Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sakae Sushi and Teppanyaki, Juru Autocity

Japanese restaurants are commonly found in Malaysia; not due to the large population of Japanese migrants in the country though we do have a sizable group of these expatriates and retirees settling down and calling here their second home, particularly in cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang, but rather, the popularity of the cuisine among the local Malaysians.
It is no secret that the Malaysians are big fans of Japanese food, which gave rise to the eatery outlets appearing all over the country centering on the theme of the cuisine from the Land of the Rising Sun.
From sushi conveyor belts in the fast food chain themed outlets to fine dining and even booth counters in supermarkets whipping out the simple street fare from Japan, there is almost something to fit everyone's appetite; not to mention the wallets too.

Sakae Sushi is one of the fastest growing chain of restaurants around here, making their way into most of the major populated areas and shopping malls. Offering a wide variety of  Japanese fare and making them affordable is one of the successful concept implemented by the chain which attracted the locals to flock to their outlets everywhere.
Furthermore, the introduction of the membership card and their monthly promotions kept them on the competitive edge with their other competing rivals in the same chain operation.

While the Sakae Sushi menu is not unfamiliar to me, they are similar across all the outlets except for this one outlet which I visited in Juru Autocity.
The addition of Teppanyaki section in the restaurant and on their menu set them apart from the other sister outlets and offered an extra appealing factor to the patrons.
Craving for teppanyaki food after watching a television show lately, this outlet of Sakae Sushi was one of the first which came to my mind that fits the bill.

Sakae Sushi and Teppanyaki in Penang's Juru Autocity is one of its kind with a separate section dedicated to the making of the teppanyaki sets and favorites, as listed in the additional part of the menu for the restaurant.
One can opt to sit at the counter to watch the chef in action, as he performs his skills in dishing out the tempting delights from the menu in a typical teppanyaki-themed restaurant, or sit by the sushi conveyor belt tables to enjoy more offerings from the belt.

As I was there for the teppanyaki, the following are the dishes which helped to satisfy some of my cravings, if not all.

The Japanese Okonomiyaki (MYR18.90) is an interesting type of Japanese styled pancake; with a mix of seafood and vegetables folded with a layer of thin egg batter, topped with katsuoboshi (bonito flakes), served with a sweet okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise.

While the ingredients could vary; from seafood to meat and vegetables, the Okonomiyaki is often compared to an omelette as well, and was also known as a Japanese Pizza.
It was a refreshing option if you want to move away from the conventional choices of Japanese food, and the generous amount of seafood (as this version is seafood-themed) just made this a satisfying fill.

My love for the salmon continues with this Grilled/Teppanyaki-styled salmon (MYR15.90); two modestly sized salmon served in plain grill.

Seafood Yaki Udon (MYR18.90)
Thick udon noodles pan fried with seafood, mix vegetables and mushrooms topped with deep fried carrot sticks and bonito flakes is a tantalizing carb fix to complete the meal

It was all a satisfying experience, and definitely all about Teppanyaki on that day.

This outlet in Juru Autocity is famed for the teppanyaki section; belting dishes at affordable prices and offering a wide variety of seafood options.

There is ample parking space in front of the restaurant and also nearby if you are early, and on weekends as the place is often crowded during the peak lunch hours on weekdays with the mass from the nearby industrial zone.

Monday, April 28, 2014

It's a Malaysian Affair @ Pappa Rich

When one thinks of the local Malaysian fare, one would associate with the wide array of selection made colorful by the different ethnicities we have in the country.
The Malaysians are also a bunch of down-to-earth folks and they do not mind crouching on small chairs by the side of the roads, taking in the food from the makeshift stalls, never mind the scorching heat we have in the country and still frequent middle to high end restaurants from time to time.
These are the typical scenes of a Malaysian lifestyle, and you can tell that we are definitely a versatile lot, ready to adapt to any type of environment when it comes to food.

Food is definitely a big part of the average Malaysian life, with eateries spawning everywhere in the country. From small road stalls, to marketplace, to cafes, food courts, fine dining, restaurants, hotels and even from carts pushed around, there is just food to be found everywhere and those are definitely signs of Malaysians' love for food. There is just no limit to the time or types of food which are available throughout the country, it is just part and parcel of the local culture.

