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When it comes to hotel restaurants, Shangri-La must be the gold standard, I’ve been to a number of corporate events, attended wedding dinners, and been to a few restaurants under Shangri-La group. The experience has always been a positive one, so when I received the invitation for the reopening of Lemon Garden at Shangri-La KL, I knew having to brace the traffic would be worth it.

Shangri-La KL Lemon Garden re-opening
Shangri-La KL Lemon Garden re-opening

My prediction was correct, the food and dining experience was great, and traffic was thoroughly atrocious thanks to the light drizzle on a Friday evening. Alas, most of the invited guests and members of media managed to show up on time to witness the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony, the all important event that was in the way of us getting our dinner.

love the new seafood station
love the new seafood station

First and perhaps most importantly, here are the prices:

International Lunch Buffet
Monday – Friday (12noon – 2.30pm)
RM 128 nett (adult), RM 64 nett (child)
Saturday (12noon – 3pm)
RM 148 nett (adult), RM 74 nett (child)

International Sunday Brunch
Sunday (12noon – 3pm)
RM 168 nett (adult), RM 84 nett (child)

International Dinner Buffet
Sunday – Thursday (6.30pm – 10.30pm)
RM 158 nett (adult), RM 79 nett (child)

Seafood Dinner Buffet
Friday – Saturday (6.30pm – 10.30pm)
RM 208 nett (adult), RM104 nett (child)

Sunday Champagne Brunch (inclusive of 1 bottle of Veuve Cliquot per person)
Sunday (12noon – 3pm)
RM 488 nett (adult)

good selection of sushi and sashimi
good selection of sushi and sashimi

The newly face lifted Lemon Garden is designed by Bond Studio Inc from Japan and took four months to renovate, the result is an ambiance that is rather elegant, sophisticated, yet very welcoming. The restaurant now also has an alfresco dining area at the garden terrace offering a scenic view by the koi pond.

Personally though, I think the indoor tables are just great for buffet dinners as you are that much closer to the humongous selection of food.

ample selection of traditional Chinese dishes
ample selection of traditional Chinese dishes

I can safely say that the selection of dishes at Lemon Garden is the most impressive I’ve seen so far, and I’ve been to quite a number of buffets ever since the inception of this blog.

Let’s start with the new seafood station. There’s snow crabs, fresh oysters, scallops, crabs, spanner crabs, prawns, clams, mussels, crayfish, as well as sushi and sashimi. All these dishes are either boiled or raw, and with almost no seasoning, the taste is entirely up to the quality of raw ingredients, particularly on the freshness of these seafood.

In that sense, it did not disappoint at all, I had two plates entirely filled with seafood for dinner.

cold cuts & salad
cold cuts & salad bar

The Chinese section has dimsum, double boiled soup, chicken rice, a noodle station, as well as plenty of dishes you may find at wedding dinners, including steamed fish, mushroom with brocolli, sea cucumber, and mantis prawn with  salted egg yolk.

tandoori chicken, poached chicken, or roast chicken rice?
tandoori chicken, poached chicken, or roast chicken rice?

Then there’s the Asian station. Here you’d find tandoori chicken, naan, satay, murtabak, chicken tikka, roti canai, and others. There are also other local signature dishes such as Nyonya laksa, curry, and more.

Italian & Spanish cuisines are part of the line up too, as with selection of cheese
Italian & Spanish cuisines are part of the line up too, as with selection of cheese

Moving to the West, you’ll find several types of pizza, a selection of bread, cheese, pasta, huge selection of salad, and my favorite – roast beef and lamb rack. The pizza here is made in the traditional wood burning stove too.

red meat includes roast beef, lamb rack
red meat includes roast beef, lamb rack

Then of course, for those with sweet tooth, the dessert pavilion offers a dazzling display of both local and international desserts. You can find ice kacang, waffles, crepes, chocolate fountains, an assortment of cakes, tarts, ice creams, and various traditional Malay and Nyonoya kuih.

dessert includes Western & traditional Malaysian kuih muih
dessert includes Western & traditional Malaysian kuih muih

