Friday, September 30, 2011

MIGF 2011: Al-Amar Lebanese Cuisine, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

Tomorrow marks the start of the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival (MIGF). In conjunction with MIGF 2011, Chef Michel Karam and  the team at Al-Amar Lebanese Cuisine Restaurant have come up with a special festival menu available throughout the month of October 2011. 

"It's Raining Chefs!" is the theme for this year's Festival and Al-Amar has creatively created a menu adapted to the flavours of the four seasons of Lebanon. Lebanon has a moderate Mediterranean climate and what the Lebanese eat is dictated by the seasons.

A 5-course menu, it is the most affordable MIGF Festival Menu (RM98++ per person without wine and RM138++ per person with wine). 

The Festival Menu (MIGF 2011)

Chef Michel Karam appreciates French-style presentation and Japanese healthy cuisine. He sees MIGF as a great opportunity to showcase authentic Lebanese cuisine to Malaysia. 

I was really impressed with the food presentation for Al-Amar's MIGF menu, Chef Michel's creative flair clearly shines through. I certainly had a great time admiring and feasting my eyes on his creations. After all, I'm a firm believer that "food is to be enjoyed with both our eyes and mouth". 

For a Sunny Start
We started off with the Trio of Authentic Labneh with Lebanese southern tapenade and a brush of thyme. Labneh is a type of strained yoghurt with the consistency between that of a yoghurt and cheese. Each ball of labneh has been coated with a different herb; chilli powder/paprika, mint and thyme. The labneh had a tart taste, perfect eaten on its own or with the breadstick. The olive tapenade added a little texture to this trio. 

Summer Blooms

A visually attractive dish, it certainly had a great summery feel to it. I especially liked the fact that the chef has used edible flowers as part of the decor. If you look closely, you will also find a piece of herb leaf sandwiched between two layers of lotus root to create a gorgeous (and interesting) piece that sits on top of the beetroot tartar. The apricot glazed beetroot was nicely balanced by the slightly bitter rocket coulis, when eaten together it yielded a bitter-sweet taste which I found very refreshing.  

(Btw, I recently posted that a man and woman sharing a beetroot will fall in love. Three men and two women shared this platter, I wonder what will happen!)

Apricot glazed beetroot tartar on mango leather and rocket coulis

A beautiful summer dish

A work of art 

Autumn Flavours

Spinach bonbon, Soujouk mille feuille and herb crust filled with hommus and grass fed baby lamb fillet

The next dish consisted of three different components. The smooth hommus (which I enjoyed during my last visit to Al-Amar) makes an appearance here; it is stuffed inside a baked herb crust.The herb crust had a nice crunchy texture. This ensemble is completed with studs of grass fed baby lamb fillet (sitting in the hommus).

Soujouk is a type of spicy lamb sausage with special Lebanese seasoning, which is made in-house.It is very flavoursome and moist. At first when I read the menu, I was expecting the soujouk to be sandwiched between some pastry ("mille feuille") but turns out it just means the soujouk is arranged in layers. It is topped off with a crispy lotus root chip and some tomato salsa.

The final component of this dish is the spinach bonbon, spinach encased in lovely, flaky pastry.

Raining Chefs

For the main course, you can choose between braised rack of lamb or red mullet fillet. We got to sample both main courses during our review.

First up was the Pan seared red mullet fillets with sayadieh rice and drops of fish jus. The star of this dish surprisingly was not the fish, but the rice. Flavourful and fluffy, sayadieh rice literally means "fisherman rice" whereby the rice has been cooked in fish stock. It is topped with crispy caramelised onions, tahini sauce and even a deep fried fish tail! Purely for decor, but you can eat it if you like :) The red mullet fillet is also very good, moist and sweet.

Another pretty dish.. I'm loving the food presentation

Red mullet fillet

Awesome sayadieh rice

I really love that the chef uses brightly colored vegetables to add colour to his creations, just like he did in the Braised rack of lamb with stuffed baby marrow and vine leaves. The lamb is simply amazing, we could tell as soon as this plate was placed in front of us. At first we thought it was lamb loin, but turns out it was rack of lamb. The meat is beautifully cooked, still pink in the middle and the texture is just fantastic - so moist and tender, it was effortless to cut and eat! Baby marrow, also known as zucchini or courgette was stuffed with a mixture of lamb and rice.  I would personally pick this dish as my main (the other one is superb as well though!) simply because the lamb is that good.

