Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Restaurant Review: Kriya Bhavan Ayurvedic Cuisine (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia)

By Jana Thevar and Ganesh Asirvatham

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I must admit I was skeptical when Ganesh suggested that we review Kriya Bhavan. An Ayurvedic restaurant? But isn’t all South Indian vegetarian food Ayurvedic in nature, I asked. However, curiosity got the better of me and we found ourselves there last Sunday.

I was surprised to find that we were the only people there (granted, at 11.30am we were early for lunch by Malaysian standards). I found the ambience lovely – spotlessly clean, neat, cozy and unassuming.

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The owner, Suresh, approached us with a big smile and quickly ran through the offerings for the day. He mentioned a 25-course Ayurvedic lunch and asked us if we’d like to try it. Although I was seriously tempted by the tantalizing array of ‘regular’ food which was available for self-serving, I went with Ganesh’s choice as well. After all, I was there to review the ‘Ayurvedicness’ of the food.

Ganesh’s write-up below will go into the details of what was served according to sequence. As a brief overview, the meal started off with five shot glasses of various types of liquids and light starters, followed by raw veggies, then graduating onto the heavier fare like rice and curries. The Ayurvedic lunch concluded with an Indian dessert and a dollop of honey.

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I really liked how dedicated and involved Suresh was when it came to his passion. He did a great job of explaining things in detail to customers, such as what each food item is supposed to do for your body per Ayurvedic principles. He’s bubbly and friendly, yet patient and shows genuine enthusiasm in his area of expertise, which is refreshing and rare in these times of sour-faced, grumpy restaurant personnel who couldn’t care less if you choked to death on a mound of rice or found a cockroach in your rasam.

Accustomed as I am to the usual South Indian way of eating banana leaf rice, I found it hard to not mix the courses up and eat them one by one per Suresh’s recommendation. Why are we supposed to consume each course separately? A number of reasons as explained by Suresh:

(1) to enable the system to detox and cleanse itself properly before the heavier food is introduced into the digestive tract, and

(2) to allow the body to produce the right enzymes to digest each type of food individually for maximum health benefit.

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As a yoga person and Ayurvedic practitioner, I would say that sounds about right. The food was delicious, fresh and not overcooked, and the combinations were more or less Ayurvedically accurate from what I know, so I give this place the green light. A HUGE green light because damn, I absolutely loved it. I’m definitely going back for more, and repeatedly.

The only fail was the kulfi, or Indian ice cream (not part of the Ayurvedic meal, and according to Suresh it was ordered from an outside vendor). It tasted overpoweringly of condensed milk, and I truly despise cheap shortcuts when it comes to kulfi-making. For me it’s either fresh milk cooked down the traditional way, or it’s not fit to be called kulfi. Needless to say, I won’t be ordering that again.

What Ganesh Says

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Kriya Bhavan offers the jaded Indian food connoisseur a heady entrance into the delights of an Ayurvedic meal. Suresh the ever-smiling proprietor took great pains to educate us on the food combinations, as well as the rationale behind it all.

I admit that I paid overmuch attention to the food and taste that the explanation got somewhat left behind. I’ve no choice but to visit Kriya Bhavan again to complete my education. It’s tough being a food blogger but we all must make sacrifices.

But I digress.

The Ayurvedic meal is only available Friday to Sunday. RM15 seems like an acceptable amount for the number and quality of dishes served.

The culinary voyage began with a plate of food and five shots of various liquids. Pay attention dear reader lest you skip a step.

Dishes and Sequence

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The plate of food arrived with the shots and we were given strict instructions on how these were to be consumed. I was famished by the time the food arrived but paid enough attention to follow the sequence exactly.

Starters:

  • Banana cooked lightly with grated coconut
  • Five shots to be drunk in sequence – date juice, soy milk, buttermilk, spinach juice and rice water
  • Brown rice cooked in something or the other – but tasted awesome!

Next, we were told to consume raw items before moving on to the semi-cooked fare, and finally ending with fully-cooked items.

The raw items were:

  • Purple cabbage
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Shredded carrots
  • Diced tender banana stem
  • Sliced celery

No sequence to consume these, but we were told to eat each item on its own – this rule applied throughout the entire meal experience. The portions are small so don’t worry if raw veggies aren’t quite your jam.

Next came the semi-cooked part of the meal, and there was finally some rice. We were given a sprinkling of moringa powder (lightly sautéed with spices) and some liquid ghee. I don’t know if it was because I was hungry or that I was craving some rice but my oh my, the combination was absolutely dynamite. I was tempted to ask for more, but instead chose to exercise some restraint and bide my time.

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Finally, it was time for the cooked portion of the meal. The same brown rice from earlier can be used but if you happen to want more, Suresh will be more than happy to serve you the amount that you desire.

The cooked dishes were moringa avial, green vegetables with lentils and curry. I could see the value of savoring each dish and its individual taste as opposed to merging various items together. My eating time increased and I began to relish the combination of ingredients. I began to chew slowly and truly taste what I was eating.

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By this time, I had polished off the rice that was initially served and had to ask for more as the next three dishes (and also the last set) were rasam, sambhar and thick buttermilk curry. I’m not usually a fan of the last two dishes, but this was something else completely.
We got served a small tumbler of yummy payasam, followed by honey to wrap up.

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By this juncture I was comfortably full but couldn’t help trying the kulfi especially when we were told it was home-made. Unfortunately, the use of condensed milk negated what would have been a perfect end to a wonderful meal.

Conclusion

Kriya Bhavan is an establishment where the food speaks for itself and you don’t really need anything else to enhance your experience. Go now and tell all your friends about this place. We need to support individuals who cook with such passion and dedication.

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How We Rate It:

Food : 10/10
General Cleanliness: 10/10
Ambience: 9/10
Service: 10/10
Price: 9/10
Location (Petaling Jaya, Selangor): 6/10
Will we go back again : 10/10

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Thaipusam: A Malaysian Indian Experience

by Jana Thevar

What is Thaipusam?

Thaipusam is quite something. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s a festival and holy day dedicated to the Hindu deity Muruga (also known as Karthikeya). The biggest Thaipusam celebration in the world takes place annually in Batu Caves, Malaysia. Smaller-scale celebrations also take place in other locations, mainly Penang and Ipoh.

