Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Of Coffee & All-Day Breakfast @ Departure Lounge

Bagel Smoked Salmon- RM13.90; Mocha Latte- RM9; Cappuccino- RM8.50

Do you experience days when all you wanna do is laze on the couch, have a breakfast set for lunch, sip on good coffee and daydream? That's what I wanna be doing everyday!

7-item DIMY Breakfast- RM13.90; Fresh OJ- RM7.50; 5-item DIMY Breakfast- RM11.90; Mint Coffee

I have come to know about Departure Lounge since when they started in Aman Suria but never had a chance to give the place a visit as Aman Suria was never in my radar for food places (simply because I am not very familiar with it), but I have a colleague who loves Orange Juice (we call it 'OJ') and recommended Departure Lounge as having 'one of the best OJs around town'. I know I have to make a visit sometime soon somehow!

The nearest Departure Lounge would be D'sara Uptown as the outlet in Aman Suria has since closed down. I like Uptown but hate it for the rarity of a legal parking spot. Anyway, back to the OJ, coffee and all day breakfast oh yesss. The Do It My Way (DIMY) Breakfast has 3 options to choose from: 3 items, 5 items, 7 items and has everything from sausages, eggs, mushrooms, bacons, toasts, pancakes and grilled tomato. I also enjoyed the Smoked Salmon Bagel, surprisingly it was my first every bagel and I love the chewy texture and smoked salmon being my favourite salad/ sandwich accompaniment.

Salsa Wrap; Mocha Coffee; Mushroom Sandwich; Tuna Melt

The OJ was fresh but later on I found another cafe that offers better fresher OJ... so fresh it's like 'peeling it yourself'. The coffee is a must try as I learnt from a fellow coffee aficionado that they use 5 Senses coffee beans from Australia which apparently is a name associated to quality coffee beans. Yes, definitely beats having a quick cuppa from 3-in-1! If not for the difficulties of getting parking, I'll be 'parking' myself at Departure Lounge every morning for the great coffee, decent breakfast and cozy ambience.

I'm slowly finding and experiencing the wonders that is coffee. And proud to say I've already tried the most expensive coffee in the world- Kopi Luwak! More about that when I start on my Bali posts. Till then, have your coffee and drink it too ;-)

Departure Lounge
10, Jln SS21/39,
Damansara Utama,
47400 PJ.
Tel: 03- 7725 1682

[disclaimer: the opinions expressed here are based on my personal views, tastebuds and preference and may vary for others. please dont sue me, i dont have money. kthxbye.]

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Discovering Shanghai

Shanghai 'The Must See' View

Believe me that Shanghai has always been in the list of 'Cities I Want to Visit' besides London, NY and Paris. I hope you can imagine the excitement of having that struck off in the checklist, I could... but I guess I'm happy it's now off the list as I did not enjoy the city as much as I thought I would.

1. Shanghai's MUST See

Monument to The People's Hero at The Bund

It's a developed modern city, big cosmopolitan, boasting a 19 million population, tourists flocking from left right middle up and down... but that's about it.

The 'Famous' Bund at night

I do enjoy and am glad to have finally been able to visit The Bund, or known as 'Waitan' in Chinese. It is a stretch of 52 beautiful architectural buildings housing some of the most important agencies such as consulates and banks with a mix of architectural influence and styles such as Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Art Deco, Romanesque and Beaux-Arts. Cliched but true that if you've never visited The Bund, then you've never truly been to Shanghai!

2. Shanghai Streets

People everywhere!

If you have Anthropophobia which translates to 'fear of people', then Shanghai is not the place for you. Why? Above picture explains it all. Before embarking to Shanghai, we were abit afraid that communication will be a big problem as it's a known fact that Shanghainese has a different lingo but we were surprised to find out that there aren't much 'original' Shanghainese around, most service staff are from other parts of China (much less similar like KL, where most KL-ites here are from all over M'sia), so we did scrape through with the language.

Anthropophobic yet?

Shanghai streets are typically flooded with people especially the more famous areas like The Bund stretch and shopping areas (Nanjing Rd).

Nanjing Road

For shopping, Nanjing Rd is the most famous. Here, you'll find big and small brands but honestly- I could walk the whole street but still can't find anything to buy cos it's expensive even after conversion! For a city as big as Shanghai, I could only manage a grey basic tee from MNG. Oh woe is me.

* I was told that counterfeits and fake goods are sold in different areas, Nanjing Rd is for the more upmarket.

3. Shanghai Food

Xiao Long Bao is synonymous to Shanghai as Tom Yum is to Thailand. I had wanted to try the apparently world-famous Nanxiang Xiao Long Bao (believe it made a short entry to M'sia once at The Curve but exited soon after) but we were told by a M'sian friend on a 6-month internship stint in Shanghai not to waste stomach space at Nanxiang, there's a much better one just across the outlet in In Point Mall @ Wu Jiang Lu.

