September 13, 2011

Invited Review : Spasso Milano @ Straits Quay, Penang

It was definitely a privilege to have been given an opportunity in sampling all the cuisines that the newly established Spasso Milano has to offer.

Spasso Milano opened its doors in the beginning of September, marking their venture in Penang after their first outlet in Ampang, KL. Spasso Milano aims to tantalize all the Italian food lovers with their sincere offering of a truly authentic Italian experience, through their head chef Felice Martinelli.

When I reached Spasso, Craig welcomed with all smiles and hosted me throughout the meal, and he was kind enough to recommend many of the palatable delicacies off the menu, which had been thoughtfully layout in categories.

First up, we each had a soup...

Porcini Mushroom Soup (RM 18.80)

This rich and delicious soup was made with 100% Porcini Mushroom which had been finely blended, and then drizzled with White Truffle Oil. The portion was definitely a generous one, and I truly enjoyed this aromatic soup that still had bits of Porcini mushroom evident in each spoonfuls.

Asparagus Soup (RM 16.80)

Asparagus soup, on the other hand, was lighter in texture, yet maintaining the zest of asparagus. Not to be missed by asparagus lovers.

Our soup was heartily accompanied by Homemade Garlic Focaccia (RM 9.80), which is a Focaccia bread that is homemade by Spasso, then topped with Butter and Garlic. The Focaccia was a show stealer, rather than being on the sideline of the soups. The bread was crunchy yet light and was filled with the aroma of butter and garlic. Great to have it just as it is, or dipped in the soups.

Smoked Duck Breast (RM 23.00)

When Craig recommended this dish, I shared with him that I am not a duck lover at all, as it usually comes with a smell when not being prepared properly. But since it was highly recommended, I gave it a shot. These were sliced home-smoked duck breast, served with avocado, and drizzled with Hazelnut oil. Boy, I was really dumbfounded when I tasted the first slice! The smoked duck breast, which I expected it to be rough and slightly chewy, was nothing like that at all. It was smooth, the texture was just right and most of all, it did not come with any duck smell at all. It was a sheer delight to enjoy this dish with avocado, and what's more, the hazelnut oil really complements the smoked duck breast well. The salad came with a thickened version of vinegar dressing as well. I was surprised that I finished 5 smoked duck breast slices! Highly recommended

Next, our Prawn and Asparagus Risotto was served (RM 32.00)

Don't be fooled by pale color of this risotto that is made with Carnaroli rice cooked with fresh asparagus, and then topped with pan-seared Tiger Prawns. Firstly, the risotto was very soft, very flavorful that I felt the risotto absorbing all the goodness of asparagus. As Craig does not fancy seafood at all, I was given the privilege to have the prawns all to myself! The pan-seared prawns were juicy, well flavored and tasted just wonderful.

Spasso Milano offers a range of Prima Pasta, which are imported handmade pasta with Durum Wheat. Guests now have the freedom to opt for the classic pasta range, or the Prima Pasta range, namely (from left to right) Orecchiette, Strozzapreti, Eliche, Paccheri and Fileja Calabresi

We had the Mushroom & Bresaola Pasta (RM 28.80) with Prima Pasta (RM 4) known as Paccheri, which is the broad cylinder type among the 5.

Bresaola is air-dried, salted beef that has been aged until it becomes hard and turns a dark red. It is made from round primal cut of beef and is lean and tender. Spasso Milano makes such a fascinating version of this - just check out the thin-ness of the Bresaola and the beauty of its texture. Though the prima pasta was broad, they were well done. Not only it came with the right al dente texture that all prima pasta should have, it basically soaked up the taste of creamy mushroom as well. The mushroom were plentiful and equally delicious, sheer delight to sample!

After all the hospitality of Craig and staff at Spasso, I was honored to meet up with Chef Felice Martinelli, who heads the team here at Spasso - with the sole purpose to delight us with authentic Italian delicacies. Chef Felice was very friendly, absolutely approachable, and he gave me a feeling of being very down-to-earth.

