Saturday, October 31, 2009

Phuket

Starting tomorrow I will be posting on my recent trip to Phuket. It was a short trip, but I managed to pack in a lot as usual. Phuket has amazing resorts, and the food scene is as exciting and diverse as any resort destination. So stay tuned !

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Eatin in Kuala Lumpur - Prego's at The Westin

I have saved the best of this segment of posts on KL for last. Prego's at The Westin Hotel is reputed to be one of the best Italian Restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. I have eaten there a few times and always come away quite happy. Our recent visit was another satisfying experience.

The restaurant is located at the lobby level of the hotel, directly off the sidewalk. There is an al fresco area outside which is now more of a sisha corner, catering to the many Middle-Eastern tourists who flock to KL between June to August to escape the unbearable Summer heat back home.

The interior of the restaurant is modern and contemporary, with a lot of timber and earth tones giving it a warm and cozy touch. There is an open kitchen, and a wood-fired oven takes it's pride of place in one corner. The look is very similar to many of the modern restaurants around KL, but the food is what we came here for.


The test of a good restaurant is often in the bread. If they take the time and trouble to make good bread, you can be sure that the rest of the kitchen would have similar high standards. The bread here is really good. With a crispy crust and a spongy soft centre, it goes really well with the tomato dip. I also asked for some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which was even better with the bread. We asked for more and they gladly obliged.


For starters we ordered the Caesar Salad and Crab and Arborio Rice Cakes with Almond Aioli. The salad, with a poached egg and beef bacon, was really good. The Crab Cake was crispy on the outside and creamy smooth on the inside. It was basically a crab risotto which is breaded and deep fried. The crab filling was sweet and subtly perfumed with herb and spices. Very yummy !


For soup we had a Caciucco alla Livornese - a freshly cooked seafood soup. This was the best seafood soup I've ever had in KL. Sweet, rich and well-rounded flavours - perfectly balanced. Definitely my favourite on the menu.


With a wood-fired oven, you can bet that the pizza would be good, and they are. We ordered the Quottro Stagioni as I like to have lots of different flavours. This came with artichoke, turkey ham, mushrooms and olives. The pizza crust is thin and crispy and had the burnt bits which I love. Even though this is a Halal restaurant and they can't use the usual pork produce like salami and prosciutto, the chefs managed to coax some wonderful flavours from the ingredients.


A bit over-ambitious, we also ordered a pasta Frutti de Mare. It was really delicious, but we were so stuffed after the pizza that we could hardly eat the pasta.


There was absolutely no more room for dessert, so we decided to call it a night after the pasta. After so many years, it is good to see that Prego's has managed to maintain it's high standards. This place is highly recommended if you are looking for great Italian food in KL.

Kuala Lumpur - Nonya Colours at One Utama

While wondering around the One Utama Shopping Centre recently I came across this really attractive stall called Nonya Colours. I'm a sucker for attractive colours in food and couldn't resist checking it out. They specialize in "Nonya Kuehs", and they have a huge array of these delightful sweet and savoury cakes. I totally regret the big breakfast I just had at the hotel. Otherwise I would have gladly sampled most of what they had on offer.


"Nonya Kuehs" are very popular all around Malaysia. The "Nonyas" are females descended from Chinese migrants intermarrying local Malays. Therefore "Nonya" or "Peranakan" culture is a mixture of Malay and Chinese traditions, and the Nonya cuisine benefits from this cross-pollination. Today you will find the Nonyas mostly in Malacca and Penang. Due to the popularity of Nonya food, nowadays you can enjoy this unique and delicious cuisine all over Malaysia.

One of the most popular Nonya Kuehs is this savoury yam cake. Fresh yam is cooked with some flour, usually mixed in with some minced pork to keep it moist give it extra tastiness. This is then steamed and topped with a mixture of dried pickled radish, chili and dried shrimps. Really delicious !


These are another popular kueh called Putri Ayu or Kueh Nonya. It actually originated from Indonesia, and is a steamed cake flavoured with "pandan" extract, topped with grated coconut. The texture is like a sponge cake.


The huge selection of other kuehs.

