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Review: Monkey Garage

Monkey Garage – Not just for Monkeys.

One of my friends had been bugging me for quite a while to come and check out Monkey Garage in Bangsar. What I had heard about it was inconclusive except that they had a lot of pasta dishes and the place was “good fun”.

I finally made the time to check it out and was surprised how literal the “Garage” part in the name was. It is in fact a garage, with engines hanging from chains and a wide open specious feeling. The solid brick bar in the centre, and the walls covered in art and racing specific décor make it feel quite comfortable and colourful though.  Quite cosy for an “art lounge”, despite the artsy feel there was a very relaxed and jovial atmosphere.

Something that my friends had already taken advantage of several times was the 60 RM all you can drink wine buffet, with a selection of reds and cooled whites standing readily available at the bar, no waiting times, no accusing stares from the staff when you help yourself to your twelfth glass of the night.  I was happily surprised.

This night I wasn’t here to get sloshed though, I was here for the food. So let’s get down to it.

The menu is a short simple list of items, divided into starts, snacks (all day munchies) and main courses.

As best I can remember all the main courses are a combination of noodles (capellini pasta) and or rice.

As our starter we tried the Sesame Soba Salad, and the Chinese Chicken Soup with truffle oil.

The salad is French beans, garlic, mushrooms, Japanese soba noodles, pan fried tofu, black and white sesame seeds  and spring onions. Now while it is called a salad, it is almost a cold noodle dish. The sauce especially reminded me of a dish I used to love from my time living in Beijing, called DanDan Mian.  Both of these dishes have a very rich sesame based sauce, that gives a slight sweet but nutty flavour to the dish, the fresh vegetables bring a comforting crisp and crack to the otherwise creamy dish. I actually thought that the dish would have been an appropriate size for a full lunch, if you weren’t too hungry, well sized indeed.

The soup tasted very traditionally Chinese but with a twist, I enjoyed the strong flavours and the absolutely perfectly cooked chicken which just comes apart with the lightest touch. The truffle oil was a nice addition, though subtle as it should be. The soup’s flavours are very complex and I find it hard to describe without using atmospheric examples.  So I will do just that:  If you need a flavoursome pick-me-up, then I cannot imagine a better dish.  Chicken soup is a traditional part of many cultures and has thousands of different faces and recipes. This one is a success, and even though it may be a step further from what you are used to, it will still instil the well-known comfort of the chicken soup your mother made for you when you had a cold.

Next up is the “all day munchie” roasted pork belly with crackling (Siew Yuk) with wasabi honey mustard sauce. Oh lordy, not much you can do to improve on an old classic that is pretty much been around for thousands of years. The southern Chinese style fried pork belly has been one of my favourites for years and quite often I found myself scouring the cities of southern China to find the very best version of this simple yet delicious dish. I won’t say too much about the meat itself, it tastes genuine, it’s good, if you love this kind of dish anyway, you will love this too. The kicker is the addition of the wasabi honey mustard sauce, which just works incredibly well. I was truly impressed with the combination since it felt like I learnt a secret about one of my favourite types of food, you go well with wasabi, who would’ve known? Thank god for fusion.

Next up: Signature Capellini Pasta and Garlic Prawn  served with homemade dried Shrimp. Sambal Belacan.

Its pasta with dried shrimp infused olive oil, shrimp floss and a half boiled egg for 25 rm.  Now this dish is a large shrimp atop a bed of capellini pasta, covered with a thin blanket of shrimp floss with sauces put around the edge. Now this dish will be polarizing. I can best describe the dish as being a distant cousin of the popular Nasi Lemak.  Its mixture of sauces and ingredients needs to be mixed up to be fully enjoyed, since by themselves the shrimp fluff and the sambal sauce are too fragrant.

Mixed up you have a dish which is quite salty and very flavourful. If you enjoy anchovies, then you will enjoy this dish. The shrimp fluff is reminiscent of salted fish, but with the shrimp finish, the capellini pasta replace the rice in a Nasi Lemak and the half boiled egg does its part to dampen the strength of the flavours somewhat.  All in all this dish is still infused with very strong flavours and some might find it too salty, so beware. If you don’t enjoy Nasi Lemak, most likely this dish is not for you.  One thing that surprised me was the large prawn on top was fried in a way that the shell was really good. Yes I know most people dislike eating the shell and go to the trouble of peeling it. I don’t, I’m not much for fiddling around with food when I’m wearing my evening dress.   I dare you to eat the whole prawn, head and all and am quite sure you will be surprised at how good the whole thing works together.

At this point we were unsure as how to continue our meal, there are a variety of cakes available, ranging from 10-15rm and my companion assured me that they were delicious. They were however not made in-house and I felt it would defeat the purpose of coming here in the first place, so instead we opted for another “all day Munchie” .

