February 28, 2011
Whenever Brussels Beer Cafe is mentioned, most people immediately think of groups of people drinking a variety of mostly imported beer. The name “beer cafe” certainly contributes to that impression.
However, Brussels is more than just a place beer, as I found out on this invited food review session organized Michael, the dude who is known for his alcoholic beverages review column.
Brussels Beer Cafe, at Solaris Mont Kiara
While waiting for the others to come, I noticed this little gadget they have at the bar – instant glass chiller (or whatever you call that).
This thing spews out really cold water and instantly chills beer glass to almost freezing temperature. Very nifty, there is no need to have tonnes of beer mugs kept in fridge all the time.
Brussels summer fruit salad, moules Hoegaarden / mariniere
The first dish was Brussels Summer Fruit Salad, fresh tasting but otherwise not particularly special. It is a salad dish for those who really want a low calorie meal (sans the cheese, of course.)
Then came moules Hoegaarden / mariniere (mussels marinated with Hoegaarden). I thought it is a bit of an overkill to imported beer for marinate, but the mussels really does taste very good. The serving isn’t exactly big though, and the dish came across a bit pricey (close to RM 50 if I remember correctly, well, did I say imported beer?)
prawn bisque, potatoe skin, blind finches, chicken waterzooi
I thought prawn bisque is like the poor man’s lobster bisque, but it turned out to be pretty much a thicker, cream version of Penang prawn noodle soup. It’s pretty interesting to be honest, but I reckon not everyone’s taste.
Potato skin goes well as beer food, I thought blind finches (beef with ham all rolled up, Dutch dish) was pretty good too, if not just a little bit too strong a taste in the beer gravy.
The chicken waterzooi, a traditional Belgium dish, did not click with me. I thought it was just buttery breast meat without much kick in it. Your mileage might vary.
roast pork – one of my favorites!
The roast pork at Brussels has got to be my favorite dish. The style differs from traditional hawker version (ala Wong Kee), the skin is a lot less crispy but instead the overall texture much softer. Flavor is quite intense and I love it with mustard, very lovely actually!
pork knuckle – fit for a group!
The pork knuckle, ironically, tastes pretty close to traditional roast pork instead of what you’d expect from normal pork knuckle ala German style. It was pretty good! Though I think the gravy could be improved a bit, perhaps chicken rice style chili paste?
brussels style pork bacon cheese burger, grilled baby beef ribs, the big one
I didn’t try the pork bacon cheese burger, but those who did liked it. The grilled baby beef ribs was juicy and sumptuous, and the big one brought really did make a big impact on its size, but I think you’ll need about 4 hungry souls to finish one serving.
we were obviously having tonnes of fun at Brussels
As for beverages, Brussels of course never disappoint. We had Hoegaarden,
Blackthorn cider, and Paulaner Konig Ludwig and Franzkainer too.
It was overall a very enjoyable session, chef Pele (what a name, right?) and Mike Chang the manager were very friendly chaps whom I’d hope to meet again.
Brussels Beer Café, Solaris
Lot K-OG 13 & 14, SoHo KL,
No. 2, Jalan Solaris, Mon’t Kiara
50480 Kuala Lumpur
GPS: 3.174689, 101.659595
Tel: 03-6205 2999
February 24, 2011
My first dive trip of the year started out with a simple facebook update that went something like “need to get wet!”.
Rich, my colleague and fellow dive buddy then informed me about a spot available on the Similan Islands liveaboard dive trip, and less than a week later I found myself at LCCT with a bag full of diving equipment, and a ticket out of the country.
Similan Islands liveaboard itinerary
A tip for you would be travelers – always check your passport. I made one of the most stupid errors of all time by bringing Haze‘s passport to the airport instead of mine and was only able to board the plane thanks to some crazy driving from LCCT-PJ-LCCT + Horng helping out by saving me 2 km’s worth of driving + AirAsia flight delay.
Talk about an exciting start to the trip.
Khao Lak, the stopover town for Similan islands trip
Anyhow, we made it to Phuket airport by late night on Valentine’s day, and took a truck/van to to Khao Lak. The journey took about 1.5 hours although it is only some 80 km away. We should appreciate the Malaysian highway system, similar journey would have taken only half the time here.
We checked into Nangthong Beach resort for the night. We shared a bungalow style room, and the resort has a nice, tranquil pool with beautiful garden and walkways. The only downside is that it is also almost exclusively filled with European retirees.
No bikini babes here.
good eats at Khao Lak – burger, mango salad, noodle soup, grilled chicken
Like most small tourist towns in Thailand, the main street (there’s only one) of Khao Lak is littered with massage parlors, restaurants, and luckily, many portable hawker stalls too.
Over the course of the day, I had some awesome mango salad, sweet grilled chicken, noodle soup with coagulated pork blood, and a plate of forgettable pad thai (from an overly tourist friendly restaurant, no surprise there.)