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I was in Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple in South India last year after my yoga course, and one of the street vendors handed me a name card. Guess what? It had a picture of Batu Caves on it, under the words “Sila Datang Lagi”. I mean, how cool is that? Malaysian Indian pride! Vetrivel Murugannuku Arohara!

The festival is made up of so many things. I don’t quite know how to describe Thaipusam in simple terms. It’s not just a cave temple, 272 steps and a big golden statue that offends religious fanatics of unrelated faiths for no apparent reason. Thaipusam is spiritual, religious, fun, exciting, overwhelming, chaotic, controversial, shocking, mesmerizing, colorful, loud and awe-inspiring. Yes, all at once.

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It’s having between one to two million people in one location for the purpose of taking part in one of the most thrilling religious experiences in the world. It’s thousands of pierced human beings, with spears through their tongues and cheeks, single-mindedly making their way through absolute chaos to reach the temple on the top of the hill to fulfil their vows. There’s a silver chariot procession. Lots of coconut breaking. Dancing kavadi bearers and urmi drums.

Attendees of the festival? About as diverse as it can get. Old, young, Indian, Chinese, white, black, devotees, atheists, locals, tourists, vendors. The usually calm temple grounds explode into a pandemonium of sights and sounds for an all-encompassing sensory experience.

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Experiencing Thaipusam for the First Time?

If you’re new to this and would like to experience the festival first-hand, I have some words for you: it will be an experience of a lifetime for sure, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. If you can’t deal with massive crowds, loud noises, shocking sights, garbage, tropical heat and / or rain and the subsequent burning tar roads and / or mud-sludge, Thaipusam in Batu Caves is not for you (try Penang for a milder version).

If you’re a thrill-seeker, adventurous enough and game for it, then…welcome, welcome! Be prepared to have your senses assailed and for an experience you can talk about till your dying day. To get the best out of your Thaipusam experience, go with a trusted Malaysian Indian friend or family and you’ll be just fine. They will brief you on the precautions, take care of you and show you the ropes.

Why Thaipusam is Celebrated

Very briefly, the religious story goes something like this. Lord Muruga, one of the most powerful deities in Hinduism, is asked to defeat a powerful and evil demon. He was provided with divine weapons by his parents, Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati. The most powerful weapon he received was a celestial spear from his mother (Tamil translation: vel). After a long and difficult battle, Lord Muruga successfully vanquished the demon. During the festival of Thaipusam, one will hear the chanting of “Vel, vel” or “Vetri vel” continuously (Tamil translation: vetri = victory), and this is the reason why.

Therefore, Thaipusam is a symbolic and metaphorical celebration of victory against the dark forces, as well as a day for devotees to show their love and appreciation to Lord Muruga. The act of spiritually observing and participating in the festival can also be interpreted in other ways, such as victory over a personal weakness or challenge.

Why Devotees Do What They Do On Thaipusam

The main reason why Thaipusam is so sensational among non-Hindus is the practice of mortification of the flesh, done by thousands during the festival. Devotees pierce their tongues, cheeks, chests and backs with long spears and hooks as part of their vows. They have their personal reasons for this.

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For instance, my friend had prayed for the speedy recovery of his mother who was suffering from cancer. His mother eventually got better, and he made a vow to carry a kavadi the following year and have his body pierced with 108 steel hooks. I have never done it, but I see tongue-piercing as a symbolic act of ‘victory’ over the organ of taste and speech, which is capable of making one a slave to the senses, or cause damage to others merely by the use of words.

My family astrologer and priest, gurukkal Velu Iyer, shared similar views with me about this. He said that the tongue is an organ that can be detrimental to spiritual advancement. The tongue can cause one to become attached to sense gratification, such as becoming addicted to food, leading to greed and gluttony.

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The organ can also cause problems if one utters words that are negative or cause harm to others due to improper speech. He told me that piercing the tongue with a small spear for Thaipusam is one way to increase one’s awareness of such things, and gain spiritual control over these weaknesses. In some ways, it’s an act of purification and sanctification. Of course, not everybody will agree with this point of view, but this was his interpretation. Similarly, devotees have their personal reasons for the austerities they undertake during Thaipusam.

What’s Beautiful about Thaipusam

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Unity. It’s lovely to see the whole Indian community coming together from all over the country for a religious / spiritual reason. Shaivites, Vaishnavites, Sai Baba or ISKCON people, it doesn’t matter. They’re all there and everyone’s in a good mood, helping each other.

Diversity. While Hindus make up the majority of crowd, there are people of all other faiths, races and nationalities there as well. Many are friends and well-wishers of kavadi bearers who’ve come there to show their support. Others are tourists, vendors and stall owners. What’s great is everyone is helpful and respectful throughout the festival.

Festive Atmosphere and Shopping. There’s almost nothing you CAN’T buy at Thaipusam. The grounds are packed with stalls selling everything from vegetarian food to clothing, desserts to toys. My best Thaipusam buy was years ago. It was a solid bronze bangle carved with ancient dragon heads at the openings, not unlike Celtic jewellery. I bought it from a creepy-looking, dreadlocked gypsy man covered in talismans. The bangle was neatly displayed on his cloth mat of wares, next to a row of jackal skulls and rusted horseshoes.

Here’s a picture of the bangle, captured by a friend in Rishikesh, sometime in 2016.

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Spiritual Experience. Even mere onlookers can benefit from the spiritual vibrations of the festival. Any observer will quickly realize that carrying a heavy steel kavadi under the searing Malaysian heat, in addition to having to navigate through a jam-packed colossal crowd while barefoot, then climbing 272 stairs up a hill is no easy feat.

Bear in mind that most kavadi bearers have undergone severe penance leading up to Thaipusam (usually 40 days or more), which means a strict vegetarian diet, complete abstinence from sex, sleeping on the floor and more. How do they do it? Two words: faith and devotion.

The Bad and the Ugly

I guess I can’t ignore the embarrassing news that make Malaysian headlines each year, so I may as well talk about it. You know that saying in Malay, kerana nila setitik, rosak susu sebelanga? That’s pretty much sums up the behavior of certain members of the Malaysian Indian community.

