masterchef australia dinner

A MasterChef dinner? I was puzzled when my dear gave me this as a very special and memorable Christmas present. I was curious about how you can have a MasterChef dinner in Malaysia and we arrived at the apartment @ the Curve after making reservations.

masterchef dinner malaysia

It turns out that there is a special, limited edition degustation menu from the judges and contestants of MasterChef Australia Season 5. This is totally legit, the recipes were licensed to the apartment and my better half had won RM 200 worth of vouchers so she treated me to this delicious dinner.

masterchef degustation menu

There are three (3) main courses to choose from – Stuffed Turkey with Pumpkin Puree (RM 128++) based on Samira El Khaffir’s Stuffed Chicken with Pumpkin Puree recipe, Seared Steak with Hollandaise Sauce, Roasted Pumpkin, Cauliflower & Pine Nut (RM 148++) by Michael Todd and Confit Salmon (RM 98++) by Samira – the contestant we both dislike immensely. Haha!

Amuse-bouche

amuse-bouche

This was a duo of grilled cherry tomatoes with herbs on nachos. There’s only two on the plate (which is the standard plate the apartment uses for appetizers and thus a bit worn looking) which was a little bit weird, plating wise, coz you always put three (3) servings or another odd number. I only realized this when my better half told me about it. It’s a wonderful start though – this is a delicious complimentary starter from the chef.

Appetizer
Braised Lamb Shoulder Tostada (Andy Allen)

lamb shoulder tostada

We both loved this as well. My dear said the lamb didn’t have too much of a gamey taste so it suits her. I thought it was executed well and the lamb shoulder gave a nice texture to put on the tostada. It’s just a little too similar, texture-wise, to the amuse-bouche. I loved the juicy pomegranate seeds strewn throughout though – it was nice!

Soup
Carrot Liquid with a Hint of Blood Orange

carrot soup blood orange

The plating is well thought out – the blood orange comes in a shot glass so you can pour as much (or as little) as you want into the carrot soup. The soup has a very spicy end note though so my dear didn’t manage to finish hers. I loved mine though, I thought the acidity of the blood orange balances out the creaminess of the carrot soup.

Sorbet
Summer Peach Granita

summer peach granita

A wonderful interlude before the main course! The sorbet is in nicely large granulated form so it’s great as a palate cleanser before our mains arrived. There’s no attribution to this and the soup but I think I saw it in one of the MasterClass episodes from one of the judges – think it was Gary.

Main Course
Confit Salmon (Samira El Khaffir)

salmon confit

This is what my better half ordered. It’s the only one that she could have gone for considering she doesn’t like beef. I don’t like cooked salmon in general coz restaurants tend to overcook it but this one was done very nicely. It was cooked to perfection!

confit salmon

The entire salmon was nicely seasoned and pink and there’s none of the dryness that comes from overcooking this piece. I tend to prefer raw salmon sashimi but this changed my mind – it was juicy and tender, with all the natural taste of the salmon brought out.

Main Course
Stuffed Turkey with Pumpkin Puree (Samira El Khaffir)

samira turkey

I was torn between Michael Todd’s Seared Steak with Hollandaise Sauce, Roasted Pumpkin, Cauliflower & Pine Nut and this one and decided to go for the turkey since it’s Christmas. This recipe is based off of Samira’s Stuffed Chicken with Pumpkin Puree. It was quite an interesting dish as the Middle Eastern influence was *really* apparent in the dish.

rice stuffed turkey

The turkey is stuffed with a basmati rice and spice mix! That’s the most fusion stuffing I’ve ever come across and it kinda, sorta works. I can’t say I’ll give this 10/10, more like 7/10 – I enjoyed it but it wasn’t mind-blowing. There’s something to be said about eating a Middle Eastern inspired turkey and not all of it is good. smirk

Notes on service: The waiter took away her plate while I was still eating. She had finished her confit salmon but I was still halfway through my turkey. I thought that was quite rude – you never start clearing plates until everyone is done in the service industry. It’s a major service no-no.

feedback form

Also, he didn’t always serve the woman first, which is another service faux pas. However, the waiter was always polite and kept refilling our cold water so I mentioned this to the supervisor, Julito, who apologized profusely and gave me a feedback form to file my grievances.

masterchef vouchers

It seemed that they didn’t know this basic rule of etiquette about clearing dishes but the supervisor was professional throughout and the waiter was just plain ignorant so no harm done. The bill came up to RM 280++ so it was about RM 90 after the RM 200 vouchers was used.

