Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sabah Tea Garden (STG) Chateau Garden

Sabah Tea Garden or fondly known as S.T.G. is not to be confused with the multi-category food and beverage operator group called TSG. Besides the different arrangement in letters on the acronym, STG is so much better when it comes to food quality. Allow me to share more regarding to their background. STG is actually owned by the boss of Yee Lee. This probably explains why you see Spritzer Mineral Water, Pop and Tinge in their list of beverage. But what many people may not know is that Yee Lee Corporation actually owns a plantation in Sabah. Hence, no prizes if you could guess where the tea leaves are supplied from...

Within the mansion painted in white houses an interior with a touch of British-colonial home design. The rattan chair with white tablecloth complements the flooring which kinda brings you back into per-independence wealthy homes. The ambiance here is great for couples to have a romantic dinner or a group of friends catching up over afternoon tea. But if you are coming in a large group, do enquire whether you can use the private rooms upstairs as chatty crowd or group with noisy kids may be a nuisance to those dating couples. LOL

Traditional Fish and Chips served here does not use Dory Fish Fillets but fillets from sea bass! So, for a price tag of slightly above RM20, it is a reasonable price to pay for quite a substantial portion of lightly battered fish fillets, fried to near perfection with a serving of home made fries. Thankfully the batter was not those thick and hard ones like typical English styled Fish and Chips (those who tried Uncle Albert can relate to the experience of eating more batter than fish itself). Overall, quite well executed entree level fish dish. You may opt for Salmon Steak (RM40)

Duck Confit (RM28) is actually a French dish utilizing the drumstick form a duck. The drumstick is cured with salt and certain spices by refrigerating it for at least overnight or till a couple of days. It is then slow cooked in an oven to get a tender meat texture and finally stored in oil/fat! Sounds like the Chinese “Lap Ngap” (waxed duck) to me. Upon serving it will be reheated or slightly grilled. It was my first time eating Duck Confit and to be honest, I am not really used to the taste of it.

The Tea-smoked Chicken Whole Leg (RM26) is one of their signature dishes. A whole chicken leg is roasted and drizzled with an aromatic brown sauce with full embodied with tea flavor. I suspect the chicken was pre-prepared and it was just reheated in the microwave before serving. Otherwise, this dish is quite decently executed. Well, since it's their signature dish, why not give it a try? 

The Lamb Shank here (RM36 if I'm not mistaken) did not appease to my taste bud at all. The meat was tender undoubtedly but was spared from any hearty gravy. The lightly hue gravy seems more suitable to accompany the mashed potatoes rather than the lamb shank. The lamb shank was far from being gamey, I was kinda turned off by the blandness and the slight odour from the fat layer (perhaps a hint of pre-prepared dish kept frozen). I'm not sure about others who tried this but this certainly did not hit my scorecards. I would gladly go for those in the bistro/pubs which has Guiness infused brown and hearty gravy whereby the lamb shank is really braised in it! Perhaps the Grilled Rack of Lamb (RM70+) would be different?

The menu also houses a few local delicacies such as Nasi Lemak, Wat Tan Hor and Prawn Mee for those who crave for more carbohydrates with a local touch. This is their premium rendition of a Penang street favourite, the Char Kuay Teow. There are 5 big deshelled prawns and crab meat to justify the price tag of over RM20 for a street favourite (used to be RM15 when they started off business but I think they revamped their menu and most items are now above RM20). Oh ya, to bring this dish to a step above, duck eggs in used, promising a greasy and aromatic affair alongside plump beansprouts and chives.

For Western selections which focus more on carbohydrate fix, they have a few types of sandwiches and burgers, not to mention pastas. Seafood Aglio Olio is my friend's pick. It comes with angel hair tossed in olive oil and some chilli flakes. My friend commented that the taste was rather bland and it requires a bit more garlic and chilli flakes. 2 deshelled prawns, 2 mussels and some squid completed this pasta meal. Most pasta here ranges from RM20-30 where by you get staples like Cabonara and Bologanaise.

Last but not least, enter the dessert realm! Belgian Waffles with Ice Cream (RM13) requires a waiting time of at least 10 minutes. Hence, let's give the benefit of the doubt that they are not using the frozen waffles. I really admire the effort they put in the food presentation here, convincing me that the slightly heftier price tag does come with substance. Overall, this dish was good but it came to just "above average" when it was benchmarked against the other 2 desserts.

One of it was the Chocolate Lava Cake (RM13). I accidentally punctured the cake before getting a clean shot of it. Reheated on the microwave before serving, the decoration need to be completed in a brisk before the ice cream melts while maintaining the warmness of the chocolate cake. The vanilla ice-cream complemented the chocolate lava well as chocolate is indeed very rich and strong. "In case of emergency", bit the strawberry and hope the sourish fruitiness can neutralize this chocolate elixir.

