Top 5 delicious lunch options around KL Sentral

June-Tee

I want to preface this controversial listing by saying these are my personal favorites. I work in Menara 1 Sentrum beside nu sentral mall in Brickfields. I’ve been to most of the popular lunch options around here like Peter Pork, Money Corner, Sin Kee Restaurant. None of those made my top 5 list. I like the Western food stall at Money Corner and Peter Pork’s pork noodle are decent but I usually prefer eating rice during lunch.

#1 Husen Cafe

Husen-Cafe

I’ll eat here at least once a week. The dish I always order is onion chicken – a tomato sambal chicken with intense onion sauce. Husen Cafe serves chicken quarters, so you can either have a breast (white meat) portion or a thigh (dark meat) portion. I usually go for the breast as it’s easier to eat and the portions are a lot bigger. This is ¼ chicken and the chickens they use are huge! It’s more than enough for even the biggest eaters.

Onion-Chicken

It’s reasonably priced compared to other similar places. This whole shebang just cost me RM 10.

Husen-Chicken

Best paired with okra (ladies fingers) or onion raita (raw onions with yoghurt). Don’t forget their papadom! The owner will waive the RM 0.30 for iced water too if you’re a regular.

#2 Pu Xian Wei Restaurant

Pu-Xian-Wei

This is my go to lunch spot. We call it “China chap fan” coz it’s run by Mainland China Chinese. The food they serve are tweaked to PRC palates, so it has different flavors from what local Chinese are used to. It’s delicious! Google’s SEM (paid search) team is in the same building as my office and they have teams from all over the world based in Malaysia. I met a Vietnamese girl taking the LRT who’s on a 1 year contract and found out they have a free cafeteria inside their office. You always see people from Korea, Japan, Russia, and all other nations in the lifts.

China-Chap-Fan

The reason I shared that anecdote is coz you’ll often see the teams from Singapore, China and Taiwan wearing their distinctive Google plain blue/red lanyard in the China chap fan. They’ll come and eat here despite having free food at their workplace. That’s the best endorsement this chap fan place can hope for. It passes the taste test of Mainland Chinese people. It’s so good they’re willing to pay good money when they could have a free lunch.

Chap-Fan-China

I find them a little expensive at first but the Mainland Chinese lady calculating how much your plate costs will give you steep discounts once you’re a regular. Or maybe she just likes my face. Haha.

#3 Royale Nasi Lemak

Nasi-Lemak-Royale

My guilty pleasure. I’ve stopped going after getting explosive diarrhea twice in a row but you should be fine if you stick to the popular meats like their freshly fried chicken. The ayam masak hitam and ayam masak merah can be a bit dodgy at times. Those are made with fried chicken so it’s often cooked with the previous day’s fried chicken that’s been sitting unsold during off peak hours under a heat lamp in ideal bacteria breeding temperatures.

Royale-Nasi

Nasi lemak in the Northern states mean nasi kandar, so don’t be surprised when you don’t get santan flavored rice. The rice at Royale is scented with pandan though. It’s exactly like nasi kandar where you choose the dishes you want and finish it off with kuah campur. Their curries are delicious!

Royale-Pile

I always get their fish egg curry and sotong egg curry too. My dish usually comes up to RM 14-18 so it’s not a cheap place.

#4 Gu Zao Seafood Restaurant

Gu-Zao

This is the best fish restaurant I’ve been to. Their forte is seafood, although they also serve other proteins like chicken and pork. Most people go here for their Deep Fried Threadfin (RM 18) which is a whole ma yao served with delicious soy sauce. Their lunch sets come with rice and a side of vegetables for free. They’ve also recently started giving away free soup with sizable chunks of daikon radish inside. It’s noisy due to the acoustics but there’s air conditioning and the lady who owns the shop is very nice.

Fried-Threadfin

I also recommend their Asam Tilapia and Taucu Tilapia (both RM 17). They’re both equally good, though the edge goes to the fermented soy beancurd one. I usually order tilapia instead of the threadfin coz there’s a lot more meat and its RM 1 cheaper. The tilapia here is more delicious than dedicated seafood restaurants who charge twice this price!

Fish-Shop

Their 3-egg steamed Chinese omelet with salted egg, century egg and normal egg is delicious too. The prices are higher than the surrounding F&B outlets but it’s air conditioned and the fish is amazing.

#5 Singh Chapati House

Singh-Chapati-House

I said I usually prefer rice but I also enjoy a good meal of chapati. The chapatis at Singh are freshly made and hot from the plate. It’s quite packed during lunch and the huge number of Indians eating here is a testament to their authenticity and taste. You serve yourself from the bain maries outside and tell your waiter how many chapatis you want. It’s kinda like a chap fan stall where you pick the curries you like and it’s calculated when you sit down.

Chapati

It’s quite expensive – each small piece of chicken is RM 3, but the taste is spot on. They use a lot of spices in their curries so there are wonderfully complex layers of flavors. Expect to pay around RM 16-18 per pax here for lunch.

Singh-Chapati

Did I miss out on your favorite? Let me know in the comments! I’ll try it if it’s within a 10 minute walk of KL Sentral.

Michelin Bib Gourmand zi char: Ka Soh (Outram Park)

Ka-Soh

Ka Soh has two outlets in Singapore and even a Malaysian outpost but only the one at Outram Park has received the Bib Gourmand award. They specialize in traditional fish head noodles – no dairy byproducts are added to achieve the color as a shortcut, the milky color comes from boiling the fresh snakehead fish and fish bones for 4 hours. They’re also known for their fried shrimp paste chicken (har cheong kai).

Kok-Sen-Us

I was in Singapore to celebrate my dad’s birthday and this was one of the places we ate at. Unfortunately, we were all exceedingly full due to a late heavy lunch after church, so we could only manage a few dishes. Ka Soh in Outram Park is in a hospital compound – the building belongs to an alumnus of medical professionals.

Prawn-Paste-Chicken

I was told I had to try their Prawn Paste Chicken (SGD 15.50). This is a very Singaporean dish where they fry chicken wings dipped in fermented prawn paste batter. The ones at Ka Soh was exceedingly crunchy with a nice prawn flavor. I love the crispy batter that coats the piping hot chicken.