Gang fights. Judging by past year occurrences, Thaipusam seems to be a popular time for this activity, and Batu Caves the chosen venue. Which baffles me…why? Machas have 364 other days in the year for limb amputation, parang-wielding, beheading and screaming slogans while brandishing numbered signs and flags.

Malaysia is a spacious country too, and Batu Caves isn’t the best venue for gang-clashing. Consider our country’s numerous crematoriums – spacious, peaceful, no police in sight for miles. And such convenience to dispose of those of you who don’t make it.

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Saree Blouse Moral Compass Committee. So we have this bunch of, er, well-meaning Malaysian Indian brothers who have deep concerns about the styles of saree blouses worn by women during Thaipusam. Too sexy, back too low, front too open, sleeves too short, etc.

I was always under the impression that if one attends a religious or spiritual festival, one’s attention should be focused on said religious or spiritual festival. You know, the whole inner peace, we-are-not-this-body and God-is-within thing. Not on trending saree blouse designs in the vicinity of Batu Caves and how much skin is showing. So dear brothers, if you make an attempt to focus on your faith and devotion, perhaps look inward instead of outward, you’ll save yourselves a lot of stress. People are responsible for their own words, thoughts and actions. If their choice of fashion offends Lord Muruga, he will deal with that and it’s really not your problem.

Perhaps you’d judge a woman for her manner of dressing in a temple, then go home and forget about it. Fair enough, that’s your right to do so. I’ve seen bottles of Club 99 littered around my office after weekends. Common Google searches that lead people to my blog include “Tamanna topless saree” and “mallu big boobs wet saree” (I’m sorry you were led to my article on how to wash silk sarees with an image of a decently-clad Tamanna). Can Lord Muruga see these things? Of course not. He’s in Batu Caves. Right?

To those brothers who are still overly fascinated with saree blouse designs, I highly recommend a trip to Tengku Kelana Road in Klang town. The tailors there will be more than happy to provide you with catalogues on the latest jacket designs. You could probably buy the catalogues off them to have your own copy and skip Thaipusam the following year altogether for everyone’s sake.

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Disagreements. Some say the temple committee is corrupt. Others have something to say about the way Thaipusam is organized. And there’s that concern about milk wastage. I kind of agree with the last point. Anything offered to the deity should be consumed as prasada because it’s highly energized and blessed food, so what’s the point of letting it run down the drain? Quite insulting.

If after all these years the temple committee has still not figured out a way to collect the milk for consumption of the devotees, let me share something I practice which may be useful. Every year about a week before Thaipusam, I take offerings (milk, fruits, flowers) for the deity and have my archanai done, in any temple where there’s a Muruga deity. That way, at least I know the milk will be used for temple purposes such as cooking. The priests can have it too, I don’t mind, as long as it doesn’t go to waste.

Summary

So there it is, my take on the Malaysian Indian Thaipusam experience. I will continue to attend Thaipusam because I love it. I enjoy the good, ignore the bad and just have a great time with a delicious glass of mooru from the free stalls.

Vetrivel Murugannuku Arohara!

 

Related Links:

Bhakti Yoga through the Art of Puja (Part 1)

Everything You Need to Know about Rudraksha (Part 1)

Mahabharata Indian Art Series by Giampaolo Tomassetti

Restaurant Review: La Cocina (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

by Jana Thevar

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This Spanish cuisine restaurant has been a Subang Jaya icon for quite awhile now. I remember that more than a decade ago it was in USJ 9, within the Taipan Business Center. I was in college back then, and working part-time in a call center situated right behind the restaurant.

La Cocina’s head chef, Mr. Jega, sometimes stood outside the restaurant, in the junction-alleyway that I walked through to get to work. He was a friendly man with a ready smile, making small talk and always inviting me to come in and try the food. I always promised him that I would, but I didn’t think it would take me more than 10 years to finally step in! Hence, this is a long-delayed review.

La Cocina recently moved to Taipan Triangle in USJ 10. It’s my mum’s favourite restaurant, so we went there for dinner last week. I noticed that it’s gotten a cool new look – clean contemporary without compromising on the Spanish passion.

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Ambience and Service

I like the new makeover. The interior is spacious, unfussy and tastefully decorated, with artistic touches in all the right places. It makes for a very pleasant dining atmosphere that’s both rustic and modern at the same time. Service staff were friendly, polite and attentive. I felt that the décor could use a little more of that hot-blooded, Flamenco vibrancy of Spain. But hey, that’s just me and my usual flamboyant taste.

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Food

My mum had Pescado Fritos, which is essentially fish and chips (RM26). I ordered two dishes: the Queso Manchego (RM27.90), which is pure sheep milk cheese from the La Mancha region in Spain, and the Lamb Lasagne (RM27.90).

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Both main dishes were quite good. I wouldn’t say outstanding, but they were pleasant on the taste buds. The fish was firm and succulent, the fried batter crispy and not too oily. The lasagne could’ve done with a bit more minced lamb, but overall tasted great.

The cheese was excellent! It was soft and crumbly, flavourful without being overpowering. The serving size for the cheese was surprisingly small considering the price, so I made a mental note to check the prices of whole-wheel Manchego to see if the cost was justified.

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They stock an impressive selection of wines too. If you become a member of their wine club, you’ll enjoy discounts on selected wines and special corkage rates.

Summary

My overall experience here was quite delightful. It’s too bad that I forgot to have a look upstairs, but judging from the pictures on the website, it looks pretty impressive. I may consider going back to try one of their paellas sometime if I can get a friend to split the dish with.

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Special mention on the quality and freshness of all raw produce used in the dishes, as this imparted the lively burst of sun-energized ingredients into the final meal. Which, to me, makes all the difference in the end.

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My Ratings:

Food (Lamb Lasagne): 7/10
Food (Fish and Chips): 6/10
General Cleanliness: 10/10
Ambience: 8/10
Service: 10/10
Price: 5/10
Location (Subang Jaya, Kuala Lumpur): 7/10
Will I go back again : 7/10

Update: I received a nice message from Chef Jega himself! How lovely indeed.

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Related Links:

La Cocina – Spanish Restaurant and Bar

Restaurant Review: Bali & Spice (Subang Jaya, Malaysia)

Restaurant Review: Alexis Bistro and Wine Bar (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Devi’s Corner (Bangsar, Malaysia)

*Photo credit: Main image of paella dish is taken from La Cocina’s official webpage.

