Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Hi!!!! Day 2 of the cruise brought us to Port Klang, so Keropokman and I zipped into Kuala Lumpur (KL) to meet up with some of the nation's best loved food bloggers! There's Umei (I had to borrow this photo from her cos it's still the best), Meena, Nigel (top row), and myself, Keropokman, and Cheng Yi. Jonathan is not in this photo, because I think he's the one taking it! But he's in one of the photos below, you'll see.
Our dear friends brought us back in time, to the rollin' 50s. Lunch was at Sek Yuen, the icon of old school Chinese cuisine, located along Jalan Pudu. They used to be very popular for wedding banquets and celebratory feasts - it was the place to be seen in.
It looks like not much has changed since those days. The pre-war building, its decor, furniture, old ceiling fans, wall photos....all so quaint and charming, so full of character.
In fact, they still stick to the traditional use of wood for cooking.
We entered the restaurant through the back, and it's quite a sight. Here's Jon, looking a bit too hip for his surroundings, but admiring it nonetheless.
There are fewer and fewer restaurants like this in the world. You should take a look inside its kitchen.
Everyone in the family chips in, whether for preparation, cooking or serving.
Oh look, those silver platters with pedestals! They always remind me of restaurants I went to as a child.
See the woodfire stove? Burning bright, with woks steaming hot above it. And hey, do the Chinese have a name for mise en place?
There's a large drum-like hood attached to ropes and pulleys. This is the steamer cover. I was amazed to learn they don't use rice cookers. This is what they steam their rice in.
See the old man pulling up the hood, revealing the bamboo trays of food being steamed. I guess it's multi-purpose, you can steam all kinds of things in this!
But enough of the kitchen, I am sure we all want to see what the food is like. Our blogger friends had already placed orders the day before, so we would be able to try some of the signature dishes.
We started off with a platter of what I think might be "gui hua" omelette (I'm bad at names). Absolutely beautiful. Best when wrapped some with crisp lettuce.
Fried fish head with lots of ginger, scallions, onions and mushrooms. Lots of meat to pick at, and the gravy is delicious.
Deep-fried nam yu pork. One of the unanimous favourites at the table. "What's not to like about deep-fried 'char siew'?" someone quipped.
This beauty - Eight Treasure Duck - is a specialty that must be pre-ordered at least a day ahead.
They braise it for hours until both the meat and stuffing are so tender and infused with each other's flavours. I stopped counting the ingredients (lotus seeds, walnuts, ginkgo nuts, mushrooms, dried scallops...) and just ate. Mmmh.
This looks like hae cho (prawn roll) but I think it's more of a minced meat roll. I couldn't make out what else was in it but it tasted quite unusual.
Chap chye or mixed vegetables. Indeed, our token vegetable dish in this carnivorous line-up. Very homely, this.
Just when you think it's over, they bring out some roast chicken, complete with prawn crackers! Just right, for Keropokman is here!
What a gloriously satisfying meal, made even more enjoyable by lots of laughter and chatter. I even found out that Nigel knows my cousins from my dad's hometown in Sitiawan. Meanwhile, Fatboybakes signed a copy of his book for Keropokman.
We headed back to the Bukit Bintang area, and along the way saw more old buildings mixed in with the new (KL has lots of these). I love how this one still says Malaya.
And here's Pudu Jail being torn down. Even though it's more than 100 years old, it's not being preserved as a heritage building.
Well I certainly hope places like Sek Yuen will last much longer. It's history that's alive, history you can taste.
Thank you, our KL friends, for sharing this place with us, and for the fabulous lunch too! And thank you, Royal Caribbean, for the "On Your Own" shore excursion that made this experience possible. It's a great way to catch up with friends in cities you are visiting.
RESTORAN SEK YUEN
313-1, Jalan Pudu, KL (non air-conditioned)
There is an air-conditioned branch just opposite at 315, Jalan Pudu KL
Open 11am to 3pm, 5pm to 10pm. Closed Mondays.
Tel: +603 9222-0903, 03 9222-9457
Posted 11:25 PM
Rise and shine! It's Day 2 and we have berthed at Port Klang or Pelabuhan Kelang in Malaysia. Here are the views that greeted us as we poked our heads through the curtains of our stateroom window.
We have been given a shore excursion to Kuala Lumpur (KL), which required us to convene at the Anchors Aweigh lounge at 7.15am! That meant getting up really early!!
