Saravana offers more than the food it serves

Saravana offers more than the food it serves

With Deepavali round the corner, we decided to review a few Indian restaurants, starting with Saravana Bhavan in Bangsar.

Especially popular with the last-minute shoppers, Saravana Bhavan, located on the same row as DeGem’s Bangsar flagship boutique along Jalan Maarof, is indeed the other hidden gem in the world of gastronomy that has yet to be discovered, especially by the non-Indian community.

For the Indian community, the cuisines here need no introduction, but for the uninitiated Chinese and Malay families, this is indeed a Muhibbah experience especially with the children.

The impression has always been that Indian restaurants in Bangsar are all fine dining and expensive, or you can get the same things in an ordinary Mamak restaurant.

But the reality is Saravana is an established brand and a global franchise from Chennai, Southern India which serves good vegetarian dishes that are not terribly expensive. And, it is in a conducive airconditioned environment that does not suggest that it is a posh restaurant.

For example, its quick lunch is priced at RM12.70. I like to call it the four-season rice, because it features four different ways in which rice can be cooked and served South Indian style; therefore, it is a good way for diners like me to savour a bit of four kinds of rice in one dish.

That is something to start with, but the list is endless as we begin to discover after chatting with the Managing Director and CEO of Saravana, P.R. Shiva Kumaar, whose visit to this franchise outlet is a bonus to us. We were told that the first Saravana Bhavan restaurant was set up in Chennai in 1968, so by 2018, the
Saravana restaurant chain would be celebrating its Golden Jubilee.

Shiva is the son of the founder, 69-year- old P. Rajagopal, who has been identified by New York Times as the legend who “brought prestige to the vegetarian business.”

Currently, the family has over a hundred franchisees in India and another 72 franchise outlets in 20 different countries around the world. The first franchise outside of India was set up in Dubai in 2000. In Malaysia, its first outlet was open in Jalan Maarof in 2003; since then, another five Saravana outlets have been set up.

Shiva’s task is to visit these franchisees at least twice a year in his international circuit. He personally looks into the nitty-gritty of the operations.

“We believe in serving the food fresh,” he says. “For us, a meal here at Saravana is more than the food itself, it is an experience for the entire family.”

A dosa, for example, is a same dosa everywhere, but the moment the Ghee Roast Dosa (RM10.10) was served, there was the “wow! So Big!”

The crispy pancake-like crepe is not the usual moist dosa that is served ‘flat’ on the plate; it is crispy enough that it can be folded into something that looks like a tunnel, and this is what turns one of the invited guests, Cherise Boey.

Then, when the Channa Bhatura (RM10.60), which is usually served as a delicious Indian breakfast, it also raised a lot of excitement with all the ‘Oh, la la…’

Even young Alyson Ng, 6, suddenly finds her eyes brightening up to the ‘Channa’ or the fried bread. For the uninitiated, the `Bhatura’ is the yummy curried chick peas, which I thought was what made the ‘Bhatura’ taste delicious when eaten with.

For those who want to try out their vegan meat, they have their vegan chicken fry (RM11.70) and vegan garlic mutton (RM12.20). The Saravana SPL (short for Special) meals are priced at RM15.90, which is really about the price of a plate of Aglio Oglio in most Western restaurants.

It is quite an experience for the children to try out the different things in the Saravana SPL – sweet, poori, a side dish, rice, sambar, rasam, vegetables, curries, raitha, curd and appalam and pickle.

This is one good reason why the children can learn something about the Indian culture through its food. The beauty is that Saravana has a wide repertoire of choice, that sometimes, we find it hard to decide what to try out first, but children pick up fast, and they know what to order after a couple of times.

Restaurant manager, Rangasamy Dorairaj says families can ask for a set of quiz questions for their children to attempt to learn something about the Indian vegetarian dishes served.

“When they are able to answer all the questions correctly, with some help, of course, they will get a little surprise gift,” he said.

Moreover, for those of us who have not tasted what a good Indian vegetarian restaurant can offer, Saravana offers more than just the food. It is the experience. The entire family need not travel as far as to Chennai to try out some of the best cuisines that Saravana serves here.

