Category | Restaurant Reviews

Big Rajah Dines at the World’s Top Restaurant, Italy

Posted on 13 July 2017 by admin

World’s best chef, Massimo Bottura with Dato’ John William at Osteria Francescana

Osteria Francescana – “where dreams become food poetry” according to The Big Rajah, Dato’ John William, as he experiences the numero uno amongst the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

In 2015, the Osteria was second place and for the last five years, it has been amongst the top 5. It won its third Michelin star in 2012, and according to Michelin, it is the best restaurant in Europe.

Owned and run by Massimo Bottura in Modena, this luxury restaurant is extremely hard to place a reservation. Almost a year ahead if you are lucky.

The Big Rajah, Dato’ John William, however is resourceful and manages to reserve a table during his Gourmet Escapade in Italy. Both he and his wife savoured the world’s finest, to investigate what makes the world’s best and to bring back its echoes to The Big Rajah and to the community in Malaysia.

The dining room, one of three, is large and square. With Andrea Boccelli crooning at the background, above rests a vision of art by Damien Hirst. This could be an expensive restaurant – or house, or art gallery – anywhere: luxury has no country. On the first year, the entire Modena ate here, the second, almost no-one and on the third, the world, according to an inscription.

The menu was meticulously and delicately planned with a perfect balance of flavour – intra and inter dishes. Of all his dishes, the Five Ages Of Parmesan won Dato’ John over. Apparently, it took Massimo two decades to perfect it. Those five cheeses of different ages are: a sauce, an “air”, a demi-soufflé, a foam and a galette, which stands above the rest like a tiny spaceship – but it looks and tastes marvellous.

Food obsessed lovers share a passion that binds them together – and that is what John William and Massimo Bottura find their calling in lives. To spread the poetry of food and their gourmet dreams creating joy and comfort in the world.

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A 22 course meal at Gaggan – Asia’s Top Restaurant

Posted on 23 May 2017 by admin

Gaggan (which means “progressive” – moving forward, advancing) After meeting Gaggan at the BFM radio interview, I could not help but felt magnetically drawn to visit Bangkok to taste what was known as one of Asia’s Best Restaurant for the past 2 years.

All I can say that it was certainly worthwhile in every way. The experience, in two words: “unbelievably beautiful”.

Set in a stunning whitewashed colonial style wooden house in the heart of Bangkok, this award winnin restaurant draws on the memories of its celebrity chef (Gaggan Anand) growing up as a young boy in the streets of India, fusing the diversity of India’s regional cuisine, creating it into a contemporary and progressive re-interpretation of traditional recipes.

My welcome there was like no other. The welcome wagon at Gaggan was an awesome ride – to top that off, the maitre D, concierge, waiting staff went out of their way to make us feel so at home.

And now, the best part, our 22 course meal! How would anyone think of serving a 22 course meal and enjoy every dish, right to the very last one. Only a true food connoisseur could find place in his tummy to savour these meticulously prepared dishes that were both inventive and revolutionary.

The first 15, thankfully, were finger food. Perfectly sized with a delicate balance of flavour and textures, I was amazed at how Gaggan managed to revamp traditional home Indian dishes and presented them in a fresh light.

Towards the end of the courses, they gave the most adorable tiffin set with three dishes –  fluffy rice fused with saffron, a piece of deep fried prawn wrapped in spices and the most exquisite crab curry that I have ever tasted in my life. That alone was worth my entire trip.


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Fresh and Flash: “Nobu”

Posted on 23 May 2017 by admin

Named after Nobuyuki Matshuhisa (or known to the world as “Nobu”), the highly acclaimed chef proprietor teamed up with Hollywood film producer Meir Teper and legendary actor Robert De Niro to open its first sensational restaurant in New York in 1994.  Today it boasts of 32 restaurants that spun around the globe.

Nobu brings the infusion of contemporary Japanese cuisine infused with South American flavours (notably Peruvian and Argentinian) to the sophisticated tastebuds of the discerning crowd in Malaysia.

Perched right alongside the Twin Towers, the restaurant offers uncompromising view of the city. The interior décor is simple but tasteful.

My visit there over lunch saw the 5 star Michelin chef serve a 7 course “omakase” (a Japanese term for chef’s selection) which included an exceptional selection of sashimi spread and tenderly cooked beef tenderloin. My favourite was the black cod fish where the it simply melted in my mouth.

Presentation of the food is like its interior – zen style – simple and yet elegant, not particularly elaborate. Personally, I felt that there could be improvement in the overall presentation of the restaurant and food.

Although the service staff were very helpful, it would have been better if they were to take their time in enticing their customers and slowly explaining their menu offerings.

