Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kuala Lumpur 2011 - The Troika

The area around KLCC is shaping up to be the most prime residential location in Kuala Lumpur, with countless high-end condominium projects already completed and also in progress. The Troika is one of the latest ultra-exclusive condominiums to be completed in the area.

Designed by starchitect Foster & Partners, the concept is quite original for a residential tower. Instead of the normal columns and beams construction, the main supports are actually structural walls which look like fins on the outside of the buildings. This method removes the need for columns, so the interiors are essentially column-free. Since I couldn't get inside the units, I can only try to imagine what it is like. Without internal columns, the views must be quite spectacular.

As is common in most of Sir Norman Foster's designs, the colour palette is very limited and neutral. The walls are mostly off-form concrete, the steel frames mostly black, and the glass a shiny greyish tint. Would you pay RM 4 mil for a unit in this development ?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kuala Lumpur 2011 - Dinner at KiKiTaiwan Cuisine

KiKi Taiwan Cuisine is a new restaurant at the top F&B floor of Suria KLCC. This is by the same people who run the Fong Lye Taiwan Restaurant Group which has several outlets in the city. The menu here emphasize on Set Meals, and that is the best way to go as you get a mains with some small appetizers and a soup, served with rice or noodles.

The decor is nice and simple - basically open plans with banquette seating on one side and mostly small square tables in the rest of the area. Lighted accents provide some interest on the walls.

To start off I ordered an Oyster Omelette. It came with a tomato-based sauce on top. The sauce is slightly sweet and tangy, providing a nice balance to the oyster and eggs. Once you tucked inside there are quite a lot of plum oysters inside. Quite good.

I also ordered a "Three Cup Chicken" Set. Three Cup Chicken - "Sanbeiji" is a Taiwanese staple - it is basically chicken cooked in soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil - the three main ingredients. The set came with three small appetizers, a bowl of rice and a soup.

The Sanbeiji portion is quite generous. The sauce has been thickened and caramelized, and tasted quite good except that it was overly sweet. They have added basil in the dish which is a nice touch.

The appetizers are deep-fried tofu in hot and sweet sauce, deep-fried prawn in bean curd skin, and stir-fried long beans. The prawn roll was particularly good.

The soup is a seaweed and chicken soup - very tasty and easily the best item in the set.

KiKi is a nice concept and - good choice for a quick meal. The menu is a bit limited if you want to order a la carte, but the set meals are great for lone diners. Pricing is reasonable for KL standards. My meal came to about RM 40.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kuala Lumpur 2011 - Doubletree by Hilton

For my recent trip to Kuala Lumpur, I decided to stay at the new Doubletree by Hilton at Jalan Tun Razak, even though the location is not the most convenient as I wanted to check it out. Doubletree is part of the Hilton brand, but is placed just a notch below their normal hotels. It is rated at 4 1/2 star.

The hotel actually occupies the old Crowne Princess building after undergoing extensive renovations. The lobby area is converted from an old shopping centre - City Square, which I used to visit for the hi-fi shops. You can still see the shopping centre legacy in the layout and design of the lobby - with the large atrium in the middle. The new decor is quite nice - contemporary and minimalist. Upon check-in, they give you a warm chocolate chip cookie which is a really nice touch.

The room is quite nice and spacious - with a simple modern design. I did not like the pillows however - they were way too soft and really spoiled my sleep. Though they give you a choice of pillows upon request, I was too lazy to ask for it in the middle of the night.

View from the room.

Just like the Hilton at KL Sentral, the dining options here are very good. You will see my post on the Cafe - Makan Kitchen, soon. Though I would rate this as a very good hotel, it would not be my first choice in KL as the location is just too inconvenient. A taxi ride from KLCC which is not too far away seems to be a really tortuous journey, going through many twists and turns and underpasses - and you get charged around RM 15.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

SIA Airbus A380

The Airbus 380 made a huge buzz when it was launched. By now however it is almost humdrum and not many people get excited about flying on it anymore. Still for me it was a first experience on the World’s largest passenger airliner, and it brought back memories of my first ever trip on the previous size champion – the Boeing 747.

Singapore Airlines has one of the largest fleets of A380s, and they fly them on most of their Australian routes. I would have loved the ultra-luxurious private suites experience, but this being the real world was squeezed into cattle class like most other passengers. Expecting a much larger cabin then the 747, I was somewhat disappointed. The cabin actually looked the same as most other long distance airliners, and is very similar to the 737 with its 3-4-3 seat arrangement. The size of the seats were about the same, and in fact it felt a touch smaller.

Because of the proportions, the plane look surprisingly small on the tarmac.

