Thursday, July 27, 2017

Foremula @ Petaling Jaya

They can cook up major marketing campaigns, but can they fry a big breakfast? Malaysian creative agency Forefront is forging a fresh path in the cafe business with its friendly new flagship eatery, Foremula, which follows the contemporary prescription for a chatter-generating F&B destination. The setting is social media catnip, while the food is cheerful & crowd-pleasing, with tasty highlights like the satay-inspired platter of grilled marinated chicken leg with a rich peanut sauce, red onions & cucumbers (RM23). Come early; we sadly missed the sold-out laksa pasta by the time we reached Foremula at 1:30pm, though the mercenaria mercenaria hard clam spaghetti was a satisfying substitute (RM19), the thick raisin toast with coffee caramel sauce sweetened the sting (RM14), & the flat white (RM10) & iced matchapresso (RM15) washed away our sorrow.

Foremula
D9-01. Dana 1 Commercial Centre, Jalan PJU 1A/46, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Mon-Sat, 9am-6pm. Tel: 03-7496-7419

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Shin Nihon @ Desa Sri Hartamas

By EDKL Writer A. A.

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Beef-eaters, unite: If you're a fan of red meat, Shin Nihon could become one of your favourite new destinations; with multiple outposts in Tokyo, this charcoal-grilled beef purveyor unveils its first Malaysian branch this month, bringing its hot-blooded, full-fleshed take on the yakiniku experience to Desa Sri Hartamas.

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Stepping into Shin Nihon, you'll see its Australian-bred beef on proud display, both physically and on a menu that showcases bovine temptations on virtually every page. The open kitchen is packed with cooks preparing your meat, seasoning it slightly with salt and pepper before it's carried out to your table, where the team can barbecue your beef for you (medium rare, by default), unless you prefer to do it yourself.

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Chef Hisamura (left), and Head Chef Numata (right) ensure that the cooking here is authentically Japanese

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Before we begin the BBQ, let's unpack Shin Nihon's comprehensive selection: We love the Premium Yukke (RM40), the Eastern take on steak tartare, a petite bowl of raw wagyu beef mixed with spices and vegetables, lovably luscious and well-developed in flavour. If you prefer a high-temperature comfort-food offering, the Gyu Suji Shio Nikomi (RM 26) is a meaty braise with radish; both the beef and broth are boiled for several hours, resulting in irreproachably tender protein that's balanced by a soup with zest. Rice and noodle devotees can opt for the Gyu no Tataki Don (RM28; steamed rice draped with plenty of quick-seared slices of beef, made extra-glorious with an egg yolk) and the Gyu Kotsu Ramen (RM24; with a base of beef bone broth that's a rich, sweet change from the typical pork and chicken variations). For fibre, the Kale Salad (RM26) showcases a vegetable that's not conventionally spotted at Japanese restaurants, crunchy and tastily dressed.

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The barbecue begins! Commence with the Atsugiri Tan Shio (RM35), thickly cut tongue that's sliced into smaller pieces for cooking. This was a satisfying surprise, with a solid bite and succulent chew, dipped into a little lemon juice before eating. Tongue action at its most fulfilling; order this, definitely.

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Today's Premium 4 Cuts is the ideal introduction to Shin Nihon; it's worth splurging on 200 grams of wagyu for RM140, sampling clearly identified choice cuts of meat selected by the kitchen - for our visit, sirloin, tenderloin, chuck eye roll and brisket. Each mouthful proves luxuriously smooth and addictively juicy; it's also fun to examine the differences between each cut, which you can dab with a soy-based tare sauce or pink salt for extra punch. You can also opt for more budget-friendly regular beef (which starts at RM60) instead of wagyu, or on the other end of the spectrum for larger groups of customers, order a one-kilogram serving that comes in a striking boat-shaped serving presentation.

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The yakiniku experience also extends to the interesting Premium Yaki Shabu (RM50), relatively thinly sliced shabu shabu-style wagyu meat, dipped into dashi broth with vegetables, for flavours that are simultaneously nuanced and umami-filled ...

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... & offal options like Shimacho (RM20); these intestines pack plenty of intriguing texture and flavour - chewy, slightly crispy, fatty and very savoury, in an unmistakably beefy way. They taste so sinful, you might be stricken by guilt from gobbling them up, but they're irresistible.


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Shin Nihon has sushi too, substituting seafood with beef, of course. The Premium Gyu Nigiri (RM9) most resembles traditional sushi with tenderly cooked slices of wagyu beef and an uplifting dash of wasabi on top. If you crave spectacle, check out the Roasted Ribeye Sushi (RM25), torched topside in front of you, blanketing both the rice and ultimately, your taste buds for an indelible indulgence to cap your dinner here.

