Not yet…

It was not Chap Goh Meh (the 15th Night of the Chinese Lunar New Year) yet on Tuesday, the 15th but we took advantage of the public holiday on that day to have our family dinner earlier as on the actual date, Melissa and I would be in KL on her way back to New Zealand.

We had the stewed lamb shank from Mum’s

Mum's stewed lamb shank

…which was really nice and tender. Melissa loved it a lot and she remarked that the gravy tasted like oxtail soup. At RM18.00, that was really a steal!

Other than that, there was this specially ordered lemon chicken using roast chicken instead of the usual fried-in-batter chicken from Y2K

Y2K's lemon roast chicken

We had it like this once at the restaurant but I suspect that on that particular night, they had some roast chicken left, so they decided to refry it lightly and pour lemon sauce over it and serve. It turned out to be really good and that was why we wanted the cook to do it that same way again.

Also from Y2K was the sweet and sour fish fillet…

Y2K's sweet & sour fish fillet

– another one of my daughter’s favourite from the place.

Beside that, my sister bought something from a restaurant near the Sibu Civic Centre – if I’m not mistaken, it is called Siong Loke Yong or something like that. It has been around for a long long time and that night, we ordered this dish from there –

Sea cucumber beef tendon & brocolli

– the sea cucumber and beef tendon plus broccoli dish and also the sea cucumber soup as well as this vegetable dish…

Fried vegetables

It certainly was a delightful gathering – Melissa, my missus and I with my parents and sister…but my mother did not seem to want to eat much of anything that night. Perhaps she was feeling a bit down that Melissa would be leaving in a couple of days time and would only be home again by October or November at the end of the year.

As a matter of fact, before she came back for the summer holidays at the end of last year, my mother kept asking about the days and dates and when her granddaughter would be home. I guess she was looking forward to it then…and now she will have to start counting the days again till she comes home once more.

I want to hold your hand…

Melissa loves Glee and Kurt Hummel is her favourite character in the show…

Chris Colfer, that’s his real name, won the Golden Globe TV Award for 2011 for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.

In the series, Kurt’s mother had died when he was young, and he had lived alone with his father, Burt, ever since…and in this episode, his father had had a heart attack and Kurt was dedicating the song to him. Melissa loved it so much that she even shared it on her wall on Facebook.

Well, Melissa and I have always been very close ever since she was small as her mother worked shifts and most of the time, the two of us would be left to our own devices. The three months or so that she had been home were great – I guess she enjoyed herself a lot and I must say that I most certainly did.

She’s flying back to New Zealand tonight…and I am so happy and relieved that my regular reader/commentor/friend in NZ has so very kindly offered to meet her on transit in Auckland and make sure that she gets on her connecting flight to Wellington from the domestic terminal. You’re a God-send, myfriend, bless you.

It will be another year…or a little less than that, before it will all be over and she will come back. Everything has worked out o.k. in the past year and I pray that it will be the same or even better this year. I am sure deep in her heart, Melissa knows only too well that whenever she needs to, she can just reach out…and her father will be there to hold her hand…

Holding hands

Bye-bye, love… Have a safe and pleasant flight. Take care and God be with you always…

Spending time…

Tuesday was a public holiday here so my missus was not working. Because of that, I thought it would be a good chance for us to go out for brunch and spend some time together.

We went to this place

Farley Food Court & Restaurant

…which I have been to a few times before to sample some of the stuff there, but not my missus or daughter. Normally, we would not venture that far as this is on the other side of town from where we stay.

We ended up having the dim sum there which I had once before. This was quite all right…

Farley dim sum 1

…but it did not have any distinct taste that would make it special.

I liked these chicken meatballs a lot more…

Farley dim sum - chicken meat balls

…and so did my daughter.

Now, this one is something quite different from all that I had before…

Farley dim sum 2

Inside, there were yam and potatoes plus other things wrapped with seaweed. We all loved it!

The char siew pao (barbecued meat bun) was different from what we had at the other dim sum place in town

Farley dim sum - char siew pao 1

The skin is more like what we have for our local steamed buns in Sibu and Melissa always prefers this to the cotton-like dim sum pao skin. The filling isn’t exactly the same either…

Farley dim sum - char siew pao 2

…but it was good – I wouldn’t mind having that again.