The local Malaysian delights are what makes up the unique culture of the country and they are easily found, at affordable prices too, and Malaysians would go to even the remotest of places to hunt for famous food, and yes, to the extent of tolerating the crazy high temperatures we have here on most days. (*Sweats*)

Now, think of having all the Malaysian delights consolidated in one place, and in a decent environment (without having to crouch by the roadside or in remote villages) with ceiling fans or air-conditioning, along with retro marble tables and chairs for one to sit on and big leather-bound menus showcasing all the varieties of food and drinks.

Sounds like an ideal setting and a dream come true?

Well, think no further than the popular Pappa Rich, which promises the above concept and a portal for all the Malaysian food that you can think of under one roof in a comfortable dining environment.

Established in the year 2005; the Malaysian-themed cafe/restaurant had wooed the hearts of the majority of the local population with its wonderful variety of local Malaysian delights in its almost one decade of operation.

Striving to promote the local Malaysian food and culture to the likes of international brands like Starbucks, Pappa Rich is indeed determined to bring out the best of the country to the local market and also worldwide and is an admirable ambition; which is now a reality with the growth and expansion of the business, as we see the increasing numbers of the Pappa Rich outlets popping out all over the country.

The thick leather bound menu, with endless options of Malaysian delights to tempt you and you just feel like you wanted to order almost everything at a go.

Start off to cool the heat of the day with a glass of Cold/Iced Cendol mixed with Red Bean (MYR7.90)

Enjoy the taste of the delicious red beans, which were cooked in a traditional method, as it is blended with the smooth strips of cendol with milk. It is a taste which will make you crave for more.

It is not easy to find a good blend of iced red bean, and some may turn out too milky for my liking, but Pappa Rich has definitely gotten it right with this, and to give it a local Malaysian kick, the addition of cendol was perfect.

The Malaysians would definitely enjoy a good bowl of Ice Kacang anytime of the day, or we call it ABC too (Ais Batu Campur; which translates to Mixed Shaved Ice - and the ABC also gives the idea that it is a mix of everything).
The sweet savory dessert loved by Malaysians were also given a signature style; while preserving its original taste in this version by Pappa Rich.

Pappa ABC (MYR6.90)

A generous mix of grass jelly (cincau), red beans, sweet corn, cendol, peanuts atop shaved ice drenched with the sweet and fragrant Gula Melaka syrup, was just a delightful local dessert, adored by all Malaysians.

Savor the all-time Malaysian favorite; which is one versatile option for a meal at any time of the day.
From breakfast to dinner, the Nasi Lemak (steamed rice in coconut milk served with sides of spicy chili paste (sambal), deep fried anchovies, kacang putih (roasted groundnuts), half of a boiled egg and with other additions of choice) is just about the most loved Malaysian delight with its alluring aroma of panda leaves on which the rice combination is often placed upon or wrapped in.

Pappa Nasi Lemak (MYR11.90)
A rich aroma of steamed coconut rice with generous amounts of sambal paste and the ingredients, along with a curry chicken drumstick was the secret of seduction used by Pappa Rich in their own version of this famous delight.

For side orders, the Fried Fish Cake (MYR6.90) would be a good option.
Chewy and definitely tasty with the rich texture and aroma of the ground fish paste deep fried to a golden brown, one bite would make one's fork head for another.
(It will be slightly oily, but it was not too bad and the fish cakes were best eaten when it's hot).
I didn't know why they would serve the chili sauce in packets, as the other outlets I have gone to usually serve them in little saucer plates.

For a taste of local Malaysian cake, the Steamed Gula Melaka cake (MYR4.90) was a surprisingly enjoyable treat with its soft and fluffy texture of the steamed cake.
The fragrant aroma of the rich brown Gula Melaka immersed in the cake and served when it's just steamed from the kitchen just makes this so appealing when one bites into the pillowy soft fluff.

Prices may appear as steep for the local Malaysian street fare at a glance, but the portions and generosity of the ingredients, along with the comfortable environment, cleanliness and attentive service of the waiters do make up part of the equation.

The operating hours differ for the different outlets; though generally they are open throughout the day from 8.30am until midnight.
(Some of the outlets may be open until 2am, or even 24 hours).

