Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Eating in KL 2012 - Dinner at Souled Out Ampang

Souled Out in Sri Hartamas is a very popular institution with locals and expats alike, due to its relaxed vibe and great food. Their new outlet is a bit closer to the city centre, at the base of Menara HSC - actually a specialist centre for heart, stroke and cancer - go figure !

Souled Out is famous for their varied menu - you can order anything ranging from Sang Har Mein to steaks, naan with dips and even Nachos. The Ampang outlet basically has the same menu as their sister oultet in Sri Hartamas - why reinvent the wheel when it is working well !

There is a large terrace in front which serves as the main dining area. Inside - ground floor is more of a pub, and there's more seating on the upper floor. On the whole the design goes for eco-chic - raw materials against luxe furnishings, which works quite well. The staff is friendly and alert - always a good sign.

Now to the food. As there were a few of us, we decided to order several dishes to share. The Summertime Salad from their "So Lip Smacking" menu sounds great, so we ordered one.It was good - greens with spicy grilled prawns and seafood.

The Cheesy Nachos was also quite nice.

Naan and Papadam with 2 Dips.

Grilled Beef Steaks.

Pan Fried Salmon with Pasta.

The food at Souled Out is not brilliant but reasonably good, and the service is pretty nippy. I can see why they are so popular. Definitely recommended if you have a large group of people who can't quite decide what they want - Souled Out has most of the bases covered.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kuala Lumpur 2012 - Best Western Premier Dua Sentral

I was looking for a hotel near KL Sentral and came across the newly opened Best Western Premier Dua Sentral - a 4 star hotel under the US-based Best Western brand. I believe this is their first property in Malaysia. The hotel is just minutes from KL Sentral, and the rate is quite reasonable, so it was an easy decision.

Getting there was another story. The hotel is so new that all the taxt drivers haven't heard about it. Luckily based on the road name I was able to direct the taxi driver to the hotel, albeit after a wrong turn and a rather rough ride through some small back alleys. This will hopefully improve when the hotel become better known.

Once I arrived I realized that it was a condominium building that has been converted to a hotel. A bit of a disappointment, but it was allayed by their offer to upgrade me to a suite as the normal rooms were over-booked.

The exterior of the hotel looks like a condominium.

 The lobby is large but basic.

The room itself is very spacious - though the decor is a bit of a mixed bag. It kind of looks modern and dated at the same time, perhaps due to the odd choice of furniture. 

The pool area is quite nice with lush landscaping and an infinity pool.

Though the hotel on the whole is not bad, the service lacks warmth and efficiency. My room service plates were still outside the door the next day, late morning. Perhaps they are still new, but with an International management you would expect more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

KL 2012 - Sentul Park and KLPAC

Have you been to Sentul Park or KLPAC ? Chances are if you are not from KL, you haven't been there. It is a little bit hard to get to if you are not driving. I took the KTM to Sentul Station, thinking that it will be a short walk to the Park. It turned out that there are 2 Sentul Sations, and I happened to have taken the wrong line which ended up at the wrong side of Sentul. It was a bit of a walk to get to the Park, and from the entrance to KLPAC is another long walk. To get to Sentul Park, you should take the new KTM Kommuter Line which goes to Batu Caves and get off at the Sentul Station. The entrance to Sentul Park is right next to the station. 

An old building at the entrance to the Park.

The Park used to be a golf course. When it was taken over by the YTL Group, they decided to convert it into a private park. One of the first redevelopments was the KL Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) which became the permanent home of the Actors Studio Malaysia, whose previous home at the Dataran Merdeka was destroyed by flash floods in 2003. 

The KLPAC is in a redeveloped old building which used to be a wood crafting workshop and railway depot. Its barrel-shaped roof is reminiscent of old railway yards in Europe. The new addition sits astride the old building, and is quite sympathetic to the old structure. The overall design is austere and minimal - perhaps due to budget constraints, but is quite fitting for a performing arts building.

The park surrounding the KLPAC was designed by Ng Sek San - one of the top landscape architects in Malaysia. It is quite beautiful, and will not doubt become the centre piece of the overall development. Unfortunately only a small portion of the Park is open to the public. The rest is reserved for the condominiums nearby and out of bounds.

There are other old structures in the park which YTL is slowly adopting for other uses. The overall tone is quite restrained and sensitive to the site. This is a project that will definitely be worth a visit when it is fully realized.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Eating in KL 2012 - Gou Lou Famous Fish Head Restaurant

Jalan Alor is such a famous foodie place in KL popular for "Choo Char" or stir fried restaurants where most of the dishes are fried in the wok. At night this place is so crowded it is difficult to find a seat. When you go during the day it is like a totally different place. There's no crowd, and there's no "Choo Char". Yet there are some foodie gems around. 

