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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Middle8th, 中8楼 [Food Review]

My first meal in BeiJing aside of breakfast buffet in hotel is this, Middle8th. It is Yun Nam (云南) cuisine restaurant that has 3 branch in BeiJing (2 more coming up soon, one of em will be in ShangHai).
I absolutely love this place. It has great food, great environment. The ambient is slightly dim but that just create more romantic vibes. It's a bit awkward to go there with my BeiJing support colleague.
Since my time in BeiJing is very short, I haven't try enough things to label this restaurant as a must try, but if you happen to be shopping electronics item in ZhongGuanCun and stumble upon this restaurant, I would say give it a shot!

photo credit to lyshixi6

Address: 海淀区 中关村广场步行街R17号
Phone: 010-51721728 010-51721729
Operating hours:
Monday - Thursday : 11.30 am - 2.00 pm (lunch) 5.00 pm - 9.00 pm (dinner)
Friday - Saturday : 11.30 am - 9.30 pm
Sunday : 11.30 am - 9.00 pm

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烤小牛肉 (RMB 58 ~RM 33)
My most recommeded dish here is this, roast veal.It's so succulent. Oh my, I never tasted something similiar back in Malaysia. The beef is almost well done, but it's still tender. It's awesome with or w/o the tomato sauce. Yes, this words come out from a non beef lover.

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中8牌玖蘑菇 (RMB 38 ~RM 21)
Signature mushroom. I couldn't quite figure out what type of mushroom is use here. I didn't expect it to be so tough on my first bite. I struggle quite a bit before I stuff the whole piece into my mouth. I would stress that its flavor is quite nicely done. I suspect they fried it before mixing it with the sauce, that's why the sides are tougher. If I am back again, I would definitely order it again.

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过桥米线 (RMB 25 ~RM 14)
This is my second attempt having bridge noodle. The first was in Hong Kong. I wouldn't quite say the same thing about my experience in Hong Kong compare to here. In Hong Kong, the soup base was more flavorful,  and more choices of condiment. Here, the soup base is lighter, but oilier. However, I can't place this second to the one I had in Hong Kong because the flower petals (Jasmine I guess?)gives a new life to the soup, the kind of soul I would never expect from a simple bowl of soup noodle. It gave me a profound memory, but that is not enough to lure me to order it again on my next visit.

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This is not their signature dish. I don't remember what is it called and can't find the price online what so ever. I guess it be something like 干炒扁豆 or Fried Indian bean. It doesn't draw too much memory in my brain. I can't even remember it was pork, or chicken. It was still very tasty.

If you want to know more about this place, you may read this Dian Ping post. It's like the Trip Advisor for food or the China version of Malaysia Most Wanted food. It's in Chinese, so good luck with that.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Crowne Plaza Hotel, BeiJing ZhongGuanCun

During my trip to BeiJing, my colleague book a room for me in Crowne Plaza BeiJing ZhongGuanCun Hotel. I stay for 3 nights-ish (?). I check in on 3.30 am on my first night and check out on 5.30 am on the day I leave. In total I spent less than 20 hours in the 4 star hotel and it cost me RM 1.9 K including Limousin pick-up from airport.

Photo credit to IHG

The company I am working for has a branch in BeiJing which is located in ZhongGuanCun (中关村), hence they book the nearest hotel. The hotel is accessible via subway, but the nearest subway station to the hotel is HaiDianHuangZhuang Station (海淀黄庄站) or ZhiChunLi Station (知春里站) of instead of ZhongGuanCun Station (中关村) 

Sorry for the low resolution blurry photo. I am only able to take photo using my phone, didn't bring any camera. 3 laptop is heavy enough for me.
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Please allow me to say, the room is AMAZING!
I think hotels don't have single bed room any more these day, or do they? When I was in Thailand, the hotel also gave me double bed room. Though I should warn you there are superstitious about the unoccupied single bed. Look it up on the internet,  I wouldn't want to pollute my blog with *cough* you know....

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The TV and the working table is quite standard.

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The best part is the wash room. I was so excited, I didn't even took off my jacket yet. 