Signature-Fish-Soup-Noodles

Signature Fish Soup Noodles (SGD 8.50) is what they’re known for so we got a bowl to share. It’s decent but it’s not my favorite thing. I can appreciate the creamy mouthfeel but I’m not a huge fan of the insipid soup. It’s not my favorite thing but I’m glad I tried it.

Signature-Pork-Ribs

Signature Pork Ribs (SGD 18.50) was recommended by the waitress and this turned out to be my favorite dish. It doesn’t look like much but it tastes delicious! The pork chop is marinated in a blend of spices and deep fried. It’s then cut into juicy strips and served with a sweet soy sauce dip. Excellent execution. I was forcibly kidnapped and taken to Flavor Town!

Sliced-Thick-Fish-Vermicelli-Noodles

Sliced Thick Fish Vermicelli Noodles (SGD 8) is the dry version of the above. I did enjoy this more than the soup ones. I may have a slight bias against soup noodles since I prefer stronger flavors to subdued ones. I’m what they call 重口味. 😄

Kangkung-with-Prawn-Paste

Kangkung with Prawn Paste (SGD 12) is the obligatory vegetable. It tastes exactly like what you’ll expect it to taste like. Stir fried well, but nothing exceptional. To be fair it’s hard to wow with a vegetable dish unless you have extraordinary ingredients or unusual cooking techniques.

Fried-Yam

We ended with Fried Yam (SGD 8), which is their signature dessert. It’s nicely done with a crispy exterior and a smooth, warm and creamy yam interior. We all enjoyed this dish but it’s a very rich and cloying Chinese style dessert. It’ll be hard to eat more than a few pieces.

Ka-Soh-Outram-Park

The bill came up to SGD 109.20 (around RM 332) which is quite a standard price for Singapore zi char. I honestly didn’t find Ka Soh exceptional. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but there are many similar quality zi char places in Singapore offering equal, if not better quality cooking. I find the Bib Gourmand listings in the Michelin Guide to be less accurate than the star listings. It’s great as a guide, but it’s certainly not an exhaustive listing.

Michelin Singapore Bib Gourmand roundup: A Noodle Story, Hong Kee Beef Noodle, J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff

A-Noodle-Story

A Noodle Story was one of the Bib Gourmand destinations I was most excited about. It’s Singaporean style ramen and the chefs are young folks getting into the hawkerpreneur life. It looked really good in photos. A Noodle Story is located at Amoy Street Food Centre, which is a huge building with many stalls. It’s exceedingly hot and packed during lunch time, so be warned! I had to queue for about 30 minutes before I got my bowl of noodles and nearly got heatstroke in that time.

Noodle-Story

The noodles come with lots of toppings like potato prawn (strings of crispy potato wrapped around a juicy prawn), oozing onsen egg, tender char siu made using Spanish pork belly, and Hong Kong style wontons. There’s also strings of what I thought was saffron (which is impossible, considering the price) but turned out to be peppers. It’s a nice touch. I really enjoyed the firm, toothsome and flavorful noodles. Recommended.

Hong-Kee-Beef-Noodle

Hong Kee Beef Noodle is located a few stalls down. They also won a Bib Gourmand for their beef stock that’s cooked for 24 hours. I got a bowl of their beef noodles to share with my dad. There is no queue for this stall. I tasted the noodles and immediately disliked it. I could barely discern any flavor! It’s quite tasteless to me. I thought they forgot to put salt in.

Beef-Noodle-Hong-Kee

It should be noted that my dad is a fan of subtle and simple flavors. He ate the noodles and gave it the thumbs down as well. “Too bland”, he declared. I honestly tell you, if something is too plain for my dad, it’ll be tasteless for 99.9% of the population. The seasoning game is too weak in these noodles. I may like it better if there was more flavor (or sodium) but the dreary broth and noodles taste insipid. Not my thing.

J2-Famous-Crispy-Curry-Puff

J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff is also located in the same center. I was too full to eat since I gobbled down a dumpling from Hoo Kee Bak Chang after the noodles. Luckily, curry puffs take very well to travelling so I bought some to eat in KL later that night. My sister also asked me to tapau her a few of these. These used to be the only curry puffs to be listed in Michelin Bib Gourmand, but Rolina was also included in the new 2018 guide.

J2-Curry-Puff

It’s quite good! I liked these curry puffs. My favorite was the black pepper chicken but I also enjoyed the sardine one. I usually don’t choose sardines coz I thought they’re something you take straight from the can and stuff it in the pastry. Not so with J2. I hear they only pick the large sardines and season it with their own in-house blend. They only sell 500 curry puffs each day. The crust is nicely flaky and crispy. Worth trying.

Double feature: Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee + Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken

Hong-Heng-Fried-Sotong-Prawn-Mee

The chef-owner at Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee must have watched too much Young & Dangerous coz Hong Heng is the fictitious gang in the series led by Ekin Cheng. I watched him (the chef, not Ekin) apply his pek yao skills to the wok. They serve their noodles with just a spoon coz the chef cham (chop) the mee already, as befitting his stall name. You don’t need chopsticks to pick up the truncated length noodles. There’s a queue even at the odd afternoon hour I visited but it moved fast.

Bib-Gourmand-Prawn-Mee

“I take inspiration fron gu wak chai”. He didn’t actually say that, I simply add one. 😄

Tiong-Bahru-Prawn-Mee

The noodles are flavored well but a bit too bland for me. I think adding a bit more salt would have elevated the dish. Maybe he under seasoned my batch. I love their chilli sauce and it’s a comforting dish of noodles. I just wish it were saltier. Worth a try.

Tiong-Bahru-Hainanese-Boneless-Chicken-Rice

Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice is also at Tiong Bahru Food Center. They have an unusual addition I’ve never seen before – pickles! It really adds a lot to the dish as the acidic sweetness cuts through the fattiness of the chicken and rice. I also think the tau keh nio is quite pretty. Hehe. She’s a friendly person too, and when she heard I was from KL, she told me they started an outlet in JB, Malaysia but it didn’t do well so they closed it. Apparently Malaysians have different taste buds and requirements when it comes to chicken rice.

