Review #2: Guincho a Galera

26 January 2019

My exhausting trip is coming to an end, and it’s gonna be the busiest, craziest weekend you can imagine. I woke up this Saturday morning knowing that the next time I see a bed it’ll be home on Sunday evening, half-way across the world. I had to get back to Hong Kong to fly to London then to New York then home to DC. That’s nearly 24 hours in the air, and I need all the fuel I can get beforehand.

Had some good late night food yesterday at North by Square Eight, but today for lunch I wandered back to the venerable Hotel Lisboa, where I had stayed the last time I was in Macau, and revisited the Portuguese restaurant I so liked back then — Guincho a Galera.

Was surprisingly quiet this Saturday morning, but most of Macau seems quieter than usual as I mentioned. Economic fears, or pre-CNY lull? In any case, that means a good table, and finally excellent service — ironically in the one place that doesn’t have a Michelin star. Michelin is such a ridiculous joke at this point…

I enjoyed a glass of white form Douro and ordered. Relaxed, enjoying the nice wine and the relative peace before all hell breaks loose for the stupidly long trek home. After a little while I see a cart being pushed towards me and I see the chouriço. They promptly set it on fire and sliced it…

1-Chouriço

Honestly not one of the better chouriço I’ve had, very mild and they didn’t flame it correctly. Sigh… At least the service is running very smooth, especially with wines. Then my main course, the very typical porco Alentejana con amêijoas

2-porco alentejana con amêijoas

So so, not as good as I hoped. A good selection of pork, from lean to fatty, and the clams were nice. So in a way it worked. Filling, which is what I needed. Before the bill they brought out a selection of treats…

closer

Oh these were nice, especially the baby egg tart. A pretty good lunch, not as good as last time, but solid. And you can’t say enough about the excellent service, which is something you do not often see in Macau — even in its Michelin-starred places, like Fen Wei Ju last night.

That helped to fuel me for a busy afternoon exploring parts of Old Macau I didn’t visit last time, including several cemeteries, before I headed to the port. I decided to take the direct fast boat to Hong Kong Airport, so I don’t need to go into town. So had a little time, so had a so-so dinner there at the port before we zipped over to HKG. A much needed shower and few glasses of white in the lounge, and off we go this Saturday evening for the stupid trek home…

Guincho a Galera
Hotel Lisboa
2-4 Avenida de Lisboa
Macau

* Needless to say the trek wasn’t fun. 13 hours later we got to London, and I was surprisinly spry. But it’s Deathrow, after all, and shitshow after shitshow didn’t help, and despite me doing a connection with Virgin Atlantic on both ends, the lounge was closed. So sat outside the lounge for nearly 2 hours before it opened, and a shower and quick English breakfast was needed for the 8+ hours to JFK. Then another long wait to get to DC, not helped by being stuck on the tarmac before AND after the flight…and OF COURSE WMATA shut my Metro station down so had to wait for ages in the chaos for my Lyft…

In the end, from checking out of my hotel in Macau to opening my front door took a ridiculous 43 HOURS.

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Review: North by Square Eight

26 January 2019

I had a pretty good dinner at Feng Wei Ju, but since I arrived in Macau so late I decided to take in the town. Without the burden of a sciatica attack, it was easy to explore the city and just enjoy wandering around. Goodness, I so miss weather that’s cool enough that I can enjoy walking around! The crowd was a little less than usual around the casinos, and the touts were more desperate than usual…is this a sign of economic trouble?

Anyway, after a few hours of wandering around and no, no gambling, I went for a late snack. I read about how the nearby MGM had changed up some of their dining places so I walked over there. There’s a twin restaurant away from the casino that, depending on your choice, focused on northern or southern Chinese cuisine. I opted for North by Square Eight this evening.

They were obviously trying to wind down, and there weren’t many customers — but the ones that were there were beyond annoying. One guy to the right of me was slurping his soup so loud I had to resist from shouting at him. And on the left were some knackered drunk gamblers acting the shit. Great… My server then found me and I ordered, to his apparent approval.