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Beside the sink, you can see various toiletries like shampoo, conditional, face lotion, and body shampoo. 

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A separate cubicle for the toilet and shower, 

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the other side, the big @$$ bath tub.

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Like I said, I check-in on 3.30 am. By the time I finish taking a bath and unpack my stuff, it's already 4 am. I was so shocked when I looked out form the window, it was really bright, almost like 8 am in Malaysia. Yeap, that's the first time I taste Summer, long day and short nights. 

I was really confused, I am not sure I should sleep or continue work or get my breakfast first.    
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The pantry doesn't look promising, so I went to work. My support was not online as well, so I went back to sleep.

The breakfast buffet in the hotel was very good though. I didn't took any picture, too busy to stuff my mouth and gobble it down. The only dissatisfaction is that the dinners talk very loudly. Typical CINA-MAN.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Trips and tricks for Traveling to Bei Jing (the Malaysian folks edition)

I was in BeiJing half a year ago for a very short, urgent and pack trip. I reach Bei Jing on early Thursday morning like 2 am and return on Saturday morning on 7 am. Since this is a company business trip, I am coming here representing my company and department for a meeting, I didn't have any luxury time to discover the city but I manage to get some luxury food and great accommodation.

Quick tips and trip swhen traveling to BeiJing (from Malaysia).
1. China has most of your familiar online social media and tools banned, so no Google, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, Don't even try to navigate with your Google map, or check weather with Google Now. Not that I done that, who? Me? No! As if~

2. Download a few Chinese apps and familiarize it before you come, if you can reach Chinese. Baidu is like the Chinese Google.

3. China has different power supply, get a few adapter ready. My suggestion is to get 1 or 2 extension instead of getting one adapter for each electronic items you have. Even if you do, the hotel doesn't have that much of power plug for you.

4. If you are Vegetarian, be very specific. The vegetarian that Chinese understand is Pescetarian. This is because Muslim (yes, China has a looot of Muslims) don't eat pork and their poultry, beef and lamb has to be prepare in a certain way, just like the Muslims in Malaysia. For seafood, it's mostly ok, except amphibian. So when the waiter or cook receives an order for vegetarian, their quickly assume it's a Muslim request because Muslim also usually order non meat dish. This happens to my Malaysian colleague that travel with me. Poor baby, he has to eat plain rice.

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Even if you order veggies and specifically request a vegetarian one, you will still get shrimp with it.

5. The air in BeiJing is not good. Just merely 1 hour from leaving airport, my nose is so clog with boogers that I have to breath with my mouth. Bring along face mask and your sore throat remedy.

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6. Although it might be summer and it might appear to be humid enough, bring along your chap stick. My face and skin feels ok, but my lips are severely dehydrated and I am in forever electrostatic mode.

7. Subway are really cheap in Bei Jing, don't bother catching a cab and frighten to death because from experience, my driver drive so dangerously that it feel like my life is going to end at the junction. Not sure that's just a cab thing or everyone in BeiJing drives the same way. No one follows traffic lights and as if the lane didn't exist. Top of my scariest traffic experience, pulling down Thailand.

8. Some of the cab drivers doesn't turn on AC even in the summer. You have to "remind" them, even if you do they might scold you and say they already did.

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Click HERE for the large size Bei Jing Subway Route Map

9. There are 15 subway routes in BeiJing. Most of them are very congested. When ppl say "going down?" or "要下车吗?" means excuse me. I know the this phrase doesn't sound polite at all, but on the subway, it's the most polite way to ask other ppl to make way. As a foreigner that has the local face (at least my Grandparent are from this region), I have no idea how things work. When I say excuse me, no one seems to understand or gave way, and when they say "要下车吗?", I just reply no and turn away. LOL they must have cursed me this ignorant village people. Any China Chinese, if you are reading this, I am so sorry, I didn't meant to be rude, I just don't understand your slang. Sigh... that's the huge disadvantage of being a foreigner that can speak the language but are not local...

Have you been in China? What is your check list when traveling to China from your country? I would interested to heard about it.