Signature Char Siew Skewer with Homemade chilli and Lime.  A single Skewer with a large chunk of pork on it and a small bowl of Chilli and Lime. The pork, was prepared with a sweet bbq style, in the southern Chinese style. Something in itself with lots of flavour that doesn’t need any supplementing sauce. I had however earlier been surprised by the wasabi honey mustard sauce, so I was willing to give this homemade chilli and lime sauce a chance as well.  Now to my tender and easily irritable western pallet this chilli sauce was too strong, too spicy and almost took away the delicious flavours the pork had. So except for the first bite I decided to leave the sauce and just enjoy the sweet sauce already on the skewer.  My companion however enjoys spicy food a lot more than me and she enjoyed the chilli, even though we both agreed it was quite overpowering.

Last dish, and I realise now that we were quite greedy that day… :  Caramelised Spicy Fried Siew Yuk (Pork Belly with Crackling) with Chilli and Garlic.  Ok, this dish is dangerous.  Mainly because it smells so good that you will end up shoving it in your mouth before the caramel has cooled off and burn the roof of your mouth like I did.  Once you stop crying and return from the fetal position to your chair, it will have cooled off enough to be thoroughly enjoyed.  How can you make something as awesome as pork belly with crackling any better? Cover it in sugar, fry it, and give it a subtle but definite spicy finish.  Now this is the way I like my spice.  It starts of just being sweet and hot and scrumptious and not until after you’ve swallowed it for a few second don you realise that there was actually some chilli there as well. A good spicy finish, proper bite with the delicious meat and just caramel goodness throughout.  This is a decadent dish for sure, but every item on every menu ever that started with “caramelised” has been a decadent dish.

All in all Monkey Garage has a lot of enticing dishes. I found quite a few Chinese and Malay flavour influences and have to say I am still curious as to many of the dishes I couldn’t try. It has a lot of room for groups and the pricing is moderately placed so I’m sure this place will become “the hangout” for some. The service was friendly and attentive all night.  In conclusion, for meat eaters a definite yes, for wine drinkers a definite yes, I can say this place is far from traditional but more than a fad.  I love the concept of the entire place and am sure that it’s worth a visit, even for  a sober vegetarian.

 

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ciccio4

Food review: CICCIO – Changkat

Ciccio  Changkats Italian-Italian

Ciccio has been around for a while. Among the constant circulation of names and managers that some establishments go through, a place that has existed for 12 years has to be offering something worthwhile and lasting.

To save time, I’m just going to change what I think, not offer options or explain why so just compare with original and see what you think!

Slap bang in the middle of bar street it has the typical Italian ambience – dimmed lights, high chairs, lamps made of black cast iron and lots of wood and brick giving a rustic feel.  It is open at the front but despite being cool outside the day I went, the temperature inside was comfortable.

Despite having room for only around 30 to 40 people,  there were plenty of staff zipping around diligently scanning the tables.  None of the finished dishes stayed on our table for longer than two minutes and the staff was very attentive and polite.

Ciccio has a wide selection of wines and spirits, however,  not being a sommelier, I cannot say more than that the wine went well with the dishes I ordered.

When I go to a restaurant I like to ask the waiter for the chef’s  own creations and if there is a particularly popular dish. At Ciccio’s I actually got to speak to the manager, a native Italian who had a lot of suggestions and seemed passionate about the olives that came from a small village in the south of Italy. That was a good indication for the rest of the evening.  So far so good.

Starters: (Starters range from 15 to 25 ringgit)

Unfortunately my dinner companion had big plans for the night so he withheld from ordering a starter therefore limiting the dishes I could try, shame on him. I, however, ordered the beef Carpaccio. It was thinly sliced, moist and garnished with rocket salad and large slices of parmesan.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought both flavour and texture very well balanced.  Good, simple, delicious and typically Italian

Main Courses

Now, since my companion didn’t have a starter, we decided to order three main dishes between the two of us.  Not a bad idea as it turned out. And, as we were reviewing an Italian restaurant, we felt obliged to try the pizza and pasta.

We started with Pizza Napolitana. My companion insisted on having the anchovies, despite my warnings about the implications for his future date.

It arrived swiftly and looked good. I had seen the large stone oven in the back of the restaurant, always a good sign!  The pizza was average size and had a thin Italian crust ,although not the super genuine paper thin version, more a “western European Italian” dough.  Every bite was fishy and salty and full of anchovy flavour – a bit strong for me but my companion thoroughly enjoyed it.  Pizzas range from 28 to 45 ringgit. This may seem a bit pricey, but I guess you pay for location and ambience too.