Dessert
Modern Baklava (Samira El Khaffir)

modern baklava

This is an absolutely wonderful end to the dinner! The baklava was *cloyingly sweet* but I mean that in the most complimentary way. There’s two sauces that comes with the dish – one is sweetened condensed milk based and the other something akin to caramelized sugar. It was decadent and delicious! We both polished our plates! Haha!

masterchef dinner us

Thanks for the thoughtful gift dear! We both enjoyed our MasterChef Australia Season 5 dinner with recipes from the judges and contestants and would go again, except that was the last week of the promotion. It’s a wonderful Christmas present coz we both went to Australia at the beginning of the year as our first trip overseas and we both watched MasterChef Australia Season 5 together. <3

christmas eve dinner

Senja is an Italian restaurant despite it’s Malay sounding name. The food is prepared by Chef Filippo Giunta, a friendly Sicilian which I got to meet later. It is best known for it’s homemade pasta and pizzas (they even have a firewood oven) and the ambiance – it’s built on stilts above a man-made lake and the view is quite pleasing.

senja saujana

I was there to check out their Christmas Eve Dinner. I haven’t been here for a while and I thought I’ll come and check out their new pasta machine. Thanks for the invite Azimy and Azirah and it’s a pleasure to meet you Karen!

bread

The five course meal was preceded by their wonderful home-made bread, which I absolutely loved. It came with four different types of dip – the whole olives and sun-dried tomatoes being two of my favorite.

Schiuma di Papate con Capesante ed Aneto
Potato Mousse with Scallop and Dill Oil

scallops

This is the first course proper – the amouse-bouche. It’s a nicely cooked piece of scallop topped with black caviar with potato mousse and dill oil. I thought it’s a nice start for the Christmas Eve course.

Capaccio di Manzo con Rucola e Dressing al Parmigiano
Carpaccio of Black Angus with Rocket and Parmesan Dressing

black angus carpaccio

I really, really liked this. The circular tissue-thin Black Angus is aged well so you can taste the intense flavors in this apt appetizer. I wish I could have more of this. Perfectly dry-aged (I think, forgot to ask) beef.

chef filippa giunta

There are three main courses you can choose from:

Linguine con Funghi Selvatici e Tartufo
Homemade Linguine Pasta with Wild Mushrooms and Black Truffle

linguini black truffle

This would be my recommendation for the main course if you’re not one of those people who must have turkey on Christmas Eve. I’ve seen how they make their pasta in-house and the linguine is cooked to perfection – dictionary definition of “al dente”. I enjoyed the simplicity of the dish, spruced up by generous shavings of black truffle.

Salmone in Padella Sevito con Spinaci, Salsa Prosecco e Caviale Nero
Tasmanian Salmon served with Butter Spinach, Prosecco Sauce and Black Caviar

salmon

There’s nothing wrong with this dish, but it didn’t quite hit the spot for me. It’s a generous slice of salmon on top of spinach and it was the first main dish that I ate but I felt that the salmon overpowered all the other flavors in the dish and it was a tad overcooked but then again I won’t pretend to be a food critic. Heh. I just felt that the other two dishes were much better.

Petto di Tacchino con Mele Verdi, Funghi in Padella e Riduzione al Vino Porto
Stuffed Turkey Breast with Poached Granny Smith Apple, Cepes Mushroom and Port Wine Sauce

turkey

I really liked the crisp turkey skin and the juicy turkey meat. I loved the stuffing. It’s a classic Christmas dish that has everything done right including the apple cubes beneath the turkey that gives it a sweet dimension. Highly recommended, I would go for this or the pasta for the main course. Come to think of it, I’ll recommend this, coz you can have pasta any other time. ;)

Panettone Tradizionale con Crema di Mascarpone e Caffe
Traditional Panettone “Tiramisu” with Mascarpone and Coffee Cream

panettone tiramisu

This is hands down the best dessert I’ve had this month, or maybe even this quarter. I might even hazard to go “this year” due to this wonderful creation from Chef Filippo Giunta. It’s not a regular tiramisu made with Savoiardi – that has been made passé with this “tiramisu” made from Panettone. Just think of Savoiardi being substituted with Panettone Antica Ricetta and you’ll have an inkling of what this marvelous dessert tastes like.