So next time if your significant others can’t decide what he/she wants to eat, bring them here and you can be quite sure that there’ll be something that will satisfy even the most choosy diner.

dinner was made even better with media friends
dinner was made even better with media friends

Map to Shangri-la Hotel, KL

Address:
Lemon Garden
Shangri-la Hotel
Jalan Sultan Ismail
Kuala Lumpur

GPS: 3.152139, 101.709419
Tel: 03-2074 3904

If there’s a Japanese food I have to choose to go with cold beer, there’ll be no doubt in my mind that it has to be yakitori, so when I got the invitation to review the offering at Torii at TTDI thanks to Kirin Ichiban, I was obviously more than happy to oblige.

After all, a premium Japanese beer with one of the higher end yakitori restaurants, you’d be foolish to not do it.

Kirin Ichiban promotion at Torii, TTDI
Kirin Ichiban promotion at Torii, TTDI

The reason we were here was to try the pairing of Kirin Ichiban with the dishes. Kirin is made with 100% malt, and brewed with an innovative “First Press” method by extracting the malt liquid from only the first press. Perhaps a little bit like “extra virgin olive oil” (I may be a bit off here), this is what contributes to the smoothness and premium taste.

At Torii, there’s also a promotion going on every Wednesday and Thursday night, with a glass of Kirin going for only RM 10.

veal chunk, squid tentacles, and crispy cheese beef yakitori
veal chunk, squid tentacles, and crispy cheese beef yakitori

The restaurant is located at the inner, slightly quieter part of TTDI that isn’t plagued with crazy parking problems like some of the busier areas a couple minutes away. It is simple, elegant, and exude a very classy, fine dining feel without having a menu that is, I think, quite accessible to many of us.

broiled lobster chowder, bonded unagi & foie gras, upper thigh
broiled lobster chowder, bonded unagi & foie gras, upper thigh

Like its name suggests, yakitori is the speciality here at Torii. We tried wings (RM 8.90), squid tentacles (RM 10.90), sweet potato (RM 5.90), upper thigh (RM 6.90), rock lobster (RM 11.90), crispy cheese beef (RM 12.90), and veal chunk (RM 15.90). None of these disappoint, but if I have to pick, upper thigh, rock lobster, and cheese beef would be those you should try.

If you’re having these with beer, the chef will usually make the yakitori just a tad saltier, which really enhances the tasting experience, and Kirin with it’s crisp and refreshing taste provides excellent contrast to the strong tasting yakitori.

If you like something soupy, go for the broiled lobster chowder with crab croutons (RM 18.90) that also prepared with porcini mushroom, shallot, and olive oil. I’d love to have this on rainy days.

triple peaks - toro, unagi, and amoebi sushi
triple peaks – uni, amoebi, toro sushi

Perhaps surprisingly, cold beer goes rather well as a stand-in for green tea when paired with sushi. The triple peaks (RM 26.90) is a plate of three premium sushi with uni (sea urchin), amoebi (sweet shrimp), and toro (tuna belly). For under RM 30 this is not only awesome, but also provides very good value for the ingredients provided.

Then there’s Autumn risotto (RM 27.90), a deceptively simple dish with crab claw, egg yolk & asparagus. Beautifully presented and equally satisfying in the taste department. This dish would  not disappoint any Italian food connoisseur.

wings, avocado de la mer, sweet potato, green tea creme brulee, nutella gyoza
wings, avocado de la mer, sweet potato, green tea creme brulee, nutella gyoza

Other dishes we sampled include the bonded unagi & foie gras (RM 29.90), kampachi uni jalapeno (RM 34.90), and avocado de la mar (RM 19.90). These aren’t exactly yakitori nor are they strictly traditional Japanese dishes, but they went so well with Kirin and left us wanting for more even as our stomach was filling up to the brim.

Of course, no fine dining meal is complete without desserts. For this we had green tea creme brulee with white chocolate lavender ice cream (RM 24.90) and nutella gyoza with chocolate ganache & whisky raisin ice cream (RM 24.90). I like the creativity in nutella gyoza, and while the desserts may not stand out as much as their yakitori and other delicacies, they were certainly more than decent.

