Saturday, 24 May 2008

Good food hunting @ My Elephant, Happy Mansion

It’s a Friday night. One by one they arrived, weary from the rigours of the work week. As heavy notebooks and work accoutrements were cast aside in a pile at the end of the table, sighs of relief were almost audible. Having unburdened the week’s worries to a corner, symbolically at least; countenance brightened, cheered, by the prospect of spending the next couple of hours just hanging out with old friends.

Chatters ensued. Seven voices competing for attention… pouring out the latest gossips, work frustrations et. al. Interspersed with “Have you heard from so and so…..?” “You know ah.. that day ah…“ were comments of ..… “How on earth did you find out about this place?" …… "Oh, I remember this place used to be a shop selling 'chap fun' (economy rice)"

Indeed, how on earth did we find out about a restaurant called ‘My Elephant’? This place has earned many accolades amongst the food blogging community. For the longest time A and I wanted to try it but didn’t get round to it. What better time to introduce our Chee Muis (and Di Di) to it then when we celebrate May birthdays?

The restaurant is located at the ground floor of Happy Mansion flats in Section 17. Tucked between the old shop lots is the elegantly renovated ‘My Elephant’ Hmmm… Elegant Elephant! Is that what you call a fashionable pachyderm..? :) Now, that is quite an apt description of the restaurant, simple quiet elegance.

My Elephant serves Thai cuisine. Perennial favourites like Tom Yam, fish cakes, green curry makes its appearance on the menu, but also dishes with interesting names and combinations like snow fish, roast duck curry with seasonal fruit piqued our interest.

For drinks, we had the Pandan cooler, which is pandan flavoured syrup with some seeds which name escapes me but it resembles frog spawns and KraChiap cooler, a refreshing roselle tea.

(Pandan cooler with frog spawns :)

Making an entrance to our table that night was Plah Meuk Chup Peng Tod – tempura squid served with semi sweet thai chilli sauce, Tod Man Piah – deep fried thai fish cakes. The squid was fried in tempura batter and curry leaves fried with gives it a fragrant curry smell.The fish cakes were nice but quite ordinary, can’t go much wrong there. (Tod Man Piah – deep fried Thai fish cakes)

The menu described Yum Hed as a mushroom, mint leaves and purple onion salad. But the salad that arrived had prawns, squids, shredded mango, carrots amongst other stuff, nary a shred of purple onion to be seen. It was only after we polished it off that A remarked, ‘Hey… didn’t we order mushroom and onion salad… that didn’t seem like it, did the kitchen get our order wrong?’ So we called the waiter over and showed him the picture of the dish! Hah! We got evidence! Turns out that WAS the mushroom and onion salad. So what is the difference between that and Yum Mamuang, the mango and assorted seafood salad? Oh well, we enjoyed the dish so we weren’t going to quibble over it.
(Yum Hed - mushroom, mint leaves and purple onion salad) seriously does it look like a mushroom and onion salad?

Brown rice mixed with white was served. It makes a nice change from the white rice. The fluffy rice was an excellent accompaniment to the Choo Chee Goong, a semi dry Thai yellow curry with prawns. The prawns were fried in batter then cooked in the curry sauce. Coconut cream was drizzled over it when served. The sauce was delicious, thick and creamy and we loved it so much that when the waiter wanted to clear the plate when the prawns were all gone, we stopped him. We wanted to mop up the sauce with more rice :) (Choo Chee Goong – semi dry Thai yellow curry with prawns)

The Snow Fish was the restaurant’s best seller and came highly recommended. The sea bass was baked encased in a layer of snowy white coarse salt. Scrap off the salt and skin the fish. You’ll find a treasure of wonderfully moist and succulent flesh underneath infused with the flavours of galangal and lemongrass stuffed into the belly cavity. (Snow Fish – salt baked fish)

The Thai curry is usually the signature dish of a Thai restaurant. We opted for the Gaeng Phed, Thai red curry with chicken. It did not disappoint. Tender chicken cubes and vegetables soaked in the creamy curry. My only grouse was that there was too little vegetables in the curry. (Gaeng Phed – Thai red curry with chicken)

Instead of Tom Yam, we settled for Tom Som. It is a clear galangal, lemongrass and lime soup boiled with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, coriander and slices of starfruit! The clear soup can be deceptive. One sip and you feel the kickback of the fiery bird's eye chillies and eye wincing sourness all the way down your throat. While I can handle the spiciness, I found the soup too sour for my liking. (Tom som – clear galangal lemongrass – lime soup with aromatic Thai herbs)

