Kampungkayell

Food, life, and fun in my "kampung,"(village), KL (Kuala Lumpur). Did I mention "food?"

A Rum Ol' Dinner at Rama V

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

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"Suck on it!" exhorts Cumi archly!

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I almost fell off my chair.

But of course, the quiet, wry, smirk that was on his face meant that I should extract all the goodness out of the 9" long Spider Crab Claw that was in my eager but saucy hands!

And what a mouthful it was. Rich, buttery, and that amazing, sweet, savoury, coconut milk sauce redolent with all the herbs and spices which make Royal Thai Cuisine what it is.

We had been invited by Andre & Danny, the new owners of Rama V to review their "Chef's Table" menu. Please note, this is a menu for a special occasion so please don't compare the price of this menu to your regular dinner options. This is specifically for that time when you want to celebrate something special, have a great night out with close friends and family, or you just want to splurge.

The following conversation should NOT take place if you wish to have this sumptuous feast. "Honey, what shall we have tonight for dinner?" "Oh, I know, let's just TURN UP at Rama V and have the CHEF'S CHOICE menu."

If that does happen, and I know people who will do this, be prepared to be disappointed!

In this particular instance, this dinner is very French/Italian in it's soul; make sure that your entire evening (from 7pm) is devoted to slowly savouring all the food and wine pairings. You are meant to have time to prepare yourself for this feast. Fast, if you need to, because of the copious amounts - we rolled out of the restaurant. Work your saliva glands to a fever pitch of anticipation. Discuss with the chef, the intricacies of the menu - yes, he'll design it for you. And pair your wines for a leisurely evening of great food, great company, and hopefully for you, great enjoyment.

Rama V (popularly known as "Rama Five" but perhaps more accurately called "Rama The Fifth," in honour of the progressive, modernising King made famous by the movie "The King and I" and his association with his tutor Anna Leonowens) has been around for about 15 years now but has passed through some hands before landing in the tender, loving, gourmand hands of Andre Shum and Danny Jee. One could almost claim that the bungalow concept of dining began with Rama V.

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The Salas at the back of the main restaurant are private rooms available to all and sundry. You're able to dine in private and in the luxury of your own space. Danny proudly told me Kings, Princes, and the powers-that-be had come to Rama V before. In total, Rama V is able to hold around 180 people snugly.

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As Cumi & Ciki, Nipplesjoe, Chocoholic, Allan, and myself sat down to a very warm welcome the food started to come out. The waiters were helpful, quiet, unobtrusive, and attentive.

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Miang Kam (Fragrant, textured, herbaceous, and fresh), Crispy Rice Served with Minced Chicken & Shrimp Sauce(gorgeous texture and crunch, and a surprising creaminess hit with a salty shrimp of the sauce - amazing) Flower Shaped Dumplings stuffed with minced Chicken and Peanuts(beautifully presented, like little petals of a flower - almost too pretty to eat).

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Then a traditional Pomelo Salad with Australian Abalones (very much the same as a pomelo salad but those abalones make one feel luxuriously exclusive), shrimp cakes with a sweet thai chili sauce, and a thai version of Ama Ebi, Sweet Prawns marinated and served with a Chili Ginger Sauce (probably my 2nd favourite dish - cool, sweet, fresh prawns, contrasted with a zesty, tangy, lime/ginger sauce with just the right amount of red raw heat from the "priks" in it).

After that amount of food, one would think we're calling it quits.

My tummy was certainly about full. But nooooo...

We still had;

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  • Tom Yam with Scottish Clams served in a young coconut. The soup was made with the coconut water and so was sweet and had depth to it. The clams were gorgeous tender little pale sausage like things, as succulent as a clam should be.
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  • Sauteed Spider Crab (which was crawling around 10 minutes before the dish came to table) in a rich, red curry sauce. Omigod. There is a God. Definitely my all time favourite dish of the night.
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  • Roasted Duck Red Curry with Lychees - this dish has special meaning for me and a very dear friend of mine. Email me if you want to know the story. Rich, meaty duck (the OTHER red meat), paired with fragrant herbs in a red curry sauce as only the Thais' can make, and contrasted with cool freshness from lychees.
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  • A Steamed "Soon Hock" or Ikan Hantu in Lime Juice and Chillis (very teochew) - very fresh, chunky, almost lobsterish like sweet meat paired with a sour hot clear broth sauce.
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  • Sauteed New Zealand Lamb with Green pepper aand Basil - I remarked to Andre that I loved the idea of the dish and for our general palate it is good but my preference is for gamier lamb. For those who have more generic palates this dish will be a firecracker favourite. Gentle, subtle heat from the pepper paired with the succulent richness of the lamb with minty, herbaceous overtones from the Basil make it a great accompaniment with hot thai rice.
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  • A stir fried asparagus with sea snails rounded off the dinner.
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  • And of course, dessert of Steamed Pumpkin, Tub Thim Grop (Red Rubies), Thai Cendol, Mango Sticky Rice, Steamed Glazed Tapioca with Coconut Sauce, and wine to accompany everything.
Whew!