The cabin is not a lot bigger then other long distance airliners.

Singapore Airline’s inflight entertainment is excellent and I was able to catch 3 very recent movies on the flight. The food service however has suffered the same fate as other airlines due to cost cutting. This was what we had. It was a just bit better then the meals served by Malaysia Airlines on the same route.

Mediocre food is the order of the day even on Singapore Airlines.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Adelaide to Singapore 2010

Our flight from Adelaide to Singapore was in the morning, so we had a chance to see Adelaide from the air as we took off. You can see very clearly that the city was planned based on the Garden City concept popular in Europe after the 2nd World War. The main CBD is surrounded by a greenbelt before the start of the suburbs. The greenbelt is meant to provide a buffer between the City which is meant to be a place for work only, and the residential areas around it.

Today the Garden City concept is deemed my most city planners as unsustainable, as the rapid expansion of the suburban sprawl is threatening traditional agricultural areas needed to sustain the cities. We actually need to live closer together instead of further apart. The other problem with the Garden City concept is the lack of a vibrant city life after working hours. The Adelaide CBD still suffers from the Garden City Syndrome of becoming mostly dead at night, as most of the residents live outside the city.

Suburban sprawl scarily covers a lot of ground. It's not just Adelaide, but any city which follows the same suburban dream.

Flying over the Australian continent, you can see how dry it actually is. The green areas around the cities quickly transform into inhospitable dessert landscape – looking almost like something out of a sci-fi movie.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adelaide 2010 - Dinner at Hahndorf Inn

If you are in Adelaide for a visit there is a place you shouldn’t miss – Hahndorf. Hahndorf is a little town in Adelaide that is becoming a very popular tourist destination. I didn’t even know this place existed until recently. It is the oldest German settlement in Australia, established in 1839 by Prussian and Silesian immigrants from Germany.

The town is very quaint and charming, a lot of the buildings are in German vernacular style and like most heritage buildings in Australia – very well preserved. There are lots of German pubs, craft shops and restaurants around. Unfortunately we went at night and couldn’t really see much.

The main purpose we were there was for the food, and we went to the popular Hahndorf Inn which serves hearty German dishes and sausages.

The menu - meat, beer and sausages.

Grilled chicken wings with smoked pork shoulder.

Sausages and salted pork hock with potato salad served with some excellent pretzels.

Sausage platter with potato salad and pretzels.

Some token green salad. Very refreshing in between the all the meat dishes.

The sausages here are excellent. The variety is enough to give you a hard time making up your mind, and they all taste good with great texture and crunch. Besides chicken wings, the meat served here is mostly pork, so this place is definitely for pork lovers only.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Adelaide 2010 - Lunch at Chianti Classico

Like most major cities in Australia, Adelaide is not lacking in great restaurants. A strong food culture inherited from the different waves of immigrants, coupled with great local produce and robust wine production makes it almost easy to create great food here. During my uni days in Melbourne we used to go to the market just before closing time, buy up the cheap vegetables and meat enough for a whole week of lunch and dinners. The vegetables like cabbages and cauliflowers are so fresh they taste sweet on their own. Just need to add some salt and maybe a good soy sauce for a great dish. I believe it would be the same here.

Chianti Classico is one of the best Italian Restaurants in Adelaide. Located on Hutt Street on the Eastern fringe of the city, it is in a handsome corner Federation Style heritage building. The interior is quite classy and cozy, with an impressive bar counter backed with Italian marble right at the main entrance. The dining room is divided into 2 sections, separated by a bare-bricks fire place.

The food here is based on classic recipes from Toscana, Veneto and Piemonte, with an emphasis on seasonal produce. We started with an Affettato Misto – mixed cold cuts which included San Daniele prosciutto, salami and pancetta – served with bread and pickled vegetables.

For mains I had the Cacciucco alla Livornese – a classic Tuscan fish stew with king prawns, local flathead, scallops and mussels. Simply delicious !

Some of the other mains we had - Coniglio al Forno – Adelaide Plain farmed rabbit slow cooked with pancetta, onions, port and sage.

Pesce del Giorno alla Griglia con Panzanella – grilled fillet of whitefish with Tuscan salad of bread, cucumber, capsicum and basil. The name was really long and impressive, but this was the least interesting of the mains.

For sweets we had a Lemon Curd Tart accompanied with Wild Berries Compote and Berries Sorbet. The sweets were not as memorable as the food.

I don’t quite remember what this was – I believe an almond cake with cream and ice cream.

It was a very good lunch. The food was very well cooked, and the flavours were very rich and satisfying. The prices are at the higher end of the market, but justifiable for the quality. Incidentally, they also serve very good breakfasts.