November 25, 2013

The Heart of Cognac Experience by Rémy Martin @ Maison Francaise

The Heart of Cognac Experience debuts in Malaysia!

Going luxe, my next excursion had me experiencing a cognac experience the Rémy Martin way. Hundreds of distinguished guests, media, industry players and discerning tastemakers are invited by the House of Rémy Martin to experience ‘The Heart of Cognac Experience’ held at Maison Francaise recently.

Rémy Martin, French winemaker, founded his exquisite cognac business in 1724. Specializing in Cognac Fine Champagne, its cognac products are all aged between 10 and 37 years. In fact, it is the only company that utilizes the highly prized and rare grapes from the most respected regions of Grand and Petite Champagne in the Cognac region. Through this exclusive experience, we explored the craftsmanship and dedication the House of Rémy Martin goes through to produce the elite of cognacs of the world.

Choi Yen, Xiang and I arrived a little early and happily took a quick peak at the amazing cognacs under Rémy Martin. Each Rémy Martin cognac held its own grandeur from the Rémy Martin V.S.O.P to XO Excellence to the most expensive and rare Louis XIII. There is even a limited edition of Rémy Martin V.S.O.P featuring Jolin Tsai.

The priciest of the lot is Louis XIII, a staggering RM8,600 for a bottle. 100% Grande Champagne, we were told that it took a 4th generation cellar master to blend up from 1200 Eaux de vie that is almost up to a 100 years old.

*photo without watermark are courtesy of Rémy Martin

While waiting for our cognac experience, we hang out to taste Rémy Martin inspired cocktails. As we sipped Rémy Cucumber, Centaur Spice and Rémy Kaffir, we caught up with friends and of course watch our bartender whipped up these cocktails.

My favorite has to be the Rémy Cucumber, utterly refreshing and fabulous. More on the sweeter end, the cocktail has found its match of pairing cucumber with Rémy Martin cognac beautifully. Made from Rémy Martin V.S.O.P., cucumber syrup, apple juice and lime juice, I had two delicious glass of this one!

Centaur Spice had Rémy Martin V.S.O.P. with ginger ale and angostura bitters while Rémy Kaffir was made from Rémy Martin V.S.O.P., kaffir lime, grapes, lemon and ginger beer.

We were ushered in a room with a beautiful wall of eaux de vies featuring from 5 years to 20 years. Once in, we were greeted by the Rémy Martin Brand Ambassador, Brandon. He proceeds to enhance our knowledge with the history and the process on how Rémy Martin cognacs are made. Distilled thrice, the complex process is then finished and left to age from a minimum of 10 years before they are bottled and sold.

We get to play and experiment on how to get the perfect blend for Rémy Martin V.S.O.P. from our 4 year old, 8 year old and 14 year old eaux de vies.  I had my blend of 40ml of 8 year old, 4 ml of 4 year old and 6 ml of 14 year old tested by Brandon and was told I am a little off. The correct blend should be 35ml of 8 year old, 10ml of 4 year old and 5ml of 14 year old. Oh well, this was certainly an experience. I even learnt to experience the cognac by taste, sight and aroma.

*photo without watermark are courtesy of Rémy Martin

Choi Yen and Xiang too took on the challenge for the blend.

We proceeded to move into another room replicated after a Rémy Martin’s cellar. It is here that we got our taste of Rémy Martin XO Excellence and Rémy Martin Club. While the Rémy Martin Club is intense in flavor, the Rémy Martin XO Excellence shows off more finesse with its velvety and rich finish. We were told that once the cognac is bottled, it stops its ageing process and under certain controlled environment, the cognacs may literally last for a very long time.

Brandon also gave us a demonstration on how cognac is extracted from its barrel.

With the evening concluded, I went home armed with more knowledge about Rémy Martin cognac and its history. It takes time to and classical methods to produce a grand cognac and the House of Rémy Martin continues to respect their distilling traditions to this day.

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November 21, 2013

Restaurant Nepal, Himalayan Cuisine @ Plaza Damas: From Momo to Thali, It’s Delicious!

My First Taste of Himalayan Cuisine!