On writing this now, I'm still surprised that we managed to get through it all. Now, the million dollar question. How much does all this cost?

For this feast, and 3 bottles of wine for a minimum of 6 pax, it would be RM350 per head. Not a price that you would normally fork out for a night on the town. From what I understand you could also get it for a sight less. Perhaps around RM250 per head but expect the ingredients to be less, shall we say, exotic. But still, the occasion would have to be quite special. However, on balance, with what you get, it is, to me, good value!

Having said that, with a beer or two, and no exotic seafood options, I believe you could get away with paying around RM60++ each for a yummy dinner at Rama V and enjoy the same ambience and service as we did.

Corkage is RM35 per bottle of wine. They do have a good selection of wines which they can pair with the food.

Thanks Andre & Danny for a lovely night and to Cumi & Ciki for thinking of us. :-) Much much appreciated.

Rama V will also have a Buka Puasa buffet for Ramadhan at RM64 per head. Call the number below for more information.

Rama V
No. 5 Jalan U Thant Off Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur 55000, Kuala Lumpur
p: 603-21432663 f: 603-21432430

Travelling away from home to be closer to it

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy


It's been 6 days now that we've been away.

It's been an amazing and fun-filled stay. We have another day here in this beautiful place before we say "so long" knowing that we will return.

Today, however, I feel compelled to write about what is happening at home in reflection to what is happening here.

A man has been killed. The fair part of my mind is saying wait till all the evidence is in before judging the supposed guilt of the suspected conspirators. I empathise with the sadness and the horrible sense of loss that his family and fiancee must be feeling at this time.



Pura Uluwatu at Sunset

My gut instinct tells me that too much was at stake for him to be alive. That somehow or other, there was a conspiracy that did him in.

And there's the rub.

I live in a country which is blighted by a SMALL number of people who believe that it is ok to say and do anything to remain in power. I live in a country with groups condoning the actions of "journalists" who under the guise of carrying out their work, go to Catholic churches, accept communion into their mouths without understanding what it is, and spitting it out and taking pictures of it for their own disgusting ends.

By the way, for those "journalists" who don't understand what the 'host' in communion signifies, it's nothing short of the body of Jesus Christ himself. The Catholics believe in something called 'TRANSUBSTANTIATION" which basically means that during the ceremony of Mass the wine and host is transformed into the blood and body of Christ through the direct intervention of the priest celebrating the mass which is in itself like a recreation of the Last Supper.

In other words, to me, those two disgusting people spat out the body of Jesus Christ. Who to me is part of the holy trinity of the Godhead, and to them, a Prophet of high repute...supposedly.

I live in a country where the powers that be routinely lie, spin, and tell half truths, to perpetuate their power and furthermore have the gall to say that they can afford multi million dollar homes on a dentist's monthly salary (which by the way, is a very comfortable living, but nowhere NEAR what would be required to build an estate of the sort he owns).

Then I contrast it to the people living in Bali. And in Indonesia.

Bombs have fallen on their heads. In Jakarta, and before in Indonesia. But there is a calmness, a ONEness that seems to have them bound together for a common good. The Balinese are Hindus (of a sort) and the greater population is Muslim, but the greater picture is that they're Indonesian. And nowhere is this felt more than in Bali. And perhaps truer of their vaunted "Panca Sila."

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As I sit here listening to the drizzle of the rain, a lady in a Balinese kebaya, walks past balancing a tray of spiritual offerings on her head. Woven coconut leaves, flowers, coffee and oils. Every single morning this lady goes about the various altars and places these for the God(s).

Go to every shop as they open and their's this very same offering out front. Be careful not to step in it however. Not because it's taboo to do so. But because it simply could get messy as cofee squirts out to dirty your trouser leg (this happened).

The result of all this is that there's a serenity that is palpable and a "rightness" to the atmosphere that for whatever it's faults can be righted by people of pure intent.

Such a contrast to the situation we have back home. Where we subscribe to shallow religiosity in place of true spirituality. What's the difference? One is judgemental, rules oriented, and results in a situation where people develop a "get-away-with-it" attitude and learn to ignore the pricks of their own conscience. One is internal, has a live and let live attitude, and results in a situation where people genuinely look out for each other.

But I still believe, no matter how rickety our system is, I go back to the second last sentence/paragraph above "for whatever it's faults can be righted by people of pure intent."

And that, friends, is where WE, THE PEOPLE, stand.