It’s awesome – there’s no other word to describe it. The Mascarpone and coffee cream dominates the Panettone that has been rendered soft and yielding and the burst of fruitcake combined with the thick, cloying cream resulted in a truly fearsome dessert. It’s delicious! :D

panettone

This is the Panettone used for the Christmas Eve Dinner dessert at Senja. It’s the specialty Christmas cake of Milan which traces its roots to an ancient Franciscan cloister in Saronno. It’s orgasmic – there’s a bit of fruitcake to remind you of the festive season and I was very impressed by this dessert. The Mascarpone and coffee cream slathered on top of this Panettone “tiramisu” takes the cake (haha). I’ll go just for this dessert again!

christmas cookies

We also had mince pies, biscuits and gingerbread cookies after the meal and I was so enamored by the Panettone “tiramisu” that Chef Filippo Giunta came out with what the dome-shaped Christmas cake. The Christmas Eve Dinner at Senja, Saujana Hotel is priced from RM 160++ to RM 280++ with optional wine pairing.

wine

They also have a New Year’s Eve set dinner priced at the same range where you can watch fireworks by the lake. Senja Restaurant is also starting a new tradition of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day brunches with buffet style antipasto and desserts from RM 90++. They can be reached at 03 7843 1234 for reservations. Oh, and they also sell that Panettone cake by itself but it won’t nearly be as good as the one made into “tiramisu”. Heh.

agua restaurant straits quay

Agua restaurant is located at the new Straits Quay in Penang. It specializes in Mediterranean cuisine and the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue that well since it sounds like something else in Hokkien. Heh.

aqua restaurant straits quay

I remember the first authentic Mediterranean restaurant I’ve been to – Dion in Melbourne, a Greek establishment where we went to celebrate an ex-classmate’s birthday way back in early 2003. That’s some classic food review action going on there. ;)

agua hb cheryl

I was in Penang over the weekend and made plans to meet up with Cheryl. Straits Quay is a relatively upmarket place by the marina housing designer labels like Versace, but according to Cheryl most people go there for the food. We perused the F&B restaurants listed in the directory and decided to check out Agua.

agua interior

The interior of Agua is decked out really nicely – there are vintage looking paintings on the wall and a long bar to one side. You would expect prices to be exorbitant in a place like this but it’s really quite reasonable – they have express lunch sets starting from RM 22++ and more lavish three course meals for RM 45++.

Starters

pumpkin orange soup
Pumpkin and Orange Soup (RM 14.90)
This is an interesting interplay of flavors – you can literally taste both the sweet pumpkin and the tart citrus in the soup. I love the croutons as well – it’s crunchy and goes very well with the soup.

tomato soup
Spicy Sweet Pepper and Tomato (RM 14.90)
Cheryl opted for this soup so we can share the dishes we have. It’s very spicy and perfect as an appetizer!

hummus
Hummus (RM 14.90)
How can you go to a Mediterranean restaurant and not order hummus? Lainey had this one – it’s off the a la carte menu and the bread tastes very fresh. I like the hummus too – you can just see a sheen of olive oil on it but it’s really healthy stuff.

Mains

fish st tropez
Fish St. Tropez
I reckon this would go perfectly with the red wine I ordered. It’s poached fish in a white wine, cream and mushroom sauce. The fish is soft and a squeeze of lemon does wonders to the taste. I liked the sauce and the sprinkling of herbs on top of the fillets.

mediterranean pasta
Mediterranean pasta
Lainey opted for this one. I didn’t quite like the taste but I’ve never liked tomato based sauces anyway, I’m more of an alfredo kinda guy. It tastes pretty authentic though with just a pure and clean-on-the-palate mixture of tomatoes, onions and peppers.

mustard marinated beef
Mustard marinated roast beef
It is listed as marinated beef roasted and sliced thinly with salad and rosemary potatoes. Cheryl had this for her main dish and I was surprised when I tried it coz I didn’t expect much from the description. The thin slices of beef is very flavorful and slightly juicy. It’s served cold and I think I ended up eating a lot of Cheryl’s marinated roast beef. Tasty!

Dessert

agua desserts
Single scoop ice cream
The girls had a scoop of chocolate and strawberry ice cream. The serving sundae cups are frozen before the ice cream is put in – you don’t put hot food on a cold plate and you don’t put cold desserts in a room temperature cup. Agua understands that and it’s this attention to detail that I like.

figs brandy sauce
Figs in Brandy Syrup (RM 16.90)
I thought they served me the wrong dessert at first – I expected dry figs instead but this concoction topped with vanilla ice cream just hits the spot. The brandy syrup goes very well with the figs.

agua us

The bill came up to RM 156.50 for three and that’s pretty reasonable considering I had wine with my lunch. Agua gets a thumbs up from me – the service is impeccable and attentive and we were there for quite a while, just catching up, and you never feel like you’re obliged to leave. It was great meeting up with you again Cheryl! :)

