Sunday, August 31, 2008

Eating in Kuala Lumpur - Twenty One Kitchen & Bar

Twenty One Kitchen & Bar is another outlet at Changkat Bukit Bintang. More popular as a drinking hole, the food here is also very good.

The decor is modern and spare, with a small dining area on the ground floor and bar on the upper floor. There is also an al fresco area next to the street. 

The menu is divided into 2 main sections - appetizers and mains. What's great is that instead of having just one appetizer, you can choose any three which are served in tasting portions.  I decided to have the duck breast salad, prawn salad and mushroom soup. Chunks of bread and olive oil and a nutty powder was served before the main orders arrived. I couldn't make out what the nutty powder was - it tasty like walnut, but it was quite nice with the bread.

The appetizers came in one big platter. The duck breast salad had a sweet and tangy balsamic dressing which was very tasty. The prawn salad was more Thai style, with sauteed prawns and a  green mango salad. The mushroom soup had lots of beef bacon strips inside, and was very well done with a rich and complex taste. All in all, very satisfying.

For the main course, I decided to go for the Duck Leg Confit. It was served with a fresh rocket salad on a rich creamy sauce. The rocket salad was a nice surprise, as it is not easy to get fresh rockets in this part of the World. The duck confit was done to perfection, with juicy and tender meat inside and crispy skin outside. The sauce was creamy and had a subtle orangy taste, and complimented the duck very well. 

For desert I ordered the Warm Layered Chocolate Cake served with Stracciato Ice Cream and Wild Berries Coulis. I was not disappointed. The cake was nice and moist, the ice cream and berries coulis rounding out a very satisfying desert.

Twenty One is definitely one of the better Western Restaurants in KL. The food is interesting and very good, the service is attentive but not intrusive. It also has a nice modern decor which is not too stuffy. Great for a casual dinner experience.

Eating in Kuala Lumpur - El Cerdo

A pork craze has come over Kuala Lumpur in the past couple of years, and many places have cropped up in the Klang Valley to satisfy this craving for everything porky. El Cerdo, located in Changkat Bukit Bintang - one of the hottest hot spots in KL, is one of them.

From the outside, it doesn't look much. Compared to the other ultra-chic food outlets, it is outright ordinary. Inside, the restaurant is done up in a pseudo-Mediteranean style, with stucco walls painted in bright yellow. There is a cold room for the wine and cured meat which is placed prominently at the entrance lobby. The overall ambience is cosy and unpretencious.

El Cerdo specialises in pork, with the tag line "Nose to Tail Eating" borrowed from English chef Fergus Henderson. They serve pork chops, sausages, ham and a large selection of cured meat. For lunch they have 2 set lunch menus. The Set Lunch comes with an antipasto buffet, and a choice of main course, with desert. 

The antipasto buffet was nice. There was a salad bar, and a large selection of cured meat and deli items. It would have been nice to have a selection of cheese as well.

My favourite from the buffet was the pork knuckle terrine, served with a horseradish sauce. The cold roast pork with tuna sauce was also very good, so was the Serrano ham. The pork head jelly had an interesting texture, but there wasn't much taste. 

For the main course I had hickory smoked soft pork ribs, served with mashed potato. It was smokey, tender and tasty. The only disappointment was the barbeque sauce which was a bit too strong and masked the natural flavour of the pork a bit. 

All in all, lunch at El Cerdo was quite pleasant. Next time I would try their marinated pork chop, which is a house specialty.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kuching - Semenggoh Nature Reserve

Another interesting place to visit in Kuching is the Semenggoh Nature Reserve, which is located about 25 km from the Kuching town centre. There, you will also find the Orang Utan Santuary where you can see orang utans which have been left very much in their natural habitat. The feeding times are between 9.00 to 10.00 a.m. and between 3.00 to 3.30 p.m. 

There is no guarantee that you will see the orang utans, as they sometimes do not come out on cue, especially if they are not hungry. However, on my several visits to the Sanctuary, I was lucky enough to see the orang utans every time.

They are an amazing sight, and the baby orang utans are really cute ! This is really highly recommended for children, it is an experience they will remember for a long time.

