Sunday, April 20, 2014

ANTINORI & NERO VIVO - ARBITERS OF ITALIAN PASSION AND PERFECTION


Dry and floral on the palate, a chilled glass of sparkling Montenisa Brut NV Franciacorta complemented by dainty canap├ęs: foie gras, smoked salmon and oyster Rockefeller set the recent Antinori wine dinner at Nero Vivo off to an jovial start.
 
 Held in the cheery haven of Italian cuisine where chef Michele Cuozzo holds fort, the event saw  passionate Italian food and wine enthusiasts sharing an evening of convivial laughter and light-hearted banter with Vice President of Antinori Wine Albiera Antinori.
Before dinner started, Albiera touched on the rich history behind the Antinori family which has been involved in the production of wine for over six centuries since 1385. Now into its 26th generation, the firm remains a family-run entity headed by Marquis Piero Antinori with the support of his three daughters: Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia.

The evening's pace acquired a startlingly refreshing note thanks to the crisp, citrusy white Castello della Sala Cervaro della Sala 2010. A blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Grechetto harvested from 15-20 year old vineyards, the elegant white bedazzled us with its straw gold tinged with greenish hue, faint floral-flinty bouquet and long, structured finish. Its persistent toasty and mineral notes were perfect counterpoints to the supple, matured richness of the roasted provolone cheese with cinnamon scented, red wine poached pears.
Tubular shaped pasta – a typical Neapolitan special – brimming with an indulgent amount of gooey, cheesy stuffing complemented by delicate pieces of bamboo lobster in fresh tomato sauce achieved sublime gustatory heights with Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2010. This Badia a Passignano Riserva is produced exclusively from the finest Sangiovese grapes of the property by the same name in the Chianti Classico area of Tuscany. Seductively voluptuous on the palate, the ruby red wine enthralled us with its ripe berry-cherry nuances and velvety liquorice spiciness. 
Artfully blending Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and PetitVerdot, the lush, dark red Guado al Tasso 2008 flaunted jammy plum and black currant notes mingled with coffee, toasty oak and spice overtones. Its soft, elegant tannins sustained a smooth, lingering finish that held its own against the deep-seated flavours of the roasted duck breast with asparagus, fig jam and balsamic vinegar sauce. 

Finger-licking great lamb chops with potatoes and mixed salad complemented Guado al Tasso 2004, an excellent tipple that boasted 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 10% Syrah. Scored 92/100 by Wine Spectator, the ruby red wine with its complex fruity-toasty nuances of coffee and dark chocolate, balanced, soft tannins and lingering finish bore testament to the wine's strong regional character.
For the night's finale, we made short work of the luscious cake with almond paste and chocolate served with vanilla ice cream that went superbly with the golden yellow Castello delle Sala Muffato della  Sala 2007, a well-balanced wine with intense floral and honeyed aroma and taste, underscored by fresh, almost citrusy notes.

The Antinori wines are best savoured with sumptuous Italian cuisine like the specialities by Chef Michele Cuozzo of Nero Vivo. Depending on your choice, the wines are priced from RM65 to RM1,800 per bottle in Malaysia. For information on Antinori wines, visit  http://www.antinori.it/en

For reservations at Nero Vivo Restaurant, call Tel: +603-2070 3120. Address:3a, Jalan Ceylon,
Kuala Lumpur.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

NORWEGIAN SALMON GAINS ASIAN FLAVOURS





 Norwegian salmon - one of Norway’s best known international exports - has such wide appeal in the Malaysian food scene that the volume of Norwegian salmon exported to Malaysia reached 1,900 tonnes last year.
 
From left: Nur Qamarina Chew Abdullah, AEON managing director with Christian Chramer, SEA regional director of Norwegian Seafood Council, Hans Ola Urstad, Norwegian Ambassador and Monica Maeland

Such flavourful figures have prompted Monica Maeland, Norway’s Minister of Trade and Industry to visit Kuala Lumpur recently; to familiarise herself with the marketing of Norwegian salmon and support the marketing activity conducted by the Norwegian Seafood Council in Malaysia.

A hefty 9kg Norwegian salmon had the 'starring role' at the AEON Bandar Utama supermarket on that momentous day; placed on a bed of shaved ice barely 48 hours after its swift passage by air to Malaysia from Norway’s cold, clear waters. 

Adding more chutzpah to the ministerial visit was chef Jimmy Chok from Singapore who caught the imagination of local media members and AEON shoppers with his inventive salmon recipes that combined Asian flavours with  European cooking techniques.

