"The one stop Makan shop"
30 years of experience has made Restoran Azira a food powerhouse. What started out as small cafe has grown into a favourite local hangout taking up two lots, with plenty of loyal customers. Present owner Kak Norzihan heads the family business, and together with her party of Indonesian cooks and servers, is more than ready to cater to your foodie needs. A quick and happy “hai apa khabar!” will set you up for a nice meal out.
Their menu covers almost every meal course needed, a good mix of Malay and Indonesian dishes. The main area is taken up by a long table full of lauk, to spoil your nasi campur choices. From ikan kembong masak asam, to ayam masak lemak cili api, to kerabu kacang botol. The more popular kari kepala ikan is gone in almost the first hour of opening. On a side of the restaurant, a table is set up for Ayam Pecel – the mix of sambal sauce and crunchy vegetables is enough to give your taste buds a good kick.
The star of the show is definitely the Laksa Johor though. I’ve never been a big fan of laksa but even this one gets my gold stars. Its hype from a hefty amount of media coverage doesn’t deter its reputation. The ikan kembong is blended in an exquisite mix of sweet santan and sour asam, balanced off with Azira’s secret recipe of spicy seasonings. Topped off with sliced long beans and extra sambal belacan, though with a tad bit too much of onions - a good dinner is already made.
"A Chiang Rai culinary curiosity shop"
First up: my current absolute favourite thing to eat in the universe, their hot and sour spicy noodles. Since their menu is either in Thai or English (none of that romanised Thai for you!), I'm going to go ahead and assume the soup base is a tomyum of sorts. Devilishly spicy and addictive, this is the soup to slurp down when you have sinuses needing clearing. Bits of meat and liver slices float in the soup amongst the nest of skinny flat rice noodles, giving you perfect meaty bites. I dream of this often at night and wake up in a fervour, grabbing my car keys and heading to Lai Thai straight away.
Lai Thai doesn't serve stand alone tomyum, as it would require a lot more ingredients (seafood, special chillies, etc) and preparation. "Other places serve tomyum too, but theirs is very Malaysianised. Ours is thick and almost oily in comparison," Pi Un, the owner points out. "Plus, we also try to keep our meats to just pork and chicken." Seafood being a touch more expensive and hard to keep, and beef-free because of their Buddhist beliefs.
My old usual order is their stir fried mince pork with basil leaf on red rice, topped with a fried egg. Also known as pad ga prao, the heady scent of basil hits your nose even before the plate hits the table. If the cook hasn't accidentally over-fried your egg - which alas happens often during busy shifts - you'll get a glorious runny yolk mixing in with your rice. A match made in heaven for the lovely morsels of spicy minced pork just dying to get in your belly.
Mondays being their green curry day, we of course had to try some. Touted by many of my friends as the best green curry in Klang Valley, the delicious creaminess of this curry is pretty much second to none. Full of chicken pieces, eggplant and those little pea eggplants, each bite makes you feel like you're sitting in a Thai grandma's home. Other notable dishes include their som tum, freshly prepared to order with generous shavings of green papaya and peanuts. Their larb moo is also an adventurous delight - minced pork tossed with pork liver, intestines and rind, then mixed with a hot yet refreshingly sour dressing of fish sauce, lime and chilli flakes. I'm from the tripe-smell-like-wet-dog school of Tony Bourdain, but I wolfed this down quite happily, intestines and all. The lime really does seem to take the dampness away from the intestines.
"Tucked away river eatery that's worth the trip!"
The first thing that struck me was just how picture perfect Azrorasa looked. It’s a small, kampung style place, located on a little ‘island’ in the middle of a river. Shady trees frame the front, and small sampans
and boats. It was very picturesque, calm, with the steady flow of the river and the sounds of kampung fauna all add to a sense of tranquility. We immediately settled comfortably into our chairs. It was almost like having lunch at home on a lazy weekend afternoon.
Then the food came. The food here is gloriously, authentically Malay kampung style, bursting with richness and flavor. The cherry on this cake? Everything is prepared fresh, from scratch, the moment you order it. So order your rice, and order.