In conclusion, an expensive restaurant with exquisitely designed dishes, combining culinary flavours creatively but worth the money!


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Fine Dining Thai? Just Heavenly…

Posted on 27 November 2012 by admin

My bestman and bossom friend, Ravi and his wife, were down from Kota Kinabalu – both being renowned hoteliers and food connoisseurs, I felt compelled to live up to my food reputation as well, which means that I had to impress him with a fabulous meal and where better than my favourite Thai restaurant for the season – BUSABA Heavenly Thai.

Owned by a group of companies called SEA Cuisine Group of Restaurants, who coincidentally owns many other Thai restaurants in Klang Valley including The Flying Chillies@ Gardens Midvalle, Celadon @ Pavillion, Amarin Heavenly Thai, Just Thai and Absolute Thai, this latest addition opened in Bangsar Shopping Complex in January 2011. Busaba, I am told, means “flower and grace”.

We ordered some of my favourite dishes, which included the deep fried Thai fish cakes, deep fried prawns with mango sauce, mango kerabu, asparagus with prawns, stirfried morning glory (kang-kung belachan), deep fried garoupa fish with Thai sauce, beef green curry and of course we would never miss out on the Thai Tom Yam Prawn, Thai Tom Yam Seafood. The Tom Yam here has all the right balance and mix of flavour – chilli spiciness, limey sourness, refreshing lemongrass in its fullsome broth; it is no surprise that it is one of their signature dishes.

Another signature dish here is their Pandan Chicken. I must say that I was disappointed in this dish as it lacked the fullsomeness of the pandan flavour and the succulence therein. I have certainly tasted better ones around.

Deserts however, is a must-try here, and amongst my favourite deserts are red ruby water chestnut, mango sticky rice pudding and tapioca in coconut. Naturally, as a fine dining Thai restaurant, I guess I would call the lunch a little pricey but for its value – great taste and service – I keep coming back for more.

At the end of the lunch, Ravi was certainly delighted at the choice of restaurant. I succeeded in creating the conception (or misconception) that once again, I know some of the best food venues in the Klang Valley, since after all, it is my professional calling to ensure that my catering house reflects some of the best tastes around in our dishes – we learn and continue learning from the food experts around the region and the world.

I often tell people that my job is an occupational health hazard, but I am certain that there are only few jobs where these hazards are as sensually delightful as mine.

- Contributed by JW Xavier

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Ipoh Bean Sprouts Chicken – Nga-Choy Kai

Posted on 21 November 2012 by admin

I am often asked by friends and journalists alike – “what is your favourite type of food?”. Of which, I would reply  “Chinese” without missing a heartbeat. My friends describe me as an English man in an Indian body with a Chinese stomach. That itself will tell you a lot about me.

One of my favourite food destination, as a Malaysian, is Ipoh. I just love the “Ipoh Taugeh Chicken”, or as the locals fondly calls the dish “nga-choy Kai”. After sampling many shops including the famous stores in central of Ipoh (such as Low Wong or Onn Kee where tourists flood), my favourite one of all is an off the tourist track, well-hidden shop in Buntong where locals frequent, which opens only after 8pm.  Simply unbeatable!

This little no-name store, known around town just as Fifteen Tower Taugeh Ayam, is proudly run by Mr and Mrs Leow, whose son worked very hard to help his father in his shop and is now a qualified medical doctor from University Malaya, working and studying his way to the top. His “adopted” son, and Indian young man, speaks fluent Cantonese and helps out with the business.

Not only do they sell immaculate ngah-choy kai, they are very well known for their chicken feet in dark sauce. This dish is sumptuosly delivered after many hours of boiling and preparation with secret spices and herbs. The bean sprout is world famously fresh. The chicken is mouth-watering… but the best kept secret is their thick double-boiled chicken broth where the most tasty “sar hor fun” (flat rice noodles) spring out from. These noodles need virtually no chewing and slithers smoothly down your throat. You can also opt for the dry version, with dark sauce instead of broth, if you prefer.

One of my Ipohite friend proudly tells the story of how, in her visit to a famous restaurant in Tokyo, while having a little chat with their chef, at the mention of Ipoh, the Japanese chef’s eyes ligted up and he told her how the best bean sprouts in the world came from Ipoh. Indeed, there are few places in the world where bean sprouts taste as good. The locals attribute their juicy bean sprouts and flat noodles to the water from their majestic limestone hills.

Next time you are in Ipoh, do stop by this little Buntong store (though ambience is not that great) and indulge yourself in their unforgettable “ngah-choy kai”. Address: Pusat Makanan Zui Xiang Cun, Jalan Tun Abdul Razak – near Medan Kidd. 

Contributed by John William Xavier, CEO, The Big Rajah.

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