Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Food: icook Italian Gastronomia @ 3 Two Square, Petaling Jaya

Up till now, 3 Two Square hasn't been very well known for it's eateries. We feel it's quite a shame, since the place is so near Wendy's house that we would frequent the area more often if there was a wider variety of restaurants. Things are at least improving a bit now with the arrival of icook Italian Gastronomia!


Owned and managed by Chef Nicola, an Italian, icook's aim is to introduce more varieties of Italian fare, besides the standard pizzas and pastas that we Malaysians are already familiar with.


Coffee is also an important staple at icook. This is made obvious by the packets of coffee beans lining the counter! I'll admit that so far we haven't given their list of beverages a try yet, so we won't give any comments on those. =)


Although not elaborately decorated, there's enough to make the place stand out from others. We particularly liked the vintage black and white posters (especially those to do with pasta!) hung on the wall, boosting the Italian vibe around the place. =D


Another novelty - choosing your own fruits to make fruit juice! Such a simple concept yet not one that I have seen at other restaurants so far. I felt this helped the place give off a more "natural and healthy" feel to it.


For the weary traveler who may be famished after braving rush hour jams to get to icook, plain bread served with their signature tomato sauce is definitely a welcome sight! Tasting the tomato sauce confirms it is indeed homemade and authentic, although we do have some complaints which will come later. 



If you've just had a long day at work and can't wait for food to cook, there's also pastry ready to serve! We were told Bomboloni (RM 2.90) are actually Italian donuts, but doesn't have the hole in the middle. Sadly when we tried this it was about 8-9pm and the Bomboloni tasted cold and hard. The only significant difference we could make out from normal donuts is the slight citrusy flavour thanks to some orange rind in the dough. 





For a starter to share, we went with the Fried Calamari served again with the signature tomato sauce (see where I'm going with this?). This was quite yummy, a nice snack to have before the main course arrives. Big enough for 2 to share comfortably, so give this a try if you're with friends. =)



The first time we were there, Wendy went for the Rustico Panini (RM 14.90) which was crispy chicken with tomato & lettuce between freshly made focaccia bread. Since the aim of icook is to highlight other lesser-known Italian staples, we thought the focaccia might be a good place to start. I used to have plenty of this in my Melbourne days and I know very well the common pitfalls of focaccia sandwiches. Sadly icook fell short too; the fillings seemed like a scrimped effort which is even more noticeable when paired together with bread that is as thick as focaccia, despite the it being fresh and warm. Not one that we will return for. 


Just because icook tries to introduce other types of Italian cooking doesn't mean they forsake the more common dishes! We took a stab at their Spaghetti Carbonara (RM 18.90), but unfortunately this also did not impress. The carbonara was a dry version and ended up being too cloying to finish. The carbonara sauce was also slightly curdled, signifying that it hadn't been taken off the stove quickly enough.


On another day, we decided to give one of their pizzas a go. There's about 10 different combination of toppings served on pizza dough in 11 inch long rectangle shapes instead of the usual circles. When it comes to pizza, I'm usually always looking out for the one with the most meat, but Wendy likes some vegetables too so the best compromise was the Pizza with Tomato, Mozzarella, Mushrooms, Onions, Bell Peppers & Beef Salami (RM 26.90).

Despite it being loaded with toppings as its name suggested, we felt there was too little cheese, and it ended up being a very "wet" pizza presumably due to all the vegetables (although, the fresh ingredients used must be commended). By this visit, we also felt a little bored with the tomato puree used because it was tasted exactly the same as that which was served with our calamari from earlier visits and complimentary bread. It didn't hit our taste spots, but perhaps it could float yours?


The Roast Chicken is one of the specialties on the menu that you can find on their specials chalkboard. Going at RM30.90 for half a chicken, it prices itself just slightly higher than other chicken joints like Nandos or Kenny Rogers. Checking in on 4square will show a long list of unsatisfied customers, but don't let that stop you from giving this a try!

