Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year

First of all, a very prosperous and Happy Tiger Year 2010 to you all!

We had a fantastic spread during our reunion dinner this CNY eve, courtesy of two great cooks, my grandma and aunt. The reunion dinner is special time for all members of the family to come together. It is probably considered the most important event in Chinese culture and tradition.

There are several dishes which must be included in the reunion dinner, simply for the fact that
their names have auspicious meanings.

Sau meen, or long-life noodles for longevity

Leeks (Chinese: shun) which denotes "counting money", for better fortunes in the new year

Prawns (Chinese: ha), when pronounced sounds like laughter ha ha, for more laughter and happiness in the new year

My aunt personally deep fries the fish maw (swim bladder), instead of buying the ready packs and what difference it makes! Great quality fish maw! Fish (Chinese: yu), which has the same sound as surplus or easy, alludes to a prosperous life.

Abalone (Chinese: pau yu), translates to "definitely got leftovers", meaning never running out of money in the new year (money in abundance)

This is a Hokkien must-have dish during reunion dinner, braised sea cucumber with pork knuckles. The thick gravy goes very well with the noodles.

Chinese believe that you should have all types of meat - fish, chicken, pork to symbolise abundance ie you will have anything you want in the new year

Roast pork

So much food! Lavish!

Have a great CNY! Enjoy the great food and company of your loved ones!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Square, London

Hubby chuckled as he read through the contents of my notebook.

"So, I asked you to compile a list of things you need/want to do in London, and what did you come up with? A list of restaurants?" he said.

I tried to defend my actions, "I want to shop and do touristy things too, but we need to eat first right?"

My point was simple - since we need to eat, we might as well eat well. It's not like we can find a Michelin restaurant anywhere in Malaysia. So, might as well take advantage while we were in London. The great thing about Hubby was that he understood my love for food and would go to any restaurant of my choice.

I have been to several 1 Michelin-star restaurants but not to any 2- or 3-stars. I narrowed it down to Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley and The Square, both 2 Michelin-star restaurants, mainly after reading some good reviews online. I would have preferred to go to Marcus Wareing (simply because I've seen him cooking on telly), but sadly, his restaurant was fully booked both for lunch and dinner for the next 2 weeks. I wasn't feeling hopeful when I called The Square, however I was told that they could fit us in for lunch. BUT, there is a twist - there will only be a special 3-course Christmas Menu priced at £47.50. I looked at Hubby quizingly.

"Let's just do it, since it's Christmas!" he said.

I spent the rest of the morning fantasizing about food. After a fantastic first Michelin meal in Maze, I had high expectations.

A recap of what to expect from
a 2 Michelin-star restaurant:
Two-Michelin-star: Excellent cooking, worth a detour.
Specialities and wines of first class quality. This will be reflected in the price.

The Square was relatively easy to find, if you're walking on New Bond St heading towards Louis Vuitton, Bruton St is the street on the left before you reach LV. The restaurant decor is classy and kept simple with a few abstract paintings hanging on the wall. And is that the Damier pattern I spot on the dining chairs? Well, not all of them, we got the plain brown ones. Bah!

Warm bread rolls were served after we placed our orders. Freshly baked bread tastes so good. I like the raisin and walnut one.

"Mademoiselle, the amuse bouche for today is Smoked Salmon Roulade with a Dill and Horseradish Cream topped with pickled cucumber." Elegantly presented, the taste was fresh and delicate.

My starter was Terrine of Turkey, Foie Gras, Caramelised Onions and Prunes with Quince and Grape Chutney, served with a slice of crusty bread. For me, terrine is a classic dish which you either love or hate. The combination of terrine and chutney was quite a delight to eat, however, my only criticism would be that there was too little foie gras (probably smaller than the size of a 5p coin), seeing that foie gras was what prompted me to order this in the first place.

Hubby's starter was gorgeous, Ravioli of Shellfish with Buttered Iceberg and Clementine. The ravioli was beautifully cooked and was complimented well with the rich, sweet clementine sauce.

My main course, Breast of Goose with Pumpkin and Chestnuts and a Feuillete of the Leg with Cranberries, was indeed Christmassy. The goose was rich and tender. The feuillete, French for puff pastry, was light and flaky, and reminded me of sausage rolls. Perhaps the filling was a little too salty for my liking. All in all, a beautifully executed dish.

Hubby's Venison Wellington with Baked Celeriac and Beetroot Puree had a flaky pastry with flavourful venison, but he felt that my main course had much better components than his.

To end, Hubby had the Christmas Pudding with Brandy Foam and Burnt Butter Ice Cream. Warm and rich pudding with a slightly bitter brandy foam marks a perfect end to his lunch.

