Sunday, September 21, 2014

Preview: Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar @ Telawi, Bangsar

Catalan cooking is set to shine soon in Bangsar, thanks to this upcoming restaurant helmed by expat chef David Caral, a Barcelona native who's lived in KL since 2010, & manager Jorge Fernandez, who landed in our city less than six months ago.

Inspired by the vibrant food markets of Barcelona (Catalonia's capital city), Mercat seems poised to become one of 2014's best new restaurants. Caral has retained a confidently competent kitchen crew that's miraculously stayed loyal to him ever since his earlier stints in Changkat Bukit Bintang's El Cerdo & Pavilion's Circus.

Artwork here evokes the famed architecture of Barcelona, complementing the cuisine that Caral was raised on. A primer: Catalan food was born in the Mediterranean region of north-eastern Spain; it's reminiscent in most respects to Spanish gastronomy, but its specific preparation techniques have helped Catalan restaurants stand out as some of the world's finest.

Mercat is expected to open within one or two weeks; when it's ready, head here & start with the marinated Spanish olives, plump & startlingly juicy, its palate-awakening brininess enriched with herbs & spices. Wonderful for whetting the appetite.

Mercat's should-try is the eggplant topped with pine nuts; a total knock-out - one of the best eggplant recipes we've experienced. Roasted in the heart of the fire for a surprising smokiness that partners so well with the vegetable's smooth succulence, left to cool before being served, bolstered by ravishing nuances of honey & a mostillo grape syrup reduction.

A refreshing mix of watermelos, tomatoes & goat's cheese is ranked high on the salad short-list; this might not necessarily represent the final serving size for customers, but many of Mercat's tapas are likely to range in cost between RM18 & RM26.

Mercat does marvellous croquettes, convincingly crisp outside & compellingly creamy within, with a fresh, kitchen-made feel. Every fritter comes steaming-hot with a stuffing of chicken (RM3.50) or better still, morsels of savoury Iberico ham (RM4.50).

Lamb skewers, pleasurably tender & pungently tasty, with an amazing piquillo pepper dip that we'd joyously eat on its own.

The star of this lunch: Arroz Negre, which some call the 'black paella,' the Catalan speciality of rice cooked with squid ink, squid, shrimp & aioli. The rice boasts a nice bite, very moist but fully firm, flooded with an intense inky flavour that speaks of the ocean. We finished every spoonful.

For a delicate dessert that's light & lovable: Tartar of fruits with coulis of red fruit & quenelle of cream cheese.

Mercat promises an intriguing premise for wine: Only Spanish varieties, strictly no French, Italian, American or Australian.

In recent years, we've discovered several Catalan-influenced restaurants surfacing across KL; some have faded, such as Changkat Bukit Bintang's exceptional, much-missed El Rincon. Others are still amassing faithful new fans, including The Intermark's Ohla Tapas. We're optimistic that Mercat will secure a footing in the latter category.

Coffee isn't something we expect to be especially enjoyable at a Catalan restaurant, but Mercat's is. Many thanks to the friendly & gracious Jorge & David for hosting this preview; expect to hear much more about Mercat in the months ahead.

Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar
51, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur.
Contact details & opening hours will be updated when Mercat opens, but expect the restaurant to initially open in the evenings on weekdays (except Mondays) & all day long on weekends.

Check out the latest edition of Eat Drink KL: 100 Favourites, featuring 100 recommended restaurants for July-September 2014, including more than 20 new entries for this quarter. 
This eBook is available to read or download at this link: http://eatdrinkkl.publ.com/2014C 
Link expires Sept 30, 2014; see blog entries after that date for new link.

Stay up to date: The Eat Drink KL newsletter is sent by email to subscribers every Monday; it's the Klang Valley's foremost weekly round-up of new restaurant openings (even before they're featured on this blog), F&B promotions & other tasty tidbits.
Subscribe to Eat Drink KL Weekly for free via this following link: 
Note to subscribers on Gmail: The newsletter will be in the Promotions folder of your inbox.


