Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Ramadhan Buffets around Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Spasso Milano Pavilion, Antipasto Lunch Deal, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Spasso Milano, Pavilion, Italian, restaurant, antipasto, set lunch, pasta, pizza, pork, non halal
Roasted Capsicum
Just a few of the highlights from the antipasto buffet - there too many to showcase in one post
Spasso Milano, Pavilion, Italian, restaurant, antipasto, set lunch, pasta, pizza, pork, non halal
Carrots and Green Beans
Spasso Milano, Pavilion, Italian, restaurant, antipasto, set lunch, pasta, pizza, pork, non halal
Spasso Milano, Pavilion, Italian, restaurant, antipasto, set lunch, pasta, pizza, pork, non halal
Roast Pumpkin
Spasso Milano, Pavilion, Italian, restaurant, antipasto, set lunch, pasta, pizza, pork, non halal
Mixed Zucchini
Spasso Milano, Pavilion, Italian, restaurant, antipasto, set lunch, pasta, pizza, pork, non halal
Pork Valdostana
The two mains we chose from a choice of six options including numerous pastas and pizzas
Spasso Milano, Pavilion, Italian, restaurant, antipasto, set lunch, pasta, pizza, pork, non halal
Tagliatelle Amatriciana 
Spasso Milano, Pavilion, Italian, restaurant, antipasto, set lunch, pasta, pizza, pork, non halal
Spasso Milano

Spasso Milano Pavilion, with its enormous transparent cellar, Italian tunes and island kitchen, makes an ideal spot for a lunch break. A semi al fresco (within a mall) feel is achieved with glass paneling, high ceilings and only one wall. This allows easy people watching both of passerby shoppers and also a peak into the bustling pizza kitchen. Lined with Italian products and wines, the retail concept of this Italian restaurant means that if you taste something you like, you can also purchase it to take home with you.

Spasso Milano, Pavilion, Italian, restaurant, antipasto, set lunch, pasta, pizza, pork, non halal
Ice Cream
Lunch is a value deal at Spasso Milano. Weekdays see an antipasto buffet, soup of the day, choice of a main dish and dessert priced at only RM28++ or RM36++ (depending on what principle plate you order). Antipasto offerings change daily and Milano born Italian Chef Felice has a reputation for a wealth of recipes, making over 150 varieties, which rotate across the buffet.

Arriving just before noon for lunch I took the opportunity to chat with Angelo, the Italian manager, before the midday crowds started to flock to satiate their hunger pangs. I was wondering what are the popular dishes at Spasso Milano. Besides the Pork Valdostana, which my lunch buddy had already ordered, the Italian Pork Chop, Pizza Scamorza Affumicata & Speck and, the Risotto alla Monzese with Saffron and Pan Fried Italian Sausage turned out to be the hot orders. Tiramisu and Chocolate Lava are the most popular desserts and Limoncello and Grappa are hits for an after dinner digestive.

Spasso Milano, Pavilion, Italian, restaurant, antipasto, set lunch, pasta, pizza, pork, non halal
Flat White
The many vegetable items on the antipasto slider will delight any health conscious thoughts and is more than capable of filling tummies before the principle dish arrives. Roasted pumpkin and eggplant have been long term pleasers and didn’t fail to disappoint this round either.  Also of note were bowls of crispy leaves, dressings and crudites for making your own salad. Already half stuffed, our mains arrived just in time to slow down our antipasto picking. My Tagliatelle Amatriciana was a filling bowl of thick ribbons of al dente pasta smothered in a rich tomato sauce flavoured with generous strips of pancetta and spicy chili. My lunch pal was happy with his Pork Valdostana reporting tender well-seasoned meat and garlicky pasta spirals. A light sweet at the end in the form of one scoop of ice cream or a small cake leaves you feeling satisfied but not lethargic. Top this off by ordering a cup of Italian coffee and you’ll be reenergized for a return to work or an afternoon of shopping.

The antipasto lunch is served from 12 – 3:00pm. Weekends see a full buffet including the grill of the day for a mere RM36++.

Reason to visit: reasonably priced lunch with rotating antipasto, pork, people watching opportunities from the half glass walled/ half open interior

Spasso Milano

Lot 6.44.00 & 6.45.00 Level 6 Pavilion

168 Jalan Bukit Bintang
Kuala Lumpur
+6 03 2148 0688

Monday, 30 July 2012

Ramadan Santapan at the Living Room, the Westin, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I always enjoy walking into the Living Room at The Westin.  It has a warm, welcoming atmosphere, which is heightened this Ramadan by the addition of a group of musicians.  Wearing traditional Malay dress, and focusing on traditional Malay music and songs, they add an extra soupçon of ambiance to the restaurant.  I was wondering what intriguing delights The Westin had in store for this special buka puasa feast, and  I was immediately aware that there was more hustle and bustle than usual in the restaurant.  This buffet is HUGE!  I’ve never seen so many chefs and cooking stations.  It was a little bewildering at first, but before eating, photographer Cheryl Hoffmann and I had a wander round and discovered so many fantastic food options we were completely spoiled for choice.