Saravana Bhavan is located at these locations:

Bangsar Baru, KL
2, Jalan Maarof, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur
(Hours: 8:30AM – 11PM)
Phone: +60 3-2287 1228

Ampang, KL
26, Leboh Ampang, City Centre, 50100 Kuala Lumpur
(Hours: 8AM – 11PM)

Petaling Jaya
9, Jalan 52/2, Bandar Baru Petaling Jaya, 46200 Petaling Jaya
(Hours: 8:30AM – 11PM)
Phone: +60 3-7954 1755

Dang Wangi, KL
Dang Wangi 1007, Selangor Mansion, Jalan Masjid India, Kuala Lumpur
(Hours: 8AM – 11PM)
Phone: +60 3-2698 3293

Brickfields, KL
Brickfields 196, Jalan Tun Sambathan, Kuala Lumpur
(Hours: 7:30AM – 11PM)
Phone: +60 3-2260 3755

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in all sorts of gastronomical delights – Western, Middle Eastern and Asian.

Nothing beats the Vergine when it comes to fresh food

Nothing beats the Vergine when it comes to fresh food

At The Vergine (Italian for ‘Virgin’), they like things fresh from the oven.

Anything fresh and “virgin” such as the virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil, is supposed to taste better.

In fact, after two years, The Vergine has decided to launch a fresh new set of dishes. This has brought delight to regular customers such as Jenny Ngiam, who has tried nearly every dish at the Vergine.

“Now, that they are starting to serve sea bass, I like the way they prepare the Pesto Mint Oven Baked Seabass (RM22.00) served with baked potatoes,” she said.

Taste is very subjective. I personally prefer their Lemon Dill Pan Seared Seabass (RM24.00) with sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes. When I find the fish is too bland, I like some good gravy that goes with it.

The next new offering from the Vergine is their newly launched Vergine Cheese Burger (RM18) which comes with beefy patty, bacon, tomato, cheddar and mayonnaise with sautéed potato. The moment I tasted it, I know it appeals to the taste buds of my children but not enough to go for everyone.

The other new dish is the Lemon Honey Glazed Pork Chop (RM26.00) with sautéed vegetables and crinkled fries. Portion is a little too big for one person, but before long the whole piece was gone as different people had a piece each. The way it is prepared makes the pork chop a lot juicier than what I had expected on first impression.

For starters, I particularly like their Prosciutto Ham Crostini (RM14.00) which comes with wholemeal bread tomato, basil, pesto and ham. It is what gives me the oooumph for a salad, so if I decided for the day to eat nothing else, this would it! They also have from their old menu, the Tropical Salad (RM10.00) which is a mixed salad with a honey dressing, orange, dried cranberries and honey dew.

Worth trying out from the old menu which I hope will remain is their wild mushroom soup (RM10.00) which is rich in mushroom, which I thought would give me the real oooumph if they put a little more salt and perhaps pepper to it. But it is really up to one’s preference. For that same reason, given the new soup on the menu, I would go for their Minestrone Soup (RM15.00), because I also enjoy the way the croutons are prepared.

In fact, I think either one of these two soups goes well with their Creamy Pork Pot Pie (RM15.00) – where the pork sausage is served with mixed vegetables with cream. I give this the big thumbs-up, especially when it is still fresh from the oven and hot. As they always say, ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’ – wait till you try it!

The biggest disappointment I would say is that this signature dish had to be shared between three of us, but that means when I get to go back to this family restaurant at Desa Aman Puri again, I would order the same dish with no hesitation. This time I will make sure it is all for myself.

Jokingly and feeling nostalgic of childhood times, one of the food tasters said: “Pot Pie by Popeye (referring to the cartoon character of Popeye the sailor man) definitely tastes yummier than what Bluto could offer today! Darling Olive, I wonder if this will make me strong like the good old spinach.”

Children who have never watched Popeye should be given to the introduction to it, as the Popeye episodes are now available online to understand their grandparents’ era.

So, despite the launch of a new set of dishes last Sunday, their old repertoire of dishes remains, as they have already their own followings. I cannot agree more.

Good thing is that, according to one of the partners Patrick Tam, the new launches are only part of their soft launch.

“We are gathering feedback from our clients to further improve ourselves,” he said.

You should also try their Al Pesto Spaghetti (RM15) which comes with pesto, chicken and mushroom. Their Bacon and Potatoes (RM10.00) which comes as baked diced potatoes with bacon and rosemary can also be a good starter.

For lunch, when you feel like taking nothing but salad, try their Grilled Chicken Salad (RM15.00) which comes with chicken, capsicum, onion and honey mustard dressing, when you feel you have the appetite for something heavier, ask for their Lemon Thyme Chicken Chop (RM18.00).

The Vergine has two floors. It is located at Block L-3- 25A, Jalan Desa 2/4, Desa Aman Puri.

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in all sorts of gastronomical delights – Western, Middle Eastern and Asian.

Have you tasted Ayam Panggang Kenyalang in Seremban?

