Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sushi Mentai, Ipoh

Japanese restaurants seems to crowding Ipoh since the early 2000 though not many really offer real quality and fresh menu items to their customers. Some has thrown in the towel, while some bigger names are still standing now. Nevertheless, restaurants which has a conveyor belt is scarce though, let alone the option of choosing between the franchised Sushi King or Sakae Sushi... Sushi Zento penetrated the market less than 2 years ago and offered a well rounded Japanese dining feel, comprising sushis from the conveyor belt for those who are tight on budget while offering a vast selection in the menu, including premium seasonal items. And best of it, it is one of the few Japanese restaurant which offers pork (ranging from the entry level of Sakura Pork till the famed premium Black Pork).

The latest craze now in Ipoh would be Sushi Mentai in Greentown Business Centre and Shinjuku Japanese Cuisine located inside Kinta Riverfront Hotel. I have yet to try the latter as the price is not cheap but it is the only restaurant which offers live action from the teppanyaki grill, not to mention Omakase option (which literally means leaving it to the chef to come up with the few course meal improvising the freshest ingredients possible to whip up a surprise). Anyway, this review is about the latest conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Ipoh...

The poster of RM1.80 and RM2.80 has been widely circulating in Facebook prior to its opening end of November. And as expected, the crowd is crazy! This could be probably due to "new toilet syndrome" (directly translated from Cantonese which kinda bring some resemblance to the Malay phrase 'hangat hangat tahi ayam') But judging from how reasonably priced it is on par with some of the lackluster sushis sold in pasar malam, I could not see what can stop this shop from brisk business day in day out.

The Agedashi Taufu is a reasonably priced appetizer item at RM4.50. Smooth tofu cubes is deep fried until light golden brown and served in a sho-yu based broth and topped with spring onions and bonito flakes. The slight drawback would be the tofu is no longer piping hot when served. 

The Salmon Sashimi may not be the best in Ipoh, neither is it the freshest. The source of sashimi and its delivery schedule/method are pivotal points in ensuring a memorable melt in your mouth experience. The one here did not really meet the mark. But judging by RM10.80 for 5 slices, I have no qualms on further comments. To me it is still passable if you are into a quick fix of salmon sashimi. This is because the salmon nigari sushi at RM2.80 only has a paper-thin piece of salmon and your cravings would not be satisfied.

This is one dish which caught my eye when I was flipping thru the menu. The Inari Roll looks like some California maki or Cucumber maki with a twist. Instead of using seaweed or cucumber slices to hold the filling/rice, the version here incorporated the usage of Vietnamese Rice Sheets. Not a single grain of rice to be found, the filling consists of julienned cucumbers, tempura batter, crabstick and egg omelet. They didn’t over do with the tempura batter so diners are saved from the agony of an oily aftertaste. Instead, it’s very refreshing, just like how the Vietnamese Rice Sheet Rolls supposed to be!

For the handrolls, I have some critics to highlight. The ingredients are fresh and they are generous with it, no doubt about that, the photos are also clear evidence on that.  However, the sushi preparation team should try their very best to speed up. I noticed that to create this 3 handrolls, I took more than 5 minutes! They finished one, talk with each other and chit chat with the waitress a bit. As a result, upon arriving, the seaweed sheet of 2 handrolls were already soggy! If the management reads this post, please feedback to the franchise and her team.

This is the Kitsune Udon (RM10.80), portion is just right for lunch, but people like me will need top up a few plates of sushi. The clear broth is tummy warming and the udon texture is passable.

The sushi here stray far from the authentic ones from Japanese. A lot of Malaysian-ised or fusion-ized with items such as Cheese Maki, Inari Pocket with chicken floss, Chicken Floss sushi, Ebi Fried with Cheese. And for RM1.80 you already can have a munch on the Edamame and also 2 pieces of Takoyaki. The prawn roll topped with meat floss was also something different than the kaiten sushi offerings in other sushi franchises. All for RM2.80, but the the portion might be reduced. This make it ideal for those who opt for a light lunch, perhaps just 2-4 plates would be sufficient and the meal will come up to slightly above RM10.

This version improvised the tempura prawn comfortably resting on an inversed Inari pocket, topped with ebiko roe. 

These are the few items which are not in the menu featured on the website. It is basically derivatives from the ebi ten maki or the tempura prawn roll. One of is has a inari (sweet beancurd sheet) wrapped around the roll. The other features a whole deep fried breaded prawn, topped with a slice of cheese before flamed grilled.

Strategically located at Greentown, at a corner lot which is "opposite Simpang Tiga restaurant" (I couldn't think of any landmark except for the Genting office and Maxis Centre nearby. Parking is a hassle during working hours. But try to be here before 12:30pm on weekends as they are opened at 11:30pm on weekends and public holidays, else you might need to wait for a table. For weekend dinner, try be make it before 7pm. Not much criticism on the food, except that the service crew and food preparation team need to really focus on their job and not chit-chatting and playing a fool. Diners are paying 10% service charge to you. and probably you can consider bringing the bill over rather than asking your customers to walk over the counter since its part of the service charge. Agree?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

China House, Georgetown, Penang

Finally done with my exams! No more assignments and revision for the next 5 weeks. The weekend trip to Penang couldn't come in a time more appropriately. As the saying goes, "Eat until you feel sleepy, Sleep until you feel hungry", the last weekend was one memorable journey with food! I've decided to save the longer list of Penang street food in my next blog post and kick start the first post of a "hipster-ish" cafe in a heritage-rich Georgetown. I've heard of the name China House when Facebook contacts post photos while they check-in to this place. And now it's my turn to experience what is the hype all about.

