There was a time many moons ago when “little Italy” in the inner west suburb of Leichhardt epitomized spaghetti bolognese and Sicilian pizza.
As much as we love chequered table clothes, fiascos of prosaic chianti and kitchens orchestrated by the over-bearing family matriarch, times have moved on.
Italian cuisine in Sydney has become contemporary and more specialized, denominating into Lombardian, Sardinian and southern Italian to just name a few specializations.
Many locals lament the quality of hawker food in Kuala Lumpur has deteriorated.
Like most things in life, the good stuff is right where you know how to find it.
To say farewell to 2017, Mysaucepan and I are spending some time with family and friends in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
There is so much good street food in these two cities but sometimes, the best place to start is right here at my parents’ home. This is because Ah Kum, my parents’ housekeeper of 28 years, is one of the best home cooks when it comes to hearty meals.
I shall kick off Top Twenty Eats Kuala Lumpur 2018 with Ah Kum’s wok tossed loh shee fun and cover some of our all time hawker favourites with a sprinkling of wagyu exuberance at a Japanese restaurant.
In writing this blog post, some of the food featured have been covered in my previous editions of Food Safari Kuala Lumpur, namely the series of 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017). And the important point for doing so is two-fold:
Sometimes in life, you chance upon great surprises.
This happened during our Italian sojourn in Tuscany. We wanted to explore the little towns around Montepulciano where we were staying for four nights to discover hidden secrets off the tourist trail.
“Life offers you a thousand chances … all you have to do is take one.“
~ Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun
After that fabulous pappardelle fatte in casa al cinhiale, we head southeast towards our intended stay at a farmhouse in Montepulciano.
The 50-minute drive from Siena takes us along stretches of narrow and windy roads with spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside. And the notion of getting lost on a sojourn in the heart of Tuscany with Mysaucepan is every bit as romantic as I had imagined.
“Although he’s slight, he has that wiry strength
that seems to come more from will than muscle.”
Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun
We have been looking forward to our journey into the heart of Tuscany’s countryside since the bistecca alla Fiorentina experience in Florence.
Apart from grilling huge Fiorentine steaks at a farmhouse overlooking beautiful vineyards, we are also planning to taste a few good Italian wines.
Being one of the great wine producing countries from the old world, the map of Italy is literally one gigantic vineyard.
In the northwest region of Piedmonte, the nebbiolo grape produces some of the country’s finest Barbaresco and Barolo wines while Veneto in the northeast is an important region where corvina, molinara and rondinella combine to produce some of the finest Amarone and Recioto della Valpolicella wines.
“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”
~ Julia Child, legendary American chef and cookbook author
It’s a little wet and windy today but the weather is no damper as we walk around the cobbled streets of Florence.
“I’m walking fast coz I want to work up a big appetite for that big piece of meat” I tell Mysaucepan.
“At the rate you’re walking, that piece of meat is going to be ginormous” she says.
“You may have the universe if I may have Italy”
~ Giuseppe Verdi, Italian opera composer
A good siesta after our long lunch at the world’s best restaurant for 2016, Mysaucepan and I find renewed energy and excitement as we head off from Modena towards the capital of Tuscany.
“All’alba vincerò! … Vinceròòòòòòò! Viiiiinceeeeeròòòòòòòò!” I imitate Pavarotti belting out the last two verses of Nessun dorma from Puccini’s Turandot as we cruise at 140 kilometres per hour on the freeway from Modena towards the capital of Tuscany.
“Drive carefully!!!” Mysaucepan shrieks, momentarily interrupting my singing.
I have read about the romance of Tuscany and our excitement builds each time a Firenze signage appears on the road.
“So what’s the highlight dish in Modena so far?” I ask Mysaucepan, after our third day feasting in this city?
“Definitely my parmesan entree at Osteria Francescana” she says without hesitation.
“Well, we tried some excellent aged balsamic and also toured the Ferrari factory this city is so famous for” I reply.