Stuffed vine leaves

Stuffed baby marrow

Beautifully cooked braised rack of lamb

Sunshine After the Rain

And just when you thought the food presentation couldn't get any better, this is placed before us. I felt like I was transported to a place with fields of yellow flowers on a summer day. So beautiful, it was a shame to "destroy" this work of art but a blogger's gotta do her job - taste it! Pour some of the pineapple sauce over the nougat glacé and dig in. The nougat glacé was the perfect ending, light and fluffy. And the cardamom ice-cream (yes, cardamom!) was interesting and unexpected, but I loved it. It was aromatic but not overpowering.

Nougat glacé laid on a bed of vanilla pineapple confit served with pineapple sauce and spiced chocolate shell

Nougat glacé

Spiced chocolate shell with cardamom ice-cream

Pineapple sauce over the nougat glacé

We were also treated to some canapés before the MIGF menu review. For your information, Al-Amar also provides catering services.

There you have it, a very well-executed MIGF menu by Al-Amar. The presentation, in particular reminded me of the many fond Michelin-starred meals we have eaten in the past. The MIGF menu is available from 1st - 31st October 2011.

Click here to view full set of photos.

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Price: RM98++ per person without wine and RM138++ per person with wine. Click here to read more about Al-Amar's Festival Offers.

Location: Al-Amar Lebanese Cuisine, Lot 6.10, Level 6, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, 168 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur.

Tel: 03-2166 1011


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Malaysia's First Ever Blogger MasterChef

My first introduction to MasterChef was the cooking programme on BBC One which I enjoyed viewing while living in the UK. Everyday for a few years, I would tune in religiously to watch individuals battle it out in the kitchen for the title of "MasterChef". My favorite part of the show was the "The Final Test" whereby the contestants would design their own two-courses and cook them both for the judges in one hour. You get to see the creativity and ability of the contestants to cook. It is certainly  inspiring to see ordinary people with so much talent succeed and finally be crowned as "MasterChef.

A great inspiration for people who love to cook.

I was excited to learn that MasterChef is finally coming to Malaysia. MasterChef Malaysia will be launched on the 22nd October 2011, here are some details on the show:

- Show title – MasterChef Malaysia
- Program Details: – MasterChef TX will be starting from 22nd October 2011, every Saturday – Wednesday, 9.00pm. Master Class will be on every Friday, 9.00pm.
- Program channel – Astro Ria (Channel 104)
- Official Site URL –
- Facebook Page Link-
- Twitter Link–
- Background Information on MasterChef – MasterChef is a worldwide phenomenon. A cooking reality show, that although doesn’t allow viewers to vote, has still broken viewership records in US and Australia. MasterChef is a success because not only is food something we are all very passionate about but the show only allows amateur cooks to compete. Malaysians who love cooking but never had a chance to really showcase their skills and be appreciated, now get the opportunity! Get ready for the MasterChef phenomenon to take over Malaysia on 22nd October 2011!

In conjunction with the launch of MasterChef Malaysia, Nuffnang Malaysia is holding a contest to find Malaysia's First Ever Blogger MasterChef. This particular contest appealed to me since I love food and I love cooking! Food is my passion, and it gives me great joy to be able to put delicious tasting food on the table every night for my family. I'd like to think that I can cook well since the dinner table is filled with smiles each time I cook. I am well versed in both Western and Asian cuisines. My recipes have been featured twice on DineMalaysia, a comprehensive dining guide owned by the prominent Expat Group. I am very proud of this since one of the main reasons I cook and share my recipes is so that more families out there can enjoy good food every night.

I have many recipes on this blog but when I questioned my family as to what their favorite dish was (cooked by me), they unanimously answered "Roast Beef". 

I cooked Roast Beef for Christmas 2010

Roast beef is something we enjoy from time to time, on a Sunday, and on special occasions like Christmas day. To enjoy a good roast beef, it is important to get a good roasting joint. You can easily get this in more upmarket supermarkets such as Cold Storage. Depending on how much you are willing to pay, you can get different cuts (and qualities) of roasting joints. The most enjoyable roast beef experience for us so far was when I used a striploin roll. Here's the recipe for it:

Roast striploin with roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots and broccoli

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Serves 4

Beef roasting joint (approx. 1kg)
Olive oil
Freshly ground salt and pepper
1 small onion, halved

1. The beef should be removed from the refridgerator 1 hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature. Keep it wrapped.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

3. Rub the beef with the olive oil, salt and pepper all over.

4. Place the joint in a roasting tin on top of the onion halves. The onion will caramelise as the beef cooks and give a lovely flavour and colour to the gravy. (*Tip from Delia Online)

5. Place the roasting tin in the preheated oven. The recommended cooking time for medium rare beef is 5 minutes per 100g of meat. For medium doneness, add an extra 10 minutes per kilo and 20 minutes per kilo for well done.