Bali Jaunt Day 2

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

I'm finally getting used to the moped/scooter. It's a Yamaha Nuovo and makes this amazing sound like a chicken farting. It's quick, it's wobbly, it has this feather light throttle that makes it jerk ahead, and it makes rubbernecking vewwy, vewwy, difficult.

For instance, there are MANY of these around. Eye Candy that is...

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I obviously only got to take pictures of these few OFF the two wheeled contraption from hell. While the slightest motion of my head in the opposite direction of travel would have almost certainly condemned me to a fate of having my head stuck up someone's exhaust pipe.

Anyway, it was with a healthy measure of apprehensive anticipation that we set off this morning on our scooters, to Kuta, after an equally healthy breakfast which was included in that oh-so-affordable room rate.

No sooner had I picked up my vintage cap however, Unkaweence's metabolism had burnt up his remaining stores of brekkie and had to be fed. Poor guy was actually feeling faint. Sigh. To have a metabolism that actually USES up the food rather than stores it.

Anyway, off we go in search of eats and we end up in Made's Warung, Kuta. When I stopped to ask a security guard directions however, it went something like this. "Jalan luRRus ke PERampatan, belok KAnan, luRRus lagi hingga sampai ke Warung Made." All this was accompanied with more singing than speaking (Indons have a great sing-song accent) and the ROLLING of "Arrrs." Needless to say, after asking him to repeat it until he had slowed down to the speed you would speak to a deaf person, I finally figured out he meant "go straight to the junction and turn right."

I promptly go back, tell everyone, and with mystified looks on their faces, Allan and Chui, proceed toward the guard and interrogate him again. They obviously received the same answer and off we went.

Somehow or other, along the way, Fids gets boxed in by some cars and instead of turning right as in "belok kanan" he keeps on going straight ("jalan lurus.")

We get to Made's Warung and immediately the great search for the missing Fidael begins.

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To cut a long story short, he made it back in time for lunch, none the worse for wear. Please remember the poor guy is extremely nervous on the back of the scooter and I believe is hanging on with white knuckle determination.

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Lunch was a fantastic pork ribs for Allan and Kate, gado gado Nasi Campur for Unkaweence, Papaya Spare Ribs curry for Chui, and Sate babi with Nasi Goreng for me. YUMMO in the extreme! All exotic flavours, all well done. And best of all, at a great value pricing.

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Wondering what to have for a sweet, Unkaweence and I settled on a Coconut Milkshake! Omigod, was it the right choice ever. Creamy, coconutty, and not too sweet or milky! Yummmmmmilicious!

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Frothy glass of coconutty goodness

After lunch it was a short hop to Kuta Square and more shopping. A relatively mundane afternoon. I'm now glad to say I've seen Kuta and until there's a massive redevelopment of this place to make it look something like we're in Bali, I've seen enough of Phuttayakutakawi for now. No prizes for guessing the "what" I used in the amalgamation of that name.

Whether shopping, lazing around, or just splashing around in the pool, Day 2, was a truly lazy vaykay sorta day.

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After attending a thoroughly fun art gallery exhibition by Kirsty Ludbrooke entitled "The Frames In Between" at Biasa Artspace (thanks Yip for bringing us), we scooted (scootered?) to Zanzibar for a dinner of Pizzas, Mezze Platter of breads and yummy dips, and dessert we made our way blearily home to crawl into bed.

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I-in, the owner of Biasa Art Gallery, Kirsty Ludbrooke, Allan, Me, Chui, Yip, Fidael :-)

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All the beautiful people

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Just another day in Paradise.

Bali jaunt Day 1

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

It's been a week of trepidation.

Omigod, I had so much work to finish before we left for our trip to Bali.

And so much guilt to work through because we're leaving during our busiest season of the year.

However, it had come to a point that we needed to bite the bullet and go for a break before we were swamped for the rest of the year with nary a break in sight.

There we were rushing things out till the very last minute (for Allan). And by 7am today, we were all packed and ready to go, while making last minute phone calls to tie up loose ends.

Zooming to the airport, flying into LCCT, rushing to counter 10 and glaring at people who even LOOKED like they might want to cut que, we checked in, walked ourselves into the plane and 3 hours later we arrived in Ngurah Rai International airport.

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The speed with which everything was happening in KL all of a sudden changed. To.....

this...

and...

it...

was...

such...

a...

relief!

There is a serenity and stillness amidst the frenetic holidaying of Bali that it instantly calms you down.

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The air is cooler for one. As we're south of the equator now, even by that little bit, the temperature, at 29C feels much cooler though balmier. Another friend was on the flight and we marveled at how small the world has become and how now "everyone can fly." ;-)

There were more marvels as we bumped into another two friends in the airport departing for KL after spending a glorious week here.

The cars were waiting and we were whisked to my favourite spot in Bali; Seminyak. Ubud is lovely but too far inland and Kuta, Jimbaran, Nusa Dua, don't really feel anything like what Bali should be. While Seminyak is eclectic and seems to have melded Bali's innate culture with everything that a tourist could possibly want.