The siew mai (meat dumplings) were nothing to shout about…

Farley dim sum - siew mai

…and the lor mai kai (lotus leaf-wrapped glutinous rice with meat) was a disappointment…

Farley dim sum - lor mai kai

I’ve had nicer ones elsewhere (though not in Sibu). The rice was not soft enough and unfortunately, it failed to make up for that as far as its taste or flavour went.

On the whole, it wasn’t the best dim sum we have had but it was good enough for the three of us…and all that came up to only RM20.00.

After that, we walked around the vicinity, popping in and out of the shops…just to while away the time and spend a pleasant morning together.

So many ways…

One of my favourite cartoon comic strips is “Bringing Up Father” that revolves around the life of the main character, Mr. Jiggs, who struck it rich when he won a lottery. His favourite food was corned beef and cabbage, much to the disgust of his social-climbing wife, Maggie. I reckon it was because she considered that to be the food of the lower class.

I certainly would not say the same thing about corned beef in Sibu today. In the past, we enjoyed the Great Wall brand, made in China…but eventually, it got really bad. It became so mushy that one would not even know what on earth they had inside…and more often than not, there was a horrible smell. The colours of the label often vary – perhaps there are imitations though I’m not too sure about this.

There are other brands from New Zealand or the South American countries but these are all so very expensive – well over RM10.00 for a standard can. I would buy Mili or Linkz, both of which are quite nice, though not like the Great Wall corned beef that I used to know, and they used to cost around RM5 something in 2008…and then, RM6 something…and now, it is over RM7.00.

I just wonder how people usually cook corned beef. On my part, I would fry it with thinly-sliced Bombay onions and boiled potato chunks…

STP's corned beef with potatoes

My daughter loves it this way. I’ve seen corned beef among the buffet breakfast spread at some hotels a couple of times before but they just fried the thing plain and served it like that – no onions, no potatoes, nothing.

I sometimes cook soup with it – with lots of thinly sliced Bombay onions and potato strips, plus salt and msg according to taste. I would boil it for a long time so as to make the soup thicker and richer…but some people have tried this but they did not like it. For one thing, the beef in the soup would turn completely bland – but what I specifically like about it is the soup itself. Ah well! I guess it’s just a matter of taste, the same way as how I do not quite fancy French onion or minestrone soup.

I’ve also fried mihun (rice vermecelli) with it and I do know that some people make corned beef rolls…using shortcrust pastry like how they make sardine rolls. I don’t think I’ve done that but once I used it to make cottage pie…or what we used to call shepherd’s pie.

Well, my missus is not a fan of corned beef…and since the price seems to be escalating like it is never going to stop, I do not think I will be having corned beef when my daughter’s not around…

One dark night…

…we went back to this relatively new restaurant in town like I said we would. It certainly looks nicer at night and of course, this time around, we ordered from the à la carte menu.

I had the over-roasted chicken roulade (RM18.00)…

Charcoal grill - chicken roulade

…and loved it very much. Well, I never had anything like that before and I must say that it tasted really great.

My missus had the char-grilled sirloin steak (RM28.00)…

Charcoal Grill - sirloin steak

…which was all right but I would prefer a little bit more sauce or gravy and the meat, a bit more tender. I think what I had here was much nicer…especially with the red wine sauce.

My daughter tried the fettuccine carbonara (RM18.00)…

Charcoal Grill - fettuccine carbornara

I guess it was o.k. – like most pasta dishes anywhere else…but for that same amount of money, I think I would rather go for the chicken.

We were given these slices of garlic bread, compliments of the chef…

Charcoal Grill - garlic bread

…and we also ordered their spring rolls (RM7.00)…

Charcoal Grill - spring rolls

Melissa has a soft spot for deep friend spring rolls, you see.

For dessert, I had the strawberry shortcake (RM10.00)…

Charcoal Grill - strawberry shortcake

…which was not bad but would come nowhere near the banana pancake that I had here, cheaper some more @ RM7.50 only, or the banana cake with chocolate ice cream that I had here – also cheaper @ RM7.00 only.