Restaurant Review: Bali & Spice (Subang Jaya, Malaysia)

by Jana Thevar and Vas P.

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So it was one of those weeknights when Vas and me were doing that back and forth thing about dinner plans.

“So where do you wanna go?”
“I dunno. Where do you wanna go?”
“Anywhere. Where’s good?”

Silence. We crack our heads. Then suddenly she’s like, “I know the perfect place! It’s nearby! Can you do large portions?”

I roll my eyes. But of course. I can literally eat my body’s weight worth of anything when hungry enough.

So we drive over to Da Men Mall in USJ Subang Jaya. It’s brand spanking new, but a pretty lame excuse for a mall in terms of shopping. However, since we were going there for food, whatever. We parked and made our way to this restaurant called Bali & Spice.

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Ambience And Service

It appears that Bali & Spice is under the management of the same group of restaurants as Ole-Ole Bali, which I am familiar with (branches in Sunway Pyramid and Empire Shopping Gallery). Just like their other restaurants, the first thing you notice is the gorgeous Balinese décor. I don’t know why, but I just have to meddle with the bronze gong at the entrance each time I go to one of these places. Yes, the gong is real AND nobody ever stops me when I do that. How cool is that?

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I really have to commend the management for the stunning interior décor of their chain of restaurants. The wall art, furniture, menu design and everything, literally perfect. From the woven mengkuang placemats to the fresh ginger lilies in glass vases, an impressive effort. A 10/10 from me for ambience, vibe, visual and styling. Service was excellent. The serving staff were all attired in traditional Balinese clothing in keeping with the theme.

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Food

THIS. Food like this is what I call value for money, time and effort spent in eating out. I ordered the Jimbaran Grill (RM39) and Vas had the Ikan Salmon Bakar (RM37). Generous portions, reasonable prices. The Jimbaran Grill consists of grilled white fish fillet, large prawns and squid accompanied by two types of sambal (spicy paste). If you’re a seafood buff, this dish is a must-try. It’s such a divine pleasure to the tastebuds.

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The seafood was perfectly seasoned and spiced, cooked impeccably and presented beautifully. I’m great at detecting individual flavors in spice blends, but these dishes gave me a good challenge. I could taste the tang of lemongrass and ginger flower, but everything else was a pleasant mystery. I say the chefs deserve recognition for their outstanding culinary skills. Great job!

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I took a bite of the salmon. It wasn’t as satisfying as mine, but good nevertheless. I think salmon in general isn’t the best fish for Indonesian-Malay cooking styles, considering the oily flesh. Still, no complaints. We had matching Indonesian salads that accompanied the dishes. Not sure what that’s called, but it goes great with the sambal.

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Summary

I would highly recommend any of the restaurants under the same management. The overall quality and service has remained great over the years. Food isn’t overly spicy either, so it’s a perfect place to take your foreign guests.

To conclude, this restaurant has the highest

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My Ratings:

Food (General): 9/10
Food (Jimbaran Grill): 10/10
Food (Ikan Salmon Bakar): 8/10
General Cleanliness: 10/10
Ambience: 9/10
Service: 10/10
Price: 8/10
Location (Subang Jaya, Kuala Lumpur): 7/10
Will I go back again : 10/10

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Restaurant Review: Alexis Bistro And Wine Bar (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

by Jana Thevar

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Our group of eight decided to have an early Christmas team dinner, so we made a reservation at Alexis @ The Gardens in Midvalley mall. We were a little surprised when the waiter ushered us to a table outside the restaurant, but it didn’t bother us too much so we accepted the spot. However, if you don’t like the idea of dining in the middle of a busy mall, do specify it when making your reservation at the Midvalley outlet.

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Ambience and Service

The restaurant décor is chic-minimalist with a hint of lux, per Alexis’s usual vibe. The mood lighting is perfect for long, relaxed conversations. A little noisy, but perhaps that’s just a seasonal thing as it’s close to the holidays and the mall is crowded. The staff were helpful; they were kind enough to ‘rush’ an order of strong coffee for my boss who was having a bad migraine.

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Food 

They have an impressive wine selection and an interestingly varied tapas menu. I had the Slow Roasted Duck Magret (RM48) – it was well cooked and succulent, but the portion was ridiculously small considering the price. It was gone in literally four bites. This dish is a real disappointment in terms of serving size. I’d never order it again.

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My colleague Esmond had the Sarawak Laksa at RM29. It was a big portion and looked really tempting. He said it tasted good, though not exactly on par with the traditional dish (Esmond is from Sarawak). Choi Wan had Angelhair Aglio Olio (RM45, regular-sized portion), which she remarked was satisfactory. It came with this cool-looking crayfish thing, which was cleanly split in half and seasoned liberally.

Syirah ordered the Slow Cooked Lamb Shank (RM72), which came with pilau rice, pomegranate and smoked capsicum. I tried a little. It was tender and came off the bone easily, but it was too bland for Syirah and me. Considering that we’re Indian and Malay by ethnicity, we’re probably too used to stronger spices when it comes to lamb.

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Other dishes that came our way were Baked Button Mushrooms (RM20), Fried Calamari Rings (RM24) and three orders of steak in varying weights (Striploin Grain-Fed @ RM70 / 220gms, Ribeye Black Angus @ RM85 / 220gms, Tenderloin Grain-Fed @ RM92 / 200gms). My buddies gave the food an average to above-average rating.

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For dessert, we tried their famed Tiramisu (RM17.80). It certainly lives up to its reputation! This dessert was exceptionally good, and the serving size was generous. It had an interesting chiffon-pudding texture, topped with coarsely chopped nuts and drizzled over with a caramel-like sauce. Rich, creamy and flamboyant on the tongue, I imagine this would go great with a good, strong long black or espresso. Completely worth the price and I would say it’s quite the masterpiece.

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Summary

I’d definitely go back, but unless they do something about the duck serving size, it’s off my choice list for good. Pity, it was rather delicious and I love duck. Will definitely consider a takeaway for that divine Tiramisu in future. Do note that it’s notoriously difficult to find parking spots in Midvalley on weekends, so if you’re visiting this outlet, it may help to go a little earlier (plus make reservations in advance).