MV Vilai Samut, operated by Liquid Adventure at Khao Lak
In the evening, we gathered at Liquid Adventure (our dive operator)
and were sent to the port to get on our liveaboard boat – M/V Vilai Samut.
According to Liquid’s boss, Joachim, the name of the boat translate to something like “young lady”. She had just entered her teens, and measuring a healthy 26 meters in length and 6 meters wide.
The liveaboard caters to 18 or 20 guests with some 10 crews (captain, helpers, dive masters, kitchen staffs). Living cabins aren’t exactly spacious, but they are air conditioned at night and pretty comfortable.
every meal is taken care of on board, mostly Thai cuisine
There were two kitchen crews on board and food is typically either Thai, Western, or a little bit of a mix in between. We had tomyam, French toast, fried rice, noodle, vegetable, fruits, grilled fish, soup, and more. Three meals a day and an afternoon snack in between lunch and dinner too.
Live on the liveaboard boat is fairly repetitive, and revolves around – Dive, Eat, Sleep. Throw in a bit of reading in between, since most of the time there’s no phone connection at all, let alone internet.
Leila from France, and Linus from Sweden are 2 of our 4 dive masters
Our dives are guided by 4 dive masters – Linus & Sandra from Sweden, and Kevin & Leila from France. They were very professional, friendly, and to many, good looking people too.
Each dive master usually leads a group of four or less divers. This ensures that everyone is taken care of and us not over crowding a single fish at the bottom of the sea, for example.
the sea is teeming with thousands of small fish
Most dives started out with Linus giving a briefing on the dive site with wacky but useful illustrations on the white board before we proceed to the stern of the boat and basically just jump off from there.
There were a couple dives where we used the dingy to get to the dive site, but that was only for evening/night dives usually, when the boat is basically parked and we needed to go fairly close to the rocks.
puffer fish hiding in a small cave
Over the course of 4 nights and 4 days, we did a total of 15 dives. Averaging 4 per day, and 3 on the last day.
The dive sites for day 1 were all at Similan Islands
- dawn: Shark Fin Reef
- morning: West of Eden
- afternoon: Elephant Head Rock
- evening: West of Eden
Day 2 – we spent the morning dives at Similan Islands, and went up north after lunch
- dawn: Christmas Point
- morning: Breakfast Bend
- afternoon: Koh Bon
- evening: Koh Tachai
all these photos are of the same octopus!
Day 3 – we headed up north to pretty close to border of Myanmar at Surin National Park, spent half a day there before making our way down south again.
- dawn: Richelieu Rock
- morning: Richelieu Rock
- afternoon: Tachai Pinnacle
- night: Koh Bon
Day 4 – the last day, we did two dives at Koh Bon and stopped by to check out a wreck before heading to shore
- dawn: Koh Bon Pinnacle
- morning: Koh Bon wall
- afternoon: BoonSong Wreck, near shore
a pair of fancy harlequin shrimps
Despite the fact that we did not have the luck to spot one of the big fellas (leopard shark, whale shark, or manta ray), the dive trip still turned out to be rather awesome.
This was the first trip where I had an underwater strobe to go with the camera, it is a Sea & Sea YS-01 Haze bought for me during our Hong Kong trip. I think it helped the quality of photo quite a bit.
pipe fish, dog faced puffer, giant puffer, giant baraccuda
There were also some new stuff I saw during this trip that I haven’t seen before, among them are the pair of exquisite Harlequin shrimps at Richelieu Rock, a few octopuses at Koh Bon & West of Eden, honeycomb moray eel at Boonsong Wreck, and groups of tiny baby barracudas (about 2 inches long).
jewel grouper, plenty of them around pretty much all the reefs we visited
To me, one of the most awesome visual feast was the feeding frenzy between a group of few dozen rainbow runners and tens of thousands of anchovies (or some other fish fries). The coordinated movements of the anchovies was just unreal, and all of these happening right in front of our eyes (and around us too), amazing stuff!
this is probably the 10th lion fish I saw
Unfortunately, I also flooded the camera on the 6th dive. The trusted and well used S90 is now not responding, and I might have to fork out some $$ for a replacement (perhaps an S95 as it should fit my ikelite underwater housing).
Lesson learned here – always service the O-ring after opening/closing of the underwater housing.
camouflage exposed by strobe, a scorpion fish
Of the 15 dives, it is hard to pick favorites. Some dives are very atmospheric with lots of swim through under giant boulders, some had crazy amount of marine life, some beautiful corals, and some relaxing while others more challenging.
But if I had to pick one, it’ll be Richelieu Rock. Visibility isn’t that great at 15-20 meters, but there are ghost pipe fish, harlequin shrimps, sea horse, and generally very beautiful seascape. If you head over to this part of the world for diving, don’t miss out this dive site.
moray eel, honeycomb moray eel
With the first dive trip of the year filed away, I now wait for our local diving season to start. Perhaps a PADI rescue diver is something I should aim for this year.