Have you tasted Ayam Panggang Kenyalang in Seremban?

A weekend’s trip to Seremban with the kids to visit the Jelita ostrich farm, without checking out all the good food that Seremban town has to offer, is simply unthinkable.

Most people can think of the usual stuff like siew pow, beef noodle, roast duck and so on, but what about Ayam Panggang Kenyalang on the way to the ostrich farm?

Call it a “birdy” holiday, whatever, but since it is halal, everyone can enjoy the grilled chicken for which Awang Putra Tamam, 46, is famous for is sold at a stall along Jalan Jelebu, Seremban. This road leads to the LEKAS Highway. Awang has been operating the stall since 2004.

And, coincidentally, it is named Warong Ayam Panggang Kenyalang, which comes from the colloquial name for Sarawak, “Bumi Kenyalang.” The Kenyalang is the hornbills.

Hailing from Miri, Sarawak, the father of three grown-ups used to sell about 50 birds a day, but now, the number can reach 100 on good days.

The prices are also reasonable. A whole chicken is RM20, half a chicken is RM11.

Prior to this, he was operating from his stall in Rembau. When he shifted to this outlet, located just some 500m from the junction between Jalan Ampangan and Jalan Pantai, his loyal customers have followed him.

It draws quite a crowd especially during lunch hours. Day trippers from Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya do buy a whole chicken back home, after they have tasted Awang’s sauce here.

His chicken is grilled over charcoal for a good 45 minutes and it comes with a specially concocted sauce that makes the chicken taste good, especially since he selects only chickens which are three kilogrammes and below.

“The meat of younger birds is usually sweeter,” he quipped.

The chicken can be served either with rice or noodles. The chicken rice is normally priced between RM6 for an ordinary plate to a quarter chicken served with rice at RM7.For those who love the Sarawak style “Mee Kolok”, Awang too has his version with strips of ayam panggang as well.

To find the place, one has to really use the Waze or Google Map, as it is easy to miss the Kenyalang signboard. There are several other stalls along the same stretch of road, but we only know this one to be good.

Read also our two other write-ups on where to eat in Seremban: Seremban Seafood Village and Lucky King Bun Restaurant. More to come.

Warong Ayam Panggang Kenyalang
is located at Batu 2 Jalan Pantai, Ampangan, Seremban 70400 Negeri Sembilan.

Tel/ Whatsapp:
012-284 8086 or +60 17-213 5549

Business hours:
10am – 10pm (seven days a week)

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in all sorts of gastronomical delights – Western, Middle Eastern and Asian.

Paradiso Café, the gem yet to be discovered

Paradiso Café, the gem yet to be discovered

There is an old saying,

“Never judge a book by its cover.”

What’s more when the book comes “alive” with two “power” chefs hard at work in the kitchen of their small café in the middle of nowhere! Sounds like a folk’s tale?

Paradiso Café in Damansara Sutera is where you will find Chef Azizan Shukri, an Italian Master Chef himself and his wife, Chef Che Sue working with great passion to cook their signature dishes for the guests – all at a price that almost every middle income person can afford!

I call this the priceless gem yet to be discovered. You pay for the food instead of a posh ambience which only the rich and famous can afford, but here is some true friendliness that you cannot find with most well-attired, bow-tie and salaried waiters.

“Now, everyone can dine,” Che Sue quips, as she further elaborates on their ‘no frills’ fine dining concept. Che Sue was previously operating the cafe at Sunway Nexis in Kota Damansara, where both parking and the high rental forced them to re-locate to this place.

In fact, according to Che Sue, her latest attraction is Azizan himself. Azizan has recently decided to leave behind his career in five star hotels and restaurant outlets to join his wife.

With Azizan, clients can also enjoy the great Italian master chef’s fine dining quality dishes at the fraction of the prices that they would otherwise pay in the posh restaurants.

Besides one having the opportunity to savour their signature dishes, the two award-winning chefs are also a great delight to meet whenever they decide to emerge from their kitchen to have some fresh air. They are easy to talk to, with no air around them.

Chef Azizan, for example, was the winner of the Malaysia International Gastronomy Festival (MIGF) Special Festival Award for Chef Congeniality in 2016. Ranked among the top 500 chefs in the world, this is an enviable recognition given by his fellow chefs during the event last year.

Save for an orange goatee, the thoroughbred Taiping boy had cooked for the visiting former US President Bill Clinton while working at the Grand Hotel in Dublin, Ireland. Prior to joining Paradiso Café, Azizan was with Restaurant Savini Ristorante Italiano.