My Ratings:

Food (General): 7/10
Food (Slow Roasted Duck Magret): 6/10
Food (Slow Cooked Lamb Shank): 4/10
Food (Dessert – Tiramisu): 10/10
Food (Baked Button Mushrooms): 7/10
Drinks: 8/10
General Cleanliness: 10/10
Service: 8/10
Price: 5/10
Location (Midvalley, Kuala Lumpur): 6/10
Will I go back again : 8/10

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Restaurant Review: Fuel Shack (Bangsar South, Malaysia)

by Jana Thevar

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So, we went out for lunch last week to this place, which is fairly new. If you want to try it out this weekend, it’s located in this building called Connexion @ Nexus, on the Ground floor between Souled Out and Starbucks, Bangsar South.

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I sulked a little after we chose our table and sat down, and I had a good look at what the other diners were having. It sucked even more once the food arrived. Why? Because this place makes me want to have a boyfriend, especially like this one bodybuilder ex I had.

You see, I absolutely loved the Coke Float, but the Fuel Shack serves it in only one size: freaking GIGANTIC. It was so much more convenient and fun to share large helpings of food when I was dating someone. Plus, when your date has the appetite of a water buffalo, you never have to worry about how you’d look pigging out, nor fret that any food would go to waste. Especially as a chick. So date me someone.

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Nah, I’m playing. I’d rather down my body weight’s worth of sugary carbonated float and welcome diabetes with open arms than risk yet another mess of a relationship, just so I can share a float. Which, by the way, I totally ended up wasting.

But seriously, Fuel Shack people, if any of you guys are reading this – wtf? PLEASE offer realistic sizes for floats. Pretty please. The stuff is delicious, but we’re not whales.

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The food in general is above average. We were a team of 10, so there was a variety of stuff I managed to get a taste of. I asked around and everyone seemed to agree with one thing more or less: the fare was a tad bit lacking in flavor and salt. It was pretty good stuff otherwise, reminiscent of TGI Friday’s and Chilli’s, just a little lacklustre overall.

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To their credit, all ingredients used in the dishes were incredibly fresh, and that’s something I really appreciate when it comes to eating out. The Chilli Chicken Fries (above – RM13) and Nachos (below – RM29) were amazingly good – couldn’t get enough of those. Fried Tempura Calamari, so-so (RM21).

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My Crispy-Skinned Grilled Salmon (below – RM38) had great texture, but the accompanying sauce (which was served separately) had an odd vinegary taste. I eagerly dumped the whole sauceboat over my salmon before I even had a taste, so don’t be the idiot that I was. I chose mac and cheese, sauteed vegetables and mushrooms for the three accompanying sides. Overall, my meal was alright, though slightly on the bland side. Pretty small helping of fish.

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Would I return? I would, since I work so near the place. But considering Bangsar South’s horrendous traffic situation, I’d probably not bother if I had to make a long journey to get here, or eat close to rush hour.

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The staff are lovely people too, good service. Be warned: if it’s your birthday, they’re going to make you stand on a chair and sing into a salt shaker.

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My Ratings:

Food (General): 7/10

Food (Crispy-Skinned Grilled Salmon): 6/10

Food (Chilli Chicken Fries): 8/10

Food (Nachos): 8/10

Food (Fried Tempura Calamari): 6/10

Food (BBQ Chicken Wings, according to my buddy Esmund): 7/10

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Drink (Coke Float): 8/10

General Cleanliness: 10/10

Service: 10/10

Price: 7/10

Location (PJ): 5/10

Will I go back again : 10/10

 

Related Posts:

20170712_130411

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Devi’s Corner, Bangsar

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Sri Nirwana Maju, USJ 9

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Moorthys Mathai, USJ 4

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Sri Ganapathi Mess, PJ

Restaurant Review: Alexis Bistro And Wine Bar (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

BIGG BOSS: Oviya and Aarav – Are These Two For Real?

by Jana Thevar

I’ll admit it upfront; reality shows annoy me. The negativity, drama, gossiping and backstabbing are just not for me and I can’t seem to get entertained by these things. I followed America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway and Gene Simmons Family Jewels a few years back, but I lost interest in them pretty fast. When I first heard about Bigg Boss, I was like ‘no way in hell I’m watching that’. A bunch of South Indian celebrities locked in a house and made to pit themselves against one another? I could already predict how that was going to turn out.

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Eventually, curiosity got the best of me and I caved in. Looks like I’m not as ‘detached’ as I thought I was. My Facebook newsfeed was simply exploding with commentaries and dramatic references to Bigg Boss, especially about inmates Oviya and Aarav. I wanted to know what the Bigg Deal was, so I randomly watched a few episodes over the last few days.

Disclaimer: This article may offend hardcore fans of Bigg Boss, Oviya and Aarav. If you’re the sensitive or easily-offended type, the views expressed below (mine) may be unsuitable for you, and this is your cue to cease reading.

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How ‘Real’ are Reality Shows?

I don’t believe reality shows have anything genuine in them at all. I believe this show in particular is scripted, as in all the participants are briefed beforehand on how their ‘character’ should behave while the show is ongoing.

Here’s why I think that:

1. Common sense and logic. Just imagine yourself and a bunch of people being put in a situation where everything is under tight control (like the specially-constructed Bigg Boss house), and you’re constantly being filmed. You already know that thousands of viewers will be watching your every move and hearing your every word, including your relatives, friends, family and possible future employers.

How would you behave? Would you gossip, backstab others, shamelessly beg some idiot to love you, act like a complete asshole? Or would you be on your best behaviour? I don’t know about you, but I would be very careful about what I say and do.

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Guess what? Good behaviour is BORING. And boring behaviour doesn’t get the viewer numbers when it comes to show business. It’s all about marketing. Therefore, I strongly believe participants are told how to behave beforehand. A good mix of characters with some drama thrown in gets viewers interested. For example, a sweet girl-next-door type, a clowny character, a serious one, a jock-type jerk, a bitchy female, etc.

Bigg Boss seems to have a mix of characters that works. Now everyone is getting worked up. Everyone is on Oviya’s side. People hate Aarav and Julie. Raiza is the vain one, constantly plastering her face with makeup. They got the audience to do exactly what they wanted – get agitated, create conversation and follow the series.