Yen & hubby, KY & Haze enjoying some awesome food and Kirin Ichiban
Yen & hubby, KY & Haze enjoying some awesome food and Kirin Ichiban

If you love yakitori, a fan of beer, or just generally love some good food in fine dining environment without breaking the bank, this is definitely one of the places worth checking out.

Also get more information on Kirin Ichiban at their FB page at https://www.facebook.com/kirinmalaysia

Torii at TTDI map

Address:
18, Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 1,
Taman Tun Dr Ismail,
60000 Kuala Lumpur
GPS: 3.148787, 101.629781
Tel03-7733 9309

Chinese New Year is around the corner, so I guess it is appropriate to participate in at least one CNY dinner review session, and since Intercontinental Hotel is nearby my workplace as well as having a sterling reputation in their culinary department, I decided that paying a visit to their Tao Chinese Cuisine for this very purpose should be a rewarding experience, and indeed it was.

Tao Chinese Cuisine at Intercontinental KL, with Chef Wong Lian You
Tao Chinese Cuisine at Intercontinental KL, with Chef Wong Lian You

Tao is headed by Chef Wong Lian You, who joined Intercontinental since 2012 to develop the concept behind this restaurant. The good chef has a long list of awards won in competitions, but above all, he is also humble character who does not shy away from being bold with his culinary inventions.

The CNY menu starts from 11 January to 22 February, 2016 and priced from RM 1,888. There’s also a 20% discount with payments made before 18 January 2016, but I guess this article is a little too late for that.

For our session, we tasted the Opulence set menu 3, priced at RM 2988 for a full table. A bottle of wine comes compliment with the dinner.

Bird’s nest with passion fruit sauce yee sang
Bird’s nest with passion fruit sauce yee sang

We started out with a rather special yee sang dish invented by Chef Wong – bird’s nest with passion fruit sauce yee sang. Other than traditional yee sang ingredients, there’s deep-fried salmon skin and bird’s nest in the mix, the use of fresh passion fruit as the base instead of palm sauce also made the experience rather unique.

I find myself enjoying it a bit too much actually.

Double-boiled fish maw with sea treasure soup
Double-boiled fish maw with sea treasure soup

Next up was double-boiled fish maw with sea treasure soup. The soup is served in individual bowl and packed with flavors  – there’s scallop, abalone, mushroom, chicken, and of course, fish maw. Certainly very satisfying, and beat the radish soup from my own kitchen by about 26.2 miles.

Braised eight treasureS duck
Braised eight treasures duck

Braised either treasure duck show cases the chef’s skill in combining different traditional ingredients in a duck braised to perfection. I don’t want to attempt to pretend that I remember the different individual ingredients, and was too busy chomping down the dish while other more serious journalists were taking notes.

Steamed Soloman star garoupa, stewed abalone with sea cucumber
Steamed Soloman star garoupa, stewed abalone with sea cucumber

CNY dinner menu is never complete without fish, and for this we have steamed Soloman star garoupa with braised tangerine skin, ginger, garlic and mushroom sauce. The fish was good and certainly packed with flavor, the tangerin skin gave it a bit of sophistication not usually associated with Chinese style fish. Part of me still want to have the good old old fashion steamed variety with soya sauce though.

Another classic dish served was the stewed abalone with sea cucumber and bean curd skin bag. This dish was executed as good as any I’ve tried in the past, and abalone is never disappointing.

Wok-fried AlaskaN king crab leg with salted egg sauce, lap mei fan
Wok-fried Alaskan king crab leg with salted egg sauce, lap mei fan

Fifth dish in the 7-course dinner is one that combines luxury with modern, perhaps Malaysian Chinese style of cooking – wok-fried Alaksan king crab leg with salted egg sauce.  Rich, strong tasting, and certainly delicious, the crab leg is also easy to handle and a definite joy to eat.