The outlet's called 'Yang's Fried Dumpling' and has an unmistakable pink signboard with long queue. Our friend said he usually gets his lunch here, takeaway of 6 dumplings at a time, cheap, tasty and filling. The skin base is crispy as it is pan fried and has a juicy pork meat filling, similar to xiao long bao, expect to slurp on loads of piping hot broth! At only 5 Yuan (or RM2.50) for 4 pieces of these yummy dumplings, Yang's Fried Dumpling is a MUST TRY.

Having a guide around is really useful as you don't have to waste stomach space for bad food! Before we had Yang's Fried Dumplings, our friend brought us to a round of seafood feasting which comes in trays and eat till you drop. I can't remember where it is exactly but it seems that the whole street offers the same thing. We feasted on mini lobsters, clams, abalone, mussels, grilled meat and more seafood... and it's only apt to finish the feast off with a Tsingtao. It's cheap too!

Cold noodles, wanton soup and streetside lamb satay

Assorted noodles and kebab in mantou

More dumplings and porky noodles

We chanced upon 'Shanghai First Food Store on Nanjing Rd and was really excited about it but I was really disappointed as there wasn't much in the building except a food court, supermarket and some fast food restaurants. So I wouldn't recommend coming here and don't even waste your time.

4. English, anyone?

Cliocoddie haha

No China experience will be complete without some laughs on their English translations. I supposed things have really improved since the Beijing Olympics and now the World Expo, in fact I am really surprised that most signboards on the streets and metro have an English translation to make it easier for us tourists but most eating places only have menus in Chinese, you'll be lucky if there're pictures you can point to while ordering! If not, McD's is always the safest ;-)

Next up....

Stay tune if you want to have a sneak peek of what's inside the M'sian Pavillion and the Shanghai World Expo 2010 ;-)

* awesome photos brought to you by calvingsc

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pao Xiang BKT

Bak Kut Teh in bowls not claypots- RM9.50 each; Mini fried crullers- RM4; Choy Sum with oyster sauce- RM8.50

For many of us, BKT is a comfort food. Most often than not, when we run out of ideas on what to eat or something that will please everyone (excluding non-Muslims, vegetarians, and non-pork eaters of course) BKT comes into mind.

Good BKT is hard to find. The really good ones are often hidden in the outskirts of Klang or somewhere else unconvenient (my favourite one is at Pandamaran but I haven't been back for a long time since I don't know the way), the mediocre ones are sprawling everywhere but there are also the bad ones with no herbal taste and diluted broth!

In my humble opinion, Pao Xiang is the name to be reckoned with when it comes to BKT at above mediocre taste and convenience. Originated from Tmn Berkeley Klang, the so-called 'Land of BKT' you can find a Pao Xiang outlet in Subang, Pavillion, 1 Utama, Puchong, Centro Mall... etc. Price-wise, it's affordable too if you do not wish to share, as they have set meal options at RM9.90. Ambience wise, the setting is clean and well ventilated, so if you have been eating mediocre BKT and sweating at the same time, perhaps it's time to try Pao Xiang!

Ok, taste-wise... we had a serving of Luan Kuat (soft ribs?), Sum Chan Bah (3 layers meat?) and intestines and managed to lick the bowls clean. The soup is thick and herbalish and comes heated too. The mini fried crullers are a recommended order as well as they taste different than the normal ones used for BKT.

Overall, it was a pleasant visit and I will definitely return if I am craving for this porky cuisine.

Pao Xiang Bak Kut Teh
No. 56, Jln SS15/4,
46500 Subang Jaya.
Tel: 03-56211779

[disclaimer: the opinions expressed here are based on my personal views, tastebuds and preference and may vary for others. please dont sue me, i dont have money. kthxbye.]

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Dummy's Guide to Hang Zhou

Hang Zhou West Lake

My recent trip to Hang Zhou- Shanghai was a very last minute booking. I had always wanted to pay a visit to the World Expo which Shanghai is hosting this year till 31st October 2010. Got the AA flight booked and accomodation arranged a month before July and the next thing you know, we're off to HZ! My previous only experience with the Chinese (aka 'Tong San' as our politicians would call it) territory was HK and Shenzhen when I was about 7-8 years younger.

Now I've really 'balik Tong San'! (literally meaning "went back to China"... where the M'sian Chinese should belong, if we're not happy with the country, said our circus-politicians).

