September 23, 2014

Charcoal, The Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur: A Unique New Malaysian Style Grill Room

Taking the Grill to New Heights!

The brand newly opened Charcoal by The Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur is unlike any grill that I have come across. Charcoal is a unique new open grill restaurant that takes grilled and BBQ cuisine to new heights. Its concept is inspired by the age of old technique of cooking over charcoal coupled with the local tradition of using local infused condiments, dips and sauces to create a fusion of chargrilled meats and seafood with an added dimension of flavour and depth. The modern contemporary take on Charcoal menu is very drool worthy and is brilliant alchemy to the gastronomy cuisine.

When I first heard of Charcoal through social media and also through the radio broadcast, I can’t help but to drool over the statement of Grilled Meat with Tamarind and Gula Melaka sauce and its list of delectable dishes. The names of the dishes are enough to tempt many foodies to make way for a taste at Charcoal.

Arriving at Charcoal, I was pleasantly surprised by the modern contemporary ambience of the restaurant. Taking spotlight was, of course, the open grill kitchen right. How can one not be in awe of the gorgeously designed open kitchen set with a mega ‘Rolls Royce’ charcoal grill? The open 360 degree grill has many functions and sections, each allow the various meat and seafood to be grilled to perfection according to the heat levels that is control by adjusting the height of the grill.

There is a whole spit roast available on the grill where a very delectable Whole Lamb Panggang is being rotate slowly over hot coals. As the juices and oils drips off the lamb onto the hot coals, sizzling sounds coupled with luscious smoky aroma of spices enhances the gourmet dining experience at Charcoal.

Sticks of satay skewers are also seen on the grill, getting ready to be savored by diners. The grill even has its own sink and place for boards. An ultra large industrial hood hovers over the grill, ensuring that all the smoke is kept within the open kitchen.

Moving on to the dining area, dining is sectioned off and most tables are set in big groups. There is regular seating and banquette seating, dine-in air conditioned or al fresco seating. There is also a huge private hall perfect for events and 5 smaller private rooms for personal dining. Charcoal has wall-to ceiling glass panels that overlook the hotel’s lush green landscape and skylights that fill the interior with lots of natural sunlight. The warm wood colors create soothing earth tones with the cool gray walls and rich leather furniture.

Charcoal also boasts of an elegant wine cellar filled with a list of international wines to be paired with the grilled meats and seafood.

Chef Robert Johnston helms the grill together with Auntie Belle who is the mastermind behind all the luscious sambals, dips and sauces. Chef Robert hails from Newcastle, Australia and brings with him a list of exclusive experiences from his many stints in working from several Michelin starred restaurants all over the world. Auntie Belle is a familiar face as she was previously manning the Nyonya restaurant at the hotel before it was revamped to Charcoal. The duo work their charm on a menu filled with a list of premium quality meats and seafood imported from all over the world tweaked with a touch of local flavours.

With a name like Charcaol, it only makes sense that Charcoal Water was presented at the restaurant. Served in an elegant tall decanter, water is infused with charcoal as a water purifying agent. This works beautifully with all the grilled dishes served at the restaurant.

At Charcoal, freshly baked breads are simply a must, served with salted butter. The real McCoy butter served with mini Charcoal Buns with Cherry Tomatoes and Mini Baguette is so good that one may need to instill some self-control to save some room for dishes later.

That evening, we took on the most basic and all-time favorite Chicken, Lamb and Beef Satay. At Charcoal, the sticks of Satay were thick, juicy and well marinated. It is even served on miniature charcoal burner to keep it warm when we savor it. It makes a nice presentation though the satay skewers never lasted long on the tiny grill as they were utterly divine with caramelized edges. All three meats are tender with a melodious balance of sweet and savory. I can taste the aromatic lemongrass in the satay. These are served with the usual suspects of ketupat, cucumber, onions and satay sauce.

