Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Morning After, M-Roof Hotel, Ipoh

The Morning After (TMA) has a few outlets in Klang Valley and two outlets in airports (Subang and Penang) and they decided to make their presence felt in the sleepy town of Ipoh (where the salary is always stunted and purchasing power is always stagnant resulting into franchise like Burger King, Wendy's, Tutti Fruiti closing down. Nevertheless it managed to draw attention of even more premium franchise like Milkcow, Hokkaido Cheese Tarts, Uncle Tetsu, Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf and yours truly is so excited that Morganfield will be opening in Greentown soon! Yes, yours truly as an affinity for non halal food! Pork for the solid, beer and wine for the liquid. Yeah, I am certified non-halal, don't you dare accept my donated blood or organs or touch my money notes :p

Choosing to be attached to the latest hotel in town in a strategic location at Ipoh Garden roundabout may boost its survivability and sustainability chances. I am not sure whether they will partner with M-Roof on being the breakfast/brunch provider just like how Myth Eatery (joint venture effort from Josephine with M Boutique hotel). Else, lets review the food and environment to see how well Ipoh people will accept this place in the long term run. The dining place is not very big as it could cater to slightly more than 50 people only at the max. They have an extensive brunch menu (they mentioned that they are inspired by those all day dining parlours in Melbourne) which serves generic items like Big Breakfast - continental, American, Egg Benedict, well you get the picture :)

As I am having dinner, I dismissed the brunch items at the moment. Firstly, the Citrusy Salmon salad is quite a visual letdown when it arrived. I expected more details was spent on food presentation as this is not just a side dish which goes along your mains but a stand-alone ala carte entrée by itself at a price tag of RM22. Not all in pink are the slices of smoked salmon but they are grapefruit instead. Well, I wish for slightly more generous portion of smoked salmon though. The salad dressing is nothing really spectacular though. As the name goes, it should be orange-lemon based dressing on the bed of ice berg lettuce, apples, orange and grapefruit wedges.

Topped with croutons, cream and drizzled with a bit of truffle oil, the Wild Mushroom Soup (RM13) is earthy, thick and creamy. It has loads of oyster mushroom bits but the slight drawback is the chef is a bit too generous with the salt though. Else it would be a good tummy warming starter before they bring in the mains. Portion is just right for one person though it could still be shared by two.

The Grilled Lamb Shoulder (RM30) consists of 3 slabs of meat which turns out to be quite lean. Requested to be cooked on a well-done basis, the meat turned out to be slightly tough though. The meat alone did not taste like it was seasoned or marinaded before grilling, so you need to rely on the gravy to do the job. The garlic mashed potatoes is smooth and buttery (slightly milky) but the aroma from the garlic barely present. The sautéed mixed vegetables includes mushroom, snow peas, carrots, broccoli and cherry tomatoes to lessen your guilt after indulging in so much red meat. Limited choices of main courses are offered such as Roasted Chicken, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Grilled Salmon, Beef Steak to name a few.

The Smoked Beef Bacon Spaghetti (RM20) is smothered with subtle garlic gravy with generous servings of beef bacon. The garlic is quite mild and brings in the resemblance of the Aglio Olio.The options for pasta is quite generic, ranging from the staples such as Pesto, Cabonara, Aglio Olio. The most unique one is the one topped with a fried soft shell crab but because it is tomato based, I skipped that. The pizza series is not available in the Ipoh outlet here so besides sandwiches and the pilaf rice series, that probably sums up the whole food menu.

Cakes range from RM11 onwards with staples such as Oreo Cheesecake, Moist Chocolate Cake, Red Velvet cake to name a few. I opted for apparently their signature cake called The Nut Job (RM14) which turns out to be chocolate sponge layered with peanut butter based cream with crushed nuts and drizzled with salted caramel on the top layer. Peanut butter and chocolate should work wonders as I have tried the one in Starbucks before but the one here was far from being rich in flavour. Just slightly above average I would say...

Ending my meal with a cup of coffee, I opted for the The Caramel Macchiato (RM13). Who could resist the luscious and buttery caramel with slightly burnt aroma and just unwind. Yours truly has an unusual affinity towards salted caramel lately due to personal reasons but its best he just skip this genre of flavour as it brings bad memories. As Macchiato is an Italian word for spotted/ stained, the milk ratio should be quite minimal relative to the amount of espresso.. If I were to be picky by referring to the "Barista code/handbook" I feel the cup I am indulging is more like a flat white instead of macchiato from the ratio of milk to espresso used. Nevertheless, the velvety frothed milk was well done and I really loved their salted caramel drizzles. Not only the mushroom soup is tad saltier than usual, even the caramel here is saltier than usual. But I somehow kinda like it as it does not really taste like the usual caramel syrup pumped from those shower-gel look-alike containers in franchised cafes like Starbucks and McCafe.