Selera Azrorasa’s specialty is their Gulai Kari Ikan Sembilang. It comes to your table in ceramic bowls to help retain the heat. Inside, the kuah is a gorgeous red, orange and brown in colour, and so creamy and thick, laced with chunks of so, so fresh ikan sembilang (eel catfish) and okra. It is spicy, fragrant, creamy and absolutely wonderful. The fish is tender and perfectly cooked, catching in the flavours of the curry with aplomb. Then there is their Ikan Sembilang Goreng; an unassuming preparation, just the usual turmeric and salt, but expertly seasoned, and fried to that cosmic oneness of crunchy, crispy skin with just the right amount of fat beneath, and moist, sweet flesh. I could have a plate of this just a snack, and I’d die a happy man.
Next, came their Ketam Masak Cili. The crabs come bathed in a spicy, sweet and sour chilli-based sauce, and in a generous amount. You will need two hands for this messy, sticky, absolutely delicious dish, and you’ll find yourself clawing and digging for every morsel of sweet, fresh crab meat. Rounding off this classic kampung meal was a plate of very fresh, green ulam and hot sambal belachan. As refreshments, have a bottle or two of locally produced in Taiping MYM sodas, in strawberry, orange or sarsaparilla. They taste great, and you’d be supporting a local endevour as well.
"All in-house dough is handmade"
Chef Nicola Carradori has given his hands and experience to many notable restaurants before settling to open his own place. Looking to present customers withItalian flavours, he’s set a menu that leaves people spoilt for choice. They’re presented all over the walls charmingly on chalkboard menus. We give you the top three dishes to try here at iCook Italian Gastronomia.
For pasta, try the house specialty, Chicken Tortelloni. The dish comes in folds of moist, fresh pasta, dripping with creamy sauce. The sauce is delightful – full bodied with a mouth-watering flavour of mascarpone cheese, blended well with rosemary and porcini. Minced chicken filling is soft and tender, with a taste full of onions and herbs. iCook also has a selection of pasta in various styles and sauce: Aglio Olio, Carbonara, Marinara and Bolognese.
What’s an Italian meal out without some pizza? At iCook, the wide selection of toppings will definitely have your stomachs growling. We tried the Quattro Stagioni Pizza, and it comes steaming on a wooden platter. The self made pizza dough was very soft and spongy, unlike the crispy thin crust we expected. It’s slathered with a generous base of tangy tomato sauce and sprinkled with chicken ham, artichokes, mushroom and olives.
For sandwiches, we had the Fattoria Smoked Salmon Panini. The smoked salmon came in juicy slices that oozed with flavours – salty and smoky, complimenting the crunchy salad and fluffy bread. Dough in the restaurant is all handmade and you can tell by the spongy texture and soft bite. The Panini is served with a side of chunky potato wedges and blended tomato sauce. More »
"As chickeny as chicken chunks can get"
"Sup ayam satu, nasi putih," I ordered soaked from running from my car. I wanted something that would warm me all the way to the bones. A short while later, a plate of white rice and a stainless-steel bowl, steaming with the hot liquid inside came, and I prepared to tuck into my meal. Aaaaah, was my first thought as I sipped the broth. It was delicious; I used to read how Americans always say a bowl of chicken noodle soup is just the thing for when it’s cold and rainy and you’re feeling a bit miserable. I know now that can hold true. After one spoon, I couldn’t stop sipping more! The soup made that lost turn somewhere I made worth it, and it was a perfect meal for that rainy night.
Little surprise then, that I made several more visits to Kasmie Tomyam just to have the soup. And they get it right all the time.
Encik Kasmie himself runs the kitchen, although he wouldn’t divulge his sup ayam recipe. Now sup ayam is pretty basic as far as soup dishes go, but not everyone can make it a memorable dish. I suspect he uses a bunjut (spice sachet) as a base, but adds his own ratio of spices and seasonings that makes it unique.