For the rest of my trip, you can navigate using this list.
Trips and tricks for Traveling to Bei Jing (the Malaysian folks edition)
Crowne Plaza Hotel, BeiJing ZhongGuanCun

Monday, January 5, 2015

Of Braised Pork Leg and One Plus One Sausage from San Ban To [Non Halal]

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When I first heard about this restaurant I couldn't identify what style of cuisine it server. The name sounds like Chinese or Japanese, but from the reviews I read, it serve German pork knuckles and German beer, when I reach there I see pavlova (New Zealand dessert) on their special menu and the Ramen promotion banner on the side.
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Then I see 1 very common thing, they have pork in every single main dish. Ah! it's a pork place! Indeed, they have a sister company that call "The Pork Place" located in Bandar Puchong Jaya. Will definitely check it out next time, but do check this out as well:
32, SS2/63,
Petaling Jaya,
47300, Selangor
Tel: 603-78761728
Fax: 603-78761725

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So I ordered the One plus One Sausage, RM 24.90
It comes with salad and mash  potato sides. The longer one is the hot dog type where the meat are process, so the texture is quite bouncy. The shorter one is a real sausage while the meat is just slightly grind with garlic and maybe some herbs.
I prefer the longer one, mainly because the garlic taste from the shorter one. Usually this kind of bad garlic taste only exist you use use rotten garlic. I am very disappointed with it.

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My partner ordered the Braised Pork Leg, RM 17.90
The taste resembles a Chinese confinement dish ping trotter with vinegar (猪脚醋). The meat is fork tender, I bet it was braise for  hours. However, when I bite into it, it's just tough dry broom stick :(

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The skin are so soft, like your Micr@s@ft Window which can break down any time when u give em pressure.

Other than cook food, Sanbanto also sell raw pork and other process pork like sausage, bacon etc. They labeled their pork in both English and Chinese, and give you suggestion on how to prepare them. I never bought any pork from them yet, but I am interest to try them out next time and give you an update. Till then, stay put, I'll be back in a flash!

Overall: 8/10 [A new restaurant concept, instead of focusing one cuisine with different ingredient, this restaurant has one main ingredient with different type of cuisine. I just tried 2 dish, so it's still hard for me to judge.]
Taste bud indulgence: 7/10 [Not perfect but I appreciate the variety, it's hard to maintain so many different type of cuisine.]
Purse Saver: 9/10 [RM 25 for a meal is a bit expensive but compare to most German restaurant that serve sausage with a more expensive price, their house sausage is not that bad at all.]
Location: 8.5/10 [Located in a very jam area that is very hard to find parking, along the market street. Not the best place I would choose to have my restaurant, but its definitely easy to find.]
Service: 8/10 [I am a bit concern with the restaurant hygiene because they sold fresh meat with the same time. What would you feel if you have your lunch beside a transparent fridge with uncooked meat? It might just be my imagination, I feel I smell some pork foul smell in the back of my head. The other thing that trigger my nerve is the leaking air-cond. We didn't complain, we didn't change table, we just moved a way from the leak park. Hope they can improve on these aspect.]

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Din Tai Fung 鼎泰丰 [Food Reivew]

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I don't get what is the hype about the recent opening of 1 star Michelin Hong Kong Dim Sum restaurant in Malaysia. The queue can beat a concert ticket purchase. I don't get it, there are other old time 1 Star Michelin franchise restaurant in Malaysia as well, have you tried it before? No? Then you need to jump out from the queue and come to Din Tai Fung.


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Din Tai Fung House Special 招牌小菜
In case you like it wan to duplicate, the ingredients are bean sprout, seaweed, grass jelly, fry tofu and chili. No mattter who good of a cook you are, you probably can't get it right. Usually, Chinese picked spicy turnip for the base. Substituting with seaweed gives it an extra texture.

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Spicy Pickled Cucumber 辣味黄瓜
At first, by look I though it will be the chilled crunchy type of pickled. I was a bit disappointed when I pick it up with my chopstick. It was slightly soggy and soft. Maybe we took too long in snapping it, that it might be not as good as freshly prepared. It might not be a texture winner but the slightly spicy taste makes it very appetizing.