With most of the items here is just slightly above average and far from being memorable, I don't mind returning for a cup of coffee just for the ambiance and because its just a new place in town. Or probably a pint of beer and some Nachos while enjoying the live band? Others might opt for a shot or two of Scottish Whiskey and other hard liquor? They have a separate alcohol menu available upon request. Expect a budget of minimum RM50 per pax as they have 10% service charge and 6% GST in return for friendly, prompt and attentive service. The bill for the items above came to RM140+ with an Iced Peach Tea (RM8) not among the photos. Convinced to give it a try?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

"un-named korean cuisine" at Restoran Alishan, Ipoh Garden East

Take a long throwback probably two decades ago and people in Ipoh will associate Japanese food as one of the luxurious epitome of dining. Then, Sushi King sprung forth for more affordable japanese cuisine at probably half the price and later on, the hawkers and food court stalls also caught the hype and have their imitation offerings at probably another half the price of Sushi King. But bear in mind as the you are paying half or rather a quarter of the price of the original authentic ones, don't expect you will get equal or near similar quality. The same can be said with Korean food in Ipoh. Recently I heard of  an attempt of a Korean food operator occupying a Chinese coffee shop during dinner time. 

Those residing in Ipoh Garden East or Bercham area would probably know about it. If I mention the name of the coffeeshop called Restoran Alishan, you would not have guessed that it could transform into a " 大牌 档 styles" Korean food. The place is not hard to locate as during the day time, there is a morning "wet market" nearby. And beside this row of shop is where the residential water supply tank is located.

Their operating hours is from 6pm onwards to around 10pm? And they are closed on Mondays. Here is the glimpse of their simple menu. Yes, you have searched high and low - there is no sign of Korean staples like Bibimbap (stone bowl rice) and San Gye Tang (Ginseng Chicken Soup). The options here is indeed very limited as their best seller would definitely be the hot plate BBQ. Nevertheless, the pricing is very affordable and reasonable right?

Coming in a group of three, I picked the Mixed Hot Plate set to test the best of both worlds. I could not reason out how would the set of both the pork belly (individually 200g at RM18) and the Spicy Chicken (RM18 again for 220g) can sum up to RM38 instead of RM36? Probably cause it includes the serving of kimchi, pickled raddish and basket of assorted leafy greens included in the mixed combo? The garlic, chilli, onions and enoki mushroom seems to come standard with the two slab of pork belly. Well, couldn't ask much for something below RM20 right as if you have done marketing or at least keep track or pay for your household groceries, you would've noticed the escalating rate of inflation in our country.

I like the ratio of lean meat to fat for the pork belly served. However, I somehow felt something was missing and I am quite sure it is the smoky charcoal smell from meat grilled over open fire which was evidently not present in the pork belly grilled using inducted heat from a hot plate. The meat, as expected, was not marinaded, hence you will need to depend on the seasoned oil for dipping and a bit of the fermented bean paste. Since they priced the mixed vegetable at RM5, I don't think they have free refills for the leafy greens used to wrap the meat. 

Ja Jang Myeon (RM12) comes with a side serving of kimchi. The texture of the noodles did not appeal to my tastebuds. There is too much gravy and the gravy is too starchy to my liking. Should a good plate of Korean black bean paste noodle supposed to be like this? There are some diced onions and potatoes with stewed pork belly cubes. The first time I had a similar dish was my first visit at Doma, which is far smaller in portion and do not have any ingredients except for edamame beans and julienne cucumber. But somehow, that version was my cup of tea.

Lastly, we ordered two bowls of white rice (from the texture, I think not full Calrose rice ratio is used here, since you paying RM2.50 instead of RM5 in Korean restaurants) to be shared to mop up all the chill paste of the savoury and spicy Dak Galbi, which is the other half of the Mix BBQ Hot Plate set. Besides cabbage, there is julienne carrots and sweet potato along a few pieces of dabokki (rice cakes) which is stir-fried with boneless chicken meat. They should use parts like chicken thigh or chicken drumstick instead as I find the chicken meat is somehow quite dry.

