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Every once in a while, I get invited to one of these fancy dinners that I imagined myself being a part of when I was working as a casual worker at a five star hotel in my high school days.

I thought that it’d be pretty awesome sitting down having a number of different courses of almost bite size food served in plates that are unnecessarily large, and wouldn’t it be even more cool if they have different drinks for each dish?!

That’d really be living the life, won’t it?

Senja at Saujana Hotel
A Premium Wine Affair, Senja at Saujana Hotel

Well, last Friday was one of such days, and yes, that’s another teenage-hood dream come true moment (though not the first time).

I was invited to “A premier Wine Affair of the Saujana Hotels & Resorts Wine Collection“, a private event hosted by the Saujana to unveil its new wine collection.

Charcoal's Australian Chef Robert Johnston
Charcoal’s Australian Chef Robert Johnston

The wines were specifically made from Frankland Estate, Margaret River, Western Australia, a well-renowned winery with an approach to winemaking that values the importance of soil and environment.

In the kitchen was Charcoal’s Australian Chef Robert Johnston who prepared a distinctive five course menu to pair with the wines for a night of, well, wine and dine.

By the way, you can only get these wines from The Saujana

Note: Instead of paraphrasing the note and pretend that I know exactly how to describe these wonderful wines, I’m going to include the tasting note here verbatim, and by the way, most media/writers do get tasting notes for wine/whisky, we can’t magically come up with fantastic descriptions that are all pretty much the same.

lightly cured salmon, pomelo, cucumber, verjuice jelly
lightly cured salmon, pomelo, cucumber, verjuice jelly

After socializing a bit with the crowd, we sat down and dinner began, our first dish was the lightly cured salmon, pomelo, cucumber, verjuice jelly to be paired with Souvignon Blanc Semillon 2014. Refreshing and easy on the palette.

Tasting note: On the nose it shows exotic fruit aromas, lychee, mango, rose, quince and spices. On the palate it exudes a powerful, burst of fruit, flattering and round with lightly spicy finishing. 

poached chicken and crispy noodles, shitake tea
poached chicken and crispy noodles, shitake tea

Second course was poached chicken and crispy noodles, shitake tea. Paired with Chardonnay 2013, Miles from Nowhere.

The shitake tea makes an interesting base with its slightly bitter after taste, reminding me of chicken essence in a way. Crispy noodle provided interesting texture to the otherwise quite muted poached chicken. Very Asian-ish.

Tasting note: Butterscotch and ripe stone fruit flavours, with a rich and luscious creamy mouth feel. A complex wine with a spicy oak finish

char grilled duck breast, sweet onion puree, apple and radish, balsamic reduction
char grilled duck breast, sweet onion puree, apple & radish, balsamic reduction

Third dish was char grilled duck breast, sweet onion puree, apple and radish, balsamic reduction. Paired with Merlot 2014.

Really love the duck breast with the hint of charred taste. The Merlot carries mulberry and red plum fruit aromas, a touch of earthy complexity that went well with duck.

Tasting notes: Medium ruby red in colour. Alluring strawberry, mulberry and red plum fruit aromas with subtle hint of French oak spice and a touch of earthy complexity.

Black Angus tenderloin, roasted pumpkin risotto, oyster mushroom, bone marrow and parsley sauce
black Angus tenderloin, roasted pumpkin risotto,
oyster mushroom, bone marrow and parsley sauce

The main dish was black Angus tenderloin, roasted pumpkin risotto, oyster mushroom, bone marrow and parsley sauce. Paired with Cabernet Souvignon 2012. While the Wagyu from Hanaya a couple days ago was heaven, I still enjoy Angus beef with its more profound texture.

Tasting notes: A powerful yet elegant wine. Soft and rich with full body. Well rounded tannins on the palate with concentrates fruit flavours and provides a great length on the finish.

Coconut rice, caramelized banana, candied coconut and chili
coconut rice, caramelized banana, candied coconut and chili

Coconut rice, caramelized banana, candied coconut and chili as dessert to end the night. Good food with excellent company, what a great way to start the weekends.

great company and awesome food with delectable wines
great company and awesome food with delectable wines

The other wines we tried were  Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014 from Grape Expectations Estate, Margaret River, and Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc from Frankland Estate.

map to Saujana Kuala Lumpur

Address:
Senja
Saujana Golf & Country Club,
Jalan Lapangan Terbang SAAS,
40150 Selangor
GPS3.106865, 101.575285
Tel03-7846 1466
emailinfo@thesaujana.com

I almost never say no to food review at classy Japanese restaurants, so when the invitation from Hanaya came, I immediately made it a point find a way to get there even though the timing wasn’t exactly perfect.