They have outlets all over Malaysia and they can also be found in prominent shopping malls.

(Below: outlet in E-Gate, Penang)

There is no other that can say it better than Pappa Rich, serving local Malaysian delights and the all-time favorites, all day long~

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Taiwan Food Diary: Hot Pot with Ojijiman

On our last night in Taipei, we ventured to the backyard of where we were staying on a hunt for the local food before heading back to finalize our packing.
(I just hate it when it comes to packing and unpacking, it is always tiresome, stuffing and rearranging all those stuffs into the luggage which never seems to agree with you when you needed it to. Grrr...)

We stumbled upon this Steamboat/Hot Pot restaurant; Ojijiman Steamboat Restaurant, which apparently was a really famous hot pot restaurant we discovered after that.
Guess it is still our luck after all? ;-)
(Love the name of the restaurant, just sounds so cute!)

It was packed to the brim although we were there at an early hour; about 6.00pm, and we were heading out to leave. Perhaps it was the look of disappointment on our faces, or the fact that it was really cold out there, or we are just likable (that was a little overboard), the restaurant owner was really kind enough to help us to reserve a place and told us to be back around 6.30-6.45 where he can definitely secure a place for us.
We obliged, and loitered around the area, taking in the scenes of Taipei on our last night while enjoying a nice walk in the cool weather, something which is more of a luxury in our hot and humid weather.

When we arrived back at the restaurant at the appointed time, we were immediately ushered to our dining place (thanks to the owner's prompt and impressive service).
The restaurant was definitely still crowded, but we secured our place, which was facing the street.

The waitress bustled about cleaning up our table; which was technically a table on the counter facing the street separated by the glass window. Usually I would never have taken a table on the counter, well, let's just say it's a matter of personal preference, but in this case, I think the owner went out of his way to reserve us a table and I appreciate his kindness :-)

The funny thing is the way the waitress came to us (after cleaning up the table) and started speaking in this really fast-paced local Chinese on the procedure to do the ordering for the hot pot, as it was a Eat-All-You-Can and customers are free to order anything from the menu for unlimited times (with exception of certain items). She was practically reciting without taking a moment to breathe that we were really straining our ears to catch her each and every word.
It was really hard for us to form the words to ask her to, well, Repeat.

Anyway, we got the wind of it after that and selected our soups.
(Unlike Malaysia, this is something similar to the Japanese Shabu-shabu style where we were designated with our own individual pots of soup).

Herbal Chicken Soup 

Osmanthus Flower Soup (this is really unique, and pleasant in taste)

Vegetables plate and the settings on the table

The meat


Seafood (snapper fillet, garoupa fillet, dory fillet, squids, tiger prawns)


From left: Fish paste and Octopus paste

Lobster salad as appetizer while waiting for the hot pot to get cooking~

Sauces; the chili paste on the bottom was really spicy that it could send one shooting to the roof (technically, that would be me?)

Ice cream was part of the selection which one can help to the scoops from the counter; and is the dessert to complete the meal for the evening.

Overall the food was alright, but they do have a good selection of seafood; especially the fish which could be categorized into the different types of fish and all neatly made into fillets. (Just the way I like it).

It would cost about NT$590 per pax (if I am not mistaken) to dine here, and while I can't say that their selection is comparable to our steamboat buffet back home, nor can I compare it to others as this was the only one I tried in Taipei, I can only say that hot pot is definitely more suited for the cool weather.
Besides, with all that craze over hot pot here in Taipei (I see hot pot restaurants almost everywhere), the Taiwanese definitely do love this as a meal option and I think that is all the reason you need to justify for a hot pot meal while here?

Now, this is making me crave for hot pot and I am thinking of places to go for hot pot...or just make it at home? ;-)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rainy night at Awet Thai Garden

It was a rainy night when we were heading out for dinner, eager to try out a new Thai Restaurant we were told about and to enjoy an evening dining with the family.

Awet Thai Garden, located in Sg Chua, Kajang is an interesting name for a Thai restaurant, but the pond nearby provided a setting for the restaurant to arrange for a platform overlooking the pond to be built which gave the restaurant a rather unique environment.
However, to our disappointment that night, we did not get to try out the dining environment nor had any view of the pond as it was raining cats and dogs and we were advised against sitting near the pond to avoid the furious patters of the rain coming in on us.