We visit a parmesan cheese factory at the home of Parmigiano-Reggiano in the heart of Emilia Romagna to check out the process of making the “King of cheeses” before heading to Parma for yet another famous food ingredient of this region.
Mysaucepan‘s mobile rings as we are driving from Venice to Bologna.
“You mean there’s a table for two?” she shrieks with excitement, momentarily stirring my concentration as the speedo inches at 130 km per hour.
Due to a cancellation, we have a chance to confirm our wait-list booking with the 2016 Numero Uno ristorante on San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
From humble beginnings, chef Massimo Bottura has creatively honed his osteria into a world-class establishment. The city of Modena in northern Italy has reaped the spillover effects from Osteria Francescana and has since become a food mecca attracting thousands of tourists and food lovers from all over the world.
After four glorious days in Venice, we took an early morning drive towards Modena, famous for its Ferrari factory and balsamic vinegar let alone the city where the 2016 best restaurant in the world resides.
On the way, we made a point to have lunch in Bologna, the spaghetti bolognese capital of the world.
“It is such a beautiful time to be in Venice” I say to Mysaucepan. “The carnevale is reason enough just to be here, let alone a spag bol I’m craving for.”
“Eat seafood when in Venice” she quips. “Your spag bol time will come when we get to Bologna in a few days.”
“In any case, I have booked a one-Michelin star restaurant right for lunch in the heart of Venice.”
Like a first date, Venice seemed unfamiliar and mysterious.
But I soon warmed up to its beauty and passion for celebrating the good things in life.
After a week in Switzerland, we catch a train from Vevey for Venice, the “City of Canals”.
“No more red meat for the next few days okay!” Mysaucepan declares. “Venice is famous for fresh seafood”.
“Is sea lion considered red meat or seafood?” I ask her.
“They don’t serve sea lion especially during the carnival of Venice” she replies. “Venetians much prefer a spag vongole or marinara”.
“You have to get here this Friday coz I have booked the hotel at Zermatt for the weekend” she instructs from her hotel room in Vevey.
I am in Kuala Lumpur for 2017 food adventure on my way to Europe to meet Mysaucepan who has been there for the last three weeks for business.
From Vevey, we take a 3-hour train journey heading south-east, passing through the towns of Montreux, Martigny, Fully, Saxo, Sierre, changing trains at Visp before arriving at our final destination in Zermatt.
Perhaps there’s something special about this place
for so many special human beings have called it home.
Located a mere 5km from our hotel, I decide to take shuttle bus #201 from La Tour De Peilz to visit Montreux, a coastal town by the shoreline of Lake Geneva.
I am a little curious as to why so many famous people have decided to call this place home in the past … Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Igor Stravinsky, Dame Joan Sutherland, Charlie Chaplin, David Bowie and last but not least, Freddy Mercury.
“What a quaint little town?” I thought to myself as I walk out from the Vevey train station after an hour ride from Gevena airport and an eighteen hour flight and transit from Sydney.
Mysaucepan has been on a business trip here for the last three weeks and we have decided to meet in her last week of work before heading to Italy for a short vacation.
Though it is around 5 degrees Celsius this afternoon, the air is cool and crisp. So I decide to take a stroll to our hotel about 3km away from the station.
Restoran Fei Jay is arguably Kuala Lumpur’s best for mud crab dishes.
This Food Safari Kuala Lumpur 2017 is our fourth food safari of Kuala Lumpur in the last five years.
Please check out the previous blog posts below:
This beef rump cap elevates Vasse Felix to another level
compared to so many fine diners around Margaret River
We have been eating our way around Margaret River over the last few days that included lunches at Leeuwin Estate and Cullen Wines. And we find ourselves at yet another iconic venue in Vasse Felix for lunch today.
After a most disappointing start to our Margaret River sojourn yesterday, we are here today at Cullen Wines, home to some of the best cabernet sauvignon merlot in Australia.