Another local favorite served in Charcoal was the Ayam Percik with Fragrant Rice. Looking deceptively simple, the boneless thigh smothered in a creamy spicy peanut and coconut gravy has a hidden surprise element. The chicken opens up to reveal a stuffing of soft spinach leaves. It is a well-thought single meal with the rice, meat and vegetables.

The chook is lusciously succulent as it had juices literally flowing out as we cut into it. Though the chicken is tender and juicy, it’s rather delicate on flavours but that is easily remedied by the delish peanut and coconut percik sauce. Squeeze a bit of lime on this and the flavours perked up even more. I also like how there are crisp caramelized edges on the chicken skin… yum!

South Australian 100% Black Angus Tenderloin already sounds perfect and when its simply grilled naked and served sea salt with a side of Sarawakian Black Pepper sauce and vegetables, it’s a thoroughly a steak worth lusting after for. Though I am always a ribeye cut kind of foodie since I enjoy a little fatty goodness, I must say that this tenderloin is pretty darn good. Lean and tender, my knife glides through this like a smooth operator. Beautifully medium pink, one can also see how juicy the meat is as it has been well-rested. The charred edges gave this beef its character and the light smokiness is delightful.

My advice is to savor this meat with the various sambals and chutneys from Auntie Belle for extra local flavours. If you see these four bottles of sauces, hold on to them during this meal… these are so good, especially the Sambal Mangga, a mango infused chili sauce that is fruity, sweet and spicy. I swear it goes well with everything from meat to seafood. There are also the Nyonya Kerabu Sauce, Sambal Hijau and Chili Garlic. The Kerabu sauce has a vibrant herb and spice notes like ginger bud, kaffir lime, chilies and more while the Sambal Hijau shows off lots of herb notes with chili. The Chili Garlic is perfect for poultry as it reminds me of the Chicken Rice chili, spicy, garlicky and tangy.

Murraysland French Cut Rack of Lamb had us enjoying one of the best lamb cuts grilled to medium raw. It does have a good dose of fats to make this extra flavourful. Again here, the meat is delicately seasoned so diners can enjoy the lamb flavours. Served with mashed potatoes and gravy, I love the mashed as it stil has bits of potato texture for a rustic touch. Needless to say, I had mine with the Sambal Mangga again…

It might come with a hefty price tag but the colossal Tiger Prawns with Kaffir Lime Leaves and Lemongrass Marinade is thoroughly fresh, juicy and sweet. The soft nuances of lemongrass and aromatic kaffir lime leaves did justice to the crustaceans. One can add more sea salt to adjust according to their taste.

What we all raved in addition to that king of crustaceans was the Fried Rice that is studded with lots of egg, mushrooms and fried garlic. Beautifully fluffy with a deep rich wok breath…

The Wild Sarawak Garoupa in Tumeric and Sea Salt Rub came as a whole fish, allowing diners to enjoy the full spectrum of the sweet creamy fish flesh, bone and all. A side of tangy tamarind and gula Melaka sauce with bird eye chili and onions pump up the flavours, making it beautifully local and delicious. Of course there are other fishes available so ask the wait staff for your preference.

Besides the grilled meat and seafood, Charcoal also serves up Auntie Belle’s Peranakan flavour-infused dishes. We had the Terung Sumbat Bakar (Baked Stuffed Eggplant) and Barkke Kari Ambila Kacang (Spicy Tamarind Braised Beef with Long Beans) that evening.

I adored the Terung Sumbat Bakar! Soft sweet round eggplants are stuffed with a fish mousse paste, similar to otak otak, before being baked and served with a creamy yellow sauce. The fish mousse is pretty light and delicate in texture but has enough flavours to round up the whole dish.

The Barkke Kari Ambila Kacang is a favorite of many and is also Auntie Belle’s specialty. It is beef chunks braised in hot and spicy curry gravy with lots of crunchy green beans. The spices are very well balanced, rendering heat and spice notes with a pungent taste. It is a bowl of sour, spicy and robust curry. The dish practically begs for a bowl of white rice, for which I am sure I would have polished off the whole bowl happily if I wasn’t already so full.

