Monday, October 13, 2014

Brunei Events: Healthy Pop Up Dinner at The Energy Kitchen

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The Collective Arts Events recently joined forces with The Energy Kitchen to organize a healthy pop up dinner just for last Sunday night.

 

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Wu Chun, the co-owner himself was there to offer his support for this event – focusing on healthy eating and living.

 

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Lovely artistic decor by The Collective Arts Events ~~

 

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You gotta love the decor and the chalkboard work drawn by @mujahidjohar & @cristina_nance

 

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The table settings have calligraphies of the guests on envelopes, to put our payment for the dinner, it’s more of a donation basis and you can give more if you want to.

 

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I did what the food paparazzi would do and snuck into the kitchen to get the chefs for a group photo in the kitchen before the main event. Ready to go! Here we have @theenergykitchen @hip_and_healthy @pandachu and@prontobrunei so please follow then on Instagram!

 

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The menu for the night ~~~

 

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My dining companions for the night – SocMed group at the centre – it' was good to catch up and share our views on the dining experience. @emmagoodegg @maurina and @marul69 Big Social Influencers in Brunei. Be sure to follow them on IG if you haven’t yet!

 

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Pictures of some of the guests during the healthy pop up dinner – quite a diverse crowd we got here!

 

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The first two Amouse Bouche – in front of you is the Umai, an Asian ceviche by @hip_and_healthy which has a strong kick but lovely tasting fish to start our meal. Some might feel it’s acid too overpowering but I’m fine with it. The vegan zoodles and coodles by @pandachu are actually zucchini and carrot strings tossed with a sesame dressing and I enjoyed the good crunch to it – I have to say I like this and I’m tempted to buy the tool to make my own versions in future. A good start to the dinner.

 

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Chefs making their rounds and introducing their dishes while asking feedback from the diners

 

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For appetizers, we started with the sesame wholewheat flatbreads with pistachio and parmesan crisp, we liked this for its sharp crisp flavours and textures but one thing we felt could improve was the temperature – it felt like it was prepared in advanced and not warmed up properly before it was served. A good appetizer despite that but could had been better.

 

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These colourful  sweet potato and potato gnocchis are baked and served with a Thai basil pesto and lime aioli. It has a good crisp outer texture but again – the let down is the temperature of the dish – same reason as the previous one  which can be improved with better warming up of this dish– the aioli while it does have the pesto flavours, doesn’t reflect the texture of a creamy aioli.

 

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Last of the appetizers were these buckwheat pumpkin ravioli which were supposed to be slightly seared in coriander oil but to me I think it’s not executed properly and the chefs did apologized for it. I couldn’t taste the coriander and the texture is slightly rubbery – though the pumpkin filling is alright but due to the way the ravioli’s cooked, was a tad too oily. This was my least favourite of the three.

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The appetizers for this event is prepared by @prontobrunei – they have good ideas for the appetizers and I think that to cater for the huge crowd, the appetizers were prepared beforehand and when it was sent out from the kitchen, wasn’t warmed up properly. It will be a good lesson to take in for these talented home chefs.

 

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The Energy Kitchen presented a reinvented a healthier version of our iconic dish the Nasi Lemak! They replaced the coconut rice with a coconut milk infused cauliflower 'rice", made a healthier miso sambal, cashew nut crusted baked chicken breasts, and replaced the acar n nuts with a mango ginger flower salad and walnuts! It was very good daring effort to make a traditionally unhealthy comfort food to a guilt free main meal!

 

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For me – I think one common opinion was the temperature of the food again – which is more on the lukewarm side – I think if it came out hotter – this dish would taste a lot better. The chicken breasts were slightly dry to me, lacking the juicy goodness of a good fried chicken but I do enjoy the cashew crust (which would be better of course if it was hot). The coconut infused rice had a slight hint of coconut scent but it needs an extra oomph to it .. though I quite like the idea of not having guilty sinful carbs and I think this ‘rice’ has promise if executed well. Some didn’t like the ginger flower in the mango salad while some liked it while the miso sambal lacked the punch of the traditional sambal for me. Overall – it’s definitely a healthy meal – it has promise in terms of taste – which can be improved in my opinion – and I’m looking forward to version 2.0 of this dish after this feedback.

 

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I didn’t realize we looked dead serious while taking food pics ~~ LOL ~ now on to the desserts!