Many of the popular food shops in KL tend to sell only a few things that they are good at and nothing more, and that's a good thing. Take this Gou Lou Famous Fish Head Restaurant in the middle of Jalan Alor. They do very well just selling fish head noodles, fish balls and surprisingly - chicken curry noodles. They have been around for ages.

Their Fish Head Noodle is really good - chunks of deep fried fish head and meat served in a sweet fish broth that has been boiled for hours to extract all the flavours from fish bones, mixed in with a little bit of milk to give it some body. It is also a little bit tangy and spicy. Very delicious.

Their fish balls are made from either mackerel or "Sai Tou" (a type of herring), and you can order mixed balls if you want. It is served in a very nice fish broth (without the milk) and a generous amount of vegies. A very satisfying side dish.

If you have not been to Kou Lou at Jalan Alor, I urge you to give it a try. Go early to beat the lunch crowd.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Eating in KL 2012 - Lunch at Spasso Milano

At my last count there were over 50 restaurants at the Pavlion Kuala Lumpur - a staggering choice by any standard, and all under one roof. In such a crowded scene - you have to stand out or risk being drowned by the sheer number of  choices. What attracted me to Spasso Milano at the top floor of Pavilion was its minimalist and clean decor, and the impressive display of wine in its custom designed wine room which stood at the corner of the restaurant. Not that I am a great wine connoiseur, but the sight of lots of bottles of good wine is always a visual delight.

I later found out that Spasso Milano used to be located in Ampang and have relocated to The Pavilion not too long ago. Bloggers have given it good to great reviews - especially the Antipasti Buffet. It is very good value at RM 28++ inclusive of a daily roast.

The antipasto spread is quite good - with lots of grilled vegetables including the ever popular pumpkin and eggplants, fresh salads, some cold cuts and soup. It is not a huge spread but most of the items are well prepared and tasty. The stand out for me was the roasted pork belly, which was done Italian style. They were sliced quite thin, and the skin wasn't particulary crispy, but the flavours were good.

The Antipasto lunch at Spasso Milano was a relaxing and enjoyable affair. I will definitely be back to try out their menu.

Monday, October 15, 2012

KL 2012 - Solaris Mont Kiara

I first visited Solaris Mont Kiara a few years back, before it was even opened. A friend was interested to open a food outlet there and we went to scout the location. For me it looked a bit too office-like, lots of office towers with the lower 2 levels reserved for F&B outlets. My friend's plans fell through, so I have never been back to Solaris until recently.

Things in KL move at such a fast pace that for a place that was the talk of the town a couple of years back - Solaris is already starting to look like a has been. Granted it was a week night, but the crowd was definitely not what I expected. There were so few people, it almost felt deserted.

I went there specifically for dinner, but after walking around a couple of times could not find anything that piqued my interest. In the end I settled on Shogun Japanese Buffet Restaurant. It turned out to be a big mistake. This is just a mediocre mass-market buffet restaurant with pretty mediocre food. That being said, they do have some reasonable items - the tempura items were nice, and the Kimchi Soup was tasty, but I will not be going back in a hurry.

Unless you live nearby, I don't see any reason to visit Solaris. There are other more interesting developments that has cropped up in recent months - like Publika Mont Kiara which I have yet to visit.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

KL 2012 - Courtyard Boutique Hotel

Kuala Lumpur has its share of hotels, but boutique hotels are a lot harder to come by. When I heard that there was a new boutique hotel in the Bukit Bintang area and the pricing was very reasonable, I told myself that I had to check it out. Booking on Agoda was again quite hassle free and the pricing at RM 164++ per night was very reasonable. The pictures certainly look pretty good.

The hotel is located along Jalan Tengkat Tong Shin, just one street down from the famous Jalan Alor. The hotel is so new that none of the taxi drivers I talked to knew about it. We couldn't find it on the street so I decided to just get off the taxi and find it myself. It turned out that the hotel is located in one of the side lanes and not so visible from the main street.

The location is certainly very convenient, but still a bit on the rough and tumble side. There is no doubt that it will be gentrified real soon with all the developments going around, but for the moment I would say that it's not so suitable for ladies traveling alone.

When I arrived the hotel looked exactly like the photos. It is a small and charming single storey Colonial-style building with a courtyard in the middle - hence the name. Check-in was pretty smooth though there was only one person on duty. There are only 11 rooms in the entire hotel so don't expect to see too many people around.

The room is surprisingly roomy, with a queen size bed placed next to the wall on one side. There is an open wardrobe with a sink, and the bathroom is  a semi-open concept at the back of the room. Overall pretty nice. The only caveat would be the floor finishing in the room which is just cement screed. I felt a little uncomfortable working around bare foot as the screed has a rather rough finish. Good thing they provided in-room sandals.


I quite like staying in this hotel. It is small and cosy, and the location can't be beat. At the price they charge it is a steal. Of course you shouldn't expect much in terms of service, but with so many dining options and convenience shops nearby it's not really a problem. Book it soon before they decide to up the pricing.