All in all, the dinner was pleasant enough and I would not mind going back there again…but definitely not until they have finished the road and whatever construction that has been going on and on for so long that it does not seem like it is ever going to end. Well, what can we expect from JKR – Jangan Kerja Rajin!

It was so very dark and I was going at a reasonable speed along one narrow lane, a long line of cars trailing behind me…when suddenly TWO of those huge luxury vehicles came straight at me. I did not know what they were up to but they realised they were in the WRONG lane, so they stopped and did a three-point turning and went back the way they came. I stopped to let them do that…but the cars at the back were honking away impatiently! Tsk! Tsk!

I guess we will just have to wait till there is some horrendously tragic accident in the vicinity or some VVIP is coming to town and will be passing that way before they will get the job done in a jiffy…like magic! Abbacadabra…and presto! Overnight, it is done!

Just a name…

Well, I wouldn’t say that it is just a name…

New Capitol Restaurant

The simple truth is that it was once called the Capitol Restaurant located along Wong Nai Siong Road (where presently, there is a KFC outlet…or somewhere around there) but they moved here and renamed it as the New Capitol Restaurant…and they have used that name ever since despite the fact that it is no longer new in that sense of the word.

As far as I can remember, the owner was an old lady whom everyone called Ah Sap Chay…and it was noted for its roast duck and chicken rice – if I’m not mistaken, in my younger days, that was the only place in town where people could have chicken rice.

The restaurant is still going strong – quite popular among the local folks for wedding banquets and the like and a lot of people drop by for lunch – usually for its chicken rice and kampua noodles. I’ve tried the latter once but I would not say that I enjoyed it a lot. Because of the air-conditioning, the noodles turned cold real fast and rendered them not that palatable – to me, at least.

I’m sure I had had their chicken rice when I was small but I have not had it lately – definitely not since they moved to their present location. My daughter went once with my sister and she quite liked it…so the other day, we made it a point to go there specially for that.

The first time we dropped by, the place was full…so we had to go back there another time.

I’m afraid the photos don’t really do justice to the food because of the yellow lighting…

New Capitol - chandelier

The drinks were more expensive that the normal kopitiam but that is to be expected. After all, they even have chandeliers at the place! *guffaws* The fresh orange juice that Melissa had was RM6.00 a glass while my kopi-o-peng and my missus’ iced lemon tea were RM2.50 each. The iced lemon tea certainly looked different from what they serve in the coffee shops and elsewhere with its two-toned colour – the lemon juice at the bottom and the tea at the top…

New Capitol - drinks

We ordered chicken rice for three and were served all the steamed chicken in one big plate (RM11.00)…

New Capitol - steamed chicken

It was all right, nothing sensational…and if I were to compare, I would think that I like what they have here most of all.

They charged separately for the rice – RM1.60 a bowl…

New Capitol - chicken rice

…and as far as the rice is concerned, I would still stick to Chopsticks. As for the complimentary soup and sauces, my vote goes to the Singapore Chicken Rice…but of course, like I always say, one man’s meat is another man’s poison…so some people may wish to differ. To each his own.

I also ordered a few of their Sibu Foochow sio bee (meat dumplings) to try…

New Capitol - Sibu Foochow sio bee

…since I have been hearing some favourable reviews all round. They were RM1.00 each but unfortunately, I did not think they were really that great. There are some others around that are nicer…and even cheaper too.

All in all, it was an o.k. lunch – not something that I would be dying to go back for but if I should happen to be around that part of town, I might drop in again…or perhaps, I would choose to go to the Singapore Chicken Rice outlet in the same block instead.

By the river…

I think they placed an advertisement in the Chinese newspapers when they first opened for business or perhaps, there was a news feature on it but the name did not sound too alluring to me. That was why I did not bother to drop by – after all, it is located very far away on the other side of town…by the river…

Charcoal Grill

Then, my friends kept telling me about it, praising  it to the skies – you can read some of it here and here. They were even invited there for food tasting but not me! Tsk! Tsk! Anyway, eventually, I decided to go there on my own for lunch, taking my daughter with me…

Charcoal Grill - inside

As you can see, it just looks so-so inside…like any other cafe/restaurant and I would think there are a number of others around that look a lot nicer. Personally, I just can’t stand the fake fireplace that they have below the cashier’s counter. Yucks!!! But as they say, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. LOL!!!

