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I don’t do a lot of invited reviews these days, mostly due to work commitments and staying quite a fair bit away from the city. However, every now and then there are something intriguing enough that warrant the time and effort.

The invitation for Festive Menu at Babe Gastro was one of such events.

Babe at Clearwater, Damansara Height KL
Babe at Clearwater, Damansara Height KL

Located at the top floor of Clearwater at Damansara Height, Babe is a tastefully decorated cozy restaurant with a perhaps one of the best views of the city. There’s the infinity pool, an unobstructed post-card worthy view of KL, neat looking cutlery imported from Spain, and even air conditioned alfresco dining area.

What’s there not to like except? Well, there’s the rather confusing elevator system where you have to select which floor to go BEFORE getting in.

refreshing mocktail, Chef Jeff Ramsey
refreshing mocktail, Chef Jeff Ramsey

Babe is headed by Chef Jeff Ramsey, a Michelin starred chef who previously headed the Tapas Molecular Bar at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo.

The menu here is a unique creation of Jeff Ramsey using a lot of Japanese & other international ingredients while infusing local flavors. Some of these are coined “Japas”, or Japanese style tapas.

While “fusion” has a bit of a negative connotation, I love chefs who aren’t afraid to experiment and push the boundary in culinary space. Without these trailblazers, we’d forever be stuck with “traditional” dishes. What’s the fun in that?

The Festive menu is perhaps the most unique buka puasa meal you can get this Ramadhan season. Priced at RM 300++ per pax, the 12-course dinner is available from 26/5/2017 to 30/6/2017. If you are tired with the same Selera Kampung buffet, this would be a place worthy of your consideration.

"down the rabbit hole", Foiegras and Jackfruit
“down the rabbit hole”, Foiegras and Jackfruit

We started the night with “down the rabbit hole”, a shot of drink that tastes like chicken rice, or roti canai, or something that’s completely unfamiliar. An interesting start, and certainly a precursor as to what to be expected for dinner.

The first course was Foiegras and Jackfruit, finely chopped jackfruit in a crispy shell and foie gras proved to be a good combination and served as a perfect start to open up our appetite.

Onsen Chowder
Onsen Chowder

Then came Onsen Chowder, a potato mousse with smoked coconut, 63c egg (molecular gastronomy magic), and chives. It was actually unexpectedly good! The smoked coconut, or what Celina the “top babe” described as coconut bacon brought the dish a very unique crispy contrast to the texture of the potato mousse.

Laska Injections, Mango and Curry Sphere
Laska Injections Canapé , Mango and Curry Sphere

Then there was Laksa Injections Canapé  and Mango & Curry Sphere.

The former is like mouthful of my favorite ingredients in a bowl of curry laksa – prawn & soup, though perhaps a slightly bigger syringe that contains those soup would make it even better.

Mango & Curry Sphere utilizes another Molecular gastronomy technique called “spherification”, utilizing calcium chloride or some other voodoo in making an eggyolk lookalike sphere that explodes in your mouth with the tangy & spicy taste of the liquid ingredients within. Quite an experience.

Crispy Chicken Terrine, Marinated Roast Kabayaki Ikan Keli
Crispy Chicken Terrine, Marinated Roast Kabayaki Ikan Keli

Next were two of the more creative dishes that may looks and taste almost exactly alike what they are supposed to be, but made up of entirely different ingredients that is halal.

Crispy Chicken Terrine looks and taste like a good piece of charsiu, but actually made up of up to 40 layers of crispy rendered chicken skin (sans the fatty part) and charsiu sauce, while Marinated Roast Kabayaki Ikan Keli is their interpretation of bak kwa, but instead of pork/chicken, catfish is the main ingredient.

I’d have never guessed the ingredients in a million year.

Prawn and Curry Leaf Ice Cream, Manga Crab, Snow Crab Donburi with Sambal
Prawn and Curry Leaf Ice Cream, Manga Crab, Snow Crab Donburi with Sambal

Next up was Prawn and Curry Leaf Ice Cream, which was quite a unique combo, you don’t have a seafood ingredient with ice cream very often.

Manga Crab is perhaps one of the more “normal” dish, but they actually print the sauce on the plate manga style, and serve with coriander sauce.

Snow Crab Donburi with Sambal is basically just as what the name suggests, a small portion of snow crab rice bowl, but with sambal and Dashi jelly to give it that extra dimension. To be honest, I may enjoy this without the sambal just a tad more, maybe.