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2. Abnormal situations. Take for instance the Oviya-Aarav drama. In the normal world, generally speaking, even a regular girl has a pretty high level of self-respect and dignity. Rarely would a woman tolerate such poor treatment from a man, even if she liked him a lot. Even simple, girl-next-door types get tons of messages, FB likes and friend requests from men on social media.

So why would Oviya, an established model and actress, knowingly humiliate herself in front of thousands of viewers, chasing after and begging some mediocre guy for attention? Do people honestly think Oviya doesn’t know her real self-worth? Do viewers think Oviya doesn’t get flooded with attention from tons of admirers? I mean, come on. It doesn’t make sense no matter how you look at it. It’s part of her script to act pathetic around Aarav, so the audience gets emotional about the nice girl making a fool out of herself.

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In addition, let’s consider Aarav. Most guys would be flattered with female attention, especially from a girl like Oviya. However, his unnecessarily mean attitude at times makes me question if his behaviour is genuine at all. His attitude is just too bizarre, too over-the-top to be believable. Granted, Aarav is fairly good-looking, but not enough to warrant that kind of arrogance.

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3. Viewership and numbers. A show that doesn’t get enough viewers is going to fail. Everything is about money. Why on earth would producers risk such a big investment in the show, throw a ton of money at Kamal and get him to host, THEN leave things to chance and ‘see what happens’? Smart business people don’t do that. Everything is carefully crafted to ensure a profitable return.

What if the participants are all nice to each other, help one another and just be sweet and kind throughout? Nobody’s going to watch that dull shit. They need some blood-pumping action, some drama. They need the sweet girl to lose her dignity and beg an arrogant jerk to love her back. THAT gets the viewers riled up. THAT makes the show a success. That brings in the moolah. It’s all about money at the end of the day.

Having said all that, here are a few things I learned from watching just a few episodes of the show.

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LESSON 1: A woman should never, EVER lose her dignity over a man. I think it’s better to be single. It’s better to remain unmarried or even get divorced, than to be with a man who shows so little respect to his woman. That’s not how relationships work.

And to women who cling to their menfolk despite abuse or mistreatment, come on. Of the 7 billion-odd people in the world, you really couldn’t find someone else? Don’t wait for a bone to be thrown your way like a starving stray dog. Leave. Get a job, ask for help and support from NGOs, get counselling, just do something. There’s so many options available to you if you’re only willing to try. Sure, it’s not always easy to leave, but there must be something you can try at least.

I guess the same thing applies to a man as well – if your woman is mistreating you (and you can’t discuss your issues like adults and solve them), be a real man and leave. There is ALWAYS someone better out there. I don’t know what they paid Oviya to degrade herself that way with Aarav, but I hope it was worth it.

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LESSON 2: Be really careful about the people you choose to trust. I mean people you share your deepest thoughts and secrets with. There’s one fact that is simply amplified in the show (whether real or scripted) – humans are unpredictable. They can be friends with you one minute and enemies the next. Just be careful who you trust your confidential information with.

LESSON 3: Be yourself and act like it. Get clear about who you really are, what your beliefs and principles are in life, then act like YOURSELF. The problem with some people is that they’re constantly trying to be something they’re not. That means following an inner script that isn’t natural. In other words, if you act in a way that’s not true to yourself, sooner or later that façade is going to fall apart. A fake image or charade usually crumbles under emotional pressure or stress. People will then find out the truth, and that’s never going to be pretty.

In Conclusion…

I think stuff like this serves only one purpose, which is entertainment. Nothing wrong with a little good fun, so why not? Watch it. Talk about it with friends. But if you find yourself getting overly involved in the drama, you may want to consider taking a step back.

See Also:

Index of Articles

What Does It Take to be a Model?

by Princess Draupadi

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The modelling industry is an extremely competitive one, especially runway (catwalk) modelling. The more elite the agency, the more rigid the requirements for models. Malaysia’s modelling industry is more modest in terms of selection criteria and competitiveness, but still certain rules are non-negotiable.

What Do Top Models Earn?

According to Forbes, 36-year-old Brazillian supermodel Gisele Bunchen made $30.5 million in 2016 alone. She’s currently the highest paid model in the world. In the same year, Adriana Lima and Kendall Jenner earned over $10 million each, while Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevigne raked in approximately $9 million and $7 million respectively.

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Victoria’s Secret Angels Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio

My Experience with Modelling

I was never a professional model. At 5 feet 5 inches barefoot, I’d fall short of most local and international catwalk height requirements. However, I’ve done some runway work in my late teens and early 20s, though I don’t consider that phase of my life anything more than interesting snippets of experience. I am also a woman of color, and if I am to be brutally honest, that fact wouldn’t have done me any major favors in showbiz, even if I fulfilled all other criteria to make it in modelling.

This is how I ended up modelling: Back in college, I often accompanied my bombshell-gorgeous friends to casting sessions and auditions. That’s how I got offers for local runway modelling shows. The pay was rubbish, but it was a lot of fun.

It also gave me quite a bit of insight into the world of modelling. I LOVE fashion. I grew up on Vogue, adored haute couture and worshipped Karl Lagerfeld, so it was nothing short of an amazing experience for me.

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Photographer: Sattvic Desnudo

The early years of my ‘real’ career started in fashion and lifestyle magazines, and I helped out close friends on film sets. I also had my own column in CLEO, where I worked as a fashion editor. This gave me the opportunity to work with local and international models. It was hectic but I loved it more than modelling; directing photoshoots, doubling-up as a makeup artist, working with props, helping out in editing and post-production. Working with models and actors afforded me more opportunities to use my creative talents as an artist (which I preferred to being plastered in makeup and standing around in uncomfortable clothes for long hours). I’m just too restless, not to mention easily bored.

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What are the Requirements for a Runway Model?

Quite a bit, especially if you’re looking at the big names in high fashion like Dior, Chanel, Gucci, Armani and Alexander McQueen. Local Malaysian standards are a little more lax, unless it’s an elite, famous agency.