My geographic sense has probably been long returned to my dear geography teacher in high school but vaguely I do know a little about Nepal. I know Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain is located in Nepal. Nepal’s capital is Kathmandu and the country is made up of high mountains and valleys with gorgeous picturesque sceneries, amazing ancient architecture and exotic myths. In fact, I have a very dear friend Sagina who is from Nepal and has the nicest personality I have ever met. However with all these said, I have never been to Nepal nor had a taste of its cuisine.

When I was told of a Restaurant Nepal that serves Himalayan Cuisine, located at Plaza Damas, is serving up authentic Nepalese cuisine, I admit to being a little excited. Other than dumplings that I know, I haven’t got the slightest idea what the cuisine is all about. A gracious invite from the owner, Robin, to experience an authentic Nepalese meal needed no second thoughts. A few of us gladly met up one evening and boy, were we surprised how much we all love Nepal cuisine!

Restaurant Nepal is not helmed by a chef but rather by Robin’s sister. Everything is homemade and many ingredients like chili or spices are brought imported from Nepal. To ensure authentic dishes, everything is made just like it is at home in Nepal. We were even asked how spicy we like our food and we happily replied with a ‘give us the authentic Nepalese heat!’

A quick Google search on Nepal cuisine shows that rice and grain are staples in their dietary consumptions. The cuisine has a hybrid of Chinese, Tibetian and Indian mix. Famous street food are Momos, dumplings filled with meat, usually chicken, goat or buffalo and can be served steamed, deep fried or pan fried. Lots of curries and stews are seen while Nepalese also eats a lot of vegetables and legumes. Meals are served in Thali, a large steel or copper plate with a little of everything piled on neatly around it. More exotic stuff are yak meat and butter tea but let’s not go there yet. You get my jiff and before I bored you to death, you can read more about Nepalese cuisine here.

Drinks tasted familiar that night. We had Masala Chyaa, Nepali Lemon Tea and Fresh Mango Lassi prior to dinner. I like how sugar is served on the side for individual preference. Took a sip of Masala Chyaa and it was a light flavoring of masala spices that makes one feel warm and fuzzy. The Fresh Mango Lassi is delicious, fruity and sweet with a creamy flavor.

Coined with a cute name like Momo, these dumplings are addictive! When the Deep Fried Momo landed at our table, the golden bundles look divine. Served with a side of curry sauce and two types of chili sauce, 4pcs of Momo are RM7 or 8pcs for RM12. The Deep Fried Momo has a lovely crisp pastry filled with juicy chicken filling spiced up. Savory and scrumptious, the Momo are just so good with each bite. While these didn’t need further sauces, I do recommend trying it with the served sauces simply because the chili sauces take these Momo to another level of flavors.

The red sauce is made from tomato and spices with less heat of chili while the yellow sauce is made with Nepal chili and renders a nice punch of heat. Curiosity got the best out of me and I requested for a look at the Nepal chili. If I am not mistaken, it’s named Dalle Khursani. It’s small and fairly round, the heat is intense while aromatic and flavorful. I love the yellow chili sauce a lot and practically swipe this clean, even wanting for more.

Pan Fried Momo came along, this time shaped in crescent. You get a nice crisp side plus a soft steamy one. Again, the filling is really delicious and so flavorful. I love these as it is and also with the sauces!

Named simply Snack Platter (RM24), the name did not do this platter justice! It’s a gorgeous plate of colors, flavors and ingredients. Snack Platter is perfect for those who love a taste of everything. It comprises of six dishes with Steamed Momo, Chicken Chili, Aloo Silam, Bhuteko Bhatmas, Nepali Salad and Chyau Mutter. While the name may seemed a bit funky, the dishes are delicious! Let me dissect this platter for you…

Steamed Momo, same as the other two earlier ones, are flavorful and juicy with minced chicken filling encased in a thin dough skin. It does resemble the famous Xiao Long Bao in my books except it doesn’t have that much broth spilling out.

I can certainly pop these by the dozens… deep fried, pan fried or steamed. Order more of the Momos, its superb!

Bhuteko Bhatmas are roasted soybeans spiced up with Nepalese spices, onions, tomatoes and coriander. We love this to bits the flavors are zingy and zesty with a nutty note while plenty of textures are perfect for munching, preferably with a big mug of beer or a glass of wine. I am labeling this as ‘Can’t get enough of this!’