Tiong-Bahru-Bib-Gourmand-Chicken-Rice

I really enjoyed the chicken rice here. The drumstick was nice and moist and the tender meat speaks well to me. I also liked the onion notes in the chicken rice. But it was the pickle that stole the show – it’s such an awesome ingredient in chicken rice that I wonder why other stalls don’t include this. The chilli dip is spot on too. Delicious.

Tiong-Bahru-Chicken-Rice

I’ll go again.

Cooking my own Thipsamai branded Pad Thai (Bib Gourmand)

Thipsamai

Thipsamai is a Bangkok institution that serves up pad thai in a huge multi-room sprawling empire in Pratuphee. There is a long queue snaking out the front every single night. The army of chefs work fast though so the line moves relatively quickly. They’ve recently been honored in the Michelin Bib Gourmand listings and I decided to check them out after my visit to Raan Jay Fai.

Thipsamai-Bangkok

I had eaten at Elvis Suki, Raan Jay Fai and Tongue Fun ice cream in the past 3 hours so I was quite full. Fortunately, Thipsamai has a gift shop inside their restaurant that carries complete, ready-to-cook versions of their famous pad thai! Enterprising bastards! I decided to forgo eating there and get some packs to bring home instead. I also bought one of their branded plates and glasses so I could replicate the meal at home. At least, that’s what I told myself but I really wanted souvenirs too.

Pad-Thai

For my first attempt, I armed myself with large prawns (can’t have pad thai without shrimp), roasted peanuts (which I crushed), spring onions, firm tofu, egg and butter. I used the regular green version (the red one has shrimp oil). The packaging said to fry the dry pad thai noodles in oil till soft before mixing the sauce packet with an equal amount of water and pouring it in.

HB-Chopping

I thought it was a bit unusual to fry dehydrated noodles with butter without rehydrating them first but it works!

HB-Cooking

Here’s another photo of me doing domestic things while wearing a stringer that shows off my muscles for your viewing pleasure.

Maha-Nakhon

I paired it with a Maha Nakhon bottled beer I painstakingly brought back from Bangkok. This was the only one that survived. Another Cheers can exploded in mid-air from the air pressure differential and soaked all my packed clothes. The pad thai was decent but I felt like it could be improved.

Pad-Thai-Cooking

Thus, I refined my processes during my second try a week later. I used the red Thipsamai pad thai box with shrimp oil this time. I also bought bean sprouts (which I forgot the first time around) and Thai bird eye chillis. I fried the eggs first in a separate frying pan and made a flat omelet that I sliced into strips before adding it during the final stir. I also cracked in a raw egg to help things bind together.

Pad-Thai-Thipsamai

I threw in half of the bean sprouts, omelet, Thai chilli and spring onions and used the other half as a raw garnish so it remains crunchy. I also had a squeeze of lime and crushed peanuts as a topping. This version is insanely delicious! I love the combination of sweet notes from the peanuts and butter, the salty overtones from the pad thai sauce, the raw elements in the bean sprouts and spring onions, followed by a nice kick from the Thai chillies. I’ll rate it 10/10 if I’m allowed to rate my own cooking.

Thipsamai-Pad-Thai

I respect how Thipsamai pad thai leverages on their success by selling branded food and souvenirs. I’m all about resourceful minds and I enjoy food related souvenirs. That’s the only type of souvenir I buy. I got one of their vintage fridge magnets to put on my fridge and their Thipsamai plate and glass (same as the ones they use in-house) has been one of my favorite crockery for plating. I’ll be sure to revisit when I’m in Bangkok again to see how my own take on their ready-to-cook pad thai compares with the restaurant version.

Gaggan – 2 Michelin star 26-course dinner with wine pairing, a very detailed and long writeup

Gaggan-Experience

I was almost late to my 9:30 pm Gaggan dinner reservation. I had an exclusive seat at The Lab (Chef’s Table) and I hear they’ll only keep your reservation for 5 minutes before releasing it to someone else. Three Grab cars in a row cancelled on me. This was the highlight of my Bangkok trip, a 2 Michelin star progressive Indian feast that will set me back RM 1,600+ per person, and I didn’t want to miss it. Thankfully, the 4th driver came and sped me there with minutes to spare.

Gaggan-Bangkok

Gaggan is in a renovated mansion with two floors. I saw every single table was occupied. Mind you, reservations are made at least a month in advance so that’s impressive. I was greeted by an attractive young lady by name. She must have matched me to my email profile picture. She escorted me upstairs and held my seat for me. This is the type of restaurant that does that whenever you get up to pee but it doesn’t come across as intrusive or excessive, partly due to the friendly and approachable nature of the staff.

Gaggan-House

The Lab is a bar seating arrangement of 12 people curved in a U shape with the kitchen in the middle. All the chefs work inside so you can see them cooking and preparing your dishes. It’s also a super interactive session – the chefs all introduced themselves and explained every dish in detail. They also passed ingredients to us to touch and try. It’s like a Show and Tell session, but better! I was lucky to snag one of these coveted seats with just a month’s advance booking.

The-Lab

I also went for the wine pairing (4,500 baht/RM 580) for the ultimate experience. The sommelier was a nice Japanese guy. He’s knowledgeable and personable but at times I found his accented English difficult to understand. That said though, there’s something to be said about hearing Japanese accented English, it really ties the experience together coz the chefs are so multicultural! There are people from Norway to Africa!

Tablemates

The dinner started with the chefs getting everyone seated at The Lab to introduce themselves. I was first so I told them where I was from and what I was doing in Bangkok. The others came from a varied background – there was a newlywed couple from New York (a celebratory dessert was prepared for the entire table by Gaggan) and a female duo from Hong Kong (one of whom is a chef). I thought this was an excellent way to break the ice and get the guests seated at the Chef’s Table to talk amongst themselves.

Emoji-Menu

The famous emoji menu of Gaggan was presented to us. Each dish was described with one emoji, nothing else. You get the general idea of what the dish is about but you’ll only know the full details when they present you with the transparent overlay with words to go with the emojis at the end of the experience.

Champagne

Champagne was served with the first few courses. I won’t pretend to be knowledgeable about wine so I’ll just show the labels and when it was served so you’ll have an idea of the wines you’ll get with the wine pairing.

