Wednesday, March 30, 2011

alexis at gardens

The last time I met up with IreneQ was last month, exactly on the day I got my new toy. We joked about how busy we were until we only meet once a year.

This year counts as an improvement, because the 2nd time we met was for my birthday, and it's only the 1st quarter of the year. She asked me to choose where I would like to eat since she didn't get me any gift! Since I have yet to try Alexis at the Gardens, I wondered if it would be a good choice.

IreneQ seemed to be in as hearty a mood to try out new food, and I was surprised she went along the idea of ordering an appetizer, 2 mains and a dessert to share between the both of us.

The salad nicoise looked too pretty to be mere salad. In fact, at first glance the presentation of seared sashimi tuna, haricot vert, kalamata olives & soft boiled egg looked more like dessert.

My red miso cod came in the right portion. Pan seared and served with toasted roma toasted roma tomatoes and haricot vert, it had the right balance of taste and texture.

So the salad had haricot vert, and now the cod. A quick google search showed that it's the french name for green beans. The foreign version does make it look more chic on the menu compared to the humble bean eh?

Since she was in the mood for duck, IreneQ ordered the slow roasted duck magret. Served with petit orange and fennel salad, the tangy fruit complemented the bird really well. I liked how the sauce was just right in bringing the dish together.

We ended the feast (or so I thought, since the next table kept eyeing at our food) with a slice of chocolate berries meringue. My first meringue at Alexis Ampang gave me a good impression of their cakes, and we were not disappointed with this too.

Monday, March 28, 2011

kesas in the morning

This the bridge I cross to get to the other side of Subang when I get to hitch a ride from my carpool buddy.

That's the KESAS Highway you're looking at. Quite notoriously jammed up near the Summit exit during peak periods.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

t forty two at empire

So I promised Sheryl I'd put up pictures of our afternoon tea, but I had to first download them from my new toy. This belated birthday treat was spent at T forty two, an open-concept cafe specialising in classical French cuisine.

Based out of Ms Read in Empire Shopping Gallery, it was their quirky decor and mismatched cutleries that got me attracted. For Sheryl, she just had to have her macaroons.

Since we wanted to savour a bit of everything, we ordered the afternoon tea for two set which came in an assortment of dainty pastries and delectable desserts. Even though Esther tagged along, we still found it quite a tall order to finish all of them.

Since their parents were in the area, we invited them to sit down, sip some tea and caught up a bit. It's wonderful to see family friends living in the same area, we were quite the neighbours and church friends back during the days when we were based in Kelantan.

So these looked almost like titbits which you can gulp down, but the sandwiches were really quite filling! We had choices of cucumber+creamcheese+chives, smoked salmon with wasabi mascarpone and egg mayo with watercress.

The middle tray were scones served with butter and boysenberry jam. The upper tray were filled with French macaroons, truffles, lemon cream tart and something that looked more like a kuih bahulu!

I enjoyed my gorgeous geisha tea, though I made the mistake of adding milk into it! Even though I tried to drink it with just cubes of brown sugar, the residual milk had left a milky aftertaste to an otherwise recommended tea.

We walked over to Ms Read to see if there were any other decadent confectionery that we could try the next time around.

I heard they serve these throughout the day (and night), and not just for tea time. There you go, in case you have food pangs in the middle of the night. Like me!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

japan club

I finally had the pleasure of catching up with Prof Komiya after more than a year. He brought me to The Japan Club of Kuala Lumpur.

Nestled in the leafy residential area of Taman Seputeh, it's like a Little Japan to Japanese expats and residents, while for me, it felt like I've just stepped into Japan for the afternoon. I was surrounded by Japanese people (or at least Japanese-speaking people!), Japanese signboards, and Japanese characters.

It's like a clubhouse where everything Japanese could be found - restaurant, travel agency, library, minimart, salon, souvenir shop, community hall, florist. It's not a big piece of land, but knowing how nifty they can be with limited space, it's amazing the variety of services they have in the Club.

Even the restaurant reminded me of a typical Japanese cafe with its tatami mats and 障子* screens. Since it was quite a hot afternoon when we arrived, I decided to order the 笊蕎麦*, perfect for summertime. The first time I had it in Niigata, they served it with ice cubes on the bamboo mat.

I couldn't help but look all around me at the people dining there. Most were housewives bringing their kids out, some were there to grab a bite while reading their favourite magazine. This is probably one of the few places you'd see so many Japanese people, and being able to savour authentic Japanese food.

