Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Selamat Hari Raya !

Selamat Hari Raya to all Muslim friends and bloggers !

Kuching 2011 - Dinner at Simplicious

New dining venues keep cropping up in Kuching and for food lovers this is good news. One of the latest additions in town is called Simplicious. It is located in an old detached house with a fairly large compund. The venue and the concept is a great one, but the execution is sadly a bit lacking.

The house is double-storey, and the restaurant occupies the ground floor with private dining areas on the upper floor. The ground floor dining area is quite big and divided into 2 sections. Though the ceiling was a bit low, the space had great potential but unfortunately the renovation did not make the best use of it. The mix of modern and Nonya decor also did not go quite well together.

Like most other casual dining Western restaurants in town, the menu is a bit same-old same-old. You get the usual salads, pasta, steaks, lamb chops, etc. We ordered a Wild Mushroom Salad, Seafood Pasta and Prawn Alio Olio.

The Wild Mushroom Salad was quite disappointing. Expecting a salad full of mushrooms, it was instead a green salad with Ceasar dressing and just a few strips of mushroom.

The Seafood Pasta was a bit better, but they put the cheese on top which should have been served on the side. We do not like cheese on seafood pastas and would have preferred to be given the choice.

The Alio Olio was the best of all the dishes - nicely cooked pasta, fresh prawns, squid and mussels with some chili for heat. Simple and nice - but many restuarants do mess this up and I'm glad they didn't.

The food at Simplicious is a bit hit or miss. Maybe they are still finding their footing, being quite new. I hope they do something about the decor because it is a place with lots of promise.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kuching 2011 - Lunch at Tom's

Tom's is a Western restaurant that has been around for quite a while, and is still very popular. The are located along Padungan Road, one of the oldest parts of Kuching town. Their specialties are steaks and pasta. Dinner here can be quite expensive. A better option is the lunch. Their lunch menu is concise but offer much better value.

One of our family favourites is their garlic bread. Essentially a soft bun split halfway, spread with garlic-herd butter and toasted. The slight crunchiness and rich butter and garlic taste is a winning formula in our books.

There are not many choices for kids - Teriyaki Chicken with Rice being one of the few kid-friendly offerings on the menu.

The missus' favourite is their Beef Bolognese - which is one of the better versions in town.

I opted for the Wagyu Beef Burger - the beef pattie was beefy and quite flavourful. What it needed was a homemade mustard sauce or an aioli - instead of the bottled chili sauce being offered.

Tom's is justifiably famous for their cakes - especially the chocolate cakes which are usually rich, moist and delicious. On this occasion though the cake was a bit stale.

If you like good steaks and pasta, Tom's is the place to go in Kuching. Be prepared to pay for what you get though.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Kuching 2011 - Buka Puasa at Riverside Majestic Hotel

During the month of Ramadan most of the major hotels in town would offer a Buka Puasa Buffet catering to the Muslim community. While the majority of diners are indeed Muslims, there are also many non-Muslims who like to partake in the feasting, yours truly included !

It is not cheap to break fast at the hotels - typically around RM 80++ per person. If you bring the entire family that can add up real fast. We had some complimentary dinner vouchers which we got from a hotel package, so it was easier on the wallet.

Originally we had planned to go to the Grand Margheritta which boasted the biggest Buka Puasa Buffet in town. Unfortunately they were already overbooked, so we ended up at the sister hotel - Riverside Majestic, which is just across the road. The buffet here is served at the poolside instead of at the usual coffeehouse. It was a nice change being out in the open air.

The buffet spread was no where near the one at Grand Margheritta. Still it was decent enough, with lots of cakes, salads, curries, sushi and even a whole roast lamb.

For a Buka Puasa meal, liquids are essential. Here they have quite a nice selection - green tea, date tea, Air Bandung (Rose Water Syrup with milk), and black current juice.

The whole roast lamb. Unfortunately the meat was a bit tough.

The salad section was very nice - local Malay salads are called "ulam" and is an aromatic mixture of herbs, spices, greens with meat or fish.