Sausages to sambal. Muffins to marshmallows. Peanut butter to mango chutney. Cornflake ice cream to honey aloe yogurt. Lavender-laced lemonades to lychee-&-guava juices.
Eat Drink KL: Small Businesses, Huge Flavours is the first eBook to help customers navigate the diversity of independent F&B entrepreneurs who bake & boil in their own kitchens, offering some of Malaysia's finest, most fascinating food products.
This resource will be continuously updated with new listings: www.eatdrinkkl.publ.com/businesses 
Check out EAT DRINK, a new F&B website jointly run by The Expat Group (TEG) & Eat Drink KL. This website features all of our up-to-date reviews, plus exclusive weekly articles & a searchable database on restaurants in KL & Selangor: EatDrink.my

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Wild Coffee & Tea @ Puchong

Wild Coffee & Tea supplies much more than coffee & tea; the selection sweeps through a wide swath of Asia, reflecting the cross-border heritage of the outlet's owners, a Malaysian & her husband who both hail from families of restaurateurs & cooks.

It's a bit hidden here, tucked on the first floor of a shop-house street; really roomy, with sufficient space for scores of patrons.

Specialities include recipes not often seen in this section of the Klang Valley. Our favourite is Wild Coffee's version of borscht (RM18.50 for a large serving that could feed two or three people), a spirit-nourishing, heart-warming broth that's thick & tasty with beetroot, beef chunks & sour cream. Soul food, comfort cooking.

From Inner China, here's something for fans of noodles: 'Ashlamfu' - soft, slippery strands served cold, topped with spicy chilli, coupled with rice cakes, shredded egg, some veggies & a choice of chicken or beef (RM18.90).

Japanese recipes receive the fusion touch at Wild Coffee: You've seen sushi rolls stuffed with omelette & cucumber before, but you've never seen this maki crowned with Malaysian sambal prawns (RM18.90).

A breakfast platter with a difference: Wild Coffee offers 'onigiri' rice balls laced with egg inside, paired with chicken sausages & buttered carrots, corn & peas, accompanied by a bowl of miso soup (RM22.90).

There's a rice burger too that showcases the skills of Wild Coffee's head chef Richard Benedict (a friend of the owners, he previously worked for years at a KL hotel's Japanese eatery), with a chicken patty, teriyaki sauce & onions at its centre, plus crinkle-cut U.S. fries & coleslaw on the side. RM23.50.

Korean influences also make a mark, with what the menu calls 'Angry Bird' (RM18.90), a grilled chicken chop marinated in a spicy kimchi sauce, complemented by tamago & a house-made coleslaw. 

Tuna is employed for a meatier bite in Wild Coffee's rendition of the classic fish & chips (RM22.90); the restaurant promises that the majority of its food is prepared to order, not pre-cooked.

A sweet end: Kitchen-baked coffee pudding, reminiscent of bread-&-butter pudding, with ice cream & a coffee-caramel sauce.

The beverage menu is wide-ranging too, leaping from elegantly presented Turkish coffee partnered with teatime temptations ...

... to multiple coffee preparations, including both regular hot lattes (RM8.95) & iced hazelnut ones (RM11.50).

Tea isn't neglected; the Sudanese tea has a tart flavour, so an added spoonful of sugar might be required.

Refreshing veggie juices are also available; we began this post with beetroot, we'll end it with beetroot (along with cucumber).

Thanks to Wild Coffee's team for hosting this meal; we wish them the best in their aim to bring something different to Puchong.

Wild Coffee & Tea
27-1, First Floor, Jalan Puteri 1/6, Bandar Puteri Puchong, Selangor
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 930am-930pm. Tel: 03-8066-0353

Check out the latest edition of Eat Drink KL: 100 Favourites, featuring 100 recommended restaurants for July-September 2014, including more than 20 new entries for this quarter. 
This eBook is available to read or download at this link: http://eatdrinkkl.publ.com/2014C 
Link expires Sept 30, 2014; see blog entries after that date for new link.

Stay up to date: The Eat Drink KL newsletter is sent by email to subscribers every Monday; it's the Klang Valley's foremost weekly round-up of new restaurant openings (even before they're featured on this blog), F&B promotions & other tasty tidbits.
Subscribe to Eat Drink KL Weekly for free via this following link: 
Note to subscribers on Gmail: The newsletter will be in the Promotions folder of your inbox.