The penultimate dish was chef Wong’s lap mei fan – steamed glutinous rice with preserved duck leg, salted egg yolk and dried oyster. If you still have space left in your stomach by then, this dish will fit the bill just nice, if not, packing it home for next day’s breakfast is certainly a good alternative.

Pan-fried “ninko” with sesame seeds, salted bean paste dumpling served with chilled peach gum, papaya, snow fungus and glutinous dumpling in soya bean
desserts to end the night, KY & Xing Yi

For dessert, we had pan-fried “ninko” with sesame seeds, salted bean paste dumpling served with chilled peach gum, papaya, snow fungus and glutinous dumpling in soya bean, which actually sounds like two different dishes to me. I absolutely loved the ninko which carries a taste not entirely unlike salted caramel mixed with lotus paste + nian gao, you have to try it! The soya bean dessert also served as good and slightly sweetish ending to the awesome 7-course dinner.

I want to thank Lisa & Justina for the invitation, and Xing Yi for being the stand-in partner in crime for this session.

map to Intercontinental Hotel, KL

Address:
Tao Chinese Cuisine
Intercontinental Hotel

165 Jalan Ampang,
50450 Kuala Lumpur
GPS3.159767, 101.718045
Tel03-2161 1111
Webwww.intercontinental.com

A couple weeks ago we were invited to sample Chef Sam Lu’s menu at Saujana Hotel’s Ti Chen Chinese restaurant. Chef Sam Lu is the new man in charge of the kitchen at Ti Chen, and one with multiple awards under his belt.

Saujana's Ti Chen Chinese Restaurant with Chef Sam Lu (right)
Saujana’s Ti Chen Chinese Restaurant with Chef Sam Lu (right)

Chef Sam learnt the fundamentals of Chinese cuisine by attending the Chinese Cooking Course under China Hakka Famous Chefs and was also trained at the China Development Center of Molecular Gastronomy. In this menu, the play between molecular gastronomy and traditional Chinese cuisine is very apparent, and we were lucky enough to be one of the few who got to try his creation at Saujana.

For this media review, we were served the following 7 course menu.

deep fried scallops with banana & taro paste
deep fried scallops with banana & taro paste
roasted chicken roll with Korean BBQ sauce

The dinner got underway with a pair of appetizers.

Deep fried scallop with banana and taro paste was a bit like an East-meet-West dimsim & dessert marriage. Banana gave the dish a soft and sweet texture, while the scallop contributed to the taste of seafood, pretty interesting.

Roasted chicken roll with Korean BBQ sauce had a bit more of a traditional palate with a hint of Korean flavor, I find myself enjoying it quite a bit. The carefully roasted garlic was just an icing on the cake.

double boiled village chicken with fish maw soup
double boiled village chicken with fish maw soup

The double boiled village chicken with fish maw soup was the one dish that actually enticed Haze and I to go to this review session. We were spending a lot of time with house renovation and thought a bowl of good soup would do us well, we were not wrong.

According to the good chef, the soup took no shorter than 6 hours to prepare. The fish maw was soft and tender, and the soup positively rejuvenating.

steamed cod fish with chinese herbs
steamed cod fish with Chinese herbs

My favorite dish came next – the steamed cod fish with Chinese herbs. The filet was absolutely fantastic, it was tender, juicy, and just lightly seasoned. I like the presence of wolf berry in the broth, and that foam from the influence of molecular gastronomy.

butter garlic fried-rice with crab meat, roast duck
butter garlic fried-rice with crab meat, roast duck

As with any proper Chinese course dinner, there’s always a dish with carbo, and our version came in the form of butter garlic fried-rice with crab meat. Instead of the traditional dryer and more fluffy type of fried rice, this version takes the cue from Italian risotto and prepared a little wetter. To be honest, I prefer the Chinese fried rice of old, not that this one is bad, it was just.. unfamiliar.

We were also given a plate of roast duck, which was prepared differently from the traditional method. It was tender, juicy, and goes very well with any sort of rice, or just on its own.