February 22, 2011
One of the things I love most about Thailand is their hawker foods. It is true that they serve excellent tomyam, pad thai, and ladna at just about any corner, but one of my favorite breakfast dishes in the land of smile has gotta be the noodle soup.
noodle soup stall by the road side
On the last day of the trip while off-gassing from diving at Phuket, we went over to a pretty inconspicuous stall right across the street of the budget hotel we’ve been staying at (Baan Suan Place, cheapest room rate at 700 baht/night, next to Phuket International Hospital).
Though there were quite a few eateries of similar set up at the area, but I knew we got the right place soon as I saw those coagulated blood in the jar displayed at the front of the stall. *slurps*
noodle soup with all sorts of ingredients, take your pick!
A few finger pointing gestures and some 10 minutes later, here’s the bowl of goodness that arrived on my table. Big flat rice noodle in subtle yet flavorful clear broth topped with cuttle fish, coagulated blood, liver, pork, a bit of mushroom, vegetable, and even a bit of white fungus.
There’s also a plate of bean sprouts and some basil ala Vietnamese noodle style on the side, and of course plenty of potent chili powder as condiment for those who love it spicy.
when in Thailand, eat like a Thai
The noodle soup costs around 30-40 baht and this place also serves coffee and other drinks at around 10 baht. While this stall is situated at Thanon Bangyai road behind Phuket International Hospital, you can basically find similar stalls at just about anywhere in Southern Thailand (perhaps Central/Northern part too).
Now I wish someone would bring this to our local hawker stalls, Thai food here in Malaysia seems to be limited to tomyam, pineapple fried rice, and the occasional pad Thai only… pity.
Wichit, Mueang Phuket,
Phuket 83000, Thailand
February 20, 2011
Just got back from a trip to the Similan Islands near Phuket/Khao Lak over the past 6 days that includes 4 days and 4 nights spent on the boat without touching dry land. My very first Live On Board experience.
enjoying a piece of grilled chicken at Khao Lak
It was pretty much a last minute thing as I only decided to join when a spot came up for the liveaboard trip. I’ll be writing a lot more about the trip in the next couple days.
mantis shrimp, shot at Similan Islands
The trip was full of unplanned events, but that’s until next post! In the mean time here’s a photo of a mantis shrimp taken at one of the 15 dives we did over the course of the entire trip.
In the mean time, hope over to MilkADeal.com and check out the lastest deal – RM 6 instead of RM 14 at sbread, the Gardens for a bowl of authentic Penang Asam Laksa and a drink, that’s a good 57% off!
Asam Laksa at SBread, Gardens
While the name sbread is a bit out of the ordinary, the place is run by Penang-born Madam Q S Tan, you can perhaps test her with Penang Hokkien. Redemption period of this deal runs from 25 February – 31 March 2011, 10am – 7pm daily. Don’t miss out
February 16, 2011
Kampung Cempaka isn’t a particularly popular place for anyone other than its residence to be at. It is one of the oldest Chinese “kampung” at PJ, and a place more known for it’s ah beng gangsters and confusing zigzagging roads.
Not coincidentally, it is also a place with hidden old school Chinese hawker foods that has so far been mostly withstood the foreign invasion (aka Myanmar workers acting as cooks)
pork tripe soup and mixed pork soup, kopitiam with no name
The only reason I am somewhat familiar with Kampung Cempaka was due to the fact that I stayed there for a few months with my aunt during my college days. That was in the late 90s when Dataran Prima and Aman Suria were literally jungles, the house we were in is actually now the roundabout.
On a recent trip to the area in search for the Kg. Cempaka prawn mee (sold out by the time we got there), we stumbled upon this little kopitiam at the corner without names and decided to give it a try.
coagulated pork blood, this is my calling *slurp*
Fortune favors the bold, as we stepped in, I saw this stall that sells pork tripe soup & mixed pork soup. Jackpot! So we ordered one of each.
The mixed pork soup (RM 5.50) came with plenty of goodies – pork ball, intestine, tripe, 3-layer meat, and of course, the all important coagulated pork blood in peppery soup topped with some scallion. It was delicious, I went again a week or so later.
sometimes we have cendawan tagging along
The pork trip soup (RM 7 or so) was slightly unconventional with the inclusion of sliced carrot. I liked the carrot that gives the soup a bit of a sweeter taste on top of the peppery flavor, but Haze doesn’t think it is very appropriate. There were pretty good amount of yummy pork tripes though.
We’ve been here twice, and I think I’m gonna explore a bit more at the other kopitiams within Kampung Cempaka soon.
Jalan PJU 1/6,
Kampung Cempaka, Petaling Jaya
GPS: 3.117350, 101.599009