 

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For desserts, @hip_and_healthy presented a refreshing lemongrass calamansi sorbet which would go well at parties with some added oomph.. wink wink – if you know what I mean. The sorbet was semi melted when it arrived at our table and we had to shoot the pic quickly. It was a shame that it ended up becoming icy shots but we enjoyed the taste and kick! This is something that can be improved upon in future when it comes to serving a big crowd from a hot kitchen.

 

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@pandachu presented these spoonfuls of jasmine and honey tea jelly served with a dragon fruit puree. For me – the tea jelly despite having honey in it, the bitterness was too evident to complement the dragon fruit puree. Something just doesn’t work here for me – and my dining companions agreed,

 

DSCF7550 . @pandachu made amends with a very delicious durian panna cotta with almond crisp and I remembered she was looking for fresh durian on FB before. Good points for a yummy dessert using a local fruit. I wouldn’t mind more of these~~ picky critics might say how does this fit the healthy theme though but forgave it because it tasted yummy ~~ unless you’re not fond of durian

 

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Last but not least is a rich dessert from @hip_and_healthy these healthy vegan coconut hazelnut crunch.. without flour, dairy and sugar but made from coconut cream and cashew butter and sweetness from dates!!! Texture and taste wise, I really enjoyed it - *confession* I actually had two of these (stole it from Marul ~ lol) but I think these are an acquired taste for some who might not like it but it’s a thumbs up to this dessert for me.

 

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Overall, I quite enjoyed the night and I look forward to more events like these in the future. I think it’s understandable that it’s the first time these home chefs worked together in a kitchen to produce a four course meal for about 50 guests – there are some things that can be improved – especially with the execution of the food, which obviously must work well during trials for smaller numbers but difficult to replicate to a big crowd. However, it’s easy to be on the table, tasting and commenting but cooking for a big group can be a challenging process and I do take in the fact that they’re not experienced chefs working day in and day out in the kitchen and I think they will learn a very valuable life lesson from this and improve!

 

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I must say well done to the organizers and chefs for the night and give yourselves a pat on the back! It’s good to have something like this from time to time and it is a refreshing dining experience from the usual we have.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Brunei Restaurant Review: A new beginning at Spaghettini Restaurant

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In my blog, I highlighted Spaghettini as a restaurant specializing in creative modern cuisine and I’m a big fan of their whimsical creative cuisines, which wows not only in terms in taste but also the imagination and sight. Read more about the old Spaghettini here: http://www.thanislim.com/2011/07/creative-modern-cuisine-at-spaghettini.html

 

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Dishes that are unique and interesting – to entice and surprise the diners. It has been a signature of Spaghettini for many years. Recently, the management has decided on a new direction for Spaghettini and return to the roots of Italian cuisine. A new head chef has taken over and introduced a style of cuisine that is very different and perhaps offers a fresh new beginning!

 

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The bread basket is quite the spectacle when it arrived at the table. A range of different types of breads – we picked up the focaccia with caramelized onions and raisins first  - more on the softer side – and the crispy oven baked roti at the back.

 

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They still have interesting accompaniments to the breads – such as the togarashi butter – which infuses a slight spicy kick of Japanese red pepper with the butter, apple vinegar and simple butter. I like both the butter and the vinegar to dip with the breads to get me started ~~

 

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This is the antipasto platter which is good enough to share for two – or even for three since you’re going to have other main dishes. It has grilled marinated eggplants, peppers, wild mushrooms, sweet potato, sun dried tomatoes, kalamate, green olives, basil marinated bocconcini, spice pickled vegetables, grissini – and a lovely bulb of roasted garlic.

 

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I quite like these tomatoes ~~ flavour packed smacking tomato goodness ~~ nom nom ~

 

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This is their grilled calamari appetizer, served with roasted corn, fennel salad and lemon oil balsamic. I like the arugula leaves ~~ mmmm my fav salad leaves next to rocket ~~

 

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Arugula avocado salad which is served with shaved pecorino cheese, pine nuts, olive oil and aged balsamic reduction ~~ life’s good when you have arugula in your salad ~~ yum!