International catwalk modelling standards are generally:

  • Minimum height (barefoot): 5 feet 9 inches (6 feet for supermodels)
  • Defined facial bone structure (high cheekbones, angular jawline)
  • A very slim build (US dress size 4 – 8)
  • Aged between 16-24
  • Striking facial features
  • A confident strut
  • A clear complexion and healthy hair
  • A significant number of followers on social media

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Besides that, a model also needs to:

  • Have a high level of self-discipline (schedule and timing)
  • Stand and walk for long hours in high heels (females)
  • Tolerate extended wear of thick makeup
  • Be disciplined enough to exercise and eat wisely
  • Work long and / or odd hours
  • Have a lot of patience (lots of waiting, especially in full makeup and clothes)
  • Accept criticism about their physical flaws
  • Ignore backstabbing and catty comments from other models
  • Travel at short notice
  • Have a flexible personal schedule
  • Have an understanding family / partner

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In a Nutshell

Modelling can be great fun and often comes with a lot of perks. The all-expenses-paid flights, meals, makeup, clothes and other freebies, the beautiful runway setups, the famous people you get to meet and of course, all that glamor. However, it’s a short-lived career for most, as the industry is always ready to drop older models for the next young thing that comes along.

If you’re at that stage in life where you can consider modelling, I say go for it. If you’re fresh out of school, it would be wise to think of a long-term career plan while you try these experiences out. After all, you’re only young once. Just remember to have fun doing it and don’t take things way too seriously.

What Happens Backstage During a Modelling Show?

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It goes something like this. Models generally have to be there about 2 to 3 hours earlier to have their hair and makeup done. If it’s a big show with many models, that could mean up to 4 or 5 hours earlier. You’ll be told to come in bare-faced and with freshly-washed hair.

The makeup artist will generally start with a makeup primer (something like a moisturizer), then a coat of foundation (pretty much skin-colored paint) to even out skin tone. Corrective makeup like concealer is used under eyes to hide dark circles, cover up redness from acne and so on. Then the rest of it goes on: eyeshadow, blush, contouring and highlight powders, eyeliner, eyebrow definer, mascara, lipstick, lip gloss, false eyelashes, setting powder and more, all applied with various types of makeup brushes and sponges. If special-effect makeup or face-painting is required, this whole process takes even longer.

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The hairstylists will usually prime the hair with a serum or mousse, then blow-dry the hair section by section to the desired style. This can also be very time-consuming, especially for models with long hair. Hair spray is often used liberally on the finished look, and this is just for basic hairdos – more elaborate styles can require ribbons, feathers, pearls, rhinestones, lace and flowers.

Then, it’s time for the outfits. Models usually come in a few days before the show to have the clothing fitted for them (alterations done to ensure a perfect fit on the runway). Putting on the clothes is the easiest part unless the costumes are elaborate, such as in bridal shows. Once the models are dressed, it’s usually a long waiting process before they get to go on stage and model the outfit.

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The waiting-in-costume part really sucks, because you can’t really eat or drink anything for fear of ruining the lip makeup. If the outfit is delicate, long or elaborate, it means you may not be able to go to the bathroom for a few hours (after the LONG process of waiting through the hair and makeup sessions, can you imagine holding your pee even longer?) You end up cursing the organisers, cursing the guys setting up the stage, cursing your fellow models with ‘easier’ outfits.

There’s usually a rehearsal or two before the actual show, so that models know their cue to go up on stage. The rehearsals also help models get the ‘feel’ of catwalk strut timing to the music chosen for the show. This part is really important so models are walking on and off the stage in sync and you don’t get some girls walking faster, some slower, or too many models on the stage at once. There are invisible ‘lines’ and ‘markers’ on the runway: places to stand and strike poses, the lines to walk along without colliding into the other models, etc.

Also, models need to be able to handle unexpected wardrobe malfunctions on stage (yes, it happens more often than you think). I remember modelling a saree at one show, and when I stopped at the end of the runway to do that momentary pose, I realized that the threads at the hem of my saree were caught tightly in my stiletto buckle. I panicked, standing there longer than I should, unsure of what to do next. I was afraid to rip the saree or pull it undone in front of the audience. So I did the best thing I could think of at that moment – I pretended to strike a few more poses, all the while twisting my ankle in various directions hoping to free the threads. Thank goodness it worked, and nobody noticed anything unusual. It was a good lesson I learned that day too: keep your cool even if you’ve messed up, and chances are most people won’t notice a thing.

Want to Get Started in Modelling?

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First, you’ll need to decide what type of modelling work you’re interested in. If you don’t have the height for runway modelling, don’t despair. You can try petite modelling (height requirements are between 5’2 to 5’6) or just do print and media work like advertisements. There’s also plus-size modelling, body parts modelling and more.

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Plus-size Model

Once you’ve decided on the type of modelling work you want to do, you can either sign up with an agency or do the rest yourself. This essentially means putting together a portfolio of professional photographs of yourself in various modelling poses. An agency may also teach you some basics to begin with, such as catwalk strutting techniques, how to style yourself and how to do your own professional makeup. If you ask me, however, you don’t really need an agency for these things. See if you can collaborate on a TFP (time for print) basis with photographers, fashion stylists and makeup artists – this means you don’t have to pay them, but they get to use your photographs for their own portfolios in exchange for their services. TFP is a good way for all parties involved to get more exposure and credibility in their own industries, especially if everyone’s just starting out.

Last but not least, develop thick skin. Be prepared for rejection and lots of it. Some clients can be downright mean and brutal. The thing to bear in mind is that rejection doesn’t mean you’re flawed or not good enough; the client probably just had a different idea in mind to begin with. Be resilient and keep trying. You may need to work without pay for the first few jobs until you have something to show for yourself (references, photos).

I will leave newbies and young aspirants with one word of caution, especially girls: be wary of who you work with in modelling. The industry is not short of its share of perverts, creeps and shady characters who are willing to exploit naive newcomers. Be very cautious and think carefully before you agree to work with someone, especially if they require you to pay money upfront, insist on nude or obscene shots and so on. Be VERY clear on what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not willing to do, and stand by your decisions. Respect your body. Tell a trustworthy person where you’re going when you start attending auditions or casting sessions – your safety is priority at all costs.

See Also:

Index of Articles

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Devi’s Corner (Bangsar, Malaysia)

by Princess Draupadi

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It baffles me as to why this place is still so popular. Is it just the closest and most convenient place for Bangsar folks to have a full banana leaf meal? I’m not sure, but I’ll stick with that assumption.