I had a Pave of Chocolate with Caramel, Orange and Hazelnut Ice Cream. The pave of chocolate was rich, somewhat like thick mousse, but what I love is the caramel ice cream.

Petit fours were in the form of freshly baked warm mince pies, which was delicious. However I was disappointed that it took more than 45 minutes between our dessert and petit fours to arrive. I believe they wrongly sent our petit fours to another table as we saw the waiter being instructed to serve another couple first. This really shouldn't happen in a 2 Michelin-star restaurant.

And some clementines!

During our extremely long wait for petit fours, Phil Howard, the chef and co-owner of The Square made a brief appearance to speak to someone in the waiting lounge. Must be someone important, we thought. The "important" person turned out to be Mark Hix (again, I recognise him from Great British Menu), a celebrity chef. They sat him and his friend next to our table and Hubby didnt believe me when I said it was someone famous. (Famous in my books, not in his *lol*. He was in crutches, I googled it later and found out that he broke his leg in a scooter accident).

The waiter confirmed my suspicions later that it was indeed Mark Hix seated next to us. And he also kindly offered to get me a copy of the menu signed by the chef, Phil Howard. A nice touch! "Here's your signed copy of the menu, Mademoiselle". And did I mention that it sounds absolutely delightful whenever they call me Mademoiselle?

And it snowed heavily on our way back to the hotel!

Verdict: We had an enjoyable lunch, I wouldn't fault the food or service. However, The Square doesn't really stand out as a 2 Michelin-star restaurant - what distiguishes it from Maze or any other 1 Michelin-star restaurant I've been to? I seriously don't have a clue. Perhaps the Christmas menu does not really reflect the chef's full potential.

For full list of 2 Michelin-star restaurants in London, click here.

Service: Excellent!

Price: £47.50 for 3 courses. Plus 12.5% gratuity.

Location: The Square, 6-10 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 6PU
Tel: +44 (0)20 7495 7100


Nearest tube: Bond Street

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Curry Leaf Restaurant, Seremban

Whenever we have cravings for good Indian food, we always head to Curry Leaf Restaurant. Curry Leaf Restaurant serves one of the most authentic and delicious Indian food in Seremban. One of the reasons why we like this restaurant so much is that it is very clean and has a separate air-conditioned area. Perfect conditions to enjoy your curry without drenching yourself in perspiration.

Various awards won by the restaurant

Cleanest Restaurant Award

The Unc loves the banana leaf rice here, a traditional Indian vegetarian dish (RM6.00). White rice is served on a banana leaf with an assortment of vegetarian curry dishes (usually 8 types). You can have as much rice as you like, they will continue adding it onto the banana leaf until you tell them to stop. Then, the rice will be topped with some curry, his favorite choice is the onion curry. Some mini poppadoms are served together with the dish - very crunchy.

The assortment of vegetarian side dishes promises different flavours and spices. Slow cooked pumpkin, spicy tofu, long beans, cabbage (so simple but so nice! My fav!), dhal, spicy brinjals among those present on this banana leaf.

Interesting fact: At the end of the meal, fold the banana leaf towards you (i.e. inwards) to signify that the meal was good.

Back in the days when we were still living in the UK, it was our ritual to have curry every other week, in particular the lamb rogan josh. I was delighted to find Mutton Rogan Josh (RM8.50) on the menu here. The rogan josh here is slightly different from the one we used to have, but nonetheless excellent - creamy curry with chunks of tender mutton.

To soak up all that curry, either plain white rice or a Cheese Naan (RM4.50) does the trick. The cheese naan, served piping hot, is soft and slightly salty from the ghee and cheese and is the perfect accompaniment to curry.

Another excellent dish to order here is the Tandoori Chicken (RM5.80). A portion usually equates to a drumstick - the chicken is coated in yoghurt and then grilled in a tandoor (clay oven). You can taste the spices and the sourish yoghurt as you bite into the succulent meat.

To quench our thirsts, Mango Lassi (RM3.50), a yoghurt drink is ordered. Perfect for hot weather.

There is also a huge variety of ready-cooked dishes, which you can choose from ("economy rice"). Pick 3 or 4 side dishes depending on your appetite. However, we prefer ordering from the a la carte menu for freshly cooked food.

Opening hours: 7am-4pm, 6pm-12am daily.
Service: Good.
Price: RM30 for 3 persons.

Location: Restaurant Curry Leaf, 1274 Jalan Rasah, 70300 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan. (opposite Public Bank Rasah Branch)

Tel: 06-7628758

GPS Coordinates: 2.705922,101.94033
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