Anyway, as the English proverb says, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and I’m sure everyone would agree with me that what is most important would be the food…

Charcoal Grill - menu 1
*Melissa’s photo*

Unfortunately, they only serve their set lunch for the day in the afternoon, so we were not able to order what they have on their dinner menu…

Charcoal Grill - menu 2

They charge RM10.90 nett for their set lunch which comes with a complimentary soup – that day, we had this very nice pumpkin soup…

Charcoal Grill - pumpkin soup & croutons 1

…with croutons…

Charcoal Grill - pumpkin soup & croutons 2
*Melissa’s photo*

…and a free drink…

Charcoal Grill - free drinks
*Melissa’s photo*

My daughter had the mushroom risotto…

Charcoal Grill - mushroom risotto 1

…which she liked a lot even though she said that it tasted like very nice porridge. I tried a bit of it but I’m afraid it did not tickle my fancy…

Charcoal Grill - mushroom risotto 2

I decided to try the fried noodles with beef…

Charcoal Grill - fried noodles with beef
*Melissa’s photo*

…and it turned out to be fried spaghetti with minced beef and egg plus a sunny side up on top. Pasta with a twist?

It was quite nice but I think it would take a lot more than that to get me to drive all the way there.

The diners that day were mostly office workers from around the vicinity on their lunch break. I heard they had pretty good set American breakfast at around RM6.00 nett but they have stopped serving that as the response had not been good – the father of one of the proprietors told me that there were at best around two or three customers only everyday. He did tell me though that business is very encouraging in the evenings.

I guess I will just have to go back there again then…one of these nights to try their à la carte. Stay tuned!

New look…

This hotel has been around for a long, long time. When I was a lot younger, we used to hang around the coffee house – then called Bamboo House. Later they changed its name to Cafe Palmelia…

Cafe Palmelia

…and Bamboo House was the music lounge with a Filipino band upstairs.

Well, they’ve given the whole place a facelift. Now the lobby looks much nicer…

Premier Hotel lobby

…and the cafe, since renamed Bamboo House, certainly looks a whole lot classier…

Bamboo House 1

…and bigger than before…

Bamboo House 2

We used to dine there very often when my daughter was younger. The food was very nice and the Sunday night buffet was very affordable at around RM25.00 per head. Unfortunately, it got more expensive and the quality of the food dropped – probably because they had a new chef in the house. Thus, we stopped going there…and I would only be eating in the hotel restaurant whenever I was attending some courses, workshops, seminars or meetings where they would have some kind of special package deal, inclusive of meals.

Actually, my daughter and I wanted to go to the Chinese restaurant opposite that afternoon for its special Hainanese chicken rice – famous since those days when I was just a kid and its Sibu Foochow sio bee (meat dumplings) but the place was full so we had to go some place else…and since this one is still sparkling new, we decided to give it a try.

I had the claypot chicken rice (RM12.50) that the waitress recommended…

Claypot chicken rice

…which was o.k. I’ve had better elsewhere but it wasn’t too bad and there was so much that I just could not finish the whole lot. I think it would do nicely if two persons shared one order of that.

Melissa had the so-called Piccadilly fish and chips which certainly looked impressive…

Piccadilly fish and chips

…but she did not think it was great. For a whooping RM24.50, I would expect fresh mushrooms instead of those canned ones. It certainly looks like it has not changed since this 2007 review, just the price…but a RM2.00 hike after so many years should be quite reasonable, I would think.

I love the cute little saucers they used for the sauces…

Cute little saucers

…and that’s just about all the nice things I can say about this place.

There were a few people at one table when we arrived and they left soon after, so we were on our own – the whole place to ourselves until much later when a small group of people from some function upstairs came in for their buffet lunch. They, of course, would have the room guests dropping by in the morning for the complimentary breakfast but I really wonder what their business is like in the evenings.