He was enthusiastically sharing with me his passion to deliver Italian cuisines which are authentic and mirror of what Italians are enjoying, without compensating the preparation and ingredients used to tune to local taste buds. It is very rare indeed to chance upon such an uncompromising Chef who wants nothing but the best for their guests. A light joke was initiated about how Craig asked Chef Felice on what are the Signature dishes here at Spasso, and Chef Felice simply emphasized that every dish featured on the menu are his Signatures. If they are not Signatures, they will not be on the menu! :)

Chef Felice and Craig insisted that I try out their desserts as well, so we had...

Tiramisu (RM 18.80)

Tiramisu is made up of Espresso soaked Savoiardi Biscuit & Mascarpone Cream. The version here is delicately done with the Savoiardi biscuit evidently visible, and I love how they top their Tiramisu with a good coating of cocoa powder on top.

Panna Cotta (RM 14.80)

Panna Cotta, which literally translates as cooked cream in Italian, is an Italian dessert generally made by simmering together cream, milk and sugar, mixing with gelatin and letting it cool to set.

The Panna Cotta here consisted of fresh cream pudding, topped with mixed berry coulis. Many might shun away from this dessert due to its sweetness, rich and creamy pudding texture. But being a super lover for pudding desserts, this just moved up my personal dessert ranking! The texture of the panna cotta as smooth as butter, the taste was rich and awesome, and it did not come across as overly sweet. The sourish mixed berry coulis complemented the creamy pudding like match made in heaven. Simply lovely.

We toured around the spacious and contemporary Spasso Milano and I learnt that Spasso boasts of its wood-fire oven which churns out delicious Italian wood-fire pizzas, as well as housing a full wine list with specialty wines that one cannot find elsewhere too.

The bar

Different table settings to cater for private groups, family, or romantic night out.

Spasso Milano houses many retail products that are fully imported, for example sweets, biscuits, jam, extra virgin olive oil, as well as premium tea.

What a great night it was - superb cuisines and friendly company. I was offered a refreshing orangecello to help digest all the great food in my stomach. Orangecello is a variation of limoncello which is an Italian lemon liqueur traditionally served chilled as an after-dinner digestive.

Thanks so much to Adrian, Craig, Chef Felice, Denver, Wayne, and not forgetting the hospitality of everyone at Spasso Milano for the great experience!

I'm already looking forward to tomorrow :)

September 11, 2011

Soo Kee Mee Stall @ Medan Imbi, KL

Hubby brought me to this place which he claims offer the best Beef Hor Fun! So far we have been here twice and we have always enjoyed their signature dishes.

Infamous Beef Hor Fun (RM9 per pax)

The beef hor fun is filled with gravy and egg; the beef strips were tender, plentiful and marinated oh-so flavorful-ly. The ginger and scallion brought out the fragrant of the whole dish. This dish did not disappoint and the portions were huge. So if you do not intend to sample too much of one dish, always remember to ask for 1 person's portion; as they will submit orders based on the number of pax.

Another one of their signature dish Sang Har Mee (Deep Fried Mee with River Prawns) (RM 20 per pax, I think)

I love the tasty gravy that covered the giant river prawns, that made up of salted egg yolk. When we sampled this dish, the combination of the softened mee, river prawns and the fragrant thick gravy was the best! The river prawns were evidently fresh and we could see many tourists and Japanese mainly having this dish on their tables.

Paper-wrapped Chicken (Chee Pao Kai)

These chicken pieces are marinated, wrapped then deep fried. They were juicy, flavorful and acted as a good appetizer as the opening of your meal or as a side dish.

Sweet & Sour Fish Fillets

I feel that this dish paled a lot in comparison with their signature dishes. The gravy was gravy, battered fish fillets were battered fish fillets, all separate when the fillets should be coated out well with the sweet and sour gravy. The vegetables were hard and raw when they should at least be lightly cooked. The fish fillets were no doubt lightly battered but carried an apparent fishy smell to all of the pieces. Me. no. like. fishy. fillets.