Now I am not a morning person. And so it was a tussle between more sleep or waking up earlier for breakfast. We had no idea what they would be serving at Windjammer. Would it be worth giving up precious minutes of sleep for?
Hoo yeah!!! It's got everything. Your Western breakfast staples - bacon, sausages, eggs, potatoes. Asian stuff like congee with condiments. Healthy options like fruit, yoghurt, oatmeal, grits, cereals and milk. There are also manned stations serving breakfast ham and eggs whatever style you like.
The array of breads, rolls, danishes, croissants, and pastries! All freshly baked on board the ship itself. Give up your carbo prohibitions and indulge!
There were some unusual dishes I had not tried before too. Bhurji, for example, was something like curry-tinged scrambled eggs. It is drier than scrambled eggs and has bits of onion, chilies and spices in it.
And here's Sheera! Spiced semolina pudding with crunchy slivered almonds. How sugar and ghee make everything ridiculously tasty! I had to stop myself from having seconds. I mean thirds.
Yes, Windjammer has some really excellent Indian food, not just at breakfast but throughout the day. Sambhar, chutneys, chapatis and naans. Some of them may not look photogenic, but oh man, just try them!
And one of the best things at breakfast - these mini hash browns! You know how good they are when they're freshly fried? I don't know how they do it, but these do not feel oily at all.
Suitably well-fueled by this first breakfast, we set off on our land adventure!
We got off the ship and arrived at the Port Klang Cruise Centre.
I loved how the clouds seemed to sashay that morning.
Keropokman/Philip and I had booked the "On Your Own" excursion which would allow us total freedom to do as we wish in KL - no guided tours, unlike the others. We followed our group and boarded coaches like these to get to KL - it's a smooth 30-45 minute ride.
And soon we were in city! Ah, the familiar sights of Bukit Bintang! The bus deposited us at Lot 10 around 8.30am, and we would have to be back by 2.30pm. If you want to do shopping in KL, this is a good option to take. But we had our own plans. We were going to lunch with some dear friends - fellow food bloggers in KL! How lucky we were that the excursion happened to be on a public holiday (Awal Muharram or Islamic New Year) in Malaysia. We could all have a nice leisurely lunch!
But it was still early, so Philip and I roamed about a bit. Being total geeks and Internet addicts, the first thing we sought were local pre-paid SIM cards for our iPhones, so we can get calls and data access on the cheap (and later on the ship as well). No luck at first, cos it was still too early, so we walked about til we got to Pavilion, one of KL's more upmarket malls. Ah yes, thank goodness for Starbucks - not coffee, but free wi-fi! And it's a lot faster than my home wi-fi!
After sating our Twitter, Facebook, email and online needs, we spotted "The Loaf" on the ground floor of Pavilion. This Japanese-style bakery and bistro is co-owned by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir himself. We had to go in and have a look.
Oh glory be! Such lovely goodies! Look at all the nuts and melted chocolate! Wait, are those smiley faces with three eyes?
So, yes, we could not resist a second breakfast (much like hobbits!), and took this selection. I really liked this mixed nuts pastry (foreground, RM4.90) filled chock-a-block with almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts and hazelnuts held together by caramel, drizzled with icing sugar.
Their signature bestseller is the cream cheese cranberry bread (middle right, RM3.60) and it was smooth, sweet and tasty. The raisin-cheese equivalent in Singapore falls way short.
The chocolate-filled pastry cup (middle left, RM4.90) really is an indulgent well full of thick, melted chocolate! And the red bean walnut roll (top, RM2.90) is a pleasing snack.
Their coffee and tea are good too. Prices are not that exhorbitant (RM5-6) for nice big mugs of belly-warming drinks. We sat here and enjoyed the cool morning. I would absolutely love to come back here again.
Meanwhile, it would soon be time to meet up with the KL bloggers. That's coming up in the next post. Yeah, I've had to split up Day 2 into three parts, or else it will be a 80-photo post. I don't know about you, but with long posts, I eventually just end up scrolling and not reading. I'm sure some of you nearly died reading my previous bumper post. Will try to keep it shorter going forth!