The pasta: Oh, the pasta was good!  My personal favourite was the Ravioli di Pesce.  “Squid Ink seafood  Ravioli with baby scallops, pink peppercorn  and cream saffron sauce” is what the menu says, and it’s as a good description. The ravioli were tender and had a good salty seafood flavour. There were plenty of scallops on a bed of ravioli, covered in rich, creamy sauce. The pink peppercorns worked really well, accentuating the flavour and saving the dish from being just creamy.  This pasta was quite heavy and very filling. This dish was my companion’s favourite dish of the night and I have to agree. I find a creamy sauce, if done correctly, enriches the other flavours, and this one let the seafood tang and the saffron linger, while the peppercorns delivered a soft spicy finish.  Another very well balanced dish, though not suited for those who wish to go dancing after.

The second pasta dish was Linguini al branzino.  “Seabass with Red chicory, garlic, a touch of chilli and white wine sauce.” This dish is a creation of the chef and one of the most popular pasta dishes here. The linguine was served with a Vongola base and seabass, fresh cherry tomatoes and lettuce were added for some crunch.  The seabass was delicious and very tender.  The linguini was al dente and the dish was altogether more traditional Italian, lighter and with oil and garlic instead of a heavy creamy sauce. The addition of seabass was the chef’s own creation. It was excellent and I can find nothing bad to say about it except that the stronger flavours dripped to the bottom of the plate and needed to be scooped up with every new bite!

The Ravioli was 45 and the Linguine was 38 ringgit.

Dessert

Oh, my bloomin’ companion was full so he didn’t want dessert! What a lightweight!   I chose the Panna Cotta as it was with coconut and I’m a fool for coconut.

Wow! ‘Good choice!’ is all I can say. It came swiftly and jiggled joyfully when the waiter brought it to us.  The Panna Cotta was light and refreshing, covered in slowly hardening, house made chocolate sauce. The additional coconut sprinkles were not really necessary as the Panna Cotta itself was already packed with coconutty goodness. Even though I was already full, it went down easily, just the way good dessert should.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Conclusion

Ciccio is a straightforward Italian restaurant. The menu is limited to some classics and a few more original choices, but quite compact nonetheless. The food is of a high quality and service is excellent.  Ciccio doesn’t push the boundaries or try to be overly impressive. Its unpretentious  and it doesn’t baffle you with choices.  It’s the good ol’ Italian restaurant that every city needs and being just what you expect it to be, it delivers.  If you feel like good Italian food, you should check out Ciccio.

Contact details:

Address: 15 Changkat Bukit Bintang
50200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Phone: +60 3-2141 8605
Website: 
http://www.ciccio.com.my/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CiccioKL?fref=ts

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Signature Lounge

Food Review: Signature @ The Roof

Signature’ is one of the cluster of fashionable new places atop the 1st Avenue building that makes up the complex known as “the roof”.

When you walk in you start to realise this is not your typical Sunday evening restaurant.  The entry area is huge, with high ceilings and a mix of dark colours reminiscent of a nightclub. The place is outfitted with a combination of edgy and unusual interior design.

My partner and I had booked a table for two at 7:30 and were taken around a corner, past a long stretching bar, to a circular room with simply the most amazing view.  While viewing Kuala Lumpur’s lights sprawling across the horizon, we felt very smug and pleased with our choice for that evening.

Ambience:

‘Signature’ looks great. There is no doubt that the high ceiling, wide open connected rooms and modern décor make this place feel fashionable and classy. The wide open view is the memorable highlight, but the interior of the place is no less impressive. In the background there were some comforting jazz piano tunes playing.  This kept up until around 20:30 when the neighbouring establishment started playing pop and electronic music, at which point all you could hear was their thudding base, the piano music effectively being drowned out.

The chairs are very fitting and look and feel to be of high quality, but they were simply uncomfortable. The back rest consists of a wooden plank set up high on your back. There is no lumbar support what so ever so for a long evening these chairs do become an issue.  For someone like me with a history of back problems, this kind of thing is important.

Upon arrival, my partner was quite cold, so if you intend to stay a while, don’t dress too thinly.  It got warmer towards the latter half of the evening.

Starters:

The starters on the menu range from 20 to 40 ringgit. I went for the Summer Duck and my dinner companion decided on the Salmon and Maguro Tartar. Both dishes arrived after (a swift) ten minutes and looked flawless. The Summer Duck was thinly sliced duck breast with cubes of feta cheese and some fruit and salad.  While the dish was indeed delicious, especially in combination with the longan fruit, I felt it was a little small for my taste. Even as a starter I expect more than four bites.

The tartar was a much larger portion, and the salmon part was just perfect. I especially enjoyed how the seasoning was subtle enough to simply underline the salmon’s innate flavour.  This worked less well with the Maguro which turned out to be a little bland. My partner however, thought it was just right, so you should take that as it is, my personal, very subjective opinion.