After savoring all the grilled meats and seafood together with the strong notes of Peranakan dishes, we needed on a very local note that is lightly fusioned up. Bingka Ubi Kaya (Tapioca with Glutinous Rice and Grilled Mango) and Grilled Exotic Fruits with Spiced Kalamansi, Caramel Sauce and Pineapple Sorbet are very enjoyable and easy on the tummy. These are light and fruity and provided a sweet and delicate ending to a very enjoyable dining experience at Charcoal.

If you love the sauces as much as I did grab a few of these for sale on your way out…

A New Malaysian Style Grill Room experience that you don’t want to miss!

Charcoal’s Weekend Feast

For RM99++ per adult and RM49.40++ per child, enjoy a sumptuous feast of grilled meats and seafood, Peranakan and International dishes, desserts and more available every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Charcoal.

Saturday & Sunday – 12.00noon to 3.30pm (brunch)
Friday &  Saturday – 6.30pm to 10.30pm (dinner)

Ala carte is also available.

Lifestyle by Saujana loyalty card menmbers enjoy up to 50% discount when dining at Charcoal while CIMB cardholders are entitled to 15% to 20% off their food bill.

For more information on Charcoal and its full menu and prices, visit or for reservations call 603 7843 1234 ext 6122 or email at

The Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur, 
Saujana Resort,
Jalan Lapangan Terbang SAAS,
40150 Shah Alam, Selangor.
Tel: 603-7843 1234 ext 6122

*More photos available at my Facebook: Chasing FoodDreams

September 21, 2014

LINK, Pullman Kuala Lumpur Bangsar: Authentic Vietnamese Buffet Promotion

Vietnamese Guest Chef Whips Up a Vietnamese Feast!

In conjunction with Vietnam’s National Day on the 2 Sept this month, LINK All Day Dining at Pullman Kuala Lumpur Bangsar embraces authentic Vietnamese cuisine at the restaurant from 19 to 28 September, 2014. Going all out, Pullman Kuala Lumpur Bangsar launches the 10-day Vietnamese Food Promotion by spreading out an array of authentic Vietnamese delicacies buffet style.

Vietnamese cuisine is known to the food lovers as a cuisine featuring the harmony combination of five distinctive elements of taste senses, namely spicy to represent metal, sour to represent wood, bitter to represent fire, salty to represent water and sweet to represent Earth. It can be simple and yet complex in flavours. It is an honest and down-to-earth cuisine that utilizes local ingredients found on the soil of the country. Distinctive ingredients such as fresh herbs, vegetables, fish sauce, citrus fruits, garlic and chili are mostly present in Vietnamese dishes. Wikipedia quoted that Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide. Street food contributes a huge part of the Vietnamese cuisine. Famous street food easily recognizes all over the world are Bánh mì, Phở and Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

Vietnamese Chef Viet Anh Nguyen and Miss Diue Anh Nguyen are brought in to ensure that diners are treated to authentic and wholesome Vietnamese cuisine at Link for this Vietnamese Food Promotion. Chef Viet showcases dishes from North to South in his menu. Miss Diue briefed that Northern Vietnam cuisine tend to head towards more sour flavours while Southern is very vibrant in all five flavours of sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty.

Here are the highlights of the Vietnamese Food Promotion

Fresh Spring Rolls (Goi Cuon) and Deep Fried Spring Rolls (Cha Gio) are extremely popular street food that is literally available everywhere in Vietnam. While Fried Spring Rolls are eaten in the North, Fresh Spring Rolls was said to have started in the South of Vietnam where the weather was hotter and humid, leading everyone to savoring fresh ones that is lighter.

The Fresh Spring Roll and Fried Spring Rolls are always eaten with the nước chấm, a fish sauce based infused with raw garlic and chili dipping sauce.