Although I agree that the meat was a bit dry in the end, it was a great authentic serving of roast chicken with really crispy skin that packed a lot of flavour! There's also a very generous serving of succulent potatoes to go with it, so don't worry about not having enough carbs with this. =)

Some pasta-making in the process?


For desserts, icook has a small range of cakes for the picking in their refrigerator. Aside from that, they also have Chocolate Mousse (not pictured) and Tiramisu (RM 10.90) neatly packed in these round plastic containers which are also perfect for takeaway. The Chocolate Mousse was smooth, decadent and a joy to scoop away at slowly. The Tiramisu, while boasting of silky mascarpone, had its sponge fingers drowned in too much coffee leading to a very watery finish.


icook Italian Gastronomia was promising as an authentic Italian restaurant but has some room for improvement. Hopefully most of the small things we experienced over a few visits and highlighted above are just teething problems because we really like the ambience, fresh ingredients used, location and service here. Hopefully with the passionate Chef Nicola at its helm, the food will be more consistent soon.


icook Italian Gastronomia | Facebook
B-06-01, Dataran 3 Two
Jalan 19/1, 46300 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor
Tel: +6 03 7960 1691
Email:  icookitalian.gastronomia@gmail.com
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri, 8am-9:30pm; Sat, 12pm-10:30pm

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Food: MeatWorks Restaurant @ Citta Mall, Ara Damansara


During precious public holidays, it's hard to find that perfect activity that will make the day feel the most fulfilling! Recently I had to send my car in to the workshop on a public holiday in USJ, so after it was done I suggested we headed to Citta Mall to have a look around, since we hadn't had the chance to visit the place yet.


There are a few eateries in Citta Mall, but most are common names. MeatWorks may not have branches everywhere in KL, but they are certainly an established name in the meat business as far as reputation goes!


The last time we went to the first MeatWorks in Solaris Mont Kiara was a long time ago, so I decided we should try this outlet for lunch instead of the more unknown Gourmandis or Baci. There's a lot more space at this outlet compared to the one in Solaris, so it shouldn't be hard to get a table here.


Not being content with just opening another restaurant, MeatWorks at Citta Mall also has a whole section dedicated to selling food items! 


Wendy was itching to take a look around, but she ended up feeling disappointed since most of the stuff sold there can be found in other supermarkets. Some of the shelves were also sparsely stocked. I guess they are still in the midst of getting all their stock together. They do, however, have a premium meat section and a bakery where they bake up some delectable aromas of which we caught whiffs of while we were there.


MeatWorks has quite an extensive menu, and they specialize more in steaks. Since it was lunch it didn't feel right to be slicing into beef, so I went for the Roast Chicken (RM 30 for half a chicken) instead! 2 quarters nicely divided served on a bed of potatoes, tomatoes and a few strips of asparagus. Oh and half a corn too. According to the menu, these vegetables are organic. =)


Roast Chicken piqued my interest because I had just tried the roast at a new restaurant named icook Italian Gastronomia recently, and I always think it's helpful to compare. The spit-roasted poultry served here were plump and juicy pieces of chicken. Definitely more than enough meat for 2, or 1 if you're a big eater like me.. =P

Sadly although the breast meat was fine, the drumstick was slightly under-cooked with traces of blood still very visible in the middle. The corn was also hard and tough, not what I would expect from a place like MeatWorks. 


Wendy as usual zoomed in on the burgers and went for the Texas BBQ Burger (RM 26). This was much more impressive overall, with far less fault for us to find. The 200g patty was thick but not too thick, and it had the right amount of density and flavour. Topping it off with a sweet honey-chilli BBQ sauce, coleslaw and onion rings made things all the more enjoyable. It was a yummy experience all round. =D


The bread was also toasted nicely, although I always feel there's too much bread in hamburgers! Critics might say this kind of burger can be done at other places too, which might be true, but it's still a burger to remember if ideas are lacking at MeatWorks. =)


Desserts are also available, but nothing sparked our interest, especially not at the prices they charge. We think much better desserts can be found in other places these days..


