Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SAMPLINGS OF MIGF 2014 ON FOURTEENTH

 
A little cupcake adorned with my photo on it! That sweet welcome really took the cake when I joined Abel Nelson Nang and his A-team at Samplings on Fourteenth for an exclusive preview of the restaurant's Malaysia International Gourmet Festival 2014 (MIGF2014) menu.

  This Berjaya Hotels & Resorts (BHR) team don't do things in half measures and the whole restaurant passage leading into the main dining area was covered with floor to ceiling multi-coloured fabric, forming a narrow passage way that opens out into a small cocktail area. We were feted to cocktails and mocktails with dainty canapes and nibbles prior to dinner.

A festive red&black theme was the key element of the long L-shaped dining tables; yards of black satin with gold runner offset against huge arrangements of long-stemmed red roses and towering glass jars of chillies and condiments. To complete the setting, we found a personalised menu card, a jar of candy and a mini press kit placed on each of our designated seat.

Amuse bouche was a piece of tender cod with some sweet-salty soyabean tapenade atop a slice of soft, succulent and juicy tomato which made an amazing mouthful when Paired with New Zealand's Sixty Drops Sauvignon Blanc; rated one of NZ top 50 wines.

The subsequent trio of appetisers won us over with its imaginative yet delicate accents. Lightly creamy with the inherent shellfish nuance discernibly noticeable, the rock lobster gazpacho was refreshing yet has enough richness to leave us satisfied. Equally delicate was the layered lobster terrine with fennel and asparagus, redolent with herbaceous and sweet overtones. Completing the trinity was a salad of Asian pear and sliced lobster dotted with fennel and basil puree.

  Rustic chickpea puree primped up with a whole fried quail egg and dots of saffron oil seduced our palate with its warmth and nourishing goodness. It was especially comforting for me since I was nursing a stuffy nose that night.
The soup was followed by sliced smoked duck breast, topped with foamy vanilla emulsion and fricassee of mushroom. I loved everything about the dish; from the chewy and toothsome textures of both the duck and mushroom as well as the enticingly smoky, sweet and earthy nuances of the ingredients. Paired with a young Chianti red, the dainty serving really packed in some truly distinct flavours.
Service was evenly synchronised throughout the eve, from the placement and removal of the tableware to the topping up of our water and wine goblets.
Man of the hour...Abel Nelson Nang in full heartwarming mode

Steamed salmon Napoleon made for sumptuous mouthfuls, paired with some squid ink pasta (the texture went a tad soft since I took so long to snap pics of the dish). A dollop of salsa verde with grapefruit added bursts of juicy fruitiness to the ensemble whilst the saffron-scented broth provided just the right amount of moistness. The optional main of Wagyu beef cheek sounded way more interesting as my dining companion across the table couldn't stop gushing over the coffee sauce that complemented his beef.
Dessert was pretty as a picture with classic Valrhona chocolate brownie topped with hazelnut mousse accompanied by refreshingly tangy-sweet passionfruit ice cream. Complemented by fresh berries, the luscious dulcet smooth chocolate block was well-matched by the rich, nutty mousse. It was bordering on decadence but the guilt-trip was lessened by the dainty serving.


 

 Full MIGF 2014 Festival Menu
(Available until 31 October 2014)
RM398++ per person with wine
RM198++ per person without wine
 Light Festival Menu
RM158++ per person without wine
For reservations, call Samplings on the Fourteenth, tel: 03-2117 8131. Address: 14th Floor Berjaya Times Square Hotel, Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur


Saturday, October 11, 2014

A LI YAA - A SRI LANKAN SHOWCASE


My first encounter with Sri Lankan cuisine was at the Hilton Colombo which serves the widest selection curries, sambars and delicious delicacies native to this Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Throughout my week-long stay, almost every day saw a different array of tempting dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner that I fell deeper in love with every bite I took.
Over an indulgent dinner at A LI YAA, I rediscovered those bright and aromatic flavours when the Seafood Kothu (RM28) hit the palate. A comfort food staple among Sri Lankans and an ingenious way of using leftover string hoppers, the fine spaghetti-like string hoppers made from unprocessed rice flour are fried with prawn, fish and vegetables.
Comfort food for Sri Lankans
As a country with the longest known history and a culture that encompasses the richness of language, religion and food, Sri Lanka's culinary essence is what A LI YAA brings to the table. A LI YAA which means elephant boasts a homely interior of rough-hewn and solid concrete bars coupled with raw, tactile walls and mellow lighting. The paintings and creative photographic works of Malaysia’s homegrown artists depicting the Sutra Dance Theatre’s artistic director Dato’ Ramli Ibrahim. are displayed for sale with proceeds going to the ‘Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage’ in Sri Lanka.
Chef Yogeshwaran Selladoreh helms the kitchen team while manager Sangeethan Sivagnanam leads attentive and dedicated waiters in ensuring diners are well looked after.
Aromatically spiced, the half round pieces of Fish Cutlets (RM16) were wickedly scrumptious as was the Sri Lankan Sambal Set (RM12). Served with a plate of crunchy papadums, the quartet of seeni (spiced sliced onion), katta (ground chilli and spice paste with salted Maldivian fish), pol (grated coconut) and karupillay (curry leaves) was so addictive.
The Lamb Rotti Rolls (RM16) − spice-marinated lamb and onions wrapped up in bread and deep-fried to seal in their piquant flavours also got us raving and hankering for more.
Our foray along the island’s spice route saw us savouring Chicken Peratal (RM18), marinated chicken & potato in a heady blend of traditional Sri Lankan spices. The delectable chunks were a match made in heaven with Plain Doosara Rotti (RM8), warm grilled flatbreads served with grated coconut, onion and mild chilli.
Colombo combo or go solo with the Mutton Paal Poriyal
Just when we though it couldn’t get any better, along came Mutton Paal Poriyal (RM26), incredibly tender lamb in devilish aromatic spices that even Hassan from that Hundred Foot Journey flick would approve of. If you opt for the Colombo Combo (RM32), you’d be replete as it comes served with rice, gravy, mixed vegetable of the day and seeni sambal.
I don’t have the patience to fuss over Sri Lankan Crab Curry (RM13.90 per 100gm) but hubs obviously loves it so I reckon the darkish curry is strictly for die-hard crabby fans.  
Prawn sothi-licious
My preference slants towards the mildly spiced, coconut milk-based creamy Prawn Sothi (RM28) scented with lemongrass, garlic, shallots and curry leaves and the robust Fish Curry (RM26); two dishes that evoked wonderful memories of my sojourn.
Brinjal Moju (RM12), deep-fried sliced brinjal with spices and a dash of vinegar is simply moreish and one of the better brinjal dishes I had in a while.
Touted as Sri Lankan’s version of nasi lemak, the Chicken Lumprais (RM24) is eclipsed by the earlier parade and tastes ho-hum. The baked rice wrapped in banana leaf is accompanied by your choice of a devilled dish from the menu, a sunny-side egg with roasted cashews and the day’s veg.
Sunshiny cheer in the form of an egg added to your sweet appam (above) or 
sprinkled with jaggery (bottom)
Things look up again with some Sweet Appams (4pcs for RM20) dusted with jaggery (unrefined palm sap sugar). You can also ask for plain, egg or sweet coconut milk versions. Even better is Vatilaapam (RM8) – a rich pudding of coconut milk, brown palm sugar, eggs and cinnamon to leave you on a sublime sugary high.
Sweet surrender...the custard-soft Vatilaapam

A LI YAA Island Restaurant & Bar, 48 G & M, Jalan Medan Setia 2, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: +603-2092 5378

Friday, September 26, 2014

QURESHI - A ROYAL CULINARY PASSAGE TO INDIA

 
Dum - large claudrons filled with rice, meat, vegetables and spices then sealed and cooked to produce an unbelivably delicious one-dish meal to feed large groups of workers - was once a common dish until the 18th century Nawabs took a fancy to it. Fast forward to 200 years later, two brothers Mohammed Ashfaque and Mohammed Irfan Qureshi who are from the Nawabs' family of chefs rediscovered the secret of dum cuisine and refined it to majestic new heights.