I just tried to zonk out all the noise here, reminding myself this is my last night on this long trip. Perhaps the last one in Asia. Tomorrow at this time my flight should be taking off from Hong Kong for London… I soon came back to earth mentally when I heard the most outrageously loud slurp from the right, but coincidentally my food had arrived…

dumplings

Some nice pork and chive dumplings, not bad. These are things I can eat all day non-stop, so glad there’s only a small number here. Then my main course, and it was huge…

eel & belly

Braised eel and pork belly. Nice and rich, love the eel. Perhaps way too rich for a late night snack, but this is my last night, so I went all out. Luckily Mr Slurper had left, so now only the antics of the drunken gamblers to keep me amused as I worked slowly on this large dish.

It was delicious and I eventually finished off all the contents in the pot. I thanked my server and headed out, just in time, as some other folks joined the drunken gamblers and they ordered several more bottles of wine. I eventually found my way out of the MGM and ran across several multi-lane boulevards to get back to my hotel.

A nice snack for sure, even if you’re not gambling. But I’m ready to head home…

North by Square Eight
MGM Macau
Avenida Doutor Sun Yat Sen
Macau

Review: Feng Wei Ju

25 January 2019

I headed out of Manila with a bit of a hangover, thanks to that good night at Curator. I got to the airport early, thanking the skies there was no traffic nor back-up at the airport security. And the flight to Macau was relatively empty…

A long but cheap cab ride across the bridge and I was at my hotel. It was already late in the afternoon, so I spent the time before dinner doing some final planning and re-packing of my bag. I decided to go to dinner early, hoping it wouldn’t be an issue.

Dinner tonight is at the 2-Michelin restaurant Feng Wei Ju. Now I know Michelin stars mean very little when it comes to local cuisine in this region, especially service, so I didn’t expect much. I was seated at a banquette and the restaurant seems rather empty. Hmmm, in fact, all of Macau looked somewhat empty despite this being Friday night.

I tried to order but the server spoke not a word of English, so had to find someone else. They took my order and I relaxed for a minute, to be greeted by a large glass of wine. Huh? I didn’t order wine — but honestly was planning to… Did they read my thoughts? I didn’t tweet it so they weren’t doing surveillance on me Huawei-style. Hmmm.. Whatever, it worked.

amuse

A wee amuse had come with some tea as well, kinda meh. Then the first item arrived.

1-seahorse soup

Now don’t @ me for this. It’s seahorse and conch soup. Nice broth, made me relax… Only problem was the shape of the bowl made it hard to drink from. But a good start. Then they brought out both of my dishes, and ugh, this is huge, as they warned me…

2-mao belly

First up was the “mao” pork belly. Delicious, nice and rich, full of flavour. And best is how the flavours, including the generous garlic use, all flowed down to the bed of mushrooms below. An excellent dish, one of the best braised belly dish I’ve had in years.

3-osmanthus clams

The second is stir-fried osmanthus clams, or otherwise known as Pacific razor clams. Really nice and spicy, the mushrooms again working very well. I wish there was more clams, but this was another winner!

Oh I’m full! This was quite excellent, clearly the kitchen is worthy of its Michelin accolades. However, the service not even close, as I asked for the bill — and the server could not understand that basic word, nor the gesture. Ah, she did understand me, just wasn’t sure if I was staying in the hotel and how I wanted to pay. But still, the lack of very basic English here says plenty about the type of tourism this place is geared towards.

I headed out pretty happy from this dinner. Lots of food, but all extremely tasty. I’m glad my last dinner on this trip went so well. And as the temperature — FINALLY! — is comfortable outside, I went for a nice long walk around town on my final evening…

If you’re in Macau and looking for good Chinese cuisine, this place is pretty excellent food-wise. Recommended.

Feng Wei Ju [風味居]
Starworld Hotel
Avenida da Amizade, 5F
Macau

Mixed Bag of Eats in the Philippines…and I Left Hungry…

23-24 January 2019

As mentioned in the previous entry, I had arrived into Manila on-time, and the usually extremely slow ride from the airport to Makati was surprisingly smooth — once I found my Grab driver in the chaos. So I had time to grab a late lunch on this first day in the Philippines.

Zubuchon is a much-loved source of lechon in the Philippines, especially Cebu. They had expanded in Manila with several locations, and I arrived at the Makati location. It was past the lunch rush, so it was only about half full. Greeted with friendly service, so much of a difference from Kuala Lumpur!