I liked the assorted vegetables we ordered, didn’t note down the Thai name. It is has snow peas ,capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms and interestingly, lotus roots. (Pan Fried Assorted Vegetables)

The jungle vegetables – Paku leaves was an after thought. We ordered it after we finished the rest of the dishes, much to our regret. The vegetables left a slimy aftertaste in the mouth due to the sap. According to the boss, it is normal of paku leaves, but my friends who eat it often enough to taste the difference beg to differ. That dish was left untouched. (Jungle vegetables – paku leaves fried with dried prawns and belacan)

We were disappointed when informed that the restaurant does not serve any dessert. I thought any Thai restaurant worth its salt will at least have Tub Tim Krob – red ruby water chestnut in coconut milk. Ah well… an excuse to adjourn elsewhere for dessert and conversation.

The entire meal for seven costed RM182.60. The most expensive dish we ordered was the Snow Fish which costs RM36. The rest ranges for RM9-RM15 and only RM2.50 each for the drinks. You won’t break a bank dining at My Elephant.

My Elephant
Address: Block C-G4 Happy Mansion Section 17/1346400 Petaling Jaya
Tel : 012 328 5028 ~ Patrick
Business Hours: Tuesday to Sunday (except Sunday lunch)
Lunch: 12.00 p.m. - 2.30 p.m.Dinner: 6.00 p.m. - 10.00 p.m.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Sisters eat @ Canton-i, 1 Utama

From the operators of Dragon-I, we have Canton-I. What is next? Taiwan-I?

Canton-I serves Hong Kong cuisine. Even the layout of the restaurant reflects that of a Hong Kong eatery. The open kitchen behind glass features on one side of the wall, tables jammed close together takes up the rest of the restaurant. There are mirrors along one side of the wall in an attempt to make the place seems more spacious. But it is still cramped. The aisles between tables are very narrow. Woe betides you if you are of ample girth and have to weave your way in from the front to the far end of the restaurant during peak dining period.

Available on the menu is a selection of rice, noodles, dim sum and desert. Both A and I ordered the wan tan noodles. The dry version cost RM11.80++ and the soup version RM10.80++. Eh? Why the different pricing? We cannot comprehend the logic of charging one extra ringgit for the dry version. Soy sauce costs RM1 meh?

(Wantan Mee - Soup Version)

But the wan tan noodles are good; springy with a nice chewy bite to it. The wan tans that come with the noodles are even better. Unlike the hawker variety which are skinny, filled with a miserly gob of minced meat, this is fat with chock full of prawny goodness in it. The prawns are firm and bouncy. Ah! Just like how they have it in Hong Kong. But then it is RM11.80++ vs RM3.50 at the stalls ~.^

(BBQ Pork Ribs)

We had a plateful of BBQ Pork Ribs to share. My initial thought when the plate arrived at the table was ‘For RM22.80++, there isn’t much of these pieces of oinkers’ The ribs are tender with a nice layer of fat on it but I found the sauce a tad too sweet.

'nai cha'

Didn’t like the ‘nai cha’ milk tea, it was still drinkable when hot, but once cooled, it tasted like mud flavoured Carnation milk.

I saw bowls of steaming congee served at other tables. Looks yummy. Would definitely order that on my next trip there.

I would give it thumbs up for the Wan Tan noodles and Wan Tan. The best I have tasted so far (must qualify my statement) in KL.

Canton –I
G-208, 2nd Floor, 1 Utama Shopping Centre, Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya.
Tel: 03-77297888 (Monday to Friday – 11.00am to 10pm. Saturday to Sunday – 10.30am onwards)

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Strawberry delights @ Big Red Strawberry Farm

What comes to mind when you think of Camerons? Tea, vegetables, flowers (ok forget flowers for the moment, they are not edible)..... strawberries!!!!!

Strawberries thrive in the cool highland weather in Camerons. Along the road from Brinchang up to Equatorial where we stayed, we encountered many strawberry farms. The farms here seem to have caught up with the concept of self picking' or 'self plucking' as some advertised it.

Tourist buses are parked along the road as whole gaggle of tourists poured out and trooped into the farms for a varocious bout of shopping and camwhoring.

I guess we were no different. We joined the throng at the Big Red Strawberry Farm. Coincidentally, A found out that it is owned by her old schoolmate. Hmm... why we got no discount one?
Big Red Strawberry Farm grows strawberries and lettuce hydroponically. The whole area covers 4 acres. The farm is clean and well organised if not somewhat clinical looking.

