Saturday 13 October 2018

Destination: Freeport A'Famosa Outlet, Melaka (Malaysia)

This is apparently one of the favourite weekend getaway among the locals, be it the local Malaccan people or other domestic tourists. It had been open almost three years ago, but it was only today that I had the chance to check it out.

Freeport A’Famosa Outlet is, simply, a shopping mall similar in concept with the Johor Premium Outlet (JPO) in Johor, or the Mitsui Outlet in Selangor. It is a one-stop centre for factory outlet products of various brands; it houses brands such as Levi’s, Sacoor, Crocs, Triumph, Kickers, Esprit, Clarks and Hush Puppies, amongst others. It is not as big as the JPO, with less choice of brands compared to the latter – nonetheless the real attraction would be its architectural design.

The design is inspired from Dutch architecture, chosen due to Malacca’s past being a part of the Dutch colony in the 17th – 19th century. The main highlight is the windmill, situated at the centre of the mall. You can climb a flight of stairs to get to the floor above. Freeport A’Famosa Outlet offers plenty of photo opportunities that attracted the swarm of local tourists in the first place.

When I arrived at around 3.00 p.m., the allotted parking spaces were full. However, there are still plenty of clearings around the parking area that people can use to park their cars.

I walked towards one of the two main entrances, accompanied by the aroma of KFC wafting in the air. Plenty of food outlets are also available here apart from KFC, such as Pappa Rich, Auntie Anne’s and Marrybrown.

How to Get There:

On the North-South Expressway, take the southbound route and exit at Simpang Ampat / Alor Gajah / Tampin (Exit 227). After you pass through the toll plaza, you will arrive at a small roundabout. Ignore the roundabout and turn left. Drive straight on until you arrive at a junction with traffic lights. Take the left turn. Continue straight on – don’t worry about the narrowing road with twists and turns; you are on the right track. After you cross a bridge, you will then see your destination on your right.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Food Notes: Halal Japanese Food Awaits at Citraida

Location: Citraida Butik & Kafe, Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor

"Succi Sushi" became the tagline for Citraida boutique cafe, indicating its offer of halal Japanese food, particularly sushi, maki and bento sets. Also available at the place are other side dishes such as chawan mushi, edamame and takoyaki.
I had the Ebi (prawn) Tempura, which also comes with spinach, carrot and enoki mushroom tempuras. The tempura is light and crispy, drizzled with a bit of mayonnaise and special sauce. Ah, the heavenly taste made me realize that preparing them as tempuras are the only way to make me eat carrots or spinach.
If you would like to have a more complete meal with tempura, try the Ebi Katsu Bento set, which is basically the aforementioned Ebi Tempura that comes with rice, soup and also cut fruits. Rest assured you will be completely full after having this dish.

Ebi Tempura

The Ebi Katsu Bento Set is basically the Ebi Tempura served alongside rice, a bowl of soup and cut fruits.

I also tried the Egg Mayo Sushi and Salmon Mentai Sushi. Each sushi platter you order consists of two pieces of sushi. I thought the size of the sushi might be a little bit smaller than what I'm used to. Nevertheless, it was easy to eat as you can have one sushi in one bite only. I really like the Salmon Mentai (salmon and fish roe) Sushi; each one is torched moderately to add more flavor.
Then I tried the Daging Sambal Hitam FBI Maki, a fusion of the Japanese maki and Malaysia's beef sambal hitam. Sambal hitam is made of bilimbi / belimbing buluh (a close relative of the starfruit) cooked with bird's eye chillies, anchovies and shallots until dried. Meanwhile, the name "FBI" is derived from the initials of a local celebrity, Faizal bin Ismail who came up with his daging hitam recipe for the Malaysian market. Citraida's Daging Sambal Hitam FBI Maki is FBI's Daging Hitam rolled up into a maki and topped with crispy tempura crumbs. It was totally scrumptious with a tinge of hot sambal hitam.

The Daging Sambal Hitam FBI Maki, a fusion of Malaysian and Japanese delicacy

Meanwhile, a recent addition to Citraida's menu is the Soft Shell Crab Larva, which is softshell crab pieces topped with fish roe, mayonnaise and sauce. Though it is a bit salty, the crispy softshell crab is delicious nevertheless.

The Soft Shell Crab Larva 

Citraida is a casual dining place alongside a mini boutique near the entrance, which sells women clothing and hijab / shawls. The owner of Citraida is Khairul Noormaidah Zali - also known as Aida - who shot to fame after winning a local reality television show, Gadis Melayu, back in 2008.