Main Course

After finishing the starters, it was a comfortable ten minutes until the main course came, just enough time to realise you are still hungry.  I(had ordered the Signature Salmon Pasta, and my partner had ordered the Black Angus Tenderloin.

The Signature Salmon Pasta was a well sized salmon fillet bedded on a base of mushrooms and tagliatelle for 45 ringgit. The waiter had already taken my knife from me, but I did not need it. The salmon easily pulled apart with the nudge of a fork and tasted fresh, juicy and dissolved in the mouth. The pasta sauce was a combination of sweet tomato with pepper. Personally, I am not a huge fan of spicy foods, as too  often  I find the spices too overpowering and that they hide the other flavours. In this case however the spice was just an aftertaste and I was surprised how well the sweetness of the sauce worked in combination with the spicy finish.  I loved this dish, and will be hard pressed not to order it again.

My partner, who also happened to love the Salmon Pasta by the way, is a steak lover. The Black Angus Tenderloin, was a thick juicy slab on top of a creamy mashed potato base, surrounded by sautéed vegetables and a creamy gravy sauce.  The vegetables still had crunch and flavour, and the mashed potato went very well with the gravy. The Tenderloin was juicy, very tender, and just right. It was just plain good: exactly what you expect from a good steak. At 88 ringgit this was the most costly dish of the evening, but steak lovers know that the price lies with the ingredients. Often have I paid more for less.

Dessert:

Desserts run from 17 ringgit to 25 and encapsulate a pretty common selection ranging from a cheese platter to red velvet cake. I opted for the trio Crème Brûlée  and my dinner companion went for the Spicy chocolate lava cake.

The trio Crème Brûlée consisted of three flavours, classic, cappuccino and ginger.  The classic Crème Brûlée was as expected, delicious. The cappuccino flavour was very strong. If you decide to order this dish, I suggest you start with the ginger, since the cappuccino flavoured Crème Brûlée will overpower the taste of the ginger one.  All three are delicious, and the ginger one works better than I had anticipated. If you enjoy Crème Brûlée, then this dish might offer a pleasant change to the regular flavour, while still offering the comfort of knowing exactly what to expect.

The Spicy Chocolate lava cake is an alternative version to another classic. When we ordered it the waiter warned us that it would take 25 minutes, but we were well satisfied with the main courses and had set our minds upon getting some lava cake. Well worth the wait!

Instead of a molten core of chocolate, it is a combination of red fruits mixed with chocolate. The outside has a certain crunch, and the inside just oozes out once the spoon cuts to the centre. A single scoop of vanilla ice cream goes well to balance out the strong chocolaty goodness. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, as did my partner.   One thing that I noticed however was the absence of the “spicy” part.  It tasted like regular delicious chocolate lava cake. This is not a criticism since I will have this again, but the title suggests a stronger spicy component.  I do enjoy chilli chocolate occasionally and wouldn’t mind experiencing it in combination with the lava cake, this dish however, did not need any tampering with and is just right the way it is.

This place is suitable for:

If you have planned a quiet relaxing evening, then Signature is not for you. Although you may be able to relax and have a nice evening, there is too much stimulation going on.  The place filled up with large groups at around 20:30 and the drinks menu gives clear implications as to why that is.  The selection of  bowl sized cocktails seems well suited for groups out for a big night.

While the first impression is one of class and luxury, I do  recommend this place if you have a big night planned. The energy is quite high and the adjacent nightclubs are hard to ignore.  If you wish to impress a date, and go dancing after, I cannot think of a better place to do so. However sitting down with family that has come to visit will become awkward once the group of young party goers next to you liven up!

The food is fairly priced and delicious.  The drinks, especially at happy hour, seem to attract a lot of people as well. Next time I go, I plan on testing more of the drink options. Oh! And I will definitely try that Chocolate Lava Cake again!

Tay Sengul,

For more information and contact details click here.

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SWAG Bar and Grill

Industrial Themed Bar & Grill located in Petaling Jaya. What are we good in and why should you come enjoy your free time with us? We are a passionate bunch and will take your pleasure personal. Expect great drink prices on glasses and bottles. All our prices are net. Our fresh burger patties are juicer than juicy. We keep the fat in! We don’t do processed foods. You can taste all our ingredients come from fresh ingredients and manual labor! Having a birthday to celebrate, just give us a call and as our gift to you we will smack you around the head with some crazy promotions for you and your friends. See you soon at SWAG!

1 Lorong Sultan, PJ Palms Sports Centre
46200 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

Today 4:00 pm – 1:00 am
Phone 03-7932 2307
Email swagbarpj@gmail.com
Website http://www.myswagbar.com

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