked apples have a spicy aftertaste from cinnamon". Well, perhaps the dosage used was small, as some may not like the over-cloying taste of the spice. Choices of cakes are quite limited, just around 3 types only.

The Banana Puff (RM5.50) was somehow a bit disappointing. The filling was not memorable and the pastry was mere passable. You might want to skip this.

Probably being a personal favourite of mine, I might be biased in evaluating this. The Bread and Butter Pudding (RM8.50) is awesome! With a well baked exterior but soft and fluffy interior, the buttery presence was well felt. The vanilla ice cream worked magic not only with the custard sauce but the contrasting temperature of cold ice cream with warm bread pudding is just comfort food to cure the Sunday night blues...

Overall, there are hits and misses on the food and drinks we tried. Most items are above average but they are also far from being memorable. That is probably why I tried to skip these generic cafes. The coffees are almost the same everywhere and unless you are really a demanding coffee lover, you would've felt it is more of less the same. I mean, who the heck would pay near to RM20 for some siphon/French press whatsoever gourmet coffee (eyes staring at Espressolab). But if you are looking for a modern touch of interior design and cosy atmosphere for chit chatting, then give CoffeeTag a try, at least once :)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Imiirage, the first virtual dining experience in Ipoh

Fancy some semi-fine dining but have limited options in Ipoh? One would be limited to choices such as Josephine, Indulgence, Secret Garden and perhaps if you would splurge a bit more, try Garvy's In the Park for real fine dining experience. However, come 1 Jan 2015, there is a new kid in town with a fresh concept. Complementing a gastronomical journey is a 270 degrees view of virtual environment projected from its HD LED screen. The background changes every 2-3 months. Currently the theme is Japanese Underwater Aquarium. Insider info claims that there will be other themes such as romantic streets of Paris, night skyline from Victoria's Peak, Hong Kong and also... *gasp* outer space!!!!!

One might me asking, who is the one willing to splurge so much on technology to bring a fresh dining concept in a lagging city of Ipoh with generally filled with people earning just past the poverty line. Well, since iMiirage is located on top of Nam Heong food court and if you have downloaded the MeCanOrder app, you would've guessed they are owned by the same person.

The restaurant only officially opens for business on 1 Jan 2015 but his relatives, close friends, business partners and invited OldTown employees are given the privilege to attend the soft launching. There was a few days of complimentary food tasting and I now hereby take claim that I am the first food blogger to review iMiirage before its official launch :)

Bread and butter to complement the soup. If I'm not mistaken, the order of cutlery usage should be from outwards to inwards. Ahhhh... fine dining etiquette!

The soup of the day is the Pumpkin Soup (an alternative is the Mushroom soup which comes along your set meals). Creamy and hearty, the portion is just right to warm your tummy and kick start your appetite. Ahhh... remember to spoon your soup outwards and minimize your slurping sound...

Nothing really spectacular with the Garden Salad though (this is your second course in your set lunch after the soup). For the dinner sets, you get more premium salads (with bacon or smoked salmon). The balsamic vinegar dressing provided a refreshing tinge. There is actually celery and capsicum under the leafy greens, which builds up the appetite for the main course

First main course is the Chicken Diavola. This set will be the most affordable one to pick from if you wish to gain entry to the restaurant. Grilled to perfection, the whole deboned drumstick is lightly marinaded with herbs and natural spices. Psssttt... this dish is RM22.50 for ala carte serving after online discount if you are tight on budget. But I would recommend you to try something more unique... Read on...

This is the Chargrilled Iberico Pork served with a serving of Rissotto and Mixed Greens. Iberico Pork is premium imported pork which is sourced from the Iberian Black Pig (or Spanish Black Pig). Free to roam and left to fed naturally on grass, herbs and roots, they are free from any growth boosters. Hence this gives rise to a memorable tender meat. Grilled with herbs and spices, the texture and smoky aroma will provide you one memorable dining experience, despite burning a significant sized hole in your pocket. There is local pork served too in their menu at entree level price range in dishes like Mixed Pork Platter and Pork Milanese with Spaghetti. However, if you are a real food lover, I would strongly urge you to skip that few Starbucks Fraps and indulge in the Black Pork at least once in your life :)

I preordered the Beef and was hoping for a premium surprise as I browse through the menu. Well, I was hoping for some top notch premium grades as Kobe and Wagyu (Marbling Grade 5/6 and Grade8/9 are both in the menu) to be served but alas, the Pure Angus Sirloin Steak was for the complimentary dinner. I requested for 70% done but it came out near to well-done. Probably due to a busy kitchen catering for 60 invited guests at one go? But this mistake is quite detrimental especially from a premium restaurant as fussy connoisseurs might be firm to return the dish and request for another properly done according to their request. The beef is not served with any sauce just like the grilled chicken earlier. With only light seasoning from salt and pepper and no MSG in place, one can savour the original taste of the meat without it being eclipsed by those BBQ/Black Pepper Sauce

The same can be said with the fish. If you have the freshest ingredients, do not be shy of it. Spices and herbs are meant to elevate/enhance the natural flavour of the meat. This is a seabass if I'm not mistaken, not to sure of the cooking style as I didnt sampled it. They do have entree level salmon till premium ranging trouts and turbot fishes. Fancy something more premium then go for the Grilled Hokkaido Scallops with King Prawns from their ala carte menu.

Served with a side of mashed potatoes and brocolli, this is the Classic English Boiled Lamb with Caper Sauce. The lamb is tender and the meat can fall off the meat without much effort from your fork. Slightly gamey in taste, there is less hearty compared to conventional lamb stew you might normally have (especially those incorporating Stouts in the broth)

This is the cheesecake which is is creamy but far from being rich. May appeal to some people's tastebuds but I would prefer a stronger cheese flavour. The food presentation seems a bit too simple to me. If I'm paying around RM15 for a slice of cake, I would expect a feast to the eyes as well...

There have some soda drinks out of the conventional ones you normally see in the retail market, thus allowing them to charge a premium for just merely fizzy beverages. I'm not sure whether they do serve fresh fruit juices, but coffee and tea is definitely a staple in the menu. For alcoholic beverages, they do have house wine and gourmet wines sold in bottles. There is no beer served at the moment. 

Screenshots below shows the layout of the ordering and a price range if you might wonder how much it will hurt your wallet to amaze your date. For all the screenshots below, not tat the price indicated is AFTER THE 25% DISCOUNT for pre-ordering. For every item you click, you will see its normal price in smaller fonts. Note that for the same main course, there is a slight difference in price between the dinner sets and the lunch sets

This is screen shot of the lunch sets, ranging from RM50 per head. All sets comes with a drink (coffee/tea), soup (pumpkin/mushroom), salad, main course and dessert (varies according to sets)

The dinner seems to be more expensive by around RM8+. This is due to the difference in starters and desserts. For dinner, diners will be served chocolate or cheesecakes rather than icecream/grilled pineapple cubes for lunch sets. Furthermore, the salad for dinner sets is more premium (comes with bacon/smoked salmon)

I did include the screenshots of some of the alacarte orders. The Angus steak shown earlier was not in the set meal. It can be ordered at various sizes starting from 160g (RM66 minimum).

And a must introduced is the Iberico pork series. Not cheap though, for all ala carte mains ranging from RM70+. I need to check with them whether the pork platter has pork chop made from Iberico pork or local pork, else RM40+ would be a good price to sample the famed premium pork.

There you go... This might not be the most extensive review yet. But its definitely the first review on iMiirage. Till then, yours truly would wish you a Happy New Year 2015! Cheers :)