Problem with eating solo in the Philippines is the portion sizes, and there’s inevitably the same problem as most of Asia. Not as bad as in South Korea, but it’s still a challenge. However, they have personal dish sizes here, so I was happy. Otherwise the lechon here is enough to kill me… I ordered and chilled out with some iced tea.

a1-lechon - 01

Wow, this was good. I thought with how much it has spread the quality would not be that high, but darnit this was excellent. The meat is juicy and soft, the skin is perfectly crispy. They’ve got this lechon game down! The monggo guisado (mung brean stew) was so-so, but the pork was the star. I probably could have had more, but I was running out of time so I had to run. I thanked my server and headed out to run a bunch of errands I needed to do this afternoon.

Later that evening I had the good dinner at Toyo Eatery, which was followed by a less good session at Agimat — which I thought was a good cocktail bar, but when the music is louder than at a Metallica concert, it’s time to go. Needed a good kip anyway after last night’s excess…

The next day I was quite energetic, knowing I need to make most of it as this is my only full day in Manila for this very short stay. I had originally planned on visiting the North Cemetery, but since my Egypt trip last year I have no further desire to visit cemeteries that are “inhabited” — ie “cities of the dead” where living folks live. Manila North Cemetery has quite a large living population, some living INSIDE mausolea…no thank you…

Instead, I planned to spend the day in and around Intramuros, but first, lunch. My Grab driver was a little puzzled on why I wanted to run up from Makati to Quezon City at this time of day, but… Thanks to the infamous gridlock on the EDSA, it took ages to get to my lunch destination, Lola Ote.

Filipino barbeque is ubiquitous everywhere you go that has a population of Filipinos (such as Alaska), but I wanted to enjoy some here and didn’t want to die in the heat going for street food so chose this place for lunch. Lola Ote is known for its huge skewers of barbeque pork, and of course that’s what I ordered…

After a little while, as I enjoyed some iced tea, the 18-inch skewer appeared… And no, I had just 1 of them, this is just perspectives from different angles…

b1-20190124_113124

Quite nice, I removed them and enjoyed it with the rice set. The pork was very flavourful, but perhaps the end pieces were undercooked. A bit sloppy, and I should have asked them to put it back on the grill, but I was short of time and rolled the dice. I have a ridiculously strong constitution and raw pork is not something I’ve never had before (ie in Japan and Brazil), but I was still a bit weary. Oh well. For one thing — it was better than the BBQ that I got at Toyo Eatery the night before.

I thanked the staff and headed out after that filling lunch. Then a long Grab ride through some of the smaller streets in Quezon City into Manila, I arrive near Intramuros nearly an hour later. I spent the afternoon wandering the area, the heat and humidity not killing me as much as usual, surprisingly. Eventually I headed to the National Museum of Fine Arts.

It’s a part of the National Museum complex, housed in the former legislature. Some interesting exhibits, but this visit left me disappointed. The lighting is terrible, reminding me of how surprisingly poor it was in Helsinki’s Ateneum Art Gallery. But the building was in bad shape, there were confusing signs and dead-ends, and easy access to restricted areas. And tons of gaggling teens being annoying, basically sitting around playing with their phones. I don’t think a museum has depressed me as much as my visit to the Hermitage in Saint-Petersburg in 1992, with an eye-opening visit to the back working areas outside of public view…

Oh well. I eventually headed back to my hotel to do some packing and printing out of stuff before I headed out to dinner. Tonight’s destination is Sarsá Kitchen + Bar, of which I’ve read good things about. The menu looks good and I was looking forward to a good last meal here.

It immediately started off bad, and I flashed back to Kuala Lumpur…a shitshow is coming, I sense it. I was eventually seated and took ages to get a menu, despite others being offered a menu first. I ordered, but was told that was too much food and they told me to order 1 thing only. Fine. I hate when they get so pushy telling me what I can and cannot order. Ridiculous, like at Bijan in KL

And when the dish came out, it was the wrong thing. I called the manager and he took it back. Clearly they tried a switcharoo as they figured I didn’t know the difference. The excuse they made was that the dish they made was not “up to standards” so they had to re-do it. But then why try to trick me with the wrong dish?

b2-chicharron bulaklak dinuguan

When the dish came out I almost wished I kept the other one. Now I know chicharron bulaklak dinuguan is something most people would be like…why…but this was something I ended up saying, why… The bulaklak (chitlins) was fried poorly, and it just soaked up the sauce and turned it into something mushy. Why not braise the bulaklak instead? And the dinuguan (blood stew) was just weak, the weakest I’ve ever had.