Peach

The first dish was 🍑 – peaches from Yamagata. This is a bigger portion that I expected. There are at least 26 courses in total so I expected each to be bite-sized but a lot of them were quite substantial. The chefs explained that these are peaches imported from Yamagata, which are known for their lovely pink skin and soft, white flesh. Perfect.

Explode

💥 – plain yoghurt with masala and black salt was next. This is a Gaggan signature. It was featured in the Netflix series Chef’s Table. There’s a strong boiled egg sulfur flavor. The yoghurt explodes when you bite into it. It literally bursts out with intense sulfur and masala overtones.

Tongue

The third plate was ingenious – 👅. These are sauces and dusts on a plate and they blasted the rock song “Lick it up” when we were eating this course. A few people were apprehensive at first, but we all got over the self-consciousness and started bringing the plate up to our faces and tonguing the sauces off.

Lick

It’s a brilliant way to disinhibit the diners. This picture got a lot of traction on my Facebook too.

Lick-it-up

Very good! *thumbs up*

Wine

A white wine came for the next few courses.

Cheese

This is 🧀. It’s batter of milk, milk fat, and milk solids fried with ghee to make a “cheese”. There’s no flour used and the base is crispy. It’s very interesting and the start of the series which uses oddly shaped white plates. You’ll find out what the plates are about soon.

Eggplant

🍆 is fresh eggplant cooked then put into the blast chiller and freeze dried for 6 days. So intensely flavored. It’s like a drop of eggplant essence. Very wow.

Dehydrated-Eggplant

The chefs also handed over two eggplants for us to touch and smell. The first one is a regular eggplant and the second after it’s been through the six day freeze drying process.

Rice

Idly is 🍚 – a savory rice cake, except this is idly shrunk 200 times and topped with a dehydrated curry leaf! It’s also 200x more expensive. It’s so soft and subtle – love the spongy bottom.

Second-Wine

I believe this is a natural wine. It’s paired with the upcoming courses.

Black

The mysterious ⚫ turned out to be a fried snack. I thought it was dhall inside and said so when the chefs asked if anyone knew what that was. It turned out to be chickpea samosa! It’s very hot.

Egg

🥚 is a vegetarian egg filled with liquid on a crispy and sweet nest. The shell bursts the moment you put this in your mouth. The bright and acidic liquid goes very well with the nest. This ended the white plates series and we’re supposed to fit all the empty plates together.

India

There’s a reason the empty plates weren’t cleared – they combine to make (no surprises here) India! It’s the continent Gaggan is from and all the previous dishes on the white plates have heavy Indian influences.

Forage

Brioche and mushroom was the 🍄 dish. It gives off a smoky scent when you open it.

Mushroom

Only one of the mushrooms is edible and you’re supposed to forage for the right one. I tasted a few wooden ones before I realized the edible mushroom is the hot one. I like this interactive rummaging.

Third-Wine

The wine pairing was very good. Although I’m not a wine geek and thus unable to describe the flavors in detail, I know that it went swimmingly with the food.

Ice-Cream

🍦 – ice cream presented as white asparagus. This is smoked and finished at your table.

White-Asparagus

The chefs told us we must eat this quickly before it melts.

Chilli

Som tam with green mango ice cream was 🌶️, delivered in a wrap and nicely plated on mung beans. Som tam is the Thai salad made with young mango slices. The baby tomatoes are from Japan. I love this – it’s very cold and acidic. My table mates loved it too.

Cold-Brew

The chefs showed us a cold brew device normally used to make coffee. They’re using it to filter French quail through the machine and it slowly drips in the background to be served 3 courses from now, coz that’s how long it takes to condense.

Curry

Curry is represented by 🍲 inside a panipuri casing. The secret curry inside is super creamy and sticks intently to your throat. Excellent.

Sake

Sake from Japan broke up the wine pairing. It’s meant to go with the Japanese food in the upcoming dishes.

Green-Apple

🍏 marks the start of the Japanese series and is the best grade of Japanese uni imported from Hokkaido paired with chutney ice cream and a green apple “seaweed”. It’s very delicious and the uni is remarkable. I liked the unusual pairing of ingredients too. Brilliant!

Sushi

🍣 is not sushi. It’s meringue made out of dashi. The wasabi and otoro is from Nagasaki and it’s finished with yuzu that’s been freeze dried so it can be grated. Wow! I loved this too.

Dehydrated-Yuzu

This is the yuzu fruit that’s been freeze dried.

Wasabi

They also have excellent quality real wasabi plant flown in from Japan. This is what you’re paying for, and also why a seat at The Lab is so fun. There’s the show and tell you wouldn’t get at a normal table.

Corn

The quail from before was the 🌽 course. It’s quail breast and the quail “tea” from the cold drip coffee device. The quail tea is hot and smells like charcoal. You’ll notice that Gaggan doesn’t offer any utensils – you’re supposed to eat everything with your hands and fingers! You drink the soup first, then fish out the quail breast. I love piece of charred micro corn at the bottom, which this dish is named for.

Fourth-Wine

This is the next wine in the wine pairing.

Prawn

Next up is 🍤 – fresh prawn from Thailand smoked in a tandoori with dehydrated curry on the side. It’s very salty for me but I like the thought that goes behind it. The curry is cooked, then painstakingly dehydrated for days so it turns into an intense tasting powder.

Coconut

Shake off your conceptions about curry with 🥥. It’s cold and raw curry (two no-nos) with scallops that you’re supposed to swirl and mix before eating.

Fifth-Wine

I hear this drawing is a portrait of the winemaker! It went with the next couple of dishes.

Dumpling

🥟 of pork vindaloo cooked for 12 hours. It’s a very acidic curry. The momo is made with wine sauce. The “dumpling” is made of black garlic cracker with 2 different chutneys and 2 different pickles. Not my favorite coz it’s super fatty.

Lamb

A huge lamb chop for 🐑. This is the most normal looking dish of the Gaggan experience. It’s marinated in chilli and cooked in a tandoori. Very smoky flavors! Again, you use your fingers to pick this up by the bone and gnaw at it. I also realized it’s coz Gaggan is Indian and Indians eat with their hands.

Sixth-Wine

There’s another wine pairing at this point. I don’t usually drink much and I was quite pleasantly buzzed at this point.