For things to pick up a little perhaps, I reckon they would need a new chef or a change in menu and revise the prices if they are not going to upgrade the quality of the food. All things considered, I would still stick to my little Garden where the food is cheaper and a whole lot nicer.

Something’s changed…

I’ve changed my mind, that’s the thing that has changed – I’ve changed my mind about Japanese food. There used to be only one place in town, you see…and the only other place that I had been to was Sushi King…and there wasn’t anything so great that would keep me coming back for more. That was why I always said that I wasn’t a fan of Japanese cuisine until I dropped by this relatively new place in town

Zen 1

the Zen Japanese Fusion Dining. I took my daughter there for lunch and I like the whiteness of the place that makes it feel so clinically clean…

Zen 2

They were playing some jazz songs by some Japanese singers, pleasantly and tastefully loud enough…unlike at some restaurants where at this time of the year, they would be playing Chinese New Year songs at full blast…and that can be so irritating that I would not wait to bolt out the door!

You can help yourself to the wasabi, some colourful (red and green) dried chilli powder and the pickled ginger…

Zen - pickled ginger

I didn’t fancy any though. I just thought this thing looked nice and I simply had to take a photograph of it. LOL!!!

The Japanese green tea was served in a very nice pot and cup – all white as well, blending in so well with the surroundings…

Zen - green tea

We ordered the soft shell crab (that Melissa wanted at the other place but it was out of stock)…

Zen - soft shell crab

…and I must say that it was perfectly done. One could feel the soft flesh  of the crab and  relish the taste. At most places, it would be over-fried, so much so that one could not tell exactly what they were.

The terrayaki steak looked a lot thicker in the menu…

Terrayaki steak

…and though it was good, I did not think it was something that I would have again the next time I drop by the place.

I would not say the same thing about the grilled salmon mentai yaki though…

Zen - grilled salmon mentai yaki

It was simply out of this world – the grilled very fresh air-flown Norwegian salmon covered with cod roe. Yum! Yum! Melissa loved it so very much and blame it on my paternal instincts – I let her eat most of it and I just had a little bit.

That, however, was a blessing in disguise as when they served the next dish, she was already full and could hardly manage two pieces of the dragon rolls…

Zen - dragon roll

These were absolutely flavourful with the fried prawn wrapped with seaweed inside the roll of sushi rice, topped with avocado slices and the sauce over it. I never liked sushi (rolls) before but these, I really really loved so much…and since Melissa felt that she had had enough, guess who wallopped most of it! Muahahahaha!!!!

Service was excellent, very prompt and cordial and the people there are very friendly and hospitable.

It wasn’t cheap though – with the rice and drinks, the bill came up to RM90.10 but good things always come with a price tag, don’t you agree?

I wanna be like you…

Melissa had seen me making shepherd’s or cottage pies a few times before and the other day, she decided to try it herself.

It turned out pretty good, I must say. The mashed potatoes were perfectly done…

Melissa's cottage pie 1

…but though the filling tasted absolutely great, the beef was a bit tough for almost-toothless senior citizens like me…

She said that she did simmer it for a long time though. I asked her if she sliced the meat across the grain but she said that her mother helped her with the cutting so she did not know. Hmmm….no comments. LOL!!!

Melissa's cottage pie 2

Gee whiz! I just discovered that there is actually a difference between shepherd’s pies and cottage pies – I have assumed all this while that they are just different names for the same thing…as they look the same – on the outside at least. It seems that cottage pies have beef filling while shepherd’s pies use lamb instead. Even Secret Recipe calls theirs shepherd’s pies even though I am quite sure that they do not have lamb in them.

Personally, as far as the filling is concerned, I do not follow any rigid rule or recipe. You know me – anything goes! The first time I made it, I had beef in smoked barbecue sauce cooked with Bombay onions and sliced button mushrooms…and on one occasion, I even used corned beef. I don’t think I’ve ever used lamb before…so all this while, my shepherd’s pies were actually cottage pies. Duh!!! One of these days, I’ll use chicken – I wonder what I can call them then…