I got even more excited when I saw the rows of manga lined on the wall in the restaurant - I wish I could stay there the whole afternoon and catch up on クレヨンシンちゃん!

After showing me around the Club, we decided to try the desserts at the little cafeteria downstairs. It was drizzling outside anyways.

For awhile there, I had forgotten the names of the Japanese confectionery, but seeing them made me quite happy again. These were certainly homemade, nothing fancy, but certainly brought back memories of cute Japanese dessert.

Always meticulous in their presentation, even for something as simple as a rice cake stuffed with red bean jam. I would have eaten 大福* with one big gulp, but decided to be polite and sliced it with the wooden spatula provided.

The 葛饅頭* with its transparent jelly-like texture was chilled just nice for a summer dessert. Both were served with green tea.

After feeling very 懐かしい*, I asked Prof Komiya if there's some sort of membership to enter the Club. He told me he could help find someone as a referrer if I was really interested to join. Hmm, very tempting!

障子 【しょうじ】 (n) shoji (paper sliding door);
ざるそば 《笊蕎麦; 笊そば》 (n) (uk) zaru soba (soba served on a bamboo draining basket with dipping sauce)
大福 【だいふく】 (n) great fortune; good luck; rice cake stuffed with bean jam
葛 【くず】 (n) kudzu (Pueraria lobata) (type of vine); (Japanese) arrowroot;
饅頭 【まんじゅう】 (n) manjuu; steamed yeast bun with filling
懐かしい 【なつかしい】 (adj-i) (See 懐く・なつく) dear; desired; missed;

Sunday, March 20, 2011

komiya's family p2

Even though I was busy at work, and also tasked with organising a get-together for the client, I tried to keep abreast with news on Japan.

Can't help but feel helpless whenever I hear of the latest development. Seems like the bad news just don't stop : earthquake, tsunami, problematic nuclear plant, blizzard.

I remember visiting Iwate prefecture where Prof Komiya's retirement home was, back in March 2009. Though not as popular a tourist destination as the Kanto and Kansai regions, the Tohoku region is blessed with natural beauty.

Plenty of powder snow during winter, and even blizzards in March, just like on the day before I arrived from Tokyo. I can only imagine the misery the survivors must be going through at times like this if I myself had to bundle up even indoors.

I dropped another email to Prof Komiya to let him know we were keeping Japan in our prayers. I asked if his wife would be staying on in light of recent development at the nuclear plant.

Dear Sarah:

 Thanks a lot.
Our major concern is stabilization of nuclear power generation station.
If they have been exploded, it is worst.

Of course, I will call back Takiko to Malaysia in advance.

BTW, are you going to join Japan Club?
If so would you please let me know because you need two Japanese recommendation.



While I wasn't surprised at his prompt reply, I was quite amused that despite the disasters hitting his homeland, he still remembered my interest in joining the Japan Club!

Idyllic Iwate
Idyllic Iwate P2
Idyllic Iwate P3

Sunday, March 13, 2011

buble for birthday

Really speechless when I saw this in the envelope that came with the birthday card. This must sound really naive, but I've never actually been to a concert before. I guess I'm not that krazy about any band/group/singer to actually want to go for one.

So I'm really excited about this, and I must say, really pleasantly surprised about getting it as a birthday gift!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

komiya's family

Just last weekend I had a lunch date with Prof Komiya, whom I have yet to meet since I came back to Malaysia. He was showing me around the Japan Club at Taman Seputeh and sharing his experiences adapting to life back here again.

He was one of the first few people I thought of to contact, as his family is back in Japan. In fact, the area where the earthquake and tsunami first hit, is where he had built his retirement home. He was telling me how he and his wife planned to open a B&B in their cottage-style wooden house, and showing me pictures of the vegetables they have harvested from last year's bounty.

So I was naturally concerned about his wife Takiko-san, who is alone there as their children are grown up and are living in different parts of Japan.

It was with great relief when he replied this morning :

Dear Sarah:

 Thank you for your e-mail.
Yes, it was unbelievable disaster in Japan.
Regions attacked by earthquake and tsunami are ranging from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Still the death toll by this disaster is unknown.