Sausages to sambal. Muffins to marshmallows. Peanut butter to mango chutney. Cornflake ice cream to honey aloe yogurt. Lavender-laced lemonades to lychee-&-guava juices.
Eat Drink KL: Small Businesses, Huge Flavours is the first eBook to help customers navigate the diversity of independent F&B entrepreneurs who bake & boil in their own kitchens, offering some of Malaysia's finest, most fascinating food products.
This resource will be continuously updated with new listings: www.eatdrinkkl.publ.com/businesses 
Check out EAT DRINK, a new F&B website jointly run by The Expat Group (TEG) & Eat Drink KL. This website features all of our up-to-date reviews, plus exclusive weekly articles & a searchable database on restaurants in KL & Selangor: EatDrink.my

Friday, September 19, 2014

Houz Warming @ Puchong

Comfort cooking from the country's north & south is carving out a central presence in Puchong's new Houz Warming restaurant, courtesy of an Ipoh-&-Malaccan couple whose heart-warming knack in the kitchen runs through their family.

The foundation here truly is the food of families; co-owner Ervin supplies time-honoured creations that prove kind to the wallet & pleasing for the palate, including this pork noodle soup (RM6.90 nett) - with a light, naturally sweet-savoury broth brimming with tender meat, liver & egg - that his father has served for the past 28 years at an Ipoh outlet ...

 ... while Ervin's wife, Celine, is the source of cherished recipes that showcase Malacca's Peranakan & Portuguese flair, such as these asam nanas prawns, a tangy treat that's thick with pineapples, salted fish & spices. RM13.90 for a set that includes this serving of prawns with rice & a beverage; this one is available once or twice a week as a possible special of the day.

Many of Houz Warming's specialities are spicy platters with pleasurably complex sauces & gravies that take painstaking hours to prepare; most pair perfectly with rice, including the asam bandung squid & prawns (RM10.90, including rice) ...

 ... & another special of the day, Patong-inspired fried chicken chop (RM13.90 with rice), visually vivid & fairly fiery in flavour. Bonus points: Houz Warming's food tastes wholesome & lovingly home-made, liberated from excess oil or salt.

 We really liked the sambal-fried cencaru with rice (RM10.90); the fish was well-prepared, steering clear of dryness, nicely complemented by a creamier-than-expected, tastier-than-anticipated sambal that's pretty darn addictive.

 Other crowd-pleasing dishes range from fresh-tasting roti jala with a can't-fail chicken-&-potato curry ...

 ... to Hakka-style sweet-sour vinegar pork, made with white vinegar & coupled with rice (RM9.90). Or if you prefer something Hokkien, have the pork belly with tau fu & egg in soya sauce (RM9.90 nett too).

 Many thanks to friendly couple Ervin & Celine for hosting this meal; Houz Warming is open daily, 8am-10pm.

Houz Warming Cafe
5-G, Jalan Puteri 1/6, Bandar Puteri Puchong, Selangor

Check out the latest edition of Eat Drink KL: 100 Favourites, featuring 100 recommended restaurants for July-September 2014, including more than 20 new entries for this quarter. 
This eBook is available to read or download at this link: http://eatdrinkkl.publ.com/2014C 
Link expires Sept 30, 2014; see blog entries after that date for new link.

Stay up to date: The Eat Drink KL newsletter is sent by email to subscribers every Monday; it's the Klang Valley's foremost weekly round-up of new restaurant openings (even before they're featured on this blog), F&B promotions & other tasty tidbits.
Subscribe to Eat Drink KL Weekly for free via this following link: 
Note to subscribers on Gmail: The newsletter will be in the Promotions folder of your inbox.


Sausages to sambal. Muffins to marshmallows. Peanut butter to mango chutney. Cornflake ice cream to honey aloe yogurt. Lavender-laced lemonades to lychee-&-guava juices.
Eat Drink KL: Small Businesses, Huge Flavours is the first eBook to help customers navigate the diversity of independent F&B entrepreneurs who bake & boil in their own kitchens, offering some of Malaysia's finest, most fascinating food products.
This resource will be continuously updated with new listings: www.eatdrinkkl.publ.com/businesses 
Check out EAT DRINK, a new F&B website jointly run by The Expat Group (TEG) & Eat Drink KL. This website features all of our up-to-date reviews, plus exclusive weekly articles & a searchable database on restaurants in KL & Selangor: EatDrink.my

Malaysian Menu @ Barbecue Garden, Life Centre

When Barbecue Garden opened at Life Centre early this year, it was instantly & impressively a very good restaurant; in the months since then, it's evolved into a truly excellent one, creatively expanding its menu & consistently serving top-drawer meat that's deliciously marinated in a delightful array of predominantly Southeast Asian recipes.
Earlier entry on Barbecue Garden: March 9.