Saturday 14 April 2018

Food Notes: Japanese Dishes at an Affordable Price

Location: Sukiya - Tokyo Bowls and Noodles

Fancy enjoying Japanese food for less than RM 20.00? I can still hardly believe that everytime I dine at Sukiya (available at several locations including Mid Valley Megamall, Uptown Damansara, IOI City Mall Putrajaya and AEON Bandaraya Melaka), I would only have to pay a bill totaling less than RM 20.00. Except for the Unagi-don (which is priced above RM 20.00), other dishes on offer here would mostly cost you around RM 15.00 including drinks.
Sukiya's signature dish is the gyudon, which is a bowl of rice topped with thinly-sliced beef simmered in a special sauce. Apart from its gyudon, a variety of noodles are also on offer. Its tagline "Tokyo Bowls and Noodles" says all about the menu on offer.
I have tried several of Sukiya's gyudons. My favourite would be the Osaka Okonomi Gyudon, which is particularly fulfilling with a mixture of cabbage, mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce and some sort of meat floss added on top of the rice and beef. It also comes with a wobbly, perfectly poached egg in another small bowl to top the dish. Carefully pour the egg onto the rice and let the yolk burst in your bowl!
The Osaka Okonomi Gyudon comes with a poached egg

When the wobbly round egg bursts...

There are also the Three Cheeses Gyudon (gyudon topped with three types of cheese) and the Snow White Cream Gyudon (gyudon served with mixed vegetables in a creamy white sauce).
The Three Cheeses Gyudon
Other rice dishes I have tried here is the Teriyaki Chicken Bowl: rice served with tender, boneless chicken marinated in teriyaki sauce. Then there is the Tokyo Oyakodon, pieces of chicken meat and egg served on top of the rice with spring onions. According to the explanation included in the menu, "oyakodon" literally means "parent and child bowl", which directly refers to the chicken as the "parent" and the egg as the "child".
The combination of chicken, egg and spring onions goes well with each other to produce the scrumptious Tokyo Oyakodon.
Tokyo Ramen with Double Chicken Meat
As for the ramen, I had had the Tokyo Ramen With Double Chicken Meat. The shoyu soup is totally perfect and the steamed chicken meat is so juicy that I felt fortunate to have ordered the one with "double" chicken meat (there is another, the Tokyo Ramen With Chicken Meat, which obviously contains lesser chicken pieces).
Oh, by the way, please note that prices of some dishes vary depending on the size of the bowl - you can choose from sizes S, M, to L accordingly.

For Muslims, rest assured that Sukiya is certified halal so you can enjoy the dishes without doubt.
Apart from its affordable pricing, I also like the fast service at Sukiya. I have never been kept waiting for my food - it usually arrives within ten minutes or less. I usually spend about 30 minutes at the outlet. Save money, save time! :)

Saturday 3 March 2018

Food Notes: The Venetian Feel of Monte Bianco

Location: Monte Bianco, IOI City Mall Putrajaya

The attractive interior was what brought me to the place for the first time. Its interior decorations screamed of a combination of Venetian elements with Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Tiffany blue sofas and cushioned chairs toned down the bold, black-and-white chequered tiles on the floor. Ornate chandeliers and rustic wooden tables add to the romantic setting.
At one part of the restaurant, wrought-iron tables and chairs are placed to bring life to its Venetian concept. Paintings of Venice, as well as fancy Venetian masks complete the interior decoration.

Monte Bianco serves fusion dishes, particularly Italian pasta dishes mixed with different palates of the world. I frequented the place ever since it was known as Perfume Dance Cafe; some of its menu may have undergone some changes after its rebranding.
One of my favourites here is the Spaghetti With Shrimps in Mentaiko Sauce. Although the shrimps inside the dish are not that many, the creamy sauce is fulfilling and yummy enough that I don't consider the spaghetti 'empty'. The dish is topped with crispy seaweed strips as a reminder of its Japanese 'heritage'.
The Spaghetti With Shrimps in Mentaiko Sauce

The place once offered a pasta with a Malaysian touch, the Chicken Rendang Pasta, in which I immediately tried (not very sure if the dish is still available now). The pasta is strewn with a generous amount of chicken bits, but the creamy 'rendang' sauce tastes more like the mentaiko sauce rather than real rendang. Maybe the cream used to thicken the sauce has overpowered the rendang flavour. Nevertheless, it is still a delicious dish, given you don't judge it based on its rendang-ness.
I also had the Pasta With Chicken in Pesto Sauce. Two pieces of chicken breasts topped the pasta, which had been mixed with green pesto sauce. The sauce is very oily and the taste of olive oil was too overpowering for me.
Pasta With Chicken in Pesto Sauce