And as it turned out, that was a wise choice. Walking from KLCC to Grand Millennium Hotel under the hot sun was definitely worth it.

Hanaya Japanese Restaurant at Grand Millennium Hotel, KL
Hanaya Japanese Restaurant at Grand Millennium Hotel, KL

Hanaya took over the Takumi Fine Dining’s previous spot right by the lobby of the hotel, and run by the same people who manages the excellent Ten Sushi at Marc’s Residence (lunch review).

While Ten is modern and veered towards the higher end fine dining experience, Hanaya aimed to be more approachable to the general public and offers traditional Japanese cuisine with more affordable pricing while maintaining very high quality, as apparent during this review session.

Our tasting menu for this pre-opening review was specially selected to showcase some of the different dishes and ingredients from Hanaya.

Shirako, or soft roe with ponzu sauce
Shirako, or soft roe with ponzu sauce

We started the session with Shirako, or red snapper soft roe. For those who aren’t familiar with the difference between normal roe & soft roe, well, normal roe is fish eggs, while soft roe is the male counterpart.. or in the less glamorous term – fish sperm sac.

It was incredibly rich and creamy, but perfectly balanced with the acidity from ponzu sauce. I must say that I find myself really enjoying this delicacy despite knowing the ingredient intimately. I’d want to have this again for sure.

Oriental clam fritters with grated green bean sauce
Oriental clam fritters with grated green bean sauce

Next up was Oriental clam fritters with grated green bean sauce and spring vegetable. A more muted taste that serves as a welcoming change from the strong first dish. It was an simple yet rather delightful.

entree - five types
entree – five types

The entree came with five different items, all of them carefully crafted and expertly prepared.

We had botargo (salted dried fish roe) which reminded me of the texture of dried mango minus the fiber; sticky tofu skin that was simple yet intricate; bamboo shoots in balsamic vinegar that provided the fresh, crunchy feeling; red snapper with Mozuku seaweed giving a new interpretation of the way to enjoy raw fish; and finally a play in colors with prawns in 3 ways – with nori, ohba leaves and arare (crispy Japanese cracker).

The entree was quite a revelation, and I did enjoy them all, though the prawns could perhaps bit a bit more crunchy, but I’m nitpicking.

assorted seasonal sashimi
assorted seasonal sashimi

What’s a proper Japanese meal without sashimi?

Our assorted seasonal sashimi platter comes with 5 types of fresh raw seafood, each beautifully crafted and carefully prepared.

Starting from ebi with cucumber and avocado sauce, seared salmon with bonito cream, saba with vinaigrette, aoyagi (Chinese mactra, a type of clam), and finally chutoro with sweet spicy gochujang sauce. All of which were rather excellent, and one of the very few times I had sashimi without the need of any soya sauce or wasabi since they were all very well balanced already.

Akita Wagyu steak (50 gram)
Akita Wagyu steak 

Next up was charcoal grilled Akita Wagyu steak, I believe this simple three slices of beef was actually prepared by God himself. It was, of a lack of a better word, heaven. It was very lightly grilled and served with a few pieces of fried garlic, a bit of daikon, carrot, and a touch of sea salt & pepper.

If you think sex is good, that’s because you haven’t had this beef.

steamed alfonsino fish
steamed alfonsino fish

Steamed dish came in the form of alfonsino (a type of deep water fish with huge eyes) with Japanese yam and egg white. I thought the texture of the fish was perhaps slightly harder than I’m used to, but overall it was a good combination, and I really like the fluffy texture of the foamy egg & yam concoction.

seasonal sushi at Hanaya Japanese Restaurant
seasonal sushi at Hanaya Japanese Restaurant

Penultimate dish that was simply labeled “rice dish” in the menu turned out to be sushi (all rice dish should be sushi isn’t it?)