As it's a nature reserve, you can also trek through the jungle to get a feel of the tropical rainforest. You will be able to see many of the indigeneous plant species native to Sarawak.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Kuching - Sunday Market

One of the most interesting places to visit in Kuching is the Sunday Market. The Market is only set up from Saturday afternoons to Sunday noon. It is located at the backstreets of Satok Road.

The Sunday Market is like a Farmers Market. Here, traders, wholesalers and farmers gather to sell their produce. You can get anything from meat, fish, vegetables to clothing, houseware and even decorative plants. 

The market is quite big and takes a while to move through. Good thing is it's divided into sections, so if you know what you want you can just go to the right section. As it is usually quite packed, it can be a bit of a squeeze to navigate through all the stalls. Beware of pick-pockets when you go.

Besides the common products, you will usually come accross something strange and unfamiliar. It is these unsual discoveries which make the Sunday Market so fascinating.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kuching - Top Spot Seafood Centre

One of the most popular food places in Kuching for locals and visitors alike is the Top Spot Seafood Centre. It is located right in the town centre, on top of a multi-storey car park. An open-air concept, the best time to visit is in the evening when it is not too warm.

The seafood here is consistently good, but you have to pick the right stalls. My favourite stall here is called "ABC Seafood".

What is interesting are all the displays which are carefully set up to attract customers. You can pick and choose what you want, and the cooks will whip it up for you in no time.

Don't let the touts stop you at the first stall. You should check out all the stalls first to see which one has the freshest and best looking seafood, and has what you want.

I had dinner here recently, and ordered my favourite mixed vegetables which is always excellent. You pick and choose your own ingredients, and when cooked with the chef's secret sauce it's really tasty ! What's amazing is the consistency. Every time you order it, it tastes exactly the same.

Next came the bamboo clams - a type of shellfish which is quite common here. When cooked right, they have a natural sweetness which is really great. Unfortunately this dish was a bit overcooked, and the clams were a bit small.

Crabs ! Always great - this was cooked with black pepper and eggs. It was really good ! There is a secret to picking crabs which I haven't been able to master. When you pick the right ones, they are meaty, sweet and delicious.

Another all time favourite - oh chien or oyster omelet. Basically oysters fried in a batter like a pan cake and served with a dipping sauce made from fish sauce and white pepper. Simple and delicious.

The seafood displays are really enticing !

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kuching - Historic Buildings

Due to it's White Rajah and Colonial heritage, Kuching has a number of notable historic buildings which are well worth a visit.

One of the most prominent is the Astana - the private residence of the second White Rajah - Rajah Charles Brooke. It was built as a bridal gift to his wife Ranee Margaret. Today this is the official residence of the Governor of Sarawak. Unfortunately it is usually not open to the public, except during Hari Raya open house. 

The Sarawak Museum is another building built by Rajah Charles Brooke. The Museum is widely recognised as one of the most important in South East Asia. It has a great Ethnography Collection, as well as a wide Chinese Ceramics Collection - especially jars.

The Square Tower is located right opposite the Old Court House. It served as a sentry post at the strategic river bend of Sungai Sarawak. 

This building is called The Pavilion. It was originally a hospital. Now it has been converted into a Textile Museum.

The Kuching General Post Office was completed under the third White Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke. It was designed in the Neo-Classical Style favoured by the British Colonials. Today it still functions as the GPO of Kuching.

The Tua Pek Kong Temple sits prominently at the Eastern end of Main Bazaar. It is one of the oldest Chinese Temples in Kuching, believed to have been built by Chinese migrants from Kalimantan, Indonesia. This temple is highly revered by devotees, who believe that the deity is very powerful in answering to prayers.

If you have the time, it is worth going on a self-guided tour around the Kuching Old Town. Just get the "Kuching Heritage Trail Booklet - The Brooke Legacy" available at most local bookshops. It costs just RM 3.00, and is produced by the Sarawak Heritage Society together with the Malaysian Institute of Architects Sarawak Chapter. I must acknowledge that some of the information above came from the booklet.

If you are interested in finding out more about Kuching, here are a few links on the Net:

Kuching - Wikipedia

Kuching Guide

Catcity.com.my

Kuching.net.my