Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Pan Mee at PJ Old Town – Springy!

Outside Yan Woh Medical Hall, 80, Jalan Othman, 46000, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia (Opposite Public Bank)

Lady Fartsalot has been bugging me to take her to this pan mee stall for months.

I haven’t been too eager to go because I am not very interested in pan mee in general, and the traffic and parking at PJ Old Town can get quite stressful.

But she is persistent and we finally went.

It was an outdoor stall set up right outside a Chinese medical hall (which happened to be closed) with tables and chairs placed wherever possible, including on the five-foot way next to the medical hall’s entrance. Wonder what the arrangement is on days when the medical hall is open?

Run-down stalls like this occasionally serve epic food. This wasn't the case here, however.

The wait for our food was surprisingly long considering we were pretty much the only customers there.

We ordered a bowl of dry noodles each and when they arrived, I could immediately smell the sesame oil – an ingredient not present in typical pan mee. This dish stands apart from regular pan mee in several other ways:
  • The ‘dry’ noodles weren’t very dry because it had quite a lot of sweetish dark gravy.
  • On top of the usual minced pork and ikan bilis, it also had thick, juicy slices of shiitake.
  • Most interesting of all, the noodles were – as the headline says – quite springy as opposed to the doughy texture of most pan mee I’ve had.

The mushrooms – thickly sliced, plump and juicy – are definitely the highlight of this dish for me.

Overall it’s not too bad – while it’s not exactly epic, it is at least slightly above average. What it has going for it is that it offers flavours and ingredients that aren’t typically found in pan mee.

Worth a try if you happen to be in the area. I wouldn’t make a special trip for it, though.

Bite-sized review
Interesting pan mee in PJ Old Town with springy noodles, sesame oil, thick slices of shiitake and lots of sweetish dark gravy that makes the ‘dry’ noodles not so dry. Worth a try if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.

Price: RM14 for two bowls of noodles and two drinks.
Hours: Sorry, not too sure about their opening hours.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Kin Kin Kota Damansara – Now even more accessible!

No. 39-1, Jalan PJU 5/12, Dataran Sunway, Kota Damansara, 47810, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

We found out recently that the legendary Kin Kin Chilli Pan Mee has opened an outpost in Kota Damansara.

No one was happier about this than Lady Fartsalot – who’s something of a Kin Kin addict. She’s also a pan mee snob – flat-out refusing to eat at any other chilli pan mee shop, insisting that the noodles are just ‘not the same’. I personally can’t tell the difference but seeing as I’m equally sensitive about sub-standard char koay teow, I will take her word for it.

I think most people have eaten the Kin Kin dry chilli pan mee before, but if you haven’t, here’s a quick description… along with my deepest sympathies. The thick, chewy noodles come with minced pork, crunchy ikan bilis, scallions, little bits of chue yau char (crunchy pork lard croutons) and a perfectly poached egg with runny yolk.

This is a historic moment: the first-ever food photo on this blog taken by Lady Fartsalot's brand-new camera.

On the table is a container full of oily chilli flakes that you add to taste. I usually add 2.5 spoonfuls, then mix thoroughly. The heat of the chilli doesn’t feel very intense in the mouth, but it starts to burn quite uncomfortably in the tummy about 20 minutes after the meal.

The new camera really captures the oily menace of the chilli extremely well.
As I eat, I try to get a little bit of everything in every bite: firm noodles; salty, crunchy ikan bilis; meaty minced pork; fresh, crisp scallions – all held together nicely by the spicy chilli.

Before you know it, there's barely anything left in the bowl. As you can see, the chilli flakes turn the creamy-white noodles a potent-looking orangy yellow. Consider the colour an effective visual warning: the deeper the colour, the more it'll burn.

They also have pan mee soup, but I’ve never ordered it before.

The Kota Damansara branch opened in early 2014, but I guess not many people know about it yet because – though there was a steady stream of customers – it wasn’t as packed as I expected.

Maybe it’s because Kin Kin fans are now spread out over more outlets. They currently have branches in Cheras, the Publika food court and Kota Damansara in addition to the main branch in KL. They’ve also just opened an outlet in Singapore, prompting a buddy of mine to comment that it’s now just a matter of time before the Singaporeans try to copyright Kin Kin Chilli Pan Mee as a Singaporean invention.