Light-it-up

The lights were completely turned off after that course was cleared so the whole restaurant was dark. Music blared from the speakers with a rock singer shouting “Light it up” while the chefs brought out torches and flamed a whole tray of banana leaf covered items.

Charred

The scorched banana leaves were presented to us and we’re told to open it after a moment has passed to ensure we wouldn’t burn our fingertips.

Fire

The leaf peels back to reveal local Thai seabass. This 🔥 recipe is from Gaggan’s mother.

Star

The theme song for Star Wars came on for the ⭐ course and a small, round blue Death Star was delivered to us. So fun! I love the quirky bits, coz it adds a lot of laughable moments to dinner.

Star-Wars

The Death Star opens to reveal fluffy white rice.

Rice-Curry

There’s another compartment at the bottom which reveals curry. It’s curry and rice, delivered in a miniature Death Star! This is the only course in the 26-course dinner than came with a spoon or any other utensil. Haha.

Dessert-Wine

This is the last of the wine pairing – a wine to go with the dessert courses.

Flower

The most beautiful and delicate dessert I’ve seen for 🌹. It takes 6 hours to make this rose and it’s presented inside a glass dome to preserve the scent.

Rose

The petals are made with beetroot and radish. The cookie base is made with chocolate chip. I like the unusual pairing of beetroot and radish with sweet chocolate. It’s a very mature dessert.

Sunflower

“Do you like pina coladas? And dancing it the rain?” This song came over the speakers for 🌻. It’s deep fried ice cream! This is my favorite dessert of the night. It tastes so good!!! I felt only three exclamation marks would do justice to how delicious this was.

Rainbow

This trippy looking dessert was paired with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for 🌈. The space ship is made with coffee and dark chocolate and you’re supposed to drag it through the citrus splashes before eating it. Unusual and progressive.

Yin-Yang

☯️ is saffron and black pepper ice cream with pistachio crumble. Wow. Just wow. The flavors remind me of a cheese cake but with two ingredients you don’t normally put into dessert (saffron and pepper). I have this tied for best dessert of the dinner experience. Exquisite. Such a beautiful medley in my mouth. I cannot say enough good things to do this breathtaking dish justice.

Newlyweds

Remember I said there was a newlywed couple from New York at our table? The chefs presented a special celebratory “cake” for them and they provided one for each of us too.

Cake

It’s a sphere that’s totally not cake but tastes like cake. So interesting!

Wines

These are all the wines we had over dinner!

Gaggan

The bill for dinner came up to 12,653 baht (RM 1,615) inclusive of a bottle of water and the Gaggan wine pairing experience. That’s a lot of money for a single meal for 1 pax but I wholeheartedly recommend it. It is without a doubt the best dinner I’ve ever experienced. It’s not just about the food, but the theatre, the story, and the fellow diners you embark on the journey with. Everything was managed so well the 3+ hours will be something I remember forever. You’ll love Gaggan if you’re a food geek and I consider it money well spent. Gaggan will be closing for good in 2020 so you only have 2 years left to check out this beautifully crafted dinner experience. Go. Now.

Saneh Jaan – 1 Michelin star Thai food

Saneh-Jaan-HB

The brilliant waiter at Saneh Jaan (who’s obviously read an article or two about photography basics) took this photo for me. It gained so much traction on Facebook that I’ve made it my Instagram profile picture. I love the moody vibe! Saneh Jaan is a 1 Michelin star Thai food restaurant in Bangkok. It was extremely popular with tourists and expatriates – every single table for dinner service was taken, and as far as I could tell, none of the diners were locals.

Saneh-Jaan

Caucasians were heavily represented and there was a loud table of Singaporeans celebrating some occasion. The acoustics at Saneh Jaan does not make for quiet and reserved dining. The hard surfaces bounce conversations and laughter and amplifies every sound so it’s what polite company would call “lively”. Saneh Jaan is part of an upscale F&B complex at Glasshouse @ Sindorn. They sunk a lot of money into renovating the dining area – chandelier, leather seating, lighting – it’s beautiful!

Chalawan-Pale-Ale

The waitress asked if I was hungry and I told her I had just indulged in Monthong and Ganyao durians at Or Tor Kor market a couple of hours ago. I wanted to try the long menu since it was my final full day in Bangkok but she discouraged me. “It’s a lot of food”, she declared. “You should go for the short menu unless you’re very hungry coz most people can’t finish the food”. I thought it was refreshing that the wait staff didn’t try to upsell you on a longer (and more expensive) menu and gave you sound advice instead. I selected the middle 2,000 baht dinner set menu as a compromise. There’s a shorter 1,600 baht set menu and a longer one for 2,500 baht. I also had Full Moon’s Chalawan Pale Ale to go with the food.

Pineapple-Entree

The first bite was a piece of pineapple with salt. It’s just a piece of fruit with topping so I have nothing much to say. It tastes exactly like what you imagine it’ll taste like.

Saneh-Jaan-Appetizers

A trio of appetizers came, all of which were excellent.

Tuna-salad-with-mint-leaves

Tuna salad with mint leaves was bright and semi-raw (seared on the outside) with lots of delicious raw shallots and onions. Very appetizing.

Traditional-crispy-rice-vermicelli

Traditional sweet and sour crispy rice vermicelli with river prawn had a single prawn on top of crispy rice vermicelli. The rice vermicelli tastes burnt and caramelized, in a good way. The flavors are a bit strange but I like it.

Spicy-shredded-pork-shrimp-betel

Spicy shredded pork and shrimp with wild betel leaf is Saneh Jaan’s version of miang kham – a savory betel leaf wrap. I like the strong and intense flavors of this. I enjoyed the bite tremendously.

Saneh-Jaan-Mains

The main dishes all came together next with rice.

Chicken-soup-with-coconut-galangal

Chicken soup with coconut milk and galangal is one of my favorites. There’s something about the way Thai people cook their chicken soup which makes it so delicious. It’s creamy but not too creamy. I love the spicy and bright notes.

Australian-Tenderloin-panang-curry

Australian Tenderloin panang curry gets a no from me. The beef was not very tender – it’s a chewy affair made worse by the lack of moisture in the curry. The flavors of the panang curry wasn’t very interesting too. The subdued flavors and jaw workout made me almost not want to finish this. The only reason I did is from a personal conviction that food shouldn’t be wasted.