The latest addition to the Qureshi restaurant empire is ensconced within the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (KLGCC). Opened during Ramadan this year, director Muhammad Ahsan Ali Qureshi shares how his father have carved a hallowed reputation for himself as a chef over four decades, and his four other brothers are emulating the family scion. "I'm the only one out of the kitchen and in the frontline," says Ahsan with a smile.
 
 As we sampled the restaurant's house drinks: Thandai (RM15) - a refreshing blend of milk with cardomom, almonds and saffron; Ambi Panna (RM15) - a summer cooler of raw mango, cumin and mint; Nimboo Nariyal (RM15) - coconut lemonade with tender coconut and mint and Lassi (RM15) - mango with yoghurt, Ahsan delves into the secrets of Qureshi's success. 
Brothers-in-arms...Ashfaque & Irfan Qureshi
"What makes us different is our meticulous and elaborate cooking methods, using handpicked spice mixtures and royal recipes of Mughal empresses. Our battalion of chefs are specialists of different dishes: kebabs, tandoor specialities, briyanis and dums while consistency is ensured from the standard spice blends the brothers have formulated and are produced in the family's own spice factories in India. Having established our footing in India and the Middle East, we're planning to expand further to Singapore, Indonesia and Australia with KL serving as this region's main outpost."

Seated in the private dining room, we got a good view that encompasses the opulently furnished dining area that can seat up to 85 persons. Even at its busiest period, the noise is noticeably muted by the plush carpeting, curtain drapery and linen-clad tables.
The 'star' dish (for me at least) has to be Tandoori Chicken (RM35) - a whole spring chicken marinated in aromatic tandoori spices and grilled to perfection. The marinade's deep-seated accents have permeated the moist, juicy meat so thoroughly that the juicy meat tasted sublime.

 
 After hearing Ashan waxing lyrical about the dum speciality of Raan E Qureshi (RM100), our curiosity was satisfied when the leg of mutton arrived. Once the sealed dough wrapping encasing the mutton was removed, we caught wonderful whiffs of the meat. Unsurprisingly, the meaty chunks were fall-of-the-bone tender, having been marinated in malt vinegar for 24 hours. Stuffed with onion, cheese and mint then cooked dum-style for 2-3 hours, it was served with roasted mushroom.
Good enough to be eaten on its own, the pot of Dum Lucknowi Biryani (RM45) also came sealed under a layer of dough. Again, when the covering was removed, a most appetising aroma rose from the mound of fluffy basmati rice perfumed with saffron, spices and marinated lamb; enticing us to dig in with gusto.


Simmered in rich, bright vermillion tomato cream flavoured with fenugreek, the sumptuous Butter Chicken (RM35) tasted lush on the palate; the thick, unctuous gravy enveloping our palate with a multitude of sweet, savoury and spicy nuances.
We mopped up the irresistible sauce with crisp yet flaky Lache Paratha (RM12) - swirly, thin mint-flecked paratha. The delicious flat breads also paired splendidly with the signature Dal Bukhara/Qureshi (RM30) - mildly hot stewed black lentils with tomatoes and aromatic spices, finished with butter and cream. You can douse the heat somewhat with Raita (RM10) - the restaurant's classic side dish of homemade yoghurt with cucumber (diners also have a choice of boondi, pineapple, tomato, mint or potato).
Dessert is taken equally seriously here but they are worth returning for. Try the Classic Rasmalai (RM20) - cottage cheese dumplings in saffron and pistachio reduced milk which boasted a slightly crumbly texture at first bite but soon yielded to dulcet smoothness in a twinkling.

Our initial skepticism was banished upon a bite of the Warm Carrot Halwa (RM15). Made from coarsely grated carrot cooked in milk instead of sugar, it is complemented by some super creamy, mildly sweet pistachio kulfi.


Spongy without the usual cloying sweetness is Gulab Jamun (RM20). Presented in a cocktail glass filled with diced fresh fruits, it's the perfect treat to conclude your outing to Qureshi on a sugary high.

QURESHI - Ground Floor, East Wing, Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, no.10, Jalan 1/70D, Off Jalan Bukit Kiara, KL. Tel: 03-2011 1007. Opening hours; Daily except Mondays from 1130am-230pm; 630pm-1030pm.