The soup comes steaming hot, and I loved how it was served in a stainless steel bowl. Inside the soup were generous chunks of chicken; each chunk tender and moist, not at all dried out as if the meat was boiled to death. It was as chickeny as chicken chunks can get. Slivers of onion added a subtle sweetness, while smashed cili padi provided a fantastic ‘kick’, that was, thankfully, not overpowering. More »
"Ditch your conscience and get The Complete Dayummnation..."
This stall is run by three friends. Located in a kopitiam, one handles the grill, the second fries up the eggs/bacon and toasts buns while the third takes orders, assembles the burgers and delivers it to hungry tables. There weren't too many patrons when I came about but I put my skepticism aside and ordered the works (single patty, bacon, cheese and egg). Looking back, I realised on that night there was a huge ceramah at Esplanade so that could be the reason for the lack of customers. Don't matter, it didn't take long for my precious package to arrive.
What hit me was the freaking size! It wasn't huge, it was GINORMOUS. I could barely hold it in one hand. As I unwrapped it, the appetizing waft of grilled porky goodness hit me and I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into it. But oh oh, how to eat it? Times like this I wished I was a python so i could disengage my jaw and wolf down the sucker but alas, I tried my best to attack this fat piggy. One bite, and I was hooked. Hubby had to literally wrestle it from my clutches. We were like 2 ravenous carnivores trying to get a share of the prize.
10 minutes later, the massacre was over. The verdict? Pork nirvana, baby! The patty was well marinated, so thick and juicy. The bacon wasn't too crispy, just nicely fried to lend a slight salty savouriness without outshining the star i.e. the pork patty. The cheese was nicely melted over the patty, lending a subtle richness to the burger and the crunch of raw onions was refreshing. I love the raisin bun, it absorbs the meat juices and remains crusty without falling apart. The raisins lend a sweet finish after each bite. My only minor gripe was the egg could be a little runnier and the commercial ketchup/chilli sauce was unnecessary, plus caramelised onions would have been nice. Nevertheless, I went to bed stuffed and happy.
The next night, I was itching for more. This time being the eve of GE, the humble stall was enjoying brisk business and it took a while for my order to arrive. The moment that piping hot package arrived, I took a minute to visually devour it. Then within 5 minutes, it was gone! The worst part was I wanted another one! I feel like an addict who just had another fix. A quick chat with Morgan Ramanchandram reveals that him and his partners Ian Lim and Lam Khai Hong started serving their awesome patties at their own house parties. As their friends raved about it, the idea to commercialise their wares started after they noticed the boom of pork burger stalls in Penang.
"The briyani specialist"
Living up to its name, this neighbourhood restaurant offers a range of Briyani sets. We ordered the Chicken Briyani, plain Briyani with Fried Chicken and a number of sides. The Chicken Briyani is gingery soft, while the fried chicken is succulent and lean. They used a fine, lightly spiced basmati served in large portions. Acting as a base, its mild taste is a welcome when coupled with hot condiments.
A proper Briyani experience would not be complete without its side dishes. We greatly recommend the Green Chicken; chunks of juicy meat doused with mint sauce, coriander and green peppers. The resulting flavor is an exotic blend of sweet, refreshing and fiery spice.
Another side dish to try is the Chicken Tikka Karahi. The Karahi comes in a delicious coriander and chilli mix. It’s hot and spicy, providing the extra taste mileage to the meal. We also ordered Qeema, a minced meat dish spiced with ghee. The meat provides depth to a tasteful sauce - great to eat with rice and bread. For a vegetable side, we had the Aloo Gobi. The cauliflowers and potatoes are covered in thick masala sauce, leaving a lingering taste that’ll heat up your mouth.
Each Briyani is served with a small bowl of mixed vegetables and yoghurt. The yoghurt deserves special mention as it's thin, a fantastic silky taste of sweet mint and sour milk. For bread selection, the restaurant includes Naan Garlic, which is chewy and thickly flavored; and Special Naan (Taftan) which is served in three fluffy slices sprinkled with sesame seeds. Both are perfect to dip with savoury gravies like curry and dhal.