THE LOAF (other outlets at Bangsar and Langkawi)
Lot 3.13.00 & 4.12.02
Level 3 & 4 Pavilion
168 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603 2145-3034
Posted 4:33 PM
Monday, December 27, 2010
Food. That's one of the best things about a cruise. Day or night, there's ALWAYS something available. And it's one of the many ways Royal Caribbean makes you feel so incredibly pampered. Not only is there an abundance of tasty food, but there's variety and good presentation. I was quite touched to see that they catered for special dietary needs - sugarless, eggless, flourless and vegetarian creations. Not all drinks are pre-sweetened, and there's Nutrasweet freely available for diabetics too.
You can see a lot of thought went into the planning and preparation. And then there's the service. Whether at the Windjammer Café buffet-style restaurant, the Romeo & Juliet fine-dining hall, or the little pizza parlour at the Solarium, the staff do their best to see to your needs. Most of the time, I felt like a VIP, almost guiltily so.
As I boarded the ship, I reminded myself, "OK now, let's be judicious. Don't overeat!"
But how could you not?! Look at all this just from Windjammer alone! My resolve stood no chance against the gorgeous array of food. In no time at all, I had had two lunches, tea-time snacks and two dinners. Those last words about not overeating? All chewed up and gone with the wind. But I was comforted by Twitter replies telling me the whole point of a cruise IS to overeat! Decadent feasting, ahoy!
But then again, maybe it's just me. Others were hitting the gym, or slipping into bikinis...
Ah well, hazards of the food-blogging hobby...
One of the reasons I ate so many times was because it was with different people (we came on board at separate timings, as some had work commitments). Well, it's nice to have many friends on board to dine with. Here's my food blogger buddy Keropokman. As you know, his long-hidden identity has been exposed, what with so many bloggers taking photos of him and with him. Yes, this anonymity cherry sure is broken. You will see us teasing him on the other blogs too! Darren says this keropok's exposed, "lau hong" (gone soft) already! He's funny!
Our team convened 8pm every evening at the two-tier Romeo & Juliet fine-dining hall (also shown in first photo). Swanky, sit-down, full-service dinners. There is a dress code, smart casual at least - no shorts, slippers or tank tops. There's no extra charge to dine here; all you need to do is reserve your dining slot.
A waiter and assistant waiter are assigned to your table, and they will be the ones in charge of your table each night. You really see many nationalities serving on board. Our waiter Antonio was from Macedonia, and assistant waiter was Dongbiao from China who spoke uncannily good English and served us very well.
I'd already gotten word from a fellow foodie (Soundman), who was on the cruise just before ours, that the food was enjoyable. Here's what we had for dinner this Day 1 evening.
Poppy seed sundried tomato roll (and there were poppy seed baguette sandwiches at Windjammer too). Oh hurray! I love poppy seeds! You'd never be able to get this in Singapore - it's banned for its morphine content. It's harmless, really, although if you consume too much, you may actually get false positives for opiates in drug tests. But no, that's not why we were high on the cruise. Being at sea itself is exciting enough!
Anyway, you do get a variety of bread rolls, all freshly baked on board daily.
From the starter selection, Sweet Corn Soup, loaded with chicken bites and crabmeat.
My gado-gado appetiser (before the peanut and sambal oelek sauce).
Spinach salad with plum tomatoes, sliced mushrooms and toasted sunflower seeds.
And now we come to the mains. The portions are hefty! Windjammer may be the buffet restaurant, but food at Romeo & Juliet is just as freeflow. You can order as many dishes as you like. That's phenomenal! If you don't fancy what you got, try another. Can't decide between dishes? Get both! See what I mean by them pampering and indulging you? When it comes to food, you will be spoiled silly!
Pan-fried Double Cut Pork Chops, served with Buttery Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli and a savory Forest Mushroom Ragoût.
Vidalia Onion Tart: sweet Vidalia onions combined with nutty Gruyère cheese, baked in a buttery crust, served with leek fondue and sauteed red peppers.
Grilled Mediterranean Quesadillas: Melted Monterey Jack cheese and vegetables sandwiched in warm tortilla; served with a tomato-cilantro salsa. This is vegetarian, and quite tasty according to Mui Yee who ate this.
Pan-seared Salmon with black bean sauce and baby bok choy (omitted in my case - I'm a bok choy hater). This was recommended by our waiter. The salmon was done nicely, not too overcooked, and the black bean sauce added a savoury Asian touch.