Smoked Chicken Percik, Stanbroke Farms Striploin with Japanese Sambal
Smoked Chicken Percik, Stanbroke Farms Striploin with Japanese Sambal

If you’re still hungry by this time, well, afraid not. The Smoked Chicken Percik is a whole ayam kampung to be shared by two. Four hour was spent preparing the chicken, and the result was a prefect tenderness and flavor, definitely one of the benefits of utilizing molecular methods in traditional dishes.

Stanbroke Farms Striploin with Japanese Sambal was another welcoming meat base dish which I really enjoyed, especially with the accompanying Yuzu Kosho Sambal.

Dinosaur Egg
Dinosaur Egg

Then came the twelveth course – another playful dish by the name of Dinosaur Egg, a  dessert made from DaunKaduk, Yoghurt, Tropical Fruit, and Nutty “Birds Nest”. Crack it open with your spoon and viola, an egg looking thing that by now, you should know it tastes entirely not like an egg, but a sweet concoction that’s apt to end the night.

map to Clearwater, Damansara Height

Address:
Babe Gastro
Level 11, Clearwater,
Jalan Changkat Semantan,
Bukit Damansara, KL
GPS: 3.152327, 101.666762
Tel 03.2095 8599
Web: babe.com.my

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Koay Chap is one of the lesser known Penang hakwer food, and I would guess that the reason is probably due to the amount of work needed in preparing the dish. The ingredient of koay chap includes duck meat, duck innards, duck egg, coagulated blood, some of which aren’t as easily available as others.

Kimberly Street Koay Chap Stall
Kimberly Street Koay Chap Stall

There are only a handful of koay chap stalls in Penang, and perhaps the most popular among them is the one by Kimberly Street in Georgetown that operates in the evenings till late (just by the chicken feet stall). You can’t miss this place, it is almost always packed with tourists and locals alike, with huge amount of ingredients proudly displayed out in the open. Makes one think how many bowls are moved each night.

wholesome koay chap, if you love duck meat you'd love this
wholesome koay chap, if you love duck meat you’d love this

While back for Horng & Yuki’s wedding, David and I took a short walk from Komtar to this stall just as the sun was starting to set and got us each a bowl of this good stuff as a pre-dinner tummy liner, and it was absolutely satisfying.

David approved this meal
David approved this meal

You can have the koay chap with traditional thick flat noodle (quite close to mee hun kuih), or with rice. Can’t go wrong either way.

Address:
Koay Chap Stall
Lebuh Kimberley
10100, Penang
GPS: 5.416537, 100.332473
Hours: 5:30 pm till late 

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Last weekend when we went back to Penang for a friend’s wedding & Haze‘s art exhibition finale, we took the opportunity to meet up with mom for good old fashion street hawker food. The destination of choice was mom’s new favorite char kuih teow place – No. 5 Char Koay Teow at Macalister Road, Penang.

no 5 char kuih teow at Macalister Road
no 5 char kuih teow at Macalister Road

No. 5 char kuih teow is shares the same premise with a mixed rice place right at the corner of Macalister Road and Lorong Kinta. It is a perfectly walk-able distance from Komtar, and just a stone’s throw away from the famous New Lane street hawker center.

wet & packed with goodness, check out the prawns too
wet & packed with goodness, check out the prawns too

There are two versions of char kuih teow here, normal for RM 5.50, and big prawn + mantis prawn version for RM 9.50. You can’t go wrong with either version, both comes with cockles, Chinese sausage, bean sprout, chives, egg, and served on a sheet of banana leaf.

The ckt has plenty good wok hei with prawns & kuih teow just ever so slightly charred to perfection, the egg is purposely prepared to a slightly runny consistency giving it that moist and flavorful finish that we really love. This is really becoming my favorite ckt in Penang right now.

normal vs big prawn and mantis prawn version
normal vs big prawn and mantis prawn version

The normal version is served with plenty decent size prawns, with the RM 9.50 version really push it up a notch with huge tiger prawn & bits of mantis prawn throw in the mix. You can’t go wrong with either one.