My favorites were sea urchin, scallops, and of course, otoro! The melt in  your mouth texture was just so irresistible! Every piece of the five on the plate was spot on, and again, we didn’t even need wasabi!

coconut bavorios with pineapple jelly in pino colada style
coconut bavorios with pineapple jelly in pino colada style

Unfortunately, every good meal had to come to an end, and to conclude this special menu, we had an unassuming looking dessert that came in a martini glass – coconut bavorios with pineapple jelly in pino colada style. The layered dessert lived up to the expectations set by the previous dishes, the combination of sweet, milky, and sour taste was perfect. I was already rather full at this point, but finished the dessert nonetheless.

KY, Ringo, & Caydence at Hanaya Japanese Restaurant
KY, Ringo, & Caydence at Hanaya Japanese Restaurant

Omakase at Hanaya ranges from RM 200-250, and there is also quite a decent selection of ala carte item. I believe I’m going to go back there perhaps to try their lunch menu pretty soon!

map to Grand Millennium Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Address:
Hanaya
Grand Millenium Kuala Lumpur
160, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur
GPS: 3.148006, 101.712225
Tel: 03-2110 5499

When it comes to Japanese restaurants, KL is spoiled for choices. Probably 80% of the hotels has an in house Japanese restaurant, there bound to be a place serving sushi at every shopping complex, and they are also represented in most newer commercial centers.

It is then very easy to get lost in the conversation, and higher end Japanese restaurants often have to offer something unique to set themselves apart. Be it ambiance, ingredients, or experience.

Zipangu at Shangri-La Hotel, KL
Zipangu at Shangri-La Hotel, KL

Personally, Zipangu at Shangri-La KL always have a special place in my heart as it was the restaurant where I first experienced foie gras back in 2007, as you would remember the first Kobe beef (at Elegantology), or the first ebiko (at Jusco Pyramid), first tempoyak (at Tenggol Island), etc.

So when I had the opportunity to be sample the Early Spring Lobster Kaiseki at Zipangu, I agreed to it immediately.

The six course menu is available from 15 to 31st March 2015, and priced at RM 280++ per person.

soy milk tofu with lobster & sweet sticky soya sauce
soy milk tofu with lobster & sweet sticky soya sauce

We started out with a dish that is visually very similar to chawanmushi, but what is usually made of steamed egg is instead chilled home-made soy milk tofu, with the topping of wasabi, sweet sticky sauce, and of course, lobster. The visual-almost-misrepresentation did not take away from the brilliance of the appetizer, it was simple yet elegant.

octopus with field mushroom and soba noodle
octopus with field mustard and soba noodle

The second course was octopus with field mustard and soba noodle. Another light dish showcasing not only seafood, but also the vegetables of the season in Japan. I particularly like the addition of bamboo shoots.

sashimi with salmon, lobster, and seabream
sashimi with salmon, lobster, and seabream

No Kaiseki is complete without some raw ingredients. For this we have sashimi with salmon, lobster, and seabream. If you haven’t had lobster sashimi before, I urge you to give it a try, it is one of my favorite raw seafood ever, in fact, I think it is the best way to enjoy lobster.

The soya sauce is mixed with lemon in this instance to give it an even fresher feel. I really enjoyed this.

hot dish - lobster and seasonal vegetables with Bonito fish gut sauce
hot dish – lobster and seasonal vegetables with Bonito fish gut sauce

The meal then turn up the heat just a bit with the next serving being a hot dish of lobster and seasonal vegetable with salted fish cream sauce. The star of this dish is the cream sauce, as explained by our server, it is actually made from Bonito fish gut.

It was subtle yet you can definitely feel its presence, sort of like how having Natalie Portman sitting at a quiet corner would make an impact to a room.

grilled Wagyu sukiyaki roll
grilled Wagyu sukiyaki roll

The next dish took a departure from seafood to honor another Japan’s famous ingredient – Wagyu beef. The good chefs at Zipangu simply called this Sliced Wagyu Beef Sukiyaki Roll.

It was stuffed with mushroom and other seasonal vegetables grilled with perfection. Dip the roll in raw egg infused sukiyaki inspired sauce, and you have an implosion of richness with savory overdose. It was really satisfying.

lobster fried rice with pickles
lobster fried rice with pickles

Like most course meals, the penultimate dish is usually something you can fill your stomach with, and for this we had lobster fried rice (you can also choose from garlic fried rice, seafood fried rice, claypot cooked rice or steamed rice.)

