Monday, January 31, 2011

WHEN TIGERS WEEP



'Busaba' means flower and grace in Thai. It's also the newest Thai restaurant to spring up about two months ago at the upmarket Bangsar Shopping Centre; its elegant and tastefully furnished ambience encapsulating the very essence of its graceful name.

Part of the Sea Cuisine Group of Restaurants that is known for its hospitality with a heart philosophy and fine establishments such as Celadon, Flying Chillies, Amarin Heavenly Thai, Basil and Good Evening Bangkok among others in the Klang Valley and Absolute Thai in Singapore, Busaba is the group's 14th outlet.

Marketing director Elyna Tan states that Sea Cuisine's restaurants boast different brand names and interior concepts as each is distinctly conceptualized by Thanee Laivarintr, one of the co-owners who happens to be an architect cum interior designer.

It is one of the few stylishly chic interior outlets that cater for families with prices that won't burn that big a hole in one's pocket. Unless of course you decide to splurge on premium specialities such as Baked Oysters with XO Sauce and Fresh Oysters served with Home-made Thai Sauce.

The head chef Sonthaya Kundet, 40, from Southern Thailand keeps a close eye on food quality and is currently initiating fellow counterpart Ubon Kaiyamung, 38, to ensure Busaba's specialities are up to mark.

So what's good here? I'd recommend you start with Thai Iced Tea, a cold, triple-layered concoction of black tea, milk and palm syrup. The subtly sweet and milky drink is perfect for dousing your palate that would be set ablaze by the extensive selection of Thai dishes.

Prime your palate with Mieng Kam, a traditional appetizer of fresh Thai betel leaves filled and rolled with seven condiments and piquant Thai shrimp paste. You'd enjoy the patische of different flavours and textures that burst forth in your mouth.

I can't recall when was the last time I had a good Tom Yam Prawn but was delighted to discover the orange-hued broth is well-balanced in all its requisite spicy, sour and briny aspects; brimming with the invigorating nuances of lime, lemongrass and chilli in each spoonful.

It's impossible to eat Thai food without steamed fragrant jasmine rice and in this case, it serves as the base for the accompanying piquant curries and robust delicacies.

Your salivary glands will go into overdrive once the stimulating Thai Mango Salad served with Crispy River Prawn hit your palate. Complemented by the rich Green Curry Chicken served with Salted Fish, it's guaranteed to send you up onto cloud nine.

Another unique dish is Sizzling Beef Striploin with Northern Thai Sauce, popularly known among the Thais as Weeping Tiger. Its unusual name originated from Thai folklore which believed that tigers were the only creatures that hunt and eat cows. However, when men came along and started partaking beef, the tigers wept as they no longer have cows to devour.

Nothing beats a bowl of Thab Tim Krob or Chilled Water Chestnut with Jackfruit and Fresh Coconut Strips in Coconut Milk; the sweet coconut milk-based broth filled with ruby-red dices of crunchy water chestnuts, strips of fresh jackfruit and young coconut goes down a real treat after all that tantalising fare. The notable Mango with Sticky Rice left us with sweet memories of our first visit to Busaba.

BUSABA Heavenly Thai

F15, 1st Floor

Bangsar Shopping Centre

285, Jalan Maarof

Bukit Bandaraya

59000 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-2093 7708

Fax: 03-2093 7710

www.seacuisine.com.my

Thursday, January 06, 2011

SPRING IN MY STEP







Food and festivals are inseparable in Malaysia. Every occasion is a perfect excuse to feast and fete family and friends at the table.

With the Year of the Rabbit just around the corner, Chinese New Year feasts are already being served at major restaurants and hotels around town. But how does a menu that costs RM7688 taste like?

Thanks to Sidney Kan of Big Boys Oven who managed to wrangle an invitation for me, I found myself sitting down to a luxurious lunch of that epic price! At the Ritz Carlton's Li Yen and in the hallowed company of Dato' Jimmy Choo and Datin, and his protege, Fion no less!
Colour your CNY celebrations with some Abalone Yee Sang

After a warm welcome by PR Exec Oliver Ellerton, lunch got off to a rousing start as we picked up our pair of oversized chopsticks to loh hei (stir up) the dish of Prosperity Sliced Abalone Yee Sang - that ubiquitous rainbow-coloured platter which has come to herald all things good and prosperous for us Chinese in conjunction with the Lunar New Year.