Secondly, I felt that the Tiramisu (RM13) here stood out tall and is currently my perennial favourite which I will definitely order in my future visits to STG. They are pre-prepared on display with other cakes such as Peanut Butter Brownies, Cheesecakes of the day and also Macarons. 

Tiramisu here uses real Mascarpone cheese for that light creaminess without over-cloyingly rich. The biscuit fingers are doused with espresso with an imminent presence of coffee liquor. I would strongly presume its Kahlua. I have repeatedly mentioned in my blog that secret to a good Tiramisu (at least in my books) is a combination of strong espresso, liquor and Mascarpone cheese. Having said that, bear in mind there is no such thing as HALAL Tiramisu.

There is outdoor seating too overlooking a serene garden, an ideal spot at night but definitely not during afternoons. Operating hours of STG is from 11:30am to 11pm (lunch, tea and dinner) and they are closed on Mondays. Service here is attentive and friendly, though I would prefer they just oblige to my request of providing complimentary sky juice rather than "coercing" me to pay RM3 for a bottle or Spritzer drinking water. Well, after all, I'm paying 10% service tax. Sky juice so expensive meh? Not that I'm not ordering drinks, I just plan to have my coffee to go along with my dessert. If the management is reading this, kindly advise your team to oblige to simple customer request such as this, and I'm sure it shall be a near perfect dining experience for all. Cheers :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

T.W.T. (Tea Warmers Treats), Medan Ipoh Bestari

Boutique cafes or cafes which boast contemporary ambiance with gourmet coffee is plaguing Ipoh. Though working for one of a brand leading coffee manufacturer in Malaysia, I do not consider myself a true aficionado of coffee. I admit I am already way behind the trend, trying only places which some of them are opened more than a year! Packed to the brim of post graduate study assignments and tuition classes after work, this new cafe called Tea Warmers Treat (TWT) seems to be a great place to rejuvenate this jagged soul of mine. Occupying the same corner lot which formerly houses the horrendous Spices of Penang, it is at the row of shops opposite Hokkaido Japanese Cuisine or its strategically located behind Li Yuan Dim Sum in Medan Ipoh Bestari.

Surprisingly to find it more than 2/3 full on weekday night, we were courteously welcomed by the team of a middle aged lady together with a young couple (which I believe one of them is her child). Menu served is pork free which do not have a huge variety of items but sufficient to prevent being spoilt for choices. I decided to go for some poultry. The presentation of the Teriyaki Chicken and Zaru Soba (RM18) is neat and decent. Grilled to near perfection leaving juicy flesh of the poulty and slightly charred skin, the whole deboned chicken drumstick is glazed with a sweetish yet savoury Teriyaki sauce which tantalize your tastebuds. I'm glad they did not overdo with the amount of sauce unlike how conventional cafes or restaurants would just pour everything at one go. If they sauce is flavourful and does the trick, a small amount sufficient to coat the surface will do the trick. Instead of conventional fries or salad, you get a portion of Soba noodles at the bottom for your carbohydrate fix. A good fusion attempt I would say.

I skipped the usual Cabonara and went for their pizza instead. This is the Smoked Duck Pizza (Somewhere RM20-ish) Slices of tender and aromatic smoked duck breast are accurately placed so that you get a slice of smoked duck for every slice of pizza, no more no less. Besides the conventional tomato sauce base and mozarella cheese topping, they actually used Mandarin Oranges on it. Personally speaking, I did not think it blended well with the smoked duck and the sweetish BBQ-like sauce drizzled on top. The pizza base is slightly on the hard size rather than additively crispy. I would rate this just slightly above average only.

The Cheesecake did not really appease to my tastebud as I find it to be light. Well, this is again my personal preference of a richer version. Those who prefer a light, airy and creamy feel might connect to this. On a seperate note, I would like to commend the lady boss for her honesty. Initially I wanted to pick a Chocolate Cheesecake instead. She recognised it was down to the last slice and apologized to me because the cake was 3 days old and she refuse to sell it to me. Thumbs up for their professionalism and integrity :)

Charmomile with honey and lemon (RM6 if I'm not mistaken). They have quite an extensive choices of premium floral teas which is around RM10-14 per pot (can be shared by 2 person). Coffee on the other hand is quite limited as expected because their name T.W.T. tells it all. They take pride in their tea options in their arsenal.

Very homely decor with just near perfect ambiance lighting. Ideal place for a date due to the soothing background music. Not very recommended for group parties because due to the small space, the echo from your voices is quite significant and somehow disturbing to other couples. I am saying this because the table beside me has two noisy children!

Feel free to drop by but try to avoid Mondays. There is ample parking especially after night falls due to nearby coffeeshops and offices are closed at night. They do have Chocolate Lava Cake and also Green Tea Lava Cake, macarons and other dessert of the day. Do feel free to pick from the display counter and enjoy sipping some nerve calming beverage. Till then, best wishes from yours truly :)