Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Food: Fried Laksa! @ Restoran Well Cook Gourmet, SS14, Subang Jaya

I'd always heard about Restoran Well Cook Gourmet, starting from a few years back. But then, my friend never once refered to it with its proper name - instead, she always talked about this "awesome fried laksa" place that we needed to try.

After I started work at my current company, I'd also hear my colleagues talking about his "awesome fried laksa" place nearby that they would sometimes drive out to during lunch.

Well, finally one day we made the trip there, and I can now too refer to it as that "awesome fried laksa" place that I've been to as well :p

Backstory aside, Restoran Well Cook Gourmet is a coffee shop situated in SS14, Subang Jaya. Located opposite its more famous neighbour SS15, SS14 is actually home to many a coffee shop, mostly specializing in bak kut teh. Amongst all that herbal porky goodness, lies Restoran Well Cook Gourmet, a coffee shop that does a wide variety of fried noodles and rice.

The restaurant doesn't look any different from any other normal 'dai chow' restaurant, and in fact the menu is quite extensive with lots of stir fried noodles and rice you can order. Regular customers know all about the fried laksa though, so expect big crowds here during lunch. Dinner time is busy too, but not as bad as lunch since all the office workers have gone home. :)

Besides the usual fried noodles and rice, there is also fresh popiah served at Well Cook Gourmet. Each roll of popiah is prepared on a long counter just next to customers, so everyone can take a good look at how their popiah is made! 

I like the version here (RM 5), it's filled with lots and lots of turnip and just enough chilli for that kick. There's also  very little of everything else, not like the usual coffee shop variety you get with lots of bean sprouts and cucumber too. This was definitely turnip overload for Adam (and possibly a lot of people) though! He prefers those with lots of crunchy shallots inside that he gets back in Ipoh.

Every trip to Well Cook Gourmet, I've never had anything other than the  fried assam laksa but wanting a bit of variety, Adam went for a Cantonese Style Hor Fun or wat tan hor, gambling that perhaps this place could do soup-y noodles just as well as they do fried noodles. 

Unfortunately his gamble didn't pay off. While it looked okay from the outside, one mouthful was enough to confirm the lack of flavour and overall flatness of the dish. Maybe it was just an off day, but we found this completely unsatisfying. The sauce was quite bland, and the rest of the chicken and prawns didn't help much with the flavour. My advise is to give this a miss when you're here.

Oh but all is well when the Fried Laksa (RM 6) arrives, piping hot! 

We've had this quite a few times now, by ourselves and even for a few church gatherings at Adam's house, and it never fails to amaze every time we have some! 

The whole thing seems so simple, we wonder why no one thought of it before. After all, we seem to make a dry or soup version out of every kind of noodle, how come no one ever thought of making dry stir-fried assam laksa? It looks a bit like char kuey teow, but the rest is unmistakeably like assam laksa because of the tangy-ness in the noodles, possibly from tamarind, and the use of lots of fresh onions, cucumber and the common assam laksa ingredient, bunga kantan, as garnishing.

Well fried together with some egg and prawn (if you're an assam laksa purist, no, there's no fish chunks in here, possibly the only assam laksa key ingredient missing) with oodles of that smoky wok flavour we all love enveloping each strand of noodle, and we guarantee this will be gulped down to the last mouthful, no matter if you're a big eater or small!

So there you have it - one of the relatively unknown jewels that we frequent in the Sunway/Subang area. Fried laksa has the additional benefit of not only being tasty, but it also has the 'wow' factor to impress your friends! So do make a trip here, with friends or with family, and share the goodness with them! (Or well, you know, if you're possessive like that, you can always not share :p)

Restoran Well Cook Gourmet | Site
No. 74, SS14/2,
Subang Jaya, Selangor
Tel: +6 012 681 1623 
Opening Hours: 12pm-9pm (Closed on alternate Sundays)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Food: Fresca Mexican Kitchen & Bar @ The Gardens Mall

By the time I'm writing this post, our visit to Fresca is already nearly a month old, and I don't think it can be considered all that new anymore! But even so, Fresca is still (one of?) the newest kids on the Gardens / Mid Valley block. Don't look down on the new kid on the block though; we think Fresca is going to build up a following pretty quick. =)

Situated next to The Han Room, some might say the location isn't entirely ideal since it doesn't get much foot traffic. It's a valid reason, but we also think the slight detachment from the rest of the crowded mall will work in their favour. Taking the corner lot also gives Fresca more space, which is why they can comfortably design booths, tables, and a bar all without too much hassle. 