To sum it up, MeatWorks might have been a hip place to be a few years ago, but these days competition is heating up in the meat business! We think MeatWorks will still be around for some time to come though, and we would regard this as a safe choice for anyone looking for a nice place to bring guests.. =)



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MeatWorks Restaurant | Site
Lot 26 & 27, Ground Floor,
Citta Mall @ Ara Damansara,
Jalan PJU 1A/48, PJU 1A Ara Damansara,
47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Tel: +603 7832 0871
Email: talktous@meatworks.com.my

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Food: Suchan Deli @ The Curve

I'd heard much about the famed Suchan Deli, the old one in Section 13, four-time winner of Malaysia's Best Restaurant and home to many a delectable dessert. 


One Saturday evening, I made up my mind (one of those rare occasions that my mind is made up on dinner, just ask Adam. Usually it's "dunno la", "anything la", "you choose la" :p) that we would have dinner there, and off we went in search of the new branch in The Curve.


When we arrived at nearly 7pm, the place was empty. Granted, it was in an obscure location (on the upper floors connecting The Curve to e@curve/formerly know as Cineleisure) but it was a little off-putting because I had expected at least a few diners given their reputation. Brushing it off, we studied the menu and were soon ready to order.


We were hungry, so we started off with ordering the Fried Calamari Rings (RM 8) and when it arrived, we were rather disappointed. The portion was paltry for the price we were paying and the 5 calamari rings we got unfortunately tasted nothing more than what you could have found in the frozen section of a supermarket.



I had the Nasi Kerabu (RM 20) which was white rice served with beef rendang, salted egg, serunding and cucumber (acar-like) salad topped with a few pieces of papadam. It was ordinary at most - the rice was too clumpy and the beef rendang whilst tasty, could have been more tender. I couldn't help but wish that they'd served the papadam separately as it wasn't crunchy anymore due to the steam from the hot rice :(


The Nasi Kerabu also came with a serving of devil's chicken curry. This certainly packed a mean punch! Spicy, fiery and tangy at the same time, this hit a few right spots, but unfortunately the chicken was a bit too stringy to enjoy properly. 


Adam had the Peranakan (also RM 20); rice with Nyonya fried chicken, otak-otak, gado-gado, cencalok and papadam. Again, we felt it was nothing spectacular. :( For a little bit extra money, I would actually rather visit Madam Kwan's or Serai for local delights like this.


His Peranakan dish also came with a serving of chap chai lemak (mixed vegetables in creamy coconut) which was mildly satisfying. It wasn't spicy, and it had good flavour, undoubtedly thanks to the stewed vegetables.


I don't usually favour berried desserts, but the success of Serai's Berry Pavlova had me craving for more so the Pavlova it was! Again, I wasn't all that impressed as the meringue shells were too chewy, and didn't melt in my mouth (oh, that glorious feeling!). It just felt like a lazy effort to me after tasting Serai's.



For our other slice, we chose the Mascarpone Cheese which thankfully, was more satisfying. This was rich and silkily textured with chocolate bits embedded in the smooth cheese. Adam loved it, but I thought it could have been a lot sweeter. The two pieces of cake, with two cups of tea was called the Cupid Set and it came at RM 28.


Unfortunately, Suchan Deli didn't impress us very much and left us wondering what we missed. Did we order all the wrong things, or should we have tried the original Suchan Deli in Section 13? Or is it that with all the innovation and quality in our local F&B scene, Suchan Deli has some catching up to do? Let us know if you've had a great experience there! :)


Suchan Deli
LB-1, The Curve,
No. 6, Jalan PJU 7/3,
Mutiara Damansara,
47810 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor, Malaysia.
Opening Hours: Daily, 10am-10pm


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Travel: HK Day #3 - The Ngong Ping 360 (昂坪360) Experience and Ngong Ping Village

After charging ourselves in the morning with dim sum at Lin Heung Kui in Sheung Wan, we went on our way to Hong Kong MTR station and do a bit of walking after all that food.