Sam's coffee pudding, bake homemade almond cream bun, KY & Haze
Sam’s coffee pudding, bake homemade almond cream bun, KY & Haze

Desserts came in the form of Sam’s coffee pudding and bake homemade almond cream bun. I personally liked the almond cream bun, but almond is a bit of an acquired taste so I think it didn’t find too many fans among the reviewers around the table. The coffee pudding had a better reception for sure, with it’s cute presentation and subtle coffee taste to a sweet ending.

Ti Chen is open from Tuesday to Fridays for lunch (12-2:30pm), dinner (6-10pm) and on Saturdays & Sundays for lunch (9-2:30pm) and dinner (6-10pm).

map to Saujana Kuala Lumpur

Address:
Ti Chen
Saujana Golf & Country Club,
Jalan Lapangan Terbang SAAS,

40150 Selangor
GPS3.106865, 101.575285
Tel03-7846 1466
emailinfo@thesaujana.com

For many who read this blog, it is pretty evident that I do not pay for all the food reviewed on this blog. As someone who writes reviews on online, or indeed on prints, we sometimes get invited to food tasting/review sessions. I make it a point to put those posts in “By Invitation” category, there are already over 50 posts in there as of this writing.

Some insists that all reviews done via this matter shouldn’t be trusted as the writer did not pay for their food and got preferential treatments, hence they must be biased. There’s some sense of truth to it, but it isn’t the topic we’re discussing today.

Sometimes, the owner or a friend of the restaurants owner contacts myself for these reviews. Other times, it is the in house PR personnel who does the invitations. However, there’s also an increasing trend of restaurants hiring PR agencies to engage bloggers (and other media outlets) for food reviews.

In the last case, there’s money involved. Now I might be over simplifying things, but they usually goes:

Restaurant pays PR – PR gets bloggers to eat – Bloggers write reviews

The PR agencies might also have more detailed arrangements with the clients (restaurants), including numbers of free meals the restaurant is responsible for vs how many reviews (positive or otherwise) should turn up on blogs, number of unique hits, etc.

While it might sound like an awesome deal, free food and all, the reality is quite a bit different. Most serious food bloggers will haul along  their SLR & other photography equipments; trying to enjoy dinner interrupted with many photo taking sessions and talking with the PR/restaurant owner; and of course, spend hours editing photos and writing the blog post after the meal.

All these can amount to quite a bit of work, and you could probably agree that the least a writer can ask for is to have decent dining partners to go with. In my case, it is Haze, and sometimes part of #porkgang.

So a yesterday there was this article from Fit to Post (Yahoo! Singapore) titled “S’poreans outraged over ‘free meal’ blogger“, basically stating that a food blogger – ladyironchef, and I quote – “demanded that he and his three companions be given free meals at an upscale restaurant”. The article also quoted several other food bloggers condemning ladyironchef of being a “freeloader” and “bringing down the good name” of them.

Conversations on Twitter and forums this one was full of people throwing in their punches while the said blogger’s site was down.

This morning ladyironchef posted his version of the story, which came out to be something I’ve sorta suspected. While his record was not entirely spotless in this debacle ( throwing credit card on table), I think that the PR consultant did a lot worse in this case.

  1. The blogger did communicated the fact that he’s bringing 3 guests both on email and SMS.
  2. PR consultant was not there during the meal
  3. PR consultant did not advice the restaurant manager on the interview with Yahoo! SG

This is assuming the said PR consultant wasn’t the one who get the story out in the first place. Now that the blogger’s version is out, the PR/restaurant just made an ass of themselves, same goes with those who condemn the blogger without knowing the full story too (at least hungryepicurean put up an apology, bravo!)

Lesson from this story?

  • know both sides before condemning anyone
  • if an article cited blogs including those idled since 2008, read with a soup spoon of salt
  • food review isn’t all pleasure and no work
  • many PR consultants are awesome people, but just like bloggers, some of them are asses

p/s: for the invited reviews I find not worthy of recommendations, I usually skip the write up completely instead of writing a review on lousy food as I believe people visit this blog to look for good food and not having to sift through a lot of bad ones at the same time.