You will find a lovely display of Zam-Zam Water, holy mineral water from Mecca, and a selection of dried fruit. Could there be a more perfect way to break fast?

I’m always tempted by seafood, and there were more than enough choices throughout this buffet, especially on the salad table. I made a beeline for the Seafood on Ice with the freshest selection of Oysters, Crab, Mussels, and Prawns.  

I added sushi and sashimi and sampled one or two of the numerous varieties of Kerabu - Keli Leleh Sungai Pahang (Smoked Cat Fish with Spiced Coconut Sauce) and Kerabu Pelam Daging Bakar (Spiced Mango with Grilled Beef Salad). Really, there were too many to mention. There were Western salad choices too and I enjoyed the Caesar Salad with shrimp…I’ve never eaten this combination but it’s something I’d like to try at home... and the poached salmon salad was especially delicious. There were also salads from Indonesia and Thailand, truly something for every palate.

Moving on to hot food, there were seven varieties of rice including Westin Lamb Biryani, Pulut Rendang Udang (sticky rice to accompany coconut shrimp curry), Nasi Lemak “Cimput” (steamed coconut rice with condiments) and Nasi Ayam, Hainan Chicken Rice, much of it beautifully presented in gigantic bamboo steamers.  

The most important Malay dishes were bubbling away in massive woks, so reminiscent of cooking for special events in the Kampung.  There was Gulai Tunjang (braised beef tendon with candle nuts, turmeric and local bay leaf), Ayam Kampong Gulai Nangka (chicken and young jack fruit curry), Tulang Rawan Asam, (braised spiced beef ribs with hot and sour ginger-flower gravy,) Gulai Nenas Ikan Masin (pineapple with salted fish braised in turmeric and coconut) and Rendang Paru (beef lungs braised in lemon, galangal  and coconut paste).  I tasted each of these (yes, you can be proud of me, I even had a tiny bit of lung), and even to my relatively inexperienced palate they were all fabulous. 

The desserts were in the bakery area at the back of the restaurant, which I didn’t visit until the end of my meal, not realising there were two more savoury options amongst the sweet treats.  Taco Mania offers Beef, Chicken, Seafood, Cheese or Sweet Tacos, and there’s “Reinvented” Roti Jala, lacy pancakes served with Curry, Mango Chutney and Chicken Floss.  How I wished I had room to try them, but I knew I could barely squeeze in a dessert or two, and as you are probably aware, I couldn’t possibly pass on dessert. 

Oh, the variety. Everything looked tremendous: Cendol Coconut Pudding, Fudgy Cashew Nut Brownie, Cherry Cheesecake and Chocolate Ganache Cake to name only a few. I was tempted by the Kopi Cream Puff with Milk Chocolate, a delectable choux pastry concoction that disappeared in one bite, the syrupy Baklava and the Mixed Fruit Almond Frangipani Tart, topped with mixed berries, kiwi and mango. There was a wide selection of Fresh Fruit, a Chocolate Fountain, several Indian desserts such as Gulab Jamun and of course all the traditional Malay Kueh. The Westin always has irresistible home-made ice cream, and I can vouch for the Durian flavour and the Red Bean Potong, which were both yummy.

My biggest disappointment was that I was unable to try ALL the food…not even close to everything in fact.  Here is just a part of what I missed;  I haven’t mentioned the large area for Chinese food, the Indian section, the pasta station, the roast lamb and super scrumptious scalloped potatoes, the soups, every conceivable type of Keropok, and on and on…   I believe it will be necessary to visit this buffet at least five times in order to try every dish.  My congratulations to Malay Chef Hamdan and his staff for creating a dining experience par excellence.

Reason to visit:  To marvel at the incredible variety of food, to sample all your favourites and to try something new like the Shrimp Caesar Salad.

The buffet is priced at RM108++ for adults and RM54++ for children aged 4 to 12.  Santapan Ramadan will be open from 7pm until 10:30pm and will run until August 18, 2012.  There will be a 20% discount for bookings made 2 weeks or more in advance, and a 10% discount for bookings made one week in advance.  There is also a group discount: for every 10 paying guests, one person dines for free.  The hotel offers two special Ramadan Event packages catering to groups of 20 or more.   Reservations are highly recommended.