 
 Norway's Trade and Industry Minister Monica Maeland slicing Norwegian salmon. Next to her are Hans Ola Urstad, Norway's Ambassador to Malaysia and Nur Qamarina Chew Abdullah, AEON's managing director

Rich in nutrients and a vital part of a balanced diet, Norwegian salmon is a good source of protein, vitamins D, A and B12, iodine, antioxidants and vital marine omega-3 fatty acids.  With approximately 15-25% protein per 100 g of edible flesh, the fish contains lots of essential amino acids.
Organised by the Norwegian Seafood Council and Innovation Norway, with the support of AEON CO. (M) BHD, the fresh Norwegian salmon is supplied by Euro-Atlantic Sdn Bhd, a leading importer and distributor of marine produce, specialty fruits and vegetables based in Kuala Lumpur.

Below are the two simple yet superbly delicious salmon recipes by Chef Jimmy Chok for you to try at home. You can also visit www.salmonfromnorway.com for more recipes and information from the Norwegian Seafood Council.

 Salmon Kebabs with coriander yoghurt



MAKES 6 SKEWERS | PREP 15 MIN | COOK 10 MIN



900 g Norwegian Salmon fillet, cut into large cubes (allow 3 cubes per skewer)

1 tsp cumin powder

½ tsp salt

2 red bell peppers, cut into squares

2 red onions, cut into wedges

300 ml plain yoghurt

50 g coriander, chopped

1 lime juice



1. Soak 6 satay sticks in water for 10 min. Marinate the fish with cumin and season with salt.

2. Skewer each stick with 3 cubes of salmon, alternating each piece with bell pepper and red onion.

3. Heat up the grill and cook over medium heat for about 3 min on each side.

4. Mix the yoghurt with coriander and lime juice. Adjust seasoning to taste.

5. Serve the salmon kebab with the coriander yoghurt.



Fresh Norwegian Salmon with Julienne Ginger, Chilli & Fresh Calamansi Juice



 SERVES 4| PREP 10 MIN

600g fresh Norwegian salmon loin
200g fresh young ginger, cut into julienne and soak in cold water
2 large red chillies, sliced
1 bunch of coriander leaves, stems removed
4 tsp superior soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 calamansi limes, cut into halves for its juice

1. Slice salmon loin into sashimi-style thickness.
2. Arrange salmon slices onto a plate.
3. Top with ginger julienne, chilli and coriander leaves.
4. Drizzle soya sauce and sesame oil all over the fish slices.
5. Served chill as appetiser. Squeeze calamansi juice on fish slices prior to serving.

Note: This dish can also be served alongside porridge, steamed rice or plain fried noodles.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

ARE YOU A HOTTIE? OR A COOL CHARACTER?

In the Chinese food scheme of things, you're either yin or yang. How do you tell which category are you? Maybe this colourful chart will help to determine if you're a hottie or a cool cat...just remember you're special in the huge tapestry of life.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GET CRACKING AT CRAB FACTORY

Searing hot, tart and salty accents raced across our tongues and caused us to break out into a sweat the minute we had a dose of the Death Valley hot sauce. Just the vapours emanating from the bag of steamed prawns in that lethal sauce alone left our eyes tearing and throats rasping.
 
But that is exactly what made getting down and dirty at PJ's latest crab restaurant - Crab Factory Original Louisiana Boil such fun. Forget about dining utensils and tableware; brace yourselves for a fun albeit messy hands-on affair with back-to-basic serving style i.e. pour the food out onto plastic sheet-covered tables.
No need to mind your Ps and Qs here as the Crab Factory invites you to embrace the no-frills simplicity yet unrestrained robustness of Creole and Cajun cooking where casual backyard seafood boils are the norm rather than the exception.
 
This novel dining experience from Louisiana - the home of Jazz and Blues struck such a resonant chord with T.Y. Ooi and her pals after their adventurous road trip to the U.S. that they decided to replicate it for fellow Malaysians. Decked in industrial chic elements and rustic wood accents, the brightly-lit restaurant evokes a laidback casualness that puts diners instantly at ease.
While perusing the menu, nibble on irresistible starters such as crispy House Fried Baby Squid (available in Garlic or Cajun flavours, RM10.90) and Southern Chicken Wings (Garlic or Cajun). Both are incredibly addictive thanks to their crunchy batter coating that's either garlicky or zingy hot.
 
 
I can't put my finger on it but there's something about Gumbo that I like. Laden with rice, beans, corn, shredded chicken and sausage, the heartwarming Southern broth had me slurping up to the last spoonful.
If you have kids in tow, the Pollock Fish Fingers with Garlic Fries would be a surefire hit. Bite into the light batter coating and be rewarded with sweet, flaky white fish that went like a dream with the house made mayo dip.
 