Construction or renovation using bamboo sticks.


As we walked along Queen's Road Central, we soon reached the Mid-Level Escalators. The Mid-Levels Escalators seem like a pretty nifty thing to have in the hilly Central, but in the summer humidity, doesn't make for much of a pleasant ride either. We didn't go on it that day, but instead turned the other way to walk through the tunnel which led us to...


...IFC! IFC actually consists of the two International Finance Centre (IFC) skyscrapers, IFC Mall, and the Four Seasons Hotel. IFC Mall consists of four storeys and big brands like Burberry, Hugo Boss, Prada and Tom Ford can be found there.


We had a quick look-see around the mall (read: use their toilets), and then took the escalator down to get to the Hong Kong MTR station.


Hong Kong MTR Station is where you would want to go to take the train to take the Tung Chung line. The more popular stops for us tourists along that line would be the Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong Disneyland, and our destinations for the day, Ngong Ping 360 昂坪360 & Citygate Outlets!


Because the line takes you from Hong Kong Island to Lantau Island, you'll get views of the sea and maritime container terminals whizzing by to occupy you during the ride.

(I brave impatient Hong Kong commuters by stopping midwalk to snap picture of each MTR station name we're at which results in many annoyed tsks from old uncles :S)

A quick half hour later, we arrived at the end of the line -- Tung Chung MTR station!


As it was Mid-Autumn Festival and also a public holiday in Hong Kong, there were throngs of people with the same bright idea as us -- heading towards the Ngong Ping 360 *gulp*

The Ngong Ping 360 is a 5.7km long cable car ride in Lantau Island connecting Tung Chung to Ngong Ping in the hills above, which is home to the gigantic Tian Tan Buddha, Ngong Ping Village and the Po Lin Monastery.


The queue was pretty long; I'd say we waited for about 40 minutes which was pretty unbearable in the hot summer heat. 

Making the rest take a picture because I needed to keep myself occupied :p
What made things worse was that we kept on seeing people going towards the Express Lane; these were the clever ones who had pre-bought their tickets online and now only needed to breeze past the line to collect their tickets. Gah. Definitely make sure you get your tickets online to avoid the queue, if you have a concrete plan to go on the Ngong Ping 360.

We finally made it to the counters!
There are quite a number of different packages and prices available because of the variety of attractions at the Ngong Ping Village like the Walking with Buddha trail, the Monkey's Tale Theatre, etc.

However, the main highlight of going to Ngong Ping for us was the cable car ride! There are 2 types of cable cars; one normal type and another called the crystal cabin, gondolas that boast a glass panel on the floor so passengers can see all the way down to the bottom.


Since we really only wanted to sit on in the crystal cabin, it was HKD 169 for a two-way ride. If you're on a budget but want to experience the crystal cabin, you can also opt for one way normal, one way crystal cabin.

One of the normal cabins.

The cable car ride was exceptionally enjoyable due to the lovely views of Lantau Island it provided.

As we whizzed past in the heat (at this point, we were all wondering if taking a glass cabin made the heat even worse), we were treated to panoramic sights of surrounding hilly terrains, the South China Sea and even the Hong Kong International Airport (bottom right picture)! 


As you get nearer to Ngong Ping, in the last 5 minutes or so of the cable car ride, the famous Tian Tan Buddha bronze statue comes into view.


The first thing Adam we did upon arriving at the cable car terminal in Ngong Ping was to make a beeline for the ice cream booth. Rich, creamy and full of cookie bits, the Cookies N' Cream Dreyer's ice cream gave us some motivation to leave the shade.