The fried rice tasted rather muted at first, but with the accompanying pickles, it suddenly became balanced and, well, good! The lack of salt/soya sauce in the rice was to make way for the pickles, this was the first time I had fried rice this way, though the concept isn’t totally unfamiliar to me since you have onigiri served in similar fashion as well.

KY & ahfa at Shangri-La KL, with our professional Japanese server
KY & ahfa at Shangri-La KL, with our professional Japanese server
(actually the Guest Service Manager – Yoshihiro Hattori)

Panna Cotta with Cherry Blossom Flavour ends the Early Spring Lobster Kaiseki dinner, an experience that is truly Japanese and executed perfectly at Zipangu. I really enjoyed this review and the walk from KLCC under hot sun to Shangri-La was definitely worth it.

The menu only lasts till end of this month, so if you’re a lobster lover, don’t miss out.

Map to Shangri-la Hotel, KL

Address:
Zipangu
Shangri-la Hotel
Jalan Sultan Ismail
Kuala Lumpur

GPS: 3.152139, 101.709419
Tel: 03-2032 2388

A couple weeks ago I participated in a pretty special gastronomical event – the Martell Tricentenaire Gala Dinner at Genting Highland. I think it is safe to say that having a product on the market for 300 years is an amazing feat.

Martell Tricentenaire Gala Dinner, Genting Highland
Martell Tricentenaire Gala Dinner, Genting Highland

When the house of Martell was founded in 1715, the Ottoman Empire still exists, United States as a country has yet to be formed for another 60 years, and KangXi emperor was ruling China (there’s a joke that goes “which Chinese emporer is blind?”). Who would have thought that the same product still exists after a dozen generations later?

Martell Cordon Bleu, Martell Cordon Bleu 1912, Martell XO
Martell Cordon Bleu, Martell Cordon Bleu 1912, Martell XO

To celebrate this occasion, Martell hosted a grand gala dinner at Genting International Convention Centre, and I was very lucky to be among the invitees. The gala dinner drew from the tradition of Jean Martell, the creator of this fine cognac 300 years ago, who loved to host his friends at Chateau de Chanteloup, purchased by the Martell family to receive prestigious personalities from around the world.

As a celebration of the art of gastronomy, Martell arranged for Elegantology to prepare food. I’ve sampled their food on a previous occasion before, so you could say that I have some high expectations.

Citrus Infused King Prawn & Salmon Tartare
Citrus Infused King Prawn & Salmon Tartare

We started the night with Citrus Infused King Prawn and Salmon Tartare. The dish came with poached king prawns on skewer with avocado, and marinated salmon tartare & a side of yee sang to keep honor the Malaysian Chinese New Year tradition of “Lou Sang” (which was done on stage as well). We paired the starter with Martell Cordon Bleu.

Black Chicken Ginseng Soup with Abalone, Sea Cucumber, Scallops, and Fish Maw
Black Chicken Ginseng Soup with Abalone, Sea Cucumber, Scallops, Fish Maw

The second dish was not on the menu, but turned out to be our favorite of the night. A luxurious black chicken ginseng soup that is laden with abalone, sea cucumber, scallops, fish maw, and mushroom.

It was one of the best double boiled soup I’ve ever had, I would place it even higher than the one from Elegant Inn, which I really liked. It was complex, sweet, and yet not overly thick or complicated. If I can have one soup for the rest of my life, it’ll be a toss up between this and the best of what bak kut teh can offer.

Peppercorn Marinated Smoked Duck & Foie Gras Terrine
Peppercorn Marinated Smoked Duck & Foie Gras Terrine
Sea Bass, Steamed on Rich and Spicy Broth Infused with Tumeric & Egg

Continuing with the European theme, we then had peppercorn marinated smoked duck & foie gras terrine served on onion confit and raspberry vinaigrette. Smoked duck did not disappoint, but I had wished that they would serve foie gras as is instead of in the form of terrine. Then again, if you have to prepare food for some 1000 people, I suppose getting perfectly seared foie gras and served while hot may be a tall order.