I tried the Risotto Seafood once, and that was my first time having a risotto. I decided I'm not that into it. I don't really know how a good risotto should taste like, but my first impression says it is like eating sticky rice with nothing - unless a good amount of ingredients are added to bring in more flavour. Monte Bianco's Risotto Seafood comes with shrimps, squids, clams and olives, but maybe the way risotto is - thick, unlike plain old rice - just made me feel the seafood content inside the dish are not enough to cover its 'emptiness'.
Risotto Seafood

Moving away from its Italian fusion menu, I recently tried the Smoky Cheesy Grilled Chicken and it was completely fantastic. The chicken is so juicy and tender, while the sauce has enough smoky flavour that I thought I was having a grilled feast at Tony Roma's!
The Smoky Cheesy Grilled Chicken

Monte Bianco also had several choices of dessert. I have tried the Waffle With Chocolate and Bananas, as well as one named the 'Dancing Diva'. The waffle is a bit too big a portion for me, with four quarters of thick waffle which comes alongside bananas and a small bowl of ice cream. The waffle dish is tasty, and would be nicer if more chocolate sauce is provided.
Meanwhile, the Dancing Diva is enough for at least two people to eat together. Initially I though it is a cake, but am I wrong. It tastes like bread cut into several big cubes and spread with ice cream. A stiletto-shaped white chocolate is placed on top as a finishing touch.
Waffle With Chocolate and Bananas

The Dancing Diva is topped with an edible 'stiletto'

There are a wide range of drinks available at Monte Bianco, including tea and an array of mixed fruit drinks. The mixed fruit drinks - most as thick as a smoothie - comes with quirky names such as 'Naughty Devil'.
To this day, I still frequented the place to enjoy the ambience.

Saturday 6 January 2018

Food Notes: The Legend of the Creamy Cronuts

Location: Dotty's Pastries & Coffee, Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad 2, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
Imagine a "cronut", a term used to describe a type of delicacy which is a hybrid between a croissant and a doughnut. Imagine not just mere plain cronut, but one topped with apam balik-flavoured cream (apam balik is a type of delicacy that looks like a pancake, folded over with fillings of sugar, crushed peanuts and sweet corn kernels).
Can't imagine how it will taste like? Try the Apam Balik Croissant Doughnut, which I recently discovered being served at Dotty's, a pastry and coffee house situated in Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), Kuala Lumpur.
Upon entering the shop, I was greeted with rows of freshly-prepared cronuts of various flavours, arranged in a glass room and ready to be served to customers. The Apam Balik cronut grabbed my attention due to its name. How could a French pastry such as the croissant weds a local delicacy, the apam balik, and produce a hybrid?
The cronut is shaped like a squarish doughnut, but at one look you know it is not made of real dough like real doughnuts. Give it another look and you say it is a stack of filo pastries shaped like a doughnut, complete with holes. The cronut itself is crispy and tastes something between a croissant and fried filo pastry. The topping (and filling) of the cronut determines its overall taste.
For the Apam Balik one, the taste of crushed peanuts is overpowering, as any apam balik can be. Sweet corn cream tops the cronut and its filling. It is more of an apam balik taste rather than a croissant or doughnut taste.
The Apam Balik Cronut
The star at Dotty's, the Salted Egg Yolk Cronut
However, I was made to know that the Apam Balik Croissant Doughnut is not the star at Dotty's. It is the Salted Egg Yolk Croissant Doughnut: a cronut topped and filled with salted egg yolk cream. This one is fast-selling; you might have to wait for a new batch to be prepared if all had been ordered or sold to walk-in customers. As for the taste, I am not really sure how it is supposed to taste like. Is it supposed to be that salty, as when you eat a salted egg, or not? I can make out the eggy taste but for me there is no trace of saltiness.
Ah, and be prepared to smudge your face when you have a cronut: due to its thick creamy topping and creamy inside, you will be a creamy mess as you dive into one (or two, as I had it). Have the napkin at your side before beginning.
Speaking of salted egg yolk, I also tried the Salted Egg Yolk Spaghetti With Beef Bacon. It looks a bit like spaghetti carbonara, but it has a creamy, eggy taste. I can make out a moderate salty taste in this dish, but I suspected it to have been from the beef bacon.
Then I also tried the Red Velvet Funnel Cake. This one should be eaten with company; the serving is too big for one person. The funnel cake, velvety red in colour, is much more thin than the ones I found in America. But due to its thinness, there is this tasty crisp in your every bite. Sweet glaze is drizzled onto the cake, and there is a large dollop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream topped with chocolate sauce and crushed peanuts completing the whole dish.
The Red Velvet Funnel Cake
Dotty's is a place where you can have various pastries and light meals such as eclairs, pavlovas and sandwiches. I find the place usually busy and crowded. Come early if you plan to eat at the place. Otherwise you can just grab some treats and eat at the comfort of your own home.