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Fragrant  Pork with Crushed Garlic 蒜泥白肉
I never saw such light color in pork meat. I wouldn't care enough to discovery whether it was bleached or not coz the garlic sauce was sooooo yummy. Totally not what I was expecting. I rarely like garlic except I prepare it myself. Sometime there is a bad garlic smell that can linger in your mouth for hours if the garlic is burnt or if it was spoil.

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ShaoShing Wine Marinated Chicken 绍兴醉鸡
I do n't particully like this because of it's bitterness. I have had ShaoShing chicken that is less bitter and more jello, this is more smooth and less oily. Probably a more healthy version but I am not so sure if anyone of younger age would like it.

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Pork XiaoLongBao 小笼包
The highlight of Din Tai Feng is non other than thin skinned, juicy, awesome filling Xiao Long Bao. Is not hard to see the dumpling filling from the half see though skin, so thin yet sturdy to hold it's form when you picking it up by chopsticks. I have been to dim sum places that it's skin rupture upon pick up and the whole Xiao Long Bao burst open and the soup gone wasted. This is the best skin so far.  As for the fragrant savory soup that become so sweet from animal carcass, it's just slightly higher than average, not the best one. My only complain is that the meat in not as tender as I expect it to be, it fallen apart quickly when I take a bite.

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Steamed Vegetable and Pork Dumpling 菜肉蒸饺
It's skin it slightly thicker than Xiao Long Bao's one. The leak (leaves part, not the white part) are pretty flavorful too, it's decent, but not awesome.

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Steamed Vegetable and Pork Dumpling 虾仁烧卖
Also a comparably thicker skin than Xiao Long Bao. Not on my recommended list, it might look really pretty and luxurious with the shrimp (psst... shrimp is not totally fresh) on top, but the way they fold it makes you bite into a lot flour on the neck before going into a pocket of exact meat in Xiao Long Bao, minus the sweet sweet soup.

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Shrimp Fried Rice 虾仁蛋炒饭
I don't understand the logic in this fried rice, It's almost so close to perfect, but failed on the shrimp (again). Howeverm the fried rice is really is really awesome, I am just guessing it, I might be wrong, I think it's not chicken egg, they use duck egg in frying the rice. Reason being, the egg aroma is far better than normal chicken eggs and the texture is quite smooth silky. Fry chicken egg usually have frothy texture even w/o beating. If they can improve on their shrimp, it will be a my first recommendation, on par with Xiao Long Bao.

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Fragrant Spring Onion & Shredded Pork Noodle 葱油肉丝面
This is a common noodle. Not common as it you can find it any where, but common in taste aspect. Just usual ingredient, not overly salty, but for Malaysian tongue, it's almost not able to categorize as savory because it's so bland.

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Noodle with Picked Mustard Greens and Shredded Pork 酸菜肉丝面
I am not sure I am easy to let down or I am picky. When I chuck down my first sip of soup hoping it o be some long hour over night boiled pork bone soup; only to let down again. 1 word: bland. It has some sourness in it due to the pickled radish, but the level of taste is almost comparable to the spring onion noodle above.

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Stir-fried Pea Sprouts with Garlic 蒜炒豆苗
At this level, I am almost certain that Din Tai Fung almost don't use salt at all. This pea sprout is probably steamed by some anchovies stock and that's all. Although I was complaining in my heart at first, but when I have the next bite, it kindda touches me. I never know when was the last time I taste my vegetable's real flavour. Normally, vegetables are are unpopular, we have to add a lot of seasonings to increase it's attractively on the dining table. However, this is not the case here. I can clearly taste the earthyness and the green vegetable smell just like when it was freshly plug out. The crunchiness...oh juicy >.<

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Golden Yam Paste Rolls 芋泥酥

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Red Bean Paste Polls 豆泥酥

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Red Bean and Purple Glutinous Rice 紫米红豆

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Mango Pudding 芒果布丁

As for dessert, I think it's just average, nothing to shout out.
After all these dishes, I can safely conclude that Din Tai Fung is not a place that attract diners by MSG and luxurious ingredient. They did not do much alteration to their dishes to cater local needs. It's the ideology to keep the most original flavors in the ingredient that bring them so far.