Agua also has Iberico ham on the menu and their signature dish is the Valencia paella with seafood, chicken and pork. It takes too long to prepare though and we had to drive down to KL after, so we reluctantly opted out of that. However, Cheryl is coming down to KL soon and she was talking about eating at Sanbanto coz she’s heard so much about it.

sanbanto
RM23 instead of RM38.50 for a Double Decker Bacon Cheese Burger + Ice Lemon Tea at Sanbanto Cafe, Redeemable at 3 Locations. Limited Vouchers Available! NON HALAL [40% OFF]

Sanbanto has achieved almost a cult status among porcine lovers in KL. They have their own butchery and their menu is filled with pork delights. I was surfing MilkADeal and I came across this promotion for a Double Decker Bacon Cheese Burger. Sanbanto makes their own patties and it’s a coincidence that the redemption period for this is when Cheryl is coming down so I got one of the vouchers.

Let’s go and try all the legendary pork dishes in Sanbanto Cheryl! :D

la bodega

La Bodega in Bangsar is supposedly the first authentic Spanish tapas
bar in Malaysia. I went there on my final night in KL to celebrate my
RRMA win. The ambience in Bangsar was as lively as usual, despite it
being a Sunday night.

la_bodega_bistro.jpg

La Bodega tapas y vinos is a bistro restaurant that serves their flagship tapas as well as other Spanish cuisine.

la bodega bar

The interior is nicely designed, with bar style seating arrangements around the bar, and tables on the side.

la bodega wall

The walls of La Bodega are covered with B&W pictures, showing
life, as it were. I liked it a lot. There’s also something very
interesting, if you look up…

la bodega wine top

The top of La Bodega in Bangsar is custom fitted with a wine rack!
There are literally bottles of wine hanging on top of you. Nice!

la bodega order

We placed our orders and I got a bottle of champagne to celebrate,
but they were out, and the attendant recommended Torres Grand Coronas
Cabernet Sauvignon, which was okay with me, coz I like red wine.

la bodega food

We ordered from the hot tapas and raciones menu as well as from the
paella menu. The photo above shows the various tapas that we ordered.
It all tasted good, the sauces were soaked up well by the bread.

la bodega tapas 1

Pollo al ajillo (Chicken sauteed in olive oil, garlic and parsley)

la bodega tapas 2

Chuletas de cordero a la parrilla (Grilled lamb cutlets gratinated with garlic mayonnaise)

la bodega tapas 3

Albondigas “Saint Climent” (Lamb meatballs in a rich brandy sauce)

la bodega paella

This is the main meal – Paella Valenciana mixta. It’s prawns,
chicken, mussels and clams cooked in a paella with saffron, peppers,
peas and rice.

la bodega paella flash

Here’s a photo of it with flash. This dish requires a minimum of two
people and a 30 minute wait, but that wasn’t a problem with us as we
all had this for the main.

paella mixed

This is what it looks like after it’s mixed. It’s counted per
person, at RM 18, so if there’s four in your group, the dish is RM 72.

paella mixed flash

Here’s a clearer photo, with flash. It’s surprisingly filling and they were generous with the ingredients. It tasted wonderful.

la bodega group

This is a group shot of us at La Bodega in Bangsar. L-R: Alice,
Richard, Louisa, Huai Bin (me). The bill came up to about RM 300, but
it’s worth it. Good food, highly recommended!

dionex1.jpg

Happy birthday Karen! It was Karen’s birthday today so we got her a
cake and decided to go for some Greek food. We actually planned to go
to Antipodes but Dion
[dionrestaurant.com.au] was just two doors down and we haven’t eaten
there before. The Dion PR guy standing outside saw us standing in
between and contemplating which one to go to and immediately approached
us and invited us inside. He said Dion is an award winning restaurant
and we won’t be disappointed. Heh. Alright, dude.

dionex2.jpg

Going off on a different tangent it seems that a lot of restaurants
here have PR people (promoters?) standing outside trying to pull
customers in but I don’t see that a lot back home in Malaysia.
Interesting. Oh, I bumped into one of my old college friend while in
the city today. It was good to see him again, haven’t seen him around
for a while.

dionint.jpg

Anyway Dion has a really nice ambience, the lighting was great and
it’s a very popular place to eat. It was empty when we went there early
but it soon filled up to capacity. There were only two waiters and two
waitresses and but the service was still good.

karenuh.jpg
Karen (the birthday girl) with Ung Hing her bf

Oh, guess what I had today? Ouzo! [greekproducts.com] :)