It was raining heavily and while we were pondering on how we could get out of our cars, we need not think further as the helpful staffs of the restaurant rushed out and directed our cars to drive into the main entrance pathway which was shaded to drop off the passengers in our car.
Then he followed the driver out in the rain with an umbrella to shelter the driver of the car from the rain as he gets out of the car.
Bravo for the extremely great service; the best that I have seen and this is what I call going beyond the bars for service. We were really touched and impressed on our first time here, and it's a thumbs-up for the service.

As we sat down at our tables, another waiter came forward with a jug of water, which had the pleasant fragrance of panda leaves in it, to serve us while handing us the menus.
(I originally thought this was complimentary since we were not asked if we wanted it, as they just served it directly. However, turns out, it was charged to the bill at MYR0.80 per pax.
I personally think this could be improved by confirming with the customer, and not assuming that the customer would want the water. It is not the matter of the price to pay for water, but just courtesy).

Service was rather prompt and we did not have a long wait for our food to arrive, after ordering from an extensive menu with a wide variety of selection and recommendations from a helpful waiter.

Stir fried Paku pakis with belacan (chili shrimp paste) (MYR12.00)
This is a crunchy and rare vegetable which is seldom found in most restaurants. The vegetable was well tossed with the right amount of chili paste which lent it the flavor though the portion was slightly smaller.

Kerabu Seafood (MYR12.00)
The sight of the huge and juicy squids already tempted us even before the plate was placed down on the table and the dish certainly did not disappoint.
They were generous with the seafood; and the squids and prawns were juicy and succulent, just satisfying our tastes all the way.

(Decided to turn off the flash and took the photos under the restaurant's dim lighting)

Tomyam Seafood (MYR18.00)
Priced at MYR9.00 per pax, the waiter recommended a portion for two pax for us.
The tom yam soup had the right amount of spices, tamarind and lemongrass which made it just perfect in its blend of tastes of sour and spicy at the same time, and again, with the generous portions of seafood and oyster mushrooms.

We are all extremely picky with the tastes of tom yam soup, where some tends to be too spicy to the point of numbness, or some too creamy and lacking that right percentage where everything is well-balanced to give the soup rightfully its title. We found this fits the bill, and it was just the perfect soup for a cold rainy night.
(No photos of the ingredients as I was taken away discussing about the tastes of the soup with my family).

Fried prawns with eggs (MYR15.00) 
We opted for this, since it looked unique on the menu, passing over on fish cakes.
It was like prawn omelette from its appearance, but the egg batter was well-fried with the right amount of energy from the wok (wok hei) to result in this complex omelette weaving a generous amount of prawns in it.
(According to my mum, it is not an easy task to produce eggs batter while frying in this style).

This definitely did not disappoint and we were pleased with our choice, though we will definitely order the fish cakes the next round.

Steamed Tilapia in Thai style (MYR31.40)
The fish was weighed and charged according to its weight upon its selection from the aquarium where they bred the different types of fish.
This was a recommended style by the waiter, which had a rather unique taste and it was not too spicy.

While there was an assortment of ginger, lemongrass, spring onions, and a handful of chilies in it, the broth was not really spicy. The unique part was the fish was also served with minced meat as part of accompanying broth, and it is rare to me.

We wanted to order the desserts as they were tempting us with the widest selection I have ever seen in a Thai restaurant menu, and everything looks and sounds so enticing that it was really hard to resist to order. However, to our disappointment, most of the desserts ran out that night and we had to just abide by fate to just keep a watch on the waistlines and overindulgence.

Overall, the food was good and the service, was as mentioned above, impressive.
Even the restaurant's owner was rushing about to serve the customers, and yet he had the time for a quick banter with each of his customers to ensure the satisfaction.
The meal above costs approximately MYR20++ per pax, and is rather reasonable although some of the servings tend to be smaller than expected. However, they were definitely not stingy with their ingredients.

So, desserts maybe in our next visit, along with fish cakes, and the other dishes....I think I need to make a list...