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For drinks, the beef can be impeccably paired with the house red wine (RM19 per glass). If you're feeling lucky, you can play Suntory Whisky Soda Highball game of chance, in which you roll a pair of dice for your drink. If you end up with an even number combined, you can purchase a regular glass for RM10; if you get an odd-number total, you'll enjoy a mega 700-ml glass at RM35. If you roll the same number on both, you'll get a regular glass on the house.

Thanks to Shin Nihon for giving us a glimpse of beef paradise.

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Note: Shin Nihon's sister restaurant is located a few doors away - the yakitori specialist Toridoki

Shin Nihon
Daily, 530pm–1am | Tel: 03-2856-7350
No. 26, Jalan 24/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Aliyaa @ Bukit Damansara: Lamprais on Sundays

By EDKL Writer A.A.

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KL’s premier Sri Lankan restaurant, Aliyaa, has been pleasing its patrons with classics like string hoppers, fish sothi and kiribath lamb for nearly a decade, but there’s a new offering here that’s poised to become a well-deserved smash: The banana leaf-wrapped Lamprais (RM28) is now available every Sunday, for dine-in and delivery.

This Dutch Burgher-influenced staple has stood the test of time for more than three centuries in Sri Lanka, and Aliyaa’s recipe - the result of nearly half a year of tastings in Colombo and fine-tuning in Aliyaa’s kitchen to ensure an authentic experience - is something that many Malaysians will enjoy immensely as well.

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Unwrapping this oven-steamed treasure releases a potent fragrance that proclaims how rich and absolutely aromatic it is. The parcel of pleasure reveals a hearty, appetite-rousing meal, complete on its own: Fluffy short-grain rice cooked in a stock of cardamom and cloves (the kitchen relies on spices cultivated in Sri Lanka, no less), surrounded by boneless chicken meat, ash plantains, brinjal pahi (eggplant relish), blachan (shrimp paste) and frickadel (minced chicken meatball).

You might be tempted to sample each ingredient separately, but Aliyaa's chef Shiva (who hails from Sri Lanka’s hill city of Nuwara Eliya, but has been with the restaurant for eight years) recommends mixing everything up thoroughly - that’s how lamprais is traditionally consumed to savour its complex, unique dimensions.

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Boom! Each spoonful promises an array of tastes and textures, simultaneously familiar and surprising. It's not punishingly fiery, but the heat is unmistakeable, lingering pleasantly on the palate. It's many things at one time - savoury and bold, starchy and meaty, grainy and gravied; it may be tricky to pinpoint exactly what you're tasting in each bite, but everything comes together harmoniously for a fulfilling symphony of addictiveness, with a real kick that’ll keep you eating to the end. If you love flavour-packed rice recipes, this is certainly a should-try.

The lamprais is available every Sunday - enjoy it in the comfort of the restaurant, pick it up, or have it delivered for free, anywhere in the Klang Valley. Orders need to be placed with Aliyaa by 7pm on Saturday (via Facebook or by phone). A minimum order of two servings is required, but again, it’s worth stressing that Aliyaa will send it to your doorstep for free, between 12pm-6pm on Sundays.

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Besides the lamprais, we also dug into a signature dish available daily: The Colombo Crab (currently RM16.50 per 100g), featuring fleshy crabs generally flown in live from Sri Lanka, typically weighing between 1- 2 kilograms. The Colombo Crab surfaces in a deep, dark sauce that’s sweetish and slightly spicy - we were happy to wipe the sauce clean after polishing off each morsel of the superbly succulent crustacean, prepared to perfection. Crab enthusiasts, take note. And for further seafood goodness, it’s worth starting your meal here with Fish Cutlets (RM21), crisp on the outside, tender and tasty within.

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We were probably too stuffed for dessert, but there’s no resisting the the Vatilappam (RM10), a luscious custard pudding constructed of coconut, brown palm sugar, eggs, cinnamon and spices - so smooth, you could even slurp it straight off the plate. The Sweet Appam (RM6) is ideally eaten by folding it and biting into it by hand, getting the lovely moist base and impeccably crispy edges all at once in each mouthful.

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To complete this one-of-a-kind gastronomic adventure, Aliyaa boasts a unique cocktail selection that takes delightful cues from South Asian flavours - indulge in the KOT (RM29; a tropical-paradise medley of fresh coconut, Malibu and dark rum), Colombo Cup (RM28; a revitalising concoction that mixes Sri Lanka’s Mendis arrack with dry vermouth and ginger ale) and Cinnabar (RM34; blended fresh coconut with Malibu, crushed ice, rock sugar, finished with a delicately fragrant cinnamon stick, also brought in from Sri Lanka). Many thanks to Aliyaa for one of our most satisfying lunches this month.

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Aliyaa Restaurant & Bar
Daily, 11am–3pm, 6pm–11pm | Tel: 03-2092-5378
48 G&M, Medan Setia 2, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.