But that’s a problem for the future. For now, PJ folks rejoice! It’s now easier than ever for you to satisfy your Kin Kin addiction. As a bonus, the new shop is clean, air-conditioned and run by two nice ladies who provide good service. Go eat there quick before the queues start to form!

The new place is air-conditioned, brightly lit and so clean it's almost clinical. Perhaps the lady in black is looking so glum because she misses the grimy 'character' of the main branch?

Bite-sized review
The legendary Kin Kin Chilli Pan Mee now has an outlet in Kota Damansara! PJ folks can now enjoy this unique pan mee in air-conditioned comfort without having to endure shitty KL traffic.

Price: RM7.00 per bowl. The Publika branch charges RM7.90 a bowl – likely because of higher rent. We haven’t been to the KL branch in a long time but we suspect it’ll be about RM6.50 or thereabouts per bowl there.
Hours: 10am to 9pm.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Dining in the Dark – Mediocrity amplified

50, Changkat Bukit Bintang, Bukit Bintang, 50200, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We went to Dining in the Dark recently for a very belated Valentine’s Day dinner and I must say it was a pretty disappointing experience.

As I understand it, the idea is to deprive you of visual input so your tastebuds are not influenced by what you see. Your sense of taste is sharpened and you experience your food more intensely. If we follow that logic, then this will only be a good experience if the food is great in the first place, right?

Sadly, much as their website boasts about ‘surprise menus’ that take diners on a ‘marvelous gastronomic journey’ the food is no more than mediocre.

And, I'm guessing, they're not too big on food presentation either.
What they did deliver on – in spades – was the ‘total darkness’ bit. We couldn’t see anything other than the red dots of light on the security cameras – presumably installed to capture footage of clumsy diners for a ‘funniest videos’ show… or to catch kleptomaniac guests emboldened by the cover of darkness.

We weren't allowed to bring phones or anything else that glows into the dining area. This 'picture' of the security camera is an artist's impression.
And in the pitch-black, not able to see my food, tasting something not-so-great makes my mind conjure up some pretty disturbing stuff. For example, the pasta was cold and the room-temperature, watery sauce made me think I was eating someone else’s leftovers. One of the soups tasted like it came out of a can. One of the dessert items tasted like it was cheap chocolate ice-cream that came out of a cardboard box sold off a pushcart. As the darkness enhanced our sense of taste, the mediocre food only tasted even more intensely mediocre.

That’s not all – our sense of hearing got enhanced too, with equally undesirable results. The couple sitting two tables away sounded like they were having their intimate conversation with us instead of each other.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, eating was hugely uncomfortable too. We had to grope about in the dark to find our plates. Then we are encouraged to use our fingers to push the food onto our spoons to avoid scooping up thin air. If this is a ‘fine dining’ experience like they touted on their website, they could have served bite-sized servings of food on individual spoons. Then we would get the right proportions of everything in every bite. But no – they made us use our hands, clumsily shoveling haphazard spoonfuls into our mouths like we were starving refugees.

Finally, perhaps what irritated me most of all about this whole crappy experience was the preachy talk at the end of the meal reminding us how clumsy we were when we couldn’t see what we were doing. Well DUH!

You may think I’m sounding whiney but you have to consider that they did promise an incredible dining experience filled with fresh sensory delights. I was expecting to eat well. But instead, they focused so much on the darkness part of the experience that the food tasted like an afterthought tacked on at the last second.

It’s a shame, really – an interesting concept that was poorly executed. But, much as I dislike it, I guess there will still be people who are interested to go dine in the dark for the experience, so I won’t go into any more detail about the food to avoid spoiling the mystery. Just remember to lower your expectations of the food and you may have a better experience than I did.

Bite-sized review
Eat in pitch darkness. Interesting concept but executed poorly – focused too much on the darkness gimmick and not enough on the food. The result is mediocre food that tastes more intensely mediocre in the darkness.

Price: RM118++ per person for a 3-course ‘fine dining’ menu that isn’t very fine at all
Hours: 6:00pm to 9:30pm – Tuesdays to Sundays
Reservations: Required – no walk-ins allowed