I was thoroughly in love with both rolls, savoring countless rolls after rolls that night, all freshly prepared by Chef Viet himself. One is light and fresh while the other is juicy, crispy and flavourful!

There is also Bánh xèo, a Vietnamese crepe made from a batter of rice flour, turmeric, and coconut water, fried to a crispy crepe and topped with a filling of meat or prawns with bean sprouts and other vegetables. The version here is very delicious. Crispy thin edges, fluffy middle and studded with a lovely savory and sweet filling of prawns with crunchy bean sprounts.

Phở noodles are simply a must-have in any Vietnamese meal. Equivalent to our local noodles, Phở is crucial in Vietnamese cuisine like Kimchi is to Korean cuisine. It is basically a street food that is enjoyed for comfort. Though there are many variations of Phở, it is basically a noodle soup with a linguine rice noodle in a meat stock enhanced with lots of fresh herbs and onions.

Chef Viet has prepared a Chicken Phở and a Beef Phở for his daily menu. I topped mine with lots of fresh spring onions, cilantro, chili, lime and fish sauce. It is such a comforting bowl of noodle soup that never fails to satisfy my satiation.

Besides the famous street food, Chef Viet has also whipped up Vietnamese dishes to be enjoyed with rice. The Stewed Beef in Coconut Juice and Green Pepper is pretty good. Cooked for hours in coconut water with green peppercorn before being topped with creamy coconut milk, the stew has a unique flavour with a creamy and peppery note.

There was also the Wok Fried Chicken Wings with Sweet and Sour Fish Sauce.

I enjoyed the Grilled Squid with Lemongrass and Chili for its aroma and distinctive lemongrass flavours with a spicy twist.

There is also an interesting Salted Egg and Chicken Fried Rice. I have really concluded that anything cooked with Salted Egg is always delicious and this is another dish added to support my conclusion. Yum…

Grilled Eggplant with Crab Meat is also very good. Smoky soft grilled eggplant is sweet and delicate in flavours while the crab meat added another level of sweet ocean flavours to the delicate eggplant.

I also tried the Vietnamese Seafood Soup, a seafood stock that renders sweet and sour flavours. It is very appetizing with each sip of the soup while pieces of pineapple, tomatoes and other vegetables together with fish sums up the flavours and textures of the soup. I can really taste the pineapple flavours in this soup.

Of course besides the Vietnamese corner which features different dishes on rotation, there are also plenty of other local and international dishes in the buffet!

Now the Vietnamese are very proud of their Vietnamese Drip Coffee. It has a very strong and bitter note of coffee beans and is usually savored thick bodied. It’s not my first time having this as I used to drink a lot of it during my college years.

Here it is served the traditional way, where coffee is put into the Vietnamese drip coffee maker, weight down with a weight and hot boiling water is pour into it, letting the maker steep the coffee and drips it from underneath into a cup. It takes a good few minutes of waiting but the result is worth it if you happen to love strong coffee.

I happen to love mine with condensed milk and iced! Thick and creamy, the flavours are just so addictive…

Though there are many desserts available, there is a special Vietnamese Drip Coffee Cake that one must try! It’s a cake that is flavoured with the Vietnamese Drip Coffee combined with chocolate. We love this cake very much as it resembles a luscious deep chocolate mousse with a heavy coffee essence.

LINK’s Vietnamese Promotions runs from 19 till the 28 of September 2014 for both lunch and dinner buffet.

Monday to Friday and Sunday – RM90 nett per person
Friday and Saturday - RM115 nett per person (Seafood Buffet with Vietnamese)

For further information or reservations, please contact LINK All Day Dining at 603 2298 1855.

Pullman Kuala Lumpur Bangsar
No.1, Jalan Pantai Jaya, Tower 3,
59200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 603 2298 1888

**More pictures at my Facebook: ChasingFoodDreams