1. Accomodation

My Inn Hang Zhou (我的客栈)- budget rooms on offer at as low as 99 Yuan (RM50/night)

As we are on a tight budget (especially when this is an unplanned trip! and since we were going to Bandung in August and Bali in September), we opted for a budget hotel- nothing fancy schmanzy, just enough to put our heads to rest and shower. My Inn HZ is a very affordable budget hotel, clean and is quite popular amongst the younger travellers within China itself as besides ourselves and a Korean boy, the rest of the check-in occupants were Chinese. The first 2 nights we got a small room (big enough to accomodate a double bed and some space for luggage and an ensuite bathroom). The final night when we rechecked-in upon returning from Shanghai, we were lucky to get a much bigger room (about 3 times the size of the initial room) for only 99 Yuan. Internet is available at 20 Yuan/day and there is a computer in every room.

My Inn Hang Zhou (我的客栈)
Address: 264, Qiutao Road (opposite of South Long Distance Bus Station or 'Chang Du Qi Che Nan Chang' 长度汽车南站)
Address in Chinese: 杭州市上城区秋涛路264号

2. Getting Around Hang Zhou

Motorized bikes are a norm on the streets, but despite that the air still feels stuffy and polluted

Cars- yes alot. People- yes alot. Bad air- yes alot. Rude cabbies- yes alot.

Just like another other cities outside your own country, the best and most convenient way to get around is by taxi/cab. There are plenty of cabs available and easily spotted (usually in Hyundai Sonata or Volkswagon) and they have a green light flashing 'For Hire' if they are available. Be mindful though that you cannot flag down cabs whereever you want as there are designated taxi stands in some areas. Most cabbies cannot speak English and cannot read road names translated into English (i.e. My Inn Hang Zhou (我的客栈- Wo De Ke Zhao) is situated at Qiutao Road or 秋涛路 in Chinese- you have to tell them in Chinese 'Qiutao Lu'). The cabs do charge by meter but there are some instances where they will charge at their discretion.

Don't be surprised if they start to scold you for not speaking Chinese! I don't think they understand the concept of 'looking like a Chinese but I am a tourist who can't speak your putong hua goddamnit!!' but lucky for us, we can hear/ speak enough to scrape through). Oh and point to note, even in hot scorching summer, the cabs don't turn on their air cond- you'll just have to be patient with hot stuffy air blowing your face.

3. Getting Out of Hang Zhou

Hang Zhou Train Station

The cheapest, fastest and most comfortable way to get to Shanghai from Hang Zhou is by train, or at least this is what every travel website would recommend. It is important that you do a little bit of homework on what travel time, train class, and destination you want to head to before going over to the train station ticket counter to get your tickets. As they have so many people to service to each minute, the attendants will not be too happy if you hog the line by not knowing what you want. Moreover, customer service in China is generally non-existant even if there's obviously someone dedicated to answering enquiries.

Not wanting to compromise on the level of comfort and hygiene, we opted for the most expensive train class at 64 Yuan/way (RM32) to Shanghai. It is recommended to get the Dong Che Zhu (动车组), as it is the fastest, clean and most comfortable, so do lookout for trains that carries the 'D' initials, for i.e. D5668. The journey to Shanghai takes about 1.5 hour and takes off/ arrive very punctually, so remember to be early at your departure gate!

Points to remember:
1. Ask for Hang Zhou Railway Station (Hang Zhou- 杭州). The other railway station in HZ is called Hang Zhou East (杭州东) which is known to be run down and old- so try to avoid arriving here if possible.
2. Ask for Shanghai South Railway Station (Shanghai Nan- 上海南).
3. At Hang Zhou Railway Station, there is a counter window that can be easily differentiated as it has a English signboard that says "Ticket Window". If you cannot speak Chinese, do queue at that counter instead as it is dedicated to tourists.

Hang Zhou Railway Station ( Hang Zhou Hua Che Zhan- 杭州火车站)
Located at Shangcheng District

Shanghai South Railway Station (Shanghai Nan Zhan Hua Che Zhan- 上海南站火车站)
Located at Xuhui District

Train timetable-

4. Food at Hang Zhou

Local streetside delights- pan fried dumplings and rice noodles

Much to our dismay, food is not as easily to come by in Hang Zhou, perhaps we were a little picky on the level of hygiene at some stalls. Dumplings are a common staple for the Chinese and it's something we would love to give it a try too! Food is generally cheap though.

PTime Dessert: Red Bean Ice with Condensed Milk- oh yums; Mango Dessert; Guilin Gou with fruits and milk

Looks very much like a homecook meal- available at Intime (Yintai) Department Store food court

Hotpot option?

The Chinese love their hotpot or steamboat. So if you're a fan of swishing meat, boiling soup and dipping meatballs into the many types of sauces, then you can try Paradise Hot Pot as it offers decent hotpot and clean establishment.