Besides the cakes, this stall also serve other hot and cold dessert such as Pulut Hitam (Black Rice Pudding), Hong Tou Soi (Sweet Red Bean Soup), Bubur Cha Cha (a sweet dessert soup with cubes of sweet potato, yam and sago pearls - one of my favourites), Ice Kacang, etc. I must return to this stall on my next visit to KL !

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kuala Lumpur - Bukit Bintang Street Performers

The streets around Bukit Binting really only come alive after 10.00 p.m., when the shops and shopping centres are closed. This is when the street performers come out to entertain the crowds, and there are usually several groups of them in the area. One of the most consistent and entertaining is a group of percussionists who perform in front of the Maybank at the junction. The size of the group seem to shrink and grow from time to time, and there are always new "members" joining the group. They never fail to rouse up the crowd, and some of the more enthusiastic ones would even join in the fun.

On a recent visit I came across this bald men with a python and a tiny monkey. I have never seen him before, he seems to be new in town. The kids were really taken with the monkey, and it was a wonder that the python never swallow the monkey when the man wasn't looking. The monkey was always bugging the python behind the man's back !

If you are looking for more sedate entertainment, there are many masseur offering a relaxing foot massage on the street. They are really cheap too !

Kuala Lumpur - Bukit Bintang at Night

I'm not really a night bird. When I'm back in Kuching, we are usually in bed by 10. But when you are in KL, it would seem kind of weird to go to bed early. The place is still buzzing at midnight, especially around the Bukit Bintang area. It is not unusual for KLites to go clubbing till 3.00 a.m., go "supper" at 4.00 a.m. and go to work at 8.00 a.m. the next morning. Or so that's what some of my KL friends tell me, if they are not pulling my leg. I wouldn't try it myself !

Walking around Bukit Bintang at night is kind of interesting. There's always lots of things going on, lots of people seemingly wondering around endlessly, and lots of colourful lights. Of course there's also the Jalan Alor nearby where everyone goes for supper, and a few mysterious men hanging around offering special "service". There are also lots of vendors offering "first grade" fake watches. It's all part of the KL experience really. Despite all the hustle and bustle, I always feel quite safe going around, and the men in uniform are usually not far away.

The boys in uniform keeping the order.

If you are looking to do some last minute midnight shopping, this is the place to go.

When in Kl, do what the KLites do. Go walk-about a bit at night. You're bound to bump into something interesting somewhere.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kuala Lumpur - Taman Tasik Perdana

The concrete jungle, traffic jams and millions of people in Kuala Lumpur can get to you after a while. Sometimes you just want to get away from it all. One great and convenient place for a quick escape is the Taman Tasik Perdana (KL Lake Gardens).

The Lake Gardens is the oldest and one of the biggest parks in Kuala Lumpur - with a total area of around 230 acres. It is practically right in the centre of the city, being located around the Old Parliament Complex. It is quite near the KL Sentral Transport Interchange, and if you are staying in the Hilton or Le Meridien it is just a short walk away.

Getting there can be a problem if you don't have your own transport, and getting back can be even worse as this is not an area commonly served by taxis. Your best bet is to take trains or MRT to KL Sentral and walk over to the park.

Lake Gardens is very popular with the locals who use it a a place to relax and exercise. Besides the large lake which is the main attraction here, there is also a Bird Park, Butterfly Park, Deer Park and Orchid Garden.

I like the many old trees in the park which must have been there for more then 100 years.

The next time you feel like getting away from the giddy KL traffic and overcrowded shopping centres, head to the Lake Gardens. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Kuala Lumpur - Graffiti

Behind the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is Sungai Kelang, one of the many streams criss-crossing the city. These are an important part of the KL storm water system. Across the stream is a small pedestrian lane which connects to the rapid transit station nearby. Here you will find some interesting old buildings and shophouses in the Colonial style. It was also here that I discovered some of the most interesting graffiti in KL.


Like most big cities, graffiti are not an uncommon sight in KL. Usually they are just quick scribbles to let off some steam. However there are also some who wield it more as a means of expression and an art form. I am glad to see that even in KL, we have some great graffiti artists waiting to be discovered.

The next time you visit Dataran Merdeka, turn to the back of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building to admire some free street art.