A jug of Korean rice tea for RM3 and the total bill comes to RM58! Perhaps its just half or 2/3 of the price of Korean restaurants. The slight draw back would be the coffee shop environment nor any wide range of complimentary and refillable side dishes (banchan). The menu is also limited and service can be a bit slow as there is only 2 person manning the whole outlet. They have a "hidden" menu as shown above whereby there is the missing Korean cuisine staples like Army Stew, Pork Ribs, Ginseng Chicken Soup, Bulgogi, Seafood Soup or Stew and Bibimbap but most would require advanced ordering. The prices of items featured in this menu is in the range of standard Korean restaurant in Ipoh, which I feel I wont be paying for it in this coffee shop environment. Will I be back again, I don't think so. Will I recommend you to try? well, just don't put too much expectation on authenticity and it should be fine.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Burps N Giggles

Deciding a place to meet up with your friends during this CNY season seems to be a tough decision to make. You need to consider the business hours of the place, location, parking, traffic condition, price range and eventually in the end, unexpected factors pop up like its either full house or closed. I was surprised that a new outlet such as Peninsula Cafe which is in a rather odd location was also full house. After made a rash decision to brave through the town traffic and securing a parking spot, I only found that Patisserie Boutique is off. Well, my friend suggested we try Burps and Giggles. Well, why not? Surprisingly I haven't visited this place, probably due to the hassle of finding parking or its odd operating hours (not operating at night)

Since its tea time, we omitted the burgers, pizzas and sandwiches. Yeah, this place is the place which started the trend of  of gourmet burgers in Ipoh. Many years back then, people are still reluctant to pay like RM20 for a burger? But fast forward more than 5 years later, Ipoh people seemed to accept it well. Or probably due to the chic and hipster setting of this cafe which made it still stand strong amidst the over 80 cafes sprung up in Ipoh across the years?

Let me provide some justification from the point of view of desserts. The blurry picture above is the The Tarik Gelato (RM13) – hand made ice cream (yes Gelato is actually how the Italians refer to their ice cream) having a different term, thus can put a slightly premium price tag? Hehe... The ice cream is infused with strong aroma from the iconic Malaysian milk tea beverage –the dessert is never a bit too sweet. In contrast, the tannin from the tea sent a slightly bitter aftertaste to your tongue. The crumbled cookie and drizzle of chocolate sauce did not really complement the tea flavored gelato but rather create a slightly complex combination of taste which gave an overall balance to this dessert. Somehow I still feel that the Jackfruit – Gula Melaka Gelato is the best of the 3 types available. Don't mind coming back again just to try the Jackfruit Gelato out of curiosity. Since the Teh Tarik is packed with flavours, I think the jackfruit and gula melaka flavour should be equally intense.

Moving one step down the menu is the sweet dessert which has only 2 items under this category. Between the Berries Cheesecake and Salted Caramel, I opted for the salted caramel. Hot Volcano (RM15) is actually similar to a molten mug cake. Although it was mentioned that it may take 15-20 minutes waiting time, but it was served in around just 10 minutes! I think the molten cake here is quite similar the mug cake recipe you can find online. I love the warm caramel filling flowing out and to balance it out, there is a small serving of vanilla ice cream to balance the sweetness. And dig in deeper to the ice cream glass, and you will get caramel-butterscotch puree at the bottom! Yummmss!

Raspberry Cheesecake is not in the menu but one of the few cakes at the display shelf. Priced at RM12, it may be slightly pricier but rest assured the cakes here are only made in small quantities. Due attention and passion has been poured in, from visual appearance to the taste. I must commend the idea of incorporating rose flower petals which gave a very pleasant taste to the creamy cheesecake. The pureed raspberry was neither to sweet nor sourish but somehow the texture of this cheesecake is just not my cup of tea. Its a bit more like the marshmallow like texture, which I feel something was amiss, like how the creamy and rich sensation a typical solid cheesecake would carry along.

With slight hits and misses from the desserts tried, it was a good place to unwind and feed your Instagram with the rustic-like ambiance. Here is a snapshot of the drinks and desserts menu but one thing I like about this place is they provide self-service refillable skyjuice! This score additional marks in my checklist, unlike my horrible experience in STG Tea House, forcing customers to order their Spritzer Mineral Water at RM3 per bottle as they claim that they do not provide "tapped water". 

Take this change to help give STG some free publicity! They really do not know who they are dealing with in the comment above. Since I do not get any appreciation for my compliments on their food taste, I should've just saved my praises for them. They do not know who they are dealing with :p