 

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The Citrus marinated river prawn crudo is an interesting cold dish – pleasing on the eye like a garden ~ the prawns marinated and minced and served with chopped green apples and potato mascarpone. The brown yummy looking thing is actually teriyaki octopus ~~ most of us enjoyed this appetizer especially the ladies – an instagrammable appetizer that’s actually different and yummy ~~ #tooPrettyToEat

 

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While the girls picked the beautiful dish as their favourite – I am bias here because I like beef carpaccio and truffle oil ~~~ this beef carpaccio dish has a strong whiff of truffle oil when it arrived at the table – grain fed quality raw beef tenderloin sliced thinly and wrapped around rocket leaves,  marjoram and ricotta crème fraiche ~~ served with a pastry like breadsticks for texture contrast. A gentleman’s appetizer you might say as opposed to the previous garden like appetizer. #gentlemanfood #manlysalad

 

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Last but not least are fresh raw oysters served with apple cider, black pepper mignonette or just a simple squeeze a lemon ~~

 

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For soups – we had the truffled wild mushroom cappucino (which means 80 percent mushrooms) with black truffle oil and chervil cream.

 

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We also tried the classic minestrone which has a tomato vegetable broth,  with parmesan, basil pesto and foccacia croutons. A pretty hearty soup and I actually preferred this one but it’s my preference.

 

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These yummy sides comes with the Minestrone soup ~~~ I like dipping them onto the pesto and parmesan ~ mmmm ~~~

 

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After the soup, we checked out the other hot appetizers. This is Spaghettini’s version of Oysters Rockefeller, which is usually oysters topped with butter, herbs and breadcrumbs – baked slightly in the oven. This version users a rich herby mousse textured sauce – yum!

 

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Traditionally homemade chicken agnolotti (tiny pasta filled with chicken meat) hazelnut oil and served with grana padano cheese (popular Italian cheese)

 

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Crispy baccala (salt cod) beignet which is a trio of crispy, airy  New Orleans style doughnuts with minced salt cod fish inside the doughnut. It’s served with tomato basil, black olive sauce vierge, shaved fennel and grilled brocoli.

 

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Now on to the mains! Pan seared sea bass with wilted spinach, parsley puree, vine ripe tomato and basil vinaigrette. I have to say these vine ripened tomatoes are simply delicious ~~ a pretty fresh tasting dish!

 

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For steak lovers, they have this 180g of grilled Australian beef tenderloin with a side of wilted spinach, truffle whipped potato, roasted vegetables, seared porcini mushrooms (ooo yes!) and balsamic reduction. I always go for medium rare for my steaks ~~ pretty tender and goes very well with the roasted vegetables (I really enjoyed the vegetables!)

 

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For fans of ravioli, which is filled pasta, check out the spinach and ricotta filled ravioli, served with a plum tomato compote , duck confit and basil emulsion.

 

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The simple gnocchi shows us never to judge a dish by it’s look! This dish did not stand out amongst the other dishes but it won us over. Sauteed over sage butter, the gnocchi is served with roasted portabella, porcini mushroom, caramelized radicchio, wilted spinach and pine nuts. We really enjoyed the texture of the gnocchi and the sides complement each other very well. A dish that doesn’t look spectacular but pleases the crowd.

 

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This is Spaghettini’s signature seafood spaghetti ~~ fresh angel hair pasta with a spicy tomato arriabiatta sauce, with jumbo prawns, pan roasted sea scallops, squids and New Zealand mussels. Texture of the noodles is pretty good and the sauce is quite spicy to suit the local palette.

 

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Zuppe di pesce is a soupy seafood dish, a saffron oregano bouillabaisse broth, red pepper fennel, new potatoes, sea bass, squid, clams, mussels, scallop, served with lemon herb aioli and toasted bread.

 

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A more meatier pasta dish is the Saffron pappardelle with lamb shoulder confit, basil, beetroot, snap peas, parmesan and marjoram. A hearty dish bound to grab a man’s heart ~~~ through the stomach!

 

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After all that – it’s time for dessert – this is where you can order their good quality teas ~~ mmm. Spaghettini has four desserts to choose from. I must say they look pretty and has quite unique flavours but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea ~~ order to share with friends and try them out.

 

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Lemon mascarpone summer cake with apricot confiture and raspberry coulis on the left, Hazelnut semifreddo with apple and sultana sauce on the right.

 

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Chocolate caramel delice with a layer of roast apples and vanilla bean cream to the left, Rosemary panna cotta with cherry compote and almond biscotti for crunch on the right.

 

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Overall, I must say this is a very different style of cuisine from the previous Spaghettini menu – a more simple down to earth dining experience which focus on the quality of the ingredients. The side dishes especially the vegetables complements the mains very well. Do check out the new menu and share your thoughts!

 

Spaghettini Restaurant

The Empire Hotel

241 8888

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