If you are thinking, "Oh man, I really don't want to miss the food at Romeo & Juliet but I want to eat by the pool and enjoy the breezy sunset?" Well, not to worry! Some of the dishes are also available up at Windjammer Café. Just that it's self-service and a whole lot more casual. They also have some dishes
At Romeo & Juliet, they also give you additional sides to share. Most often of stir-fried vegetables - very healthy! Here we have long beans, eggplant, and carrots.
They also make some mean desserts! This is where you really cannot help but order more than one!
Chocolate Cherry Cake, served with a dollop of Kirsch cream and scoop of vanilla ice cream. Great combination!
Blueberry and peach crumble with vanilla ice cream. Comfort food!
Strawberry pavlova, drizzled all over with compote. You know you want some.
But of course, man does not live by bread alone, so let's see what the other parts of the cruise ship is like.
It's really exciting when you first feel the ship move, because if you'd followed the wise advice to board early, you would have already had half a day to explore the ship while it's still docked. Our ship departed 5pm sharp, and moved along at rapid speed. It's sturdy. You don't feel any swaying or rocking, only a slight engine-like vibration at best.
At over 70,000 tonnes, the "Legends of the Seas" is a large cruise ship. We never felt it was crowded, even though the ship had nearly 2,000 passengers (it can take up to 2074 passengers!). Even the swimming pool and whirlpools aren't jam-packed with people. I suspect they're all too busy eating. I don't blame them.
There's plenty of entertainment included in the cruise package, including live shows and performances. Music is always going on somewhere.
They also show movies - those new on DVD at this point in time, like Knight and Day, Salt and Inception. I noticed Toy Story 3 also showing in the afternoons.
After dinner, we caught world champion juggler David DiMuzio's charming act. It's one of the highlights at the "That's Entertainment" theatre. To be very honest, I wasn't sure how exciting juggling could be? But David wove in so many of his other talents (singing/songwriting/guitar-playing/unicycle-riding) and gave it all a comedic spin.
What really blew us away were his covers of Mandarin songs, sung almost tone-perfectly! Here he is singing 月亮代表我的心 (The Moon Represents My Heart). Interestingly, we heard this song a lot all over the ship, and even after we left the ship. Seems this old song is back in vogue?
Here's Cherie getting a personal photo with David. Hmm, you know what? He could add Megamind impersonation to his list of talents...
In between all the food and fun, you need some rest. We had the Oceanview room on level 6. The rooms are quite spacious, beds comfy, and I found lots of storage space - wardrobe, drawers, shelving, cabinets, and a safe! And the beds can be converted from queen to twin. It's really nice to have a "moving picture" for your window - imagine waking up to the sun rising over ocean waves...
The rooms and facilities are kept assiduously clean. You have a specially assigned housekeeper or room steward, who introduces him/herself to you. And the rooms are cleaned and made up twice a day. I don't even get that at most hotels!
And when we got back to our rooms, a surprise awaited on our beds! A towel origami pet! And you get a different one each night. What a nice touch! I can't imagine the work that goes on for this - somewhere within the boat, some people are folding 2,000 of these for the guests, daily!
The evening soon draws to a close, but even past midnight, there are people out and around enjoying the atmosphere and live bands. The ship is elegantly decked out for Christmas, and it's lovely to see.
Well, this has been a long post, but I have barely covered the tip of the ice berg. Personally, I don't think I'll ever do justice describing the cruise - it has to be something to be experienced yourself. I have at least three more posts coming up, but in the meantime, do head on over to my fellow cruisemates' blogs (all aggregated on Omy.sg's Royal Caribbean minisite) to see their many fascinating photos and perspectives.
I love how you send 10 people on the same adventure, and all will report different things! Very enriching and enlightening.
enter the contest to win a set of two luggage pieces (oh man, we really wanted the orange ones!). Just vote for your favourite blogger (doesn't have to be me). Do please check out the other bloggers - they have done some praiseworthy posts. Vote the ones you like!
You can vote once every day. Non-Singaporeans can vote too (just fill in your passport or any sort of identification number in the NRIC section) but you have to make sure someone can collect the prize on your behalf.
Next up: Day 2 - We reach Port Klang and go into Kuala Lumpur on a shore excursion. Keropokman and I catch up with some fellow blogger friends up there! More glorious food!
This post is also replicated at Omy - http://blog.omy.sg/royal-caribbean/2010/12/27/royal-caribbean-cruise-day-1-overeating-yeah-already/
Posted 2:04 AM