The next one is my favorite too... since I practically wiped out this portion. Aloo Silam reads as boiled potatoes marinated with red onion and Silam in the menu. Silam are seeds of the perilla plant that are roasted and ground with salt. It lends a nutty aromatic flavor to the dish. Here, the potatoes are soft, creamy, nutty and aromatic. Apparently the version here is the Robin’s mom’s recipe… shows that mothers know best!

We had our Chicken Chili spicy. Pieces of lean chicken meat are battered and fried before being smothered in a spicy sauce with onions, bell peppers and coriander. This one is spicy so tell them if you can’t take the heat. Although the chili is spicy, there is a good depth of flavors and aroma in the chili. Coupled with the fragrance of onions and bell pepper, this one is easy to eat and the flavors are certainly great.

Chyau Mutter is pretty decent too. Sauteed fresh mushrooms and peas with spices, there is a toasty earthy flavors in the dish.

Nepali Salad is a take on cabbage slaw with a tangy vinegary dressing. Crunchy and tangy, this one is nothing to shout about.

Love, love, love the two sauces again…

This one is just so pretty in presentation. Chata-Mari is Nepalese’s version of pizza in a way. Instead of a bread base, this one has a crispy thin crust made from rice flour. Topped with minced chicken, chopped tomatoes, onions, coriander and egg, it’s a yummy savory appetizer. Flavors are delicate but add on a little of their awesome chili sauce and you get another level of flavors.

Mains arrived and we savored Jhwol Maccha and Fars Ko Daal Ra Khasi Ko Nali together with Chicken Thakali Thali Set. Jhwol Maccha, a fish curry that is tangy and robust. Its not the creamy kind but rather the sourish savory one that one can simply drown their rice in the lovely gravy. Using grass carp, the fish does have a lot of bones so it takes extra effort to eat this. We did tell Robin that maybe they can offer a fish with less bones but I guess it wouldn’t be authentic then. Oh well, it’s still a good curry and yes, I did drenched my rice with the gravy.

There is perfectly nothing to fault with Fars Ko Daal Ra Khasi Ko Nali, mutton bone marrow cooked in sweet pumpkin curry. Spiced up with timmur or Nepali pepper and more often know as Szechuan pepper, the curry has a light hint of the biting taste with a slight numbing effect. Very lightly used, it’s not overpowering and the pumpkin makes a great cover up for the spice. The bone marrow is cooked till soft and very tender, where one can really chuck away all utensils and just suck this clean. While others raved at this dish, the sweetness of the dish is just not my cup of tea as I am not really used to sweet spiced up curry.  As we have always said, taste is really each individual’s preference.

Chicken Thakali Thali Set is a full meal on its own. Perfect for single diners or for those who loves a little buffet of dishes, this Thali set is just right for a nice meal on its own. Another one of the owner’s mom’s recipe, there are three kinds of Thali Sets that offers Nepalese Curry Chicken, Lamb or Mushroom served with various side dishes of vegetables and a black bean daal soup.

The sides are spiced up potatoes, sautéed greens, stir fried green beans with spices, achar and chutney. Again I must raved how good the potatoes are on this plate. I love the spice seasoning on it and the potatoes are cooked really well. The black bean daal is thick, creamy and a little nutty. We had Nepalese Curry Chicken, a fairly light curry that is delicious. It’s a really well-balanced meal here with plenty of greens for a healthier edge.

We had house pouring red and white wine together with a house signature, Shangri-lla with our meal. Shangri-lla is house sangria, red wine marinated with fruits. The version here is just good, so good I finished one by myself. If you like sangria, make sure to order Shangri-lla by the jug as a glass would not be enough. There is even a promotion for the house wines for the whole month of November as seen in Restaurant Nepal’s Facebook.

I am sold, I love Nepal cuisine, especially the Momos, Snack Platter and Thali Set. I also can’t get enough of the homemade spicy chili sauces. There are plenty of vegetarian options too. Food is very decently priced and one can certainly taste the warmness of a home-cooked meal here at Restaurant Nepal. In fact, I am already planning to bring my family back here for the Momos and Snack Platter. A lovely first taste of Nepalese or Himalayan cuisine…

F-0-6, Plaza Damas,
60,  Jalan Sri Hartamas 1,
Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 603 6206 3904 / 016 9770 718

Business Hours:
Mon – Fri   11.30am to 3pm, 6pm to 10pm
Sat – Sun   11.30pm to 10pm