However, all my family members are fine. I was afraid Takiko's safety yesterday because no telephone connections (becuase of traffic congestions) and no internet connections (because of power failure in Tohoku region).
But, her safety has been confirmed by in the following way;
(1) Takiko could make a mobile phone call to my daughter in Tokyo,
(2) My daugter (Noriko) sent me e-mails to let me know Takiko's safety and I could talk with Noriko by skype later on,
(3) Noriko told me that 20 minutes after the talk with Takiko, she tried to call back again Takiko's mobile phone, but it was not possible because of the traffic restriction by NTT DoCoMo.

In any case, all my family members are all right fortunately, but Tohoku area is still keeping on power failure so that she should tolerate incovenient life for some days.



Friday, March 11, 2011

battered dragon

"Just heard tat one of the biggest earthquake hit tokyo this afternoon. I'm so glad you r back here."

I was at the firm's International Women's Day (IWD) today, rather relieved to be able to get away from the client for awhile and enjoy the talks and booths that the committee had planned to make us "look good and feel good". Just when IWD was wrapping up in the afternoon, I decided to check to catch up on work emails when some colleagues messaged me about Japan.

I had no idea the extent of the devastation until I watched the video feeds on CNN. It was surreal because I had never seen anything like that before, and yet brought back memories of the 7.4 earthquake I experienced in Niigata.

My friends and family are glad I'm here and not there.

I wish I could be there for my Japanese and Japanese-based friends whom I have come to call family. 

Sometimes I tell people that I miss the tremors that we get now and then. It's so common that we hardly bat an eyelid anymore. Kinda add thrills, sadistic I know. But that's how frequent we get it there.

Observing how calamity strikes one after another, not to mention the brewing dissatisfaction in the Middle East/African region, one has to expect that the worse may not be over, but still pray that their loved ones will be spared.

My heart goes out to Japan. It has been brave in facing natural disasters all these while, surely its people can depend on their experience to weather this through.

The eastern dragon may have reigned in the past, now it's battered in all aspects; financially, economically, physically. I wouldn't be surprised if it's the heed of the King, a call to bow down to a more sovereign Being. I pray that His strength will be yours as you go through this difficult period.

Fire on water: Japan, world watches tsunami strike live
Japan earthquake: Tsunami hits north-east
Tsunami slaps Japan after record earthquake, hundreds die

Monday, March 07, 2011

happy international women's day!

They smile when they want to scream
They sing when they want to cry
They cry when they are happy
and laugh when they are nervous
They fight for what they believe in
They stand up for injustice
They don't take "no" for an answer
when they believe there is a better solution.

They go without new shoes
so their children can have them
They go to the doctor with a frightened friend
They love unconditionally
They cry when their children excel
and cheer when their friends get awards
happy when they hear
about a birth or a new marriage

Their hearts break when a friend dies
They have sorrow at the loss of a family member
yet they are strong when there is no strength left
They know that a hug and a kiss can heal a broken heart
Women come in all sizes, in all colours and shapes
They'll drive, fly, walk, run or email you
to show how much they care about you
The heart of a woman is what makes the world spin!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

glico fruitia

I was told that the cabs in Thailand are pretty much reliable and not too expensive. So after the ride on the Airport Rail Link to the Makkasan station in the city, I got a cab to bring me to the serviced apartment that was to be my accommodation.

Known for their horrendous traffic jams, I was curious as to how bad it could be. I guess I was enjoying the graffiti on the wall to be bothered by the slow moving traffic.

The crawl allowed me to enjoy the ride, as opposed to being in a train for the first time in foreign country and having to figure out the next stop. It feels like luxury to have all the space in the cab with my bags, as I'm so used to backpacking and using public transportation most of the time!

At one of the junctions where we stopped by for quite some time, and the driver was beginning to mumble something about the traffic, some colourful activities at the side caught my attention. I thought these were good looking demonstrators, and was curious to see what they were up to, with the placards and coordinated clothes.

So this was my first encounter with hot Thai babes - they were obviously promoters giving out something to the drivers who were stuck there. I've been to Jakarta and saw young peddlers trying to sell cigarettes and toys, so I was cautiously curious as to what this group would try to sell.

She passed a packet to my cab driver, and I just politely smiled back at her, not knowing whether to accept her "gift", as I didn't even know what it was! She was nice enough to smile for the camera. 

After she walked on to the next car, I thought maybe I should have just took up her offer. Feeling a bit regretful, a bunch walked over, and this time the driver winded down the window for me, and this grrl handed me a packet of what they were passing around.

Turned out to be lychee-flavoured mint drops. Quite cool for a welcome gift to the Land of Smiles eh? :)