What a sad plate…if this was the re-cooked version, I shudder to think how bad the original one was…

b2-danggit rice

And it was a small portion too. And the danggit rice was lame… And they warned me off ordering 2 items? I’m done with this place. I had a word with the manager about this BS game they played and I paid and walked out. I left hungry (yes, in the Philippines), but decided to walk to a nearby bar I read about.

The Curator Coffee & Cocktails is a fantastic place, with a coffee bar/cafe in front and a speakeasy-ish cocktial bar in the back. After that shitshow at Sarsá I opted for the back, and had many a good cocktails late into the night. I was going to stop here just for a few and go find another place for food, but ended up drinking the place closed… Oh, tomorrow morning’s flight ain’t gonna be fun…

I have to say, overall this Manila stay the food was far less good than my last trip a few years ago. Lola Ote was good but the pork undercooked, and Sarsá was a completely shitshow. Zubuchon was good. But the odd thing about these 2 days in Manila? The humidity was tolerable, the food portions were too small (?!), and the cocktails were awesome. What a total difference from my last trip.

If I ever make it back here again, I need to get out of the Manila area…

Zubuchon
135 Talisay Street, Makati
Manila, Philippines

Lola Ote
24 Sargeant Esguerra Street
Quezon City, Philippines

Sarsá Kitchen + Bar
109 Rada Street, Legazpi Village, Makati
Manila, Philippines

Review: Toyo Eatery

23 January 2019

Ugh…got up at what my friend Simon Majumdar calls “stupid o’clock” in order to get to my 5am train for the airport. With so much travelling, I’ve sadly become quite used to these early “stupid o’clock” wake-ups, and once again I got up without an alarm…

It was relatively uneventful on my flight to Manila, although the extreme lack of legroom on these AirAsia flights caused some discomfort as I tried to catch up on some sleep on the 4hr flight. By the time I reached Manila, I needed to stretch my legs…

Bit of chaos outside the terminal as everyone and their grandmother were looking for their Grab cars… Found mine eventually, and got to my hotel in Makati surprisingly quickly, with relatively minimal traffic (!!!) en route. I checked into my hotel and ran out to have some lunch, which I’ll talk about in the next post.

I had a few errands to run in the afternoon, so I was looking forward to dinner tonight at Toyo Eatery. I’ve read so many things about this restaurant, so I made this a target when I planned my short, 2-night Manila stay. I decided on a late slot as I figured with a late lunch I’ll need time to properly digest.

I was a few minutes early, but was asked to wait outside. They said they’ll bring me a drink if I wanted to order something, so I did. It was relatively comfortable outside…goodness, I can’t believe I said that. But really, it’s far more comfortable than the last 2 weeks since I got to Bangkok!

Then someone came out and said my table was ready, so I was seated… They came to explain the menu, and I was looking forward to it…and my drink. Did they forget? It seems they did, as the food already started to come out…

01-meringue

A snack of tomato meringe with ginataan langka, or jackfruit cooked in coconut with fish. Quite a nice little nibble, love the spices used here. Then another nibble…

02-urchin

This time the urchin came out good, but the cassava was a little distracting. But a good bite.

Sorry for the bad photos, as I switched sides on my table to try to get better shots. It’s either having a spotlight behind me (and causing a huge shadow) or one in my face (that restricts my photo angles), so I opted for the latter. Too bad, as many of the photos barely came out. In addition, the way the room was built, I could NOT hear my servers at all when they were describing the food…it’s actually a little annoying…

Anyway, back to the food as we have a pair of kilaw, or raw items…

03a-kilaw

The kalakitok (golden trevally) was quite nice, done in an almost ceviche way with lime. The oyster, with cucumber, was also pretty good. An even better start. Next up, tamban (river sardines)…

04-tamban

Mmm, delicious sardines here, fried perfectly, accompanied by malunggay (moringa) and a paste from young corn. Delicious, one of those snacks I can keep eating non-stop. Then we have relyenong pusit (stuffed squid).