I had wanted to try that ever since I saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
They were drinking shooters of it during one scene and it looked so
tempting. I didn’t actually know what it was called, so I asked our
waitress whether she has watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Haha! Well,
she smiled and said yes so I asked her what that shooter they were
drinking is called.

ouzo.jpg
God’s gift to mankind

It wasn’t on the menu, but they had it (it was a Greek restaurant
and even the waiters and waitresses are Greek). Anyway, I ordered two
of those and downed them. It’s really, really amazingly tasty! There is
a strong smell and taste of liquorish and it’s very sweet and has a
very satisfying aftertaste. Very, very nice, if you ever see it around,
do yourself a favor and have one of these things. It’s so tasty it
ought to be illegal! :)

meuozo.jpg

I could drink these things all day, but they cost A$6 each, which
wouldn’t be expensive normally, but I’m running short this month due to
having to replace most of my computer about a week ago. Delicious,
delicious stuff. Devine! I reckon you can get it at Greek bottle shops
too, there’s one in Clayton so I’ll pop in and check someday.

annabrd.jpg
Thien Na showing us how to properly butter a bread. Apparently, just slathering it on top is not considered appropriate

Anyway, I’m digressing so much. Just don’t miss out on having this
if you get the chance. It’s absolutely amazing stuff. Well, four of us
had the dinner banquet and the others had the main meals. The dinner
banquet was really too much for four people, but it sure was
interesting.

dionmenu.jpg

If you can’t read the menu from the picture, I’ve cut and pasted it from the Dion website. The banquet we had was:

MIXED DIPS – Various Dips
DOLMADES – Vine leaves filled with rice and herbs
SAGANAKI – Pan fried graviera cheese, lemon and oregano dressing
LOUKANIKA – Char-grilled Greek sausages
KEFTEDES – Char-grilled Greek style meat rissoles
MIXED SOUVLAKI – Char-grilled lamb and chicken on skewers
OCTAPOTH1 XITHATO – Marinated octopus
FILLETS OF FISH – Fillets of fresh fish
PATATES – Oven baked potatoes
ELLENIKI SALATA – Greek Salad
DESSERTS – Exclusively from Medallion Cakes

dip.jpg

The dips were the most interesting thing. There was a purple dip, a
pink deep, a bizarre green dip, an orange one and a yellow one. At one
point, I was just eating the dip with a fork just for fun. They look so
interesting.

kareneat.jpg
Karen eating…

I’ve had heaps of dolmas before so I’m familiar with it. I used to
get it in cans, my lecturer in college is such a big promoter of dolmas
and got us into eating it. It’s good stuff, but the Dion ones beats the
ones of out the cans anyday.

main.jpg

Saganaki was too cheesy, I didn’t really enjoy it, and I think no
one else did too. Loukanika is pretty spicy and that’s good but I was
so full at that time I only ate half. Keftedes wasn’t really anything
special…tasted like meat patties filled with herbs. The grilled lamb
and chicken was my favorite!

myside.jpg
One side of the table: (from left) Chuck Fong, Thien Na, Huai Bin (me), Christopher

oppside.jpg
The other side of the table: (from left) Chuck Fong, Adrian, Chuck Yong, Karen

This is so bizarre. Ung Hing is missing and I don’t remember the seating was this way before.

The marinated octopus was great as well, but I didn’t eat much of
the fish and potatos. I’m more of a meat eater although I like fish,
just not in fillets. The Greek Salad was good as well, but the goat
cheese was a bit too hard. Eh, so I’m a food reviewer now, it seems. :)

dessert.jpg

Okay, now the best thing is the desserts. It comes from Medallion
Cakes, a place three doors down, which serves the best cakes and
desserts in Melbourne. In my opinion anyway! They’re elaborate works of
art that looks almost too good to eat!

annakeb.jpg

Well, Thien Na had to leave after the main course to fetch her bf to
go to Moomba and we got her to carry a lamb kebab with her. We left
soon after to go to Moomba as well, and that’ll be the next post. I
feel sleepy now but I’ll write it if I feel more awake later. It’s
probably going to be tomorrow though. Yeah, it’ll definately have to be
tomorrow. *yawn* Anyway, Dion is a great place, I’ll go again, if only
just for the Ouzo. Heh. It’s at Lonsdale St, I’m sure everyone in
Melbourne knows where it is, since it’s on such a prominent street. Oh,
funny thing was, we forgot to bring the cake out! We left it at Karen’s
house while waiting for her to change. Heh. Happy 22nd Karen!

everyone.jpg

Did you know? That everyone is this picture was from Methodist High School, Sibu in 1998 :) They’re all my high school friends.

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