He brings with him a great repertoire of Italian culinary creations which one can still enjoy at their own little café.

Chef Che Sue, on the other hand, is an established chef well known for her traditional local cuisines. With the two “power” chefs combined, one can only expect the real experience of dining on Western and Eastern cuisines at the same time.

During the food tasting session, we were delighted as Azizan kept himself busy in the kitchen, one after another of his signature dishes was served. Being a fan of lamb chops myself since my student days more than 30 years ago, I must say there is nothing that can beat his pan-grilled Lamb shanks.

RM25 before it ends two weeks from the day this article appears.

Please show the waitress the article to prove that you have read about the promotion here.
Che Sue says that you will get a special dessert on the house

As a retired former editor Lee Boon Siew said: “It’s just perfect!” Azizan knows how to do it just right. I prefer taking the Lamb shank by itself, but others may prefer it served with Saffron long grain rice.

RM25 during this special promotion.

Between his mushroom soup and pumpkin soup, I prefer the latter. It is meant to be enjoyed hot at every sip than to be consumed in a gulp just before going for the Aglio Olio Beefstripe (RM13.90).

Azizan believes in spending time on the aesthetic presentation of his dishes, so expect the children to go
“Wow! Look at this!”

Born and raised in Terengganu, Che Sue, on the other hand, delighted us with her Terengganu Laksa (RM10.90). Most people would expect laksa to be almost ‘soup-like’, red hot and spicy but Che Sue’s Terengganu Laksa caught us by surprise that it can be just as delicious and simply irresistible without being too spicy!.

Her Beef Rendang set (RM10.90) and Sotong Sumbat (which is also known as ‘Ketupat Sotong’ in Terengganu) are also two signature dishes worth trying apart from the Cucur Bilis.

Cucur Bilis is one local cuisine that unless one is good at preparing, it can be either crispy enough, or slightly too soggy. Compared to the one we had at a stall in the shopping mall, Che Sue’s Cucur Bilis (RM4.90) is a world apart.

But, what I like about the food here is that they do not use artificial food flavouring or MSG.

“We use only natural ingredients such as selected chicken, beef or lamb stock,” she said

Che Sue is also good with her bakery and confectionery. “Everything served here does not use any food preservatives,” she said, admitting that she herself is allergic to all sorts of food preservatives.

Before we left the café, there was also the hot brownie served with ice cream. Anyone likes to give it a try must learn to find their way to Paradiso Cafe and Patisserie is located at Jalan PJU 10/5B Damansara Sutera.

If Chef Che Sue had poured all her hard-earned savings into setting up this café, she and her husband will sure to make this a haven for delicious cuisines.

Business hours: 12noon-11pm Monday till Thursday and Saturday. On Fridays, open from 3pm – 11pm. Closed on Sundays

Tel/ Whatsapp: 012-223 2777

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in all sorts of gastronomical delights – Western, Middle Eastern and Asian.

Fascinated with the way chicken is cooked using the SPICES!

Fascinated with the way chicken is cooked using the SPICES!

It is no surprise that the Portuguese sea explorers in the early sixteenth century travelled as Far East as they could looking for the spices.

It is these spices that were once the biggest trading commodity between the East and the West. I can understand why. Of late, I have become a fan of all sorts of cuisines cooked using the spices.

This is what gives me the ‘ooooumph’ which is not necessarily unhealthy. The spices used are all natural ingredients and without preservatives.

After trying out Pok Nik Nasi Kukus Ayam Kampung in Taman Bukit Permai Cheras, I was told to check out Azizah Nasi Kukus Ayam Berempah in Bandar Sri Damansara, which is just a small stall beside SMK Bandar Sri Damansara 2.

During lunch hours, there is always a long queue here as office staff pack their favourite Ayam Rempah, Ayam Khurma, Ayam Masak Merah and Curry Chicken to bring back to the comfort of their own airconditioned office environment.

Business has been good since Azizah Ishak who is now in her fifties first started the stall in 2000. Through word of mouth, she now has her regular customers.

Her son, Mohamad Johari Yusuff was very young but he was already helping with the family business.

Now, the 33-year-oid is married and is still running the stall at Persiaran Melati most of the times, but he aspires to bring the business to the next level by setting up a restaurant proper in the near future.

Although to some, this may be a small hawker stall operated by a mother-and-son team from Kota Baru, but a lot of people do eat here and enjoy the way the dishes are prepared ala Kelantan.

One thing I can say for sure is that after the food tasting session, I became a repeat customer, especially for its Nasi Kukus Ayam Goreng Rempah (steamed rice with deep fried chicken with five or six different spices) and Khurma Chicken.