05b-squid

A good little morsel, reminds me of the ones I see in Japan. With a touch of pickled mustard greens, a nice combination. Another good bite! Then next up a lugaw (porridge).

06-lugaw

Sadly this didn’t work at all. The menu hinted at calabaza and crab roe, but I see prawn and a few other things. Maybe they ran out of the ingredients? Who knows, but it was really meh, and somewhat undercooked from other lugaw I’ve had before. Disappointing. Then next up is their “garden vegetable” dish…

07-vegetables

Hmmm…they say there’s quite many items here, each done in an individual way. I had thought it would be like at Den in Tokyo or Frantzén in Stockholm, but it’s all buried here… Apparently this comes from the Filipino folk song “Bahay Kubo” that had a long list of vegetables, so they have incorporated it all here…and at this point the entire service staff starts singing the song! Frankly *this* is something I totally enjoy, compared to the nightmare endured at Namaaz Dining in Jakarta!

I enjoyed the song and the interesting dish, enough to order yet another cocktail. Cocktails are far cheaper than wine here, so why not? They’ve been quite tasty. Then for the next dish we have the mackerel.

08b-mackerel

Mmmm, this is delicious, the cooking is excellent. Lovely flavours here of the rich oily fish, helped along with unripened guava, kamias, and various flowers and herbs. Really nice, and a beautiful presentation. I really wish that spotlight wasn’t there to get a better shot of this dish. At this point, we’re coming to the end of the savoury segment. There was a choice between two options, and I went with the “three cut pork” version…

09a-BBQ pork

Honestly, this was pretty meh… I’ve had better Filipino barbeque before, now flashing back to Alaska… They went to great pains to explain how they used 3 cuts of pork, but such a thin slice really made that trivial. The joy of pork BBQ is the chunk of meat and fat that goes perfectly in unison, and this really misses the basic premise of these skewered treats. Too bad. Frankly the silog (garlic rice) was far better, the yolk being quite a joyous addition. A bit of a sad end to what has been a pretty good night.

After a little rest the first dessert item arrives, based on salted pineapple and banana heart…

10-salted pineapple

It’s all with the ice, which is refreshing. Not a bad start. Again, sorry for the odd photo, this bloody spotlight… Funny how others diners I see are also having difficulty taking photos of their food. They really need to work on the dining room lighting… Then next up, a dessert focusing on chocolate.

11-chocolate

Delicious, love the deep flavours of the rich chocolate. Not sure the calamansi here worked, but the chocolate was the star. I wish the photo showed the piece better, as that spotlight limited the angle I could have taken the photo once again. Anyway, I enjoyed this meal. And a closing set of treats as I enjoyed a final drink…

12-closers

Delicious trio here, I enjoyed winding down this first evening in Manila with these treats and a glass of tapuey, a local rice tipple. The place is pretty much empty now, so I settled up and headed out.

Had to go find my Grab driver, but overall this was a good night. Some very nice dishes like the mackerel, but also some disappointments. I think some bloggers have overhyped this place. It’s really good, but it’s nowhere in the league cooking-wise as last night at Dewakan for instance. Plus the space was also problematic, from the ridiculous spotlights to the way the ceiling was causing the echo chamber that makes it ridiculously loud (yet can’t hear the server). But I’d recommend this place if you’re in Manila.

Toyo Eatery
2316 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati
Manila, Philippines

* I ended up trying to get a nitecap and I chose a place called Agimat. Unfortunately they had a DJ in and it was LOUDER than a Metallica concert. If I didn’t have a headache before my drink, albeit a good cocktail, I have one now. I got the heck out of there and just retreated back to the quietness of my hotel…

Review: Dewakan

22 January 2019

My last day in Malaysia went pretty well; even the sciatica was getting better after that wonderful afternoon exploring the National Gallery. I headed back to my hotel to pack up, as I have to catch the 5am train to the airport tomorrow. And also, because my dinner destination is actually outside of town…

I had found Dewakan totally by accident as I was doing some late research for Kuala Lumpur. Looking at the menu and some of the write-ups about the place, I’m shocked I didn’t notice this place earlier — as well as the relatively few reviews written of the place in English. Perhaps one reason is that it’s actually in Shah Alam, a neighbouring city in the Klang Valley area.