Stir-fried-lotus-stem-shrimp

Stir-fried lotus stem with shrimp paste made me go “Hmm”. The lotus stems weren’t very good on their own and the shrimp paste just made it soggy. I think lotus roots would have been a better option as the vegetable in this dish. It’s a miss.

Stir-fried-seabass-with-leek

Stir-fried seabass with leek was decent. It’s a classic combination of flavors and I enjoyed it. You can’t really go wrong with fish and leeks.

Grilled-pork-with-ginger-chilli

Grilled pork with ginger chilli paste was bland and way too dry. I think the chefs should revisit this menu – 3 of the items (tenderloin, fried seabass, and grilled pork) are dry in nature. You need a mixture of gravy heavy items to balance things out. I felt like the seasoning here was very weak too, it’s not the full flavored extravaganza of places like Nahm or Bolan.

Saneh-Jaan-Desserts

The duo of desserts saved the meal somewhat. I enjoyed the Sweet coconut dumpling in coconut milk but it’s the Sweet mung bean in fruit shapes (Saneh Jaan) that blew me away. The mung bean desserts all have different fillings. One is infused with strong smelling jasmine water. Another had brown sugar. The last one was also scented with jasmine but chewy like mochi. Delicious! The pacing needs a bit work though – I waited 20 minutes between the first bite and the appetizer and 15 minutes between the mains and the dessert. Dinner cost 2,708 baht (RM 345) including water and beer.

Saneh-Jaan-Michelin

I couldn’t help thinking uncharitably that the reason Saneh Jaan is so popular with Caucasians is due to their limp-wristed seasoning. Every single dish in the main course was so bland that nothing about it says “Thai food”. There were bright spots in the appetizers but I feel that only the most unadventurous palates would find the food here exciting. It tastes duller than my meal prep! The service is excellent and the ambiance is wonderful, thus a great place to bring a date or have a business dinner. It may struggle to hold on to its Michelin star due to the monotonous food though.

Bo.lan – 1 Michelin star Thai food in Bangkok

Bolan

I received more than a few Hahas when I posted on Facebook that I was having lunch at Bo.lan. The name means “no testicle” in Hokkien but its origin is from the two chef-owners Duangporn Songvisava (nicknamed Bo) and Dylan Jones (contributing Lan). I’m sure they’ll be aghast at the alternate meaning for Malaysians and Singaporeans.

Hen

This restaurant is a converted vintage wooden house, complete with pool. There’s even a chicken nesting in the large grounds. Unfortunately, she clucked indignantly and ran away when I approached her for a photo. Bo.lan aims to be a zero-carbon restaurant and they work with local farmers and producers to source their food.

Agogo-IPA

I went for A Go Go IPA by Beat Brewing in Cambodia as a cooling beverage. It’s a clean but flavorful IPA. Bo.lan has a prix fixe lunch set menu for 1,200 baht. It features two options each from the salad, soup, stir-fry, and curry menus. I let my waitress recommend the dishes and opted for “Thai spicy” which is code in Thailand for “I can take the same amount of heat as a local”.

Bolan-Amuse-Bouche

The amuse bouche was a delicate dish of the world’s tiniest lotus roots with shrimp, coriander, shallots and a creamy coconut sauce. It’s very delicious. The flavors are classically Thai, very bright and appetizing. The perfect starter to kick things off and get the saliva glands working.

Bolan-Lunch-Set

The next few dishes are served together in a tray with two types of rice.

Spicy-Salad-of-Fish

For the salad option, I chose spicy salad of fish with toasted rice and aromatic herbs (480 baht). This is a piece of lightly breaded white fish tossed with coriander and chilli, as well as a dust I can’t identify. It’s ultra appetizing and the fish is still moist inside. Very well cooked.

Galangal-Infused-Coconut-Soup

Galangal infused coconut soup of chicken (320 baht) was my soup option. I was a bit dubious since my personal preference would be the “Boat noodle” style soup of pork with beans sprouts, but the waitress suggested this. It turned out to be my favorite dish of the meal. It’s so creamy (but not overwhelming) and tasty! There’s bright notes, spicy undertones, and salty overtures in an orchestra of tender chicken soup.

Prawn-with-Thai-Samphire

Stir fried prawn with Thai samphire (480 baht) was my stir-fry option. Samphire is a type of sea succulent that has a very lovely texture in your mouth. I enjoyed the slightly crunchy and slippery feel. Very nice.

Curry-of-Pork-Rib

I went with “Tair Po” curry of pork rib (790 baht) for curry. These are beautiful pieces of deboned pork ribs in a dangerously spicy curry. I love spicy food and I can snack on Thai bird eye chillis like they’re fruit (which they are), but I found this exceedingly spicy. It’s very pleasurable for me but I feel like this would be beyond most people.

Bolan-Dessert

Dessert was a simple preparation of coconut milk with shaved ice and jelly pieces. It’s refreshing but nothing special. It felt anticlimactic after the delicious savory dishes I had earlier. The Thai has some awesome desserts, like the jasmine scented pandan dumplings in coconut milk at Nahm, which was the best Thai dessert I’ve ever eaten.

Bolan-Bangkok

I enjoyed Bolan’s style of cooking immensely. Everything tasted delectable except for dessert. The bill came up to 1,878 baht (RM 240) including water and a beer. However, service here can be subpar. It wasn’t bad per se, but it wasn’t friendly and warm like other similar establishments. It would be what I’ll call “forced”, a standard of service much more suited for a busy roadside street food stall than a Michelin star restaurant.

Certifiably ill Mama noodles @ Jeh O Chula (Bib Gourmand)

Jeh-O-Chula

Bib Gourmand instant noodles? You betcha! This is the immensely famous Jeh O Chula (written in Michelin Guide as Jay Oh) with queues almost as legendary as Raan Jay Fai. I had the misfortune of dropping by without a reservation and the girl there told me it’ll be a 2 hour wait minimum. I had come from the dubious entertainment district Nana Plaza (claiming to be The World’s Largest Adult Playground) where I indulged in 7 beers and the company of questionable women. I also had dinner at Upstairs at Mikkeler prior to that, so I was still quite full.