The ayam goreng rempah is the one that gives me the ‘oooumph’ the first time I tasted it. It is also my children’s favourite, when I bought a packet for them to try out.

The beauty of these natural spices is that it leaves behind a great taste in the taste buds, but you never get thirsty unlike those foods cooked using MSG.

Because Gerai Azizah is open till 8pm, it is convenient to pack for dinner as well, since the chilli can be separated from the main dish. There are many other options available as well besides the ones that I packed home.

They also have the Ayam Masak Merah dengan Tomato (Tomato Chicken) and Curry Chicken, which I would also recommend especially for those who love these dishes. The prices here are about RM7 per pack.

According to Johari, who prefers to be known as “Jo”, the spices are mainly brought in from Kelantan.

“Yes, we buy those spices that we cannot find here locally,” he said. “However, the family recipe is a family kept secret for many years.”

Gerai Azizah is located at Lot 3, Persiaran Meranti, Bandar Sri Damansara, beside SMK Bandar Sri Damansara 2.

Tel/WhatsApp:
+60 18-988 6873​

Business Hours
10am – 8pm (seven days a week)

Waze location:
https://www.waze.com/location?h=w2860j5n7

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in all sorts of gastronomical delights – Western, Middle Eastern and Asian.

Two little Secrets about Briyani

Two little Secrets about Briyani

For those familiar and who have savoured the Nasi Briyani from the original founders of Restoran Sri Pinang (see Recognition: http://www.heritagebriyani.com/recognition/), let me tell you a secret.

You can now order it online and have it delivered to your home or office using the services of Go Get at www.heritagebriyani.com. You can also ask to collect the packs from its pick up point in Ampang.

They currently have the Briyani Mutton, Briyani Chicken and Briyani Fried Chicken, which were inherited from the original secret recipe, passed down over four generations.

Later, they will also have the Nasi Kandar combinations – White rice, Lamb curry, Beef masala, Squid or sotong thick curry, Fried egg with onions n green chili, Prawn masala, Boiled egg, Curry fish, Fried fish, Ladys finger or bendi, Curry chicken and Fried chicken.

Did I miss anything? Yes, the Chinese tea. A sumptuous dinner like this would not do without the Chinese tea. In fact, I would call this my own secret to dining with Nasi Briyani.

It is a perfect combination, which I hope will gain traction especially in fine dining Indian restaurants and in a setting like Malaysia, it is a nice fusion of two great cultures.

I once wrote an article titled, “Living like an Oil Sheikh, Dining like the Chinese emperor” (read it here), for this combination, I would call it “Experience a meal with the great Nizam of Hyderabad and the Chinese Emperor”. After all, fine dining is all about an unforgettable experience with a loved one.

Couples where one of the spouses is Indian, and the other is Chinese, would find the experience really enriching.

The Chinese tea has a nice soothing effect after a heavy meal and it does help with digestion. For children who are learning to eat spicy food, a small cup of Chinese tea works better than a bottle of water to clear their tongue of the spices. When one orders from Heritage Briyani, there is always the flexibility of setting up the table and trying out my secret to the fusion of cultures.

By the way, the nasi briyani can by quite spicy but that’s the “oooumph” that one gets from Heritage Briyani. It is cooked using basmati rice, local mutton, chicken and home ground spices served with their special Dalcha and Raita.

We can easily spend up to RM100 for a meal at any Western restaurant for a family of four, so the Nasi Briyani home dining with the Chinese tea would not be considered too expensive. More importantly is when the children enjoy the food.

However, as the people at Heritage Briyani advise on orders, you have to take their word for it:

“As the preparation of authentic Briyani is a complex process with many steps and long slow cooking time, please place your orders one day earlier. This one day notice will ensure you get the best flavor at all times.”

And I understand it is by 6pm the day before. So, if you do not feel like cooking tomorrow night, go to www.heritagebriyani.com and have the Briyani delivered to your doorstep.

They also do catering for small parties and events by special request (contact them at +6012 2590786). Their pick-up location is at Heritage Indulgence Sdn Bhd, No. 314, Jalan 4, Ampang Utama, 68000, Ampang (GPS coordinate: Latitude: 3.152334, Longitude: 101.75192).

Website:
www.heritagebriyani.com

(For catering only) Tel:
+6012 2590786 / Nisha: 013 3131272

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/Heritage-Briyani-708882962546090/

Recognition:
http://www.heritagebriyani.com/recognition/

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in all sorts of gastronomical delights – Western, Middle Eastern and Asian.

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