China House is an integrated cafe, restaurant, bar and art gallery under one roof. Well, its 2 roofs literally speaking, spanning across 3 shoplots. Two adjacent units facing Beach Street and 1 unit facing Victoria Street. The two lots back to back are actually connected via a backlane which has a brick wall built on the left and right! I wondered how the Municipal Council and the Fire Brigade Department managed to approve such building layout. Seriously, this shop is really long from one end to the other!

This is the first zone if you enter through the entrance of Beach Street. A Barista work station followed by a refrigerated display of cakes! Check out the arsenal of beverage flavours at wall attached racks!

 From their website it was claimed that they are able to sell a record high of 436 slices of cake in one single Saturday. And coincidentally I was there on a Saturday evening itself. And yeah, I am convinced. As I gazed around, not many customers are there for main course. Most of them (including yours truly) are there for a leisure chat and non-alcoholic chilling environment.

Besides the wide selection of cakes, they do have pastries if you don't have a sweet tooth...

Before we move on to explore the different sections and the environment, I must confess that I am not an avid coffee drinker despite working in a instant coffee factory. But the coffee here will be appealing to those who opt for stronger brew. We sampled the Mocha and Latte. Not too bad....

Among the wide array of cakes, this is the Chocolate Raspberry Cake.  I was asking myself why not just conveniently name it Black Forrest instead right? Well, probably due to the disclaimer that it contains alcohol, and chocolate flavoured cream instead of fresh whipped cream is used in between the layers. Priced at a relatively hefty price tag at RM15.90 per slice, you do get back your money’s worth as the size is almost similar to 2 slices of Secret Recipe cake, not to mention the dense layers of cake. The chocolate sponge is a bit dry on its own but the chocolate cream was the saving grace

The same can be said with the Tiramisu Cake (claims to contain alcohol but again the aftertaste is not distinct). Though it carries a premium price tag, they dun skimp on ingredients. Those who tried Alexis’ version would probably feel a slight resemblance to it due to the usage of caramelized almonds. Some Tiramisu purist (like yours truly) might argue that this version has deviated from the norm of using just simple cocoa powder to dust the surface. But bear in mind that this is a CAKE version of the Tiramisu and not THE iconic Italian dessert. Call me old fashioned but I would usually skip the “cake” version of Tiramisu. I just look into the basics in a Tiramisu dessert, strong espresso, presence of coffee liquor (Kahlua perhaps, if not probably even Cognac should do the trick) with velvety layer of mascarpone cheese. Personal favourite so far are Italianese and STG, Ipoh :)

The Mars Bar is quite a letdown. I was thinking that they managed to duplicate one of your favourite chocolate snack bar into a cake/confectionery version but oh my! Wat a disappointment when all it contains is just sugar glazed rice bubbles covered with a top layer of chocolate. I forgot the price but it was near RM10 for a “slice”. More like a “fattening” Uncle Toby’s bar if you ask my opinion. My shaky hands and dim lighting caused it to be even more unattractive :p

Murals on the wall giving a rustic feel on how art is being redefined to cater to a more demanding hipster-ish cafe goers community.

Some of the decoration and the dimly lit areas along the walkway of the cafe area. There is also a private dining area called 14Chairs and a Vine and Single Bar... for a counter-top bar experience. Perhaps it is also a method to serve alcoholic drinks in different area with different containers/glass/mugs/cups. I am surprised to see this place manage to attract some Muslim diners, probably a table or two that night since there have alcohol inside some of their cakes! Okay, you may argue that they can opt for the non-alcoholic ones but the cakes are prepared in the same mixer, oven and utensils and kept in the same fridge! Well, those Muslim diners must be really open-minded in contrast so some other more staunch ones who only patronize outlets which are Halal certified.

As soon as you past the toilet of the first lot. you will enter the Courtyard zone which is actually constructed from the "backlane" in between the 2 lots of 2 different street. It bears to totally different ambiance compared to the cafe zone. The ambiance

The open-air dining zone comes with a small pool. If you refer to the website, they are daring you to dip into the pool if the weather in Penang is too much for some to take. Else, just enjoy a drink in a ancient Chinese inspired lit garden. Yup, those tree reminds you of those "wishing tree" you normally see in TVB dramas

This is one area which more than the 30 over cafes in Ipoh did no incorporate. A tranquil setting in the midst of greenery with a touch of romantic setting under the mango trees...

Live band performing on weekend nights in a car called "The Canteen" Mostly showcasing a uplifting jazz performance comprising a 3 or 4 piece band of saxophonist, bassist, drummer and keyboardist, they offer a menu ranging from Asian bentos to Western sandwiches, not to mention beers! Due to poor handphone battery life, this is all the photos I manage to snap. Feel free to check out their website: for a more details. Yes, do offer catering service too! Will I return again? If I am residing in Penang, most likely I will. There are many similar cafes in Ipoh and yet none have managed to attract me to try them out. To me, its just the "ambiance game" rather than full emphasize on the coffees and cakes as their selling point. And after visiting China House, I don't think I did change my impression and perception on such cafes :)