But the treat that we looked forward to was the cafe at the farm. Strawberry juice, strawberry smoothie, strawberry icecream, strawberries with cream, waffle with strawberries, strawberry muffin, scones with strawberry jam.........etc etc......I wish we could try them all.
The strawberry juice was a steal at RM3.90 cup. I absolutely adore strawberries and cream. It was one of my favourite during summers when I lived in UK. This cafe served the concoction with a drizzle of syrup and piped whipped cream. While the strawberries are juicy enough, I didn't like it with whipped cream, it tastes like eating air. Strawberries must be served with thick fresh cream but *sigh* I guess we don't get that luxury in Malaysia.
Finally, we managed to sample some scones in Camerons. The scones were lightly heated and had a nice crumbly texture. They were very generous with the strawberry jam. It would have been nice to have fresh cream, but I guess whipped cream is as good as it gets.

We went away quite satisfied with our strawberry fix.

Big Red Strawberry Farm
Located in Brinchang town. Same location as Cactus Valley. From the main road, turn into road where Star Regency is located. Take a right at the junction and go in about 200 metres. Admission is free.

Steaming it up @ O.K. Tuck, Brinchang

I can't think of anything better then tucking into a steamboat dinner as a nice tummy filler on a cold rainy night. So we ambled over to O.K Tuck for dinner. It is located next to 'Hotlink' corner shop on the old main road of Brinchang. Oh, by the way, do drop by the 'Hotlink' shop if you need to top up on your pre-paid card or to purchase some sports attire. Heh.. yes they have them there, Nike no less!

There are many restaurants in Brinchang offering steamboat, but beware, some have been known to be quite unscrupulous in ripping off tourists. It is advisable to ask for the price before you order. Some restaurants have 'local prices and out of town prices'.
O.K. Tuck charges RM15 per head for their steam boat. Quite reasonable but that is the 'local price'. We had choice of two types of soups - clear and tom yam. I do like the spicy and piquant tom yam soup but the taste can be quite overpowering. I prefer dipping the ingredients in the clear soup especially when if the ingredients are fresh. The steam boat set was quite the standard fare; fish balls, fried bean curd sheet, chicken, prawns, squid, some sort of crunchy seaweed, mushrooms and lots of vegetables. With farms in abundance in Camerons, not suprisingly the vegetables and mushrooms were very fresh.
You can give this restaurant a try if you are in Brinchang. They do serve ala carte meals but I'm not sure about the quality or the price. As always, if you are from out of town, ask for the menu with price or risk being a 'sui yee' (taken for a ride).

O.K.Tuck Restaurant
26, Jalan Besar, Brinchang, 39100 Cameron Highlands, Pahang
Tel: 05-491 2380. Business hours: 11.30am - 3pm, 6pm - 11pm

Have a Cuppa @ Boh Tea Centre, Sungai Palas

During a particularly stressful period at work, I needed to get away for a short break just to maintain some sanity. So, I roped in my partner in crime, A, for an overnight trip. She needed very little urging; soon we were putting along happily heading towards Cameron Highlands on a Friday morning.

Foremost on our minds was ‘what shall we eat there?’ We are not called Makan Sisters for nothing! High on our list of 'must try' at Camerons was to have tea at The Boh Tea Centre Sungai Palas. While driving up the winding path to the Tea Centre, I had visions of sitting down to a nice cuppa with warm buttery scones lathered with fresh cream and strawberry jam.

Well, the tea was nice enough. We ordered the best that they had - the Palas Supreme. We were advised to drink it without adding any milk. The Palas Supreme was very fragrant and it pours out into a clear amber liquid. Best sipped at a leisurely pace to allow the 'kam' after taste linger on your palatte.

The scones were a different story altogether. By the time we got to the centre, it was quite late. All they had left was 2 pieces of dry looking scones served with tiny packets of jam at the deli counter. In my books, scones must be eaten with fresh cream, no two ways about it. The rest of the offerings - sandwiches and cakes did not look appetising either, so we gave food a miss. While the food at the cafe was left wanting, the view did not disappoint. It was beautiful! The cafe was built jutting out from the hillside and overhangs the tea plantation. It looks out to a vista of rolling hills with green tufted rows of tea bushes. We managed to snag a table at the balcony and spent a laidback afternoon enjoying the breeze in our faces and feasting on the breath taking view while sipping tea. A pleasant afternoon indeed.

Sungai Palas Boh Tea Centre Jalan Gunung Brinchang, Brinchang, Cameron Highlands. Tel : 605 - 4962096. Open daily – except Monday – from 9 am to 4:30 pm.