Ngong Ping Village! We were blessed with the bluest of blue skies on our visit to Ngong Ping Village and while that made for the most picturesque experience, I'm sure it also made for one of the hottest due to the lack of clouds. 



Ngong Ping Village is actually set on a 1.5 hectare site on Lantau Island and is a cultural-themed village that has been planned and designed to specially reflect the culture of the Ngong Ping area for those tourists that do not venture deeper into Lantau Island.



Despite its touristy nature, I genuinely did enjoy the architecture: quaint little shops and archways, bridges and stone cobbled paths. Felt like a Little China of some sort.


Plus, there were tons of gaily coloured tanglungs (lanterns) everywhere in conjunction with the Mid Autumn festivities. :D

Way too hot. Whoever told us that September was already autumn was seriously misguided.
Seeking solace in shaded sanctuaries.
We took our time slowly wandering through Ngong Ping Village that afternoon, which housed many modern F&B (Asian fare, kebabs and even Subway and Starbucks present) and souvenir outlets within those quaint buildings; even taking time to avoid the sun in a small corner of shrubs like the lazy people we were :p

Spot Adam :p
Further up was the Bodhi Wishing Shrine, beneath the "Tree of Awakening".



Many came from afar to hang their wishes on the shrine. I didn't make a wish, but it was a very pretty sight, with the wood pieces gently swinging in the wind. The wood can be purchased at nearly any souvenir shop in Ngong Ping Village, but they don't come cheap although I'm sure it's a small price to pay for those who want to make their wishes. ;)


I saw a shop selling ping tong wu lou (冰糖葫芦, candied fruits on a skewer, usually candied haw) and excitedly went to buy it after years of seeing them in Chinese serials on TV. Unfortunately, it was quite a letdown, it was extremely frozen and hard and much too sweet. Is that what it really tastes like? :(

Wish I could locate that couple in the picture and give this to them :)
Moving along, we crossed the village arch leading us to the Ngong Ping Piazza which would lead us towards the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. None of us really wanted to walk on anymore, so we decided venture a little off the path to this coffee shop that caught our attention.


Well, with all the bright signs it was a little hard not to catch our attention, but what really lured us in was the promise of some shan shui tau foo fah (山水豆腐花, loosely translated into Mountain Water Soy Bean Pudding which is supposed to be good in Lantau Island)


At HKD 10 a bowl, this cold treat was a wonderful thing to have in the summer heat. The tau foo fah was soft and silky and the ginger syrup light and pleasant, not overpowered with ginger.


Some sugar (that looks suspiciously like cheddar cheese) is available for you to add into your bowl of tau foo fah in case it's not sweet enough for your taste buds.



After the tau foo fah, we decided to call it a day and walked back through the charming Ngong Ping Village for our cable car ride down.


Of course, what's a crystal car cabin ride without some shots of the glass floor! It really was quite a sight to behold, we could make out fishermen near the shore as we passed, and even hikers on their way up to Ngong Ping, all looking like ants :D

And of course... we just had to sit on it as well. Hee.

Adam over the hills, and me over the seas. :)
Adam is actually afraid of heights, so to get him onto the glass was quite a feat in itself. He might look calm, but he was actually very nervous!

Mel and Bryan have a seat.
I'm not sure if we were allowed to do that... but hey, how can you resist? (The glass bottom will feel very cool under your behinds by the way :p)


With a final group shot, thanks to the couple in our crystal cabin whom hopefully didn't think us strange from all that sitting on the floor, we bid goodbye to the Ngong Ping 360 Experience.

I wouldn't suggest the Ngong Ping 360 if your stay in Hong Kong is short as the travelling time is long and there are more important 'must-see' sights in Hong Kong than Ngong Ping, but it's recommended if you have the time and like a slow paced afternoon browsing shops and admiring tourist sights. Definitely go for the crystal cabin, and attempt to avoid visiting during public holidays and summer. :)

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Ngong Ping 360 昂坪360 | Site
Lantau Island


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