Usually I'll start with the food and end with drinks, but this time I'm going to show off authentic Mexican Aqua Fresca, or thirst quenchers! Special mentions go to the white one in front called Horchata (RM 8.50); a milky drink made with ground rice and cinnamon. It wasn't very sweet, and the rice inside tasted a bit like a barley drink. It was overall quite refreshing and not as thick as a lassi. The Mango (RM 9.50) was not too bad either, with a tinge of lime and honey.

For starters we shared a Pico de Gallo (RM 15), their house classic Mexican salsa served with tortilla chips. The dip's freshness of tomatoes, coriander and onions was definitely noticeable, tasting a lot more authentic than the usual stuff found in places like Chilli's. I'm still not entirely sold on salsa dips though - give me dips with meat sauce any time!

Next up was an Ensalada de Chorizo (RM 21)! Unlike the more conventional leafy salads, this was a more substantial platter, chock full of roasted peppers, cucumber and onions and my favourite bit, chorizo sausages!

We enjoyed this very much, and I particularly loved the sausages since I don't eat much greens =P The salad was dressed with honey mustard sauce; a nice change from all the usual salad dressings more commonly found.

Next we lined our stomachs with the Tacos Ensenada (RM 19) with beer battered fish and a coleslaw-like filling.

The name itself sounds so unusual that I wasn't sure what to expect. Whoever heard of fish in a taco? Apparently just not us, as this classic taco filling originates from Ensenada in Baja California. But after I took a bite I wonder why I hadn't had any earlier! The combination was so perfect, with just the right amount of fish and coleslaw which complemented the flavour of the fish. If I was at Fresca for lunch I would make this a meal on it's own. =D

So while the appetizers fully justified themselves, it's the main courses that really make or break a first impression of a restaurant. We shared all our mains, beginning with this Costilla Asada (RM 43), a large beef short rib! This turned out looking and tasting a lot like the usual fare at other rib places like Tony Roma's, so we weren't exceptionally impressed. The barbecue sauce was tasty and the meat was tender, a result of 3 hours of slow cooking, so we wouldn't write this off completely, but we think there's more special things to be had here at Fresca. =)

What other special things? Take the Cordero a la Tamarindo (RM 60) for example! Sometimes we can tell whether food will taste good or not by the way it looks, and this definitely looked good! The well marinated lamb was cooked to a medium / medium well tenderness, perfect for this subject matter. The sauce was also brilliant, a strong tamarind yet minty flavour. There was a thick slab of fat though, which not everyone will be comfortable with, but that's again down to personal preference. Overall an interesting dish, and proclaimed the best of the night, but be prepared to cut away fat if you're not the kind that loves it. 

While the beef short ribs are normal and the rack of lamb slightly special, the dish that will probably have everyone talking about Fresca is this Pollo con Mole (RM 26), chicken in chocolate sauce! If you grimaced at the thought of that, you're right; this dish with its sauce containing nearly everything from chocolate to nuts and fruits, will probably only have a very small group of fans. Even the waiters will say it's not for everyone. But apparently this is an authentic Mexican dish from Puebla, Mexico, so it had to be included in the menu. =D

For us, one mouthful was enough to confirm whether we were going to like it or hate it, and I think everyone else will feel the same way too. In fact, my opinion is people will either not mind it or hate it altogether; I can't imagine who would really want this a second time! The chocolate flavour was noticeable if the chicken was eaten with enough sauce, otherwise it tasted just like any ordinary roast chicken leg. It was a novel thing to try, but definitely the first and last time for us. Try it just to say that you have! =D

It's not often that we find ourselves short of food during Sunday night dinners (usually there's way too much on the table!), but this time we all felt we could put away one more dish, so we decided to try one more - a common Mexican choice, the Fajitas with a mix of beef and chicken (RM 41).

Fajitas are perhaps one of the most value for money items on Fresca's menu. Fajita dishes come served sizzling hot with accompanying guacamole, salsa and cream, and three pieces of tortilla. Customers have a choice of chicken, beef, or chicken and beef, with the chicken and beef mix costing the most of course. The chicken option is cheaper, but I actually felt it tasted better in a fajita compared to the beef. That's not to say the beef wasn't good; the meat too was nice and tender, but we preferred the chicken. 