Next up was steamed sea bass on rich and spicy broth infused with turmeric and egg white on asparagus. We paired this seafood with Martell Cordon Bleu 1912, a special re-edition of the classic cognac Martell Cordon Bleu, originally created by Edouard Martell in 1912.

The spicy broth gave the dish a hint of South Asian style, which is just as well since a slice of pita bread is served along side with the fish. Quite a bold play, and I think it worked.

Mediterranean Herb Crusted Loin of Lamb
Mediterranean Herb Crusted Loin of Lamb

Mediterranean Herb Crusted Loin of Lamb was our main dish – oven baked lamb with a medley of braised rice cake, cep mushroom essence and truffle. The lamb went really well with Martell XO, as with any perfectly prepared red meat would.

The herbal crust gave the lamb a bit of texture and character, while the truffle infused sauce made it richer, thus perfect for XO as a companion.

Ashley, KY, Haze, Garick, Sam, Michael
Ashley, KY, Haze, Garick, Sam, Michael

We did not stay for dessert as we had something planned early in next morning. The gala dinner, like other Martell gastronomy events I had the privilege to attend, was grand and impressive. I want to thank Angie for the invitation, until next time!

A week or so ago I was invited by Haze’s friend to a small food review session at Scott Garden’s AfterWerk pub/bar. This isn’t usually my type of place to look for food, but since it’s a friend, why not?

As it turns out, you can sometimes find decent food at unsuspecting places.

AfterWerk at Scott Garden, ground floor at the left corner
AfterWerk at Scott Garden, ground floor at the left corner, with live band

AfterWerk is operated by the same people who used to run Pedro’s Place, a new management/owner for the last half a year or so.

The restaurant/pub is located on the left corner of Scott’s Garden on the ground floor, you can park your car in the huge indoor parking, or right outside the restaurant aka valet/illegal style.

Like most pubs/bar, AfterWerk offers a variety of cocktails, beer, whisky, and there’s dart machine, and most importantly, an ass-kicking 8 piece Filipino band that actually sings very well! (We stayed for quite a few songs after the food review session)

we started with French Onion Soup
we started with French Onion Soup

Anyway, since the owner previously ran proper restaurant, food isn’t something of an after thought here. The menu consists of a mixture of Mexican/Western and local dishes. Prices are pretty decent, as with most pubs that usually make a lion’s share of their revenue from drinks instead.

For the purpose of this visit, we sampled four of their dishes.

We kicked off the night with French Onion soup that comes with a floating piece of cheese and a side of garlic/cheese bread. The serving was rather big for a starter but I don’t even mind, it was really delicious. The savory of cheese with those broth really worked well.

Chili Burger with a side of fries
Chili Burger with a side of fries

Next up was their Chili Beef Burger. This rendition of the popular American staple comes with a rather thick patty and plenty of chili with a layer of melted cheese on top. You can request the chili to be mild or really hot, we had it probably somewhere in the middle.

While I liked the chili, I thought the thick patty was not nearly as fatty as I usually liked them. Then again it is probably a good thing for those who are slightly more health conscious. A pretty decent burger otherwise.

half a rack of ribs, jalapeno poppers
half a rack of ribs, jalapeno poppers 

The four of us then shared a half rack of pork ribs. The ribs properly prepared and came with a layer of BBQ sauce plastered all over. The meat was soft and savory, I find myself really enjoying it despite being pretty stuffed from the previous two courses. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of pork ribs. It could maybe be slightly saltier, but I’m just nitpicking.

Other than the three dishes,  we also sampled one of their beer food – jalapeno poppers. This turned out to be pretty hot, and perhaps slightly too hot even for me but I imagine it’d be pretty awesome with some ice cold beer. Jalapeno is like any peppers, the level of spiciness is not constant, sometimes you get it hot, and sometimes they are mild.

Haze & KY, Reiko & friend
Haze & KY, Reiko & friend at work

If you’re close to the vicinity of Scott Garden, AfterWerk is definitely a decent place to check out if you’re up for a beer of three, but I would also consider it a good option for some late dinner as well.

map to Scott Garden at Old Klang Road

Address:
Afterwerk
Scott Garden
Jalan Klang Lama,
58100 Kuala Lumpur
GPS: 3.094886, 101.674963
Tel: 03-7982 0700
Hours: 4pm to 2am