 
Conversation literally ceased the minute we were inundated by bags of king crabs, yabbies, meat crabs, Japanese snails, prawns and mussels in quick succession. Steamed with different house sauces: zesty lemon pepper, garlic butter or Southern hot sauce, each of us inevitably found a variant or two that hit the spot. There's no charge for mild or medium hot sauce while the O'ly Crab or Death Valley hot version will incur a token charge of RM5.
 
The dining experience was unabashedly fun with everyone throwing caution to the wind and getting their hands dirty in their concentrated attempts to crack, pry open and extract the sweet, chunky morsels from shells and carapaces.
 
According to Ooi, she sources and imports the seafood for Crab Factory from different countries to ensure maximum freshness. "Depending on your choice of seafood, the items are charged according to prevailing market prices. These are listed on our menu boards for easy reference."
 
Regardless of the seafood you choose, Ooi recommends substantiating each order with some 'bag buddies' (RM4-RM7.90): chicken sausages, potatoes, corn cob and button, king or enoki mushrooms.
Crab Factory is worth a visit for those who wants a change from local seafood preparations.

CRAB FACTORY ORIGINAL LOUISIANA BOIL, 21, Jalan SS2/64, 47300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tel: 03-7865 5850. Business hours: Mon, Wed & Thurs: 3pm - 11pm, Fri, Sat &Sun: 11am - 11pm. Close on Tuesdays.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

MALIQA'S LATEST MED-LEY

In Persian, maliqa means queen consort. It's also the name of a Mediterranean restaurant tucked away in a quiet nook of Bukit Damansara owned by Syed Salehuddin Wafa (he's one of half of the winning duo in 'The Apartment' reality TV show) and Izzy Ani Arope with several close buddies.
Opened about one and a half years ago, the restaurant has grown from strength-to-strength; a constant magnet for those seeking hearty Turkish, Greek or Italian specialities to satisfy their tastebuds. This is evident from the additional tables in the main dining area and by the owners' admission, the cosy lounge cum dining room upstairs catering is already quite a hit with big dining parties.
The menu has also undergone some changes from our last visit (over a year ago). With a new chef at the helm, we discover some unexpected gems while popular mainstays such as Moussaka (RM23.90) has been retained. I still recall that seamless collusion of cheesy and meaty layers with slightly charred eggplant slices.
On this visit, the curtain-raiser came in the form of Salmon Bruschetta (RM12.90) - toasted baguette slices topped with diced tomato and olives, and smoked salmon. We loved the intermingling of flavours and textures that built up our anticipation of the other dishes to come.
Luckily, the soulfully delicious Seafood Soup (RM10.90) didn't disappoint. Brimming with bright, sunny accents that are synonymous with the Mediterranean coast, we lapped up every spoonful of the tangy, creamy tomato-based broth spiked with paprika amidst succulent mouthfuls of mussel, calamari and fish.
Another deep-sea treasure that kept us riveted was the Baked Mussels & Cheese (RM26.90 half dozen). Served on the half shell and smothered with melted cheese, the tender, chewy mussels bestowed unexpected bursts of subtle sweetness and brininess on the palate from the inclusion of diced red capsicum and black olives.
The 'less is more' approach won the day for the Mushroom Risotto. Although one of the simplest and plainer dishes, we were smitten by the grains' soft, creamy but slightly nutty texture and rich, woody nuances.
A little acidity went a long way in raising the Salmon Steak with Lemon Cream Sauce (RM43.90) to notable heights. Cooked to blush-pink tenderness, the naturally oily fish went like a dream with the accompanying sauce.
Red meat lovers would enjoy Lamb Shank with Tomato Cream Sauce (RM39.90). The mildly gamey meat was suffused with deep-seated flavours and that degree of tenderness that held its own without it disintegrating at the prodding of our forks.
Regular crowd favourites such as Roast Chicken with Mushroom or Black Pepper Sauce (RM23.90), and the Maliqa House Steak (RM46.90) remained in the current menu; samplings of  both instantly reinforced their perennial popularity.
Dessert choices are rather limited. If Apple Crumble (RM8.90) and Tiramisu (RM8.90) don't appeal to you, the only alternative left is ice cream or you could check what is the day's dessert offering. A negligible shortcoming compared to the more than ample main offerings that await you at Maliqa.

Maliqa, 49, Jalan Medan Setia 1, Plaza Damansara, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2095 0002