Stir-fried Vegetables

Another simple dish that failed miserably. The vegetables were old and no longer crunchy.

As a verdict, the service here was definitely not friendly at all; as though every customer is being taken for granted. Other than their signature dishes, all the other dishes did not seem appealing at all, and I don't think they would even bother to improve. Pricing-wise, the dishes here are on the high side in terms of pricing due to its popularity. And, be prepared for huge crowds and filled up tables if you intend to dine here.

Soo Kee Mee
No. 14 Medan Imbi
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Contact : 03-2148 1324 / 03-2145 9528

September 9, 2011

Chai Diam Ma @ Queen Street

Kellin suggested to visit this special Chai Diam Ma (Hokkien for sundry shop) together with Alvin on a fine Sunday noon so we met up there.

As the banner says, they feature lots of handmade crafts from local artists

Almost every corner we turn, there were bound to be hand made articles the likes of stuffed soft toys, button badges, accessories, soaps, and there are even clothing and shoes on sale.

These freedom handmade soaps are actually made by one of our work acquaintance :)

We noticed some brilliant usage of the egg holders where it was painted in hues of pink, housing more accessories - Cute! And for some reason, I love the big-headed owl too~

Touring the entire Chai Diam Ma, we saw some out-of-the-box 'deco' such as these fighthing fish containing bottles just hung on the wall, as well as old wooden furniture housing the handmade crafts.

There is a walkway leading to the air well at the inner back of the 'shop' which is made up of a mini garden where plants are either hung down from the top or being nicely planted in pots.

The menu is a scrap book with limited food and drinks item, and you can check out the daily specials written with white chalks on the board right above their kitchen.

In the end, we settled with (clock-wise) Almond Banana Milkshake, Dragon Fruit Shake and Papaya Milk

First up, my almond banana milkshake was passable, the dragon fruit shake was almost bland, if not for the vanilla ice cream on top of it; and the papaya milk was really runny and I don't think I could taste the papayas at all O_o

Alvin's Baked Macaroni with Bacon & Mushrooms (RM 14)

Ask Alvin how his drinks or food tasted, his response will always be 'not bad' :) I tasted a little bit of the macaroni and it was good. The macaroni was not too hard nor too soft, the cheese taste was not overly powering. The side was something interesting - cherry tomatoes with yogurt.

We ordered a BOLD dish called Kimchi Zucchini Mini Pizza (RM 8)

Our consensus impression was : wow, that's mini indeed. A bite of this mini pizza sent a message to our brain that this was definitely an odd combination. Kimchi + zucchini + cheese? It did not taste bad, just not something we'd fancy. Good try though! The base was crunchy.

After what seemed like AGES, my Rice Sambal Prawn (RM 14) finally arrived to my hungry gaze!

We could already smell the sambal when my order was being fried as we were seated very near to the kitchen and after trying a spoonful, this fried rice proved to be something coz it was very spicy actually! Yes, even to my standards which is slight higher than average Penangite's tolerance level. But I must say I enjoyed the fried rice as the spiciness etches in my memory til now. The onions brought out the fragrance of the fried rice and there were 8 prawns altogether in it (yeah, I counted), not forgetting the long beans they put in as well.

Last but not least, Kellin's Udon Sambal Prawn (RM 14) - sister to my rice version arrived at her Hangry gaze (hungry + angry) lol~

It was a fair bit of challenge for Kellin to finish her dish as she could not take too high level of spiciness but she made a good attempt. After sampling her Udon version, I still liked my rice version better, maybe because the rice could really capture the wok hei as well as the flavors from the onions and sambal.

On the environment, it is my responsibility to share that it gets *really* hot and stuffy around here in the afternoon, despite the blaring fans they put up on various corners. This may probably be due to the fact that the ceilings are low and that the kitchen is located very near to where the tables are. Wear cooling clothes, carry a mobile fan or something if you intend to come here in the afternoon.