6. While the beef is cooking, remove it at least twice and baste the meat with its own juices to keep everything moist and succulent.

7. Remove the beef from the oven, transfer to the carving board and cover with foil to allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Well-rested and ready to be carved

8. Any juices from the beef should be poured into the gravy, it makes all the difference to your gravy!

9.Carve the beef in 1/3 inch thick slices. Best served with roast potatoes, steamed vegetables and lots of gravy. Enjoy!

The moment of truth - is it medium rare as we like it?

Medium rare it was... hooray!

Fluffy and crisp roast potatoes (Recipe here)

Roast striploin with roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, broccoli and carrots

I hope I'll be celebrating with a bottle of Moet if I win this prestigous title! :)

Wish me luck! :) 

For foodies / amateur chefs who are interested, you have until 3 October 2011 (11.59pm) to join this contest. More details can be found here

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ben's General Food Store, Bangsar Village, Kuala Lumpur

I was craving for pizza. Not just any pizza, but a good pizza. Hence away we went to Ben's General Food Store.

My kind of pizza - thin crust and cheesy.. :)

Myth or fact - Pizza is the no.1 searched word in Google?

The lay person's first impression of Ben's General Food Store would be that it is no start-up venture. The decor is simple yet stylish. The image they are trying to portray here is of a high-end cafe/ restaurant; the fact that they have premium Stokke Tripp Trapp baby chairs for the young children says it all.

The restaurant was quite busy when we arrived, but service was still excellent. The setup is quite casual, long wooden tables on one side and the open kitchen, dessert and salad bar on the other side. Baby D even received some complimentary marshmallows while we waited for our food. Lucky boy!

Very cool advertising - on milk cartons!

Chilli oil and other condiments

Casual and relaxed atmosphere

The menu here is quite limited, since you can only get either pizza, flatbreads, salads, a few deli items, and desserts. Although the two of us are quite big eaters, a pizza here is sufficient for sharing.

"Where is my pizza?" Baby D drums his fingers impatiently. Or maybe he's wanting more marshmallows! 

A point in case is the pizza we had today - this was in no way a stodgy bread and tomato base effort. This was pizza as the Italians meant them to be, albeit with a modern twist.

The thin crust pizza was topped with mozzarella, fresh wild mushrooms, mascarpone and truffle oil. It smelt and tasted delightful! I've never had mascarpone on pizza before but I have to say it was very interesting and definitely a great match. Definitely one of the best pizzas we've eaten this year.

Funghi pizza (RM22.90)

Pizza cutter in action!

Cheesy, and delicious! Who wants a piece?

I'm not sure what possessed me, but we ended up ordering a Black Forest Cake (RM9.90) to share as well. Our last dessert experience at Ben's KLCC was just so-so, and so was this. It actually looked really enticing sitting in the dessert bar. Sadly, it was just a pretty face. Next time, I think I will go elsewhere for our dessert.

Black Forest Cake served with chocolate meringue

Many cultures believe that if a man and woman eat from the same beetroot, they will fall in love. Anyone care to try and let me know the results?

Restaurant Exterior

Next door, you will find the Store, the BIG Group's idea of an epicurean emporium where you can get gourmet food items. I loved how they named their butcher "Daniel Greig" since they had Wagyu 007 here for sale. Get it?

The BIG Group's other outlets include Ricetaurant, T Forty Two, Ben's, Plan B, Bistro 42 and Canoodling.

Verdict: Will definitely return for more of the pizzas!

Full menu available to view here. Click here to view full set of photos.

Opening times: 11.00am to 10.00pm daily.

Service: Excellent.

Location: Ben's General Food Store, G17 & 18, Ground Floor, Bangsar Village 1, No 1, Jalan Telawi 1, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur.

Tel: 03-2284 8790

GPS Coordinates: 3.129996, 101.670957


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