To recap, Barbecue Garden is a Vietnamese-origin brand that's been brought to Kuala Lumpur by enterprising Malaysians eager to breathe fresh life into the city's barbecued-meat landscape. It's a one-of-a-kind, open-air destination, occupying a spacious garden rooftop with views of the KL Tower & surrounding skyscrapers.

Many thanks to the Barbecue Garden team for hosting our return visit, specifically to try the Malaysian portion of the menu, perfect for casual after-work dinners & relaxed weekend feasts.

Crocodiles leap into the limelight (eat 'em before they eat us?). Have this Pahang-bred reptile meat, firm & fleshy, cooked with a nice char on a 150-gram jumbo skewer (RM29) with a lightly spicy kitchen-created rub to complement the lean, mean croc.

Pork's a pleasure at Barbecue Garden; try it with a rendang marinade that's beautifully nuanced, conveying the intense flavour & savoury-aromatic complexities of rendang. The meat is very tender, ensuring each bite is worthwhile. RM13 for 100 grams.

It's easy to go the whole hog here, since there are so many temptations in the outlet's porky oeuvre, from the novelty of grilled wild boar, 'char siew'-style (RM15 per 100 grams), to pork neck with Chinese wine (RM17), addictive in its sheer succulence, to pork satay & pork belly with honey & hoisin sauce.

Seafood isn't neglected either; other recommendations with familiar Malaysian flavours paired with a barbecue's smokiness include the juicy peeled tandoori prawns (RM13 per skewer) ...

... as well as 'ikan percik' (RM9 for 100 grams) - fish fillets with the full headiness of coconut milk ...

... & fresh squid with creamy butter sauce & curry leaves (RM11 per 100 grams), completing a gastronomic tour de force that spans the spectacular spectrum of Malay, Chinese & Indian culinary traditions.

Not into grilling? Not a problem; Barbecue Garden's a la carte menu also comprises more than enough enjoyable enticements, like compulsively edible crispy chicken with pineapples in a creamy-tasty sweet sauce (RM15, a sensational snack; we couldn't stop munching on it until the plate was wiped clean) ...

 ... to fried spring rolls for carnivores, crisply battered & well-stuffed with crab meat & pork (RM7 for three pieces) ... 

... to this surprise scene-stealer: one of the best garlic fried rice recipes we've ever had, gorgeously fragrant & ravishingly textured, laden with crunchy garlic bits in every bite, a remarkably satisfying counterpoint to the fluffy rice. RM6 serves two; it'd be worth heading to Barbecue Garden simply for this one. A carb-lover's fantasy come true.

Barbecue Garden now has a full-blown alcohol menu, ranging from well-chosen wine by the glass or bottle to newfangled tropical-tinged cocktails like the Coconut Alchemy (RM28; Havana Rum, Captain Morgan, Malibu, pineapple juice, coconut juice, sugar syrup) & Thunderbolt (Absolut Citron vodka, calamansi, passion fruit, lemon juice, brown sugar, cointreau).

Barbecue Garden
Level 3 Rooftop, Life Centre, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur
Daily, 5pm-midnight. Tel: 03-2181-8226

Check out the latest edition of Eat Drink KL: 100 Favourites, featuring 100 recommended restaurants for July-September 2014, including more than 20 new entries for this quarter. 
This eBook is available to read or download at this link: http://eatdrinkkl.publ.com/2014C 
Link expires Sept 30, 2014; see blog entries after that date for new link.

Stay up to date: The Eat Drink KL newsletter is sent by email to subscribers every Monday; it's the Klang Valley's foremost weekly round-up of new restaurant openings (even before they're featured on this blog), F&B promotions & other tasty tidbits.
Subscribe to Eat Drink KL Weekly for free via this following link: 
Note to subscribers on Gmail: The newsletter will be in the Promotions folder of your inbox.

Sausages to sambal. Muffins to marshmallows. Peanut butter to mango chutney. Cornflake ice cream to honey aloe yogurt. Lavender-laced lemonades to lychee-&-guava juices.
Eat Drink KL: Small Businesses, Huge Flavours is the first eBook to help customers navigate the diversity of independent F&B entrepreneurs who bake & boil in their own kitchens, offering some of Malaysia's finest, most fascinating food products.
This resource will be continuously updated with new listings: www.eatdrinkkl.publ.com/businesses 
Check out EAT DRINK, a new F&B website jointly run by The Expat Group (TEG) & Eat Drink KL. This website features all of our up-to-date reviews, plus exclusive weekly articles & a searchable database on restaurants in KL & Selangor: EatDrink.my