The Westin Kuala Lumpur
199 Jalan Bukit BIntang,
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2731-8338

Hokkaido Ichiba, Gardens Mall, Mid Valley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 Entrance                                                          Small details - leaf shaped wasabi
 Sashimi on rice
 Udon soup
 California Rolls
 Mini udon and sushi set
A close up of the sushi

Hokkaido Ichiba in Gardens Mall was streaming with hungry diners when we arrived for a late lunch. Usually put off by crowds, we noticed the fast moving line up and packed tables (a sure sign it's at least fresh, if not even good), so made the decision to stay.

At first glance I thought the prices were a little steep. When I saw the size and tasted the quality of the meals though I realized the meals are actually quite good value. All of the sets were around 30RM. Shame I didn't get a shot of the edamame as they are something special - fresh beans, some still attached to the vine. When our correct orders finally came there were no complaints from any of my dining companions. The California Rolls and Udon Soup were put on the "to order again" list. A well lit booth by the window was also decreed as a table to reserve once more. I can see my Japanese girlfriend turning up her nose now at the choice of a large Japanese chain on The Yum List, but for those not accustomed to eating this cuisine from birth, it tasted pretty good. (sorry Yuka)

Our meal was wrought with miscommunications in English but misunderstandings were cleared up without a problem. For hiccup free ordering though I recommend pointing to pictures and insisting that your ordered is repeated before the busy waitstaff scoot off.

A handsome looking ice cream parlour next door might entice me back for a future date.  

Reason to visit: value for money filling Japanese

Hokkaido Ichiba
The Gardens Mall
T-201 3rd Floor
The Gardens Mall
Mid Valley City
Lingkaran Syed Putra
59200 Kuala Lumpur
+6 03 2283  1060
Open 10am - 10pm

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Where to Eat, Stay and Spa in Penang Part 2, Malaysia

For an introduction to the island and more suggestions of accommodation and restaurants worth visiting in Penang see Part 1.

Where to Stay

Where to eat, stay and spa in Penang
G Hotel
Golden Sands Beach Resort - Lovely family resort on the beach managed by the Shangri La team. This resort is involved in many earth friendly activities and is worth supporting. Comprehensive facilities for children including a kids club, Adventure Zone and Segway.

Hard Rock Hotel - Fun, fun, fun for all ages!

Trader's Hotel-  A business hotel in the heart of Georgetown. Also popular for tourists looking for good packages with all the facilities of a large hotel.

Where to eat, stay and spa in Penang
China Tiger
G Hotel - A trendy and happening hotel located on the popular food and shopping strip of Gurney Drive. Excellent gym and swimming pool.

China Tiger - An enormous thoughtful self contained apartment in the beat of Little India. A perfect choice for families or groups of friends.

Yeng Keng - A charming heritage hotel in the infamous Chulia Street. Beautifully restored, this 20 room boutique accommodation also offers a swimming pool and cafe.

Where to Eat

That Little Wine Bar - Classy, cozy, approachable wine list and excellent food prepared by celebrity chef Tommes of Chalk and Cheese.

Where to eat, stay and spa in Penang
Amelie's Cafe
Via Pre - The happening place to be in Georgetown. Industrial chic atmosphere known for their cold cuts, in house baked bread, creme brulee and awesome selection of Grappa.

Islander, Trader's Hotel - A fine place to sample local Nyonya cuisine in a hygienic, cool, friendly environment. Saturday High Tea should be on your "must do" list.

Garden Cafe - Shangri La leads the way again in Corporate Social Responsibility endeavours by introducing a 'sustainable seafood' buffet in their all day dining restaurant.

Where to eat, stay and spa in Penang
Via Pre
Soy, G Hotel - Affordable, classy Asian fusion.

Yeng Keng Cafe - Reasonably priced drinks in a lovely courtyard paired with Hainanese and Western meals prepared by one of the oldest working chefs in Penang.

Amelie Cafe - Cute, recycled, a must visit.

The Leaf Healthy House - A healthy vegetarian respite from oily artery clogging street food.

Tropical Spice Garden Cooking Class - Take home some of Penang by learning recipes from a Nyonya, Malay or Indian chef.
Where to eat, stay and spa in Penang
Sand Bar

Tree Monkey - Thai tapas and cocktails with a kick in the natural setting of a tree house.

Agua - Paella, home marinated olives (!), sea views - a lovely Mediterranean feel.

Weissbrau - Pork knuckle...mmmm.

Spasso Milano - Authentic Italian at the new Straits Quay Marina Mall.

Where to Drink

Sand Bar, Hard Rock HotelThere's no better way to end a day than a beer (wine, shot, cocktail) in hand and feet in the sand."