So while Mid Valley and The Gardens still some way to go before they catch up with the more special dining options in 1Utama, Fresca is certainly a step in the right direction. With an interesting menu, good food, and good, warm service (all the waiters we saw were Malaysian, so no problems with getting lost in translation with foreign workers), We're pretty sure Fresca is going to be around for awhile. =)

Fresca Mexican Kitchen & Bar | Facebook
(opposite The Han Room)
Lot G-242A, Ground Floor,
The Gardens Mall,
Midvalley City,
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +6 03 2201 2893
Opening Hours: 10am-10pm (11pm on weekends)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dessert: G-Stick @ Ben's Independent Grocer, Publika

For awhile it seemed like the gelato craze was hitting our shores what with the reemergence of Gelato Fruity as FreezyFreezy, the arrival of Bruno Gelato, Stickhouse in Sunway Pyramid and Citta Mall, and the smaller, not so wide-spread G-Stick by none other than the BIG Group.

While some of the other brands mainly do scoops of gelato into cups or cones, G-Stick focuses only on gelato on sticks! While this is also like what Stickhouse does, we're pleased to say we enjoyed the gelato here a lot more.

We stumbled upon the little corner the G-Stick occupies in Ben's Independent Grocer in Publika, after our double date dinner at S.Wine. You can't really miss it especially if you're walking back to the main entrance/exit from S.Wine. :)

Pretty gelato creations all lined up
Once thing I love about G-Stick is the cute designs that makes the gelato so visually appealing. Each flavour has different toppings, the fruity ones came in hearts and the Black Sesame (at the far left corner in the picture above) came in a cute chocolate bar shape.

That night, I tried the Pistachio and it was exactly what I imagined it to be. Thick and creamy with a tinge of nutty richness. The chocolate coating and pistachio bits were the perfect complement. So much better than Baskin Robbin's Pistachio (which I just tried last night) but then again, I suppose that's not a direct comparison :p

Being a fan of banana, Adam made a beeline for the Banoffee. We expected this to be a tinge of banana with a sticky toffee taste, but was surprised instead to taste coffee! This was again very rich and creamy, but a bit too frozen. We had to wait for it to defrost a little and all was right again. :)

On our next visit, I knew exactly what I wanted to try - the Oreo! This was by far my favourite though Adam thought it a bit too sweet. Anything cookies and cream or white chocolate wins by default for me, so cookie and cream gelato with white chocolate coating was like heaven for me! The gelato was dense and rich and although there wasn't much cookie flavour from the gelato, the two crunchy cookies on the white chocolate made up for it. Attempt only if you have a sweet tooth through and through. You'll either love it, or have to share for fear of overkill.

Everything costs RM 8.90 at G-Stick. This may feel pricey to some, but based on the cut-throat prices (based on weight!) at Freezy Freezy or Stickhouse who is comparable in price but loses out in quality/quantity, I'd say G-Stick is my pick for a gelato treat, hands down.

But only once in awhile - that way, you don't break your bank, and you don't indulge in gelato sin too often as well. Win-win! :p

G-Stick @ Ben's Independent Grocer | Site
UG-1A, Level UG,
Publika, No. 1,
Jalan Dutamas 1, Solaris Dutamas
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +6 03 6209 1700
Opening Hours: Daily, 9am-10pm

Monday, June 11, 2012

Food: Putien @ 1 Utama Shopping Centre, Petaling Jaya

As we Malaysians become more prosperous, so does our taste in food. Gone are the days when the average Chinese family was happy with or could only afford the nearest stir-fry 'dai chow' down the road. These days, even big families afford to eat out at swanky new restaurants. Sensing the opportunity, in come more franchises into the market like Putien!

Taking a small step into our shores from Singapore, Putien opened its first restaurant in the newly-renovated 1 Utama Old Wing last year. Since then it's been non-stop crowds every weekday and weekend! This photo was taken just before closing, hence the absence of people. =P

Compared to Soup Restaurant, Putien's interior isn't as elaborate, but it's definitely brighter and has a less cluttered feeling overall. Tables also feel slightly bigger, which makes it easier to put more food! (Very important for big eating families like mine =P).

Putien prides itself on being a pioneer of sorts in true blue Heng Hwa cuisine. The restaurant had humble beginnings as a small restaurant 11 years ago but has now expanded to cover much of Singapore and is now moving into nearby regions.