Like most buffets, the food looked better then they tasted. After sampling a bit of everything we were stuffed anyway. The drinks station was actually the most enjoyable for the thirst-quenching elixirs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kuching 2011 - Ramadan Bazaar at Satok Part II

The Satok Ramadan Bazaar is at Lorong 12 Rubber Road, which runs between Rubber Road and Satok Road. To get there you need a bit of patience. Traffic will be heavy, and it is a challenge finding a good parking spot. You may need to park quite far away and walk to the Bazaar.

The Bazaar occupies the backlot of a block of shophouses. This is normally the car park, but being sandwiched between shophouses makes it ideal for a Bazaar as it is quite well-shaded from the hot sun. The authorities have put up big tents to shelter the stalls, but due to the lack of ventilation it can sometimes become unbearable as the smoke from barbeque stalls get trapped inside.

After a long day of fasting, the most immediate need is to quench your thirst and replenish your energy. These sweet iced desserts will do both.

Lots of cooked food are ready for a fast takeaway.

Eventhough conditions at the Bazaar are not exactly ideal - it is usually hot and smokey, it is good to see that the vendors are in good spirit.

It is not difficult to put together a nice meal with selections from a few stalls.

Always great to catch a little drama unfolding behind the scene.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kuching 2011 - Ramadan Bazaar at Satok Part I

I still have quite a few posts to go on Bangkok, but it's been a while since I posted on Kuching - my home town. I hope you don't mind this interruption as I bring you some updates on Kuching.

Hari Raya (Muslim New Year) is just around the corner and Muslims everywhere have started their fasting a few weeks back, and are all busy preparing for their new year. Every year without fail a Ramadan Bazaar is set up in Satok, one of the commercial areas in Kuching where there is a large Muslim Population. I always like visiting the Ramadan Bazaar as there is such an endless display of tempting, delicious food. It takes will of steel to be able to resist all that food with an empty stomach and under the blazing heat. I gain tremendous respect for the Muslim community for going through their annual cleansing ritual without any hesitation every time I visit the Bazaar.

This year the Bazaar at Satok seems to be a bit smaller, and the crowd not as thick as in previous years. This may be because several other Ramadan Bazaars have been set up elsewhere in town. There is still a tremendous display of food. One of the main reasons for the Bazaar is that Muslims have to fast from dawn till dusk, and for those who are working full time - having to prepare food for the family after a full day's work is a daunting task. The Bazaars are set up for their convenience where they can just pick up cooked food on their way home from work just in time to break fast. KFCs and other fastfood outlets are also especially busy this time of year.

One of the most popular items at the Ramadan Bazaar is the grilled fish. Over the years they have mastered the skill of grilling fish, and the fish is always tender and moist inside retaining the natural flavour and sweetness. This is usually served with a chili dipping sauce.

Ikan Terubok (Hilsa Kelee or Kelee Shad) is the most popular fish used for grilling. This fish has a lot of small bones, but there is sufficient fat to retain moisture - and the meat is sweet and delicate. A beautiful eating fish which is just as good simply steamed and served with a garlic, chili and vinegar dipping sauce.

Another popular item is grilled chicken. Here they use charcoal for the grilling and the taste is usually quite sensational.

I will have more pictures of the food in Part II of this post. BTW this series of pictures are taken with my new Panasonic Lumix GF-3. I am loving this Micro Four Third camera which is very compact and light. Great for traveling.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bangkok 2011 - Siam Square

Siam Square is one of the most interesting shopping districts in Bangkok. It is not a shopping mall, but rather an area with lots of cheap shophouses that have been appropriated by innovative retailers to sell their ware. It also benefits from the excellent location, being right next to Siam Centre, Ma Boon Kruang (MBK), and Siam Paragon - some of the most popular shopping centres in Bangkok.

View of Siam Square from MBK Shopping Centre.

Siam Square is a maze of shophouses and hundreds of little shops.

Being a collection of shophouses, the shops are free to create their own shopfronts and shopping experience. The scene here is very dynamic, and there is always something new for you to explore. It is also a popular hangout for the hip and trendy set in BK, so a great place for people watching.

Even Toyota has a concept showroom here where they showcase some of their latest technologies.