Jay-Oh

Jeh O Chula is a surprisingly spacious restaurant with a huge kitchen churning out bowls and bowls of Mama noodles. I imagine such a fast-paced kitchen would have harried staff but they’re all really friendly. The ones closest to me posed when they saw me snapping a photo so I took a selfie with them. It’s like an assembly line of instant noodles to feed the appetite of the masses seated outside.

Dirty-Forty-Beer

It seemed inadvisable to order another beer after a huge dinner followed by a drinking session with unfamiliar women at a go go bar. My stomach was almost at capacity and I wondered if I would be able to finish all the food. I decided to try. This is Dirty Forty Amber Ale (160 baht) – a beer brewed in Perth, Australia but conceived in Bangkok. I drank it with delicious, refreshing ice. Don’t judge me bro, it was hot outside and I have been waiting for a long time.

Jeh-O-Mama

This is their famous Mama tom yam instant noodles with seafood. It’s a huge portion with 3-4 packets of Mama noodles inside. Jeh O Chula’s signature dish is tom yam soup and they use their homemade tom yam soup instead of the flavor packets in Mama, which is what makes this so good. There’s tons of prawn and squid and the noodles are crowned with 2 raw eggs, which adds a wonderfully creamy flavor and cools down the noodles.

Mama-Noodles-Bib-Gourmand

I immediately copied this idea for my cheat meals and I’ve been eating instant noodles with raw eggs since. Jeh O Chula has a beautiful tom yam soup base – it’s spicy and sour and hits all the right notes in whetting my appetite. I told the server I can handle very spicy food, Thai spicy, and this one delivered that in spades. It was almost too spicy but I loved it. I loved it so much I scarfed everything down, even though I was dangerously close to puking from the sheer amount of food.

Thai-Sashimi-Salad

I also ordered a side of their wonderful Thai style salmon sashimi. This is like a ceviche or umai – there is an acidic liquid made with lime that cures the salmon. It’s not entirely cured though, most of it is still raw. It sounds simple but the alchemy that goes into the ingredients produces such a delicious bowl of fresh seafood. This dish is out of control! The addition of mint and raw garlic kicks up the flavor by a few notches! I love it! Not to be missed.

Jay-Oh-Bangkok

I was so enamored by everything that I contemplated declaring Jeh O Chula as my top destination this trip. That would be exceedingly unfair to Gaggan and probably the beer talking so I’ll just say it’s the best comfort food I’ve ever had. I highly recommend their awesome Mama tom yam noodles and their insanely good Thai style salmon sashimi. Do note that Jeh O Chula only starts serving their famous Mama noodles after 11 pm. They have standard khao tom (congee) with cooked dishes before that. Visiting Jeh O Chula late at night for supper is something you must do when you’re in Bangkok. I can’t recommend it enough.

10-course dinner with beer pairing @ Upstairs at Mikkeler (1 Michelin star)

Upstairs-at-Mikkeler

Upstairs at Mikkeler by Chef Dan Bark is a tiny restaurant with only 5 tables that somehow managed to win a Michelin star. This was not entirely surprising as I have heard superlative reviews on the interwebs and from friends who have visited way before the Michelin Guide came to Bangkok. The Mikkeler brand is a craft beer brewer and Upstairs is literally the restaurant above the Mikkeler pub downstairs.

Upstairs

There were way more chefs and waiters than actual diners in the restaurant. The food prep is laborious and Upstairs at Mikkeler is also famous for their beer pairing, a very modern take on the wine pairing at other upscale restaurants. They’re a brewer after all. There’s no menu available – Upstairs only offers a 10-course tasting menu for 3,800++ baht with an optional beer pairing menu for 1,300++ baht. I went for both since there’s no way I’m passing on such an unusual beverage pairing.

Mikkeler-Passionfruit

Dinner started with an amuse bouche that was not listed in the menu. There are more than 10 dishes because of this. My friendly waiter described this as Vanilla whipped cream with lots of passionfruit and a bit of oats. It’s supposed to be an acidic start to whet your appetite since sour is a known appetite stimulant. It works!

Mikkeler-Say-Hey-Sally

The first few courses were accompanied by Mikkeler Say Hey Sally, a 4.6% alcohol pilsner. There are 6 beers in total and they’re mostly from kegs or draft, but the beer pairing guy will bring you the can/bottle so you can see for yourself and take photos if you want. Mikkeler even provides a smartphone tray beside your eating utensils so you have a proper place to place your phone. I thought that was a funny and excellent touch.

Upstairs-Amuse-Bouche

Bacon marmalade. Whole grain mustard. Maple syrup. Quinoa chip. It’s the perfect small bite before the meal proper. The chip was still warm due to the just-in-time preparation in the kitchen. Each course is only plated when they see you’ve finished the previous. The open kitchen and restaurant is small enough that the chefs can see your plates and tables. One caught me staring at her and smiled – that’s how small the restaurant was!

IKURA

IKURA – blueberry, hibiscus, thyme was the real first course. The bottom is thyme infused milk (excellent) with tapioca pearls and chips, hibiscus soaked water, and ikura (salmon roe) on top. It has a very unusual, bright flavor. To be honest, it doesn’t immediately register as good coz it’s so progressive but it’s certainly an intriguing dish.

Mikkeler-American-Dream

The upcoming carrot course signaled a change to the next beer – Mikkeler American Dream, a 4.6% hoppy pale lager. It was indeed very hoppy and bitter. The beer pairing guy explained that the next few dishes were sweet, so a bitter beer helps balances the flavors. I really like him. He’s a Thai guy who was born in Malaysia and he’s such a beer geek. It’s fun to learn from him.

CARROT

CARROT – goats milk, grapefruit, fennel is next. It’s carrot 6 ways (!!!) e.g. six different preparations of carrot from dehydrated carrot to puree. It’s paired with goat’s milk curd, fennel marmalade, lemon pudding. I really loved this dish! It’s delicious, sweet and goes well with the hoppy beer.

Brioche

There was also an extra course of homemade brioche with black lava salt and olive oil jam. This looks very simple but it ended up being one of my favorite dishes. Nothing beats good bread fresh out of the oven and the black lava salt really highlights the sweetness of the butter. The olive oil jam was delicious too. Very yums, but I know I can be biased coz I love bread.