Alicia and me went over during lunch hour on Tuesday. It’s been five years since I last ate here, and this visit served to remind me why I didn’t bother going back. We were seated for a good 15 minutes with no one coming over to take our order or ask us what we wanted. We tried to wave some waiters over, but our existence in that restaurant was about as significant as their greasy furniture. Eventually, one came over and said “Banana leaf upstairs.”

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Why, thank you. Perhaps you should have waited till we were on the brink of starvation before making that grand revelation.

So yes, it did appear that upstairs had a pretty well-oiled system of banana leaf food service going on. Service was prompt, systematic and quick, but don’t expect friendliness or warmth. Fairly clean environment overall, by local standards.

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Food:

In general, everything served here was overwhelmingly commercial-masala-powder bland, if you know what I mean. It just made me sad. There was no personal touch, no secret spice blend. Nothing sexy to entice the tongue or excite the senses. No enthusiasm on the cook’s part (considering the wages they’re probably paid, who can blame them?). Food was fairly fresh, though some of the chutneys were cold.

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I asked for the house specialty curry, and this dude unceremoniously dumped a truckload of crab curry onto my rice before I could say anything. Well, okay, that just meant I couldn’t try any other curry since my leaf was literally flooded. The verdict? The crab curry tasted of nothing but factory-milled masala. I may as well have swallowed a bag of curry powder with a glass of hot water. Fried veggies were crisp and drenched in oil. And there wasn’t enough mango in the sugar chutney.

Perhaps their only saving grace was the mutton, but even that was suffocating in masala. The least they could do to honor the fact that a goat gave its life up for our tamasic needs was to, at least, cook it properly (well, sorry for the disservice, goat). I was too depressed to even ask for mooru molega and rasam.

Bear in mind that this review is just a reflection of my own personal taste and opinions, and I am an excellent cook. If I cooked like that at home though, I’d probably be on the receiving end of really good seruppu adi from my mum, plus liberal cringeworthy thuppe from my brothers. Just to be fair, I asked Alicia to taste everything I ate – similar sentiments from her side.

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By the way, here’s a little more info about the pricing. One banana leaf set, one side of mutton, a glass of cold water and a glass of lychee juice came up to RM27. I’m not even going to bother going into details about the breakdown. Here’s an interesting fact though: the lychee drink is RM 5.50 downstairs, and RM6.50 upstairs. Why? Air-conditioning.

So, was it worth my time, total Uber fare price of RM15, plus my bill and experience? Should you visit this place? I’ll let you decide.

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My Ratings:

Food (Standard Vegetarian Banana Leaf meal): 4/10
Food (Signature Dish – Mutton peratal): 6/10
Food (Signature Dish – Crab Curry): 3/10
General Cleanliness: 6/10
Service: 5/10
Price: 4/10
Location (Bangsar): 4/10
Will I go back again : Maybe if kaijus destroyed the Klang Valley and this was the only place left standing.

Address: No. 14, Jalan Telawi 4, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Opening Hours: 24-hour restaurant

Related Posts:

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Moorthy’s Mathai, USJ 4

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Sri Nirwana Maju, USJ 9

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Sri Ganapathi Mess, PJ

 

 

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Sri Ganapathi Mess (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia)

by Princess Draupadi

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I guess this place needs no introduction. I must’ve been the last Indian in Klang Valley to try this restaurant out for the first time. Special thanks to Yuva for inviting me!

A group of 10, we headed over to the famous Sri Ganapathi Mess in PJ for lunch last week. I was expecting a regular restaurant, so I was rather surprised when my friend pulled up into a residential area. Sri Ganapathi Mess is a bungalow-turned-restaurant, with partitioned areas and rooms to accommodate a variety of customers, in groups or individually. I liked the concept as it was something different.

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Service was brisk and we got our food fast. There was a lot of loud confusion among the waiters over how and what to serve us when it came to the extras, although we made our requests more than once from the beginning. One waiter was actually insolent enough to chide Yuva, saying he wasn’t ‘clear’ when placing his order. My feisty buddy, however, was having none of that and told him off. In all fairness, I was seated next to Yuva and heard him make his order loudly and clearly, and repeat it about 3 or 4 times each time he was asked. The key takeaway from this experience? If you’re short tempered, think twice about visiting this place during busy periods – experiences like this aren’t great for your digestion.

Since the waiters were a bunch of prima donnas, I asked Yuva to recommend the restaurant’s signature dishes instead, which he did: spicy crab soup (Tamil: nandu rasam), local mutton peratal (Tamil: naatu aadu), fried Tenggiri fish and spicy imported mutton (Tamil: varuval). We decided to share the dishes between the two of us as I knew I couldn’t finish it all myself. I swallowed my guilt at my evil, non-vegetarian choices (as always), but I decided to make up for my negative karmic footprint later.

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The verdict? Lousy waiter attitude aside, the standard banana leaf set was better than most places. The local mutton, as expected, has a strong flavor and may not suit delicate palates. The regular mutton was awesome but crazy spicy, so cry into your food while you have it – it’s still worth it. Fish? So-so, nowhere close to Moorthy’s Mathai culinary expertise – I declare those guys the Klang Valley fried Tenggiri champs. Finally, the spicy crab soup was rather diluted, but it gets my seal of approval.

Yuva and I had a combined bill of RM 38, which is not too bad considering the food was good and fresh. The auntie at the cashier was also very sweet, so it made up for the earlier unpleasantness. In summary, worth a visit. Take note that you’d probably have to park at the side of the street, and the roads around the area are annoyingly narrow.

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Spicy local mutton

My Ratings:

Food (General): 7/10
Food (Standard Vegetarian Banana Leaf meal): 7/10
Food (Signature Dish – Spicy Crab Soup): 6/10
Food (Signature Dish – Local Mutton): 5/10
Food (Signature Dish – Imported Mutton): 8/10
Drinks: 5/10
General Cleanliness: 7/10
Service: 4/10
Price: 6/10
Location (PJ): 5/10
Will I go back again : 10/10

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See Also:

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Devi’s corner (Bangsar, Malaysia)

Banana Leaf Mythbusters: Sri Ganapathi Mess (PJ, Malaysia)