Sigi's Bar & Grill - Sunsets, sea breezes and happy hours. 

Where to Spa

Where to eat, stay and spa in Penang
Rock Spa
Rock Spa, Hard Rock Hotel - Their new luxurious spa villas must be tried. Trained therapists treat you in the shade of the trees, under blue skies, in private lush tropical gardens to the sounds of the sea.

Serena Brasserie, Intercontinental, Buka Puasa, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

InterContinental Berbuka Puasa 1 Malaysia by Sam Gibbs
Serena Brasserie Intercontinental Hotel Kuala Lumpur
Serena Brasserie InterContinental
Stepping from the well appointed lobby of the InterContinental Hotel into the Serrena Brasserie is certainly an experience to behold. The Serena, whilst thronging with hungry clients busily creating their meals from a galaxy of offerings, still presents a calming and inviting environment to break fast.  From the sound of the waterfall on the terrace, to the brightly colored fish meandering through the pond inside the dining area, all make for a pleasing ambience that adds to the novelty of your Berbuka Puasa dining adventure. And what an adventure it is!
The Sushi and Fresh Seafood Bar.
One must pause a moment to take stock of the tremendous array of food on offer. Creatively and enticingly laid out before you is a fabulous selection of culinary achievements that represent not only the traditional dishes of the Malaysian culture, but an impressive fusion of Western, Mediterranean, Japanese and even Middle Eastern offerings. 
As an almost religious follower of Sushi I started with delicate slithers of Tuna and Butterfish  washed down with fresh Oysters.  I then moved on to test some of the Mediterranean flavors sampling delicious black olives the Beef medallions with Rosemary sauce and Ratatouille.  Also of note was the pasta bar serving several varieties of spaghetti and sauces all prepared on the spot.
Marinated Satay
Not dwelling too long in Europe I stepped across to Asia and began my odyssey of amazing dishes from closer to home starting with the Murtabak and its accompanying thick Dahl and spicy curry sauce.  This was being prepared in the outdoor servery area that is set up like festive outdoor makan malam food stalls. Whilst here I also sampled the hedonistic Teppenyaki, marinated Satay and one of my recommendations, the deep fried Sweet Potato enshrouded in a crispy delicate batter from the Goreng Goreng stall. One will also find whole roast lamb complimented with an array of condiments and gravies, plus the open grill serving a variety of fresh fish and seafood.
Buka Puasa Festive Ambience
Inside, situated in a special area dedicated to specialties from various regions of Malaysia, were a series of inviting dishes. On offer was a delectable Lamb Rendang made with a rich, slightly sweet and spicy saucy that was simply amazing, Lamb Kurma, Sweet and Sour Prawns and a fabulous Bryani. In addition I had to sample the delicious Wok Fried Mussels with Kam Heong  Sauce.  
Dessert Heaven
Having done as much as any human could manage with the savory dishes, a final lap was reserved for the magnificent array of desserts.  Here the pastry chefs have gone into overdrive and delivered a heavenly selection of almost every conceivable delicacy imaginable. I got stuck on the explosive lemon meringue tarts whilst not leaving behind the mouthwatering apple crumble and bread and butter pudding.  Also on offer was a comprehensive array of traditional desserts that included the beautifully prepared Kuih and of course the ubiquitous ABC from the  Ice Kajang stall situated outside.
During the course of this extensive gastronomic adventure I was able to meet some of the people behind the scenes responsible for orchestrating this feast.  Zoe Chaplin of Marketing & Communications and a matsaleh veteran of Malaysia  informed me that InterContinental thrives on co-joining expertise from abroad with local talent. My impressions were well supported whilst later discussing the future aspirations of the InterContinental’s dining services with newly appointed executive chef Darrel O’Neill. Darrel has extensive experience worldwide citing the Maldives, Dubai, India and Australia as some of the countries he has worked in. His aspiration for the InterContinental is clear in that it is proposed to fully renovate the dining experience and in doing so maintain the InterContinental at the cutting edge of hoteliery in SE Asia.  Judging by the sense of focus and commitment demonstrated in not only the culinary effort on show  at the Serena  Brasserie, but also with the local and international staff I met during my visit, I happily conclude  that dining at the InterContinental is an experience well worth embarking on both now and in future.

Reason to visit: Experience the exciting Buka Puasa ambience delivered with flair and style.

Cost  1st  and 4th week of Ramadhan RM99 ++
          2nd and 3rd week of Ramadhan  RM115++

InterContinental Kuala Lumpur
165 Jalan Ampang,
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Reservations Ph. 603 2161 1111
Email: foodandbeverage@intercontinental-kl.com.my