Because of rush-hour traffic, it took nearly an hour to get to Shah Alam, which is the capital of the neighbouring state of Selangor. Kuala Lumpur had been Selangor’s capital city until it became a federal territory, thus the growth of Shal Alam. Dewakan is located on the campus of KDU University College — which hosts one of the country’s top hospitality school.

Dewakan is not very easy to find, and I had to ask around a little. It didn’t help that a dance group all but blocked the walkway to the restaurant… But I found it and I was perhaps the first to arrive. I was seated at a table overlooking the kitchen. The smart dining room was comfortable, and immediately the quality of service was noticeable. After so many days of frustration with dodgy service here in Malaysia, this change for the positive was much appreciated.

I looked over the menu and since they didn’t really do a wine pairing, I ordered a bottle of New Zealand pinot gris. I relaxed as they brought out some bread. The wine was opened, and it tasted very good, so a full pour came as well as a refill of my water. Oh, to see quality FoH service again… Soon after the food began…

01-choy sum nori

The first item was based on choi sum, turned into a nori-like dried treat. It worked very well with the fermented fish mayo. In fact, worked so well I could have kept eating this all night. Good start! Then we have the second item, the mushroom tart.

02-mushroom tartlet

Beautiful presentation, and the tart with some local cheese was quite delicious. Again, good start. Next up, baby corn.

03-baby corn

Really tasty, cooked perfectly. The crab and garam masala crust added a nice touch to the fresh veg. So far I’m really enjoying this evening. The service has been perfect, with wine and water pours at optimum times, non-intrusive and friendly. Frankly this service is far better than I’ve seen in many Michelin-starred places. Then we continue with a mango curry.

04-mango curry

Really tangy and surprisingly good, with the mango slice balancing the entire dish out. It’s curious at first how the tart mellows out, an interesting item once again. Not one slip in the service, some friendly chat with all the staff members, then we get the next item — yoghurt and roselle.

05-yoghurt roselle

This roll was actually quite intense, almost acted as a palate cleanser. The cumin really flies out here, again quite an interesting item! The the next item, prawn…

06-prawn

A beautiful dish, the prawns below the assortment of herbs was extremely delicious. The starfruit juice really brought a nice twist to this dish via the base, bringing out the sweetness in the prawns perfectly. Awesome dish here. I’m really sold on this place! Then next up is a curious savoury cake…

07-savoury cake

Lol, this is made in a takoyaki pan, a delicious little cake filled with roe! Oh the joy, especially when it seeps out. Scruptious! By the way, my apologies on some of the out-of-focus photos. It’s amazing how I can take 8 photos and they all come out like this. My phone is getting old…

Kept sipping at my wine. I never once needed to ask for a refill of the wine or water, the service has been so spot on. And so far, it’s only taken half an hour! Remarkable efficiency here, even as more diners show up…no doubt slowed by the terrible traffic getting out here.

I took a breath and we start back into the food with a dish based on banana heart and kerdas, the fruit of a local tree that has a very distinct taste that’s hard to describe…

08-banana kerdas

It’s one of the weirder items of the night, and it comes off very bitter at first before it moderates to its various components. Aside from the banana heart and the kerdas, there are fennel, pickled rose petals and so forth. Very complex, but the bitterness of it all made it harder to enjoy. Then next up, goat tartar.

09a-goat tartar

Really excellent, the meat is mildly smoked and works really well with the compressed pumpkin slices. Can basically make mini rolls or tacos with them. Delicious. Then next up, a dish based on eggplant.