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We got to our hotel, Putu Bali, put all our bags down and promptly adjourned accross the street to Cafe Bonita for lunch.

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It's like a Mamak on steroids. All restaurants here from the cheapest to the most expensive are beautifully and eclectically (there's that word again) decked out. The food at Bonita is inexpensive (never cheap as that denotes a lack of quality) but yummy.

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We managed to embarrass the hell out of Chui's brother as it was his birthday and we had carried a Mango Upside Down Cake from KL. It was yummy. One of my favourite cakes in the stable.

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The Indonesian Beef Rendang I had and the Nasi Goereng Allan had turned out to be yummy. The Rendang was nice and rich and the meat, fall-apart tender. And Allan's Nasi Goereng had that great fluffiness and separateness to the rice with the really rich, savoury flavour of great fried rice.

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Putu Bali, our boutique hotel, is quite typical of all Balinese boutique hotels. At around US$65 it is probably of an average price hotel in KL. But for a KLite used to substandard service and relatively uncompetitive products, this is like a breath of fresh air. It's beautifully laid out. Rooms are rustic, clean, and quite spacious. There's a large-ish fridge, TV (with Star World and HBO), and best of all, a gorgeous outdoor shower. There's even a little bar area which opens out into the lanai and a little kitchenette which is fully equipped with cutlery and crockery.

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After "lunch," we headed out to pick up our mopeds/motorbikes and wobbled our way accross town to Bintang Supermarket to pick up some supplies. Needless to say after stuffing our purchases into the little spaces under our bums (there's so much material a psychotherapist could work with here) in our motors, we zipped back "home" and I sat down with my laptop to find to my delight that I had a great wifi (free) signal in my room. Hence the uploaded photos. And blog.

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Rushing out at 8pm, and a little more confidently on our motors now, go search this restaurant out called, according to Chui, "Dani" or "Dunni...not sure which but it ends with an 'I' and it has a 'D' somewhere in it's name.

Long story short, we found Chandi.

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I think all our faces fell a little when we opened the menu as the prices (for Bali at any rate) were relatively steep. But even then, it wasn't that bad. But when you're faced with a price like "Rp110,000" it looks like a huge amount, even if it's relatively low by KL standards. That was for the Slow Roasted Short Ribs which I had eventually.

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We were concerned about the value of the meal until the starter, called a teaser plate, came out. It was SOOOOO huge that we immediately revised our value perception of the meal and it was then worth every penny. The teaser plate had tender prawns cooked just-so, breaded calamari, a tortilla/pohpiah, a crumbed tofu, and all accompanied with 4 sauces; a slow roasted peanut, Indonesian kicap, a garlic aioli, and a sambal. Amazing!

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Fidael's Honey Glazed Cardamom Tuna was the best piece of "steak" I had ever tasted. It was done to perfection. He had asked for it medium rare and it came out the most glorious shade of coral pink and as succulent as milk fed veal. Allan's Rendang parcel with red rice was tender, fragrant, and everything a rendang should be and more. Vince's snapper, delicate and a showcase of how to showcase a dish. And Kate's Packet steamed fish, a great cross between Otak otak and asam fish.

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On top of that scrumptious meal, the atmosphere was redolent of 5 star restaurants at home but at the end of the day, we paid about RM45 per person (Rp160,000). Which by the way, is expensive, in Bali.

After a great bottle of wine at Chandi (which we brought in, after hearing that wine was expensive in restaurants) we HAPPILY agreed to a mooted idea that we adjourn to Cafe Bali for dessert.

And I fell in love.

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It's white. It's eclectic. (Yes, again) and just absolutely adorable. I could see From Chinese Calligraphy screens flanking the main entrance as you walk in to the broken egg shell chandelier to the wall of mirrors and the "stainless steel" sinks in the bathrooms, you just marvel at how this restaurant and countless others in Bali do it so well. The prices were at least less by half than Chandi and it was packed to the gills with people.

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The service is personal, friendly, and eager. And the people who take your orders know their stuff.

The tarte tartin was good, the illy decaf flavourful, but while the desserts were on the whole, good, they weren't mind blowingly so. But add that to the ambience and Cafe Bali is definitely a worthwhile visit.

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All in all a good first day and a great beginning to a fantastic break with fantastic people.

Putu Bali

Jalan Petitenget
Seminyak
Bali
Indonesia

Waroeng Bonita
Jalan Petitenget
Seminyak
Bali
Indonesia

Chandi Bali
Jl. Laksmana no 72
Seminyak, Bali, 8036
+62 0361 731060

Cafe Bali
Jalan Hotel The Oberoi
Seminyak, Kuta, Bali, Indonesia