POTATO

POTATO – bacon, cheddar, leek is the soup course. It’s very fragrant. As is the trend in fine dining, the waiter finishes the dish table side. I could smell it as soon as the waiter started bringing it over. It also has bits of shaved potato (including the skin) at the bottom which provides a nice textural element. It sounds simple but from the waiter’s description, the work that goes into a dish like this is not insignificant. They even make the bacon themselves.

Zeffer-Hopped-Cider

Zeffer Hopped Cider is next, a 5.4% alcohol cider. This ended up being one of my favorite drinks of the night. You know how commercial cider like Somerset is extremely sweet to the point of being off-putting? Other ciders go the opposite route and they’re so acidic it puckers not just your lips, but your entire body. Zeffer Hopper Cider is the perfect balance – it’s not sweet, but not too sour too. It’s also bitter so it’s nicely balanced. Bittersweet, but more bitter than sweet.

CAULIFLOWER

CAULIFLOWER – curry, grape, hoja santa. There’s grapes inside, which was pleasant. It adds a sweet touch to the salty curry. They also have sacred leaf, the Mexican leaf they use for cooking tamales. Upstairs only lists the first 3 ingredients of each dish so it’s up to you to discover some of the others and the waiter will give you a run-down afterwards. It’s a very textural dish.

HOKKAIDO-SCALLOP

HOKKAIDO SCALLOP – finger lime, dashi, cinnamon. This is a very Instagrammable dish.

Scallops

The waiter brought a bowl of cinnamon and stone with a teapot to my table. Upon serving the scallops, he poured cinnamon water over the cinnamon bowl to diffuse the essence of cinnamon over the table. He explained that the scallops were too delicate for cinnamon to be added directly so the chef thought of using smell to add the essence of cinnamon instead.

Smoke

This is also one of the first batches of finger lime they grow in Thailand. I’m familiar with the efforts to grow finger lime in Australia and they’ve started doing the same in Bangkok too. It adds a nice zest to the very fresh scallops in dashi.

Mikkeler-Windy-Hill

Mikkeler Windy Hill, a 7% New England IPA came next and it’s supposed to go with the upcoming 2 dishes. It has a heftier alcohol content to shift the dinner into the second phase. It’s a lighter tasting beer to wash away the fattiness of the next few courses.

WAGYU-BEEF

WAGYU BEEF – sherry, truffle, chive. This is Sanuki wagyu raised with beer. It’s proper Japanese wagyu raised in Japan and flown in, not the much inferior Australian cattle breed. There’s a shockingly delicious truffle paste to go with the beef, as well as chive powder and purple potato chip. I ate one of the slices by itself, one with the chive powder and one with the delectable truffle paste. They’re all yummy! The beef has lovely flavor and it’s not too fatty unlike some highly marbled wagyu. It’s also cooked perfectly – blue, which is raw inside. I love this dish to bits. The truffle sauce is intensely overpowering and pairs well with the beef. I could eat this all day. It’s my favorite dish of this trip.

HONEY-DEW

HONEY DEW – prosciutto, balsamic, white truffle. This is 16 month old prosciutto sprayed with white truffle oil. The waiter comes with a small bottle and sprays the white truffle oil right before you eat this. I was most impressed with the dense flavors within the 16-month-old prosciutto. That’s a long time to age meat! Why honey dew? That’s what it tastes like even though there’s no honey dew in here.

Boon-Lambiek

Boon Lambiek, 7.2% lambic. A lambic is a type of beer from Brussels in Belgium. It’s for the last savory course and the pre-dessert.

DUCK

DUCK – beet, black garlic, pumpkin. This is duck in 4 forms – sous vide, confit, grilled and fried. Upstairs also ferments the garlic sauce for 19 days! There’s pickled kelp noodle to go with the confit duck. The skin is fried. I like the main sous vide duck roll but the confit duck is off-putting to me. It’s so oily and cloying I found it impossible to enjoy it. This is not the fault of the chefs per se but a personal preference. I’m not a huge fan of confit duck and other such overtly rich preparations.

APPLE

APPLE is the trendy dessert called a pre-dessert nowadays to kick start the dessert courses. It’s served on a nice porcelain ring and it’s more like a palate cleanser since the shell of the apple is filled with liquid and it bursts in your mouth the moment you put it in. The waiter also warns you to eat this in one bite since there’s liquid inside.

Mikkeler-Beer-Geek-Thailand

Mikkeler Beer Geek Thailand is the last beer pairing, a 10.9% alcohol imperial stout to go with dessert. It’s the perfect end since the bitterness balances out the dessert dishes well. This beer is inspired by mango sticky rice and it’s brewed with jasmine rice, mango, coconut and lactose. It’s like a bittersweet dessert beer. My second favorite beer after the hopped cider.

PISTACHIO

PISTACHIO – cherry, rhubarb, rose. This is my favorite dessert. It’s a mixture of different textures and flavors with bright notes like rhubarb, rose petals and herbs as well and deeper notes like biscuit crumbs, pistachio and cherry. A most excellent and balanced dessert plate. Wonderful stuff.

CHOCOLATE

CHOCOLATE – banana, cranberry, yoghurt is a very sophisticated dessert. There are so many different chocolate preparations here – wafers, molds, ribbons etc. My favorite is the log filled with white chocolate and banana that oozes out when you cut into it.

Oozing-Center

It’s beautiful.

Upstairs-Petit-Fours

You’re served with coffee and a selection of petit fours to signal the end of the meal. I like the apple ribbon the most, followed by the chocolate chip cookie.

Upstairs-Mikkeler

I enjoyed my dinner at Upstairs at Mikkeler. The bill came up to a hefty 6,333 baht (RM 804) for 1 pax inclusive of full beer pairing, coffee and water. It’s half the price of Gaggan. The waiters are all very knowledgeable, friendly and they’re happy to share the preparation and stories that goes behind each dish. I liked the beer pairing guy too, an approachable true beer nerd from Thailand (born in Malaysia!). The food is good and the ambiance is great. You can see the chefs working from your table – that’s how intimate the space is. Definitely recommended if you like beer and food.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...