10 - eggplant keluak

Well, this didn’t work at all for me. The candlenut oil didn’t add much to this dish, as the keluak paste overwhelmed the odd vegetable. Weak dish of the night. But quickly them come back with a winner with the red snapper…

11a-red snapper set

The snapper is in a really fragrant broth, and we’re offered three drop bottles of flavoured oils and a spoonful of edible flowers. The oil, which ranges from fish, parsley and herbal, is dropped into the wonderful crayfish and herbal broth and then the flowers…

11b-red snapper in broth

Really nice, the broth is quite fabulous, rich and intense, tempered by the flowers and oil. The red snapper was a little overcooked, but with the broth it worked very well. I enjoyed a bit more of my good pinot gris as I’m rationing it to last the entire menu. I’m also enjoying the excellent jazz over the PA, which ranges from relaxing to challenging. At times, when I’m sipping my pinot gris, my left hand is trying to play along…

Though more customers have arrived, service has not missed a step. And the food is still coming at a good pace. We’re just over an hour into this dinner believe it or not. Then the next item arrives, the banana porridge…

12-banana porridge

Made from the local red banana, this should have been better than it was. The various additions, from salted egg yolk to pickled vegetables, didn’t really bring this out much. The duck and liver sausage was quite nice though, somewhat saved the dish. Seeing my savouries coming to an end, I asked one of my servers to just pour me the rest of my wine. I think I timed it well…

13-kid

The final dish was an excellent one, kid. The roasted part was absolutely perfect, lovely flavours that’s authentic goat that I really love. The mince part, cooked with garlic chives, was absolutely delicious. The texture contrast is interesting, but it’s rare that both parts are done so perfectly. Wow, a fabulous last savoury course!

I finished my wine and exhaled, having really enjoyed this dinner. A small palate cleanser then appears…

14-tapai rose

Quite nice, it’s basically tapai — a local fermented starchy — with pickled rose sorbet. Really delicious, the tapai is quite interesting I must say. Then we have the sweet leaf sorbet.

15b-sweet leaf sorbet

Not bad, though the crisp on top didn’t add much to it. But the local flavours are certainly the most interesting part of this dessert segment. And then we have some chocolate…

16-chocolate

A fabulously rich chocolate on top of jaggery ice cream. Really delicious, as the jaggery balances the intensity of the chocolate sourced a local community. The best of the desserts. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and here we have a popsicle…

17-popsicle

Made from rambutan, delicious. A perfect way to close the night off…or is it?

18-coconut cream

An off-the-menu surprise, a nice bite of charcoal-coated coconut cream. Really delicious, a wonderful close to a wonderful evening. As I enjoyed some coffee, I chatted on with the servers and talked about how smooth it was. I congratulated them on the fabulous service, one of the smoothest and best service I’ve seen in Asia, better than most Michelin-starred places in North America and Europe even. Considering what I have seen in Kuala Lumpur the last two days, the difference is 180 degrees…

They also told me they are relocating to Kuala Lumpur in the future, which will easily bring this place into major international attention. Compared to places that bloggers rave about in the region, including that baffling Namaaz Dining in Jakarta, I can’t help but wonder what the reaction will be once Dewakan gets into KL. If there’s a restaurant that is deserving of Malaysia’s first Michelin star, it would easily be this one. Perfect service, wonderful food. It’s rare these days that I have such a good night with a long tasting menu.

I headed out after thanking the staff, ready for a long ride back to Kuala Lumpur on a Grab. On the entire car journey back, I kept thinking how good this evening was. Perhaps it’s the best dining experience of the entire trip, just beating Labyrinth in Singapore by a hair. This will help when I have to get up before 4.30am tomorrow morning…

Highly recommended!!!

Dewakan
KDU University College, Utropolis Glenmarie
Jalan Kontraktor U1/14
Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia

Lunches in KL: Sometimes Simple is the Best…

21-22 January 2019

In my previous entry I hinted that this almost became “sh*tshow part 3” but thank goodness it didn’t. I’ve become exaspirated by the totally awful FoH service in Kuala Lumpur, but for my lunches in town — aside from the first day, which was awful once again — I went to places that didn’t depend much on service.

My second day in KL, the first full day, I had gone out to near the Petronas Towers to check out the area — despite it being a public holiday. My lunch destination was nearby, but despite email assurances that they were gonna be open, I get there through the blazing sun and it was CLOSED. A staff member eventually came out and estimated they’ll open perhaps in a half our or so. I guess people decided not to show up to work on time? Screw it.

I walked away, soaked in sweat, back to the LRT station that was based in the Avenue K Shopping Mall. I needed to cool down, so just strolled around. I was also hungry, and the most interesting looking place was called Market Street Ipoh. So I went for it.