If you’re a ckt fan, you owe it to yourself to give this a try. Waiting time can be a bit long even when customer volume isn’t particularly high.

map to No. 5 Char Kuih Teow in Penang

Address:
No. 5 Char Kuih Teow
104 E, Jalan Macalister,
10400 George Town, Penang
GPS: 5.415535, 100.325867
Hours: 930 am to 730 pm

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A couple years ago when the topic of coffee came up, I believe it was probably David, an avid coffee drinker of mine who mentioned the name Podgy and the Banker as one of his favorite places for a good cuppa, and thanks to that rather unique name for a cafe, it stuck to me.

Fast forward to last week, we decided to give it a try. If a cafe manage to stay in business more than a couple years, it is usually at least more than decent.

podgy and the banker, sri hartamas
podgy and the banker, sri hartamas

Podgy and the Banker is located at Sri Hartamas, the opposite side across from the much busier Desa Sri Hartamas. As a result, parking never takes more than 10 seconds to locate, and therefore the morning is never ruined from having to go round & round for 10 minutes prior to getting a spot (I’m looking at you, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar)

The cafe itself can be a bit tricky to locate though, from the front it looks almost like an office (or bank?), but if you were to look from the side you won’t miss it.

Haze & I both really enjoyed the latte here
Haze & I both really enjoyed the latte here

First up, the coffee.

We both had latte and agreed that they were absolutely on point. Strong aroma, and really smooth steamed milk, no super fancy presentation or anything as such but such a really well prepared cup of coffee. Really one of the better latte I’ve tried.

egg benedict with beef bacon
poached egg with beef bacon

My choice of brunch was poached egg with bacon (RM 16). Presentation was quite minimalist but the two eggs were perfectly poached, only proper bacon would elevate this dish but the beef version did its job just fine here.

scrambled eggs with salmon, lemon meringue cake
scrambled eggs with salmon, lemon meringue cake

The wife went for scrambled eggs with smoked salmon (RM 15), another simple yet properly prepared dish that received no complain from her. We complete the brunch by sharing a lemon meringue cake (RM 14) together, which turned out to be quite a lovely dessert.

I foresee us going back there again one of these days.

map to Podgy and the Banker

Address:
Podgy and the Banker
2, Jalan Sri Hartamas 8,
Sri Hartamas,
50480 Kuala Lumpur
GPS: 3.157306, 101.650839
Hours: 9am to 11pm, closed on Tuesday
Webwww.podgyandthebanker.com

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While we have mamak restaurants at pretty much every commercial all throughout the country, it is surprisingly rare to see “proper” Indian restaurants that aren’t the typical mamak style. The difference is subtle, especially when it is a Southern Indian cuisine, but you can always spot the tell-tale sign that beef isn’t on the menu.

Exotic Curry House, at Little India, Klang
Exotic Curry House, at Little India, Klang

While exploring dinner option at Little India, Klang a few weeks ago, we somehow got into this small back lane by the name of Lorong Tingkat largely due to parking situation on the main road and chanced upon this busy little restaurant by the name of Exotic Curry House.

If an eatery is located in an unfavorable location and manage to attract steady stream of customers, experience tells me it will usually be good, so we went right in as the only non-Indian couple that night.

all hail to the mutton murtabak
all hail to the mutton murtabak

Exotic curry house offers quite a good variety of chapati, roti, putu mayam, and many other traditional dishes (check the video below for a shot of their menu). I’m a big murtabak fan, so I got myself a mutton murtabak for dinner (RM 10).

Some 10 minutes or so later, the murtabak came, and boy was it a life changing sort of experience!

The roti was thin, meat was soft, succulent, and full of flavor, everything was perfect, and on top of that you get three different curry as condiments. It was just absolutely the best murtabak I’ve ever had in my life.

If you even remotely like murtabak or roti canai, you owe it to yourself to come to this place.

banana leaf rice available for lunch
banana leaf rice available for lunch

We went back to Exotic Curry House again a week or so later during lunch time looking for a repeat experience, but unfortunately banana leaf was the only option during the afternoon hours so we had that instead.

It was a pretty good meal which ticks off the right boxes in terms of ingredients served, but I suppose the murtabak has set the expectation perhaps a bit too high. It was good, but not life changing.

map to Exotic Curry House, Klang

Anyway, we’ll surely be back for more chaptai/murtabak. So happy we stopped by this place.

Address:
Exotic Curry House
39, Lorong Tingkat,
Kawasan 1,
41000 Klang, Selangor
GPS: 3.039962, 101.447853