Recipes at Putien are familiar yet different, like this Sweet & Sour Pork with Lychees (RM 18.90). It sounded like something special on paper, but turned out to be just like ordinary sweet and sour pork. Perhaps the presence of only one lonely lychee was a contributing factor. At least the pork was crispy when served, but got soggy very quickly, possibly because of the strong air-conditioning.

On the other hand, the Spinach with Salted Egg & Century Egg in Supreme Stock (RM 18.90) was a much better version of the usual spinach-in-soup! The generous usage of salted egg and century egg made the stock-soup absolutely irresistible and creamy (not to mention sinful), which of course ensured the spinach was slurped down to the last strand. =D

Another homely favourite? This Claypot Chicken in Fermented Red Rice Wine (RM 18.90). Those who love this dish should be impressed with Putien's version - the smell of wine is very strong and fragrant when served, and what is suspected is indeed confirmed at first taste. But don't worry; the taste of wine wasn't so strong as to overpower the tender chicken flavour. We did wish we had ordered a bowl of rice, because it would have gone very well together.

We didn't have rice because at Putien, noodles takes centre stage! We each ordered one noodle, necessary because each one looks so different from another. This one was the Stewed Sweet Potato Noodle (RM 14.90) - a plate of chewy noodles with a ton of different ingredients nearly too numerous to count!

There was everything from peanuts to celery and tau fu, not forgetting seaweed, mushrooms, and cabbage. Definitely not our recommendation if you're a picky eater, since it's near impossible to separate it all out! Besides, everything should be eaten together to enjoy a yummy slurpy mish-mash of flavours. =D

If dry noodles are more your cup of tea, then give the Fried Heng Hwa Bee Hoon (RM 15.90) a go! There was a lot of rice vermicelli (mee hoon) and not as much toppings for our liking, but we must give credit for how fine the mee hoon was. And if the mee hoon feels a bit dry, just have it with a bit of the accompanying chilli sauce for an instant improvement! We loved this tangy and spicy chilli dip at each table.

But while the sweet potato noodle and the mee hoon was good, the star of the night was undoubtedly the Putien Mee Sua (RM 15.90)! Just like the mee hoon, it was a combination of everything from egg, mushroom, celery, dried scallops, seaweed, shallots, prawns, meat-that-we-think-was-pork, etc! But unlike the mee hoon, the mee suah was nowhere as dry, and the toppings were definitely more plentiful here. The taste of everything together was wonderful, rivalling even the best mee sua I've had in Singapore, because Putien's version is less oily and clearer. 2 Thumbs Up! =D

With the great dinner we had at Putien, it would have been a shame to have left without trying their dessert menu as well. And so we picked a few to try. The first was this Pumpkin Cream with Ice Cream which came highly recommended. This was a hot cream of pumpkin with an island of coconut ice cream topped with a droplet of pulut hitam and chopped peanuts - thick and pleasant, we had to eat it up quickly for that lovely mix of hot and decadent pumpkin cream against the sweet ice cream.

The second was this Glutinous Rice Balls in Peanut Soup (RM 6.90). The soup was clear and had a great homemade feel to it, and the glutinous rice balls were done well with ample filling. This was more Wendy's kind of thing than mine, but we both agreed that we'd rather have the other more interesting desserts at Putien!

Wendy's favourite of the night was the Hot Yam Paste with Gingko Nuts (RM 6.90). She was so delighted that she'd found some in KL because she remembered last having it years ago in Singapore! Traditionally made with lard, we suspect Putien's version omits it but still remains that original lush texture and natural yam flavours. Best shared because it can get too much for one person!

Even tea deserves a mention at Putien, because they serve Premium Tie Guan Yin (RM 7.90)! Obviously a very expensive price for a cup of tea (one my mother was not willing to pay for), but one we think is worth the cost. The tea leaves are placed in a separate strainer, so each refill of water can drain through the leaves to ensure a rich aroma and flavour every time!

All in all, we can see now why the queues are so long in front of Putien. Space and serving size isn't that optimal for the typical Chinese family of above 10 members, but great for smaller get-togethers. We would be joining that queue too even if they only served that one mee sua dish! But since there's a whole lot of other variety here, it gains even more points in our eyes. Definitely a place we will keep on our recommendation list. =)

Putien | Facebook
Lot G213A, Ground Floor
Promenade Section,
1 Utama Shopping Centre (Old Wing)
Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya,
Tel: +6 03 7722 1539
Opening Hours: Daily, 10am-10pm

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