Paradise Hot Pot
Address: 501, Qingtai Road
Address in Chinese: 清泰街501号

Mini lobsters; Steamed prawns; Fish and toufoo soup

Steamed scallops; Grilled lamb in skewers; Octopus; Bamboo clams

This is a seafood dinner place that we stumbled upon by chance while taking a walk near the hotel. It is known as Jinjiang Seafood Street and as the name suggests, one whole street dedicated to pick-your-own seafood. While we are not sure which shop offers the best deal, there just seems to be equal distribution of diners for all the shops. Food is good and cheap here, so remember to put this in your list if you're looking for something local.

Jinjiang Seafood Street (近江海鲜美食街)
Address: Jinjiang Street (next to Jinjiang Trust Mart)
Address in Chinese: 近江路 (近江好又多超市旁边)

5. Shopping at Hang Zhou

For grocery or convenience:

Trust Mart (similar to Wal-Mart)
1-3 Fengqi Road (凤起路1-3号)
1, Jinjiang Street (近江路1号)
Huang Long Sports Centre, 138 Shuguang Road (曙光路138号黄龙体育中心)

For shopping:

Intime (Yintai) Department Store
530, Yan'an Road (延安路530号)

Hang Zhou Department Store Mansion
260, Yan'an Road (延安路260号)

Hang Zhou Tower Shopping Center 杭州大厦购物中心
1, Wulin Square (武林广场1号 )

6. Hang Zhou Scenery

Hang Zhou Night scene and the famous West Lake

Hang Zhou is famous for the West Lake (西湖 Xī Hú) and have been immortalized in many poets', painters', artists' works. It is best to come at night when the city lights are up and the dark background exudes more feelings than a bright sunny day. See the famous pagoda across the lake and the one that I love most is the lighted hills at the background of the lotus lake. It's quite nice to take a walk after dinner here and you will see that even the locals love it here.

Point to remember: Do your research on where you want to visit. If you can't speak Chinese, it's best to print along travel cards with the Chinese name of the place so that the cab driver knows where you want to go.

Next up....

* awesome photos from calvingsc

Friday, September 3, 2010

Nero Fico @ Damansara Heights

Insalata di Cesare Romaine- RM30

Mention Italian and instantly the Nero Group of Restaurants will be in mind. About a month back, I unexpectedly paid a visit to Nero Fico, an Italian restaurant brought to you by the very same people that brings Nero Vivo and Nero Teca to the dining scene in KL.

For appetizers (I'm not a fan of raw greens but I could tolerate with Ceasar salad), we had the Ceasar Salad- which is quite a common thing in every Western menu. Nero Fico's version has the usual fresh crispy Romaine lettuce tossed in Cesar dressing, topped with anchovies, parmesan flakes, poached egg and beef bacon in cube blocks. I'd rather the more simple bacon streaks or bits that doesn't require much of jaw exercise, really... & yes, RM30 is too expensive for a plate of raw fiber.

Veal Scaloppine alla Valdostana- RM68

The menu is small, there were only about 7 types of poultry mains and I didn't want to go for pastas, so I opted for the veal chop. 'Veals' are meat of young cattles and is known to have tender texture. I went for my usual 'Medium' and was quite pleased with the outcome- pinkish and juicy meat. The veal chop came with turkey ham and fontina cheese (not for the lactose intolerant as the cheesy taste is strong) and served with rosemary sauce and roasted potatoes.

Homemade Ravioli- RM26; Pizza Valtellina- RM30

The Homemade Ravioli is stuffed with crab meat and supposingly served with some kind of mushroom truffle sauce but it was too bitter for consumption and we had it sent back to the kitchen. Not sure if the chef re-cook it or tweaked the sauce, but the second serving was alot better.

We love the parma ham pizza from Il Padrino and tried our luck on the Pizza Valtellina hoping it'll be something similar. The Nero Fico's version uses bresaola instead of parma ham. Bresaola is air-drief salted beef, named after the originating place Valtellina (a valley in the alps of Northern Italy) and is thicker in nature compared to paper thin parma. Essentially, the Pizza Valtellina has tomato, mozarella, bresaola, rocket salad and parmesan. This would be a better deal compared to the equally expensive Ceasar Salad.

Nero Fico has great ambience, dim lights, dark layout, candles and smell of wine with live band later in the evening as well. Just like any fine Italian places in KL, this will set you back a couple of hundreds for a fine wine & dine evening where ang moh is ready at your service instead ;-)

Nero Fico
Lot G-01 Ground Floor,
Wisma Perintis,
47, Jalan Dungun,
Damansara Heights 50490 KL.
Tel: 03-2089 5312

[disclaimer: the opinions expressed here are based on my personal views, tastebuds and preference and may vary for others. please dont sue me, i dont have money. kthxbye.]
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