According to Chef Leung, the saucy concoction to complement Li Yen's Yee Sang consists of peach jam, plum sauce and lemon juice while an array of fresh and pickled vegetable, fruits and other condiments are finely shredded to form the multi-hued palette.

Earlier Dato' Jimmy commented how much he was looking forward to the lunch and that Malaysia's Chinese food is on par with that of Hong Kong.

When asked what are his favourite festive dishes, Dato' picked roast pork, fah kau (fish maw) and sea cucumber. He said, "My Dad was a fantastic cook. As an apprentice, he has to cook for everyone at work. I recall one of his speciality dishes was sea cucumber."

It was a novel experience to savour the Stir-fried Superior Shark's Fin with Crab Meat. This is one instance where you can relish the glistening, golden needles of shark's fin with plump crab meat and crunchy beansprouts separately from the superior broth or partake everything together in one traditional soupy concoction. Regardless of which ever option you decide on, the chef advocates a little brandy to be added to the delicacy for a fuller, headier taste dimension. I love my shark's fin laced with brandy - flambe if possible!

Golden needles...shark's fin with chunks of crab meat


Take a momeent to appreciate the Barbecued Crispy Suckling Pig Stuffed with Glutinous Rice before you sink your teeth into it. This is one delicacy that's a joy to eat but definitely a pain to prepare. According to Chef Leung, it took the combined efforts of the Dim Sum, BBQ and Hot Kitchen teams to ensure this dish turned out well.

Simply sublime...a multi-layered and textural treat


Instead of just a layer of crisp, crackling pig skin, you'd be treated to a multi-layered textural mouthful that combines rich crispiness with the tender stickiness of steamed glutinous rice and a thin layer of cottony soft pau (steamed wheat dumpling) skin. Superb!

Braised Abalone with Sea Cucumber is a classic dish that finds much favour during the CNY period as hoi sum denotes 'happiness' and pau yue means 'smooth progress guaranteed' in Cantonese. Since the ingredients are horrendously costly, both Phoenix Bee and I were naturally appalled at the sight of any leftover of these two premium items!
Succulent and sumptuous sea cucumber with abalone

The inherent sweetness of the Steamed Areolate Coral Grouper with Superior Soya Sauce was apparent once we sampled its delicately soft and snow-white flesh.
Fishing for compliments?

While the fish hailed from the Aussie deep sea, the large king of shellfish for Baked Lobster with Supreme Stock came from somewhere closer to home - Sabah, Malaysia's very own seafood paradise. Now the dish's description is somewhat of a misnomer as the lobster was actually stir-fried over high heat rather than baked. It's a tricky process that requires careful handling or else the shellfish would turn out tough and rubbery once overcooked.
Luxurious Lobster to tantalise you

One rustic offering that I'd always associate with CNY at home is Steamed Claypot Rice with Chinese Waxed Meat. Of course, our home-style version is cooked using a regular rice cooker but the result is just as pleasing. Li Yen's was definitely more indulgent with waxed meat and liver sausages, waxed duck and waxed pork slices thrown into the equation. Hearty and simple, one can easily eat bowlfuls of it ... especially with a dollop of sambal belacan!

Waxed meat, duck & two types of Chinese sausages to be mixed into the claypot rice


Chef Leung shows off his sweet handiwork

Bringing the curtains down on our meal was Deep-fried Nian Gao with Yam, another perennial CNY delight of deep-fried sticky brown glutinous rice cake sandwiched with yam slices in batter that is designed to sweeten one's Spring Festival celebration and heighten good prospects be it for studies or business.

Golden ingots of Nian Gao to sweeten the Rabbit Year

Well, I for one am certainly keeping my fingers crossed for everything good to hop in with the Year of the Bunny!

For reservations, call LI YEN, The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, tel: 03- 2142 8000.