I ordered by pencil on a piece of paper and relaxed. My server looked puzzled at first, but then walked to the kitchen. Soon both beverages arrived… I was sweaty and hot, and needed hydration, so a double — a nice soy drink, which I saved mostly for my food, and some freshly squeezed watermelon juice… Ah, just what I needed to feel human again, perfectly unsweetened. So far so good…

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The fried squid balls showed up soon, and they weren’t bad. Good snack definitely, I can so see this as a drinking snack. Then the steamed glutinous rice…

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Not bad, but I forgot I was in Malaysia. As much as you can get authenticity, the one thing you always have to check is whether the venue was halal or not. I guess in a mall like this they are halal, and the usual huck of fatty pork you get in this dish is replaced by lean chicken. Sadly you don’t get the right flavours without the pork fat.

In any case, I headed out satisfied, and now re-hydrated and no longer soaking. So I headed down to the LRT and made a detour and went to check out a place that everyone raves about — Lot 10 Hutong Food Court.

Supposedly the best food court in all of KL, especially for Chinese-influenced cuisine, it was packed and crazy this holiday Monday late lunch period. I fought through the crowd and saw lots of possibilities, but the queues were long and I see very few spots to park myself once I get my food. I was about to give up and go into the Japanese food section until I saw an area near the entrance that was far less busy. There was a stand there called Wong Kok and I saw something I wanted so I ordered.

I sat down near the stand and relaxed with some tea before it arrived…

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Ah, steamed minced pork with salted fish. This was about as perfect of a version of this dish as I’ve had in a long, long time, lovely minced pork, accentuated by the salted fish. So good, far better than the version I had in Jakarta a few days earlier.

How ironic the best thing I ate in Kuala Lumpur was a non-halal dish in a food court…

That evening I had that even more stupifying dinner at Enak KL, which soured me even more on this town. The next morning, I was really not feeling well with my sciatica, but I need to trudge on. I headed out to Pasar Seni to check out the famous Sri Mahamariamman Temple — which was a madhouse the last few days due to the festivities around Thaipusam. Then went to explore the Petaling Street Market, but I’m not interested in trinkets, knock-off gear or live seafood today, so I just wandered to a cafe and had a nice iced coffee.

Then I headed to my lunch destination, the Old China Cafe. I’ve read many mixed reviews about this place, from lack of authenticity to bad service. Frankly I can’t imagine that! But I got there and it was perfectly pleasant with good service and good food! What were people on Shitadvisor moaning about once again?

I ordered and relaxed with a delicious iced lemon tea. Not long after my food started to arrive.

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First up some decent spring rolls. Nothing too special, but a good start. Then we have the babi pongteh.

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This is a special dish of braised pork in fermented soybean sauce. I’ve not had something similar in decades, so it was a very nice treat. Delicious. Frankly at this point the question I keep asking myself is — why are all the best dishes I’ve had in Malaysia so far pork-based?

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I enjoyed this delicious lunch with some coconut rice. Even the lemon tea was excellent. Really happy with this lunch, which fuelled me for the day. Iheaded out when my Grab arrived.

This afternoon I had decided to devote to the hard-to-reach National Art Gallery. I was most excited to see the fabulous Second Life exhibit by one of the most interesting artists in Asia today, Chang Yoong Chia. Just loved all the rabbit imagery in his work… But it was a really nice few hours spent here, too bad so few tourists and locals come out here because it’s not a convenient location by public transportation.

Anyway, with my sciatica not appreciating today’s activities, I decided to head back to my hotel. Too bad, as it’s my last day in KL. One dinner left. But overall, my lunches in Kuala Lumpur have completely superceded my dinners in quality of food and even service (not counting that horrible first day at the Hilton). There’s certainly plenty of good eats in KL, perhaps my research failed me this time, but it’s a good learning lesson.

Mmmm…that steamed minced pork…

Market Street Ipoh
Avenue K Shopping Mall
156 Jalan Ampang

Wong Kok
Lot 10 Hutong Food Court
Lot 10 Shopping Centre
50 Jalan Sultan Ismail

Old China Cafe
11 Jalan Balai Polis
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia