“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are” – Brillat-Savarin

Friday, 29 August 2014

Rabiah Curry House @ Damai Plaza, Kota Kinabalu (Sabah, Malaysia)

Back in May, we went to Kuala Lumpur to attend my cousin's wedding and spend some time with family. After a few days in KL, we flew over to East Malaysia for a mini-vacation in Kota Kinabalu. My sister and I and our hubbies were eager to eat what the locals ate, and we got a few recommendations from the owner of the apartment we rented in KK. One of them was in the nearby Damai Plaza, a mamak stall called Rabiah Curry House. I remember the first time hubby got hooked onto murtabak at a mamak stall; since then, if there's murtabak on the menu, he'll almost always order it. There's a range of food on the wall menu at Rabiah, like mee (noodles), Maggi and IndoMee (wet and dry instant noodles) with a variety of toppings, nasi (rice) dishes and soto (soup dishes), but the specialty is the roti (Indian bread) and murtabak (stuffed pancake). The setting was very casual, with a number of ready-made food in the bain-marie, and two menu boards on the wall: one with pictures of their popular dishes, and another more extensive list in Malay. There were bags of pappadums on the table as well as plates of boiled eggs - charged only if you take them. Not much English is spoken, and even with our basic Malay knowledge, we couldn't avoid some minor misunderstanding with the staff. Still, it was an experience for the Caucasian hubbies to eat in a very typical mamak stall.

In my experience photographing roti chefs, they are always happy to show off their skills in front of the camera, and the one at Rabiah was no exception.

The roti chef doing his thing:

Making a chicken murtabak. Notice the mise-en-place set up of ingredients - balls of dough under a plastic sheet on one side, and a bowl of oil on the other. Other ingredients such as the meat and vegetables were also pre-prepared, but not in view of the photo:

Roti and murtabak cooking on the hot plate:

Roti canai which came pre-torn and accompanied with a bowl of dal curry. There was an extra bowl of lamb curry too (which was the result of the aforementioned misunderstanding). I enjoyed dipping the freshly made roti canai into the curries:

Beef murtabak - crispy crust, tasty filling - though hubby didn't like the taste of the margarine that was added liberally into the filling:

Chicken murtabak. We all liked the beef one better:

Hubby was disappointed with the use of margarine in the murtabak, but everyone else thought it was fine. Rabiah Curry House is a good spot for roti!

Rabiah Curry House
Damai Plaza
4 Lorong Damai Point
88450 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Revisit: Dinner @ L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Recently we had a spate of friends from overseas visiting Hong Kong. One of them is a friend I've known for almost a decade, who I met on an online forum for Perth brides-to-be when we were both planning our weddings ten years ago. We went on a few double dates with our respective hubbies for a couple of years before their first baby was born and we moved to Japan shortly after. They have since also relocated to another country with their children, and it was nice to meet up once again in a different city, sans kids, just like our younger days. She wanted somewhere fancy, so it was only natural to suggest our favourite French restaurant in Hong Kong L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. They had never tried Robuchon before, and we were happy to be the ones to introduce the Robuchon experience to them. We are no strangers to L'Atelier in Hong Kong, having been here a few times in the past four years. We've also dined at the L'Atelier restaurants in Tokyo and Paris, and the Hong Kong one is my favourite so far. We sat at the bar counter (of course), and though we didn't manage to get the corner of the bar, the four of us didn't have too much trouble conversing. Service was thoughtful of the fact that our friends do not eat pork, removing all bacon items from the bread basket and the amuse-bouche. We had an awesome time chatting and enjoying a fantastic meal.

I love watching the action in the open kitchen:

And I love Robuchon's bread:

Hubby ordered a L'Atelier Negroni (HK$140), which was quite nice (but potent):

There were a few menu options available for dinner: a set dinner menu of six courses, a discovery menu of ten courses, a special tasting menu, and the a-la-carte menu of full-sized servings. Like last time, we went with the small plates from the tasting menu and our friends followed suit. It's a great way to taste a variety of dishes without filling up too much (the bread already does a good job of that!). We've been to L'Atelier often enough to have favourite dishes (lobster ravioli!), but we did make an effort to try some new dishes. Hubby and I shared everything, so we got a couple of our favourite dishes and a few more that we hadn't tried before. Beautiful presentation, amazing flavours!

An amuse-bouche of melon jelly topped with bacon and whipped cream, and fried Comté cheese balls:

Hubby ordered La Lisette en fine tarte croustillante à la tomate et vierge d’agrumes - crispy mackerel tart with tomato and citrus condiments (HK$230). It was delicious, and the Comté cheese topping made this a little bit like a mini-pizza on a crispy base:

One of my favourite L'Atelier dishes: Le Homard en fines ravioles, navet au romarin à l’aigre-doux - Maine lobster in turnip raviolis (HK$280). Juicy sweet lobster flesh encased in a slightly crunchy 'ravioli' skin made from turnip:

Le Pied de Cochon sur une tartine frottée à l’ail et gratinée au parmesan, jus de viande et truffe noir - pork trotters on toasted garlic baguettes with parmesan gratin and black truffle (HK$290). Fantastic flavours, and I loved the play on textures of the soft fatty trotter meat with the crunch of the toast. With such richness, one toast was plenty for me, any more and it would have overwhelmed:

Black truffle with the pork trotters, and Comté cheese made another appearance here:

L'agneau en côtelettes dorées à la fleur de thym - lamb cutlets with fresh thyme (HK$280). A good classic:

La Saint-Jacques au curry vert et coriandre, farfalle à l’encre de seiche - jumbo scallop with green curry and coriander sauce, squid ink farfalle (HK$220). This also came in full-sized serving from the a-la-carte menu, but I was not sure how I would like the coriander sauce so I stuck with the tasting plate size. It was amazing! The coriander flavour was subtle, and the scallop was perfectly cooked, moist and sweet:

Le Caramel en soufflé, mangue fraîche et glace au miel - signature caramel soufflé with fresh mango and honey ice-cream (HK$200):

We were told to make a hole in the soufflé with the spoon, and the caramel sauce was poured into it. I liked this, though hubby thought it was still a bit too wet in the middle:

I doubt I will ever tire of eating at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. If only we could afford to dine here more regularly!

L'ATELIER de Joël Robuchon
Shop 315 & 401
The Landmark
15 Queen's Road Central
Hong Kong
Tel. +85 2 2166 9000
Online reservations available at Robuchon's website

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Yudofu lunch @ Kikusui, Kyoto (Japan)

I remember the first time we ate tofu as a meal in Japan, almost seven years ago. It was the meal that opened our eyes to the beautiful and tasty variety of tofu available in Japan, and I was converted! To those who like me who grew up with the bland and rubbery tofu common in Chinese cuisine, I urge you to try the Japanese tofu. There are so many different types, and my favourite is gomadofu (sesame tofu). When we were in Kyoto a few months ago, we went to Kikusui, a dining ryokan near Nanzenji that served kaiseki ryori and yudofu (tofu hotpot). There was also a large beautiful garden on site, and the general atmosphere was peaceful and tranquil (until we turned up with a 5-year-old and an infant!). It was very relaxing, and I'm sure that Kikusui would also be a lovely place to stay at. Service was typically Japanese - polite and efficient. No English here, and it would seem that meal choices are limited to yudofu lunch set for walk-in patrons. I would have loved to try the mini kaiseki course, but it's not surprising that something like that will require advance reservations. The food was delicious, and it was a nice gesture of the host to show us the lovely garden.

The waiting area by the entrance:

Large tatami dining room, and hubby was grateful for the chairs instead of having to kneel in the traditional manner:

Each table had a plaque with a different kanji character engraved on it:

Yudofu set, which includes silken tofu in hot dashi broth, tempura and sashimi:

We also enjoyed some nimono (simmered dish) of bamboo shoot, egg and mochi, some tsukemono (pickled vegetables), and a tasty bowl of rice seasoned with bamboo shoot:

Gorgeous well-kept Japanese garden complete with some koi in the pond:

We enjoyed good quality traditional Japanese food in a beautiful setting at Kikusui.

31 Nanzenji Fukuchicho
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Japan, 606-8435
Tel. +81 75 (771) 4101

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Food court eats @ Main Place USJ 21, Subang Jaya (Malaysia)

When we were in Kuala Lumpur for my cousin's wedding in May, we stayed at my parents' new apartment at the newly completed Main Place. My parents had waited more than 16 years for this apartment to be completed, as development had been fraught with delays due to abandonment by the original developer after only 60% completion, and then by two other developers who took on the project only to back out shortly after. I think my parents had essentially given up hope of ever seeing their apartment completed, but a fourth developer took on the project five years ago and saw it to completion. Now it's a highly sought-after residence above an upscale retail mall with a nice supermarket that stocks organic products! On our final night in KL, we had dinner in the food court in the basement of the Main Place mall, where my parents often have their meals. Their favourite vendor is Oyster King, so that's where we parked ourselves. My younger sister also got food from other vendors, but I ordered from Oyster King and the adjacent stall selling rojak and popiah. Pretty good quality for a food court!

Oyster King, where my parents are regulars and on familiar terms with the manager. The following three items are from this store:

Oyster King's O-chien, fried oyster omelette:

Fried rice:

Fried noodles:

The rojak and popiah stall, where we got the following three items:

Delicious Penang-style rojak:

Popiah - spicy and regular:

Tong sui, a healthy sweet soup with pear, fungus and Chinese dates:

Main Place Mall
49 Jalan USJ 21/10
47630, Subang Jaya
Selangor, Malaysia