Till this day, my mum still reminisces about a Leeuwin Estate seafood bouillabaisse so exquisite at a dinner which dates back to December 2004. To me, this must surely be the definition of an “unforgettable dish” at a restaurant.
For many years, I have admired the style of Leeuwin’s Art Series cabernet sauvignon for its earthiness and complexity. Mushroom-y forest floor and sweaty horse saddle are hallmarks distinctively different from most others in Australia. Continue reading
It has been more than two years since Chopinand and I had a weekend away in one of our favourite places in New South Wales.
We love the Southern Highlands because of its fresh air, lush greenery, beautiful gardens and most importantly great food and wine.
One of the first few restaurants that has earned a great reputation in this region is Eschalot in Berrima. I remember discovering this place when I first visited its original premise in a motel in Moss Vale. I was impressed by the authentic French flavours with an inventive twist and the friendly service.
“Dove regna il vino non regna il silenzio”
If you have ever been to an Italian dinner party, you will be familiar with this Italian proverb. Whether it is the celebration of a wedding, All Saints’ Day or Christmas, meals with family and friends in Italy are always accompanied by good wine.
Hence the proverb … where wine reigns, silence does not reign.
Breakfast eggs with a twist for less than $20 and throw in stunning waterviews
this is truly a gem of a cafe by Sydney harbour.
Sunny Saturday mornings bring a smile to my face because they are my favourite times of the week.
It is the time when I conduct real estate research by attending open house inspections and auctions. On a good run, I attend up to six auctions around a cluster of Sydney suburbs. Mysaucepan, however, is not a big fan as she finds it totally stressful hopping from one house inspection to the next within a space of thirty minutes.
“Do you like this house better than the first one?” I ask.
“I can’t even remember what the second one looks like” she says.
“Oh well, I think we better go for lunch then.” I say.
You see, her condition for having to come along with me on Saturdays is she gets to choose where we go for lunch.
Street food in Malaysia is bloody tasty as it is.
I wonder if there’s any reason to tweak it for the sake of being different.
Having spent my formative years in Kuala Lumpur, I love Malaysian street food, and why wouldn’t anyone for that matter.
Former Malaysian premier Dr. Mahathir Mohamad once quipped that street food is so intricately woven as part of Malaysian food culture, it will never disappear even if Malaysia becomes a first world nation one day. Or if ever, judging by the scandal-plagued political system in the country.
Malaysian-style kaya toast and soft boiled eggs crept onto the menu of Zacharay Tan’s Devon and Devon at Danks. So it’s hardly surprising he recently chose Darlinghurst for his funky Malaysian diner.
“Drink wine. This is life eternal. This is all that youth will give you.
It is the season for wine, roses and drunken friends. Be happy for this moment.
This moment is your life.”
– Omar Khayyám
“Spanish??!! Oh my god, I love Spanish and I’m going to miss this one!” Mysaucepan laments.
Realizing she will be at work in Europe during the next tasting for The Wine International Group Sydney, she is determined not to miss any future tastings.
A simple suggestion from Dr. O to match the country of origin of the wine with its cuisine has fuelled members of The Wine International Group Sydney to seek out unusual and exotic drops for each of our wine tasting dinners. Not to be outdone, the food served during dinner these tastings has been ramped up a few extra notches to be in cultural sync with the wine.
It all began with an exquisite French wine and food tasting in his house. Tonight, it is Dr. Groovy O & G and Dr. Lady Groovy O & G‘s turn to host the wine tasting and Spanish is their chosen theme for the evening. Continue reading
Harvest Buffet offers a glorious spread from seafood, cold meats and salad to
hearty roast beef, osso bucco and delectable desserts.
“Make sure you check out the fried chicken!” Rachael at Access PR tells me.
Now who doesn’t like fried chicken, especially when it is going to be as much as you can handle.
“I better get on the cross trainer before this meal” I say to Mysaucepan.
“I think you better get on that machine before AND after this meal” she replies.
So with a kind invitation from Access PR, we find ourselves here at Harvest Buffet located in The Star to check out its lunch time spread on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.