In all, I personally felt that the specialty of this cafe lies in the array of handmade crafts on display as well as the feel of the deco that the owners attempt to portray. Food-wise, there are still rooms for improvement and I reckon they can increase more varieties as well as improve the speed of serving as well :)

Chai Diam Ma

15, Lebuh Queen,
10200, Georgetown,
Penang, Malaysia

La Bodega @ Pavilion, KL

During day 2 of KL, we headed to Pavilion for some window shopping, and hubby was excited to bring me to this place for our brunch.

From the sight of the restaurant, it seemed like this was another drinking place/restaurant kind of establishment, so I did not have much of an impression. But hubby emphasized that a lot of social elites come here for their meals, people the likes of Tun Dr. Mahathir, local artistes, etc. And out of nowhere, we saw Tun Dr. Mahathir come strolling along the walkway towards Pavilion! (with like 5 bodyguards on the side) What a coincidence heh.

The restaurant's main offerings were tapas - snacks, canapés or finger food that originated in Spain, hence the tagline 'tapas y vinos' etched after the restaurant name.

We had Iced Mocha (RM 12) and Iced Coffee (RM 12) to kick start our day, and they were pretty decent.

Hubby wanted something light so he asked the staff to recommend him a sandwich, and they recommended him the Tuna & Cream Cheese Bocadillo (RM 15)

Just check out the chunks of tuna that could not be hidden! From the menu, this was described as 'The classic Spanish "bocadillo" - warm baguette stuffed with the highest quality Spanish tuna combined with cream cheese, olives, capers and Spanish black olives."

The sandwich did not disappoint at all. I am normally pretty skeptical when it comes to tuna sandwiches as they are normally very coarse in texture but
these tuna chunks were simply a delight to consume. The cream cheese added even more smoothness to the whole sandwich and blended the tuna and the salad well.

Thumbs up from hubby too!

Next came the tapas that hubby insisted to order for me try as he said the tapas here are really good - Pollo Al Ajilo (RM 15)

What's this you ask? It is chicken sauteed in olive oil, garlic & parsley. It was a tapas recommended by the staff as well, since there were just too many tapas to choose from. The taste of the chicken was either well-marinated, or they had basically soaked up the flavor from the gravy itself. Though this looked rather normal, the taste was really appetizing, and you simply can't get enough of it. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Hubby also told me enthusiastically that the bread that goes with the tapas are refillable too :)

My dish took a while to be served - Eggs Benedict with Smoked Turkey Ham (RM 15)

My actual order was with Smoked Salmon but I was told that they ran out of that (not sure how) so I settled with the turkey ham instead, simply because I am a huge fan of poached eggs!

The menu says "Two poached eggs on toast with hollandaise sauce". And I just found out that hollandaise sauce
is an emulsion, of lemon juice and butter, that is held together and stabilised by a third agent, egg yolks, to form a rich and thick sauce.

I was literally like a little kid ogling over her favourite eggs but I have always been fascinated with poached eggs ever since I was introduced to it many years back.

The oh-so beautiful gems tucked away safely underneath massive layers of smoked turkey ham!

Evidence of a well done poached egg - runny egg yolk oozing out from the well-concealed egg white - yummmsssssss~!

The turkey ham slightly paled in comparison to the awesome poached eggs but I enjoyed them no less, though I'd like it more if they had smoked salmon.

Came across some nice varieties of tapas on display and boy, they looked tempting indeed.

The al fresco area and the interior of La Bodega

While touring the restaurant, I was surprised to find wine rack over at the ceiling. Now how do they get the wines down then? Hmmm...

Another pleasant place I wouldn't mind making a return.

La Bodega @ Pavilion KL, Lot C3.06.00 Level 3,
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, 168 Jalan Bukit Bintang,
55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: 03-2148 8018